BEING GRATEFUL AND FORGIVING
By Irma Gomes
In His newsletter last month our precious Lama talked about the importance of being grateful and also forgiving. I want to thank Him for it, as it brought me back to a practice I want to share with you today. It is very sweet and it is not difficult. The conditions are as follows:
1. You must apply it to a stranger or someone you dislike
2. You must never give up until the activity is completely finished
3. You get extra points if you wear something special that reminds you of practicing this throughout the day.
4. Extra bonus if, throughout the day, you do an extraordinary act of giving.
Whilst at home in the morning, before you leave your meditation cushion (or finish your cereal bowl), say "today I am going to love those around me and I'm going to make them smile."
Then, you go out to the everyday world experiment lab, and you smile - really smile - at everyone around you. Don't stop until they smile back. Count the time it takes them to smile back; don't ask them to do so unless they really won't smile otherwise. Never give up on a non-smiler.
As you smile, send them rays of light from your heart, fill them up with joy.
Of course you can smile to those you love! Don't leave them behind. However, it is experimenting with those we dislike or feel neutral to that makes this practice fun.
Look carefully around you. How many are smiling and how many aren't? How many faces can you change one at a time? How do you like your world when most are bright and breezy?
Sometimes when I'm eating (I eat by myself in restaurants quite often) I look for others that are eating alone. I look for the one that definitely needs an injection of love and I secretly pay for their meal, or send them dessert, totally incognito. I ask the waiter to tell the customer that all they need to do is smile. Try this, enjoy the waiter and the person's reaction! It is quite an amusing experience.
If you get a chance, share something special. Give your time to a colleague, drop a bill in a beggar's hat, tell a joke, buy someone something "just because".
At the end of the day, count your blessings, as Lama Marut recommended. Study how you feel... after all, the world around you is just a reflection of yourself. Isn't it time to start smiling?
DANA - THE ART OF GIVING
By Lindsay Crouse
One day a minister was invited to John D. Rockefeller's mansion. As he drove up the winding drive lined with tall trees, he said, "My, my. This is what the Lord might have done-if he'd had the money."
Money is a hot topic in any situation. In America it's a charged word. It's always been a dirty one. No one wants to talk about how much money they have. Talking about what we actually do with our money is even further out of bounds. It's taboo.
Being in the public eye, I get countless solicitations. The prairie dog is going extinct, kids have muscular dystrophy, women have breast cancer, polar bears have no more ice, public television is disappearing, the police and fire department seem to be depending on me. The ubiquitous photos of hungry children make me particularly miserable. Is my $25.00 really going feed, clothe and educate a child for three months?
When I started out on the Buddhist path I had many preconceptions about myself. One big one was that I was a giver. As I progressed, I began to see that this was not true. It came as a shock. I would have an impulse – often a sweeping impulse - to give money to a cause, but almost immediately I'd pull back. I'd think, "Oh I'd love to give those hungry folks ten thousand dollars, a thousand dollars, ten dollars." Which was where I'd end up. My heart would open start to open, but I'd immediately feel a yank at my back, in fact right behind the heart.
I decided to take as a daily practice the art of giving.
Lord Buddha counseled us when giving to start small, to start with "vegetables." Ok, I thought, but deep inside I longed to give the whole garden. Giving $50.00 here and $75.00 there, what did I hope to accomplish? My small contributions didn't let me off the hook. I wasn't even a player.
Giving, or dana in Sanskrit, is the first of the six perfections in Buddhism. For good reason. You can't fake it. It feels radical to really give, but in fact it's not. Once when Swami Satchadananda came to give a teaching where I lived, the first thing he said was "Who is it who thinks this is her house?" Do we actually own anything? No. It's an illusion, and according to the teachings of Lord Buddha, so are we. There's nothing to lose and no one to lose it. Let go and give, dedicate the act for the good of all, and see what comes.
The challenge and the outcome are powerfully clear in the Old Testament. "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this, said the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it."