~ Instigating Freedom Last summer on retreat in the redwoods of California, someone new arrived with two books as gifts. For Gemma, horses. For me, The Bond by Lynne McTaggart, full of scientific research on how human beings need connection like we need food. One example is Nipun Mehta, who turned his Silicon Valley ambitions towards creating a wave of giving. He gets tech experts to create websites for nonprofits, opened the family home for Wednesday dinner to rich and poor for 13 years, and encourages people to "pay it forward" by paying for the next person in line at the toll booth or restaurant. (The Bond, pg. 205) Behavioral economists have found that both selfishness and generosity spread through communities, but that kindness, cooperation and generosity "outperform" selfishness--they spread better and faster, and give more benefits even to the givers. While "both selfishness and altruism spread easily," kindness "is the more contagious impulse." (Herbert Gintis in The Bond, pp. 208-9) 2 curious things about spreading kindness. ~ One is that a small group of "instigators"--people who love to give--can change a whole community. A few people do a few "nice" things, and many others follow along and drop their selfish strategies in game experiments. ~ Second, selfishness or kindness spreads most quickly in a small group, and once established there can spread further. So, first of all, we can already start a wave of kindness. And another. And another. With an act, or just with restful presence. In words or without the slightest motion. Open Dharma is a small group now established in generosity. Let's get on with it. We can let our generosity set an example more widely and let our wave-making go into new areas. Second, we humans are easily influenced, for better or worse. Countless people are in prison because they were in the wrong friends' car at the wrong time. If we listen to ourselves the way our best friend would, we can then give ourselves the advice we would give a best friend. And be a wave-maker from our own love of giving. Third, we can start waves of kindness in a few focus areas--communication, sexuality, and power. Our role models in all these areas enact separation. They act from wounds and sense of lack. A "clear speaker" is someone who has strong opinions, a sexy person is someone intimidating and cold enough to be "hot," and power scares us because it has usually hurt someone. But we can hear in our own tone of voice when we speak from unacknowledged pain. If I am saying something negative about someone, especially someone not present, what does that say about me? When we hear gossip, what do we say? When we listen, is it with small or big mind? We can embody our own sexuality and sensuality without competition or power games. As a woman who has experienced sexual hurt and fear, I have found that the more connected I am to my own sexuality, the less fear I feel. In our culture of sexual alienation and victimization, I especially encourage us to find a harmony between this primal energy and our spirituality. And, as you know, I am open to meet with anyone, male or female, on skype or in person, to talk about this tender and powerful space. And finally, can we learn to be at ease in the flow of our power to give, to love, to share, to change ourselves and our culture? Can we give up the small pleasure of being right? It diminishes us. Let us be moved by the power that loves to love.