As we emerge blinking from the holiday festivities, I sense a common theme among friends, family and business associates: Relief. We seem to crave a return to normalcy, or at least as normal as it gets in a world that never stops spinning. Just as I was about to put my own life back on cruise control, I came across a fascinating New York Times piece by economist and public policy leader Arthur C. Brooks. In his commentary, “Abundance Without Attachment,” Brooks describes his recent trip to India to consult with a Texas-drawling swami named Gnanmunidas (who happens to hail from Houston).
“Swami, is economic prosperity a good or bad thing?” Brooks asked.
He was surprised when the respected monk, who is prohibited from even touching money, replied that it was good. “It has saved millions of people in my country from starvation,” said Gnanmunidas. “There is nothing wrong with money, dude. The problem in life is attachment to money.”
The swami’s simple, but profound observation is worth savoring as we swing back into our daily routines. Brooks offers three concepts for helping us do so, along with his reflections on the same. I thought it would be a helpful exercise to think through these same ideas with respect to my own life, and how I can add more meaning every day.
“Collect experiences, not things.”
My sons will ask me what I want for Christmas. In the past, I usually gave them a list of books. This year, I asked for them to plan a day in New York City for the four of us. As they mature and spend more time away from home, I treasure the together-time that remains and realize it’s what I will remember the most as time marches on. My mom always warned me that time moves more quickly as you age, and she was so right. Weren’t they just little boys a few moments ago? Now I get on tip toes to hug them
“Steer clear of excessive usefulness.”
“Countless studies show that doing things for their own sake — as opposed to things that are merely a means to achieve something else — makes for mindfulness and joy.” This is a reminder to slow down and savor each moment of my journey, not just the destination. To pause, breathe and focus on just one thing. My meditation practice is a big help here; this year my goal is thirty minutes daily, rain or shine.
“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” — Zen proverb
“If you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.” — Anne Morrow Lindbergh
“Get to the center of the wheel.”
Brooks notes “… make sure you know what is the transcendental truth at the center of your wheel, and make that your focus.” A tool that complements this thought is the “Wheel of Life.” Tim Maurer of The BAM Alliance explains, “you rate your satisfaction with each of the nine regions of life listed on the wheel [family, health, leisure, learning, inner growth, home, community, work, finances]. Your level of satisfaction can range from zero to 10—10 being the highest. Plot a dot corresponding to your rating along each spoke of the wheel. Then you connect the dots, unveiling a wheel that may — or may not — roll very well.” We use this tool with clients and I revisit this exercise every year. In 2015 I need to make time to be more physically active. My 80-year-old father and 78-year-old mother go to the gym regularly, and provide me with inspiration.
Where Is Your Abundance Found?
These are a few of my own reflections on ways I could create more abundance with less unnecessary attachments in my life. What are a few changes you might make to savor your own experiences to their fullest? Check out Brooks’ excellent article for additional inspiration, and let me know what you think.
Have you made any resolutions for 2015? Here’s the case for sticking to a one word resolution this year.