May 28, 2013

The Law of Giving

When it comes to being generous it is easy to assume that we can only give when we have plenty, but what effect does this have on our lives? In this post I look at Chopra’s second law of spiritual success, ‘The Law of Giving’ and explore the surprising reasons why we should always be generous.    

There have been times in my life when I have had limited finances, energy and time. During those times I assumed the ‘responsible’ approach was to restrict how generous I was towards others in order to achieve what it was I was trying to accomplish.

The rationale being, that once I had more of everything- money, time and energy- I could give generously to others again. For a period of time I had chosen to put myself first and protect my interests.

I stopped shouting coffees and lunches when I was with friends and family, I stopped being involved in volunteer work and I pushed myself to be ‘productive’ all the time and didn’t factor in any time to unwind and relax.

There was a hidden cost to living like this. Not only did it fail to guarantee abundance of any sort, it also changed my personality and my level of happiness. Quite simply, I was unhappy and my relationships were suffering. While I may have had slightly more money and time, my life as a whole was much poorer.

By seeing my life through a lens of scarcity I closed myself off from the vital exchange of giving and receiving. To give and to receive is to enter into an exchange which promotes appreciation, hope, empathy and happiness. We communicate when we are generous, saying ‘you are important to me,’ or ‘this issue matters.’

When I read Chopra’s second spiritual law of success, ‘The Law of Giving,’ I was struck by his observations about giving and receiving. He explains that in order to create abundance in our lives we must keep energy flowing, by giving and receiving, rather than restricting and limiting the flow by hoarding and protecting.

When I assumed I should limit the flow of generosity towards others because I felt I didn’t have enough to go around, I was fundamentally wrong. Chopra explains ‘Whenever blood stops flowing, it begins to clot, to coagulate, to stagnate. That is why you must give and receive in order to keep wealth and affluence – or anything you want in your life – circulating in your life.’

The idea that we should always be generous no matter what we have, so we can keep the flow of energy moving in our lives, is radically different from the Western mindset of hoarding to protect and ensure personal abundance.

The premise of Chopra’s second law is very simple- give that which you also desire to receive. He says;

Practicing the Law of Giving is actually very simple: if you want joy, give joy to others; if you want love, learn to give love; if you want attention and appreciation, learn to give attention and appreciation; if you want material affluence, help others to become materially affluent. In fact the easiest way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.

If we want to be happy we have to continue to be generous no matter how much we have or don’t have. Chopra encourages us to be generous on a daily basis;

…make a decision that any time you come into contact with anyone, you will give them something. It doesn’t have to be in the form of material things; it could be a flower, a compliment, or a prayer. In fact, the most powerful forms of giving are non-material. The gifts of caring, attention, affection, appreciation, and love are some of the most precious gifts you can give, and they don’t cost you anything.

The attitude or intention in which we give is hugely important. Chopra says, ‘The intention should always be to create happiness for the giver and the receiver, because happiness is life-supporting and life-sustaining and therefore generates increase.’

Once I learnt the lesson that being ungenerous made me unhappy, I decided that even when I have very little I will work hard to find ways to still be generous and believe that by giving I too will receive and enjoy my life more.

Now I find lots of simple and easy ways to tell those around me that they mean a lot to me. By ironing work shirts, cooking meals, running errands, catching up for a coffee, sending a card in the mail, I am affirming the relationships I am in.

At the heart of Chopra’s law is the importance of relationships. Without other people we wouldn’t have anyone to give to and we wouldn’t have anyone to receive things from either. It is through generosity that we strengthen our ties and bonds with each other.

Studies have shown that the stronger a person’s relationships are in their life the greater their levels of happiness, well-being and health. Here Chopra offers us a wonderful way to boost not only our own but also others health and happiness by enjoying the vital flow of life energy that comes from giving and receiving.

How will you give generously to others today?


May 2, 2013

Four Tips for Living a Peaceful Life

Following on from last week, where we looked at the importance of building our sense of self-worth from within, this week we look at four ways to make our lives more peaceful.

To access peace, creativity and happiness, Deepak Chopra suggests we adopt a daily habit of silence, meditation and non-judgement, while also spending more time in nature.

1. Silence

If you’re like the average person these days, you spend a good part of your day connected to the world through the internet, social media, and your smart phone. If you are like me, you find it hard to simply be or to wait for someone without grabbing your phone and checking your emails.

Simply ‘being’ has become an art form. When Chopra talks about spending time in silence he is talking about not only disengaging from the world through speech, but also stepping back from television, books and social media. It is a call to spend time purely with ourselves and our thoughts.

He does warn that at first our internal dialogue will be turbulent and we may feel anxious, but he reassures us that this won’t last. When the mind does quieten, we have a chance to experience stillness, and from stillness flows greater peace.

Chopra suggests spending an hour a day in silence, and highly recommends experiencing silence for a whole day or an extended period of time occasionally. In the same way that silence can bring us peace, meditation can bring us greater awareness of how our body and mind is feeling and coping with day to day life.

2. Meditation

Chopra’s second suggestion for living a more peaceful life is to meditate daily. Ideally he suggests we meditate thirty minutes in the morning and then again in the evening. While this may be ideal, even ten to fifteen minutes a day is enough to feel the benefits of meditation.

Without taking time out to meditate, we rarely know how we feel. When we are detached from ourselves we often feel unhappy, anxious and unmotivated but without really knowing why. It can also be the reason why we become ill.

When we don’t know how we are feeling, we don’t know if the way we are living is supporting or harming us. By choosing to meditate each day we give ourselves an opportunity to gauge how well our life is working for us and we have the choice to re-align our values and actions if need be.

Some people find it easier to start with a meditation CD so they can be guided, rather than try to meditate purely in their own minds. If you don’t have any meditation CDs you can often find a good selection at the library or online, or alternatively you could attend a local mediation class in your area.

Meditation isn’t the easiest thing to do when you haven’t done it before. Our minds are so used to being active, especially with the excessive stimulus we receive from the media and life in general. The tip, however, is to persevere. The harder and more frustrating you find it the more your body and mind needs it.

The initial resistance felt when starting meditation is caused by our minds being too ‘tight’ and stressed. The more we meditate the more our minds loosen and the freer our mind is to relax, and to think creatively about our lives.

So if you feel resistance when you start to meditate just know that it means you are doing the right thing and keep going, it will get easier.

3. Non-Judgement

When I first saw this term ‘non-judgement’ I assumed Chopra was going to talk about not judging others, but surprisingly he was referring to not judging our own life and experiences. He explains that when we judge our daily experiences we are labelling them as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and that ‘When you are constantly evaluating, classifying, labelling, analyzing, you create a lot of turbulence in your internal dialogue.’

I was amazed at just how true this was when I started to noticed my internal dialogue throughout the day. I was constantly saying to myself ‘that’s good’ or ‘that shouldn’t have happened’ to events that were unfolding.

The reality is that things happen that are often out of our control, either positive or negative. Once these things have happened there is no point dwelling on them or judging them because it is done. All we can do is decide how we will respond to those events or circumstances.

By not judging our daily experiences it frees up energy to respond to our lives and to live a balanced and calmer life. When unexpected things happen that do throw us, Chopra’s suggestions of spending time in silence and mediation, will also help us to feel more grounded and more equipped to respond rather than react.

4. Nature

Lastly, Chopra suggests a good dose of the outdoors. He says, ‘Spending time in nature enables you to sense the harmonious interaction of all the elements and forces of life, and gives you a sense of unity with all of life.’

With so many people working in offices and at desks all day, it is not surprising that so many of us are disconnected from nature and from the outside world. We are disconnected from fresh air, sunshine and the seasons.

It is important to get outside and enjoy the elements as nature provides us with a powerful grounding energy that helps us find inner balance and perspective. We enter a beautiful life sustaining cycle when we spend time in nature as we exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen with the plants around us. It is a wondrous and vital exchange. It is an exchange that we so often take for granted and forget.

For some, spending time in the bush is their place of regeneration and peace. For others it is the ocean or their garden. The important thing is to spend some time in nature every day. Even if you work in an office, go for a run in the local park or sit in the sun when you drink your coffee instead of going back to your desk. Every bit counts.

By integrating these four tips into our day, we can move through our often hectic lives, feeling less frazzled and more energised and balanced.

Next week we look at Chopra’s second spiritual law of success, ‘The Law of Giving.’ Enjoy the rest of your week, and don’t forget to be silent, meditate, refrain from judging your daily experiences and go outside and enjoy the breeze and sunshine.