Posts filed under Generosity

What is forgiveness? - it's just giving in advance, actually

The question of just what is forgiveness and how to practice it comes up for anyone who decides to try to earnestly put Christian teachings into action.  Or for anyone who just gets sick of being angry all the time. And once you try to forgive, you realize how hard it is. What is it and how does one do it, anyway?

Here's a clue that's often left out of conventional Christian teachings about forgiveness: when Jesus suggested that you infinitely forgive everyone who has ever harmed you, praise those who have insulted you and love your enemies, he was offering a deep teaching about deleting the ego.

This is left out of most talk of forgiveness because most folks would much rather retain their egos. America is all about ego.  Just look around, man.

But as long as you value your own comfort and pleasure above the happiness of most other beings (and the action of that valuing is precisely what keeps the ego in motion), it's actually impossible for you to forgive anyone or any situation.  For anything.

Your boss who takes you for granted and makes you do tasks you don't like. The government that grabs up all your money with taxes. The ex who betrayed your trust.  The parents who didn't treat you well. When your own welfare is the most important thing to you, you can't forgive these people their offenses.

How could you? They're all delivering obvious, repeated blows to exactly what you cherish the most: your self. Your security.

What is forgiveness? It's not just pardoning...

Of course, you do pardon these offenses for the sake of civility.  You grit your teeth and bear them. Keep going. But you feel all the time how they conflict with your desires and you resent them for that.  You go through your day feeling irritated and anxious and sad. That's living in conflict.

As long as your desire is chiefly for your own welfare and the welfare of those you like, you'll always be in conflict.

You'll always feel attacked.

Why? Because most other people on earth don't value your welfare above all else.  They have other priorities.  Namely, their own welfare.  This is true of your boss and the government and your ex and in often even your parents.  And so they will be inconsiderate of you.  They'll insult you.  They'll take advantage of you.

But you can't really blame them for any of that.  Why? Because they're just doing exactly what you do to them - valuing their own ease and welfare more than they value yours.

Hmmmmmmmmm.

What is forgiveness? It's fore-giving

The only way to get out of this mess of conflict and constantly feeling offended and disappointed and depressed is to change your own value system.  As you may have noticed, you can't change other people.  You have to change you.

The only way to remain un-offended and happy when someone steps on you (which they will, guaranteed) is to be already willing, in advance, for them to take every good thing you own away from you.

Whoah.

I know that sounds extreme. Folks, it is extreme.  That's why it's been not talked about for so long.  That's why hardly any knows how to do it.

Forgiveness is extremely counter-cultural and  it's not for the faint-hearted. Most all of the laws of the great U.S.A., for example, are built around protecting private property. We're really into keeping what we have, not so much interested in giving all of it away.

Giving in Advance

So the essence of forgiveness is pre-giving. It's giving in advance. It's an attitude, a willingness that we have to deliberately cultivate.  "For" means "before."  Forgiveness just means that your giving, your attitude of total generosity, precedes their taking. Fore-give. Get it?

This is something Jesus was like, super good at.

He didn't get offended or angry when folks beat him and nailed him to a cross because he had already decided to give himself away, utterly.  He was already completely willing to give for the benefit of others.  The authorities thought it would be beneficial for Jesus to die. So Jesus was like, okay.

Dude was so peaceful about the whole bloody thing that he was more concerned for the people torturing and murdering him and how it might affect their spiritual standing than he was concerned about the fact that he was being tortured and murdered.

Most of us aren't going to be confronted with folks who want to torture and murder us.  But we will be confronted with unappreciative bosses, oppressive governments, heartbreaking exes, all-too-human parents and all the other perils of this difficult world. Most of us feel sufficiently crucified just by that.

What if you became willing, in advance, for your boss to have all your labor and comfort and ease and time, for your tyrannical government to have all your money, your lying ex to have all your dignity, your negligent parents to have all your goodwill?

Most of us immediately think, "Then I'd be a doormat."

But that's not true. You'd be a Christ.

Doormats are people who over-extend themselves out of fear.  They're afraid of being disliked, afraid of being rejected, so they try to please others in order to win approval and security. Do you think Jesus gave a fuck if anyone liked him? He most explicitly did not.

Can you see how manipulating by people-pleasing is not real generosity or fore-giveness? It's just a sneaky form of grasping and getting that takes on an air of martyrdom.

If your fore-giving comes out of a place of pure willingness instead of a place of manipulative sneakiness, it doesn't lead to you being pathetic.  It leads to you being enlightened and to you helping to enlighten all other beings.

Of course, it mind lead to you looking pathetic. Those Roman soldiers sure must have thought Jesus looked pathetic as he hung up on that awful tree.  And yet.  He was performing a service that was of inestimable value and glory.  Just about the opposite of pathetic.

Contrary to Pauline opinion, Christ didn't save us from our sins by way of turning his blood into some sort of Magic Wipe-Away-Sin Eraser Solvent that comes in convenient wine-flavored concentrate at your local rectory.

Instead, he saved us from our sins by showing us that it was fully possible for a human being to fore-give, to utterly fore-give, to remain full of peace and compassion and devotion to the welfare of others even while he himself was being cruelly tortured.

That possibility is so astounding, that example is so earth-shaking, that it has the power to completely save us from our own miserable egotism (aka, sin).

But that saving power only really comes about when we say to ourselves, "I can learn to do that, too. In fact, I will learn to do that."

Which is exactly what most of us emphatically do not say to ourselves, especially those of us who have been raised as Christians.  Because we're taught to worship Christ as if he was some impossibly-anomalous Anointed Prince of Zombies.

His attainment was rare, but he was not anomalous. His fore-giving is a vivid possibility for all of us.  Jesus was a human being whose Roman overlords didn't appreciate him, whose friends betrayed him, and whose parents were so negligent that they let him be born in a pile of straw.  He became a "son of God" because he fully realized his own potential to love as God loves - with no demands or resentment.

He showed us that we can become divine by cultivating the willingness to fore-give. To die to the illusion of our separate self. "To love one another as I have loved you."

The fruit of this fore-giveness is that we get to become awake within the dream of the world.  And I have a lot to say about that, coming soon.

 

image: [Tobyotter]

Posted on January 29, 2013 and filed under Bodhicitta, Generosity.

Tithing as a Way of Living in the Gift

The following is from my work-in-progress, The Love Revival Guide to Hustling-to-End-Babylon Tithing is an ancient spiritual discipline that fosters gift culture.  It invites the divine to be present in your life in a way that connects you to others and ultimately supports your prosperity in such deep ways that it’s almost difficult to fathom.

To tithe is to regularly give ten percent of the money that comes in to your life to an organization or person or community who spiritually nurtures you.  I’ve tithed to the Evolver Network, the Hare Krishna Kirtan Center in my town, the Unity Church, and people and authors who inspired me.

Tithing is a way of beginning to live in the gift and gradually expanding our consciousness of our oneness with others.  It’s a concrete, disciplined action that helps us surrender our attachment to the fruits of our labor (a main suggestion of the Bhagavad Gita, for those of you keeping track) – and to rest in trusting Source rather than trusting in our own highly fallible powers and in the power of money itself.

I love to tithe because it opens me up to the awareness that I do indeed have so much to give, and that my gifts can make a dramatic impact to uplift and improve organizations and people that I already love, who are already making my life better and giving me strength to face the work of ending Babylon both in the world and in my own soul.

When I started tithing, I not only had a tiny income, I had minimal faith in myself to succeed at anything outside academia (which I was starting to realize I didn’t like). I had little connection to spiritual community, and no sense of myself as a leader.

It was terrifying to begin tithing, since I was like – hey – I already have just enough money to cover my bills and very simple pleasures like French fries at Eat’n’Park on Saturday night – what the hell is going to happen to me if I just give away ten percent of it as it comes in?

What happened to me was that I gained the increase of the gift that we talked about earlier.  The sacred, intangible-yet-powerful uplift of goodwill, hope and faith that comes from deeply receiving from organizations and from people to whom I had deeply given.

I began to experience myself as a member of spiritual community in a much more visceral way than I previously had.  I became more committed to the organizations I tithed to, I spent more energy in applying their resources or spiritual teachings to my life (I wanted to get my money’s worth!).  I leaned on them heavily when I felt down.  And what happened was that they gave me much: healing, love, deep recognition of my spirit and talents – the courage to leave academia and go out into the world and make things happen.  I gained optimism and energy to create true wealth for myself and those around me: vital health, harmonic relationships, material bounty.

The increase of the gift doesn’t happen if you just give to some organization and some person and don’t also receive from them.  Thus, giving to charity is a joy and a recognition of universal sister- and brotherhood, but unless you’re humble enough to stick around and also receive from the person you’ve blessed with your charity, it’s also not a sacred gift relationship in which you can experience the healing effect of the increase.

The increase of the gift is experienced on the return movement of the gift.  In other words, the most potent magic of gifting happens not in the moment that I let go and give, but in the moment that the benefit of the gift comes back to me through relationship – expanded into something  transformative that I couldn’t foresee, predict or control.

I think of tithing as a way to actively counteract the temptation to hoarding and isolating that debt-based currency inherently carries.   Tithing doesn’t detract from the need for us to come up with a different fundamental economic system than the one we presently have, but it does go a ways towards neutralizing some of the deleterious effects of debt money on our experience.

Posted on August 30, 2012 and filed under Generosity.

Living in the Gift Interview with Andrew R. Long

 

Andrew R. Long runs the wonderful Excellence blog.  He's someone who not only thinks about gift economy and the gift world, but who actually takes phenomenal steps to put it into practice — he's not philanthropist-style rich, but he's giving away thousands of dollars this year as part of his Get Giving Project.  Which I find intensely admirable and fascinating.

Andrew and I share a commitment to giving and - what's a little more rare - a mutual distaste for interest and usury. ;)  He interviewed me in the fall and I got to thinking I would really love to interview him.... so I did!

We tried doing a video interview (since I hear those are the kinds of thrills and chills the interweb loves these days) but it failed to record properly. So now we bring you... a good old-fashioned text-based interview!

Carolyn: Okay-- so how about -- tell me how you first got interested in gift economy stuff?

Andrew: It was a combination of reading Douglas Rushkoff and Charles Eisenstein. Rushkoff came first with the excellent Life, Inc, which alerted me to the degree to which modern consumer society has been created by and for the large corporation, and how society used to be arranged in a fashion that was more conducive to what today we'd call 'the middle class'. Rushkoff is really good at articulating what it means to make a profit, and the mechanism by which profit is made. Eisenstein recently came out with Sacred Economics, which digs quite deep into the idea of a gift economy. And before that, it was Lewis Hyde's 1983 classic "The Gift", which is probably the best anthropological or ethnographic treatment of gift societies.

What all of these writers really conveyed to me was that there was something natural about gifting, and that explained to me why the for-profit world always felt so twisted.

Carolyn: Wow, you just said it-- that's what resonates about it for me. Where do you feel you see the most twistedness in the for-profit world? (and as I ask that I realize it may be hard to choose)

Andrew: People thinking they have to turn themselves into mini-corporations just to survive.

Really, that's what disturbs me the most -- people see that big companies have all this money, and power, and they decide that that must be the way to do it, so they essentially emulate the corporate form, right down to creating their own personal corporation -- and the crazy thing is, that's not a crazy thing to do. It actually works! If you want to be seriously self-employed, you don't just start working with clients -- you incorporate as an LLC and pay yourself a salary and (the corporation) pays a lower tax rate and so forth and so on.

The modern corporate world has really changed the game -- in order to transact or do commerce now, there's got to be this layer of a corporate structure that mediates between people. That's what I dislike.

Carolyn: That's a really interesting point you raise-- I've just begun my self-employment and it's just really hit me that the tax rates I'm expected to pay are crazy-- but the thought of making myself an LLC gives me the chills.

Andrew: Yup. My sister is a successful self-employed writer and I helped her set some of this stuff up. I guess you don't have to view it as pathological -- certainly it's rewarding to be your own boss -- but as Rushkoff points out so adroitly, it's really a problem that the world is now built on a corporate scale, which is much bigger (and less humane) than the human scale. The corporation doesn't care about you. People in the corporation might, but to the extent they obey the corporate bylaws and follow the policies, they can still act as a group in a really inhumane way.  Look at Apple (and other tech companies) and the worker's conditions in Asia where the products are manufactured. Horrible stories come out of there! But you know what? That's actually capitalism working! Production is taking place where the cost of production is lowest! It's efficiency! It's working!

Carolyn: Horrible stories indeed-- I just started talking to my students this semester about the ills of corporatism-capitalism and they get it but they're all like, "But what are we supposed to do? We're marketing majors!" and I'm like... "Well, we need to get creative about changing stuff, because the current employment landscape undeniably puts us in compromising situations just to live..."-- I feel those compromises myself all the time. I'm wondering-- what are your thoughts about what people like us and even younger people like my students can do to get along in the world as it is while helping to move us into a more sustainable, gift-intensive future?

Andrew: Well, I'm incredibly optimistic at the level of awareness and hope that people younger than me seem to have. Occupy is just one example.

The basic thing, I think, is to cultivate a personal integrity. What I mean by that is be informed, and from information you get, make a decision about what you're going to do. Where does your coffee come from? Where do your clothes come from? What is your company doing in the world, really? What system(s) are you contributing to? And do those align with the most beautiful world you can imagine? It sounds really idealistic when I type it out, but I have to remind myself that the Founding Fathers of this country were idealistic (though not ideologues). The other thing, of course, that I would encourage everyone to do right now, young or old, is to throw away anything that isn't working and give your gift, wholeheartedly, and trust that your needs will be provided for, one way or another.

Carolyn: That last sentence so resonated with me.  It's the essence of so many spiritual teachings, and I think about it all the time. I know that that trust can be tough to cultivate-- we get so many messages that are anti-trusting-- things like, "You have to save for retirement! And have excellent health insurance! Or else you'll die alone in a gutter and no doctor will touch you!" Which is part of why I felt so touched when I learned about your experiment this year in giving money away-- something many folks who aren't uber-rich are very shy about doing. Could you talk about what's motivating that experiment and how you came to the place of trust that makes you feel good about doing it?

Andrew: The Get Giving project really just came out of realizing that I didn't have anything left to buy. You know all those studies about how happiness doesn't increase above a certain income level? Well, they're right. I've also made some fairly unusual (I think) choices in life, such as not having a mortgage, not having a car, not owning pets or raising children at this stage, so I can keep my expenses pretty low. It really boiled down to - I have the money, and I have my every material need taken care of and then some, and I know many people who don't have their material needs taken care of, so why wouldn't I give? It really just became a mental place where I couldn't not do it. This was a pretty big deal for me, personally, because I grew up in a fairly chaotic environment, and all my life I've been a big worrier -- mostly about my own security in the future. And then I had the realization that there was literally no pile of money big enough to calm my worry. And once that happened, I realized that the pile of money I had accumulated to date was really irrelevant. Plus, I was earning interest on it, and that also sort of became reprehensible to me. I realized that my interest earnings could be some other guy's foreclosure notice. Like, I may not be Scrooge McDuck, but I was paying somebody else to be for me. I was making money by having money. And what kind of sense does that make? I mean, really?

Carolyn: Oh boy, yes.  I remember reading in Lewis Hyde's book about how interest and usury used to be considered sins, abominations... money growing out of money.  Which was thought to be unnatural and monstrous, like cancer.

Andrew: Yup. If you look at our economic system today, it's just all wrong. The underlying conceit is unlimited growth, and that's plain crazy. I recently read Clinton's latest book, Back to Work, and it was just "jobs, jobs, jobs." And the crazy thing is, he's right -- we could have more jobs, and we could have more growth. But we're at this brilliant juncture in history where we actually have the opportunity to ask, Is that really what we want? Like, let's say the GDP starts growing 10% a year. Is that really going to make me happier, personally? Because I'll be able to buy more stuff? What would actually make me happier is if I could work 10% less and have 10% more amazing conversations with my friends, or 10% more sex. Or 20%. Or 30%, you know? In the modern age we seem to be collectively confused about what actually makes life worth living.

Carolyn: I hear you. I notice that the more I let go of my concerns about security and practice generosity, I seem to center myself in the present and become available for better relationships, which surprised me when I first noticed it. Have you found an unexpected spiritual or emotional (or otherwise) benefits to your practice of giving?

Andrew: I would say it's calming. And it generally gives a big rush of energy when you let go of a substantial amount of money, and send it on to somewhere it can do more. I really think money has a spirit, in a sense, like it wants to be used and spent and put to a good use. And that's certainly not happening if it's sitting in my bank account.

Carolyn: That's a beautiful truth, about money having a spirit and wanting to move. I can see how keeping it in a bank account is a bit like caging an animal that wants to roam.

Andrew: For sure. If you think of money as energy, then we have these massive pools of energy just sitting around in the banks and the corporations right now, going nowhere. And at the same time, there are huge challenges facing humanity right now, like our climate, and we're doing virtually nothing. Even though we have the resources! It's a form of madness that I believe we're slowly recovering from.

Carolyn: I agree-- it looks like more and more people, both within and without those institutions are realizing the madness and wanting to put a stop to it.

Andrew: Likewise :)

Carolyn:   :::warm fuzzies:::

Sacred Economics with Charles Eisenstein - a short film by Ian MacKenzie

What if we lived in a world based on the free giving of gifts, rather than on scarcity and competition? What if our money wasn't based on debt and usury but rather on natural increase and abundance?  Charles Eisenstein helps us imagine that world in his book Sacred Economics, which you can read in its entirety here.  Filmmaker Ian MacKenzie aids that process of imagining with this beautiful short film. Dig it!

httpv://youtu.be/EEZkQv25uEs

 

Living in the Gift Interview Series: Matthew Stillman - Part 1

  httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFvhzwApoPc

This is the first part of me (Carolyn Elliott) interviewing problem-solver extraordinaire Matthew Stillman of stillmansays.com about creativity and living in our genius with grace.

I asked Matt to tell us about his radically generous experiment wherein he sits in Union Square and helps folks solve problems.

I also asked him an ever-thorny question: how do we make a living while living in the gift?

We touched upon Jesus' far-out injunctions, Charles Eisenstein's gift business model and the importance of getting in touch with our own inner greedy stock broker.

An illuminating and wonderful time. Part 2 coming soon.

Please excuse any awkward cuts. I kind of suck at iMovie right now.

 

Love!

Carolyn

Love is What Makes Life Awesome / "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone"

What is an awesomed life? It has more to do with love than coconut oil.

 

I'm aware that the title of this blog and of my book can sound a little ridiculously upbeat.  "Awesome Your Life" -- like, hmmmm? What's that supposed to mean?

 

Does it mean living on a beach, working 4 hours a week, being regularly massaged with coconut oil by sultry servants?

 

In my experience -- not so much.

 

To me, an awesomed life isn't a life that's brimming with luxury and prestige.  It isn't the inflated capitalist magazine-gloss dream that's only available to people who make massive amounts of money.

 

Instead, it's...

 

A life that's burgeoning with radically all-embracing love, community and creativity.

 

Somedays, I forget this.  I look at my tiny (but adequate) bank account, tiny apartment, and think "I must be doing this wrong."

 

But other days something happens that snaps me out of my negative trance and shows me-- no, I'm doing it pretty darn right and my life is indeed incredibly awesomed.

 

Just this kind of snapping happened on my birthday this year.  My friends gathered together and surprised me with their rendition of "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" -- in reference to the month I spent away from them in India when everyday in our hometown of Pittsburgh (so they tell me) was grey.

 

They met in secret to practice the song complete with accordion, guitar, voice and tambourine parts.

 

It sounded amazing. They gave me the best birthday present ever by performing it to me in the very same tiny, cramped apartment that the mean and incorrect part of me sometimes uses as evidence that I'm a loser. Check it out:

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt-RzLiM07Q&feature=BFa&list=UURgQm6XbQSl01KLvxXBDoxg&lf=plcp

 

I mention this not to brag (I'm so adored! Look at ME!) but because my ability as a life coach is tied to my own personal experience and accomplishment. I can't guide you on how to set up a trouble-free existence with mad cash in a tropical paradise because I haven't done that.

 

I can, however, help you work through what holds you back from forming deep connections with others and enjoying a life filled with art and meaning. You might want to check out the stuff people say about me to see what that entails.

 

Love!

Carolyn

Occupying Your Heart - Guest Post by Samuca Love

Samuca Love is a visionary and sweetheart who's committed to opening up into the freedom of the gift world.  When I read his simple statement to the Occupy movement, I melted and opened.  I know you will, too.

 

Occupy Your Heart

 

Who are you?

What is it that you desire?

What kind of world do you want to live in?

 

You are a unique and beautiful being that has infinite potential. In fact, you are the only expression of you that will EVER exist. You are loved and you are part of this vast web, our community here on Earth. I know that sometimes it doesn't feel like it; sometimes it feels like you're the only one here, isolated, alone in an alien world. You might sink to the depths of despair, of hopelessness, feeling so small and inconsequential. But here I am telling you that I LOVE YOU! Just for being you.

 

I know who you are, because ultimately you are who I am- a human being on Planet Earth who wants connection and deep relationships, who wants to love and be loved, who wants to help others and be a part of something greater than oneself, greater than that skin-encapsulated ego, that Cartesian mote of consciousness, that bubble of psychology. Who are you, really? See we've come to live in a world where people are scared of each other, scared of ourselves because we've forgotten how special we are as human beings. You don't have to be afraid to hug people. You don't have to be afraid to love people, to look in another person's eyes and SEE them, to see your own humanity mirroring back in those big, bright eyes.

 

I want to live in a world where people don't just understand this as an intellectual concept, but feel it so deeply and viscerally that it melts into a daily, lived reality of being. I AM BECAUSE YOU ARE. I AM BECAUSE THE TREES AND RIVERS ARE. I AM BECAUSE THE BIRDS AND THE BEES ARE.

 

Ultimately this movement (Occupy) isn't about the 99% v. the 1%- it's not about further fragmentation and separation, because even the financial elites are part of this community, even THEY are because YOU are. They've just forgotten, compensating for their lost deficit of being by accumulating to assuage the searing pain of disconnection, the painful void of being cut off from the rest of one's self, that is to say, from everything else. When one is being one's SELF, it's impossible to clearcut a forest, or dump toxic waste into a river, or profit from the suffering of other beings, because one feels quite immediately that she is clearcutting and polluting a part of her self, that she cannot be fulfilled when other parts of her self are suffering. No matter how hard we may try to insulate ourselves from our actions, from the harm we've inflicted upon 'others', our efforts will be in vain, like pouring cement over a toxic waste dump. CEOs, bankers, and politicians weren't put on this planet to increase market share, nor were you put on this planet to do anything other than participate joyfully in a beautiful, healthy world.

 

I encourage everyone to listen deeply to your SELVES, listen deeply to your hearts, and envision with all your imagination the more beautiful world your heart tells you is possible, then go do whatever it takes to realize that world. The time of settling for anything less is over. We're the ones we've been waiting for.

 

Wasn't that lovely? Now go ahead and check this out...

Here's Samuca and Liam Madden proposing a radical new demurrage currency system to Occupy Boston:

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebqrmMKPmfw

Make Money Flow

Dear Reader, Today I want to add generosity to the list of spiritual principles we've been discussing so far. We tend to think of generosity, like kindness, as just a basic trait of good character.  We may not imagine that developing our generosity can lead us to experience more wealth and confidence in our lives, but that's what's happened for me.

My Weird Secret

I do something that most of my friends don't do.  I never tell anyone when I'm doing it.  Lots of folks tried to talk me out of it when I started. I was afraid to do it for a long time.  But since I've been doing it I love it and I don't want to stop.

Yes, that's right -- I tithe.

A tithe means "one tenth." I give ten percent of my income before taxes to a source that spiritually nourishes me. Not to charity, not to a worthy cause, but to a spiritual source.  It's one of the basic ways I practice the principle of generosity.

The notion of tithing comes out of the Judeo-Christian tradition. There's a verse in the Old Testament Book of Malachi where the Lord says something like, "Bring the tithes into the storehouse that there shall be food in my temple, and prove me now herewith, said the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the doors of heaven  and pour you out a blessing of many sexy expensive outfits."

I may have gotten the last bit confused, but you get the idea. The Lord of hosts said to bring him the bucks and he would pay out big time.

The idea of giving to God is present in other traditions, too.  The Sikhs traditionally offer dasvand (which also means "one tenth") to their place of worship. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna offers that in order to become free of our karma we need to surrender the fruits of our labor to Him, and other Hindu scriptures emphasize the importance of giving.  Lay Buddhists offer gifts to Buddhist monks.  It's a pretty standard spiritual practice.

But Why Would You Do a Thing Like That?

For a lot of secular-minded folks, giving to sources of spiritual nourishment might sound odd.  Giving to charity makes sense in terms of ordinary morality-- but giving to temples or teachers? Even if they already have money? Why?

Well, giving money to a source of spiritual nourishment is a way to practically, deeply acknowledge the divine origin of all the wealth that blesses me. Tithing, like all giving, is a gesture of trust. It's saying, "I believe there's more where this came from, so I'm free to offer this."  In the act of giving there's a deep acknowledgment that has the effect of expanding one's faith and thus one's willingness to take positive action.

When I freely offer ten percent of my income to God at the start of the month, even though I'm in debt, even though I don't know exactly how I'll buy the groceries and pay the bills-- and somehow, by the end of the month, money shows up and I have more than enough-- well, that there is a major faith increaser.

Wherein Billions Suffer

I used to get really bugged when I'd hear people talking about how they believed their higher power would provide for them. I'd think, "Man, there's billions of people struggling to get food and water day to day. Why do you think God's gonna pay your fat American rent and let them starve? Are you a cosmic favorite?"

I still don't think that God plays favorites.  It's clear that lots of spiritually evolved people suffer all sorts of calamities, including persecution and disease and poverty.

But I do believe that by aligning myself with spiritual principles, including the principle of generosity, I better make myself available to the flow of whatever beneficent forces would like to come my way.  In other words, whether I'm tithing or not I'm still a fragile human being subject to infelicitous happenings (maybe old bad karma?) but when I don't give at all, I cut myself out of the divine gift circle.  I become a self-obsessed closed system.

In other words, when I don't give, I'm so busy being anxious about my own security and comfort that I'm just not paying enough attention to notice and reap all the universe's great freebies.  Since I don't notice what I'm being freely offered, I maintain my bleak perspective that life is just a bitter struggle punctuated by death. A birth astride the grave, and a hard labor-- as Beckett liked to say.

When I do give, I am much more open and alert and receptive to divine freebies, in part because I feel more entitled to them (hey, I'm tithing!). And noticing all this good stuff helps to encourage me in the view that stuff might not be so bad after all.  In fact, stuff might even be great.

Stay tuned -- I'll soon be discussing my own personal journey with tithing and what it's done for me so far.

Love,

Carolyn

 

Image Credit: "Cash Money" by BlatantNews, borrowed from Flickr under Creative Commons licensing.

Posted on April 14, 2011 and filed under Generosity.