There’s a beautiful image in the Indian spiritual tradition—a tree so laden with fruit that its branches bow down close to earth. Delighted, people rush up to take advantage of this fruit so freely given. What the tree represents is generosity of spirit. When your spirit overflows, it is only natural to give freely of yourself. This is known as generosity of spirit.
Generosity of Spirit
In the current crisis, you can find a role that shows your generosity of spirit. How you choose to do this is up to you. We all find ourselves in unique personal situations. But the key is to expand your awareness rather than allowing the crisis to constrict your awareness. At the heart of the situation is “spiritual pretending,” the tendency to avoid facing personal difficulties by using supposedly spiritual ideas like detachment, non-doing, and witnessing.
Spiritual pretending is tricky because it provides a false sense of doing the right thing. If you sit alone meditating while the world around you is falling apart, aren’t you being like a yogi in his cave or a Zen monk in his monastery? Isn’t this what Jesus meant by being in the world but not of it? No—the urge to isolate yourself and turn your back on reality is actually an ego response. The ego feels secure and unsafe. In the face of a crisis, it seeks distraction in order not to feel the fear that lies just beneath the surface. Isolation becomes the same as burying your head in the sand. All of these are symptoms of constricted awareness.
The alternative, which is genuinely spiritual, is to express your core of Being in what you say, think, and do. In the current crisis, there are four expressions of spirit that come directly from pure, infinite being. When you express any of these qualities, you have discovered how to be generous of spirit.
1. Safety and Security
You know from your meditation that there is peace, quiet, and silence “in here” that isn’t caught up in the restless mind, which is obsessed by what is going on “out there.”
In a crisis, the ego is more insecure than in normal times. It thrashes around trying to calm its own panicky feelings. Go inside, find your personal safety in yourself, and then let your peace and security radiate to others. Children are especially open to feeling safe when the adults around them radiate a sense that the situation is safe and nonthreatening.
Spiritual sobriety is the quality of seriousness in the face of threat, fear, and crisis. It is the quality of spirit that makes you feel that you are unfazed by fear, focusing your attention on the level of the solution, not the level of the problem. The ego, which constantly seeks distractions and escapes, cannot lend you sobriety. Only your inner self can do this. When you are spiritually sober, you don’t engage in fearmongering, handwringing, and feeling helpless. You look around and apply your creative intelligence to make the situation better for everyone.
Loving-kindness is a quality of spirit, and it emerges when you feel empathy for others. The ego is wrapped up in its own confusion and conflicts. Sealed inside its own self-centered emotions, it thinks it has protected itself from other people’s problems. In reality, shutting down and isolating from others is self-defeating. You are doing nothing to actually heal your emotional agitation. When you feel empathy, your show that you share yourself in an act of emotional giving. The effect is to expand your awareness, which in itself is a powerful way of healing yourself while helping to heal someone else.
Spirit isn’t individual but universal. There is only one wholeness, the infinite field of pure awareness that we share, the way every small wave in the sea shares the whole ocean. The ego’s fixation on “I, me, and mine” tries to pretend that only the wave exists, only what is happening to you matters. The ocean is ignored, and yet unbounded existence is the only, and best, reality. When you feel this way inside, you spontaneously bond with others. No effort is involved. You perceive everyone in the same light of spirit that illuminates you.
There are infinite qualities of spirit, but I’ve chosen these four because they enable you to awaken while at the same time you are being generous to others. Waking up is the same as expanded awareness. You don’t have to turn into a saint. The crucial thing is to meet yourself in silence rather than trying to run away from yourself.
In a crisis, people constantly ask, “What can I do?” But the doing comes second. The real issue is “What can I be?” Be generous of spirit. Let your inner self be your guide. Ultimately, when the crisis has passed, some will emerge healed, others damaged. Some will emerge with a strong sense of self; others will only remember their helplessness and continue to carry it around with them.
Ultimately, the greatest gift you bring to the human family is your state of consciousness. Let your consciousness be the source of peace, security, empathy, bonding, and the sobriety to live in the moment and find the best way to move forward.