The Magical Practice of Taking and Giving
Christmas is approaching, and this is a time we traditionally spend with family. But families are not always easy, and emotions of all kinds can run high. On the one hand we often have to spend time with family members we have managed to avoid all year, and on the other hand we feel the absence of those who are no longer with us more keenly than at any other time. Christmas can be joyful, but it can also be challenging. How can we use the tools of meditation and Buddha’s wisdom to help us transform all these emotions into spiritual growth?
Ordinary emotions (and ordinary emotional relationships) are based on self-preservation. We like people who make us feel good, dislike those that make us feel bad, and are indifferent to those who neither make us feel good or bad. The resulting egocentric emotions are by nature problematic. But we can develop another kind of feeling through recognizing that everyone is valuable, irrespective of how they make us feel. His recognition opens up the possibility of unconditional and unbiased love, even towards those who are behaving badly. Such love sees everyone is suffering in some way, and negativity is an expression of this suffering. Instead of rejecting some people as ‘toxic’, the natural response of our heart will be compassion.
One of the most powerful meditation techniques to increase our love and compassion is the practice of taking and giving. Our normal reaction to people whose behaviour we find off-putting is to close up in an attempt to protect ourselves from what we see as their negativity. In the practice of taking and giving we do the opposite, we actually open our heart to them with courageous compassion and use any negative energy we feel from them as a force to oppose our own negativity. Those who are skilled in taking and giving are able to transform any situation or experience, no matter how negative or painful, into a powerful opportunity for spiritual growth.