Defining generosity as a process of making space for something might be a back door approach, but it works for me. Our most generous impulses are guided by those spaces we create in our minds, our hearts, and our lives for the needs we see in others. Perhaps genuine generosity begins when we share that which we hold most dear, whether that is our time, our money, or even sometimes our privacy. Generosity in those times becomes risky and makes us vulnerable. It requires that we give up something, and not just give. Perhaps giving up our superiority or our certainty creates the space we need to be more generous.
Generosity is one of those human traits that seems like a great add-on to an otherwise perfectly good person. We expect people to be truthful, to not steal or hurt others. But being generous? Speaking for myself, that is something I admire in others and hope that perhaps I’ll find a way to cultivate in myself. Someday. When it’s convenient.
My mind focused on the idea of generosity in direct connection to my experience of playing Variation 7. Graceful and dance-like, the ornaments that decorate so many of the notes require just a bit of extra space in the beat and in the shape of the hand in order to play them as fluently as possible.
I wonder if any pressure we do feel to be more generous stems only from the cultural and historical contexts of religion. Showing hospitality to the stranger is a core tenet of the three Abrahamic faiths, as well as Buddhism and Hinduism, after all, and at the heart of hospitality we discover generosity. But maybe there are actually reasons to be generous beyond religious commandments? Sociological studies tell us, and we probably know from our own experiences, that to give does so often mean that in one form or another we receive in return. Those studies show the ways that a person’s health and happiness improve when a life of generous practices is adopted. Logically, generosity is good for a peaceful society when people take care of themselves in ways that also help to take care of others.
Wherever and however the impulse to be generous inhabits us, we can never be motivated by anything other than a desire to be open to understanding and responding to the needs of others, and then make space in our own lives for the kinds of relationships that just might result when we do.
I’ve lived with Bach’s Goldberg Variations for a long time now. More than half my lifetime in fact. I would pull them out periodically, feeling that I was revisiting an old friend, but a friend who always has something new to share. I began thinking about Bach and mindfulness last year in a way that meant something to me. Each variation became linked in my mind with a word and that word became something like the “intention” that yoga students are sometimes asked to set for their practice. A word to mediate on and to help draw more from within. For the next 32 weeks I will post one of the variations and write about the word I associated with the music. Sometimes a connection will seem obvious, but more often it will be unexplainable. It became apparent as I worked on this project that I thought about things which I wanted to cultivate in myself, ways of being in the world that were positive. All of the recordings are to be made in my living room, playing the 9 foot Steinway that was gifted to me on January 5, 2016.