Once again, I did not want to follow God’s instructions.
It started a couple of weeks ago. It was time to consider how to create a good, prosperous year for myself and our Center. “Raise your IQ (inspiration quotient),” I said to myself. “Attend lots of seminars with great spiritual teachers. Travel. You need to stay inspired.”
Then God whispered.
“Bonnie – Don’t spend time and money on seminars. Make a radical change. Stay close to home and give something away every day. That will transform you more than any inspirational workshop.”
“Who do you think I am God, Warren Buffett? How can I give something away every day? It’s too much. I’ll wind up living in a box by the freeway, eating cat food for supper. Plus, giving requires a certain level of intimacy and connection. I’m not sure I’m ready…”
Such is the mind of the objection-able ego, so determined to keep us stuck in old patterns.
God wasn’t asking me to go live in a box and dine on Purina. God was inviting me to challenge ancient patterns of scarcity.
I’ve always struggled with scarcity even though I have a lot. The reason for my struggle is aptly described by Richard Rohr who wrote, “God always has enough for our need but never enough for our greed.”
If I define greed as a perception of insufficiency that leads to withholding…clinging…clutching…seeking more….. then I can say I suffer from greed, along with much of the human race. That’s right. We suffer. We withhold. We cling. We over-seek in our quest to be enough. All of these actions limit our happiness.
“But I’ve read countless abundance books,” I tell myself. “I tithe. I give money to charity. Shouldn’t I be past all ideas of scarcity?”
Despite all the training, I still feel the persuasive pull. “Don’t give too much away,” my separate self says. “There’s not enough for everyone… not enough for you… probably because you’re not enough.”
In the past, I would have done my best to silence this inner monologue. I would have slapped this attitude with affirmations. “Change your thinking and change your life,” I would say… And secretly greedy for self-improvement, I’d whisper “and you’d better do it fast, so you can measure up.”
Affirmations offered in a desperate attempt to be enough often don’t “take.” There’s a deeper layer of healing that must be addressed.
There are times when we cannot think ourselves into a new way of living.
Instead, we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. We make the word of all-sufficiency flesh and allow it to dwell among us. We live as if the truth is true.
I was summoned to live as if the truth of all-sufficiency was true.
So I started giving stuff away.
It was tenuous at first. Each day I mediated and asked, “Okay, what is the gift for today?” It was usually small – a cookie for a congregant, a Beanie Baby for a neighbor, old towels for the animal shelter, a gross of toilet paper for my friend Nipun’s mother who hosts a weekly Awakin’ Meditation for sixty or so people in her home….
Each small gift brought forth a plague of objections.
“If I get a cookie for Chris, the ones that didn’t get cookies on their birthdays will have hurt feelings.”
“The beanie baby may catapult me into a relationship with them.”
“I may need that scraggly old towel someday.”
“What kind of a gift is toilet paper, for God’s sake?”
But the good news about the plague of objections – it illuminated my belief in scarcity. I got to massage the limits of my generosity. Now I get to see what happens when I’m tender with my whiny objections – and then give up the objections; and give myself away.
It’s so much better than holding on.
Withholding reduces joy, stifles creativity and limits our ability to play in the kingdom of heaven on earth. When we give, we receive that which is immeasurable yet precious.
I received a new way of waking up. My first thought is no longer, “Oh my God, what will this day bring?” Instead, I say, “Oh my God, what will I bring to this day?” Empowered by this shift in consciousness, I spend my time looking for opportunities to serve, with quiet optimism and hope for all beings.
Another gift of giving is a re-definition of abundance and sufficiency.
I thought abundance was about me having more. It’s not. It’s about me giving more. It’s about everyone having enough and knowing that my giving, as small as it may be, is a step toward this aspiration. Abundance is also about the paradox of emptying into fullness. Abundance is an amazing cycle of giving and receiving where the lines are blurred and we no longer know who serves whom. Or who serves what – because really, we serve something greater than we know. We serve the Ultimate Giver that has already given us everything in Itself.
Lynne Twist says it well in this quote: “When you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it frees up immense energy to make a difference with what you have. When you make a difference with what you have, it expands. This opens the possibility of generating a new set of assumptions based in the principle of sufficiency for the 21st century.”
I love the idea of creating a new set of assumptions based in the principle of sufficiency for all, starting today with me, with all of us.
Will you join in the joy?
Today is Mardi Gras. I know this because Saraswati and Bartok have donned their Mardi
Gras collars. Tomorrow is the first day of Lent. You may not practice Lent and you don’t have to. But it is a forty-day threshold where much of the world is engaged in noble sacrifice and intentional prayer.
Would you consider adding your conscious action to this sacred time?
Here’s what I’m asking of us: Give forty gifts in forty days. Watch the inner objector that tries to stop your giving. Smile upon this friend who thinks he or she is helping. Then give anyway. Post some of your giving challenges and triumphs in the comments section of this blog or on Facebook. Be gentle with yourself in the process. But know that your willingness to give makes a difference. Know also, when you give yourself away, you receive everything. That’s just the way it is. And so it is.