03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Everyday Grace At Trader Joe's: Who You Really Are

I want to share a quick story with you about something that happened at Trader Joe's grocery store yesterday.

These days, I'm in the middle of teaching a month-long mentoring program for men. We keep a certain amount of material in the course secret for two reasons: it works better when it comes at you as a surprise; and mystery makes me and the course look cool.

Kidding aside, I do want to share with you one thing that I teach in the course. Namely, the answer to the question, "Who are you really?"

One of the three answers I suggest is "You are a conduit for the abundance of the universe."

If you're sufficiently confused by that answer to be thinking, "Umm, English please," then you're on the right track. Allow me to illustrate by continuing the story. If you've ever been to Trader Joe's, one of their nifty features is that they always have a 'freebie corner' where they're giving away samples.

On this particular afternoon, they had samples of a chicken tikka masala. And it smelled gooood. So I stood in line, and right behind me was a mother with her toddler sitting right in the shopping cart. The kid was getting a little antsy about the food; mom was doing her best to calm him down.

My turn came, and the Trader Joe's lady handed me my small plate with the free sample. And, seeing how I was not in a hurry, I handed it to the mom: "Here you go."

The mom totally lit up with a heartfelt 'thank you' that I felt in my bones, all out of proportion to the gesture. A few seconds later I had my plate (delicious, by the way) and we were both on our merry shopping way again.

Now it's not like I donated a zillion bucks to cure malaria here and Pope Benedict is going to fast-track my application to sainthood (which would actually require that I die first, so no thanks!). I just passed a free sample on to someone who was behind me in line, who would have gotten it in about 30 seconds anyway.

But the reaction I got was all out of proportion to the deed - and it made my day. And perhaps made her feel good, too. This story is a perfect demonstration of your being a conduit for the abundance of the universe. Let me explain: the chicken sample was not really mine. It was free to begin with, so I never really owned it. By giving it away, I wasn't losing anything, because I knew there was more of that where it came from.

And, lo and behold, when I gave it away, more did come my way, with interest: the mom and kid's gratitude, and the little warming of my heart.

Well, guess what, boys and girls: that's true of any kind of possession and giving in life. You think you own stuff? Think again. You're born naked and you leave the same way. Can't take it with you, chief. And if the economic crisis of the past year has taught us anything, it's "easy come, easy go." You can't own stuff. But stuff can definitely own you.

Even if you had paid for the chicken, what makes it 'yours'?

So the next time you're thinking 'my car,' 'my house,' 'my boyfriend,' 'my girlfriend,' 'my toys,' as if somehow there's a stamp of ownership burning your name on that thing, you may wish to reconsider.

When abundance comes your way, you know that it's just like that free sample - the bounty of the universe presenting itself to you through sheer luck. Just as it would be silly to get too possessive of that morsel of free food once it lands in your hand - "this is my chicken now" - it would be equally silly to get hung up on any of your so-called possessions.

There is no fortune made on this earth, not one, that didn't have to do with crazy, insane luck. So there's no point in getting too attached or proud about what came to you through near-miraculous accident. By realizing that you are a perpetual conduit for this abundance -- a pipeline for the bounty of the universe -- you keep yourself from gumming up the works and getting in the way of your own access to abundance. Abundance is infinite! There's far more stuff than you could consume in 10,000 lifetimes.

We're not saying that you should make like Diogenes and give away all your earthly possessions and wear a barrel. By all means, protect your garden fruit from the varmints. Just don't get hung up on stuff so much that its loss can make you unhappier than its presence can make you happy.

I always find it funny when people on the road (including myself) won't let somebody in who's trying to merge. What, like we're going to run out of road or something? Or you might get somewhere 4.3 seconds sooner? There's plenty of road to go around.

Now some of you who are reading this may be in tough spots right now, and what I would say to you is act as if you really are a conduit for abundance. Don't let this temporary state get in the way of your generosity, your open-heartedness, your openmindedness.

Get the wheel of giving turning, in whatever small way you can, and the wheel will inevitably come back to you. As my pastor likes to say, you can only have what you give away, so start giving away more of that which you'd like to have! ('Cause if you're giving something away, it must mean you have lots of it, right? Twisted logic, but kind of true.)

And those of you who are not experiencing privation but are still feeling constricted - let's get you re-started. Start by smiling at passersby. Then work up from there.

One of the most eloquent passages on giving comes from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet:

Then said a rich man, 'Speak to us of Giving.'
And he answered:
'You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.'

For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear you may need them tomorrow? And what is fear of need but need itself?
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full the thirst that is unquenchable?

There are those who give little of the much which they have - and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.

And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.

There are those who give with joy, and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy,
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving, nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.

Through the hands of such as these God speaks, and from behind their eyes he smiles upon the earth.'

And that's everyday grace, my friends. Resolve to give of yourself daily and practice being what you really are - a conduit for abundance. The rest will take care of itself.

The power is within you
Dr Alex

PS: Want to practice some giving right now that ain't gonna cost you anything? Forward this message to someone whom you think would benefit from it.

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