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Do you feel stress and overwhelmed by the holidays? The pressure to give and do can be overwhelming and so stressful. Therefore before we all get too deep in the holiday season, I want to share Tibetan lessons on giving that will help you reduce stress and pressure while making the holidays more enjoyable and fulfilling.
When in Tibet, I learned lessons of giving that are still changing my life. I know these simple lessons will change your life too. While these strategies are important all year round, they are especially important when you are feeling overwhelmed – like from holiday pressure! This season, take these lessons on giving from Tibet and have the best holiday season you’ve ever had.
First, let’s talk about giving. Did you know that when we give, our mood improves, we feel better about ourselves, and we are less prone to anxiety and depression? That is amazing. Then why are the holidays the time with the highest suicide rate? Why is it that this time of giving and light is so dark for so many?
Research and experience both show that holidays can be the most stressful and taxing time of the year. This is due to pressure we put on ourselves, and the pressure we feel to put on a happy front. With all this pressure, what should be the most beautiful time of the year often becomes an endless to-do list that can make you feel you’re not doing enough. These simple Tibetan lessons on giving will change your perspective of giving during the holidays, and I hope you will start to feel you are already enough.
1. Give beyond what you think you can
First, a little history: when China invaded Tibet, over a short 5-year span, the bombings and invasions destroyed over 80% on this beautiful culture that had survived thousands of years. Yes, that’s right: in a matter of days or weeks, the Chinese destroyed ancient temples, monasteries, and villages that had survived the ravages or nature and the changing civilization from times immemorial.
And yet, if you visit Tibet today, you can see temples with their exquisite wall paintings and deep spiritual traditions. Despite this great destruction, the Tibetan people persist and are full of hope. The tradition of the monasteries continues even in crumbling buildings under foreign rule. In spite of repression, destruction, and difficult circumstances, the simplicity and joy of the Tibetan people persists.
This is the first lesson of giving from Tibet: even broken and feeling destroyed; keep on giving what you can. Keep shining your light as you are. It’s not a matter of pretending or putting up a facade; it is simply a matter of being who you are, as you are now. This lesson is a powerful reminder to all of us in times of challenge or despair. Just like the Tibetan people, we can persevere and perhaps the first gift we give our loved ones is to continue on the path and continue to grow.
2. Give peacefully
Tibet was the home of the Dalai Lama and the seat of the Buddhist religion before the Chinese invasion. The principles of peacefulness and non-violence are deep in the Buddhist tradition, and therefore deep in the culture of Tibet.
Therefore, the second lesson of giving from Tibet is to give peacefully. This means to give without expectations of return: give from a place of fullness and inner peace. Then the gift has the greatest power and impact of good, for the receiver and also for you. Relief and inner warmth come when you give freely. A gift given with peace in the heart creates peace and joy between giver and receiver.
3. Give the gift of knowledge
You can also impart knowledge and wisdom of life, as is the tradition in Tibet. In Tibet, the teachers and elders guide the younger generation, helping them to navigate life’s challenges without judgment. This compassionate learning bridges the gaps of generations and instills something beyond mere academic learning, giving teaching that is the essence of knowledge about life.
The truly wise teach you how to know yourself: how to accept yourself and embrace your full potential. These spiritual lessons form the core of Tibetan learning. Knowledge passes from mother to child, from teacher to student, and from heart to heart. And the spirit is awakens in each individual through this deep knowledge of life.
This holiday season, share knowledge with those you love the most. You could share a story of your own life experience. Or you could share how an adversarial situation turned out to give you better opportunities. Another option is to give the gift of learning meditation to help relieve stress. Whatever type of knowledge you choose to impart, you will make the receiver’s life better while improving your own well-being.
4. Give from the heart
In Tibet, real gifts pass from heart to heart. We tend to get so caught up in materialistic lists that we forget this important principle. Children hand in wish lists for the latest toy or the latest iphone, and – let’s be honest – most of us would like those things too. But that means that sometimes we forget that real gifts come from the heart.
This holiday season; find ways to show your love without material things. Give your time, your attention, your compassion, or your encouragement. You can even sit and listen. But most of all, give your love, and give it with abandon and joy. These gifts from the heart will make each day feel meaningful to you, and to your loved ones. If you can give from the heart, this love will carry you through the hectic holidays.
5. Give strength and courage
It is difficult to muster strength and courage in the face of challenges. But sometimes all it takes is a friend willing to hold space. If someone is there with you through the difficult times, it will give you the courage to keep going. You can be that friend for another person, and this choice will give you greater strength and courage as well.
This holiday season, be that special someone willing to hold space for another. Whether it is a child, an elderly parent, or a neighbor, give someone the courage to face his or her fears by showing him or her that you are there and that you care. The simple act of love and kindness will not only give them strength and courage, but you will find you have more strength and courage as well.
6. Never stop giving your best
Tibet’s message to the world, through its actions is: give your best every day, no matter what. In Tibet, people there are full of joy. They are simple; they are kind; and they have the beauty of a tradition handed down to them from thousands of years in the past. Their tradition is rich with knowledge, compassion and understanding. This is not something exceptional, but something we can all have.
Tibet has something great to give to the world, and yet the world nearly destroyed it. Even with this destruction, they persist. Their love and light of joy and wisdom still shines in their eyes and their hearts. The surviving monasteries are still rich with libraries filled with knowledge, and people living that knowledge.
I hope these Tibetan lessons on giving reach your heart and inspire your action. It only takes one small flame to start a big fire; this is the essence of these Tibetan lessons on giving. Put another way, the dawn starts with the faintest of light. No matter what has come before, no matter how much destruction or frustration, like the Tibetan people, we have enough as we are to keep shining our light.
This holiday season; remember to give the best of yourself. That doesn’t mean stretching to do it all; it means taking the time for what matters most. Give love; give knowledge, give strength; give peacefully. May you unfold strength and courage from these lessons each day, and may you have the best holiday season ever.