“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance”
As some of us prepare to recommence our “normal” lives, we do so tentatively. For none of us knows what lies ahead. But we have been given time to examine the world, rethink our values and decide what is really important. What an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and build a better world based on different values!
Having experienced a different type of life during the last few months, if you were now able to change your life dramatically what would you do? Sometimes it takes a change in our circumstances to rediscover what we really want. I’m sure we have all at some stage thought about how our lives would change if we were to win Lotto.
In the book, The List of My Desires by Gregoire Delacourt, a woman who leads an ordinary life in a provincial town, does just that. After winning Lotto, she writes out lists of what she will do with the money and ways in which she can change her life. Over the years she has questioned what became of her earlier dreams but has learned to accept her ordinary life and find joy in simple pleasures: the love of family and friends, the kindness of strangers, her tiny home. She soon decides that she doesn’t want her life to change and fears that if she cashes the cheque, her life will change forever.
Without denying the tumultuous effects on the world and many people’s personal lives right now, there have been many positive changes taking place. How many of you have started to enjoy the world since it slowed down with less traffic, cleaner air and fewer expectations? Are you ready to return to the way life was before lockdown?
Previously if you were asked to make a list of things that you would like to change in your life you would have had no trouble listing material goods you wished to acquire. Because we have great expectations of what we are entitled to, we are often desiring and striving for more.
When Budddhists start their prayers and meditation, they begin by feeling gratitude for what they have in their lives. Feeling gratitude may seem a huge thing to ask if you have just suffered immense loss, heartache and poverty. However, acknowledging gratitude is in no way denying life’s difficulties. It is being able to find a small positive among the overwhelming pile of negatives. It may simply be feeling grateful for being alive.
Whatever your personal story, it is only a small part of the larger context. Buddhists consider the privilege of being able to participate in the mystery of life is a reason to practice gratitude. Mindfully practising this feeling of gratitude helps us to feel connected to life and those around us.
How many of you today would be able to write a list of things that you are grateful for? Would it include basic needs that previously we took for granted?
- clean air and water
- a roof over our head, safe shelter
- food and medication, good health,
- friends and family, being able to hug a child,
- blue skies, the earth itself,
- wide open spaces, freedom to move
- driving on roads that are not reduced to rubble
- a community based on cooperation and caring.
The making of such a list is not meant to make you feel indebted but is intended to clarify your understanding of how life really is. Sometimes we are focused on what is broken rather than what can be fixed.
In Chasing Marigolds, I wrote about Aparigraha which is the Hindu moral restraint of non-attachment. It requires one to eliminate the craving for possessions, depending on one’s life stage or context. To achieve enlightenment and higher consciousness, it is necessary to detach oneself from the traps of modern living such as greed and desire.
Abundance, like contentment is an attitude. If we believe we have enough, we are likely to feel prosperous. Feeling grateful for what we have means we are less likely to be constantly seeking more. While we all need money to survive it is easy to fall into the traps of constantly upgrading to the latest versions or more recent models. Constantly craving more does not guarantee happiness. Feeling gratitude for what one has is more likely to lead to contentment.
As you contemplate your options, step outside, the future awaits. Will you go back to your old ways of living or will you embrace the new?