Generosity of Our Best Selves

Third in a three-part series

In this series I’ve been exploring how consumerism has come to dominate our culture in the form of craving, getting, having and hoarding. We’ve lost touch with our best self that is concerned not just for the individual, but for all people. The sense of “other-serving has taken a back seat to, What’s in it for me.” Yet when we begin to shift our consciousness to unconditional giving we are showered with incredibly valuable gifts that can feed our spirit for a lifetime.

Generosity consciousness and the power of half

Being your best self by volunteeringOne family chose a novel approach to assume the role of good citizen. In their book, The Power of Half, Kevin Salwen and his daughter, Hannah, share their story. Stopped at a traffic light with a Mercedes in front of them and a homeless man begging for food on their side, Hannah found herself saying to her dad, “If that guy didn’t have such a nice car, the man over here could get a meal.” While this prosperous family was already volunteering to help the needy, with Hannah’s persistence, they downsized, sold their house and donated half the proceeds ($800,000) to The Hunger Project to help villagers in Ghana. (visit their websiteThe Power of Half for more information)

While most of us may not be in a position to do as much, everyone does have time or resources to give. By cutting back half your precious time spent on the internet, TV or various devices, you would have time to dedicate to a worthy cause. Imagine if everyone donated half a paycheck, or half a day’s wages. Imagine if you moved through your day looking for ways to express random acts of kindness. Try it for a day and record your feelings at the end.

When the next fundraiser comes around, why not refuse the premium, forget the tax write-off and allow the currency to flow freely toward others? Again, notice how you feel.

Find meaning

True generosity is without ego or judgment, yet seems to give the givers a sense of meaning and purpose. Generosity can help you to become more attuned to the real you, make better life choices and create intentions around what you want to invite into your life. Choose causes and volunteer activities that are meaningful to you or that make you feel a sense of purpose. It’s not unusual for this to open new life pathways you never dreamed of.

There is scientific evidence that we are born to be kind and generous. However, growing up in an environment that conditions us to believe in scarcity and limitation creates fear that blocks our generosity current. Getting outside yourself and engaging in generous activities takes you out of your funk and provides a positive perspective on your situation.

Abundance of your best self

With the best models, generosity recipients can be given a sense of hope, feel empowered and truly cared for. When we see a grateful face light up, we can begin to let go of our own lack and limitation fears and find gratitude in our lives. The law of attraction can then kick in, opening up currents of unimagined abundance.

The best way to express your best self and build a generosity consciousness is to give of yourself. Wherever you can conjure up your caring and compassionate nature, whether it is for a civic cause you believe in, a friend, relative or child whom you can help, it will come back to you in multiple ways. Be your best self and partner up to make the world a better place.

“I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will live as one.” ~ John Lennon, “Imagine

See also: What Happened to Our Best Selves & Generosity Consciousness

Generosity Consciousness

Currency of Our Best Selves

Second of a three-part series
(See part one – What Happened to our Best Selves)

Imagine a world where generosity became as important a currency as the dollar, the currency of commerce. This currency would not wait until a natural disaster struck, a local fundraiser’s direct mail appeal arrived or a friend reluctantly asked for help. It wouldn’t expect anything in return. It would be the natural way for doing the world’s business and for manifesting our best selves’ nature.

Utopia? I think not. We are in the midst of a cultural evolution where old values that ultimately produce greed and self-interest are showing their true faces and new core values of equality, caring for the human community and our Earth are emerging. In this world, we’ll be known as good citizens versus consumers.

Currency as energy

generosity, currency as energy generostity as currencyGiving and receiving is an energy exchange. In the world of commerce, when you give money, you generally receive a product or service in exchange. When I donate money and receive a premium tote bag, mug, CD or event tickets in return, I am participating in this exchange. My donation then becomes attached to the expectation of getting something that I will ultimately consume – or stuff in a closet.

A Dictionery.com definition of currency is, ”the fact or quality of being widely accepted and circulated from person TO person” (my emphasis). In this case, there is no expectation of receiving something back from the source, but rather starting or keeping the flow moving.  A power plant sends an electric current to your home. Turn on the light switch and electric current flows to the bulb. The bulb gives off light, which helps you to see, then read, better understand, ultimately transmit your knowledge to others.

Conditional giving

With any energy exchange, there is always something to receive. However, when currency is received from unconditional generosity (nothing expected in return), it generally comes in unexpected or intangible ways. Research has shown that giving a part of yourself, particularly in volunteer work, can build new relationships and community. It can enhance your health – immune system, cholesterol, heart – and reduce stress. A sense of empowerment, pride and accomplishment tops this exchange.

So much of the giving in today’s world has strings attached. When I give, currency returns to me as a tax write-off or premium. Though we are known as the most giving nation in the world, why are so many people in need? Our government has built-in provisions for funding not-for-profits –- public services, arts and community organizations. But whenever the economy is in jeopardy, a lot of this funding goes south causing many to suffer the consequences. Most of today’s business models have a component of giving back to the communities where they do business, which generally becomes a promotional scheme. (I’m always intrigued with those anonymous donors.)

Generosity Consciousness 

How can we manifest our better self and give back unconditionally to society? It requires a shift in consciousness. True generosity asks for nothing in return. Rather it gives freely from a compassionate heart. It is aware of a need and finds a way to fulfill that need in what I term is “Generosity Consciousness.”

To manifest “Generosity Consciousness” means to be open-handed and open-hearted in giving. When it comes to stuff we accumulate, there certainly is a feeling of freedom, of letting go when you give it away. It lightens the load and provides space to invite in new opportunities, situations and people into your life.

The root of the word “generous” also means noble – of high moral character, courage and honor. How noble and honorable it is to help others!

Being called

In the past year, I’ve been called several times to be with my elder family friend in the ER and hospital. In situations like this or when someone is in distress, and I can be of service, I don’t even think about myself. I feel compelled to open-heartedly be there and create a loving container, a larger, fuller space to hold them. When you care about others, you make them feel special and show that they have worth.

My friends, Mary Jane and Louis, who regularly give of their time, money or wisdom both shared that they feel no division between giving and ordinary life. There is a seamless quality between the two. It just doesn’t occur to them that they are doing anything extraordinary. Whenever there is a need, they willingly try to fill.

Your generosity reflections

Reflect back on your life to times when you gave freely without conditions – in your family life, school, workplace or community. How did your feel afterwards? What were the outcomes for others involved? What are you doing now or what would you like to do to express your best self?

Learn how to teach your kids to be generous

Being our Best Self

What Happened to Our Best Selves?

First of a three-part series

During the last half of the 20th century, the concept of “citizen” was hijacked and became that of “consumer.” This great loss has made it extremely challenging to exhibit our “best self”—a concept that earlier generations worked so hard to instill in us. While we may exhibit our best briefly, reaching out to help others when natural disaster strikes (as it did in January in Haiti), it mostly lies dormant. We need to feed, nurture, and reawaken this aspect of our natures. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word consumer is defined as someone who “devours, wastes, or destroys.” Consumers focus on taking rather than giving or giving back. This is evident in our everyday accumulation and hoarding of “stuff,” our exploitation of the earth’s resources, our focus on instant gratification, and our lip-service compassion for those in need.

Don’t get me wrong. We all need to consume daily to survive–breathe in oxygen, drink water, eat the fruits of the earth, and surround ourselves with the goods and services that have extended our human lives over the millennium. But balance is necessary to maintain this multidimensional energy system we are a part of. The question is how much are we taking, and what are we leaving or giving back to enable our children and future generations to thrive?

Gifts you’ve received 

What happened to our best selves?Much of the world envies our prosperous society. The latest fashions and gadgets can be bought by most anyone, even with minimal budgets, at Wal-Mart and Target. Yet so much of the stuff we buy for ourselves and others is superficial. We buy gifts not because others need them, but because it’s the thing to do. It makes us feel good. Yet, the recipients soon stuff them in closets, basements, and garages.

Think about the genuine gifts your parents have given you. They made a huge investment of time, money, and resources for you to have a better life than their generation. Then, there were your teachers, relatives, mentors, and even strangers. Your elders, ancestors, and a multitude of others invested in this country with their hard work, tax dollars, and even lives to provide the institutions, goods, services, and opportunities for you to live a happier, more peaceful, and productive life than they experienced. Giving and sacrifice were their core values.

Make the shift

Isn’t it time to turn away from self-serving entitlements to focus on what I call “other-serving”? Mahatma Gandhi said,”There is always enough for the needy, but never enough for the greedy.” The needy can teach us much as they somehow manage to keep the spark of life alive through life’s challenges. Witness the survivors of the recent Haiti devastation, a nation of people who have weathered many disasters throughout their history and yet always manage to adapt. The needy can also enliven the spark of giving in us when we help empower them by sharing our excess. “Less is more” is an adage that few live by.

Our country has lost much of its power due to mounting debt. We are being consumed by our own greed just as our natural resources are vanishing. More people are living on the edge. Many who were looking forward to their “Golden Years” have lost pensions, investments, and homes and see retirement pushed well beyond the horizon–if at all.

What’s our role?

A citizen’s role is one of responsibility and partnership. A citizen cooperates in making his/her part of the world a better place–not just for the present, but for future generations. A citizen not only gives time and resources to help build safe, physically and spiritually enriching environments, but also helps the sick and less fortunate find a new path toward empowerment. It’s a citizen’s responsibility to contribute and, yes, make sacrifices when necessary for the greater good of all. The whole then becomes far greater than the sum of its parts. When we work together to create more balance–make this world a better place–we become immensely enriched. What actions are we taking, and what are we giving back to regain and maintain the balance of Life?

What is at the core of consumerism? In a heartfelt book that captured the nation, Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom shared the wisdom of a dying man. Morrie believed that when one lives exclusively in a materialistic world of gadgets, conveniences, getting ahead, and accumulating money, our lifestyle is generally seeking to replace what’s missing: human relationships, health and well-being, and joy. One can fill this void by treating others with respect, kindness, love, and dignity.

Having, over the past year, spent a lot of time in a retirement/nursing home environment attending my elder family friend, Mae, I can personally vouch for the importance of these acts. While no longer surrounded by the material things that once filled her life with such importance, she is content with a few small mementos. Her face always lights up when I walk in the door. I am so impressed with how the aids treat community members with dignity and respect.

Take Stock

What’s missing in your life? What lies underneath the consumerism, hoarding, and cravings for stuff outside yourself? What gives you true meaning and purpose, and how does this feed your inner spirit? Do you have a true connection with your Higher Self?

In my next article I will be writing about ways to create a “Generosity Consciousness,” which, I hope, will help you become your best self and will enable all of us to be partners in making the world a better place.