In the practice of Yoga and Buddhism, one of the qualities that we focus on cultivating is generosity, which is called dana in Pali. Dana is the practice of giving without the expectation of receiving, and giving whole heartedly without regret.
In certain traditions it’s customary to give an offering or a donation to the teacher for their guidance. And at the end of the silent meditation retreat that I attended over the New Year, a big singing bowl had been placed outside of the meditation hall, for donation to my teacher. I had been considering how much to give for a few days. The cost of the retreat facilities and travel expenses to Toronto, Canada were already quite high, and I felt the anxiety of feeling like I didn’t have enough. My teacher wasn’t charging anything for his time, so there was no required amount to give. The only instruction was to give based on how much you received from the teaching, and to give without regret.
I received so much from this retreat, that I decided to give a bit more than I had originally budgeted for. Dana helps to transform the mind of the giver. So often we feel like we don’t have enough, and when we give genuinely, our experience changes. We cultivate abundance in our lives, through the act of generosity.
A few hours later, I got a ride back into the city from a fellow retreat goer, and he wouldn’t accept any money for gas. The next day, another friend insisted on buying me food and coffee and driving me all around the city to explore Toronto, finally dropping me off at the airport. There it was, an instant lesson in generosity and abundance. The more freely and openly we give, the more we receive. Period.
In what area of your life can you give more freely? Where can you cultivate dana?