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Embody The Five “A”s of Love

I was inspired to explore the five “A”s of love after attending a performance of Chicago’s Natya Dance Theatre’s new work, “The Seventh Love.” Based on the ancient Buddhist discourse known as “The Five Aspects of Love,” a narrative was brought to life through expressive East Indian dance and dialogue. The message: learning to embody these five aspects—attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowancehelps one attain a sixth, perfect love. Continue reading

Getting High on Life – Again

In my last article, How to Get High on Your Life, I wrote about the “Givers High.” Performing acts of kindness elevates our sense of well-being and contributes to a longer, healthier, happier life. Let’s explore how some people discover ways to integrate this high into their lives.

natural-antidepressants-2Natural anti-depressant
Acts of giving take you outside yourself, beyond the troubles, pains and challenges of your life, and can pull you out of the doldrums of isolation and loneliness. The brain is a social organ wired for empathy. When engaged in helping others, we experience their joy and suffering as though it were our own. Yet the giving also produces a positive emotional high pushing away our negative emotions. The old adage, “When you’re feeling down, go out and help someone,” really works.Continue reading

How to Get High on Your Life

Will the economy ever return to providing the good times we once took for granted?  Greed and mismanagement have shown their ugly face and, as a result, millions in our nation are suffering. Those who can still afford the high life are a privileged elite.

getting-highActually we can all live the high life – in a natural humanistic way – with the “Givers High.” The good news is that the means for experiencing this high, in terms of body-mind health, better relationships and spiritual well-being, is available to virtually everyone. Plenty of research studies support how performing acts of kindness contributes to a longer, healthier, happier life.

Getting the “givers high” doesn’t require money, drugs, material possessions, or expensive entertainment. In fact, even if you’ve had to downsize, minimize and simplify, you can still enjoy a richly rewarding and meaningful life. This elevated state can be easily realized by showing concern for others, being a good empathetic friend, reaching out to help a neighbor, mentoring, or volunteering in our community.

Change of heart
|I sense that our society may very well be at a tipping point for positive change. Perhaps this is a time for cleansing and moving from a society enveloped in secrecy, power and greed, to one that recognizes the basic human values of truth, transparency, compassion and interdependence. We are, after all, social beings here on Earth to help one another.

This change is evident in a new breed of humanitarian warriors. A remarkable journey is portrayed in Eric Greiten’s book, “The Heart and the Fist: the Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL.

Before becoming a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Greiten volunteered in Bosnia, Rwanda, and Bolivia serving war-affected children. Integrating his studies and experience with deployments as a Navy SEAL fighting terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, he learned that without courage, compassion falters, and without compassion, courage has no direction. Returning home, he started Mission Continues, an organization to help empower wounded and disabled veterans start new lives as citizen leaders here at home.

Our wired nature
Lots of research shows we are hard-wired to commit acts of kindness and generosity We are all natural born givers—it’s a primal urge. As early as a baby’s first birthday, she demonstrates the need and ability to empathize, connect, care and share. Her soothing and caring expressions melt our hearts, reigniting the joyful, caring child within us. Hanging out with babies can bring out the best in us.

The Dalai Lama says that “our primary purpose is to help others.” He believes that a major paradigm shift of this millennium is from the belief that “parents raise children” to one in which “children raise parents.” There does seem to be a trend among younger people toward getting high by living more consciously, as vegans, protectors of the environment, doing good deeds and finding new ways to connect. Whatever negatives may exist with social networking, the younger generation is living with greater transparency and interconnectedness than previous generations.

This natural givers instinct undeniably blossoms most clearly in the roles of parent, friend, mentor, worker, teammate, and creator.  Similar to the “runners high,” Greitin sees that, in the process of giving, the brain releases natural opiates, endorphins and calming hormones such as oxytocin.

In our next article we explore more benefits to “getting high on giving,” and inspiration for giving of your best self.

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.

powerhalfPower of half
One 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.

generosityWith 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

newworld1

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
Giving 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.

open hand - heartConditional 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