We have all heard it said that suffering is part of the human condition. Simply by being alive at some point we encounter pain, loss and sorrow. Just when we think we can't handle what's happening and we feel that we can't bear any more, we lose hope, feel badly about ourselves and feel that no matter how hard we try the Universe has just hit us with a two by four. We've reached the end of our rope and see no way out.
When it hurts so badly that you want to cry out or strike out, this is a prime time to ramp up your spiritual practice. The most important part of the spiritual journey is not how you handle yourself when everything is rosy but how you react when the ship you are on is rocking on turbulent waters making your stomach churn and feeling there's no way to calmer seas.
Whatever you are facing in your life whether it be a minor challenge or a challenge that knocks the wind out of your sails, there is a simple formula for transcending that suffering. Develop a compassionate and generous nature and you will gain mastery over the pain of suffering.
Quite simply, compassion means caring more about giving than receiving. This compassion, however, must spring genuinely from your heart. It's different from trying to do "good deeds" because you are sincerely committed to helping others from your deepest heart space. In this state of consciousness, there is a letting go of selfishness and a letting go of the ego, which is called egolessness. You are immersed in the one-pointed desire to help others and your light and energy help to alleviate other being's suffering (both humans and animals). You shed everything unlike God and help others find happiness with a gentle and tender approach.
To cultivate this compassion, we first must drop attachment to form and become more attached to God. After all, forms on the relative plane of experience are always changing but the one constant form that never changes is God. What does it take to accomplish this? You gather up all the compassion you have cultivated on the meditation mat and go out into the world and put it into practice in daily life. You move away from trying to help others and simply help others as a natural result of your expanding heart. By doing so, your suffering is alleviated; yet, you are not giving compassion with that end in mind. You just help others because you feel a deep yearning to do so.
The Rewards of Generosity
When you have a generous nature, you no longer desire anything for yourself - it's a letting go or giving away. For example, it is giving others tangible items such as food, clothing or a prized possession. And it's a giving of non-tangible items such as a caress, a smile, understanding, listening, loving kindness and peace. You give not out of necessity but out of compassion and gentleness with a tender heart. Just like unconditional love - true generosity is giving without expecting anything in return.
A simple practice to help awaken generosity is to catch yourself when you say "I want" and change it to "I give." This may feel uncomfortable at first - you may feel panicky or tight -- but move through it and give it a try.
If panic arises because you feel you are not in a financial position to give, remember that you can give intangible gifts that don't cost any money. Perhaps the best thing about generosity is that even if you are not financially wealthy, you never affirm lack or limitation and you can help heal other's hearts with your gifts. In return you will see prosperity and abundance flourishing in your life. You will find that you are the inspiration that builds richness and joy in other people's lives.
The bottom line? The more you give the more you get in terms of love, joy, prosperity and alleviation of suffering. Of course, these ends should never be your reasons for giving. Once you start enhancing the spirit of generosity, you become more inspired to give and it occurs naturally and effortlessly. A giving life is indeed an inspired life.
This holiday season, I make a promise to practice generosity in new and expanded ways. I encourage you to also move away from the association with material trappings and practice a newfound compassion and generosity. Give in the highest sense. As always, I invite you to share your results and experiences with me by contacting me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy holidays to all!
Work With Me
If you are ready to transcend suffering and live in deep, abiding joy, I invite you to work with me. We can work via phone, Facetime, Skype or in person to activate the power within you to fulfill your heart's desires. Email me at email@example.com to get started.
Dr. Barbara Gulbranson is one of the nation's leading spiritual teachers, author, spiritual coach, ordained minister and director of the Suicide Prevention Center, a program of United Health Services.