Community//

When Giving Back Makes You Feel Like You’re Snow White

How Giving Turned Me from Grumpy to Happy in Nothing Flat

When I tell people the title of the book I co-wrote many years The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Just About Everything, they usually fight to hold back a gasp or a guffaw as they say “You are anything but lazy!”

But that book is about redefining the word lazy as living with less stress and more joy. Being lazy in that context also doesn’t mean you don’t ever take an opportunity to throw some blood, sweat and tears into life. It means choosing where you spend your energy, so that your efforts fill up your heart.

An area where I most joyfully exert energy and passion is giving back whenever I can. It fills my heart more than anything.

I have the great fortune of belonging to a beautiful spiritual community that gives me so much. It feeds and nourishes my heart and soul. It makes me more able to love and be loved than anything I do. Giving back to that community makes my heart sing. The harder I work there, the more full my heart.

We all know circumstances — or relationships — like this, that make you feel like you are receiving even more than you give.

Yesterday I gave a brunch for some people in my spiritual community. I had been missing them since we all returned from a few weeks’ retreat. Re-entry had been hard for me since I had returned, so I was especially craving their company. I was so excited to have them come bless my home with their presence.

I had so much fun setting the table, so much fun creating beautiful foods. I thought of each of my guests as I cooked and decorated. It felt effortless. It was as if the table set itself. Trader Joe’s magically had the exact color scheme of flowers to match the table settings. I was led through the aisles to choose every single item I needed for my recipes without a list in hand.

I shopped, made two quiches, made all new flower arrangements throughout the house, and set the table for twelve — all in three hours the night before the event. I even overslept the morning of the event and magically prepared three salads and roasted potatoes in nothing flat. Honestly, I felt like I was Snow White with seven dwarves helping me every step of the way. It was mad fun!

So when people started thanking me as we started to eat, I had to tell them how much joy it brought me. I think it looked like hard work to them, but it was anything but. It was fun and lazy work as I would call it because it was stress-free, joyful, and filled up my heart.

This brunch shifted my state of being. I had been feeling overworked after returning from vacation to an avalanche of pressures and deadlines. I wasn’t feeling joyful at all in the days leading up to this day, but as soon as I started preparing and thinking of my amazing guests, my heart shifted.

I think that may be the most magical part of giving: the refocusing of my heart from my own damn self to the beautiful hearts of others. At least that’s what cued up the Disney music in my life this week, when I felt far away from the magic for a while. And receive I did as well — in oh so many ways.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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