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.

Who Do You Pray To?

It’s funny how the act of teaching can unexpectedly become the ultimate teacher. This past week, I experienced an influx in the amount of yoga classes I teach. I’ve been subbing for other yogis like a madman. In this process, I have had tremendous amounts of exposure to the lessons I preach. It’s as if my words echo off the walls  and whisper themselves into my ears. I am certainly learning a lot from all this teaching.

One of the most repetitive lessons I have been taught is the concept of self-prayer. Usually, prayer falls into two categories: culturally stigmatized or a form of pleading. These two categories are dependent upon one clause: the idea that who or what we pray to is outside of ourselves. In the former category, prayer is discriminated against because who actually believes a man separate from us in the sky is listening to everyone’s thoughts? In the latter view, we focus on the exterior power of another (be it Jesus, Buddha, Krishna or the all-mighty dollar) to give to us what we think we cannot give to ourselves. In both situations, fallacy is observed and prayer is focused outward.

"No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other."(L16:13) The Self or "God"

Jet backwards two weeks. I was in a yoga teacher’s training focused on conscious communication. Among the many invaluable lessons learned, the one that seems to have stuck the most is the lesson of conscious self-communication. Many times a day we often talk to ourselves. Voices in our heads repeat, reflect, judge, battle and vie for our conscious attention. This inner dialogue is a form of self-communication. And like this self-dialogue, prayer is one of those voices.

Although prayer may be thought of as a more conscious and intentional mental narrative, it is certainly not free from the sliding gradient of unconscious thought. On the lower end, the awareness of prayer is basically exhibiting a pleading/begging posture towards an exterior power. This is like trying to get a full stomach by watching the Food Network channel. It is idealistic at best, but utterly ineffective. Instead of refracting your desires off an unknowable entity, try asking your Self.

Mmmmm. Delicious!

This concept of prayer is a method of conscious communication. It implies that we are God. We are the universe, the physical embodiment creation, stemming from one common source. In this light, we can see that all our prayers, blessings, questions and concerns are capable of being answered with nothing more than our conscious attention.

This transition inward has been a great lesson for me. It has shown me the extent of my patience and will, as many times my belief in this method of prayer has been tested. I often do not see immediate results and begin to doubt my power as the great answerer of prayers. However, when I continue to know beyond faith that I am capable, my questions are answered. I surrender my prayer to the fear of realizing my ultimate power.

There are many psychological and spiritual barriers to making this an easy-as-pie process because we have been conditioned to believe that we are inept and incapable, leaving us at the will of an entity that exists outside of ourselves. The leverage point in this equation is the realization that we are the omnipresent being, the source of creation. Once this old paradigm is expanded, the true extent of the Self can be realized. The key to this is persistance, understanding and the ability to listen.

Listening is the beginning of prayer. ~Mother Teresa

I use a simple technique that was given by Yogi Bhajan. When monitoring your mood and finding yourself in an undesirable place, ask yourself to raise your spirits. Simply say: “I do not like the state I am in. (Insert your name), will you elevate my consciousness.” Now when you say this, you must direct it at your highest self. Recognize that there are other voices that do no represent you highest state of consciousness and avoid speaking to them. Instead, focus on that person who you are when you are happiest, most conscious. Through listening, the proper voice will be heard. This is how you will lift yourself.

So often we beg and plead with the ideas we place outside of ourselves. We send out wasted energy into the ethers hoping that it will return. Disappointment and challenge face those who are not impeccable in the traditional forms of exterior prayer. In these times of spiritual redefinition, old structures of practice are no longer as effective as they once were (although for some—like my Lola [grandmother]—external prayer continues to work). As our minds change, so do the ways we perceive the world, God, and ourselves.

So if prayer has served you fruitlessly, stop sending out a letter to an unknown address and instead try sending one to yourself. Better yet, write an email. The turn around on your prayers will be instantaneous.

Stamped, sealed and self-addressed.

A new, favorite quote of mine from Yogi Bhajan:

“Blessed are those who bless themselves.”

It is time to quit thinking you are incapable, limited and separate from the energy of the universe. Omnipotence is your birthright, and you are as powerful as you will let yourself be. Release that which does not serve this purpose. Recognize this and you will become limitless. Turn off the TV, get into the kitchen and start cooking.

The Glove that Fits the Hand

“The true crime is that you will not admit you are god.” ~ Alan Watts

A couple posts ago I linked you guys to an Alan Watts youtube video entitled Suffering for Enlightenment.  At the time I wanted only to post the video with a few short questions.  I wanted to let the information sink in, for it had a tremendous impact on how I view things.  A lot of what he verbalized rests inside of me, dormant and hidden.  I’ve only had a few experiences where I have come face to face with the dilemma he speaks of and the video was the first time I heard it outside of myself. What he had to say was simple.

The idea that we are all pretending not to be god is the capstone of life.

It's all about patterns

Back in my younger days, I used to experiment with altered states of reality.  Well in all truthfulness, I am still experiencing altered states of reality but through yoga and meditation.  However, back in my youth I was obviously not using such sustainable enterprises as I do today.  A lot of my journeys were basically informational overload.  With constant bombardments of raw data, I had a light-speed glimpse of what life was all about.  From what I could coherently piece together, life was a charade.  It was play of dynamic possibilities in an otherwise static existence.

Experience was the game and it was a game we played as humans.

What I took away from my experiences was the notion that I was part of a greater whole. This whole was everything that could possibly exist. In my time afloat, I learned that I could reach degrees of realization of just how complete—or for that matter separated—I truly was.  This is also an echo of my spiritual practice today. Through meditation and yoga, I experience different levels of connectivity.  Albeit for shorter durations and with much more dedication, I am able to experience certain levels of awareness.

Between these vastly different experiences, there has always existed a common thread, almost like a tiny voice.  One that has been spoken over its entire existence. It speaks softly and steadily but goes unnoticed. It carries a message worth all the conquests of man, yet its simplicity is blazingly self-evident. It is the secret of the universe.

What was that?

It reminds us of the unthinkable crime we continuously commit.

This intuitive feeling will continue speaking until you listen to it. It will never change its simple message: the idea that you are god.

This loaded statement has already scared off half of my readers.  One half flees to the anti-Christian bench while the other to the psyche-ward offensive.  But before you start calling me crazy, take a moment to see this statement with new eyes.

Use the eye between your eyes, your mind's eye.

We are god. Well what is god? For starters, it is not God.  This capitalized version I will coin the Catholic/Christian/Muslim/Jewish/etc. religious figure.  By now, we understand there is no man in the clouds watching over our every move, waiting to send us into the depths of hell to suffer for eternity.  What I mean by god is better explained through ground-breaking frontier science than it is by modern religion (although this is not to discredit religious origins, as in their purest forms they understood what god truly was).  When I speak of god, I mean energy.  And by energy I mean everything that exists, seen and unseen.

With this viewpoint, it is easier to understand that we are all be god.  Think of a ripple.  As it expands through a pond, it bounces off of rocks, misshapen edges, protruding reeds, and also itself.  Each of these ripples came from the same source, but they have taken on many different, complex forms.  Eventually, they will all return to the stillness from which they came.

This is what we are.  We are ripples of physical energy that have been shot out into the universe.  We bounce around, creating this and thinking that.  One day we will return to stillness, and then again we will form.  It is an energetic pattern of creation.

The common thread between all of this is that we are pretending not to know who we really are.

Here is a great analogy from a documentary I saw: We have designed a theme park. It has huge roller coasters, amazing games, and tons of fun activities.  As the creators of the park, we know every aspect of every attraction.  All the curves, all the surprises, all the outcomes.  We’ve made a wonderful place, but we want to experience it.  If we go on the rides with all of our knowledge, we will certainly not be a fulfilled.  In order to truly experience our creation, we must forget that we created it and begin anew; from a blank canvas.  We decide to do something about this. We are now children who enter the park for the first time.  Not knowing anything about the park, nor our role in its creation, we can experience the park to the fullest extent of its offerings.

This is our experience on Earth.  We have chosen to forget we are god so that we may experience life unadulterated and raw.

Facets of the same feature

I have had this picture in my head lately. It is a hand—the hand of god—that has put on the glove of life.  Each finger has become a person and everyone is talking to each other.  They all introduce themselves and say nice pleasantries, unknowing that they are all fingers of the same hand.  This is our life.  It is our comedy; our play.

Suffering for Enlightenment

Alan Watts speaks eloquent truth in this video. I’d like nothing more to share it with you.  It picks up on a post I had made that was focused on Mooji’s ideas of enlightenment.

I’d rather not say too much on this post as I think the video says it much better than I can.  All I’d like to include is a question:  How much do you make yourself suffer to obtain that which you already have?  That which you have always been capable of being?

“The real crime is that you won’t admit you are god.” ~ Alan Watts