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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_tax). 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.