What are some ways to practice life

Giftivism - 10 Exercises in Generosity

In a world geared towards competition and profit maximization, generosity is the most subversive and at the same time the most important way of improving the world. It's called "Giftivism".

I recently visited the mindfulness and focusing trainer Susanne Kersig (www.achtsamkeit.info). Of course I pestered her with questions and at some point she said: "Well, before you even start meditating, you actually first practice your ability to be generous."

A short time later I came across Nipun Mehta through a course on Theory U (www.presencing.com). The philosopher and computer scientist dared to experiment with four colleagues: They founded the ServiceSpace organization (www.servicespace.org) to create opportunities to practice generosity. Why this?

Why You Should Practice Generosity

Anyone who is really aware of all the oppression, exploitation and injustice that is happening against people, animals and nature - will certainly want to find a way out. Now we can write concepts, collect funding or donations and at some point - after a lot of planning and preparation - change the world.

Or we just do it right away, directly and without further ado. In a TED talk at the University of Berkeley, which is well worth seeing, Nipun Mehta provides a good example of what is meant by this: The Indian and friend of Ghandi Vinoba Bhave lived almost entirely without possessions. In the early 1950s he founded the Bhudan movement.

In other words, he ran a total of almost 60,000 kilometers through India in order to convince large landowners in a personal conversation to give away a sixth of their land to poor people. According to Mehta, around 5 million hectares of land were given away as a result!

This is arguably the largest peaceful transfer of land in human history. And it shows how effective this kind of “Giftivism”, as Mehta calls this form of activism, can be.

Design for Generosity

But our entire world is designed in such a way that we “have to” constantly seek our advantage. We are always afraid that there might not be enough left for us and so we are stingy and full of competition. But what would happen if we designed our world in such a way that it invites us to live our generosity and thus to transform ourselves internally?

This is exactly what Mehta is trying to do with over 350,000 members of the ServiceSpace organization. You too can start right away - here and now. Because you need nothing more than the will and the desire to flood other people, animals and nature with your loving generosity and goods.

Because practicing Giftivism doesn't just make sense because it's immediate. It is also the basis for all sorts of ideas that are supposed to bring us a better world to work: A sharing economy without generosity only becomes another, capitalist system based on maximizing the benefits of each individual. Real fellowship can only come about when we become generous in many ways. The following tips will give you ideas of what I mean by that:

Tips for practicing generosity

And here are the tips I put together from Nipun Mehta's idea and my research:

1. Pay for the coffee-to-go in the café

for the next person who comes after you. With ServiceSpace, Nipun Mehta even founded the “Karma Kitchen” restaurant (www.karmakitchen.org), which is based on this principle: Nobody pays for their meal there, but can pay for the meal of the next guest. This has worked well for years and has even found some imitators.

2. Leave a stranger in a surprise

and point out that this is a gift with no expectation of anything in return - but that it would be great if the recipient in turn made someone else an anonymous delight to continue the chain of generosity and joy. ServiceSpace has special smile cards for this (www.kindspring.org).

3. Keep no right

Just give in in a conversation - even if you think you are really right. It is quite astonishing what happens then: In most cases the other person opens up and asks what you actually mean ... And if not - well then this is a good exercise for your generosity!

4. Get over mistakes and inadequacies

If you meet someone who is angry, angry, stressed or rude, then just pretend that there is nothing and flood them with your friendliness. I've already tried it and it's amazing how friendly even grim people can become. Put in a good mood!

5. Look closely

Try to focus your attention on someone (human or animal) or something else (such as a plant) over a fixed period of time and at fixed times for one minute each time and think about what he or she could use at that moment to be around yourself to feel better. It could be a conversation, a cup of tea, a neck rub, some water, or maybe just an encouraging smile.

6. Share your time and energy

We all have less and less time. That's why it's almost the most important thing you can give to others. Think about who you could give some of your time and energy to - the organization Tatkräftig e.V. (http://tatkraeftig.org), for example, can register for one-day, voluntary activities. But of course it can also be someone from your neighborhood, family or your work.

7. Free Hugs Campaign / Giftmob

Take part in the Free Hugs Campaign (www.freehugscampaign.org) and give out free hugs to those around you. Alternatively, you can also organize a gift mob, as we did at our conference for a better world last year - it works like a flash mob, except that people give things away to passers-by. Both take some effort, but are also a lot of fun and show you instructive taboo areas in our society.

8. Change your perspective

Don't ask yourself what you need, but what you can contribute? As a result, you gradually transform yourself from a passive, dependent consumer into a creative, self-determined person who brings his or her very special skills, ideas and knowledge into the world.

9. Don't be afraid

That is probably the hardest part of the whole thing, because we have learned from childhood that there is not enough for everyone and that we therefore have to assert ourselves against others in order to get our share. In order to change that, you have to start to perceive your (fear) feelings in the first place. The less you judge yourself for having negative feelings, the freer you are to actually look at them realistically.

10. Keep a gratitude journal

Directing your gaze on what you have experienced in the positive, enriching, instructive, pleasant, etc., opens you to allow the same to happen to others. And it also helps you to put aside the fear of coming up short. I myself ordered Jutta Vogt-Tegen's gratitude diary, in which you can make your daily notes. You can find other gratitude exercises here.

There are certainly a few more ways to practice generosity. Can you think of any more? Then just leave us and the other readers a comment with your tip!

Image source: Still Wanderer (via flickr)