Give and Reap the Benefits

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:7

This scripture invites us to explore our feelings and motives when we give. When we are in a mindset of abundance, gratitude, and contentment, we are more open to being generous. These feelings build upon one another opening the channel for more positive feelings such as compassion and empathy. When we are in the mindset of scarcity, resentment, and envy, we tend to withhold and hoard. These feelings can build upon one another as well, possibly lead to depression and anxiety.

We are wired for community, for bonding. There is a cycle of giving. Our body responds to giving by “holding our head high,” and we actually stand more upright and feel energetic. We are buoyed, filled with hope, and open to possibilities. We feel more receptive, which in turn opens the channel to receive. When we give, we are sharing a piece of ourselves, a “seed” if you will. “Just like you can’t reap a harvest without planting seeds, so you can’t get without giving” (Debasish Mridha).

Most people are familiar with yoga as a physical activity, but there is also a philosophy of the yogic lifestyle. There are “eight limbs” of this philosophy. The first limb is the Yamas, which contain the moral code. Some of the limbs also have branches. There are five Yamas. The fifth Yama is Aparigraha or Generosity. This Yama as described by the Chopra Center is focused around cultivating non-possessiveness or non-grasping. Aparigraha pushes us to spread wealth and abundance to all. In the act of doing so, that which we seek begins to flow more abundantly to us.

Studies on generosity and compassion have shown that giving of our time and resources improves our mood and physical health and increases longevity, according to USNews. Giving activates the pleasure center of the brain. This is known as the “givers glow” or “helpers high.” This dopamine-using pleasure circuitry can also be co-opted by some, but not all, psychoactive substances like cocaine, nicotine, heroin, or alcohol, says Psychology Today. Giving can even help reduce the risk and symptoms of depression and daily stress.

In reference to the scripture at the beginning, to reap the benefits of giving, we need to search our motives. You may need to start off giving slowly and not jump into a big commitment of time or resources. You can purge your pantry or closet and donate some items to a local food bank, thrift store, or shelter. Try volunteering for a one-day event such as feeding the homeless, cleaning up a local park, or a charitable fundraiser, such as a gala or race.  Find what speaks to your heart, what arises your passion. Is it animals, children, or wounded veterans? There are unlimited possibilities. Whatever you do, do it from the heart. You are sure to reap the benefits!


Fran Pritchard

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YogaFaith.org