Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I may or may not have mentioned here my reading of "Life is a Verb"--it's more than just a book. For me, it has become a manual for living, a suggestion for how to savor life, sipping it like a fine red wine after it has been carefully swirled in the glass, where every taste bud experiences the infusion of it's entrance and every cell captures the warmth.

Wow. That makes me want a glass of red wine. I'm not fancy. My favorite red is a table wine from a winery in St. Augustine.

I digress.

The chapter that I'm currently reading explores and encourages generosity and from this, I have garnered a new understanding and appreciation of generosity as a way of being in the world, not a way of giving to the world, at least not in a material way.

Generosity--hands unclenched, heart spacious, mind open and spirit free to take in, to receive, to experience, all while giving space to others for their own experience of life, their own unfolding.

The author, Patti Digh, writes: [Generosity] It has little to do with giving gifts, and everything to do with giving space to others to be who they are.

That's important. No. More than important, paramount.

Giving space to others to be who they are. Space to have their experience. Space to unfold.

This morning, following my asana practice and just before my meditation, my bhakti or act of devotion, where I dedicate my self, my practice, to something/s or someone/s more than me, beyond me, I prayed for such awareness, that in every part of my day, every moment, I would give this sort of space to others. I prayed for a generous spirit; a mindfulness to practice generosity throughout my day.

This self-work is important and necessary and comes about through discipline. I wish I could say that I naturally emanate an altruistic light...but I don't. But I want to. Thus the work, the devotion and commitment as necessary components of my practice.

The framing of all of this spiritual work as practice is so wonderful--you're off the hook for failure and positioned for a path.

Later into the chapter on Generosity, the author mentions the observer effect in Quantum Physics--how the act of observing affects what is observed and then she raises the question, "How are we changing the people around us by how we respond to them...or don't?"

Let that sink in a moment. How are we changing the people around us by how we respond to them or don't respond to them?

When you pretend not to see someone because you don't want to muster conversation. When we refuse to allow a merge on the interstate or follow too closely when it's forced. Conversely, when we kneel to a child's level and look them in their eyes as they share something important and wonderful--how are we changing them and thus, creating an 'experience'? We become creators of reality.

I especially like how Digh went on to phrase the question for readers:

How do we hold presence for others?

Wow--what a sacred responsibility, to hold presence. To, in that space of holding presence, create space for the person or persons you are sharing it with. To ask nothing of them but only offer to them, your self, your time, your attention--to commit to the moment or period you are sharing.

How do we do this? Easy, man...easy. Look people in the eyes and see them. Listen to their words and hear them, even what they don't say. Touch when invited or welcomed. Practice, there's that word again, practice compassion and get better at it every time. Through discipline and commitment, cultivate an altruistic way of living and serving.

True compassion is not just an emotional response, but a firm commitment founded on reason. Therefore, a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change, even if they behave negatively. Through universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively overcome their problems--Dalai Lama

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