I love paradox. From Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to the Heart Sutra in Zen Buddhism to The Tao te Ching of Taoism, spiritual teachers throughout the world and throughout the generations have used paradox to help spiritual seekers become still, contemplate, expand their minds, arrive at a new sense of self, embrace others more fully and hence, become more generous. So how can we cultivate generosity in an age of economic recession, slow recovery and uncertainty? Dwell courageously in paradox.
Dwelling courageously in paradox is no easy thing for Americans. We are a nation and a people on the go and in need of certainty. We get rewarded for speed and multi-tasking and get questioned and judged for not producing at high levels. To “not know” brings about ridicule and shame. To dwell courageously in paradox requires humility and faith; humility because we are often tricked into thinking we know more than we do, and faith because we know we don’t know everything, but can avail ourselves of something greater than ourselves. As we become humble, if we’re paying attention, we can begin to sense a lessening of our grasping tendencies. As faith grows, and we’re paying attention, we can experience a new willingness to rely on things greater than ourselves. Cultivating generosity is about letting go of the small stuff to give in to greatness.
As the small gives way to the great, as our perceptions change through humility and faith, dwelling courageously in paradox is aided by patience. Patience, in the context of cultivating generosity, is about refraining from chasing after particular outcomes. Seems un-American? It is in a way. To refrain from chasing after particular outcomes means you position yourself for accepting whatever happens and whatever is, as it is. You make a choice, through patience, not to seek rewards for making things happen. You let go of the need to be congratulated for a “job” well done. Patience creates emotional spaciousness, equanimity and an increased ability to see other people’s needs with strength. So now we see how paradoxes emerge. What is considered weak by some (non-forcefulness) is actually strength. It is this strength that gives us courage to be generous, especially in hard economic times. But what if we dwell more deeply in paradox to discover whether these hard economic times of grasping are actually soft economic times of generosity?
Before I became a chaplain and pastoral counselor, I worked as a financial advisor helping people manage their money, invest, insure and plan for retirement. During those years, in the late 1990s, I didn’t hear much talk about creating political and economic systems that support people who fall on hard times. I heard a lot of, “If I can become rich so can you!” Economic prosperity can lead to spiritual poverty if we forget to dwell in paradox. So let’s remember this as we head toward a hotly contested U.S. presidential election that will certainly center around economics – the greatest wealth is not what you accumulate but what you give away with gladness.Pamela Ayo Yetunde, M.A. is a pastoral counselor and the author of Vigil: Spiritual Reflections on Your Money and Sanity (Marabella Books, 2012). Visit www.boundlesshearts.wordpress.com for more information.
© 2012, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.