Saturday, February 20, 2010

Becoming lighter

Last year I started playing around with tithing.  Tithing is the age-old practice of giving one-tenth of your income, usually to a religious instituition.  Its totally non-denominational and cross-cultural; tithing has history in Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism.  In some European countries like Germany and Sweden, you can opt for the government to automatically deduct a "church tax" from your overall taxes, and they will allocate the funds for you (  Most other religious and spiritual systems have a practice donation or alms-giving as well. 

Yogi Bhajan explained the concept of giving ten percent of your money just as he did sadhana, where you give ten percent of your time towards your spiritual development each day.  Then you are covered in that area-- the universe gets all happy you gave to it and then its happy to give back to you.  Its just like breathing----you have to empty your lungs before they can be filled.  Ok, so usually we empty more than one-tenth of our lungs, but you get the picture. 

Traditionally you give back to people or organizations that have helped you on your spiritual path, or to organizations that you support.  I've thought a lot about this exchange of energy.  So we earn money by working, effort turns into money.  That money becomes an extension of ourselves in a way-- first law of thermodynamics "Energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only change forms"(flashback to high school physics...).   And how we use that money is a extension of our our personal conduct and represents in what we place our values. 

I was sitting in rehearsal last night thinking about this, and I was looking through the program for the concert tomorrow.  There are a LOT of people who donate to the Cathedral Choral Society.  I thought about how that money helps keeps Bach alive, keeps the office people employed, artistically and spiritually enriches the community and the people who come to the concerts, and pays the musicians and singers....oh that's me!  So these people I don't know at all are contributing to my livelihood.   And for me, the act of singing is spiritual therapy, and being able to give and share via my voice is a great service my soul needs to do.  So who's really giving and who's receiving? 

Last monday I didn't have to work (thank you mr. presidents!) and I took care of a lot of mundane things.  One thing I did was increase my month dasvandh donation (working up to one-tenth).  I got to thinking about all of last year--what would the amount be if I donated one-tenth of everything I earned last year?  Granted, I did donate some, but not that much.  Well, I was looking in the thousands of dollars region, and I couldn't do that in one big batch.  So I donated one-tenth of one-tenth, which was in the hundreds of dollars region.  The amazing thing is that after I hit the "complete" button on Paypal, I was giddy with excitement.  I literally felt lighter---it was the exact same feeling I had after I taught my first Kundalini yoga class.  I now recognize why--when we are given any amount of wealth, be it money, time, talent, wisdom, knowledge, we are required by nature to pay it forward.  As social creatures I believe we have an innate human need to share and express that joy with others.  If we don't, the joy of that event doesn't have an outlet for expression.  It becomes a burden and that heaviness leaves no room for new joys. 

Literally 30 minutes after I donated, I got an email from a friend and colleague about 2 singing opportunities in the coming months--each paying a total sum greater than the amount I just donated.  Is that awesome or what?  Not only did I help out a great organization with my donation, but I got more opportunities to give.  When I give through singing, its like a direct line from my soul to the universe, not using the money as a middle man.   Ahh, the lightness of being. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The kindness of neighbors

Did you know that its been snowing?  Well, if you where anywhere in the Mid-atlantic region in the past 5 days, you are keenly aware of this.  I've talked to more of my neighbors these past few days that in the 2.5 years I've lived in my current house.   There's nothing like a major weather event to bring a community together.  Firstly, there's about 1 snow shovel per 10 people, and Home Depot was not well stocked before the storm hit.  So we have to share.  With that, I've experienced a sense of community spirit and helpfulness that I never have before living in this area.  My parking spot is in the corner of the lot, so after the first 20 inch snowfall, the plow truck scooted all the snow directly in back of my car.  I knew this was a monumental task for me to do alone, but I just started in.  Quite amazingly, after an hour of shoveling, 2 neighbors came over to help when they were done with their spots.  Then 3 more came, so there were 6 of us removing this HUGE snowdrift from behind my car (also helping to free up the cars around mine).  It would have surely taken me alone 4 hours, but we did it in 2.  Then again today, after yesterday's snowfall, I went outside, inquiring about when a shovel would be free.  One guy asked which car was mine, which I pointed out to him.  I told him to knock on my door when the shovel was free, and he said "Ok, but maybe we'll just shovel it for you".  I surely thought he was kidding.  I went back out 2 hours later, and him and his friend had cleared out my car!  And I don't know which house they live in so I can't thank them personally, but I am so grateful for their kind actions. 

We live so cut off from each other, even though we literally live on top on one another in condos and apartments, squeezed in next to each other in narrow townhouses.  I'm thankful for anything that shakes up this false sense of separation and forces us to talk to one another and help each other out.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who actually is happy about all this snow and this experience of storm camaraderie; I can see it in other people's faces as well. Its naturally how we are meant to live--working together, helping each other out, socializing on a daily basis.  I hope that we can continue to work towards re-establishing a sense of community in our non-storm affected lives. 

I learned something today....

Sat nam!  Its been a year coming that I wanted to start a blog.  I even got this domain months ago, but it took a 'snowpocalypse' to actually get me to start writing.  But don't you fear, I've been writing posts in my head for months.  If you've ever watched South Park, then you are familiar with Stan, and how he always says "You know guys, I learned something today".  My mother lovingly pointed out this similarity between Stan and myself, to which anyone who knows me can readily attest.  

I used to think that once I committed myself to a spiritual path, or found the right teachings, all my problems would go away and I would be a happy fat laughing Buddha all the time.  Well let's see....Laughing?  Oh, I have my moments.  Fat?  No, but I do like chocolate.....Happy?  I'm learning that this is state of mind we create internally, regardless of our environments.  About me: I'm a yogi by way of Kundalini yoga, and I've found a great solace and spiritual calling in the Sikh faith.  I'm almost 4 years into my Kundalini yoga adventure, and I'm finally understanding that you have to LIVE a spiritual path; finding is great, reading about it is wonderful, but at some point you have to wo/man it up and claim it as your own.  This is know in yogic philosophy as Dharma, a way of righteous living.

For the great majority of us, enlightenment isn't a state that once you experience, you set up camp and live there indefinitely.  For most of us, we are graced with various moments of clarity and peace for varying lengths of time.  We strive to make those experiences more frequent and lasting through our personal spiritual disciplines. With each experience and expansion in our consciousness, we challenge the boundaries of self and our place in the Universe.   When they happen, I find myself naturally constructing a narrative.  This narrative has a two-fold purpose: to make a deep truth experienced in my soul, in my right brain, coherent to my 'everyday self' or left brain personality; and to share this discovery with others.  I find my soul is very childlike---it discovers something beautiful and shiny, and wants to turn to a friend and say "look what I found!".    Its my deepest prayer that we can share our experiences, learn together and support each other on our earthly journeys.