February 06, 2006

Asking and Offering: The Art of Spiritual Trading

We clasp the hands of those who go before us, and the hands of those who come after us; we enter the little circle of each other's arms, and the larger circle of lovers
whose hands are joined in a dance, and the larger circle of all creatures, passing in and out of life, who move also in a dance, to a music so subtle and vast that no one hears it except in fragments.
-- Wendell Berry, Healing

Asking / offering / giving / receiving is one circular motion... As we ask for what we need and offer what we can we become spiritual traders of life's energy, time, abundance, and interrelatedness. Through this practice, we are reminded that everything lives in reciprocal relationship with everything else, whether or not we immediately perceive this relationship, whether or not we choose to be aware of it...

Trading is practice in mindfulness. It slows us down so we may notice the opportunity present in the moment. Through acts of spiritual trading we learn to see that everything is an exchange. Today I will ask for what I need, first by becoming aware of what that is. Today I will offer what I can by holding all the choices I make within an understanding of reciprocity. The trajectory I set into the day is not a straight line; it's a dance of intersections and connections between myself and other people and the opportunities we create as we cross each other's paths...

Today I will offer what I can by being open to surprise and interruption as part of the flow of my intentions. An older neighbor calls to ask if I will bring her mail from the box to her doorstep. Of course I will, though I also know it means fifteen minutes of chatting. I trade a little efficiency for the aid I can provide a neighbor. Someday I will be old and in need of a younger person's kindness. A friend emails the request for a prayer chain for his son. I stop and light a candle on my windowsill, hold the thought of his need for a moment. Someday I will be in need of the prayers of friends and strangers...

Only spiritual trading creates flow. As long as the energy is flowing and cyclical, there is enough to go around. If any one of us stops asking or stops offering, the flow is disrupted and the balance destroyed. We all know people who give and give and give and forget to receive until they collapse into exhaustion, depression, or illness. We all know people who take and take and take and forget to offer until they find themselves alone at the zenith of their careers, divorced from their families and friends. If we become depleted, we have no energy left to respond and no energy left to ask. If we keep demanding without reciprocating, people will respond with resentment or hoard their energy and we will not get what we really need. Perhaps the purpose of this learning cycle, playing out over and over again in our lives, is to help us see the world differently...

This is not a New Age concept. In 1623, in his Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, John Donne wrote his famous soliloquy: "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main..." He understood. And somewhere inside ourselves I believe we understand. It's just hard to see this reality in our own culture where so much stuff puts us constantly to sleep..."

--excerpted from The Seven Whispers, ©2002, by Christina Baldwin.

About the Author:
Christina Baldwin has taught seminars and workshops internationally for more than twenty years. Her best selling book, Life's Companion, Journal Writing as a Spiritual Culture, she explores the tradition of council and reintroduces it as a modern forum for people to meet and learn from each other. Her educational company, PeerSpirit, Inc., is dedicated to building communities of reflection, adventure, and purpose. She lives on an island north of Seattle. Contact www.peerspirit.com for Seven Whispers study guide and Christina's schedule.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

No comments: