For me abundance is not something measurable, it is a feeling of fulfillment where what we have surpasses what we want to have. Inflated expectations are one of the greatest sources of suffering in the modern society. Consumerism makes us want things and if our self-worth is based on our achievements we also start to seek recognition. As a result, our appetite is like fire: the more we feed it, the stronger it becomes. Clearly, to create abundance we take a different approach. This is something I am still searching for myself, so I simply share my latest understandings. For this article I outlined the extra reading of here, here, here, here, here, here.
The golden age of abundance
The greek mythology introduces the notion of “the golden age” at the very beginning of the agriculture. I will give you my own version of the myth. When the world was young and fields plentiful, all people needed was enough food and a healthy family. There were few farmers and plenty of good fields. A good farmer could find a wife, and if the gods were merciful, he would have a healthy family and be happy. With the introduction of fancy clothing, large houses, jewelry, and metals, people started to consume more and got envious of their neighbors. They started to fight for prestige, and use weapons. Nobody was safe and nobody had enough to protect his own safety. Since then they yearn for simpler times when all the need could be easily found.
Clearly, this is a myth. Primitive people are not very happy, even though they are probably much less stressed than we are. There were many attempts to reduce the consumption to the bare minimum, yet the results were not of abundance.
The more successful approach to creating abundance is moving our expectations into the spiritual domain. Every developed society can provide food, shelter, and clothing for its members. If the feeling of status and achievement is associated not with things but with our knowledge and selfless actions, there is more than enough of this spiritual good for everybody. If we are focused on now and here, there are an infinite abundance of small wonders we can observe.
By letting go of worldly possessions, monks reportedly achieve abundance and inner joy. Clearly, this way is not for everybody. The chosen few that can take it, trade most of the stresses of modern life for minimalistic and selfless existence.
Focus on experiences
Measuring the abundance not in things but in experiences could be a good solution for most of us. Experiences are scientifically more correlated with happiness than possessions and they are sufficiently unique so we cannot fully compare with others. There are several ways to bring new experiences into our life, and most of them are very simple. Without limiting myself and just for fun, I decided to follow a pattern of the word ILLUSTRATE:
- Imagination. It is very hard to distinguish a true experience from an imaginary one. If we are creative and work our imagination “muscle”
we get access to infinite amount of experiences. Training includes various visualization and relaxation exercises, so it is fun to train and fun to use.
- Learning. When we learn, we get access to new perspectives: languages, art, history and even science allow us to see the universe like never before.
- Listening. When we truly listen to others, they share their deepest experiences. This is exciting and inspiring.
- Unleash the creative potential. Pretty much self-explanatory.
- Stepping out of the comfort zone. We cannot be quite safe if we want to get truly new experiences. It is probably worth to have a couple of bad experiences, to get an access to something unexpected and breathtaking.
- Truth. Quite often we miss experiences simply because we choose not to see them. It is very easy to lie to ourselves. When we strive for
the truth we remove some filters and start seeing things we missed before.
- Respect. If we do not respect, we ignore. Respect is the basis for deeper awareness.
- Awareness. The god is in the details. By focusing on here and now, noticing the details and not dismissing everyday wonders, we experience more plentiful lives.
- Teamwork. Some experiences come from a vision, and realizing a vision requires teamwork.
- Engineering. Playing with toys is fun. Engineers are like children who play with very big and complex toys, and this is major fun.
If we look for some peak experiences, we may start losing on our everyday joys. Peak experiences are rare. Quite often we feel them when we touch something precious for the first time, or when we achieve something exceptional. These are hard things to find. Definitely, they generate exceptional memories, but then we feel the need to “top” them. Some things are very hard and dangerous to exceed. What can beat the first time you saw your favorite masterpiece or the first time you ate your favorite food?
For me, humility is needed to choose something rather abundant over something exotic. An exotic experience is not better because it is rare and expensive. Something equally exciting may be hidden in the plain view.
To quote Lao Tzu:
Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.
Mastering yourself is a lot of hard work. For once, we should watch our triggers: understand what makes us react and why. Most of our responses are quite well adapted to our environment, but some are a way off. When we act in a strange way people notice and show. Each time this happens we can ask: what triggered this response? Probably this is something very personal, something well adapted to other situations. Now it is just a behavioral relic which may or may not cause us suffering, just like our appendix can. If the situation gets bad, we may need to remove it.
We can also try to look for positive triggers: things that make us feel good, things we are grateful for. We may find that we enjoy our job more than we thought. Quite often we will be grateful for the people around us. The good thing about gratitude: the more grateful we are the better we feel about our experiences.
The life around us is quite mad and the madness is getting stronger with time. Focusing on simple experiences, we may fight the madness to some extent. There is a fake quote commonly attributed to Dalai Lama. I think it is entertaining to give you the full quote:
The paradox of our time.
We have bigger houses but smaller families.
We have more degrees but less sense;
more knowledge but fewer judgments;
more experts but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but we have trouble crossing the street
to meet the new neighbor.
We build more computers
to hold more information,
to produce more copies than ever,
but we have less communication.
We have become long on quantity
but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods,
but slow digestion;
tall men, but short character;
steep profits, but shallow relationships.
It is the time when there is much in the window
but nothing in the room.
I think the real-life Dalai Lama would show more acceptance and gratitude for the modern life. Focusing on the strange aspects of modern life makes the experience less whole and less joyful.