How to develop through the art of giving

 

When we wish to give somebody something to make them happy, it is a fantastic state of life to be in. Giving can be done in many forms. It could be spending time encouraging someone, giving a material present, physically helping, donating money, writing a beautiful letter… It doesn't matter what it is, or how much. The point is do we feel liberated when we do it? The ideal to work towards is giving with a desire to make someone happy, to enrich their lives. That is liberating and can be learned. This is the type of giving that comes spontaneously out of our inner-selves. Unfortunately this is not the most frequent sensation associated with giving. In practice, because our ego constantly tries to communicate to us what we have to lose by giving, and because our materialistic culture is so much more about taking than giving, we may often find that giving is done begrudgingly, with guilt, or at best with an expectation of getting something in return. It's a natural human tendency to be fearful of self-sacrifice but in the cultural backdrop of imbalance and dominance of the ego, we are deluding ourselves to a great degree, building a fortress of needless defence. We are free to learn to give freely! The bonus is that we reap great rewards automatically as a result! By gathering experience of conscious giving, this can be understood deeply, so that our trust in life is strengthened, generally.

 

I don't wish this scenario to be confused with the event of real self-sacrifice where people give too much because they crave love from others. This can cause huge financial problems, exhaustion etc. and extreme negativity if it is not recognised. That is NOT what we are aiming for here! The attitude behind giving is what determines whether real value is created in the long-run. If giving freely and working towards that ideal makes you feel good, then you must be on the right track.

giving more. You may even have to learn to accept gifts, in whatever form. That might be money, time, help, things…..It could be that you are obsessed with maintaining your independence, for example.

 

In any case – if it were possible to feel the freedom and pleasure of giving more unconditionally, more often, that would surely be a more fulfilling, enjoyable experience. But how can we be sure such efforts  don't actually lead to sacrificing yourself? The answer is simple: experiment wisely! I wouldn't want people to suddenly give away all their material possessions, money or available free time on an experimental hunch without thinking it through. However, I do believe it is important, as always, to get outside of the comfort zone. The zone of habit. Experiment with small risks and see what the results are. Discover how it makes you feel and try to sense the appreciation felt by the recipient. If you give kindness to someone, it doesn't even matter if they don't reciprocate, because you are free to create value, regardless. If that doesn't persuade you that such giving is worthwhile then consider that all kindness is received but the effects may not be visible for some time. Many individuals are unconscious still and wrapped up in their egos of fear. They need time to respond to the sigals that enter their subconscious, we need patience here.

 

The theory is also that if you consciously develop your art of giving value to others, you will receive benefits in many ways, not just happiness in yourself. It will also be in the form of material benefits that you may really need at one particular time, to help you with your further personal growth and empowerment. You can only judge whether that is true in your own experience with a mixture of the best objectivity possible: that means with your wisdom. Your inner sense. Your intuition. 

 

Some benefits may not accrue until much later, but you can see with time where your life is heading. That's the beautiful thing. You don't need to analyse every single detail of new methods that you apply, instead, use your intuition which can better interpret the intricacies and interactions of cause and effect in your life.

 

But even in itself, feeling that sense of joy, being a share happiness with another person to whom you have given, opens up new doors in life because it makes you free.

 

You can try the following method in the order stated if that seems best, or throw yourself in the deep end and try the "hard" option.

Why I became a vegan

 

I was brought up on a fairly standard diet: a lot of animal protein, animal fats and a fair amount of sugary food, but with a quite rich diversity of vegetables and fruit. It wouldn't be called unhealthy by today's standards and I had great tasting meals (thanks to Mum!) But there is still a great discrepancy between what is conventionally considered to be a good diet, and what is actually the case.

 

Because of animal cruelty issues I became a vegetarian during my studies at University. As a source of protein, I would frequently cook meals with TVP (textured vegetable protein – from soya beans). I continued to eat large quantities of cheese. I got to know my 1st vegan at the time: a very thin, rather spotty red-haired girl. She was doing it partly for health reasons and partly as a moral stance. I was inspired by her ethical practice but was neither persuaded by her cooking –  insipid, watery soups with overcooked vegetables – nor her health reasons. She simply looked ill! I then had of leading girlfriend who held the same position. Her meals weren't bad but there was something a bit insincere about it all, to me at any rate. Maybe I just didn't want to give up cheese, so I didn't follow her example, either.

 

Sometime after university, I reverted to eating meat, although only 2 to 3 times a month, and then only organic and free range, unless I was invited to dinner. This diet continued up until about 3 years ago, when I started a relationship with my present girlfriend – also a convinced vegan. She is not only a great cook, but highly knowledgeable on the subject of health and nutrition in general. She had been forced to go animal-free due to a long-winded allergy problem, so severe that she had to be hospitalised twice. She successfully healed herself from an array of ailments through changing her diet radically. At one point she was only able to digest potatoes, but it worked. I have learned more from her on this subject, as well as a great amount in my own personal development. I am very grateful to be able to pass on this enriching nutritional information based upon personal experiences and proven therapies around the world.

 

At the time of going vegan I was generally healthy and certainly physically fit. I rarely got colds or other viruses. However, I suffered from occasional dizziness, notable energy fluctuations, and also from a tendency to feel cold easily, apart from during vigourous physical exercise. This factor impinged upon my guitar-playing, as my fingers lost a significant amount of flexibility when cold. My girlfriend informed me how eating dairy reduces metabolism, which then causes coldness. This, and the other reasons were good enough for me to resist the temptation of further eating cheese, although I felt it would be sorely missed. Additionally, I reduced my sugar consumption by about 80%, in order to combat the symptoms arising from low blood sugar. I stopped frying food in oil, replacing it with a small amount of water in the pan, and adding any good quality olive- or sesame oil right at the end of the cooking process. Overheating oils has been linked to cancer. At lunchtime I often start with a large salad. Raw vegetables are responded to by the body normally, whereas when you eat cooked food on an empty stomach, it is treated as an alien substance: lymphocytes are produced, sometimes in abundance, and this also affects your energy-levels negatively. I also avoid eating sugary food and other highly soluble carbohydrates to begin with, when I am hungry, as this is a significant contributory factor to causing low blood sugar.

 

The results have been very positive: the coldness has gone down by about 80% and when I avoid sugar I have very stable energy levels. On the rare occasions that I go out to eat, I may consume a small amount of cheese. At the beginning of my diet change I had cravings for it but now I hardly notice its absence. In fact, I have gone off many of the softer cheeses altogether. Until about a month ago I would eat fish 3 to 4 times a year. I have now decided to ban all fish from my diet, which doesn't come from proven sustainable sources. I can't abide the way the oceans are plundered. This and the quota system with all its wastage, defies belief.

 

I have noticed an increasing sensitivity to the plight of animals in the food industry, and am pretty sure this has come from my diet itself, because I am certainly not more factually aware now of the destructive processes involved, than I was as a cheese- and meat-eater. The killing of animals in itself, is not an issue for me. It is basically the amount that are slaughtered for greedy and ignorant lifestyles, and the treatment inflicted on a powerless being that I find grotesque.

 

I don't try to force legalism down peoples' throats (!) But in view of the misinformation and fears regarding the subject of diet and health, and also the ignorance about the huge environmental cost associated with our animal-protein-rich diet, it is important to speak out about the hidden facts and lack of compassion. We have to stand up for the rights of all living beings on the planet. To put everything into an economic balancing act, in order to formulate policy or day-to-day decisions is frankly a sinister motive. As the limits of the world's resources are being approached and even surpassed as I write, it would be absurd for anyone interested in harmony, sustainability, fairness or animal- and human rights – not to look at the role of their own dietary choices in the context of health and responsibility.

Developing a fighting spirit

If we look at figures in history that have struggled with compassion for freedom, built bridges between communities in conflict, and generally had the odds stacked against them yet go on to achieve enormous success in liberating entire peoples or oppressed ethnic minorities, they all have one thing in common: unfailing resolve to win in the end. This is the fighting spirit, which has nothing to do with physical aggression and competition. It means never giving in to the ego: the inner demons that tell you that it is useless, that you should pack it in, that you or others are not worthy etc.. Demons are not biblical monsters – they exist in every mind without exception.

Most people simply haven't understood what reserves of greatness they have in them. The path of living courageously is indeed a very difficult one to follow. It is easy to choose a life of comfort instead as creatures of habit, even if much evidence is presented of the enormous benefits by other people's examples of living big lives. At the end of the day it is simply a lack of awareness that keeps us from following our potential, and maintains our habit of putting great achievers on pedestals out of our league. Nevertheless, it is simply a matter of time before the negative effects of shying away from our own greatness accumulate to form a crisis of some sort that shakes us to the bone. Humanity seems to be going that way.

When we don't live consciously, our ego speaks and shouts loudly – often incessantly – so that the quiet voice of wisdom goes unnoticed. The ego must be identified, accepted as part of life to be learned from, and mastered by the stronger self. We can achieve this through a sensitisation process: the training of self-observation. We need to practise this both alone and in our communities – in silence but also in the thick of things in everyday life.

The more we become the observer of our thoughts, the more we tune in to the voice of our stronger self, which is really our true identity. Now we are in the space of free will. We are more able to brush aside our fears and negativity that try to bring us down. It is somewhat like walking a seldom-trodden path, overgrown with vegetation that must be pushed out of the way to move forward. It actually requires a lot of effort and courage to go against the weaker voice of our ego. It can take a long time before we become accomplished at recognising the "right" voice, but the positive effects of our efforts can be quite dramatic along the way, and that spurs one on considerably.

The power of this fighting spirit is immense. When we call up our last reserves of courage in the middle of a crisis, to focus on hope, humanity and winning despite the odds, we can move mountains. We will experience enormous growth and personal satisfaction. We engender such a force of change in our own lives, that dramatic, parallel developments can be seen in our environment. In those moments when we are in the pit of hell, we have the most to gain from the fighting spirit. If we train ourselves to get up after every knockdown, to never give in, we will build a bastion of inner strength like we never could have imagined previously.

The more we use the fighting spirit, the stronger we become and the bigger the challenges are that we are able to take on. Nonetheless, we must remain on our guard. We may think that we are skilled in this respect if we have already proven it to ourselves on several occasions, but our demons can sometimes take us by surprise. Therefore it is essential to remain awake through regular meditation and mental "household-cleaning".