02/23/2011 04:21 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Finding Generosity in Hard Times

Have you ever thought about the concept of generosity and what qualifies someone to be generous? If you think about the generous people in your life, what makes them generous? Is he or she generous with his or her money? Time? Patience?

Furthermore, when you think about this particular generous person and imagine being in their presence, how does it make you feel? Imagine, for instance, being in the presence of an extremely wise and kind person, perhaps like his Holiness the Dali Lama. Imagine he listens to you and perhaps gives you his wise and heartfelt advice. How would this make you feel?

I don't know about you, but it would make me feel pretty special.

If you spend some time thinking about this experience, or the experiences you have had with the generous people in your life, you may discover that you generally feel good in their presence. You may feel more complete, relaxed, safe or taken care of, not alone in the world and simply special. And when you feel special, aren't you then more likely to be more generous?

You may notice that generous individuals give, simply because they can -- not because they have to, feel pity for someone or are expecting something in return

The quality of generosity stems from the belief that one has enough and is enough, and always will. It arises from knowing that one is already special and that it is wonderful to share in this abundance and specialness.

Stinginess would be the opposite of generosity. You do not feel special enough, and you feel that you are are not, and do not have, enough. If you are fearful of not having or being enough, it is highly unlikely that you will give much of anything, including your time or your love. It is more likely that you will only give if you feel you will get something back in return.

When I think about the generous people in my life, I smile and my heart opens. I think about my patients, who are so generous in sharing their lives with me. I think about my family, who are so generous with their love and support, even when I am taking risks. I contemplate my friends, who give me their love, random gifts of appreciation and time, even when they may not have so much of it. And I look at those I admire who give a percentage of their salary to charities or who give their time to help someone in need, simply because they can.

In these hard financial times, when most people are on "the go" constantly and rarely have time to sit down and listen to their children or take a deep breath, have we lost our sense of generosity?

It doesn't take much to be generous. It just means slowing down a bit, appreciating what you have, as you inhale and exhale deeply and completely; and then, if it moves you, give.

Give a random act of generosity -- an extra dollar on your tip to the waiter, an extra minute or more to your colleague who has a problem he would like to discuss, some room for your child to make some mistakes or a smile to a stranger on the street.