“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” ~Winston Churchill
When asked what his religion is, the Dalai Lama tends to respond with one word: kindness.
In the world we live in today it’s easy for us to get so caught up in our goals and commitments that we overlook the suffering or needs of those around us.
Kindness may sometimes be put to the bottom of our to-do list when we feel a desperate need to survive, which seems to be increasing with all that is going on globally at the moment.
Many of us have lost our jobs, are renting our homes from the banks, and are just about scraping by for the daily necessities.
The paradox there is that now is the very time we need to be kind to one another because we need one another more than ever.
And the old proverb “give to receive” is possibly the guiding light that we are meant to follow.
Having recently returned from India where I spent six weeks in Dharamsala, alongside my Tibetan friends, they taught me a thing or two about the benefits of giving.
My line of work takes me into the lives of Tibetan monks. These monks are my friends and really want what I am doing to succeed. As a result, they open up and welcome me and my friends without thinking twice.
For example we were celebrating the birthday of one of our friends. It is not the tradition for Tibetan monks to celebrate birthdays, only that of the Dalai Lama’s, so they were not so sure what to do.
I rounded up cakes and drinks and asked the monks if we could have our little get together in their working space, to which they readily agreed.
We did the typical happy birthday song and cut the cake while a handful of the monks watched on slightly bemused at our Western ways. Slowly the rest of the monks wandered in and each of them instantly dropped the work they were doing and sat down to take part.
Despite their lack of understanding of our unusual rituals they could see this was important to us and that seemed to be enough for them to make time for us.
As a way of saying thank you for all they had done, I donated a hot water tank for the monastery which meant no more cold bucket showers for the monks when temperatures drop below freezing, as they easily do high up in the Himalayan foothills.
The monks were delighted, but said I really didn’t need to do that. But for me it was the least I could do to repay their kindness.
And it doesn’t end there. When I was leaving to head back to Europe, one monk and close friend of mine Lama Buga offered to come to Delhi with me to see me off.
This is no easy journey. It is a twelve-hour night bus trip down the winding mountain roads, and Lama Buga suffers from severe travel sickness.
As it happened I had a spare bus ticket so he spoke to the rest of the monks and they were all happy for him to take some time off “monastic” work to escort me safely to the airport.
Sure enough he was very ill for the first five hours of the journey when the roads were at their worst, and I couldn’t help wondering if I would put myself through this for a friend. I doubt that I would have the inner strength!
So in this anecdote we can see there was a cycle of giving and taking.
The monks gave their support and I repaid them with nice hot showers and in response to that the monks then gave me the company of Lama Buga on the long journey to Delhi.
When everyone is being kind it can’t help but be a win-win.
The more love and support people give us, the more we naturally want to give back; whereas if someone is being grumpy and hurtful, we tend not to look forward to spending time in their presence and can go so far as to avoid it as much as possible.
The Dalai Lama says if you find it hard to give to others, start by giving your right hand some money and then passing it back to the left.
And to add to that maybe we could do a similar thing with our time. If we are over burdened and don’t have time for ourselves, let alone others, then perhaps we can start with ourselves.
Reward yourself with a good movie, a run in the park, or whatever it is that you enjoy, and begin to replenish your own cup first. When we are feeling rested and happy it’s much easier to start nurturing those around us.
Then the win-win cycle naturally begins to take place.
Photo by mckaysavage