One of the primary ongoing intentions at USM is to foster and nurture a Culture of Giving. Such a culture begins with the understanding that giving and receiving are part of the circular flow of loving, caring, and sharing that are integral to the University’s Soul-Centered educational process and supportive of the University’s well-being. They are also clearly recognizable qualities that are characteristic of the thriving educational community that supports USM.
In 1976, the University came into being through the Generosity of Spirit and the inspiration of John-Roger, the Founder. The educational community that has evolved from that inspiration has, at its foundation, the recognition of the Generosity of Spirit that gives us all the gift of life. Out of gratitude to Spirit arises an impulse to share, to serve, and to give back.
So what is it that the University gives? First and foremost, USM provides students with an educational process through which students transform their consciousness and transform their lives. Even more than what they learn, it’s how they learn it—the “educational process” itself—that is life-changing. And at the heart of USM’s Soul-Centered education is the commitment to providing the highest levels of education and loving service to our students.
On the face of it, it appears self-evident that only as a result of someone giving can anyone else possibly receive anything, that one follows the other. As a result of participating in USM’s Spiritual Psychology Programs, students and graduates share a new and evolving discovery: It is in the midst of giving that I find the very deepest experiences of receiving.
As the poet Khalil Gibran has written, “It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” USM’s Soul-Centered approach to education offers students an opportunity to give of themselves in a courageous and meaningful way—learning to meet themselves, each other, and the world first and foremost with a compassionate heart. And as they give in this way, they receive from Spirit the freedom that results from an increased awareness of themselves as Spiritual beings.
For example, in USM’s classes, graduate students learn the powerful interpersonal skill of “prizing.” This impetus stems from the basic premise that we are Divine Beings having a human experience, and therefore, every person is worthy of being prized. Students learn to appreciate and celebrate each other’s innate essence, independent of beliefs or behavior.
Learning to prize is an essential part of USM’s Culture of Giving. Just as important is learning to accept prizing. For in receiving prizing from another, you give them the gift of sharing their Loving. In this way, giving and receiving cease to be experienced as sequential and become interchangeable or simultaneous.
If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is thank you, that would suffice. – Meister Eckart
Several hundred of the University’s graduates express their impulse to give by offering much-needed volunteer support for the classes during the academic year through the Assisting and Reading Programs.
Another example of answering the call to give is the student-led volunteer initiative, SpiritWalk, an event whose purpose is to raise funds to assist USM students. In the past, this event has raised over $100,000 each year in service to supporting those academically qualified prospective students who could not have otherwise attended USM.
Another service project is Freedom To Choose, a series of workshops given at the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, California. Twice a year, over 40 volunteers travel north, at their own expense, to spend three days sharing with inmates the Principles and Practices they have learned at USM, thereby passing along the gifts they have received (and continue to receive!) from their USM education.
The many thank-you letters the University receives from recipients of the generosity of USM’s educational community are truly inspirational.
Just as moving are the letters received from the volunteers themselves. It’s just too close to call as to who derives more value, those who are “giving” or those who are “receiving.”
Many grads extend the gifts they have received by sharing with others about their own experience of Soul-Centered education and the positive impact it has had in their lives. In this way, the opportunity to participate in USM’s Programs reaches the awareness of those whom Spirit is guiding to discover USM.
So there’s a natural cycle to giving and receiving. At USM, a clear intention is consciously held to cooperate with this cycle. In fact, you might say that the University is in the “giving business,” and what a privilege it is for the students, staff, faculty, Board of Trustees, Chancellor, graduates, generous donors, and beloved volunteers alike to participate in this flow of giving and receiving.
In countless ways, USM’s Culture of Giving thrives. And inside this culture, there is a constant abundance of generous donations: time, financial support, skills and abilities, encouragement, and support. And perhaps most important of all, by participating in this Culture of Giving, we receive the ongoing opportunity for giving one of the few gifts we can offer Spirit—our heartfelt thanks.
Your contributions have already assisted USM in many ways, including the development of USM’s Online Program.
If you would like to make your donation using the secure online donation form, please click here. And, as always, you and your support are greatly appreciated!