This month we are so heartened to welcome back Samantha Akers from her 8 week sabbatical. Sam truly lives her teaching, and her intentional immersion in practice always brings back to the community such special gifts. Here is a beautiful offering on generosity as we look forward to the coming Thanksgiving Holiday. Cheers! -Kelly
By Samantha Akers
During my recent sabbatical time, I was reminded of the Buddha’s teachings to remain close to the 3 pillars of practice, Dana (generosity), Sila (the precepts) and Bhavana (concentration or meditation practice). These are considered to be the foundations for the cessation of suffering. I find that it can be easy to skip over the first two foundations and head right into concentration practice. The same can be true with the Eight Limbs of Yoga, when we practice Asana, the 3rd limb, before we have taken the first two practices of the Yamas and Niyamas (inward and outward guidelines, ethical disciplines or restraints), into our hearts. In every Spiritual tradition, although a different name is used, Dana is believed to be a pillar for paramita (perfection), characterized by unbounded generosity, giving without need for receiving and letting go. The Buddha taught that without taking Dana and Sila into our hearts and practices, there was no real purpose in Bhavana. I have found this to be a true teaching, as I was not able to change or see the truth of how things are, without first practicing generosity, letting go, and having a strength and belief in my intentions. For as the purpose of practice is to see how we truly are, what keeps us “hooked” in our suffering. Generosity is an opportunity to practice letting everything go, including the things we believe that we need. As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, this may bring much anxiety and fear, discomfort, for some of us. There is stress of family, financial stress, and we may amp up, feeling as if there is more and more to do. When I feel these things in myself, if I can choose to turn towards Dana, I am reminded of the ways in which I can offer generosity, which softens my heart and my attitudes. I am able to turn away from the “self” and ask, “What is it that others might be in need of?” Dana may be in the form of a compassionate ear, donations of food, sharing a cup of tea with a difficult person, Metta for myself and others as well as financial donations, whenever possible. Turning towards our practice is also a way of being generous with ourselves, when we believe we just can’t make time.
In many traditions, Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism, the teachings were free because they were considered to be “priceless”. The teachings are still free in many countries, however the temples and ashrams are supported fully by the love and Dana of the community. I find it so beautiful and inspiring that many ashrams and monasteries in India and Burma are still completely free, even serving enormous lunches to the community each day, without charge. This is made possible by donations of generosity from the community and visitors, to ensure that all can practice and receive equally. When this occurs, there is a greater sense of family, of connection, of purpose. With generosity that needs nothing in return, we begin to experience “the truth”, the truth of our connection to ourselves and everything around us. As Thich Nat Hahn teaches, “We must Inter-be, because we inter-are. We are nothing without one another, that is the truth.”
There is a beautiful Hindu proverb that illustrates the power of Dana:
“Living creatures become influenced through Dana
Enemies loose hostility through Dana
A stranger becomes a loved one through Dana
Vices are killed through Dana.”
I find it to be hopeful and heartwarming that Om Shala is offering many Donation based classes November 17th-23rd. I am also offering Dana based Meditation circles the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month, from 4:30-5:30.
I believe in being able to offer as many teachings as possible for free, to those who cannot afford them and continue to offer classes through the generosity of those who can. This is an opportunity for us to all practice generosity. To see that we truly give to one another. Without you, I would not be teaching and learning. We “inter-are”. I have appreciated the generosity that I have been shown by all of my yoga families, over many years of teaching, such warm hearts, full of love and support. It is because of all of you, that I teach. Financial donations help to keep the teachings available to all students. Most valuable are the generous hearts, words and intentions that you bring with you to your mat and share with the world. ++
With much Metta and friendliness
Practice Generosity with us next week! Check our online class schedule to see which classes are being offered by donation the week of Thanksgiving. We also have a beautiful Annual Thanksgiving Day Gratitude Practice Thursday at 10am with Peggy Profant featuring Live music for a sliding scale donation of $10-20.
You can also look for an entire week of Donation only classes the week of winter solstice December 17-21. Cheers to the Holiday Season and all of the reasons we celebrate.
About the Author
Samantha Akers began practicing yoga in 2000, after being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia. She credits Restorative Yoga and meditation, to her healing and began teaching to others in 2002. She is a certified yoga therapist and body worker, seeing over 50 private clients a month. Her insight and Metta practices have been deeply influenced by Joseph Goldstein, Thai forest master Ajahn Chah, Venerable Anayalo, Spring Washam, Thich Nhat Hanh, Shantideva and the Buddha. She is a firm believer that through insight and metta practice, all beings can awaken, in this lifetime, experiencing the truth of no-self, compassion, wisdom and love. Find her on the weekly schedule at Om Shala. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.