My first role model in learning how to give was my father. My father donated money to charities and would unhesitatingly give away anything he wasn’t using. If someone asked him for help, he would immediately stop whatever he was doing and practically run to that person’s assistance.
“Givers” and “takers”
My father divided people into “givers” and “takers.” Although he was much too “black and white” in his categorizing, I absorbed his point of view about the importance of giving and have always wanted to be a “giver.”
Certain forms of giving have been easy for me—giving money, for example. Regular tithing was the one thing that kept me connected to God during some very difficult times.
But giving unhesitatingly of my time and energy, as my father did, has been more of a challenge. Meditation has been helpful, but inevitably, unwillingness needs to be worked out in the “cold light of day”— in our daily interactions.
This is a difficult process, but it’s a great deal easier when you’re around others who demonstrate an attitude of willingness.
An example of selfless giving
Before moving to Ananda Village in 1991, I lived for about ten years at the Sacramento Ananda colony, which, at that time, consisted of a large group house or ashram, and a center for classes and services. During my last five years there, Ananta and Maria McSweeney were the ashram and center leaders. Their dedication and selflessness were deeply inspiring.
They would give classes three or four evenings a week and return to the house at about 9:30 p.m. With eight or nine people living in the house, the kitchen was often messy. Maria would always make a fruit salad for Ananta and then, without saying a word, clean the kitchen.
I would watch Maria’s face—it was always joyful. The example of her willing spirit had a profound effect on my life. I can’t always act as Maria did, but I’m consciously working towards that goal.
Following Yogananda’s guidance
My recent trip to India was an important step in my process of learning to say “yes” in this way. I was part of a team from America, invited to help with the opening of an Ananda store in a new mall near the Ananda ashram. With my background in cabinet making, my job was to help coordinate the construction of the store’s cabinets, shelves, and similar fixtures.
When first asked to go to India I said, “No!” But when asked again, this time more indirectly, I decided to seek Yogananda’s guidance, and I felt that Yogananda wanted me to go. Outwardly I was going to help with the store but inwardly I knew I was going for a deeper purpose.
In India, you quickly learn that the process of getting things done is radically different from in America—no “letting your fingers do the walking” through the Yellow Pages. Completing the simplest tasks requires patience and an enormous output of energy.
Undaunted perseverance and God’s grace
For example, pursuing a lead on an item we needed to purchase usually meant driving around in a taxi in gridlock traffic for hours. Our cab drivers were usually from small villages, knew no English, and had no idea of how to get around a city of some 15 million people with no street signs. Only through undaunted perseverance and God’s grace did we arrive at our destinations.
Getting a clear sense of all the specifics, including costs, for the construction of the cabinets was difficult. And having seen some of the cabinets and shelves being produced on site at the mall by local labor, I was determined to find an alternative. The cabinets and shelves were attractive but of the type that would very quickly show wear and tear.
After three weeks in India, no construction had started. But I left India thinking that we had at least put in motion a good strategy for the cabinets and shelves: arrangements had been made for them to be manufactured in a plant. They would be beautiful, well constructed, and durable.
After I returned to Ananda Village, I saw a picture of the new store under construction. Piled high on the floor was a large stack of plywood. This meant that the cabinets and fixtures would probably be built on site by local labor, which was exactly what I tried so hard to prevent!
India—a great teacher
I could easily have seen my efforts in India as a failure. Seemingly, I did not achieve my primary goal for going to India. But for the devotee, India offers invaluable lessons in non-attachment and seeing God as the Doer.
In A Place Called Ananda, Swami Kriyananda tells of how, to generate the money needed to construct a much-needed ashram building, he started an import business that barely broke even. His focus was not on the money earned but on the positive energy he was directing toward making the ashram a reality.
He never expected his import business itself to produce the funds. But knowing that the ashram was needed for Yogananda’s work, he was convinced that the positive energy he was putting out would stir things up “in the ether” and attract the money. And, in fact, a large donation came in—enough to build the ashram.
A powerful stream of energy
The team from America contributed an enormous amount of positive, willing energy to the India mall project. Our efforts, joined with those of the many other devotees who worked night and day to manifest the Ananda store, were part of a powerful stream of magnetic energy that brought the project to fruition. In retrospect, it seemed that everything had unfolded exactly as God intended.
Seeing my willingness as part of God’s plan was enormously freeing. More tangibly than ever, I understood the difference between serving God and serving my own likes and dislikes.
Learning to give more freely of my time and energy makes my heart feels better and better. I forget about my own needs and begin to lose myself in the thought of serving God in others. My heart expands and I am on the right track to living more fully in the ever-present joy within.
Dave Bingham serves at the Ananda Village Sangha Office in the fundraising department, and also produces inspirational videos.
The Power of Positive Magnetism
by Swami Kriyananda
I’ve learned in life that, if you place matters with complete trust in God’s hands, things always work out for the best. Often, events turn out so amazingly well that people later refer to them as miraculous.
And yet it isn’t really a question of miracles. It is a question of attracting energy, by will power, from the surrounding universe. It is the divine energy we use, whether we ask for it specifically or direct the energy ourselves.
The will determines the strength of the energy-flow (“the greater the will, the greater the flow of energy”). If the will power is strong, the body will be filled with energy. As a consequence, the body’s magnetic field will be extensive and powerful.
But there is another important consideration: the quality of that energy, and therefore of that magnetism. For there are many different states of consciousness, and therefore many different kinds of subtle energy.
If our consciousness is strongly positive, our magnetism will be positive also, and will attract good things to us. One simple principle for developing positive magnetism is to keep your will positive and harmonious. It will help you to attune yourself to superconsciousness.