Generosity: Nurturing The Self

"Generosity is the completion of the cycle of hospitality. It is made up of our actions toward those whom we are welcoming — an outflow of physical, spiritual, and emotional care and nurture. Generosity involves giving a little bit more than we think we can, but in hospitality to the self this doesn't mean giving it away. This is the paradox of offering 'out' to the inner self — generosity in this case means deeply taking in the nurturance that will make us whole. This is how we offer the generosity of hospitality to the self.

"While this nurturance often comes through specifically spiritual practices such as prayer or mantra repetition, meditation or chanting and singing, it also comes through very physical, practical practices. Generosity is based on the outward actions we take toward ourselves and others. Being generous toward ourselves in a physical way — by honoring our bodies and taking care of them — is a wonderful way to bring the practice of hospitality to ourselves full circle and revere the holy in us. To expand this practice in your own life, consider focusing on the following areas:

"Be devoted to feeding yourself. Eating can be a form of art and play, devotion and commitment to yourself. It can nourish you on the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels all at once. Try to get in touch with the nourishing role that food can play in your life by cooking for yourself, letting others cook for you, or sharing a meal with loved ones. Make it special by paying attention to how the food looks. Don't just eat it out of the cardboard take-out box or the sauce pan you cooked it in. Consciously direct your love into the preparation and presentation of your food, knowing that this love-food will also nourish your body. Love your body by loving your food. Here's a time when it is okay to play with your food!

"Honor your body by letting it rest. Allow yourself to sleep without an alarm clock at least once a week. Try to be disciplined about going to bed early enough to feel rested when you wake up. Whether you need six, eight, or ten hours of sleep to be at your best, figure out a way to pattern your life so that you can get these precious and healing hours of sleep.

"Honor your body by letting it move. Our bodies are complex organisms with muscles made for all kinds of movement. Walk, dance, run, work out, play sports, hike, bike — but don't make this a second job. Let these activities be forms of play and sources of enjoyment and refreshment in your life.

"Welcome your true feelings, even the unpleasant ones. Write them down. Take a personal inventory. Acknowledge your power, the role you play in creating the situations you face in your life. If you have made mistakes, accept that as fundamentally human, let yourself grow in awareness, and prepare to make better decisions in the future. Accept yourself; forgive yourself.

"Make a list of feeling words and consult it when needed. If you have difficulty identifying your feelings, perhaps your emotional vocabulary can be expanded. Try making a list of every feeling word you can think of. Consult a thesaurus if you get stuck. Watch for feeling words in things you are reading. Try to fill a page with multiple columns of words. Then, when you don't know what you're feeling, you can 'check the list.' Make it a game, joke around with friends and loved ones about it, but check the list when you need to. Here are a few words to get you started: happy, sad, angry, confused, irritated, nervous, afraid, anxious, infuriated, frustrated, ecstatic, overjoyed, excited, curious, lost, lonely, depressed, grieving, overwhelmed, content, peaceful. Developing the capacity to identify your feelings will help you grow in self-awareness, move toward self-acceptance, and ultimately love yourself and others with generosity.

"Express love and affection toward yourself. Do this as you might toward a lover. Write a letter to yourself, saying what you long to hear. Write a letter to someone you love, sharing some part of yourself that you long to be known. Or better yet, have dinner together and tell this special person what is in your heart and on your mind. Practice physically nurturing yourself with tea, baths, cuddly blankets, naps, colors, scents, or delicious foods. Make a list of things you admire about yourself. These are all ways of being receptive to your inner being, holding yourself in reverence, and generously giving to yourself.

"Make dates with yourself. Write yourself into your calendar and commit to spending time alone staring off into space and doing nothing. Or plan something fun. Put as much thought into it as you would if you were going on a date with a loved one. After all, aren't you a loved one of yourself? How about a concert? A day at the museum? A picnic at the beach? Go. Do.

"Take some time alone in your inner sanctuary. Whether you do this by sitting in meditation or taking yourself on a brisk walk, setting aside time to pray and open yourself to the God who loves you is a form of spiritual nurture. Be generous in giving this to yourself. Remember the Life of life in whom you live and move and have your being. You are a precious part of the whole of Life."