How can we re-imagine generosity as a tool for transformation?

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Join us to explore new ways of engaging in generous acts that can both "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." How do our current structures channel giving in non-threatening directions?  How might generosity be unleashed as a potent means of shaking up the system and empowering radical change?

Cafe Calls this Monday, Tuesday and Thursday: Click here for times and registration.

As The Rolling Jubilee demonstrates, Occupiers are exploring alternative models of generositythat challenge the status quo and operate outside the "non-profit industrial complex."  This action transforms giving to those in need into a form of protest that builds awareness of the dysfunction of our economic system.

Our conversation this week is sparked by Occupy Cafe regular Dyck Dewid of Raleigh, NCwho is working on a new initiative--The Generosity Project-- that also invites people to experience giving in a different way.  The document attached below has details, but here is the essence:

You may receive a money bill of any denomination marked with a red encircled 99%.  If you do, it means that this money has history of having been ‘given’ without condition, obligation or implication.  Please take a moment to contemplate or notice your own reaction.  Will you continue the momentum?

On this Monday's Cafe Call, we will hear more from Dyck about his inspiration and plans.  This will seed a wider conversation about ways in which we might continue re-imagining generosity.  On Tuesday's Connect2012 call, we invite the Occupy Cafe community to work in depth with Dyck on some key questions around the launch of The Generosity Project.  And on Thursday's Occupy Heart call, we will explore ways in which our inner perspectives on generosity can either keep us in stasis or move us towards transformation. 

Meanwhile, we will use this forum thread for the online conversations connected to all three Cafe Calls(rather than having three separate threads, as we have done in the past).  We can begin with the following question in advance of Monday's call:

Where do you see transformational opportunities for giving that are going unmet by the "non-profit industrial complex?"


On this Thursday's Occupy Heart call, we'll pick up the thread from Monday's Vital Conversation.  Dyck opened with a powerful story about generosity expressed via, what appeared on the surface to be , different impulses.  Might those two expressions of generosity actually be closer than they appeared? 

Ben posted the following excerpt in the thread below...

Some thoughts on Generosity and Greed from the website of the Buddhist magazine Tricycle.  An excerpt:

"Generosity is revolutionary, counter-instinctual. Our survival instinct is to care only for ourselves and our loved ones. But we can transform our relationship to that survival instinct by constantly asking ourselves, 'How can I use my life’s energy to benefit all living beings?'”
—Noah Levine

I (Jitendra writing here) fully agree with Noah that our instinctual survival mechanism can drive us, via fear, to protect the organisms closest to us, often at the expense of others.  The closest being ourselves.  However, that instinct, when arising from within someone in the role of parent, might choose to protect their offspring or spouse before themselves.  Some might argue, this too, is a form of self preservation via family or even tribe.  

However, I would like to offer the possibility that there is an equally compelling force that I call the instinct of the soul, or higher nature, that drives us to behave in a way that protects the whole of us.  And generosity is one way of describing that impetus. 

So, while we may need to transform our relationship with our instinctual survival coding, as I like to call it, the very driver that urges us to do so is already built in.  Our inquiry of self leads us to question then, "What might support or suppress this higher instinct in ourselves?  How also, might we support one another in our behaviors, policies and societal structures to fertilize a generosity/sufficiency-based world?"

Our Occupy Heart inquiry begins here:

Might generosity be a force of our true nature?

Tell stories of your personal experience: what supports and what suppresses your urge to be generous? 

Image at top from Becoming Minimalist

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The Sun Never Says

Even after all this time

The sun never says to the earth

You owe me.

Look what happens

with a Love like that.

It lights the whole sky.


Love this, Dyck.  Again reminded of Chogyam Trungpa's  Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior.

The way of the Great Eastern Sun is based on seeing that there is a natural source of radiance and brilliance in this world, which is the innate wakefulness of human beings.

The Dawn of the Great Eastern Sun is based on actual experience.  It is not a concept.  You realize that you can uplift yourself, that you can appreciate your existence as a human being.  Whether you are a gas station attendant or the president of your country doesn't really matter.  When you experience the goodness of being alive, you can respect who and what you are... You begin to feel that it is a worthwhile situation to be a human being, to be alive, not afraid of death.

I'm grateful Ben, for the ways you listen... looking for the possible ways to support, expending energy, reflecting, honoring... I wonder if you'd let me get away with pushing you further, toward saying in your words, how this poem makes you feel, even if you're not a guru.


PS, I've noticed the curious fact that there are few others joining the dialogue here.  How have we lost em..  or not engaged em?  Is there something about dealing with generosity at large that daunting, or with one's own generosity that's threatening or shameful or guilty or scary...?  Perhaps it's what we're not talking about, e.g. greed.

Spiritual revelation is the most wonderful process imaginable. Have found this to be true in your life?

Well, Jerry, my friend, my first answer would be "no."  Perhaps it's the word "revelation," conjuring up an image of angelic visions or booming voices, that trips me up.  Not necessarily what you are referring to, I imagine.  So I'm curious about your own experience in this realm, and how it connects to generosity.

That said, I've certainly had many "aha!" moments as well as times when I felt deeply connected and open, that might qualify under a broader definition of a "revelation," although I think "awakening" fits better for me.  More from Trunga, op cit:

What the warrior renounces is anything in his experience that is a barrier between himself and others.  In other words, renunciation is making yourself more available, more gentle and open to others...

Tenderness contains an element of sadness... It is not the sadness of feeling sorry for yourself, or feeling deprived, but is a natural situation of fullness.  You feel so full and rich, as if you were about to shed tears. Your eyes are full of tears, and the moment you blink, the tears will spill out of your eyes and roll down your cheeks.  In order to be a good warrior, one has to feel this sad and tender heart.

Good of you to chime in Jerry. 

We don't discuss God here much but I don't consider it taboo or in poor taste at all.  I think there is a common attribute about the word Revelation that associates it with a revealing of something divine.

That something divine, however, can take many paths.  Personally, I see that "Intelligence of Nature" can be a synonym for God. My other synonyms are Infinity, Love, Truth, Reality, Compassion, Selflessness, Knowledge, Bliss, Power, Beauty, Innocence...

So, it doesn't matter what someone names the powers & intelligence, that are beyond humanity's comprehension.  Nor would it seem God would require "belief" of any particular thing to have access to say, Truth or Love.  If there really is such a thing as "God" it would seem only to facilitate an already nearly impossible journey.  And if there is no such thing as "God" nothing is lost... except having to deal with the zealots who to one degree or another insist they "know" and all must follow their way.

Yes, there have been many revelations for me, but I don't have time to feel accomplishment because there is so much more to learn.  It seems I must find ways to exercise a brutal honesty with myself and in my relationships to discern whether my intuitions (or revelations) are divine... or true.

Must someone be worthy to receive your generosity? 
It''s messy for me to consider, just who could be a benefactor of my generosity.  This gets right at the meaning of generosity, no?  Is there thought, assessment, evaluation, comparison involved, or is it a spontaneous act?  Surely, generosity is broader than simply the giving of money, going on into personal aspects of care, empathy, forgiveness, support, compassion...  
Although I know I'm in plenty of company, I'm ashamed to admit that I harbor feelings of anger and mistrust for most politicians,  I also don't have much sympathy for corporate execs who are often wealthy on the backs of working peope.  And, its really hard for me to warm up to or have empathy for a 'know-it-all' or a self-centered person, or a con man.  So, here is a vast span of humanity for whom I don't seem to have capability to be generous.

My wiser heart tells me we're all equally human... subject to suffering confused, contradictory, shallow lives of incessantly unfulfilled chasing of pleasure and happiness, and avoiding pain.  Sharpening my attention and awareness of my relationships, digging deeper, perhaps one day I'll have the compassion.  I don't like having this limitation.

Jerry, in my haste I neglected to acknowledge the love I feel in your response.  You've used the term evangelize many times, which I must admit I back away from myself.  It must be out past conditioning or of an old nightmare... getting held down those trying to make be believe what they think I should... and they won't turn me loose.  

So, although I never once felt threatened by you, I take some comfort in your embracing words, and am thankful for perhaps knowing you a little better.  So vivid your vision:

We are wi-fi stations on a hookup with the universe, and sometimes with each other.


Weekly Cafe Calls

Regular Calls are no longer being held.  Below is the schedule that was maintained from the Fall of 2011 through Jan 10, 2013.

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