Generosity of spirit is something I admire in the people around me. Openness, creativity and bright energy seem to accompany those individuals who embody generosity. Some people have difficulty being generous with their money because they believe personal finances are separate from their life energy. This belief intrigues me … how can anything be separate from life energy? For me, financial dana is generosity of spirit.
Two things stand out in my learning from and about dana: First is the whole idea that it is up to us to make sure the teacher can keep giving what is so important to us. The concept of not trying to control what one makes from one’s labor is quite a new idea to me. I admire the courage it takes to do this. Second is the concept of practicing generosity through decided to give dana and deciding how much to give. Consulting one’s own values about generosity is such a different place to be coming from when deciding how much to pay for something. We’re so used to looking for bargains! I love being invited to be generous and considering what that means for me at that moment.
Assaulted as I am with public radio pledge drives, nonprofit solicitations, and the outstretched palms of weathered men on the street, I find myself conflicted and bewildered with each new cause. It seems, at times, that a dollar given to a foundation focusing on meditation is one taken from the hands of another oriented on more visible issues. However, I now realize that, despite its intangibility, the destruction of ignorance and suffering represents an incomparably powerful one. This journey towards a heart at peace and a life of quiet abundance effectively removes the foundation of other more tangible problems and represents a cause of supreme importance.
Sometimes I have a spontaneous sense of gratitude and generosity – to the teacher, for the teachings – and then I just allow that feeling to guide me, but I’m also always grappling with the conditions of my life, which can make the ‘how much to give’ question difficult. Other times, I’m acting on a sense of responsibility. Since I am benefiting, I feel a responsibility to give back. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing, but it’s different than generosity.
I have several guideposts when I determine the level of my financial dana contribution. First, I think about what I pay for other professional services that are of comparable value to my health and wellness, e.g. yoga classes and retreats, acupuncture and massage. Second, I reference contributions to other institutions that benefit the community and are aligned with my values. Finally, I assess what I feel I can afford. Besides financial support, which is critical, it’s important to me to express my gratitude for the teachings by donating my time.
Over the years as this practice has threaded into all aspects of my life, it’s become seriously invaluable to my life quality. How can a price tag be put on something with this kind of value?? Not only Nelly’s knowledge, teaching, authenticity, accessibility and support, but the community that she has inspired and created as well…the human connections as well as the teachings and practice support. I will admit that dana is something that I find myself reflecting on often…I find myself re-evaluating and weighing what the budget can tolerate here at home while wanting to do all I am able to support something that is truly the wind beneath my wings and in doing so, hopefully aid in keeping it alive for those yet to come as well, so others may experience this huge gift.