Where Does Abundance Reign in My Life? Or Where Does Its Absence Rein in My Life?
There are many ways that we can manifest, or allow, abundance in our lives – and of course, an equal number of ways that we can keep it out of our lives.
When people think about abundance, they typically think of financial abundance, i.e., money. The assumption is that financial wealth underlies the other ways that we can have abundance. Though if you ask, some of those same people will tell you that they know that money can’t buy happiness.
There are a lot of other values that it can’t buy either: health, love (and need I say that being sought after because you are wealthy is not love?), family/friends, time, a fulfilling career, spiritual growth and learning.
In this article, I will focus on having abundance in reference to those other values and leave financial abundance for next month’s piece. We have so many reactions and over-reactions to money and its meanings that I want to have the space to explore them adequately.
I also want to state from the start that abundance, while it can be perceived as a through-the-roof accumulation of goods or benefits, a going for the gusto at all costs, that is not at all what I mean by a healthy relationship with abundance. Trusting that you can have abundance in your life in many ways also means that you have to work for it, and do so in a balanced way. As we explore how to allow abundance in the values listed above, I think you’ll have a better understanding of what I do mean.
Having abundant health is a beautiful way to live. However, none of us have bodies with a completely dependable immune system. Being in physical reality means that we will experience illness at some time – mental and/or physical. But taking care of our bodies, and our minds, keeping them in balance, also means that we can live healthy most of the time. Even abundantly so.
Explicitly, that means getting enough restorative sleep, eating healthy foods in appropriate quantities, and exercising regularly, as well as working with our health professionals to maintain our bodies and minds. Keeping them in balance.
And, even if we are born with, or develop some chronic condition, our attitude toward that condition will go a long way to determining our experience of it. We all know the stories of people who were saddled with disabilities and kept smiling and loving vs. those who became embittered and morose.
Does this mean that once in awhile we might choose to be out of balance – party all night, have a hearty Thanksgiving meal, miss that dental appointment? Of course it doesn’t. We all do that and will repeatedly over a lifetime. Spontaneity and joy are also major contributors to well-being. We need to have a balanced approach to being balanced!! And living there consciously, most of the time, is what results in abundant health.
A word about stress – as mental health professionals, we know that stress taken to extremes can lower our immune system and lead to system failure of one sort or another. But that some stress – the kind we have when we are learning something new or needing to protect ourselves from danger – can also be hugely beneficial. Again, it’s about balance and getting our body and mind re-regulated as soon as possible when they become stressed.
An abundance of love, of family and friends, infuses life with joy. There is nothing that lights us up as much as seeing the face or faces of loved ones – just the contemplation of seeing them can have a similar effect.
But does abundance in this realm mean quantity? As in how many people we are Linked-In to or have on our Facebook account? As relationship experts, you know the answer to that one. But unfortunately many people to do not. They get buried in the crowd, seek time w/the masses, and assume that means they have a lot of friends, love, attention, approval, etc. But they don’t know who they are.
When it comes to love, the first person we have to love is ourselves. You can’t really love someone you don’t know. Getting to know someone takes time – including ourselves. Having a healthy relationship with our self – taking care of us, spending time getting to know who we are, what we cherish, and developing that self – is the first step to healthy relationship with others. Because then we are likely to choose others who have a similar self-awareness.
And balancing the time that we spend alone with the time we spend with people – depending on our introvert or extrovert needs – gives us the energy to enjoy others.
If we are tuned into ourselves, we know when we are getting out of balance regarding time alone vs. time spent with others. We will get cranky, less tolerant of people’s foibles, feel resentful. Those should be blaring sirens that we are out of balance – and therefore out of abundance.
Relationships are about quality – with ourselves and others – not quantity. Healthy abundance is about quality too. There is no point in having a lot of insignificance.
“There’s never enough time!!”
If you hear any one lament from the majority of people in the Western World, it has to be that one. Most of us don’t experience an abundance of years, months, days. And the older we become, the less there seems to be and the faster it goes. None of us has more than 24/7, and none of us knows how many weeks we actually do have before it’s time to exit this life.
Plus, we’ve grown up in a culture and era that offers us a plethora of possibilities – of places to go, things to do, activities to try, people to know. And our system of communication shows us these possibilities and more, as we are constantly barraged with new devices, new fads, new ways to spend money and time.
I’ve often laughed that I wish I had more time to learn to use the time-saving devices that I already have.
But thinking that there isn’t enough time is only one way to look at it. The truth is that it doesn’t matter how much time there is. We will make choices about how we use our time, and it will all pass. The critical point then is about the choices we make. Will we have major regrets that we didn’t even get close to completing that “Bucket List?” Or at the end of our lives, if there is time for reflection, will we be grateful for all that we experienced, learned, shared and loved?
We have an abundance of choices regarding how we will use our time on Planet Earth. But we need to find a balance among those choices – some productive, some restorative, some about play. We have to decide which ones matter most to us. That is, what kind of life do we want to have lived? And then there will be plenty of time.
I often think that I’m extremely lucky (but I know that luck really had nothing to do with it) to be doing the work that I do, that we do – to help others live fuller lives, make a great income, and be constantly learning about the mind and the brain, which I find fascinating. But even here abundance means setting boundaries or I won’t abundantly enjoy this work I love so much.
If I don’t limit the number of clients I see per week (and those who know me know that I have a large practice, which works for me because I also have a large amount of energy) to my 3½ days per week, and use the other half of the week to take care of my social, rest, and life maintenance needs, I will burn out. No matter how much energy I start with.
So when it comes to abundance, the career choice doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you enjoy what you do, do it well, and then put it down and play. We all know – and even do therapy with – the workaholics who not only burn the midnight oil, but don’t ever turn the lights out or bother sleeping much. They suffer, their relationships suffer, and even their work suffers. That’s not abundance. That’s addiction.
Sometimes managing something you love can be the hardest thing – just because you so enjoy it! Career abundance though is about taking care of you and your career so that they will both last a long time and bring you abundant happiness.
I once attended a seminar on happiness and was surprised when the presenter included learning in her list of things that can give us great joy. I knew that gave me a real high, but I didn’t think it was a biggie for most people. Most humans don’t list that as a source of happiness.
As far back as I can remember, I had felt that emotional high from learning, from the ah-ha moment of something coming together in my understanding – or even putting myself in situations where that was likely to happen, such as academia, libraries, etc. I still love to stroll around college campuses for the same reason.
I was four years old when I first walked into a public library with my grandmother. It felt like I had walked into a silent, sacred space. Walls and walls of books, of words, of delight. I was stunned and I remember vowing that I would start at one end of the shelves in the children’s section and read my way around to every book there.
As an adult, I had that same mental high when I first opened a computer to the Internet and realized it was truly an information highway. Woo-hoo! And “where do you want to go today??”
We live in that information age and we all know that there is an abundance of digital data out there waiting for the right key strokes. And we also know that finding a balance of screen time vs. real time is a struggle for many people. Like a lot of things, time on the Internet can be abused, can become an addiction.
As mammals, we are curious. As homo sapiens, we can be insatiably curious. I think we have come here – to physical reality – to learn, so it makes sense that curiosity would be part of our DNA. Our growth, our development – spiritually, mentally, emotionally – is dependent on learning. Learning what brings us happiness, how to love ourselves and others, how to have deep connections w/others, and a myriad of other studies.
But managing that drive to learn in an age that makes it easy to go on that journey, and have it become a time sink, is the hard part. Ah, there’s that word again – balance. To learn how to learn.
I’ve saved the best for last because having abundance in all of the above ways is what adds up to happiness.
But that doesn’t mean that having happiness in abundance needn’t be discussed. Au contraire. I have found that one of the things, if not the biggest thing, that people struggle with is allowing an abundance of joy, of happiness in their lives. We can be masters of tuning it down, turning it off, running from it. We’ve all done it. We’re so much more comfortable, meaning familiar, with fear, struggle, finishing one more thing … that we put off just enjoying. As in smelling the roses, playing with our kids, finding time to make love.
If the absence of pain is an indicator of health in the body, then the presence of joy is an indicator of health in the mind.
Some researchers think we have a set point – determined by nature and nurture – for happiness. I think that’s very likely, but given what we now know about the brain’s plasticity, that “set point” is really not set forever either. We can adjust it – open wider the windows of happiness and let a lot more in. But we have to make that choice.
Why wouldn’t we choose happiness? We might not trust it, we might think we don’t deserve so much joy, or that we will have to pay a price for an “excess” or abundant amount of it, or that others will be jealous of us if we’re happy most of the time. And yet we are drawn to it. We can’t help but smile at a child’s giggle, a pet’s antics, a beautiful full moon or sunset. It’s also in our DNA. So we will give ourselves those little snatches of happiness and then get back to “reality.”
How about a different reality? One where happiness is abundant. Try something. Watch how long you allow happiness in your day, in an hour. And what devices you use to turn it off. Be conscious of how you do that. And then see if you can choose to bring yourself back to happiness – to live in it, to marinate in it.
And if right now you are thinking, well, no one can be happy all the time… Yes, life happens and that means difficult things happen. But do you stay in the struggle, or find your way back to happiness as soon as possible? Where do you choose to live? Why not choose to live in joy?
Next Month: Abundance 301: “Money, money, money – the financial side of abundance.”