This morning I had a moment when I realized that despite some challenging circumstances “nothing that truly matters is lacking.”** It was like an infusion of hydration when I was parched with thirst, or an IV of nutrients when my body was functioning on just enough nourishment to keep me alive, but no more. It was an experience of abundance.
Have you ever had a moment like that? When you realized that your perception of what was lacking in your life was more fiction than truth? When you felt the deep sense of calm in the metaphorical midst of the storm, or the famine, when you knew that everything that matters is already here? That you are not alone? That there is no real lack in this moment?
I don’t mean AT ALL that we are supposed to pretend that we don’t feel pain or disappointment or loss.
And I CERTAINLY don’t think it’s our job to tell suffering people that they should just “focus on the bright side.” Empathy is usually a better path in those moments. Empathy and companionship.
But I do know that living with a deep sense of “enoughness” is way better than living with the conviction that the world is mostly about lack, about not having enough, about needing to be perfect to get enough, or needing to fight for, or manipulate other people to get it. And we can easily make a case for either version of life in pretty much any moment – whether the “enough” we’re looking for is enough money, or enough time or enough love, whatever.
But living with the “lack” version of life, doesn’t make people happy.
And guess what? Nothing has to change in your circumstances for you to live in this new place of “enough.” Mostly you just need to practice noticing and taking in what’s all around you.
I don’t think there’s a 1-2-3 step formula that gets us to this new way of seeing our lives, and the peace and happiness that comes along with the new perspective. But there are a few simple (not necessarily easy) practices that have helped me to ACTUALLY EXPERIENCE more of the abundance that already exists in my life – even when I could just as easily focus on what’s missing. So without further ado, here they are:
1) Feel what you feel. Want what you want.
This may seem like an odd place to start on a journey towards experiencing a sense that you have enough, but I think it’s a crucial one – especially for people who are trying to be good moms, good teachers and good students. Why? Because we (I say “we” I’ve been all three of these) often think our feelings and desires are bad. We tell ourselves we aren’t “supposed” to feel angry. We aren’t “supposed” to want more money (this one is especially big for spiritual and creative people and social-justice-oriented folks). We aren’t supposed to feel disappointed or shy or whatever it is. The thing is that pretending we don’t feel whatever we feel isn’t the same as not feeling it. And judging ourselves for wanting what we want doesn’t make it go away. It just goes undercover in the form of whining, or criticizing, or auto-immune diseases, or depression. Better to start where you are – you may or may not decide to act on your feeling or follow your desire, but at least let yourself feel it. Give yourself that much.
2) Stop whining and take action.
I’ll never forget the day when I, then a high school student, was rambling along about one thing or another and a good friend of mine said, “Hello, my name is Debbie whiner.” Ouch. That hurt; but it was also one of the best gifts he could have given me because it helped me to see what I was doing. Whining (or another version that Martha Beck calls “story fondling” in which we repeat stories about our pain/injury/suffering over, and over again) is method that relatively powerless people use to exert power (e.g. young children with adults). It can get us a form of caring from others, but what feels way better is finding the power to move towards what we want ourselves, finding that WE have that power. We don’t have to wait for someone else to make life better for us. And if we need/want help we can ASK for it. So if you share my tendency, stop whining (even if you do it in your head.) You have more power than you know.
3) Choose gratitude.
Feelings of gratefulness can’t be manufactured, but they can be nurtured. There’s plenty of research that shows that practicing gratitude on a regular basis can make us happier people. From my own experience, I’d say it makes us happier in large part because it helps us to see what we already have. How much we are cared for by God/Source/the Universe and other people. How much abundance there is all around us – in the flower that grows through the crack in the sidewalk, in the light of the moon, in the crazy extravagance of the ocean, in the beauty of morning sunlight on a drop of rain on a blade of grass. I’m practicing here in this lovely little journal (not an affiliate link).
I’m sure many of you have your own stories of moments when you were somehow able to shift from thinking that there wasn’t “enough” for you in the world, and then realizing you had more than you knew. I’d love to hear about it. Hit reply or leave a comment here.
Here’s to Thriving!
**By the way this quotation came from an interview I heard recently in a course I'm taking called the Art of Money. In the interview a woman who literally lost ALL of her life's savings (of which she had a lot) shared how eventually she was able to realize that this statement was true "all that truly matters is not lost."