February 2005

Intentional Generosity

A New Challenge for Your Practice

Is there a way you can deepen your practice of generosity?

Generosity is the manifestation of gratitude I recently heard this analogy about giving and receiving: If you want a breeze, you can open a window to let air in. But you get a much better breeze if you open a second window to let air out. To bring air in, you need to produce a flow. In other words, if you want to receive, it works better if you also give.

This was said in a sermon in a church. The topic was tithing -- giving 10% of your income. Churches generally like you to tithe to them. But this preacher made a different suggestion. She suggested tithing to whoever or wherever you've received inspiration from.

This was exactly what I needed to hear. I'd been thinking about generosity, and if there was a way I could deepen my practice of it. It began when I did a reading for a client who couldn't afford to pay me. She said she was grateful for my generosity. But I love doing readings, there is nothing I'd rather do. If it's something I love, is it still generosity, I wondered?

I thought I would challenge myself to be generous in ways that didn't come so easy. Was there a way I could structure generosity rather than have it always be spontaneous? Would generosity that was structured and predetermined still be so pleasing?

Then I heard the sermon. So I have been tithing 10% of my income. Whenever I make a bank deposit, I look back over the time since my last deposit and notice where I received inspiration. Then I send a check. Since this church I occasionally go to has a good preacher, sometimes my money does go to the church. Sometimes I get inspiration during a reading. Then my check goes to a client! Or a friend may say something that turns around my perspective. Sometimes my tithing is anonymous, sometimes not.

This is a new kind of generosity for me. This is generosity that is challenging. My income is small, and 10% can sometimes feel like a chunk of change I can't afford to lose. This is generosity that is structured and predetermined, rather than a spontaneous expression of goodwill. But I am finding that this challenging and structured generosity is also pleasing. I'm beginning to look forward to that next bank deposit.

This practice of tithing is also making me more aware of inspiration in the moment. Plus, because I so easily forget, I'm keeping track. The back page of my notebook has my inspiration list. That way, when it comes time to do my tithing, I just go over my list. And because of the list, I am re-inspired every time I read it!

Let me know what you come up with to deepen your practice of generosity.