This is the season for giving. The practice of giving is universally recognized as one of the most basic human virtues, a quality that testifies to the depth of one's humanity and one's capacity for self-transcendence.
Giving comes out of the recognition of all we have and our desire to share it with others, and so can be understood as an expression of gratitude. It is through giving grounded in gratitude that we work toward contentment; the joy of giving. In the yogic tradition, many kinds of giving are recognized. As this holiday season approaches, it is useful to be mindful of our giving and ensure that it is not mechanical, but "increases both the recipients and the donor's delight" (Feuerstein).
Gift giving, like all actions, is attributed meaning through its intention. The manner of giving is worth more than the gift. In the ancient Vedic texts, there are extensive regulations for giving (dāna). Generosity is one of the moral virtues, and as such it is not merely a prescribed duty, but part of spiritual discipline. It is said that one "who allows his day to pass by without practicing generosity and enjoying life's pleasures is like a blacksmith's bellows: he breathes but does not live." (Yoga Tattwa). One must also be highly conscious of the purpose of a gift and the manner in which it is given.
The yogic texts recognize that gifts are often given to gain praise or notoriety, create indebtedness, and embarrass or impress others. Sometimes you are giving a present because you are supposed to, or giving a gift you would like to be receiving instead. Gifts must be given without attachment, and when needed or they obliterate their spiritual merit for the giver. A pure gift is mindfully given, without strings attached.
Special importance is attributed to the gifts of knowledge and hospitality, because these are expressions of our interconnectedness and interdependence (bandhu) and thus embody reverence for all beings and build community (sangha). Knowledge or the gift of teaching is said to surpass all gifts and hospitality is an offering of oneself to others. "If you knew what I do about the power of giving, you would not let a single meal go by without taking the opportunity to give" (Buddha).
Generosity has a tremendous effect on your body and mind. By giving of yourself, you get filled up. It doesn't come from the "thank yous" of others; it is "enstatic"-joy, which arises from inside the giver. True generosity, is a great yoga practice, it opens your heart and quiets your mind. Generosity creates abundance, it is contagious. As the end of the year approaches, I would like to gratefully thank all who contribute to the abundance and community felt in our studios! I am filled up with your giving. May this year be one in which our community continues to grow. Come join us!
Union is like this.
You feel cold
So I reach for a blanket to cover
Our shivering feet.
A hunger comes into your body
So I run to my garden
And start digging potatoes.
You ask for a few words of comfort
I quickly kneel at your side offering you
This whole book-
As a gift.
You ache with loneliness one night
So much you weep
And I say,
Here's a rope,
Tie it around me,
I be your companion
By Laurie Greene, PhD,E-RYT, Director, Yoga Nine
Studio ( 11/10/2009 )