When it comes to money, most of us feel as though there will never be enough. And when we feel like there's not enough, our self-protective instincts can quash the generous impulses we may have.
Patanjali's 33rd sutra says, "When harassed by doubt, cultivate the opposite mental attitude." By cultivating generosity when we least feel like it, we are forced to confront our underlying feelings of scarcity and to question their validity, which often allows us to see alternative possibilities. Giving can reverse the message of scarcity that we're telling ourselves; as we share our good fortune, we start realizing that there's more than enough. This shift in consciousness helps us feel more fulfilled. And when we're content, we're less likely to try to feel better by shopping or overeating—both of which can be financial drains.
When I'm struggling to go to yoga class, I know that my medicine is to go. When it's a struggle to hold an inverted pose for two minutes, I try holding it for one minute. When I'm in Warrior Pose and straining, I relax into and open to the strain instead of moving away from it.
When giving feels difficult, your savior is generosity. It's the act of giving that matters, not the size of the gift. If giving any amount of money feels like a hardship, start by giving something else—your time, the extra clothes in your closet, the unused furniture in your garage. The point is not what you give, or how much you give, but simply that you give.
"Generosity breeds an immediate kind of happiness. This helps generosity beget more generosity with less and less effort." Joseph Goldstein co-founder, Insight Meditation Society
Create a sense of peace and fulfillment around giving with these three practices:
1. Practice inversions. Just as Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) shifts the flow of energy in the body, so we need to invert the flow of money in our lives to experience feelings of financial vitality. Give something away this week: an hour of your time, an unexpected smile, or some money—no matter how little.
2. Cultivate balance. If donating deepens your feeling of struggle with money, sit down with a financially responsible friend, credit counselor, or financial planner and make a plan for living and giving within your means.
3. Invest charitably. Charitable investing is a great way to improve the lives of others without giving up your own money. Make sure your investments are sustainable and benefit the global population. Consider investing in a community-development bank account, social enterprise fund, or microfinance bank.
Brent Kessel and Spencer Sherman are co-founders of Abacus, a sustainable investing firm, and the authors of <it's Not About the Money and The Cure for Money Madness, respectively.