Live to Give, Not to Get, and You Will Be Happy (But Don’t Forget to Give to Yourself)

Live to Give, Not to Get, and You Will Be Happy (But Don't Forget to Give to Yourself)

Happy holidays, everyone!

The other day I mentioned that I somewhat unintentionally went through a process of discernment about my life, where I am in my life, and next steps during those several days last week when I was ill. I promised to tell you more about that, but then I had a bit of a relapse and disappeared again for a couple days, as you may or may not have noticed. Now I’m back and feeling pretty good, so I’d like to continue where I left off the other day. I think I’ll tell you some general things today and then go on to some specifics tomorrow or whenever the next time is that I managed to sit down in front of my computer to write.

As most of you know, I lost a significant relationship this past summer. In addition to the friendship that ended, at that time I also lost the vision I had for myself and my future that accompanied that relationship, which, had it come to pass, would have offered me a path to follow all the way to the end of my life. It was a beautiful vision, and a huge, sudden change to lose it, and I’m still feeling my way through the aftermath.

Up until fairly recently the resulting grief has occupied the space that the relationship and the vision occupied before. The grief has gradually faded, however, and as it has I’ve felt more and more the need to fill the vacuum with some good thing to put my heart into. I can’t say at all that I know what Life will offer me next to give myself to–that’s not up to me, as I see it–but I feel confident it will offer something; and in the meantime I’m faced with some essential questions as to who I am now in my life and what sort of life I would wish for myself, if I could choose.

As has so often been the case in my life before, I find myself at a particular crossroads. In one direction lies a path similar to the one I just lost: a worldly path in which I choose the same sorts of things that most other people choose (relationship, a personal connection with the world, worldly adventures, and so on…) In the other direction lies a more mystical journey, in which I perhaps forgo the kinds of things most other folks feel like they need in order to be happy, in order to fully devote myself to spiritual practice and to service. I don’t actually think the two are mutually exclusive; I can imagine a life in which both happen simultaneously; but it’s helpful to consider the choice in order to better see where my heart stands right now, and what I most truly desire for myself.

As I said, I have in mind some specific things I’d like to do short and long-term going forward, which I will share with you soon. In general, though, here’s what I’ve come to: if I want to be truly happy on this earth, my focus needs to be not on what I can get from Life, but what I can give. Saints and mystics from the beginning of time in all traditions have said as much: live to give, not to get, and you will be happy. Whatever Life gives in response I will accept and be grateful for, I hope, but that’s not so much my concern, or at least it needs to not be so much my concern as much as possible (and this is easier said than done, of course). If I make what I can get my concern, then that shuts the doors to true happiness, those saints and mystics say, and this has been my experience over time as well. My concern is best focused on what small contributions I can offer to our troubled world, and then allow whatever results to be my life, and to accept that life as it is, with appreciation, and, hopefully, with joy.

The primary thing I’d like to give myself to, of course, is my own practice. I see that both as a gift to me as an individual, and a gift to humanity (it’s good to remember that we serve ourselves in the same way that we serve others, and our first and most important gifts must be directed towards our own selves). If everyone were to devote themselves wholeheartedly to the work of ending selfishness and self-centeredness, this would transform the entire human world. This to me is the most fundamental work that we are all here to do, and the most generous thing we can offer as well.

At the same time, I see some ways to serve outwardly that I wish to pursue. Some of these have to do with spiritual practice, and some don’t. And even these, of course, will serve me, if I can do them from a place of true disinterestedness. If it’s so that happiness comes from giving to all that is not ego, then everything we give from that clear place serves the giver. I’d like to experiment and find out how this is so for me right now at this point in my life.

More soon! Thanks for your attention as always, my friends. Be well and have a beautiful afternoon and evening!

In peace,