Giving is a profound word. I believe that most of the times we don’t really think about the real meaning of giving in our daily lives.
What does it mean to give anyway? If you’re being lazy like me right now, instead of really thinking about the word and its meaning, you would just go to Google and type the word and see what is coming to get an idea. So let’s do so.
Top two Google answers:
- Freely transfer the possession of (something) to (someone).
- Cause or allow (someone or something) to have or experience (something); provide with.
That’s a non-brainer.
So simple and yet so difficult sometimes to understand, the profound impact that giving has in our lives. In a world that seems to be getting more selfish, more individualistic, more self-serving and self-sufficient, feels to me that we are losing the side-track of the very meaning of life, which is to give.
I never thought about it so much in my life up to now. I did an Engineering and Business Administration degree and understood all the technical and business concepts I needed to get myself into a good job. I followed all the society norms to the letter, what it means to be a “good person”. Yet I never truly thought about this word in all my actions and relationships I’ve had all this years. I always heard that you should give to receive, that giving is a good thing. Yet I always thought I understood it in my mind. I thought that I was doing good in that area, you know? I gave some money here and there to homeless people on the street. I donated money sometimes to charity. I helped a friend with advice, or with organising a party for them. I helped colleagues at work with business or personal problems. So I thought I knew it all about giving…didn’t I?
But actually after being a Mother for the first time, it is when it finally hitted me: I had no clue what giving really means.
There is a verse that rounds up very nicely the idea of giving, which for me opened a new whole meaning of this beautiful word. This verse is from an Indian master named Nagarjuna, which wrote it eighteen centuries ago. I discovered this while reading the Diamond Cutter, by Geshe Michael Roch and Lama Christina MacNally:
I will tell you briefly the fine qualities
Of those in the path of compassion:
Giving and ethics, patience and effort,
Concentrating wisdom, compassion and such.
Giving is giving away what you have,
and ethics is doing good to others.
Patience is giving up feelings of anger,
And effort is joy that increases all good.
Concentration is one-pointed, free of bad thoughts,
And wisdom decides what truth really is.
Compassion is a kind of high intelligence
Mixed deeply with a love for all living kind
I finally learned that giving is not a simple transaction. It is not an action so I can get something in return, or an action that I do so I can feel better about myself in a self-centered manner.
Being a Mother was for me a manifestation of a higher awareness of living a meaningful life. I discovered that the real meaning of giving is Love. Love is the strongest, most powerful of all human feelings and is completely attached to the art of giving.
When I was younger, I defined having a meaningful life with having certain self-serving things: Possessions, relationships, degrees, recognitions. But deep inside I knew something was missing.When I carried in my arms my little baby for the first time, I understood it. According to the ancient Buddha teachings, it says that every person is driven deep inside by a desire of a truly meaningful life, and that we are incapable of really reaching happiness until we find it. In our social interactions, even if you are friendly and nice to others, you still see them as “others”. Between you and me, there is a barrier, the barrier of our bodies and the matter around us.
When you have a child, this child is like an extension of yourself. You love this little being to the core because it comes from within you, and you don’t see the limits of his/her body with your body. If your child is in danger, you would jump out like a Tiger and would probably kill whoever attempts to hurt him/her, as if it would happen against your very self.
We know this is the protective instinct, nothing revolutionary there.
Then I came across what Roch and MacNally call it the “Ultimate Management Tool”: A three step method for leading a truly successful life. This practice is called “exchanging yourself and others” and it is the real act of giving at its very core:
The first step suggest being observant what others need and like, so that you can be able to give them what they want. What would be the advantage there?
Take the example of the business world. How performance reviews are built thinking in an individual performance rather than a team performance. This triggers that a person just looks after their immediate performance, regardless if it is beneficial for others or not. With so many individual performance reviews, Management then wonders why corporate objectives are at the end not met. If you would intuitively and genuinely look to provide what others really want, they will develop the same attitude towards you. This is a multiplying force that would bring much more benefits to the organisation, by jointly powerfully building value together.
The second step goes a bit deeper in practice, but it is as well more powerful. It is called switching bodies. This is empathy at a higher level. To get to know the person so good that you can actually imagine yourself being in the shoes of the other person and try to understand completely what their wishes are, as if you would be them. By doing this, you can truly give them meaningful words and actions. The implication of having this kind of mindset is simple: You will be surrounded with people that really care, because you care for them as you would for yourself.
The third step is the most radical one, but it is also the one that actually leads most of the laws of the Universe: This is when your mind has completed broken the self-centered and selfish mode and enter into a whole new concept. This is not anymore a question of how can I get higher bonus, how can I increase my sales? Now it becomes as how can we get a higher bonus, how can we get higher sales… as if you and me would be ONE. It is really to expand the purpose of working for the sake of others to, working as if there is no OTHERS, just ONE (us).
This is like all the natural laws of life: The Mother cannot be a Mother her-self but is a Mother because she produced, created, protected… another being. Mothering, signifies extended life, expansion and umbrella of protection. Also you can see it in how our body is formed. The body is nothing but many different types of millions of cells that together create tissues and subsequently organ systems. They ensure homeostasis and the viability of the human body. The cells alone, do not have any meaningful value. But the cells together, are the responsible for creating the marvellous human body- your body- which acts as ONE.
I believe the same process can be applied to human systems, for us to grow, to develop and to reach the ultimate wealth, happiness and satisfaction. And GIVING is what triggers it all. When you give in a selfless manner, others give to you as such, to a point there is no taking care of ME (self) anymore but taking care of ME (us). How different our families, societies, companies and nations would be, if we could just apply this beautiful concept, don’t you think?