During the holiday season we see consumerism at its peak and many people even go into debt to purchase whatever the rage is for the year. Of course, spiritually minded people don't get caught up in the superficial aspects too often, but, sometimes, we, too, can get pulled into doing too much and focusing on the trappings of the season. This is why I am suggesting an expanded approach towards the holidays - namely 12 days of giving focusing on heart-felt generosity. Heart-felt generosity can be a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays and bring true feelings of joy to both the giver and receiver of the gift. It is about expanding our already open hearts to giving in more meaningful ways.What is the best way to practice generosity? I suggest that you select a timeframe, such as the 12 days before Christmas or Hanukah or the New Year, to practice loving generosity and really focus on giving to, caring for and sharing with other people. Simply give someone the gift of love, a smile, an encouraging word or an act of kindness. You can even create a lasting gift from your heart such as a poem, a drawing, a song -- or clean a room, plant a window herb garden or cook a meal for someone. Generosity doesn't end there as you can offer another your seat on a crowded bus, let that shopper who looks utterly frazzled go ahead of you in line at the store, spend time with an elderly person or a child, pet sit for a friend or simply listen to someone who is going through a challenging time.
This type of generosity brings you great joy as you can feel the energy of happiness that you are bringing to the receiver. Feeling the results of giving in this unbounded way empowers us to seek out receivers for these genuine gifts from the heart. Why do we feel joy when we give like this? Because we are all one and we can feel the joy of both giving and receiving created by opening up the heart space to give in a more meaningful way.
Visualize the Love
As a person who lives by New Thought principles, you are likely well-versed in the art of mental visualization. Well, there's a story about how an even imagined gift can reap great rewards. It goes like this. A poor child was playing by the roadside when he saw the Buddha begging for alms. The child wanted to make an offering, but he didn't have anything to give. So he collected some pebbles and, visualizing them as huge amounts of gold, placed them in the Buddha's alms bowl. Because of this act, in his next life the child became the powerful, wealthy King Ashoka who benefited numerous beings. Why not mentally visualize your gift surrounded by radiant light and brimming with love?
Mastering the Art of Generosity
This holiday season I encourage you to practice heart-felt generosity for the 12 days before Christmas or Hanukah or the New Year. Once you set the intention, you will discover many openings to be generous in spirit. When we move away from society's dictates on commercialized giving, we will notice a magnificent expansive feeling in our hearts. At the end of each of the 12 days have some quiet reflection on all the ways you were generous and what resulted from this. I suspect that you will have a wonderful feeling of joy which will inspire you to continue to be generous not just during the holidays, but every day of the year.
Seasons greetings to all!
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.