Reflections on #7daysofgiving

In Uncategorized on September 27, 2011 at 3:25 am

This weekend at church, my minister Reverend Justin extended a provocative invitation to us to participate in what he described as an experiment in “big radical giving” by committing to give a gift, every day, for the next seven days.

Now, to be clear, he wasn’t preaching for the gods of consumerism, and was by no means suggesting that we go out on a shopping spree right after church to fuel our 7 days of Christmas in September. Rather, he was inviting us to get grounded in the abundance that we all have – each in different ways, and to give from that place. Maybe a kind word, an offer to help a parent, or simply the gift our time and undivided attention to our kids, co-workers, spouses. In other words, it was an invitation to give freely, and to stretch ourselves in that giving so that we start to feel into the places where giving is hard or challenging.

As I was reflecting on giving this morning, I found myself feeling pretty tight and contracted. My chest and heart closed down when I asked myself “what is my gift today?” Perhaps you’ve had a similar feeling – tightness, darkness, an overwhelming feeling of “mine, no, you can’t have it and I don’t have anything you want anyway?” or maybe that’s just me.

Not that the “it” was named, but for whatever reason, I woke up this morning feeling like I was in need of some receiving and wasn’t so much for the giving. And so I dug that into that a bit, and was taken back to the start of a daily practice of loving-kindness or metta that I was invited to join as part of the Rockwood Leadership Program.

What I recalled this morning was how we started our daily practices not by offering loving-kindness, also called metta, to others, but by grounding ourselves in the love that others give to us. Our first few days of practice were to meditate on the love that we receive from the people in our lives, and to feel that love coming into our bodies, into our hearts, and in the process opening our hearts and making them ever more able to receive love.

The metta practice progressed from there – from receiving love to offering love to ourselves, to others, people close to us, and people we ignore. We spent time working on gratitude for the hundreds and thousands of seen and unseen nameless people whose efforts have combined to create nearly every moment of the lives that most of us live everyday, and we ended by offering metta to people who we don’t like, people who we feel have harmed us in some way.

So, what the heck does this have to do with #7daysofgiving? Well, I got to wondering if all giving is rooted in our ability to receive, but also in our capacity to be generous with ourselves. There’s an old cliche out there about needing to love yourself before you can love someone else, and I’m thinking that what’s true for love is true for all other gifts as well – we need to offer to ourselves what we want to offer to the world. Or as the Buddha said “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

If all of human emotion boils down to two basic states: love or fear, then what’s true for love – that we deserve our love and affection, is likely true for all else that we might want to give to the world – our love, our time, our undivided attention and listening. And so, this morning, feeling that the giving bank was a bit low, I chose to give myself the gift of metta meditation, working to fill-up the reservoir a bit before I went out and tried to give to the world.

So, I’m left with a new avenue to explore – do contractions around giving reflect an unseen need? When considering giving to others, does tightness or a sense of duty or obligation show a need for some inward focus? Not from selfishness, but because “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”