I have been delivering a number of sessions on mindful practice, and one of the areas it enhances is compassion. When we focus on being grateful for what we have, not only do we tend to demonstrate more compassion for others who may have less, but this in turn makes room for us to receive more too.
To put it more simply, it's a bit like creating a virtuous circle. If I am grateful, I am motivated to give, in giving I make room to recieve - which actually in turn makes me grateful. Although, one must note that the giving and reciving is not always matched in kind...but does that matter?
Many into self-care, mindfulness, or those within the "Law of Attraction" mould will often promote generosity and of course I appreciate it makes me feel good to do, and often strengthens bonds with those I give to...but for me there are three caveats to mindful giving:
1. Never give more than you can afford to lose
While "selflessness" may be praised - you need to remember to "affix your own mask first". If you are a caregiver, giving is natural to you, but you must always remember that if you are in such a role, what will happen if you have given so much of yourself you no longer have strength. This is not to say "be selfish" - but always remember your own value and do not compromise it.
Further, when it comes to giving - remember that the person you give to may not be in a position to return the favour - and only giving what you can afford* not to be returned means you never risk that releationship by thinking "I gave them X last year, and what did they give me?"
Giving is not about point scoring - it is often about doing something nice for someone - because you can and because you want to, without seeking return.
*Afford may refer to time, money, or anything else which is yours to offer.
2. The value of a gift often depends on the values of the reciever
Gary Chapman wrote about "The Five Love Languages" and he identified that there are five ways in which we tend to like to give and receive love: Gifts, Quality Time, Words of Affirmation, Touch, Acts of Service. It is important to try and give in the "language" that the reciever likes to communicate in. As an example, I very much enjoy both acts of service - mainly because I can generally afford to by myself a gift if I want it, will build in quality time, and don't actually mind asking for the rest. The simple act of a friend coming to visit me on my birthday unexpectedly was one of the nicest gifts I could have had this year. Of course this doesn't mean I don't appreciate all the other lovely thoughtful things I'm given, but if you find yourself thinking "I do all this" or "I give them all this" or "I say all this" and they don't seem to appreciate it - perhaps you need to think about the language they use.
This may mean some communication and negotiation - but if the relationship is important enough, I certainly don't mind adapting...in fact - it sometimes makes me feel even nicer that I tried!
3. Giving is a two way process - not a means of keeping someone
"She was sinking fast, I threw a rope
Now I have suits and she has hope
It seemed an elegant solution
One day this must end, it isn't real
Still I'll enjoy a hearty meal
Before tomorrrow's execution"
(Sunset Boulevard - Andrew Lloyd Webber)
No matter what "love language" you prefer - everyone likes a freebie (in fact, for some it's a marketing strategy). However, when it comes to relationships, it is so important to know that giving is a means of deepening a relationship, not a means of trying to keep one. The moment a relationship is built on gifts where one person is always giving - perhaps because they want the relationship more than the other, it is not going to last. The giver will begin to feel resentful, and the receiver never really committed.
While the lyrics from Sunset Boulevard offer a very "sterotyped" lens, where a young (poor, but handsome) screenwriter, strikes up a relationship with a wealthy ('older') fading star, it nonetheless illustrates that if a relationship is founded on gifts it is a fragile one.
I'll say it again, giving depens a relationship, it is not what creates one. But the problem is, it's quite easy to "gift" and give without thought.
Therefore, while mindfulness may make us more open to giving - it is important to give MINDFULLY. ...and remember that holds for love as well as in the workplace. If you find yourself giving over and above what is expected - ask yourself what you are trying to achieve (and perhaps you may find a better solution!).