Sunday, November 16, 2008

Scarcity and Abundance

“Ever desireless, one can see the Mystery,
Ever desiring, one can see only the Manifestations,
And the Mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding.”
Tao Te Ching

Over the pass three months we’ve been traveling all over North America, and then through parts of the Middle East, and finally we have arrived in Goa, India, where we will be teaching several yoga retreats over the next five months. It has been a very interesting transition moving from the “financial crisis” that is consuming the minds of North Americans, to observing the huge amounts of ridiculous wealth in cities like Dubai and Doha, which are drastically contrasted by the obvious poverty of the workers building these metropolises up from the sand. It was a refreshing breath of sea breeze that washed over us as we arrived in Goa, clearing the clutter and commotion of all our traveling over the past few months.

All this moving about has made me think about one of the gifts that this practice of yoga brings. A daily practice creates a space in our lives where we can sit in the silence of a moment and start to perceive ourselves more clearly. We come to the mat each day and create some stability within the chaos that surrounds.

After visiting so many different places, it seems to me that the common problem for people all over the world is that we have been conditioned to believe that scarcity is the cause of all our feelings of despair. There is a general attitude amongst the many that without obtaining some type of external object for gratification they “just won’t get no satisfaction.”

The common thought seems to be: “without this person I’ll never find love or happiness, without this possession I’ll never be contented, without this job I’ll never have security, without this experience I never feel pleasure, without being in this place, I’ll never find fulfillment.” We are stuck in this cycle of feeling excitement over the thought of the possibility of attaining something, anxiety over the idea of loosing it, and we end up angry or in total despair when we realize it has been taken away.

This is the sequence we fall into when we allow craving and aversion, attachment and dependence to rule our lives. We develop varying degrees of attachment to people, places, and things, and we start craving for what we don’t have, and feeling an aversion to what we don’t want, and this pattern produces endless amounts of pain, sorrow and suffering.

The interesting thing is that when we really stop and take a look at our attachments, we begin to realize that they are merely fantasies and stories that we’ve created in our minds, and somehow, in the process of creation, we’ve convinced ourselves that they are real and true. We’ve tricked ourselves into believing our own made up illusions about the world around us, and our role within it.

Nisargadatta Maharaj says, “As long as you identify yourself with the body-mind, you are vulnerable to sorrow and suffering.” The ego believes we are defined by “what we do, what we own, who we are friends with, who we love, who loves us back, and what others think about us.”

The truth is that no-thing can ever really bring us happiness, and no person can ever really make us feel loved, no new experience can provide lasting peace, and no place or job will bring ultimate satisfaction. We have to start to transcend the cage of our ego-mind and move beyond our limited self to experience the ‘Source of Peace,’ which is our Highest Self.

Unhappiness is a condition. It is a pattern of thinking and feeling that we’ve become addicted to, and so we continue to recreate those situations in our lives that will reinforce a subconscious believe that we don’t deserve to be content, and that happiness is something that exists outside of ourselves instead of inside.

We can start to deprogram ourselves by remembering that contentment is a choice and cheerfulness an attitude. They are not dependent upon anything outside our own mind. We can learn to eliminate feelings of despair through cultivating an attitude of non-attachment and gratitude for what we do have.

In our daily yoga practice we need to develop a habit of moving inwards, instead of running outwards to the manifestations of the material world. Chasing after postures is simply another form of craving, and reinforcing that old belief that “we are not good enough.” It is acting from a framework of scarcity again instead of recognizing the abundance that exists within.

India is a beautiful place for reminding us that it is not scarcity that creates despair. So many of the people here live off very little, and yet, they are some of the happiness, most beautiful individuals we’ve ever met. Somehow they’ve learned to see beyond the illusion of the material world, and to act outwardly while remaining firmly established in the center of peace within.

Value is not created by what we add to ourselves, the value is inherently in us, and gets realized when we can honestly see that nothing needs to be added at all, for we already have everything we need.