Generosity: What’s Mine is Ours

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Photo by Elaine Casap

Generosity is a fundamental attitude of mindfulness that has been added to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s original seven listed in his book, Full Catastrophe Living.

This virtue is getting increased attention in the science arena due to its impact on happiness and health. The Science of Generosity Initiative at the University of Notre Dame has funded a number of studies which have demonstrated a relationship between generosity and well-being. They discovered a seeming paradox in which freely giving of oneself makes us ultimately richer than hanging on tightly to what we perceive as ours.

Many of us aspire to be more generous, but we have a hard time putting it into practice. Setting an intention to be generous is helpful, but ultimately its the practice of giving that is key. Consistent generosity requires a certain amount of non-attachment to resources. We must cultivate an attitude of abundance versus a mind of scarcity. This requires us to transcend our fear. Greed and stinginess often arise out of fear and it is an act of fearlessness to give what you have to others.

True generosity also requires non-attachment to outcome. We give freely, without conditions on how gifts are used or whether something is received in return. This sort of giving has nothing to do with I, me or mine– it is free from ego. Through the act of giving, something precious is received – essentially the giver and receiver become one. Giving without attachment to ego or outcome connects us with the whole of humanity and connects us with our highest values.

It takes generosity to discover the whole through others. If you realize you are only a violin, you can open yourself up to the world by playing your role in the concert. – Jacques Yves Cousteau

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