Every day, while going out to get lunch in midtown Manhattan, feeling anonymous in a stream of pedestrians, I begin seeing a man sitting on the sidewalk, asking for spare change. After months of seeing him, I notice that, as soon as the man asks for spare change, I have a desire to give, and then I hear a conditioned voice shouting big, scientific reasons why not to give, but also, how I’m a terrible person for not giving. End result: a big opportunity for suffering.
I notice this come up over and over, every time I pass him, until one day, it drops in: What would happen, exactly, if I listened to that first desire to give, and gave this man what he was asking for: spare change?
It seemed like a revolutionary idea, and I couldn’t wait to try it. The next day, I handed him my change, and I saw ego was right there to try and get my attention. But what was also there was a felt sense of the experience as I fulfilled a heart’s desire and a great curiosity about what might happen next.
So I stuck with it. Whenever I saw him, I gave him what spare change I had (the exchange lasted about 3 seconds), and I kept my attention Here. It got easier and easier to do that, because it started to be one of my favorite things to do. Of course, conditioning tried to pull me into better ideas of what I should do, like, “maybe you should give him some food?” but I knew something else had started happening besides “giving.” I don’t know exactly what to call it, but it has something to do with training myself to experience my heart. Also, it occurred to me this busy sidewalk time was his “work period,” (not lunchtime, as it was for me) and the best thing I could do was do what he asked—give—and help him do his job.
Then something else started happening: I began to notice the conditioned voices, around giving in any sphere, were starting to crumble. This is nothing short of miraculous. How did this happen? One reason perhaps is because all conditioning is the same, and when it falls in one place, it falls in other places?
I saw the same process around supporting the Monastery. I’d listen to Open Air or sit with Virtual Meditation groups, and it would drop in to give something. And because I had been practicing with my friend on the street, I was able to move past ego's “No.”
The practice opportunity in all of this is to continue to stay with the heart's impulse, what egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate is trying to cover over, and to be with that to inform what’s next. As I write this, I am overwhelmed with how priceless the opportunity is to live from the heart. How do you put a price on something that is priceless? The good news is, I don’t have to. I can just wait to see what arises next.