Thursday, March 11, 2010

Does Generosity Preclude Abundance?

The job of a teacher is to break a certain subject matter down into manageable bits. While the pantheon of yoga can indeed seem overwhelming, a good teacher introduces new information bit-by-bit as the student is ready. Over a few years, much progress is made in both externally observable criteria such as flexibility, and more subjective internal progress such as patience, generosity and compassion. Once in a great while, however, the good teacher pushes the student well outside their comfort zone in the path to understanding.

Over the years, I've worked on developing my capacity for generosity. As a young man, I was convinced that donating/giving was the province of the wealthy. If I'm rich someday, I'll donate a pile of money to _____________. That someday lasted a number of years, and it wasn't until a conversation with my friend and spiritual mentor Morari Bapu that I began to truly understand generosity. Bapu made it very clear that giving/generosity was not based on abundance; rather abundance is based on the capacity to be generous.

I worked for several years on building the Blue Mounds Dharma Center, and in the process, bounced a few checks. The project was undercapitalized, to say the least; though it came together with the help of many friends. Once I got a handle on the operation of this long-term dream, I began to think about the next step in its evolution. Imagine my surprise when Bapu looked me right in the eye, and without hesitating said that the next step in developing this facility and community was in service. It was this advice that opened some doors deep inside of me, and was ultimately the origin of Spectrum Yoga Therapy, an Alignment Yoga program that offers low-cost yoga to those on the Autism Spectrum.

Whew! Lesson learned. I could now check service and giving off the list, right? As it turned out, not so fast. As with so many life lessons we consider learned, another layer of understanding was required in order to keep moving forward.

Upon hearing about the terrible earthquake in Haiti, it seemed essential to share the resources of the Mound Street Yoga Center community with those in need. Within a few days, we'd mobilized our plan to donate 100% of the proceeds from individual classes to the relief efforts of the American Red Cross. Even better, Mound Street Yoga Center would match all contributions in full! We were enthusiastic, and figured we'd raise $1,000 or so to send off to Haiti. Imagine our surprise when the first 1-1/2 hour class raised over $600!

This pattern continued throughout the week of fundraising until the Mound Street Yoga Center community had raised well over $2,000. This meant MSYC had also committed to contributing $2,000! When all was said and done, the total contribution came to $4,170! To the Haitian people, I'm sure this will seem like a small fortune. To the members of our community, the donations will not likely impact our pocketbooks in the least.

As the Director of Mound Street Yoga Center, I'm humbled to admit the degree to which this commitment made me squirm. We'd only budgeted half that much! What are we going to do without that extra money? What if this happens? Or that happens? If the economy does this? Or that? Blah, blah, blah...

It was the old tapes playing again - the idea that abundance is the prerequisite for generosity; or more accurately, the difficulty in accepting the abundance that's already present! Once again, I was pushed beyond my comfort zone and thereby experienced this important life lesson much more deeply this time.

I'm incredibly grateful to the Mound Street Yoga Center community for stepping up to the plate in such a meaningful way. I'm also grateful for the reminder that giving is an essential part of the human experience, and we don't have the luxury of waiting until we have a surplus to practice generosity.

May the people of Haiti benefit from our community's generosity, and we remain thankful for the abundance we often take for granted.

Namaste,
Scott
www.alignmentyoga.com

2 comments:

els3 said...

beautifully written
well said
, here here! :-)

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