And life begins when you start giving

yin yang I had an interesting chat today with my colorist (and good friend), Marc. Really, I have interesting conversations with most folks these days, since I discovered that the art of conversating (as the kids say) lies in the asking of questions and the hearing of answers rather than the spouting off of commentary. (Fancy that!)

Today's conversation was interesting because it revolved around kabbalah, about which I know little save it's an esoteric offshoot of Judaism that has something to do with red string and expensive bottled water (thank you, Madonna.) But Marc studied it (if that's the term) for many years, and he was able to shed a surprising amount of light on what I confess has always been (to me) a dense, deep and impenetrably mysterious practice. After all, it is very old and complex and we only had about an hour, as I'm a single-process kinda gal.

The topline of kabbalah, however, is really easy to get, and lovely, to boot: the more we learn to give, the more will come back to us. It's about "giving" as world view, which of course carries all kinds of other nice things along with it, like cultivating trust and fellowship, learning to communicate by finding common ground, and practicing abundance rather than scarcity thinking.

It got me to thinking about where to start. Because really, that's what I would've loved to have known 20-odd years ago, when I was flailing around in a sea of my own misery: where the hell do I start? Just tell me where to point my damned guns, already! And, while I now think that "observing" is probably the absolute best place to start, the very critical first step of many, and a mode to stay close to always, I think giving is a really good practice to have in your head even while you're in observation mode.

Part of what makes me think this is my many years of experience as a corporate tool. There was very little uncalculated giving in that world, and precious little happiness, too. Coincidence? Perhaps. Held up against the world of strings-free giving I've been blessed to live in these past five years, though, I think the causality is obvious: the nature of life is change, and we're happiest when we let ourselves go with the flow of that. It takes awesome fearlessness or, as in my case, having nothing left to lose. When you weigh 90 lbs (45 of which is your enormous head), and your intestines are in tatters and you're so weak that you can't walk to the end of the bed without support, you learn to accept help, to accept giving, with the very clear understanding that you certainly cannot pay in kind now, and may well never be able to pay it back later. Get down with that, and you've got one big, honkin' secret of life under your belt.

I'm not advocating sap-hood. I can only give to the extent I'm able and willing. Ironically, before I understood this, I used to give too much, receive too little. Now I finally understand you've got to let go to receive as much as you do to give.

To take this down to a practical level, Marc charges what I think is an incredibly reasonable price for his services, and I pay him. He gives me what I see as a deal, and I accept it. Occasionally, I get a bug up my ass and give him a bunch extra, just because. And he accepts that. I suspect that if I showed up one month and had no money, he'd give me coverage for free. He's that kind of guy, is Marc. And I'd do my best to receive it, graciously.

If you're not so good with the money yet, and I get it, I do, I have issues myself, start small. With compliments. Give one. Maybe give five. And be on the lookout for ones you get, and see how you are about receiving them. I used to answer every compliment about clothing with a rundown on how much I paid for it at the Goodwill. Still do, but at least I (usually) say "thank you" first.

Remember this year's motto: "help is everywhere." And the corollary, which I may not have shared yet, " ask for it, dumbass."

It is. You should. We are.

xxx c

Image by Mrs. Maze via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.