I did this drawing several years ago on my lunch hour when I was trying to let go of my inner complaining about how much energy I had to give to my full-time job. This drawing seemed to illustrate a tentative new belief in giving that went beyond my habitual self-concern. I was starting to consider the possibility that I could be enriched and revitalized by true giving.
Generosity was flowering in my mind. I pondered how I withheld my fullest generosity from the typical ego fear that if I gave too much I might become depleted. This depletion through giving is a strange and untrue logic that our protective personalities like to purport.
There is so much more that we can give in a day but what we give must come from an authentic and empowered place within. Perhaps it could be said that we can learn to give to the truth of life and not to other people's ego systems. We can learn to be generous to the truth of what needs to unfold in a healthy and balanced way.
This balance often requires us to say "no" to people's unreasonable ego demands. It requires we set healthy boundaries about what we can and cannot give. As we learn how to discern between genuine and false giving we become much more alive and alert as to where to place our gifts and attention.
"My mother or father needed me to be happy" is a simple formula that trained many child - later stressed and depressed or physically ill adult - into lifelong patterns of repression." -Gabor Mate
False giving feels wrong in our bodies. We often give in a way that is not genuine. When we hear a "I should give this" in our heads and a "no" in our bodies we should be alert to the truth that something is not right. Most of us are conditioned by familiar family of origin pressures, for example, to give in ways that are not genuine. This can fund a lifetime of confused giving where we give in a way that feels comfortable in its familiarity, and yet requires we make every effort to ignore how drained we feel.
The more we are generous from a genuine heart place, the more energy and loving stamina we build. When we give from a sincere intuition of where to give and where not to give, we build a mature and satisfying strength of love that can meet the most challenging dilemmas of life.
The Authentic "No"
Often false giving feels easier because it is more comfortable in the short-term to not disturb the ego status-quo. We need to discern where we can genuinely give and where we cannot. Most of us are confused, especially if we had to compensate and give untruthfully to compensate for our parent's emotional struggles when we were growing up.
If our parents were unable to attune to our authentic truth as children, we may need to take a period of our adult life to get in touch with our truth, our feelings, and our personal rights and boundaries as developing human beings outside of our family system - before we can understand what we can truly give. This might involve finding the courage to say "no" to emotionally taking care of our parents so that we can tend to our own healthy development and give attention to our love relationships and our own children. This differentiation away from false giving can bring up a tremendous amount of guilt, low self worth, anxiety and family resistance, especially if our worth is based on how we care-take and sacrifice ourselves for others.
"For many people, the higher power need not be concerned with a deity or anything spiritual. It simply means rising above their self-regarding ego, committing to serve something than their own immediate desires." Gabor Mate
When I realized how often I had been giving to win approval and plump up my own ego, I started to understand why I was so drained at the end of the day. I was extending my energy out to be "good", well thought of, and this was how - from an inner child place - I tried to "win" the love I craved. What was dawning in my mind and heart was that through true giving to others - giving that was inspired by what was truthfully needed - I could heal the hurt and unmet needs in my own psyche. I started to understand that I could extend to other people - even when I was hurting emotionally. I received in proportion to what I gave - when I listened to my intuition and to the truth of the moment. I understood that I could practice becoming larger than my hurt through genuinely giving. Genuine giving is inspiring.
Most of of us give to try to prove that we are good people and rarely allow the warmth, richness and power of authentic giving. Giving in this wholehearted way is surprisingly energizing and healing. By giving through my own hurt, for example, I learned to give what I most needed. If someone was unkind to me, I gave kindness to everyone around me. If I felt unseen or misunderstood, I gave understanding to each person I encountered. Developing a wider and more giving heart became a rich experience of healing for me. In my drawing I could see that I was building the muscle of mature giving. I realized I could find my own genuine power by giving what I most needed.
When we genuinely give from an intuition of what is ppointedly needed in each situation, we are enlarged beyond our own feelings of emotional pain and inadequacy. When we give other people what we most need, we find out how to give it to ourselves. When we forget our small self-concerned selves and give wholeheartedly, we go beyond our limited mind and preferred emotional capacities. When we give truthfully, we are always rewarded with a personal healing. We become energized with our own spiritual power and the ability to go beyond ourselves.
Here is a quote from Sakyong Mipham that deeply speaks to me:
"Helping others represents a new approach to life. We often draw a blank about how to help, because our caring energy isn't flowing outward yet."
"Care and warmth invites a different energy than thinking we should give. When we think we should give...we'll feel tired because we are not really thinking of others. We're thinking of ourselves. "Enriching our thoughts and actions with love and compassion releases tremendous positive energy. When we churn "What about me?" into "What about you?" we are consciously changing our molecular structure by engaging the big mind chromosome."
Creatively "Forgetting Ourselves"
There are many ways that we can transcend our limited psychology and giving wholeheartedly is one way. All forms of transcendence involve "losing ourselves" in some form of passionate, all absorbing activity - whether it be falling in love, genuinely giving, deeply focused creative work, or some form of intense physical activity or sport. We "forget ourselves" to find our True Self. This self-forgetting of the small and defended self can lead to heightened and visionary states of consciousness.
True giving can take many forms. So often true giving is finding the courage to say "no" to the ego demands of others. Giving to what is higher in another - by refusing to indulge in what is smaller - can make people angry or upset initially but ultimately it serves a larger healing that we may not be able to see in the immediate.
We can learn discern where our gifts and strengths are needed and where we need to set healthy boundaries. The minute we give to another person's demanding ego system - so as not upset them - we become diminished and drained of our own truth. My early childhood experience of false self giving was to smooth things over, not ruffle feathers and in essence, to have no self or feelings of my own outside of being "good". It this way, I disappeared into niceness as a way of untrue giving.
As we learn how to understand true generosity, we understand that we actually do not always have to "do" as much. We do not have to make so many demands upon ourselves to extend ourselves in ways that feel false. We can relax. Life does not require us to spread ourselves thin untruthfully. It does require however, that we intuit where our gifts are needed. We are each called to uplift the quality of life for others in some genuinely helpful way. We can feel enlarged and even enlightened in the process of genuine giving.