#267 Practice Generosity

It’s funny about generosity.

I almost always get replies to Tenacity Notes. Not always many, but at least a couple. However, I don’t get replies when I mention generosity. I understand that generosity can be an edgy topic for many.

Given that we live within a mass culture focused on taking and having, the impulse to close down, to defend, to hold onto is a strong one, and it can feel normal or natural. But it isn’t.

Maybe this is a good time to think about generosity. Maybe this is a good time to risk the freedom that being generous brings — freedom from being tight and fearful and defended; freedom to be vulnerable and wide open and glad.

One easy way to think about generosity is to note all the ways there are of being stingy.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when we think about stinginess is money. But there are many ways of being stingy besides money.

We can be stingy with our time, with our love, even with our curiosity.

We can be stingy with our acceptance of others — stingy with our willingness to be available in the moment, any moment.

We can be stingy with our expectations —“ this is how I expect something to be, and I will not be satisfied with any other possibility.”

We can be stingy towards ourselves — stingy with the permission we give ourselves to be vulnerable, to be joyful, to be the person we suspect we’re capable of being.

This might be a good time to think about generosity; a good time to identify the ways that you are tight, closed down, or unwilling — the ways you are stingy.

This might be a good time to be curious about all the ways you say “no,” and then practice saying yes; to notice when you are critical or judgmental, and then practice acceptance and approval; to notice when you are impatient, and then practice being available; to notice when you hold your purse strings tight, and then ask yourself if your tight grip is truly necessary or is it just your automatic way of being in the world, your attempt to feel safe in the unpredictability that is life. Then let go your grip.

Practice generosity diligently for a time — an afternoon, a day, a week, a month. Yes, it can be edgy. It can feel scary to be wide open when you’re accustomed being closed, to be loose when you’re accustomed to being tight, to say yes when you’re used to no. But practice generosity long enough, and I’m sure you’ll come to love it. To be truly generous is to know freedom, and joy, and wonder, and a glorious sense of possibility. I guess that’s because generosity is a form of love.

Let me know how it goes!

#266 Girl Scouts and Jesus

It’s interesting to me how many people tell me that I’m a Buddhist. I have never studied Buddhism. I am not at all inclined towards religion. Any religion. I would never call myself a theist. But hearing so often that I’m a Buddhist has gotten me to wondering where my values and my world view came from.

Two institutions influenced me in my youth. Girl Scouts and Jesus.

Although I am not religious, and did not grow up in a religious family, I did attend 12 years of Catholic school. Unlike some Christian sects, Catholics, it seems to me, concerned themselves more with the New Testament than with the Old Testament. So over the years of my education, I developed an idea of Jesus — he was the son of god and he was also a man. He was an itinerant teacher; he befriended and hung out with the poor, the sick, and the outcasts. This last included women. He was kind. He was generous. He was not enamored of the wealthy.

Girl Scouts showed me how to follow Jesus’s example. We learned to help other people at all times. We learned to be useful; to leave a place better than we found it; to be a friend to animals; to be courteous and cheerful. We visited the sick and we fed the hungry. We learned to be trustworthy. To be generous. To be kind. We matured into humility. We learned all this by doing. In addition, we learned to paddle a canoe, to build a campfire and cook on it, to pitch a tent, to use a compass and a map.

That’s it — Girl Scouts and Jesus, the guides of my youth. Both of them taught me about love in action; love in the every day real world.

I had many teachers after that, but the trajectory of my life never changed much from the path that the Girl Scouts and Jesus set me on.

#265 Praise and Joy

Appreciation is an experience that keeps me present in the moments of my life. It’s very easy for me to drift, to have my mind far away from my body. But appreciation keeps my body and my mind in the same place and in the same time. And it feels good!
Gratitude is my communication with all that I appreciate. I say thanks to the tree and to the river and to my tiny home. I flash a smile of gratefulness to the Mockingbird and the Blue Jay. I gratefully inhale the scent of rain.
There is a lot to appreciate in every moment. Saying thank you to all that I appreciate is an act of praise, an outpouring of joy.

#264 Tattered and Scattered

Sometimes it feels like life is going too fast, and that I can barely remember who I was at 23, when I thought I knew who I was. So much has happened between then and now!

Doing some minutes of conscious breathing every day helps gather together all the disparate threads of who I am, who I was, and who I still hope to be.

Remember the Breath and Water Club? 15 minutes of conscious breathing, twice a day. A balm for the tattered and scattered.

#263 More Lamenting!

All this political stufff is driving me crazy. And I don’t even have a TV!

My granddaughter, Amberley Brynn McGuire, was born a few days ago. I find myself wondering, “What kind of future can this child have? If some people have their way, she won’t have health care, or birth control, or any type of equality. She probably won’t have water or clean food. She won’t have unions or social security. She won’t have…”

Then, looking at her picture on my Facebook page, I happened to glance at a Tenacity Notes, also posted on Facebook. June 10, “Lamentations.”  In it, I suggest that focusing on solutions feels better than lamenting. In fact, I suggest a specific solution. Whew, just what I needed!

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that I sometimes look at back issues of Tenacity Notes.


#262 Begin Again

Remember a couple of issues ago, I talked about pausing to experience gratitude every time I got in my car?

Well, the circumstances of my life got a bit whirly, and I completely forgot that lovely practice. However, after some time I came to my senses, and I started again. And am I ever glad I did.

Here’s the thing — once I began my car = gratitude practice again, everything changed. Even though it’s also true that nothing changed — the circumstances didn’t change a bit. But my interpretation of those same circumstances changed considerably — and so my experience of those circumstances changed. Whirly-ness departed. Worry retreated. Sleep became easy and restful. And solutions presented themselves to me. Just like that! (Imagine me snapping my fingers. And grinning.)

On a more personal note, today is my mother’s 102nd birthday. And she is just fine, thank you. Still quick-witted, healthy, and relatively mobile. I am very like her, and I’m only 67, so I’m planning on being around for quite a long time yet.

Also, Debra and I are about to join the fall Snowbird migration. Next week we’ll be in Apple Valley, MN for several days, then we’ll mosey on down to our winter home in a State Park in Texas.

#261 It is what it is.

Lately, in an attempt to soothe feelings of disappointment, I’ve been saying “it is what it is” to myself.

You know, expectations cause such trouble!  In my case, I had not just a simple expectation, but an entire string of expectations.  And, as is their nature, my expectations were a set up. I set myself up. How much less wrenching it would have been if I had had curiosity about the situation, rather than dreaming up a whole story (a novel!) about how the situation would unfold.

But I digress. We’ve discussed expectations plenty in the past. Enough of that for now. Back to “it is what it is.”

What I find when I say “it is what it is” is space. I find open-hearted, present-time space. I find space that makes room for wonder, for appreciation, and for gratitude. I find respite from my nattering, recriminatory mind. I find ease. I find a balm for my sad disappointment. “It is what it is.”