The Alchemy of Giving


As you read these words, what is the thought running in the background of your mind? “Will the next few words benefit me? Is there something in here for me? Will this article make me understand better, or live better, or laugh better?” Naturally. That is why you are spending the time to read this article. And as I write these words, my background thoughts are hovering at, “I hope someone reads them, understands them, appreciates them.”

We are both on the same side of the road: not crossed over as of yet, the traffic is still going steady. You want to receive wisdom. Nothing wrong with that. I want to receive the fulfilment of conveying wisdom. Nothing wrong with that either.

We do not have to feel guilty, neither you nor me. For this is the conditioning embedded in our DNA. Give to take. Sometimes, only take. And sometimes, take as much as you can.

The”take” archetype
Think about it: in almost every situation of life, the “take” syndrome runs in the backdrop. I shower: I take purity. I eat breakfast: I take nourishment. I drop the kids off at school: I take the knowledge they are being prepared for life. I conduct a meeting: I take power. I join a meeting: I hope to take credit. It gets subtler. I give a yoga class: I take the reverence of students. I do a meditation: I take calmness. I sit cross-legged before Mt. Kailash: I take energy.

If we go slightly further, we might notice that the take intention is different when we put ourselves in a situation we like as compared to when we find ourselves in a situation we do not like. I choose to surf today; it is a conscious choice to “take” the thrill. I am in a job I do not like; I take the money, the indirect take. I drive my mother-in-law to the hospital: I hope my spouse will appreciate it; the hope to take.

Even our so-called selfless actions can be tinged with take. I give money to charity; I partake of the verdict that I am a good person. I house-sit my sister’s children; I partake of her gratitude and the verdict that I am caring. There are also traditions in which it is customary to give something whenever you go to a holy place or person, even if a flower or a coconut, in order to take back blessings.

How about we honestly look at all our actions from the moment we woke up to now (or from yesterday or the week before, if you like), and see how our take motivation propelled us, using the above examples as our cue. Let us also check on the balance between our intention to give and to take in life. Spend a few minutes to do this. Remember, no mask, no fear, no justification and no guilt.

Shifting to “give”
Having seen the various shades of our “take,” is it possible that we shift over to “give?” Completely, from the bottom of our hearts?

Why would we do that?

Because that is the secret to a happier world. Truly, that’s no cliché. Imagine all those “take” situations of yours from the point of feeling of “give,” and you might discover a completely new way of living and helping others live. Visualize this: you go to a doctor for the pain in your little toe and he makes it heal. You give him his fees, but more than that you give your full gratitude, 101 percent, from the bottom of your heart. You did not have a life-threatening condition, yet you allow this to be your response, at first consciously and, with time, spontaneously. This does not require hugging the doctor or saying thank you a million times, just the sincerity of your intention does it.

So what happens? Your giving becomes bigger than your taking. And where does this take the world? If you do this well, the doctor will feel more fulfilled than any fees could ever make him feel, for he will not experience the energetic depletion that often goes along with being a health-giver. On the contrary, he will feel energized. This will help him to treat the next patient better, to give more.

The same principle can be applied to every situation in life. But there is a catchphrase here: “from the bottom of the heart.”

Not from the bottom of the mind. The mind will follow. It is the heart that has to agree first. Can we let go of the desire, the feeling, the embedded instinct in us to take from the world around us? And instead, can we create a new feeling, a new instinct, a new intention in our heart: to give, give and give. Can we create that state where everything seems to flow out of our heart into the world?

We do not have to give away our dollars, though we may certainly give what we do not need. We do not even have to give of our time, though we may certainly do so if needed. We simply have to create that state, that flow, that intention to give. The rest will happen on its own.

The bottom line
Now, to get to this point, we have to first ask, why do we always want to take and to hoard? The answer is easy: to feel safe and secure. To feel full. Whether through objects, opinions, feelings or something else. Many of us know that this gets us nowhere; irrespective of what we receive, we stay in the craving. Yet, we don’t seem to be able to stop. Someone who knew the way said, “In order to be enlightened, the desire for enlightenment has to go.”

There is a fundamental principle involved in coming into the state of giving. We can give only if we feel that we are not being depleted by the giving, that we can continue to be full despite the giving. We have to be convinced that there is never any diminishing, there never was any diminishing, there never will be any diminishing. This has to be the state of our emotions, our thoughts, our energy.

It is not only the enlightened sages who reach this state of awareness. Slowly, by degrees, we can teach ourselves to feel this way. We can teach ourselves to remain in the energy of fulfilment. The feeling will follow, the thoughts will follow, the words and actions will also follow. The mind, the body, the senses will all follow.

Creating the state of give-ness
Here is how we begin to do it. Think about something that makes you feel so-o-o fulfilled. Maybe a perfect cup of coffee on a Sunday morning. Maybe that sunrise you saw on the Andes a few years ago. Maybe the paycheck you receive at the end of the month. Maybe the words of praise from your boss. Whatever, it does not matter. What matters is the next step.

After bringing to mind that which makes you feel fulfilled, drop the event. Completely. Like you would erase a whiteboard, from your mind erase the “thing” that makes you feel fulfilled: the coffee, the paycheck, the sunrise. And only allow the fulfilment itself to remain. Allow only the feeling to remain. Do it again: not the event, not the cause, only the feeling. Focus on it. Let it shine. Let it become bigger. Forget its cause. Don’t let the mind get in the way. Expand the feeling. Stay with it. You can do it.

So you see, the feeling can be independent of the cause. You do not need a cause to feel full, because the feeling is already a part of you. The feeling is a waveform, a frequency, and you can access it and amplify it simply by intention. When all your cells vibrate to this frequency, you are in the energy of fulfilment. And that is your natural state. The unnatural state is what is created by the various causes. That is why you have to drop the causes and access the pristine feeling. The causes are merely triggers, reminders to awaken the feeling in you, but you have the ability and the choice to access the feeling and then to stay with it.

When you stay with this self-luminous fullness for long enough, the desire to give seems to follow spontaneously. You want others to experience the fullness, too, and you want the earth to experience the fullness, too. You do not want to deplete anyone or anything; you want to give, give and give. You want everyone and everything around you to be happy, to know that joy, to know that incredible feeling that “I do not need. I am bliss itself.” You come into the spiral of love: it goes out of you and comes back into you, and there is no longer any sense of lack.

If this happens to you, and to those around you, and to those around them, and on and on, we will become a different species. No longer angry, no longer sad, no longer cavemen (or women) wanting to hoard in our personal grottos, but energized beings who revel in fullness, in flowing and in loving. In giving. Try it today.

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Swami Yogamaya Saraswati
Swami Yogamaya has been practicing and teaching yoga and a spiritual lifestyle for several years. An inner calling led her to leave her glamorous life as editor of an international lifestyle magazine and join an ashram in India to devote herself completely to the path of spiritual understanding. She continues to be a pilgrim. Contact her at [email protected].


  1. Thank u so much for sharing this article…i am grateful”from the bottom of my heart”. I really needed to read this.
    I wish there were more articles from swami yogamaya to guide us….again a desire to take knowledge but with a promise to give a better version of ourselves to society.


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