As I felt less “me-vs-them” toward people, I discovered I could enjoy giving. It was a gradual and growing enjoyment that started with little things like bringing a bubble tea to work for a coworker, or a chocolate treat home to my roommate. Or at times I was able to give full attention to an acquaintance who wanted to talk.
This natural flow of “giving” now extends to saying “hello” to strangers wherever I go. And I experience it when I take the time to listen to a person on the street asking for money, even when I say no.
As this feeling of generosity grew, I would at times criticize myself – I would accuse myself of doing things so that people would like me, or so that I’d feel desirable or popular. Looking back, I see that having the feeling of being liked was part of what was happening. There was a little bit of surface self/ego in my giving to girls at work and my roommate. They were cute, engaging girls and I noticed feeling a boost to my self-image when I was with them at lunch or out on the street walking.
But that didn’t account for all my motivation. Those self-image boosts were only a part of the whole picture. And they weren’t the source of my deepest enjoyment.
I remember being surprised by something that seemed mysterious to me. It felt good to care, even if there was a dose of “me-so-nice, I-feel-liked” mixed in. Beyond feeling good, there was something more here than just the giving.
It’s as if I had created an inner reality of benevolence that held generosity, affection, and love for people. I experienced many
hours, and even whole days, when I felt these positive emotions flowing out toward whatever crossed my path.
Sometimes the giving flows the other direction, from others toward me. I remember being surprised one night when a person I wasn’t even looking at smiled and said hi to me. I appreciated his friendliness, but again the simple act was not the deepest core of what I was beginning to sense.
I felt I had begun to allow a glow to rise up from deep inside me, one that had been buried for a long time. It was like a natural lightness, a shining from inside, like the sun, happy to spread its energy in all directions.
My mind is telling me how stupid this probably sounds to many of you. And I admit that I don’t feel this “flow of giving and benevolence” all the time, perhaps not even a majority of the time. But to an edgy “mister know-it-all” like me who felt superior for so long, feeling this flow of giving seemed miraculous.
Previously, I hadn’t been aware of the hooks of expectation that my giving had carried. Now I see it had been littered with feelings of obligation and/or expectation of getting something back. Usually in the past there was a hidden if not explicit tit-for-tat underlying my giving. I thought that was just how giving worked – I thought expecting something back was the reality of a situation of giving. Sometimes I still feel that.
But I’ve found that when I feel that hook, expecting to get something from people I give to, my natural inner energy of goodwill is stifled. It’s as if I’ve leashed my energy to an outside surface phenomenon, instead of staying rooted with the natural flow within, and it constricts my inner aliveness. The benevolent joy isn’t there when the hook is.
Do I expect something back for many of the things I do? Yes, absolutely. But these are mostly limited to business interactions; e.g., shopping at a store where it’s clear that if I give them two dollars, they give me a jug of milk. This expectation of getting back, of tit-for-tat, applies to shopping, doing a specific job for a specific amount of pay, and many other trade-based activities.
But this other type of giving, an outflow of something inside me connecting to something outside, is like a kindness toward life that doesn’t need a reason. With this giving I’ve begun to experience a new kind of delight in being alive, without the old hitches of tit-for-tat expectation. And this positive outflow of delight can accompany even the trade-based interactions, such as at the grocery store or gym, because there are people at those places I look at and speak to.
The delight of this no-hook giving feels like a catalyst for positive energy flow. It’s like fuel that creates inside me the kind of world I like to see outside. It’s fuel for an inner benevolence that’s somehow intertwined with contributing to a benevolent world outside.
This flow of giving has uncovered a feeling of deep gratitude for people, including myself, and even for the natural energy forms of animals, plants, and rocks. It feels all-embracing. It’s become a new kind of appreciation of life, one I am grateful for whenever I sense it.
In some strange way, it’s the flow itself that makes the difference. Not needing anything back is somehow more connected with the flow of bringing more to me inside than to anyone or anything outside. And yet sensing the feeling reflected outside is part of what makes the flow feel so good.
It’s a strange and wonderful circle, this generous, benevolent flow inside me that seems to reflect out onto the world. Without any reason, without me getting anything back, the “reality out there” feels like the one that’s taken form “in here”.