Paramita #1: Generosity

Meditation can a softening effect on our hearts. But having an open heart can feel kind of dangerous, unsettling. What to do? Instead of trying to scramble back into a more closed off situation, there are six actions that you could take instead.

They are called the Six Paramitas, or transcendent actions.

The Six Paramitas are: generosity, patience, discipline, exertion, mindfulness, and wisdom.

We’ll talk about the first one, generosity, today and the other five over the next five newsletters.

So let’s start with what generosity is not! It is not:

-Giving away all your stuff even though you don’t want to
-Putting yourself last
-Giving to others from a sense that you have more than they do

Here, generosity begins with opening yourself up to whatever situation and person you encounter. It also means opening up to yourself, just as you are. In all cases, we open not to manipulate the situation or put forth an agenda or pass judgment, but simply to communicate with it. We give our attention to it. Nothing is more generous than this.

The Zen priest and poet John Tarrant Roshi said, “Attention is the most basic form of love. Through it we bless and are blessed.” I’ve never heard a truer statement. And what is more generous than love?

When you know that you possess this ability to open to your world, you can give up the sense of constantly trying to solidify your stance or guard what you possess. Instead, you can take in the entire spectrum of brilliant, challenging, touching, beautiful, crazy human experience. At this point, a sense of tremendous richness arises. When your generosity comes from richness rather than poverty, it is not parsimonious or diminishing. It is beneficent. It is expansive.

So generosity begins with letting down your guard. And of course, in meditation, this is exactly what we are practicing: releasing concept, judgment, hope, and fear to tune in to the vastness of the present moment.

Good luck!

Please practice!


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  1. Teresa Barsanti { 09.20.12 at 12:27 am }

    I love reading your blog and I have learned so much from it. Could you give an example of what generosity is? I think I am so programmed to believe it is all the things you said it is not, that I can’t quite wrap my head around what it is, what does it look like? I’m not quite sure what it means to open myself up to whatever situation or peson I encounter. Thank you!

    • susan { 09.20.12 at 10:07 am }

      So glad you enjoy the blog, Teresa.

      I totally understand and appreciate your comment that you (and I, everyone) are programmed to think generosity is all the things I said it was not. I think the key to understanding is to think of the difference between giving something out of pure love and affection vs doing so out of obligation or shame.

      Here, the act of opening is what is meant by generosity. It is so generous to open your mind and heart to actually take something of someone in. “Opening” doesn’t mean liking or accepting or even tolerating. It simply means to place your attention on the situation or person sort of like you place your attention on your breath in meditation. I hope this makes sense. Let me know. xo S

      • Teresa Barsanti { 09.21.12 at 12:23 am }

        Thanks! That really does help. I think it’s just such a foreign concept for me that it might take a while to fully grasp it. Thank you!

        • susan { 09.27.12 at 2:57 pm }

          There is no rush.

  2. David Brostrom { 09.20.12 at 9:07 am }

    It seems to me that practicing generosity goes along with “being genuine.” Otherwise it is more likely I’ll do it for the wrong reasons.

    • susan { 09.20.12 at 10:08 am }

      Yes, to offer generosity genuinely is the best, amazing. But, when we can’t do so, it’s still ok to try anyway… ;-)

  3. roxy { 10.03.12 at 6:06 pm }

    Thanks for your explanation. I tend to be generous sometimes out of shame. How can I change that?

    • susan { 10.18.12 at 12:00 pm }

      Roxy, it can be useful to first offer your generosity to yourself. That seems to change many things. Hope this is useful!

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