From Obligation to Giving from the Heart
You value generosity and you often give easily from the heart. There are those times, however, when you get snagged by a sense of obligation. You feel tense and resentful. You don't want to continue with this attitude, but you are already committed. How can you return to giving from the heart?
First, remind yourself of three essential elements that support giving from the heart: choice, mourning, and acceptance. First, let's open up a contemplative relationship with choice. How does it really operate in you? What is the basis of your choices?
In the big picture, choice is often promoted as a way to establish identity. In the worse case scenario, identity is linked with choices regarding tragic strategies to pursue pleasure, avoid pain, and meet some needs at the cost of others. Such tragic strategies may revolve around money, status, material possessions, rules, or ideologies. Any time you choose to identify with a strategy, that is, decide that who you are can be found in a thing, a rule, or a view, you have begun the process of creating a thick sludge that makes choice difficult to access. You are setting yourself up for obligation and resentment.
You can begin to examine how choice operates in you in two ways. First, in a journal or in the company of someone you trust, answer the question, "Who are you?" Answer quickly without thinking about it. Answer continuously for a full minute. Then review your answer without judgment. Notice what you have unconsciously or consciously identified with. Which of these identifications give you a sense of agency and movement and which bog you down?
Next, ask yourself to what you would like your choices to be in service? What is that thing that is the constant among the ever changing flow of feelings, thoughts, and, needs? Said another way, to what do you most deeply dedicate your life energy? Is your life primarily about kindness, love, compassion, wisdom, service, inclusion, fairness, or acceptance? Or something else? As you find groundedness in inspired dedication to something larger than yourself, you will find that choice operates with a true sense of freedom and generosity.
Mourning and acceptance are best friends and they open the way for their other friends; joy, compassion, and wise action. The moment you push past a feeling, need, dream, or any experience in favor of getting to the next thing. You build up a bit of sludge in in your body and energy. Your experience bumps into a sudden wall and becomes dense as it piles up there. The nature of experience is that of flowing, changing, and evolving. You have likely had a moment of joyfully watching a mountain stream. You see how the water finds it's way again and again around stones, branches, and leaves. You recognize and resonate with the vitality of the flowing stream.
Mourning and acceptance keep your inner stream of experience flowing. In daily life this might look like a moment of breathing in and noticing your experience, and breathing out, relaxing your body. For example, reading a disturbing news event you might pause in the middle, breathing in, it's okay to feel sad, breathing out relaxing the body. Or perhaps you look out the window at work and feel the call to be in nature. Breathing in, you allow the longing and the grief at not being outside in that moment, and breathing out you relax the body.
Consistently turning your attention to what you are most deeply dedicated to and meeting each moment with mourning and acceptance, allows the flow of life to go where it naturally wants to go...to joy, love, and harmony.
PracticeTake a moment now to rest your attention on that which you are most deeply dedicated for one full inhale and one full exhale.