Posts tagged #living in the gift

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:::

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

Letters to a Young Dream Warrior - Letter #2

 

[Read the first letter here.]

 

Dear X,

 

So it seems to you that either you win over the gatekeepers or you fall flat.  You win or you lose. I offered to you that there's a third possibility: surrender. Leave the game.

 

What does this leaving entail? First, it requires a clear recognition that you cannot "win" the gatekeeper's game.

 

How is this true? It's true because even if you bluffed incredibly well for many years, even if you got through the initial hurdles and mastered the whole act, the prize that you would ultimately earn would be this: a life of quiet desperation, hiding your great light, becoming a gatekeeper yourself-- becoming someone so personally invested in the system that he defends it vigilantly, even in the face of its evident wrongs. Is this what you really want? Is this outcome made fully palatable because it comes with a garnish of social respectability and prestige?

 

Second, leaving the game entails recognizing the fact that any failures you've had thus far in the gatekeeper's game do not mean that you are valueless or a "loser."  In fact, they signify that your value exceeds the ordinary.  You have something to offer that exceeds calculable commodities and quantities. This excess of your being is sacred; it is precious-- it's also incredibly disturbing to people and to institutions who have built themselves up on a foundation of measurement and control.  Why? Because what is sacred about you can't be measured; can't be controlled; can't be quantified; can't be commodified.  It isn't predictable or mechanical.  It's disruptive and potent and beautiful.

 

In other words, if you have a powerful soul, gatekeepers won't like you because they can sense that there's something about you which puts their methods and their smallness to shame.

 

At this moment, monetary wealth is concentrated in the hands of these people and institutions who value control, measurement, security, debt.  You're not wrong in the recognition that you might have to do without monetary wealth for a time if you choose not to pursue the acceptance and approval of the gatekeepers. You're not wrong to see that you might have to live very frugally and without the comforts and safety nets of someone who's playing by the rulebook. This thought might frighten you; this thought might frighten your family and your friends.  But let's think through it in earnest; let's think about what it means to risk living a life of truth rather than a life of begging for approval.

 

We mistakenly tend to imagine that our work in this life is to fulfill our ego's goals and demands: become important, secure, powerful, insulated from possible harm.  But this is a way of spiritual stagnation and death.  It's a fear-driven and control-obsessed path.  Follow it and you'll find yourself one day depressed, sick, filled with anxiety and loneliness.  It's the modern dilemma and the modern mistake.

 

In truth, our real work in this life is to fulfill the aims of our soul, not our ego.  The soul asks that we become humble, vulnerable, intimate and connected-- it asks that we always be open and available to express love, that we give our gifts freely and receive freely from others.

 

In my own exit from the game (which has been a slow process), I decided that I would never again insult my soul by pretending to believe something I did not or by doing work that did not resonate with me as deeply important.  I decided I would stop lying, even if it meant losing all respectability and support from the people who had previously respected and supported me as long as I went along with their game.  I decided that I would devote my energy to creating stuff which would give to others something that I truly wanted to give.  And then I started giving it away. And since then I've been enriched immeasurably with friendship; with gratitude; with community; with love.

 

So that, Dear X, is my suggestion to you.  Don't ask yourself, "What can I do to be respectable and secure?" because in a world where the reigning institutions and people are corrupt and petty, respectability and security are for souls too timid to tell the truth loudly.  Ask instead, "What would it most thrill me to give?" and then get to work on giving that.

 

If you are fully honest with yourself about the answer to this question you'll find that gates will fly open in front of you.  The universe will stop at nothing to help you bring forth the gift it most truly delights you to give.

 

Many of us get so confused about this because we've been hypnotized by the myths of specialization and professionalization.  For instance, I always knew that it most thrilled me to give to others the gifts of knowledge and empowerment through writing and teaching.  For years, though, I was gravely confused-- I thought I needed a very specialized degree and approval from hard-to-please gatekeepers in order to give this gift.  What I finally realized was that I needed no authority to make me a writer and a teacher apart from the authority of my own soul; I didn't need to appeal to gatekeepers, I needed to appeal to other people who hungered for beauty and truth as I did. As soon as I took full responsibility for my inner authority, the opportunity to publish on a wide scale came to me.

 

As you do the labor of readying your gift; as you give forth your gift; as you do it day after day with great love-- you may find that all your needs are being met, but that you receive this need-meeting indirectly.  In other words, people may not pay you directly for the gift you're offering, but support comes to you in other ways. This happens because our society only knows how to pay directly for quantifiable commodities, and the gifts of the soul can't be quantified. Still, as you give support comes to you-- in ways you can't control or predict-- in ways that are more perfect than you could arrange for.

 

The support comes because by choosing to give your deep gift loudly and fearlessly without asking for permission or approval, you're living in the gift, you're living in grace.  You've surrendered.  You're no longer living by the sensible and measurable but by the magical and synchronistic.

 

Perhaps this answer raises more questions for you. Let me know what they are and I'll endeavor to meet them.

 

Love,

Carolyn

 

 

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