As we continue on the path of the ten virtues, I feel inclined to once again remind the reader that these are not spiritual or moral codes, but rather paths of energy that one explores by living and practicing them. They are of no value whatsoever as mere intellectual concepts. Their value can only be experienced by the individual who has the courage, curiosity and tenacity to live and practice them for a period of time—I suggest one month. If they have no value to you after practicing them for a month, then drop them and adopt practices that do have value for you. However, if you do find that they have immense value, as I have found they do, then incorporate them into your daily life as practices worthy of your time.
Now when I suggest you experiment to see if these practices have value for you, what do I mean by value? What I’m referring to is how they make you feel when you practice them. Do you feel happy and joyful, or do you feel sad and depressed? Do you find that they make you feel peaceful and relaxed, or do they add more stress to your life? Do they add energy to your chosen activities, or do they deplete you? Do you feel more whole or more isolated? These are all important questions, for if it is truly a path of energy, you must be able to notice the difference in yourself when you practice it.
Your success and happiness in life have a direct relationship to the choices you make on a daily basis. This month the energy paths I advise you to explore are generosity and forgiveness. Firstly generosity: Generosity can take many forms. There is the obvious one of giving charity to those less fortunate, but the true path and way of generosity goes much deeper. You can be generous with your time, your attitudes, your self-acceptance, your goals, as well as with your money.
Be generous with your attitude. You do this by allowing others to have different points of views, even ones contrary to your own. Each of us sees and feels the world in a different way. Our past and present circumstances mould us into who we are, and no two of us are the same. The opposite of generosity is rigidity. Rigidity demands that others think and act as we do, and if they don’t, then we judge them harshly. But if each of us sees and feels the world in a different way, then there are bound to be differences. How could it be otherwise?
When we are generous with others in allowing them to be true to what they see and feel, without judging them or needing them to be like we are, it opens up an appreciation for the diversity of the human condition. Appreciating others for who they are opens us to see other possibilities that we would never see or acknowledge by being close-minded.
It also allows us to be generous with ourselves by appreciating ourselves even when we are being judged by others who do not know of this path. If they can’t see our uniqueness because of their blindness and self-absorption, then that is their problem, not ours.
Be generous with your time. Take time to listen to people and share with them. Time spent with others in fellowship and service nurtures us immensely. As the old saying goes, “In your haste to make a living, don’t forget to make a life.” If you are generous with your time and attitude and stop your busyness to simply appreciate people, your relationships will grow. It doesn’t have to take that long. Sometimes a five-minute conversation is all it takes. Practice generosity with your time and, paradoxically, you will have more time and energy in reserve.
Be generous when you decide on your goals. Make a list of all your goals and see how many are exclusively for your own benefit. You should always have at least one goal, at every point in your life, where the achievement is for others. By pursuing this goal, as well as your personal goals, you are demonstrating generosity.
Now forgiveness: Forgiveness goes hand in hand with generosity. When you are generous with yourself and others, you can then approach the path of forgiveness. The path of forgiveness involves awareness and generosity. Awareness because you are aware and conscious enough to realize that we all make mistakes and errors in judgment. No one is perfect. Not you, not me, not the person you’re holding responsible for the incident that has you upset. Now notice I say, “That has YOU upset.”
Forgiveness is letting go of “your upset.” You let go of it because it does you no good. Every time you think of the person who has upset you, you get upset. You lose energy. The upset that you feel is in you and does not affect them in the slightest. You are the one suffering from it. In fact you suffer from it again and again, every time you think about it. The smartest way to deal with the upset is to forgive and move on. “But they don’t deserve my forgiveness,” you might say. Perhaps this is true. But whether they do or not is not the issue—you deserve it. You deserve to be free of this annoyance, to not have it upset you and bring you down every single time you think about. The benefit of forgiveness is for the person forgiving, not for the person being forgiven. When you realize this, it becomes much easier to forgive. In fact it seems almost ludicrous not to forgive.
Think of one or two individuals who you can practice forgiveness with this month. You need not speak to them or tell them what you are doing. This is an internal practice, and if at a later date you do speak to them you can do so without any animosity, for your forgiveness has long ago swept away the negative feelings. Forgiveness is practiced by honestly and truly wishing them well every time you think of them. It’s that easy. Having said that, it won’t necessarily happen the first, second or even tenth time you think of them, but if you continue with the practice of wishing them well every single time you think of them, it will gradually have its effect. Each time you just let it go by not indulging in any negative thoughts; instead send them love and appreciation. It’s radical and revolutionary and incredibly effective. Try it for a month and see what happens. If you don’t like the effect it has on you, you can always go back to hating those people and getting upset every time you think of them. It’s entirely your choice.
The path of forgiveness releases toxic energy that has been residing within you, and this energy, once released, can be channeled into more productive areas. It will seem as if a huge weight has been taken off your shoulders, a burden you have been carrying, perhaps for years, will be gone. Trust me; I’ve practiced and walked these paths. Lives are transformed by these practices.
So your assignment for the month is to daily practice the energy paths of generosity and forgiveness, and to notice where they take you and how they make you feel within.