The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered:
Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.
The Dalai Lama, referring to humanity in this quote, definitely touches something close at heart for me. Since returning from abroad last month, I find myself pulled towards this idea of earning money. Of course there is nothing negative or wrong about earning money, yet for many of us this can become end in itself, rather than a means. When it becomes an end to itself, you can easily sacrifice your health (not just physical, but mental, emotional and so on), as well as creating the conditions to not really live in the present, living from the past and fearing the future.
First, let me address the obvious response to what I’m saying: “That would be great if I didn’t need to earn money, yet I have a mortgage, kids, and have to eat somehow”
Clearly one needs to support oneself and honor their commitments to their loved ones. Yet you can still ask yourself, is the work you do fulfilling beyond its ability to earn money to meet these commitments? I’m extremely fortunate in this time to have the ability to support myself and my partner on savings. This won’t last indefinitely, but at the present time this allows me to really ask myself, what kind of work do I want to do?
My first few days back in the United States were very difficult. I felt a collective energy towards being productive, towards contributing towards the greater good, whatever that is. I felt a heavy anxiety, thinking it would not be a good idea to live off of investments and savings, that I should keep the piggy bank full. This feeling lasted for several days – until at one point during a meditation, I observed it drop away. It wasn’t really my anxiety – it was the collective anxiety, the anxiety that first tells us that we need to earn money no matter what, and second, that we should subtly encourage others – our friends, children and colleagues that they should too, because it justifies our behavior.
This is completely new territory for me right now. My ego craves a career, to be able to label myself as xyz, to have a defined place in society. Yet when I deeply look into my values, the vows I’ve made to myself, they don’t align with this movement of the ego. My values involve seeing deeply into the nature of self, strengthening my relationships, nurturing my health and the health of the planet. On a daily basis I find myself confronted with my own patience and resolve in sticking to my values, rather than conforming to that which society and others suggest. Even my closest friends, those who have a sense of what I’m about and what I’m doing subtly challenge me – because whenever you live in atypical fashion, it in a way is forcing those close to you to question what they are doing to. For those unused to actually looking at themselves, this might not be easy.
I am no exception to the human behavior of seeking justification for my actions. Isn’t writing this post or some of the others I’ve written recently doing exactly this? This moves into a another territory of discussion around standing upright in the world, resting in your own certainty and trust. This is a real focus for me – trusting in nothing outside, carefully listening to my heart and my deepest longing, cultivating a profound faith and patience that everything is at it should be.