These days, in my life, spare cash is in short supply. Last week I made the mistake of going into a boutique I usually avoid because the lovely clothes there prompt such a grasping process in me. This week, as I was driving through the country to work, I was literally tormented by an image of a tunic in that boutique that I’m coveting. It kept popping into my head, prompting me to turn over and over in my mind how I could “steal from Peter to pay Paul,” in other words, come up with the cash to buy it (because I’ve taken on the practice of living on cash only). That lead to all sorts of rumination and self-blame over my financial situation.
Driving to work, I put all my grasping and wanting into singing along with the kirtan music that was playing. It’s the height of summer here and there is just so much of everything everywhere. After a while, I began to notice the abundance all around me. The grass grows faster than you can cut it. There are so many sparrows, they are eating my chickens out of house and home. I drive through fields and fields of hay anywhere I go.
I noticed the sky was wide. I noticed the sun was pouring down over me and over all this… then it hit me: allll this! “All this” is abundance! And, most importantly, abundance is not personal!
Suddenly, I could see how my life is full of experiences of “all this” and “so much,” even in the form of lack. I could see the “so much-ness” of wanting in my experience around that tunic. I could see the how much struggle was occurring in my mind this week. I could see the abundance in the natural world around me. I appreciated it for how it benefitted others (such as the farmers whose fields were so green and lush). I noticed I could appreciate that natural abundance without it being of any direct (and perhaps even indirect) benefit to me.
Then I realized a flaw in my ideas about abundance. I had been thinking abundance meant lots of stuff benefiting me; it meant I or someone else got enjoyment, and this flaw was standing between me and experiences of abundance. I could see how my view of abundance was steeped in consumerism, capitalism and materialism, how it was limited and, worse, how it contributed to my sense of lack. I saw that I could appreciate abundance for its own sake, its own intrinsic value.
I came to understand that, at least for me, abundance doesn’t mean personal benefit, per se, it just means things like lots, plenty and enough. Fundamentally, abundance is an experience, and it’s impersonal (although it may have its personal aspects). It’s also amoral, in that it can be perceived as either good or bad (imagine an abundance of rain that can be too much, say, from the close-up, personal perspective of this farmer, in this specific geographic location, for this year’s crop).
It seems incredible to “yesterday’s me,” who is witnessing me write this today, that it could be any more than just empty, placating words that enable me to suck up my difficulties and carry on. If someone had shared this view of abundance with me last week, I would have rolled my eyes, and, honestly, it would just have made me feel worse.
What made the difference between empty words and really getting this was the experience of pausing my mind’s activity, looking out into the natural world around me, and noticing how I was affected by that. After that enabled me to see things differently, I consciously took time to notice and appreciate the “so much-ness” of my wanting, and how I was affected by that. (It’s interesting to me to note that appreciation also means increase in value. Along those lines, I can enjoy my wanting now, with less of a desire to satisfy it, rather than have it bug me and bug me and bug me…. and, as I pause to feel that appreciation for the wanting now, I can also appreciate that tunic!)
I want to be clear that this inner shift does not get me off the hook of actually doing something to make change in a world where so many have so little. It simply lifts me off the hook of inner torment (and I’m not kidding when I say torment. I was having no peace in relation to my mind’s repetitive and compelling grasping process, and its way of generalizing and catastrophizing that into personal financial disaster, professional ruin, poverty, and homelessness). Now my energy is freed for positive action in the world. Thank God. The universe is generous.
I’m curious to know how you transform lack into abundance in your life. Or maybe you have a different way of working with lack or abundance. Take a moment to let me know in the comments below!