Who reading this is not in some way anxious about money? I suspect I’ll get very few responses.
Even in the most remote mountain monasteries that are totally off the grid, out of the mainstream and seem to be singularly focused on things that have nothing to do with consumerism and economics, the truth is, whomever shows up there flushes the toilet and needs a few basic essentials. Everything takes money. Everything.
Even people who use no money rely upon someone else’s money at some point or another.
Whenever I talk frankly about money I get a bunch of freak out responses saying “it’s not about the money”.. but I assure you, it’s always about the money. Maybe not directly, but in some way, money is involved in every moment of every day.
Instead of avoiding it, since money is such an enormous part of our existence, I’ve taken to understanding it the best I can… how it influences me and others, how it impacts my behavior and ego and all the good and bad it can do.
I am constantly working to transform my relationship with money because I really believe money is an essential ingredient to real freedom and honestly, happiness. I’m not saying it’s impossible… but if your drowning in debt, enjoying a sunday afternoon is harder… enjoying this moment is harder, calming your mind and letting go of worry and being overcome with happiness? harder. Maybe it’s not impossible, but I’d venture to say it’s mighty close.
It’s so interesting that everyone so badly wants peace and happiness and we buy stuff trying to achieve it and then the process of buying creates the opposite of what we’re after. It’s like a hamster on a wheel.
I know a lot of rich people. I know even more that are broke.
I get the chance to spend time with people nearly everyday who are consumed by debt, so overwhelmed they can’t see the light of day. It’s not surprising to me at all that the leading cause of Male suicide in America is debt. ( of course the real cause is what brought people to debt, but you get the point. )
I know what the wisdom teachers say about debt:
“The borrower is slave to the lender,” ~ Jesus
“Even if money were to fall from the skies like rain, the sensual desires of human beings would not be satisfied.” ~ Buddha
That’s cool and all, but I never think of those guys as being much of an expert regarding money. Wall street didn’t exist and I don’t think these dudes had an Amex or paypal account. However, as I look into the faces of so many of my clients, I see them holding jobs they hate because they have to pay the bills, missing time with their kids because the car payment is due or being treated horribly and having to endure because no other viable financial options exist.
Slavery supposedly ended in America years ago but that’s just a lie. We’re now slaves to our desires, our need to try and feel better, our constant consumption of the next, next next. The Buddha was dead right when he said the desires of humans will never be satisfied. We always want more.
I’ve been working to step out of this for a long time and frankly, I’m failing. It’s just too hard. I buy something probably everyday that I don’t need. I do this even though I am now totally clear it will not make me feel better, that I will not be fulfilled by anything I could possibly purchase. But, thus far, I seem to be unable to step out of the momentum of our society and our need to keep consuming.
I’m not exactly sure what to do about it but I do believe that our planet depends on us figuring this out. We can all recycle and drive Hybrids and dig wells in Africa and do all this amazing stuff we all do but it will be for nothing unless we stop consuming. It simply is not sustainable in any way, not for our planet and certainly not for our spirits.
Paul Hawkin’s says it perfectly: We are human. We will always consume. The question is how.
This is what I’m really working on. I’m no longer trying to not consume, I just fail so what’s the point. Instead, I’m really paying attention to how I’m doing it, why, for what reason and with what intention.
In my opinion, the single greatest failing of our school system is that we don’t teach our kids about debt. Debt is the gateway to all this consumption, it’s what fuels the addiction. Debt is the bartender and we keep ordering one more drink, because we can. I am positive if we educated our kids about debt early we’d make an enormous dent in this pandemic.
I’ve probably sat with more than 5000 people who are financially ruined. Usually I get the opportunity to know them a while once they get out of debt.. after they’ve done the really hard work or got off the hook thru some legal maneuver like bankruptcy. You know what I observed? They are all, almost universally, enormously happier. They are left with absolutely nothing.. they often can hardly scrape by and have moved out of their fancy houses and into little apartments and are driving beater cars and yet now they are home for dinner with their kids, they have fewer worries, far more time and inevitably, they are happier. It’s just amazing.
I’ve also sat with the super rich again and again. Some just got lucky but the vast majority earned what they have. I discovered a commonality among nearly all of them as well. They don’t debt. Some learned the hard way, some learned from childhood as an engrained family value.. but the vast majority of the rich people I know do not debt. You could easily respond “yeah, but the don’t have to”… but that’s not what I’m saying. I listen to their stories of how they got rich, I get to be up close and personal in their business about this kinda thing.. and they started off broke, made it to the big time and many had a conscious commitment to live below their means and not debt. They may have taken longer to get to the top but they did it in a way that makes them sturdy. Sturdy makes people happy, I assure you.
In fact, as I think about these two extremes, I realize they aren’t much different. People not in debt are simply happier ( and likley will be saving our planet as a side benefit )
I can’t think of a better example of massive wealth and a commitment to not debt than Oprah Winfrey: “My father raised me to believe that being in debt was a terrible thing. In our house, it was almost a character flaw, akin to laziness. So when I moved away from home and was $1,800 in debt within a year, I felt I’d failed. I never told my father, nor would I have dared to borrow money from him. Instead, I took out a consolidation loan at 21 percent interest, ate a lot of raisin bran for dinner, and bought the cheapest car I could afford– a bucket on wheels I used to call it– but it got me to and from work. I tithed 10 percent to the church and shopped for clothes only once a year. I paid off the $1,800 and vowed never again to create more bills than I could pay. I just hated the way overspending made me feel.”
“Are these things really better than the things I already have? Or am I just trained to be dissatisfied with what I have now?” ~ Chuck Palahniuk