As the holiday season is upon us, ideas of gifts and giving are flowing in the air.
Gifts can come in many forms. They can be traditional gifts bought in a store and beautifully wrapped. They can be gifts of your time or knowledge or love. They can be doing a favor for someone. They can even be as simple as making someone a nice cup of warm tea, a hug or a freshly baked pie. The form of the gift does not matter. The essence of a gift is that we offer or give something.
In yoga philosophy, the idea of giving is both interesting and complex. One of the important factors is the intention behind our giving.
Often we give to our children, to our friends, to our loved ones, with an expected result in return. This is not a bad thing, it is natural. But it does make the giving clouded with expectation and therefore not a simple act in itself. The only way to experience giving from the heart in its purest sense is to give without concern for the result.
“Let your concern be with action alone and never with the fruits of your action.” Bhagavad Gita.
A great way to challenge yourself and to see how this feels is to give to someone you don't really feel like giving to. To give to someone who has caused you pain. To give to someone who is hungry or in need. To give to someone simply focusing on your giving. No concern for the outcome. (Even if the outcome is a thank you). This has a twofold effect. First, it causes your heart to grow from pure giving. It brings love, forgiveness and compassion into your space. Second, it brings awareness towards your heart which will enliven it with consciousness. This gives vitality to the heart as an organ which spreads to your entire system.
"Gifts can come in many forms. They can be traditional gifts bought in a store and beautifully wrapped. They can be gifts of your time or knowledge or love."
There are other important aspects associated with the act of giving. It is easy to give when we feel we have a lot, but is it as easy when we feel we don't have enough? Being aware of this can help us to be grateful for all that the earth provides us with on a daily basis. The sunshine to fill our eyes and caress our skin, the delicious fresh fruit on the trees, the water we drink. Our health. Gratitude allows us to realize that there is actually very little that we “need”. Everything that we already have is enough. This attitude of abundance is healthy and relaxing for your system.
If you ever feel like you don't have enough, try to give. Even if it is small, a smile, an extra dollar tip at the restaurant, just give. Being able to give a lot and be really generous, is the opposite of being greedy and feeling like we don't have enough. Feeling like you are abundant and you will always have what you need is healthier for the heart than feeling like giving is away from yourself.
Another interesting aspect of a gift is material acquisitions. Material things will always bring enjoyment to us and that is beautiful, but their enjoyment is temporary. We may lose them or they may change. If we are not aware of their transient quality it will lead us to bondage and suffering. Giving your things away can help you to connect with accepting the idea that everything in the material world (including our bodies) will come and go. This will help us not to be defined or attached to our material acquisitions. This will give us freedom. Freedom feels good.
Giving is healthy for the heart and soul when practiced regularly, the act of pure giving allows love and compassion in the heart to flourish. It helps us to accept life and its course with more grace and ease. Your happiness will be felt by you and by those around you. Yoga postures can be of great benefit for the organ of the heart as well as the emotions therein. Because it is from the heart that our giving must come, you can try these simple asanas which stimulate the heart center.