Giving and Receiving

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Today, many of us will participate in the exchange of gifts.  As yogis, we may see this as an opportunity for swadyaya or self-study. 

The exercises below were recommended by Ram Dass in 1974 as part of a course on the Bhagavad Gita.  He suggested choosing two and then journaling about them. 

You may already have “done” a couple of them today!  All you need now is a little time for reflection.

 “Paths to God, Living the Bhagavad Gita” by Ram Dass (Harmony, 2004, pages 260-261). 

Giving Exercises:

  1. Give away fruit on the street.   Take enough to last a few hours so that you’ll experience a wide range of responses from people.  Offer it to passersby.  You might try doing it at two locations:  one where many people are hungry (industrial and campus lunchtime) and then one where they’re probably not (middle-class shopping area in mid-afternoon).  Watch the difference in your inner and outer behavior in the two places.  Don’t be attached to the fruits.
  2. Give away some of your possessions.
  3. Give away something you don’t care about and then give away something that is precious to you.
  4. Give something to someone you like and then something to someone you don’t know or are not quite straight with.
  5. Give two gifts – buy one and make the other.
  6. Give something to your parents or your children.
  7. Give away money anonymously.
  8. Give fruit or sweets at an institution – a mental hospital or orphanage or old-age home.
  9. Give something to a child and then something to an adult.
  10. Give time.  Offer an hour or a day in service to a friend or institution.
  11. Give it all away. (Except for your journal.) Because the administrators of the course have not done this particular exercise, we are offering it as useful based on hearsay. 
Receiving Exercises:

  1. For one day eat only what is offered to you by others.  (Don’t tell anyone what you are doing until the day is over.)  Many yogis in India practice this tapasya.  It helps you realize that you are not the Prime Doer and awakens you to the level at which it is being done for you.
  2. Reflect on recent things that have been given to you and your reactions to these gifts.”
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and thank you for the gifts you've given me throughout the year!  I'm so grateful for your time, your friendship, your kindness, your love, your patience, your participation and your offerings of all kinds!  May they come back to you a thousand-fold!

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