Kindness to Oneself

By Matthew Lyon

Many of us are well attuned to the virtues of generosity. I know many people within spiritual communities – and outside of them – who give greatly of their time, money and resources to worthy causes. In the course of writing my columns, which explore the benefits of a generous life, I’ve received questions about boundaries and limits. When are we giving too much, to the point that we drain our life energy and our diminish our own well being?

It’s important to emphasize that generosity to oneself is the true foundation for a beneficial life of helping others. Taking care of ourselves properly by honoring our body, mind and spirit gives us the long term strength to bring positive energy to our world. Good exercise and nourishing food allow us to thrive so that we can be healthy enough to exert ourselves.

Although it might seem like a private personal act, meditation rejuvenates our connection to our heart and to the spiritual essence of our lives. We could say that it is a way of awakening our inherent power based on compassionate intention, generosity to oneself, treating ourselves well, is different from self indulgence. It’s the difference between allowing ourselves to enjoy a dish of ice cream and conversely gorging ourselves to the point of illness.

Kindness to ourselves is also an expression of our natural, inherent worthiness. Sometimes generosity comes from an inner place of guilt or from a sense of duty based on self doubt. True generosity to others arises from an expansive feeling within ourselves, like the radiance of an inner sun. When it springs from guilt, there is a darker energy at work.

Finding the right balance on the path of generosity is an individual journey for all of us. There is no exact universal prescription for the right boundaries that can fit everyone. Yet it is important to start from the realization of our own richness as a human being. Meditation is one way of discovering this wealth. The path of mindfulness can illuminate our personal sense of balance, so that we naturally sense when it’s right to give, and when it’s best to nurture ourselves.

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