Thursday, November 10, 2011

martinmas - in the spirit of giving

As we transition out of harvest time and celebrating the abundance of the Earth and all her gifts, we move into a season of expressing gratitude for all we have and celebrating the spirit of giving.  This is really how I think of Martinmas which is coming up on Friday.  We decorate our Nature Table with a scene from the popular story of Saint Martin wherein he cuts his cloak in half to save a beggar from freezing in a storm.  The theme of giving carries us nicely from the bounty of Summer's end to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

Last year right around this same time, Ryan and I were listening to a talk by Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield speaking on this very subject.  I can't recall his exact words but he was telling about how he sometimes has the impulse to give, second guesses himself, reflects upon what might be personally lost by handing over something (tangible or intangible) that belongs to him and, after much more thought, finally decides for or against the giving.  Actually, he says he used to do that.

He talks about how we probably all have gone through this same process in our own ways.  "Should I donate this sweater to Goodwill?  I might need it...  But it isn't my favorite... but I might wear it if I make it to the snow this year... No, I probably won't.  Okay, I'll donate it...."  "I could go down and volunteer to help at the shelter, but do I really have the time?...  Would a couple of hours make a difference anyway?  Well, maybe next year..."   "A lot of people have a lot more than I do.  Let them be the ones who give away their money, their things, their free time..." 

More or less, I think we probably have all had this kind of internal dialogue.  Jack says at some point in his life though, he made the decision to just always follow the initial impulse to give.  He no longer agonizes over the decision or wonders if it's the right or best thing to do.  He says that when the first inclination of giving arises, he doesn't stop to think about it or reflect on it or weigh the consequences of his actions.  He just does it.  As immediately as possible.

Not once has he regretted it.

A wise approach to living I think.  Something for us all to reflect upon.

Within the fullness of our lives, how might we share our time, our money, our food, our energy and even the oft overlooked but immensely valuable gift of our undivided attention both with those we love and with those to whom we are still strangers?

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