Once upon a time (say, in the Reagan years) we were taught that it was desirable to use our wits to do more, have more and be more than our fellows. There was no such thing as too much. Now, as it all falls apart, we’re seeing the end result of a strategy that raised a few at the expense of many. Where we once took pride in “separating ourselves from the herd,” we now find some meager comfort in knowing “we’re all in the same boat.”
Money is a heady drug and there are countless books, seminars and methodologies out these days that feed our addiction for accumulating wealth, ranging from financial strategies taught by investment gurus to metaphysical techniques using the “law of attraction.” Before we make money our goal, however, it may serve more in the long run to understand why we want more. Addiction results when we use any activity or substance to try to fill a void that can’t be filled that way. We wind up needing more and more and there’s never “enough.” When inwardly we feel lack—something that has nothing to do with money—we’ll never be satisfied with what we have. No matter how much money we make, we’ll create debt, struggle, and worry out of it.
This isn’t meant in any way to moralize on the virtues of poverty. It’s consuming and debilitating to struggle with financial survival, even if it’s a six-figure income we’re struggling on (I heard a report on the life style of bailed-out Wall Street bankers describing how difficult it would be for them to manage on a $500,000 salary cap). It limits our ability to thrive and to be of use to the world around us. But, regardless of our income, don’t we all personally know someone with a bigger income that we have who struggles to make ends meet, and another who seems at peace with less? (Think about that.) Prosperity is a state of mind and when we have it, we automatically program our lives to work financially. Whether we have a lot or a little, we have our needs and wants fulfilled. We have the ability to attract money, without compromising ourselves in the process, and we also are able to create an abundant life without an abundance of money.
True prosperity is available to us without limit. We can have all we need to fulfill our highest purpose and live our highest joy. For some this takes a lot of money and for others it requires much less. My own personal role models of prosperity include the well-known spiritual teacher, “Peace Pilgrim” who owned only what she could carry on her person and felt freer having less, as well as a wealthy couple who have given great gifts to their community through their philanthropy. Falling in the middle of these extremes is an individual I know who simply practices kindness and generosity and always seems to easily manifest the trappings of a happy, gracious, materially comfortable life without a terribly large income. As we unhook the idea of “prosperity” from the prerequisite of “a lot of money,” it suddenly becomes easier to create a happy, abundant life with or without money, whether or not it looks like our neighbor’s version of wealth. This point is often missed, even in popular metaphysical teachings on prosperity, that it doesn’t necessarily take a large income to live prosperously.
The hidden blessing, and perhaps higher purpose, underlying the financial crunch shared by so many of us is that it’s forcing us to break the easy habit of money addiction. As we face, head-on, the void that money could never fill we discover that it doesn’t take money to nurture our spiritual lives and intimate relationships, and that the experience of joy is completely free. Here’s an experiment that might help break some of your spending addictions and rewire your thinking about money.
For a month see how many days you can go without spending money. Also, consider letting go of small purchase routines that you don’t really need. Take a snack or beverage with you so you can let go of the purchased coffee or snack habit, for example. Notice ways you’ve become dependent upon money for recreation, self-nurturing or socialization and be creative in finding less costly alternatives. Take the money you save and put it toward some sacred purpose. It might be a gift you give away, or you could use it as seed money to fund a cherished dream, or even to buy yourself something that usually feels too extravagant. See if you don’t start noticing a difference between “spending” and living prosperously.