Giving time to someone who needs a listening ear. Offering to babysit a friend’s kids so they get an evening off. Praising a coworker in front of the team. Giving a warm smile to the shopkeeper.

Little acts of kindness go a long way.

Research has shown that helping others stimulates the part of our brain that makes us feel happy. Interestingly, this happens not only in the person demonstrating kindness and the recipient, but also in a person who observes it.

Imagine how much happier and more connected we would feel if we lived in a world where everyone practiced kindness, compassion and service to others.

Selfless service has been an integral part of Indian culture since ancient times. You can gain an astrological and spiritual understanding of service and giving in the Secret of Ancient Indian Rituals book which dives into the secrets behind these practices.

For now, when it comes to giving time, money or gifts to others, there are 3 important things to remember.

1. Serve when you are Strong

Sometimes in our race to serve others and contribute to the world, it is easy to forget to take care of ourselves. If you find yourself saying yes to too many charity projects which eat into family time, or volunteering into the early hours thereby sleeping less and affecting your health – take a step back for a moment.

Serving does not mean exhausting yourself or doing something out of duty. Nor does it mean getting into a habit of always putting others before yourself. Rather it is an expression of inner love and gratitude that comes from a full heart. Just as charity can’t be done from an empty bowl, seva (selfless service) can’t be done without being physically or mentally strong enough.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar sums this up when he says, “When you feel weak – surrender. When you feel strong – do seva.”

So if you aren’t in a place where you can give, take care of yourself first. Eat and exercise well, meditate and build up your strength. When you feel strong, then reach out and do something for others, and see how much stronger you become.

2. Give Flowers - Not Shoes!

Flowers are given on romantic dates, placed at the bedside of hospital patients and displayed in the homes of those who have recently lost a loved one. They are worn in womens’ hair and placed on restaurant tables. But why flowers?

Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space are the five elements that make up everything in this creation. Just like each of our bodies have slightly different proportions of the elements in us – which forms the basis of our constitution as per the ancient science of Ayurveda – different objects have more of one element than another. Flowers represent the Space element, which is responsible for creating a sense of connection between people. When you give someone flowers you create space for a deeper connection with the person you give them to.

Sweets, chocolates and sugary items are also popular gifts, and they make good ones as sweets are connected with the planet Jupiter which brings growth, positivity and expansion. Auspicious events almost always involve sharing sweets, which brings the uplifting energy of Jupiter.

In ancient times it was understood that accepting certain gifts could change the pattern of energy and natural forces for the receiver. This is why there are some items that should not be given as gifts. Shoes, knives and electronics are amongst the things that should not be gifted, as it may not benefit the receiver. You can learn about the astrological reasons for this in the Secrets of Ancient Traditions book.

3. Choose the Right Way to Give

While what you give is important, equally important is the way you give. Just as offering an apology through gritted teeth has little value, giving a gift without positive intent diminishes the act of giving. A grandmother experiences great joy from sharing food with her grandchildren, and as she cooks for them she does so with a full heart and intention that they are happy and healthy.

When giving your time, money or a gift, first accept and love yourself. Remember whatever talents you have, resources you have been blessed with, skills you have learnt and gifts you have received are all for sharing with others. Feel abundant and feel grateful. And with that positive feeling, give to a person or cause in a way that connects with you.

And as you step into the cosmic flow of giving and receiving, you will see that the more you take care of others, the more the universe takes care of you – sometimes in unexpected ways.

Learn more about the meaning of true service, and how and what to give from an astrological and spiritual perspective in the Secret of Ancient Traditions book.

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