1 + 1 = 3

Sometimes the most exceptional lessons in life are heard between the most unexceptional moments.

Just the other day I was speaking with a wise friend of mine about some very ordinary things. We came about relationships and our respective states within them. We began to mumble about this and analyze that. After a few fleeting moments of rather darb commentary, a sagacious spark shot across the room. We immediately looked at each other. I repeated the phrase: one plus one equals three.

No more than five words. Simple and—quite literally—uneducated. Yet the words were extremely potent. The conversation was about relationships. This was not just about lovers. The small proverb-like sentence was referring to the essence of all authentic and prosperous relationships. It was the secret behind all bonds.

A real relationship is one that brings forth a sum greater than its parts. It is an illogical, unexplained phenomena bordering the line of a magician’s trick. The end result of a relationship is more than what could have possibly been created had one calculated the pieces separately. This marvel of relationships is why we are attracted to having them with others.

Looks like chem lab paid off.

An energy, a chemistry, a connection or a vibration. I have heard all of these terms used when describing a meaningful connection with another. It is something literally magical.

I first understood this concept in probably the most blue collar, laymen’s terms that existed. A couple teaching yoga taught a tantric class on relationships. The male was a former carpenter and electrician. He described relationships in the form of voltage.

Any one person is capable of emitting 110 Volts—the power expelled from a regular US electrical socket. 110 volts is a decent amount of power, but to really get things flowing, 220-volts might be needed. Now, if two 110-volts try to fuse together improperly, they will be unable to obtain 220 volts. Instead, they must use a transformer. This will reach the desired output.

Git r done!

The metaphor of the transformer is that two people can create a larger output if their relationship is properly established. Properly established is he key concept. In today’s world, many people carry out relationships without transcending past the surface levels of formalities and physicality. By venturing past these barriers to authentic relationships, deeper levels of trust, intuition, connectivity and love await.

The first and only step is trust. Faith in the art of giving is the foundation of all great relationships. A pertinent example is my relationship with the wise friend who inspired this post.

Trust, its what’s for dinner.

I will never know what our friendship will bring. There are no guarantees, no promised rewards and no IOU’s. All there is, is what I choose to give. When I give unconditionally, I know that my friend will receive that which he needs from our relationship. In this process, I learn to surrender to any sort of control or unknowingness while at the same time enjoying the gift of giving. Our relationship grows because we both believe in this concept. Because of this, our relationship can defy simple arithmetic.

When a relationship is about the sum and not the parts, it becomes a greater entity, capable of achieving unimaginable heights.

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The Art of Giving

Originally posted at theamorist.com

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you” ~ John Bunyan

Whether it is a handful of change or a lifetime of devotion, the act of selfless giving is the most important action one can take. At its core, giving is the ultimate form of spiritual practice.

For ages, religions and spiritual groups have honored the art of giving. In India, the word seva, or selfless service, is expanded by the phrase, “Manav seva Prabhu seva,” meaning service to mankind is service to God. By carrying out seva, one is giving his or herself to the universe by offering time, money or prayer. In Christianity and Judaism, the concept of tithing, or an offering of 10 percent of one’s time or money represents spiritual giving. And in non-spiritual circles the common concept of donation represents the art of giving. In each case, the idea behind selfless service is that one will be covered (be it spiritually, financially, or consciously) by giving up something important.

Giving doesn’t have to look like this.

It is sometimes difficult to see that true wealth and prosperity—be it fiscal or spiritual—begins with the relinquishment of such objects. The other day I was speaking to a friend about his financial problems and I suggested he donate some of his money to a cause he felt strongly about. He retorted, “How can I become rich if I give all of my money away?”

This question is the boundary that separates those who are prosperous from those who are not.

First, a prosperous person is not determined by how much money he or she has, but rather their state of mind. In the case of my friend, he believed he was too poor to give. His financial insecurity stopped him from creating a prosperous mindset. People who attune themselves with the vibration of prosperity receive money and success after they have aligned themselves with that specific frequency. Only for a select few does it work the other way.

Second, giving is ultimately a question of faith, for there is no tangible promise or guaranteed return from giving a gift. There is no proof of gain other than the conviction that you are doing the right thing. This challenge is often daunting to those with empty pockets. Yet the saying holds true: “You only get what you give”.

It can look like this.

Of course, there are some clauses. Obviously, selfless giving is an act that requires no desire for reciprocity. To truly give is to surrender to the relationship of commerce and instead initiate one of complete compassion. Intention plays an important role in this process, as one who gives just to receive is not truly giving. It is only through selflessness that the act of giving will create true prosperity.

On Saturdays I teach a donation-based yoga class. In this class I begin with a story about why we offer these classes. I end the story with, “I ask that you donate what you can, but I recognize that the greatest donation you can make is simply being here.” Most students find this welcoming, but I see it as the true donation.

Each individual has given and hour and a half of their (prime Saturday afternoon) time to spend working on themselves, elevating their consciousness. As they leave the class calmer, happier, and relaxed, they raise the consciousness of all they come into contact with. By coming to class, they have donated themselves to selfless service. In that action, they uplift their own consciousness.

“A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle” ~ James Heller

We often think of donation and giving as something that has to be measured by numbers and fiscal value. Many times the most important gifts are not those carrying a hefty price tag, but rather the ones that come from within: the homemade meal, a hand-sketched picture, a daily spiritual practice or a few kind words. The opportunity to give is never dependent on income.

We all have something to worth giving.

Just Decide Already

It all leads to the same place.

If you never had to make a tough decision again, would it lessen the quality of your life? If you could turn back the hands of time and re-choose your choices, would it serve you in the long run? Does the famed and extremely comforting idea of “keeping our options open” actually provide us with any solace?

The ideas behind these questions were spurred from an article a friend shared on Facebook.  It focuses on the idea that reversible decisions are less conducive to happiness than decisions we stand behind. The article touches on psychosomatic concepts describing how the mind can adapt to any given situation, making the present situation the best possible outcome. On the other hand, keeping your options open creates an endless query of uncertainty. This unknowable outcome produces stress, distraction, and ultimately unhappiness.

Deciding to not to decide is one of the worst decisions to make. I know this from experience.

My life circa summer 2009.

The mother lode of life-altering choices came to me just after graduating college in Southern California. I had been in a ridiculously long-distance relationship with a woman from halfway across the world. For most of my entire senior year, I was hell bent on leaving everything I ever knew behind and transforming myself into an Argentine. As the months drew closer and summer approached, I crossed paths with an old fling that never really took off. Well, needless to say, it began to take off.

I was stuck in the middle of two roads and time was running out. On top of this, I felt horrible. I tried to deny the problem and enjoy the moment, but behind every action, was a thousand pounds of guilt. I will never understand how men can be proud of cheating. Anyways that is another story.

I had a decision to make. I could clearly see down each path and they were as opposite as day and night. To make matters worse, I decided to keep both doors open as long as I could. I would have been better off trying to eat soup with a fork. Not only was I unsuccessful, but I had changed my mind about 100 times a day. The stress was building and I could no longer decipher what I actually wanted. I felt responsible for the lives of three people, and I was blowing it on every account.

Not exactly effective.

It finally began to be too much, to the point of breaking down. I didn’t remember who I was. I felt like I had a growing lump of coal burning a whole through my stomach. I knew I was afraid to leave my family and the life I had known for years, so I decided to stay in California.

As soon as I made this decision, the weight lifted. I became a new born soul, ready to live up to my choice. I had not an ounce of proof that the choice I made was correct, but I had all the time in the world to prove it. Within the first two weeks, I had already chosen to see how beautiful my life was going to be and how unfitting it would have been had I chosen the other direction. My mind was adapting to my new reality.

The choices in life do not matter as much as we lead our selves to believe. Surely, there are some decisions where a definite yes or no is understood, but in the more ambiguous choices, the most important factor is commitment. Once committed, we can begin to fulfill our decisions.

The part that we most often do not understand is that the illusion of choice—the idea that one path will lead us to something different than the other—holds us back from moving forward. In any given decision, the outcome will equate to the same result. This may be difficult to understand, especially in the example I have given between Argentina and California, but when you decide to change the focus from the decision at hand to the person deciding, a different story unfolds.

Oh the choices!

Although the choices may look different, the one deciding them is the same. Any decision made will reflect the state of the person deciding. So whether I choose to move to Argentina or stay in California, I will attract exactly what I am already attracting. This is not to say that once I have lived in either place I will not have different experiences, but in the moment of choice, either decision will bring forth the same exact result. The choice at hand is a product of who I was in the past. In this light, the decision has already been made.

It is not choosing the correct path that is required, but choosing a path. All paths are correct. This is the same concept behind spirituality. Every spiritual practice is valid. There are infinite ways to reach Enlightenment/God/Satori/etc. It is not the path you choose, but the fervor for which you traverse it.

So choose. And stay committed. Don’t look back and steady on. The path you are on is correct because you are on it. There is no judgement, only progression or stagnation. Move forward and you will reach your goal.

The key to happiness is commitment.

Unlock the door.