Typically, when we think of someone as being generous, two manifestations often come to mind – the person is generous financially, or generous in their time and care. Both of these actions and traits are to be admired, and cultivated.
Generosity can also be quite quiet and reserved though too. Generosity of spirit, kindness, space, time and consideration sometimes isn’t seen by the outward eye; other people may not know of one’s almost secretly cultivated and maintained inner generosity — how one might be generous to themselves and in a variety of ways. Of course our inner talk and actions become reflected in our outer walk in the world, but often being generous towards ourselves can go unrecognized, and happily so for there is no need for anyone else to know about it.
Some of the ways we might be of generous spirit to ourselves (thereby setting up the outward ripple to others) is simply in offering a listening ear to our inner most conversations, especially the ones that might revolve around fears, our sadness, disappointments and self criticisms. Rather than ignoring, or bypassing our stronger emotions and states, we can turn a receptive inner ear to what we are feeling – what our mind is usually saying to us at all times. This is a form of mindfulness of mind and emotions that is incredibly tacit and important in self awareness and regulation. By listening to and being with our internal unpleasant conversations, we are implicitly soothing the voices and the need for reaction. Everyone wants to be seen and heard, even our unseen inner voices.
By conversing with ourselves with openhearted kindness, we begin a process of letting go of that which causes us suffering, stress and emotional/mental discomfort and start accepting ourselves more and more. Accepting ourselves doesn’t mean not wanting to change, improve or grow, but it does mean not punishing or blaming ourselves relentlessly.
As our body changes and we naturally age, it’s really helpful to accept were we are in our life span. We never know how long we will live, but we can be grateful for the age we’ve gotten to! The body aging, just the aging process in general isn’t sometimes as we would wish, but it is as it is. We will if lucky, age, we will change and our practices can reflect how we work with exactly where we are in all realms – physical, emotional and mental.
Giving our selves space is also a practice of deep and unseen generosity. Taking the time to not do, to not engage, to rest and just be is so valuable. Resting the mind and quieting the heart revives us, cultivates creativity and renews energy. Sometimes it’s a foreign thought – to sit and do nothing, not answer emails or endless texts, or listen and engage in the news every night, but giving ourselves an opportunity to take a break is incredibly regenerating.
Bringing these aspects of generosity into our practice can be quite simple. Try listening to and being mindful of your thoughts and feelings during the day. By recognizing patterns of thoughts and emotions we lay the ground to understand ourselves more and take the first step towards knowing which patterns are harmful and which are supportive.
In taking some time to unplug and be quite, in restorative postures for instance, we can not think for a while, but rather just sense for some time. Try just feeling sensations in the body while in a still posture. Be with the rising and falling of breath (a culmination of sensation) or a particular feeling like a tingle, or tickle, pressure or lightness, tightness or softness. If we can just be with sensation without have to tie a story line around what we are feeling, or wish it were different than it is, then we are simply noticing what is arising in the present moment. This clearing of the mind goes a long way and opens many possibilities for happiness and peace.
Being a friend to ourselves is another deep practice of generosity. Listen, be with, respond and react to yourself as if you were with your very best friend. This can lead to many psychologically profound shifts as we change from being our own worst critic to our own best ally. If we ask ourselves just before we practice – what would be the best practice for me to do right now for instance, we might just get a surprising answer. Maybe the suggestion is to walk in nature, do a soft not effortful twist, practice some hip openers, not practice a vinyasa, sit and meditate for instance. Checking in with our body, heart and mind rather than assuming a practice ahead of time can lead to blossoming results of self care and kindness.
So being internally generosity of spirit, kindness, space, time and consideration to our selves will naturally be our way with others. We’ll intimately know when silence is a good option, when someone else needs space to them selves, when our partner would benefit from kind words, a good hug or a walk in the woods. We feel our way into ourselves, we feel our way into all of our relationships, for in this moment to moment awareness and experimentation we are truly alive and awake in each moment. No rulebook applies, but thoughtful conscious, wise experimentation leads the way.