It’s not what you get, it’s what you give

As a student, did you ever ask, like me, “Why am I learning this?” or “What good will this do me in my life?” And let me guess… you were asking about algebra or trigonometry, right?

It seems like a feature of modern life. In our Western world, much it seems is about what ‘I am getting out of this’.

This is an egotistical perception of our relationship to the world. In this perception, the world must give to us, to fulfil our selfish desires and needs. Never do we ask what the world needs.

Before I went on a working retreat this year, I had a lot of questions to ask about my relationship. I felt like at times, I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of it.

Casa Saraswati is the new home for Didier Danthois’ School of Sacred Clowning. Having worked with Didier previously, I had offered to come on a working holiday this summer to help paint, clean and prepare his new retreat centre for courses.

Mornings at Casa Saraswati begin with a ninety minute meditation practice, broken down into twenty minute sitting meditations, walking meditation and compassion practice, in the Buddhist tradition.

I had a fantastic time, and over the three weeks I could feel myself developing greater honesty, compassion and empathy. I enjoyed the spiritual practices, but also the hard work of preparing Casa Saraswati. It felt good to work communally on a goal, aimed at helping others.

After a few days, the questions I had had about my relationship became meaningless.

I had stopped thinking in terms of me, and what I get out of it. My thoughts and actions were now directed at what I could give.

This was a breakthrough for me. Suddenly, I unlocked a whole new perception on my life, and my relationship. What about if I could always think in terms of what I could give, not get?

Can I give this person love? Can I give this person a meaningful, passionate relationship?

This perception is a whole new way of looking for me. It makes me look outwards, not inwards. It makes my egotistical wishes shrivel in the face of a greater good. And it feels right.

When I reach the end of my life I am going to ask myself what I did to make the world a better place. What did I do to improve the quality of others lives?

I believe that by asking what I can give I can help others better.

And what a different place schools would be if we felt we were not just learning to get a good job and a fat paycheck, but if we were learning so that all of society could benefit from what we could give.