Sometimes we pass through periods in our life when it seems safer to close in on ourselves. We may get blocked in some relationships, or harden around what we perceive to be a hurt caused by others, or simply drift apart. And so we pull down the shutters and withdraw. The mind loves categories, and when we get threatened these get more polarized, making it harder to see the world from any other viewpoint than our own. A lot of our energies go into convincing ourselves that we are right, ensuring that any cognitive dissonance between our values and our actions is eliminated. Self-justification then kicks in, that useful strategy which blinds us to the possibility that we were wrong, allowing us sleep at night by reducing regret and reinforcing our actions.
However, closing ourselves off from others may not always be right, even if our safety mechanism tells us it is. It can keep up trapped in the past, which we cannot change , rather than seeing new possibilities in the present. So, when you notice that you are running a story about what others have done to you, see if you can remind yourself that you are the one who has the power to determine how you feel about what’s going on. Everything is workable, and thus you can work with the words and actions of other people in contact with you. Your response is entirely up to you. To live a fuller life, we often we need a generosity that operates on a different kind of logic, one which does not count or measure but rather dares to take the first step.
Initiate giving. Don’t wait for someone to ask. See what happens — especially to you. You may find that you gain a greater clarity about yourself and about your relationships, as well as more energy rather than less. You may find that, rather than exhausting yourself or your resources, you will replenish them. Such is the power of mindful, selfless generosity. At the deepest level, there is no giver, no gift, and no recipient . . . only the universe rearranging itself.
Jon Kabat Zinn, Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life