Last year, I dove deep into an exploration of perspectives on begging, because I wanted a new way of seeing that would remove the discomfort I had when I came upon beggars near my home. I came across lots of wise ideas, but none of them really shifted my experience.
Eventually, I decided it might be useful for me to look up the definition of the word ‘beggar’. I knew what a beggar was of course, but sometimes reading definitions can shed light on a word in a new way. The first definition I read jumped off the page.
1. a person, typically a homeless one, who lives by asking for money or food.
When I inquire into meaning and reality, I have like to let nouns to fall away and just see the verbs. I do this because I consider reality as a constant ‘unfolding’ rather than a collection of static ‘things’. It brings me closer to ‘truth’ (whatever that means).
This happened quite rapidly with the above definition. I was left simply with the words:
‘lives by asking’
I wasn’t sure at the time why this was impacting me, but it was. Something about those three words was remarkably powerful.
“What does it mean to ‘live by asking’?” I whispered to myself.
I thought of Wilson, the guy who lives on my street, sitting there with his cup waiting patiently until it was filled. I thought of in the Diamond Sutra how it describes the Buddha going door to door with his empty bowl, begging for rice.
My mind wandered then to the ducks who swam under the bridge that my mother would take my sister and I to as kids. We’d bring a bag of stale bread to feed them and they would hurry in our direction when they saw us.
I imagined an acorn falling from a tree, being carried by rain and then finding its way into the soil.
I imagined a lion sat in tall grass as the sun arched slowly overhead, waiting patiently for a gazelle to wander into the field beyond.
“Live by asking…”, I mouthed silently.
There was a feeling of awe rising in me. The awe for the lion, the acorn and the ducks.
“What is that about?” I wondered.
It was the perfection of it all that I was feeling awe for. The perfect partnership between every moving being in the world. Again, dropping the nouns and keeping the verbs, my attention moved from the objects of my imagination to the relating between them.
I saw the lion’s ‘waiting for an arriving’. I saw the acorn’s ‘allowing a planting’. I saw the ducks’ ‘coming to be fed’.
Inside each of these relatings was something in common: Trust.
There was a trust that everything that needed to be would be. This is what I was feeling awe for. The trust. The trust in the unfolding of life being perfect and enough.
I saw how this trust existed also in the Buddha. I saw how it lives in the beggars on my street. I saw them waking up every day, going out into the world with their plastic cup in the same way the ducks had waded over to us, in the same way the acorn had allowed itself to be carried by the rain and in the same way the lion had sat waiting in the grass.
In that moment it was like someone flicked the lights on in a part of my mind I hadn’t used before and it became obvious to me:
Beggars TRUST the world to take care of them.
Wilson is a beggar and the Buddha was a beggar, but also the ducks are beggars, the lion is a beggar and the acorn is a beggar. And they are all so beautiful.
Not only do they all trust the world to take care of them, but they trust it completely. This was a trust that I had never seen or touched before.
Since that moment, my experience of beggars has completely changed. Where before I hurried, now I slow. Where before I looked away, now I look towards and smile. Where before I felt discomfort, now I feel awe. When I see a person begging now, I see their trust and their surrender. And it moves me with awe.
This is what I wanted to thank Wilson for. And this is what I shared with him.
My insight doesn’t end here though.
Not only did the simple idea ‘live by asking’ liberate me in my being with beggars, it also supercharged my power to create.
“Live by asking!” I said aloud. “What if I did that? What would that look like?”
Obviously I wasn’t going to start living on the street. I also wasn’t going to start begging for food and water. But I’d already dropped those bits. Now I was considering the application of ‘live by asking’ to me and my life as it is.
Everything I already knew about the power of asking came flooding into my mind. I thought of the lesson I often share about how important it is to ASK for what you want.
Most often, when people endeavor to create, they do everything required to create except the one most important thing. It’s as if people build a brick building with a brick oven in it and they make the best pizza in the world and you can smell it from the street and everybody wants some except they didn’t put a door on the building. People make brick oven pizza houses without doors on them all of the time and then potential customers walk by and they can even smell the pizza but they have no idea how to get inside, so nobody ever comes in! If they would just cut a damn door in their building, then suddenly they’d have all the customers they could ever want.
Asking creates the door.
It is incredible to me how often people do NOT ask for what they want. They are literally standing face to face with a parallel universe where everything they want already exists. All they have to do is ASK and that ASKING opens a portal into the Universe that people can step straight through. But they don’t ask. They just look blankly into the other Universe with their mouth shut and their heart filled with longing.
Maybe I learned it from my father as a kid, because this has always been true for me:
I ASK BECAUSE ASKING CREATES.
What I had never considered before however, is that this could also be true:
I LIVE BY ASKING.
It is the combination of these two ideas that has supercharged my asking, and thus my creating.
Where before I may have pushed myself to ‘ask’ for things because I knew it was effective, now I find myself asking because I see it as a beautiful and awe-inspiring way to relate to the world.
I used to see beggars as very different to me. Now I see us as pretty similar. While beggars happen to ask for food and I happen to ask for six-figure coaching agreements, we both ‘live by asking’.
When I ask now, I try to remember to come from the same place the ducks do, the acorn does, the lion does, the Buddha did and Wilson does. I ask because I trust that everything I want will come to me if I ask. My asking is a step in the dance of the unfolding of everything. My asking is an invitation to dance. It is a welcoming into the music…into the song of the moment.
Since this awakening, I find myself asking for all sorts of things I wouldn’t have asked for before; smaller things, bigger things and just more frequently in general.
If you understand the power asking has to CREATE and you can do simple math, then you can probably guess the impact this asking is having on my life.
What if you were to LIVE BY ASKING? What if you had the patience of Wilson and the lion? What if you had the trust of the Buddha and the acorn?
My challenge to you is to go find out. Try being a ‘beggar’ for a day – not in the sense of someone who asks for what will have them survive, but in the sense of you asking for what YOU want.
If you were to LIVE BY ASKING, what would YOU ask for TODAY?
Go do it and share your experience in the comments below or send me a message. I’d love to hear from you!