Posts Tagged ‘giving’

My friend and “optimism mentor” posed a question to me today: Is there such thing as a selfless act?

We had a great conversation on this topic that boiled down to this…

The concept of “selfless action” is essentially meaningless. Physics offers an instructive metaphor: The device used to measure some aspect of “reality” can not be separated from the reality it’s measuring.

In a similar way, the self cannot be separated from any action because the self is what intends and perceives the action. To put it another way, we always have a reason for the actions we take. Fulfilling that reason (even if the reason is to be charitable with no expectation of reciprocity) is our “reward” for the action.

If I donate $100 to a cause I believe in, I will certainly receive one or more of the following: feelings of joy, satisfaction, integrity, charity, or even self-actualization.

It seems that the only way “selfless action” makes any sense is if we’re unaware of the action. For example, I unknowingly drop $100 on the ground and someone picks it up. That is selfless!

All of this leads to the conclusion that giving is receiving, and receiving is giving. It’s like playing tennis — you need both sides or you don’t have a game.


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The question of why I created this blog comes up from time to time. Not from other people as much as within myself. Am I vain for posting such personal information? Do I crave attention? I’m confident the answer is no to both questions. But until today I didn’t really understand what the answer was. Let me explain.

Last night as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, I was aware of some negative feelings of “not being good enough.” I dug deeper and uncovered a belief that I did not want to admit to myself: I believe that I’m not lovable. Right next to that belief is another part of me that believes that I am lovable and knows that I am loved. But there was a release in admitting to myself that there was this dark part of me that believes the opposite. What I figured out this morning is that I released the shame of that belief.

The belief itself is easy enough to deal with. I have the tools for that. But by hiding it away, I wasn’t dealing with it. The shame was this extra layer of junk that was preserving that belief deep inside of me.

And that’s the value of this blog to me. It’s a place for me to admit publicly that I have psychological blemishes, that I’m not perfect. And there’s no shame in that.

Years ago in a co-listening exercise at Kripalu, I discovered the value of being witnessed by another, not comforted, not encouraged, not empathized with. Simply witnessed. It’s a wonderful thing when you can express something you feel ashamed of and find out moments later that your world did not come crashing down on your head.

Thank you for being my witness.

Now, what about this belief that I’m unlovable? Clearly, this is the second half of what I wrote about on Friday. Just as I can love in all my relationships to the same degree that I love in my romantic relationships, I can receive love in all my relationships to the same degree that I receive love in my romantic relationships. The cycle of love includes giving and receiving.

The lesson here is to grow as a receiver of love. Bring it on, Universe! Gimme what you got! 🙂

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These next 100 days, I’m going to confront and explore the challenge that is and has been my greatest obstacle to inner peace. Some people might call it “not getting my own value” or “low confidence and self-esteem,” but I’m going to be blatantly honest and name it what it really is for me: A fear of other people.

I’m not talking about an acute social phobia. By comparison to the norm, I probably have better than average confidence and self-esteem. But there’s a fundamental perception I have that I don’t know what I’m doing and everyone else does. It tends to go away when I get to know someone, but it’s very present when I interact with people I don’t know.

There are two main ways this fear of people holds me back. One is personal, the other business. In my personal life, it gets in my way of meeting women, dating, and creating the kind of romantic relationship I want in my life. In my business, it gets in my way of playing big and networking and making the huge difference in the world that I know I’m capable of.

My intention for these 100 Days of Peace in Relationships is to be as comfortable with any stranger as I am with my best friends.

Interestingly, yesterday gave me lots of opportunities to explore peace in relationships, as if the Universe was saying, “No, no. You’re starting today.” The romantic relationship I was in ended, and I surprised myself by how peacefully I took the news. I saw an opportunity (and took it) to joke with an attractive woman in the bookstore. I got into a deep conversation about giving and kindness with a man who works in my building. And I met some amazing people at a networking event I attended last night.

The structure I’m considering for these next 100 days looks something like this:

First 10 days: Condition the habit of saying “Thank you” to everyone and everything that shows up in the present moment. In other words, learn to trust that it is all a gift. And if I want to explore that idea deeper in any given moment, I can ask, “What is the gift in this moment?”

Next 30 days: Approach 5 strangers each day and have an authentic interaction with them. It might be a full conversation or just a few words. No judging what it is, and no trying to force it to be what it isn’t.

Next 30 days: In at least 1 of those 5 authentic interactions, use the conversational structure (I forget where I picked this up) of thanking them for something, offering them something, and asking them for something.

Final 30 days: In at least 1 of those 5 authentic interactions, use the thank/offer/ask structure with an attractive woman and ask her for her phone number.

(I also intend to include a business component, but I haven’t decided what that is yet.)

In discussing this with my friend, Joanne, she offered two valuable insights: Start these 100 days from the place of believing that my intention has already been realized (and in fact, yesterday felt pretty close); and allow for a quantum leap. In other words, don’t box myself into thinking that progress has to happen incrementally like I’ve outlined. Big leaps can happen suddenly, and I would do well to keep myself open to that possibility.

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Source of inspiration: Recent coaching session with a client

I was coaching a client recently and we were talking about his/her feelings around money. As a result, I started to explore my own feelings around money, and learned something important.

When I receive money in my business, the primary feeling I notice is relief. I think it’s because one of main things money represents to me is security. So when I make money, there is an “Ah, more security” feeling.

When I receive money as a gift (a friend treats me to dinner, for example), what I notice is a discomfort at accepting “charity.” I don’t experience it as a gift between equals.  Which is odd because when I’m the one giving the gift, I do experience that as a gift between equals. (I think it’s because I’ve created an identity for myself that doesn’t allow for receiving gifts. At birthdays and holidays, I’ve a difficult person to buy gifts for. But I’m great at giving gifts. I’ll explore this identity question more in a future post.)

What’s missing (if not entirely, then substantially) in both cases is joy. That’s the important insight for me today. There has been little or no joy for me in money.

So today I’ve been looking for ways to experience joy in all of my interactions with money. It’s surprisingly easy once I focus on it. Almost as easy as just deciding to do it. This will be an ongoing practice as I learn to amplify the joy and experience it more spontaneously.

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Source of inspiration: Exchanging gifts on Christmas

Christmas carries with it a long tradition of giving and receiving gifts. One of the things I watched this morning–in myself and in others–was how wanting affects the receiving. When I get a gift that I wanted, there is a lift. It is easy to appreciate the gift. When I get a gift that I didn’t want, there is an awkward blend of dissatisfaction and guilt over not appreciating the gift. And worst of all, when all the gifts have been opened and I didn’t get a particular gift that I really wanted, there is disappointment. If the wanting was strong enough, that disappointment can completely overshadow any appreciation I had for other gifts.

It may seem that the “problem” is one of not appreciating. But the “problem” is in the wanting. The wanting creates an expectation. And any gift that is received is judged against that expectation.

This is not just a challenge at Christmas, but a challenge in every moment, a challenge between appreciating the gift of the present versus wanting something in the future.

Today, I will practice appreciating the present. At the same time, I will create space around any wanting that I notice in me, relaxing around it.

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