Posts tagged #faith

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


This is the first part of me (Carolyn Elliott) interviewing problem-solver extraordinaire Matthew Stillman of 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.




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.




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

Posted on April 14, 2011 and filed under Generosity.

Why You Find it Tough to be a Genius

Dear Reader, Lately we've been exploring the matter of reclaiming our innocence and it's relation to awesoming our lives. We've experimented with the innocence process and we've begun to raise our resonance via loving-kindness virtualization.

Today I want to consider  what our awareness of our innocence (or lack of it) has to with the freedom with which we express our genius

On Being a Pregnant Virgin

Being a genius in the process of creative awakening is a lot like being a pregnant virgin.  I know that sounds far out. Stay with me for a moment while we see what that means.

Imagine you're a young unmarried girl.  One night, an angel appears to you and announces: Hey! It's your lucky day! You're going to conceive and give birth to an incarnation of God!

How do you feel?

This whole annunciation scene is what happened to the Virgin Mary and she felt pretty cool about it. But she was saintly to begin with.  Let's imagine you're not saintly, you're just a regular person.  How do you feel about this news that you'll be bearing the incarnate lord?

Probably you're freaked.  You know you don't want to say no to God, but how are you going to explain the whole matter of you suddenly being pregnant to your family and your nice, chaste boyfriend?  And what will the neighbors say? Put bluntly, they'll say you're a slut.

No one's going to believe your whole hilarious immaculate conception story.  You can try to tell them about the angel and everything, but then they won't just think you're a slut. They'll think you're a nutty slut.

This is going to be a tough deal, and it's not all that hard to understand why.

Virginal women are traditionally accorded some respect and deference by society-- they're seen as pure, as-yet-untainted by sexual knowledge and motivation, free from romantic entanglement.  In classical times, the status enjoyed by virgins had so many perks that many ancient Greek heroines took great measures to protect themselves from ever having to marry.

Women who become pregnant within marriage are also likewise accorded some respect by the culture at large-- they're bringing up the future generation with the proper means to support that generation.

Women who become pregnant outside of marriage, especially young women, are conventionally regarded with very little respect. Society interprets them as irresponsible burdens.

But even knowing all this, you've got an offer from an angel. You're going to be bearing the son of God. So you accept your gift.

The what happens? People respond to you and your situation with varying degrees of kindness and acceptance, but by and large you're considered morally suspect and spiritually deranged.

You know in you're heart that you're not irresponsible, you're not loose with your affections, you have no lascivious motives, you're a servant of the lord.  You're innocent-- but no one else can see that.  To everyone else, you're trouble.

How Geniuses are Like Pregnant Virgins

If you're a genius, the odds are that throughout your childhood and up to the present day, you sure look like trouble to everyone around you.

Your inventions, your enthusiasms, your playfulness, your disinterest in material stuff for stuff's sake, your emotional sensitivity, your intense spiritual experiences, your passionate convictions, your disinclination to go along with whatever dominant program is happening at your home or school or work--- these all inhibit your ability to fit in and make you look morally suspect and spiritually deranged to the non-geniuses around you.

In other words, you're bearing a gift from God: your genius.  You know it's a wonderful thing, for you and for everyone else.  But everyone else doesn't see it that way. The angel never appeared to them and told them how great you are and what an important service you're doing. They see you as a burdensome annoyance in the midst of their lives.  They resent you.  They're not shy about letting you know it.

You might be beaten, called names, harassed, ostracized by your peers and even by your elders.

This is very difficult.  You're innocent, and you're bearing a wondrous present to the world.  But the world doesn't see or respect your innocence.  It treats you as if you're guilty of harming it.  It offers you derision, insult, dishonor.

In the midst of all this insult it can be incredibly hard for a genius to maintain her good spirits.  It's easy to become cynical, disheartened, bitter when the world addresses you as a guilty person.  In other words, it's easy to lose your sense of your own goodness.

Some geniuses become so disheartened by the harsh treatment that they get from the world at an early age that they abort their gift-- they self-sabotage,overdose on drugs, commit suicide, or just live blocked and miserable lives.

I'm very touched and saddened by the story of Nick Drake. Drake was a brilliant British folk artist who recorded some of my very favorite albums, and then died from an overdose of antidepressants at age 26.  His albums were received with pleasure, but they never sold much during his lifetime because he was extremely reticent and refused to do interviews or tours to promote them.  The already melancholy Drake became more depressed by the failure of his music to sell-- and then ultimately he died in a situation that looked a lot like suicide.

Reading the wikipedia article about Drake's life yesterday, I was reminded of two young men I dated in my early twenties, both gifted avant garde musicians with serious social anxiety. Happily, both these young men are still living and making art. But neither of them is having a gloriously easy time of it.

One could say that both Drake and the young men of my acquaintance are sabotaging themselves by not being more vocal and personable.  This is true, but it's just a surface level observation.

Seeing more depth in the situation, I would posit that they have an extremely tough time being personable because somewhere along the line they stopped believing in their own innocence and goodness.  It's tough even to make eye contact when you don't trust the power of your own dear heart. No matter that evidence of virtue abound-- in spiritual matters believing is perceiving; innocence and goodness are spiritual matters, and without belief they cannot be perceived.

Learning from the Virgin Mary

My point is that without faith in our own goodness and innocence we will find ways to abort the gift of our genius instead of carrying it fully to term.

I'm not a Catholic, but I feel I have a lot to learn from the Holy Virgin Mary in this regard.

Mary got plenty of harsh treatment from the world in response to her decision to bear her gift, but she didn't let that harsh treatment cause her to doubt her own worthiness to carry and to offer that gift.

We as geniuses need to cultivate a similar faith and forbearance.  As we go throughout our lives we are pregnant virgins again and again, innocent vessels bringing forth incarnations of divinity into the world and in the meantime looking downright suspect.



Image Credit: Photo "Moon LeRouge" by fauxto_digit, found on flickr, used under Creative Commons attribution license.


Posted on March 15, 2011 and filed under Innocence.