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In a season of giving and receiving, where do you put the weight? In the act of giving? In the act of receiving? Both are practices of generosity and of equal value to this well marketed materialistic season. At the heart of this time of year are qualities of joy and peace. These qualities are brought to life with family traditions, celebrations with friends, caring for our community. All of this brings both meaning and purpose to our life with a heightened awareness over the holidays.
Giving becomes stressful when the weight of it is held in the belief that it comes in materials goods and objects. It is essential to transform this belief and remember that the root of generosity comes from heartfelt offerings of kindness and care. Giving from the heart is a practice of generosity. Many traditions would call this act of generosity an act of selfless service. Giving without any expectation of the fruits of your offering. The best way you can do this is to remember that every act of kindness and every gift is one that is given for the sake of something bigger.
When you give kindness, kindness gives back. Kindness mirrors kindness. There is an element of trust placed in the act of generosity. Giving provides meaning and purpose to our lives, and ultimately, it feels good.
In a culture where giving is often easier than receiving, it is important to remember that to receive from the heart is also an act of generosity. It is a willingness to say yes to someone else’s selfless service. Giving and receiving is cyclical and one is dependant on the other.
The attitude of gratitude
Gratitude is the practice of receiving. It is an emotion and an attitude. I remember attending a seminar with William Mahoney, a Religious Studies professor at Davidson College and receiving his teaching, “If you practice anything at all, practice gratitude.” This has resonated with me for over eight years. If you forget all else, remember gratitude. Receive everything as a gift, then you can choose how to use that gift. Perhaps it does not serve you and you throw it away, or reuse it for another time (this applies to both words, actions, and objects), or keep giving it because it has brought you great joy and fulfillment.
Gratitude is as much about generosity as kindness. They rely on each other. Receiving kindness warmly and remembering to give it away helps to elevate our sense of community and connection with others. It helps us see ourselves in others.
I recently attended an event that was introduced by acknowledging that we are gathering on the land of the Indigeneous People. This welcome and acknowledgement was followed by an invitation to pause for the opportunity to feel gratitude. This feeling anchored the room and connected everyone as if a thread was being woven amongst the hearts of all. The invitation sparked a willingness, gratitude sparked an emotional quality shared amongst everyone in the room.
Practices of gratitude
Gratitude is a practice that creates a shared experience of respect in the art of giving and receiving. It is an intentional practice of remembering the interconnectedness of all for the sake of our physical, emotional and social survival.
You can begin a practice of gratitude anytime. Here are a few suggestions to get started during this holiday season.
1. Gratitude Journal. Begin and end your day with writing 3 notes of gratitude both morning and evening. Notice the impact in the morning and at night.
2. Gratitude Meals. Before eating a meal, consider where the food came from, the efforts of growing, packaging, selling and preparing that it may have taken to arrive on your plate. Silently extend gratitude to all those who may have contributed to the process.
3. Gratitude Rituals. Use gratitude as a ritual to connect you and your friends or family. When you return home from work, school, swimming, soccer, or any activity, take the time to pause and feel gratitude.
4. Attitude of Gratitude. When all else fails and frustration kicks in, pause, feel, and shift your attitude to gratitude. Be the beginning of the mirroring impact of gratitude.