The wind whipped up while walking with a client along the East River Promenade Sunday morning. I heard something skipping across the ground, like a leaf but crisper. I looked down and saw a $20 bill. My heart jumped with excitement. After a week of unexpected expenses, parking tickets and cancelled classes I recognized that old nag called “not enough”, tugging at my mind. Rather than indulge her I decided to focus on abundance. Every time I started to worry, I said to myself, “I always have more than enough for everything I need and want.” It didn’t always feel true but it was better than the alternative.
Seeing the $20, I thought, this is a sign of the abundance I’ve been asking for! My client shrugged. “I think it’s yours,” she said. But when I looked back and saw a woman putting on a glove, I knew the $20 had fallen from her pocket when she pulled the glove out. Slightly disappointed, I ran to the woman and asked her if she had dropped $20. At first she looked suspicious, but when she realized I was holding it out to her, her face lit up. “Oh thank you!” she exclaimed. “That’s so nice of you!” My face lit up too, in surprise that it actually felt better to give the money back than it had to find it.
As we walked on, however, a little part of me, the part that still felt impoverished, wished there was a divine bookkeeper looking down and taking note of my honesty, planning to give me a reward. Interestingly my client, who is a successful wealth manager, said, “I would have given it back too.”
We often think that weathly people get rich by hoarding their money like Ebenezer Scrooge. And while this may be true for some, many of the wealthy people I know are very generous. They give frequently to charity, they invest in new projects, and they don’t lose hope when they lose money. Most of them have an attitude of abundance.
This is true of many people who may not be considered wealthy as well. The thing that actually makes people wealthy is not how much money they have, but how they feel about it. If we feel worried all the time that we are going to lose it, that we won’t make enough or that someone- the government, an ex spouse, a thief is going to take it, we can’t enjoy it anyway. This is like holding our breath, hoping that will make it easier to breathe. When we hoard, we stagnant the natural flow of life force energy. Perhaps we stop some of it from leaving, but we certainly prevent more from flowing in. One of the first precepts of yoga is Aparigraha- non-hoarding. This is a crucial aspect of our yoga practice, because hoarding blocks our energy, while generosity allows it to flow.
In an article by Judith Fertig, entitled True Wealth, she quotes several wealth experts who agree that true wealth comes not from having more money, but from feeling that we have enough time and that we are healthy enough to enjoy our lives, that we have satisfying work and relationships, and a strong sense of community.
When taking inventory of my own wealth from these criteria, I feel like Warren Buffet! When we let go of the deprivation model around money, we let go of the feeling of not having enough in life. And when we truly release this- abundance can flow to us in the form of friendship, love, rewarding work, vibrant health, and strong communities. When we invest in these sources of abundance we raise everyone else around us up as well. This allows us to let go of the notion that wealth means having more than the family next door. What if wealth actually means sharing Sunday dinners with the family next door?
At this time of year we often express gratitude for this things we have, but perhaps we could express gratitude for what we don ‘t have. Maybe we don’t have a new car, but we get to work at home on Fridays allowing us to spend our commuting time playing with our kids. Sometimes what we don’t have is evidence of something even better that we do have.
When we got back to my client’s apartment, she gave me a new pair of Lululemon pants that were the wrong size for her, but just happened to fit me. My next client gave me $20 cash that I didn’t even know she owed me and a student in my final class of the day brought me a lovely little gift. So maybe that divine bookkeeper is real after all.
Later that night on Oprah’s Master Class, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, said that the day he started wrestling he had $7 to his name, but it was enough to get him from where he was to the next place he needed to be. Trusting life, he said, he has made all of his dreams come true. He closed the interview with tears in his eyes, (I was obviously crying too!) saying the thing that makes him feel most successful is not fame or fortune. It is that his 13-year-old daughter trusts him and truly values their relationship. Real abundance means that we can receive with gratitude, give generously and lose with grace. True wealth means trusting that there is enough- enough money, enough joy, and enough love to go around. If love is powerful enough to make “The Rock” cry, it must be pretty strong currency.