Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mindful Debt Restructuring

As the global recession continues on, a running theme seems to be emerging with a lot of my clients in therapy. After having suffered through the trials of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, a lot of them feel entitled to live a life of abandon. Becoming so intimately close to the First Noble Truth, that suffering is ubiquitious, they feel the need to seek out happiness at every turn.

This is all well and good. In many ways of looking at it, the Buddha himself advised that in the face of universal suffering, the search for happiness was the only alternative. However, the happiness that the Buddha taught, and that has been spoken of by many other teachers, was not based on pleasure, materialism or empty kicks. Instead, happiness was a side-effect of cultivating a compassionate and mindful life.

In contrast, as a society we seem to confuse happiness with pleasure. If it feels good, surely it must bring us happiness, right? And deep happiness can be reached by piling on fleeting joys, no matter what the cost, right? For many of my clients, the recession has responded with a resounding "NO!". People who chase Shiny New Things-- eat at the priciest restaurants, shop at the fanciest stores, drive the newest cars-- seem to be waking up from the intoxicating dream of materialistic pleasures into the hard reality of the First Noble Truth: you can't run from suffering by chasing pleasures you can't spiritually or financially afford. The debt will swallow you up.

The antidote to the First Noble Truth begins in a much simpler place that doesn't accept credit cards. That place is the Now. It's in front of you; you don't need to go anywhere. You don't need to make a reservation. You don't need a receipt in case you change your mind and decide it's too expensive.

The Now, this spacious, precious moment, is free and is the seed of true freedom and deep happiness. Begin now; watch your mind as it dances. Feel your breath rise and fall. Feel your skin settling around your body. Feel your exhalation spreading unconditional, universal compassion to your living space, paying special attention to sending unconditional love to your adversaries. This will set you free.

This is the Now. It's what we fight so hard to protect but lose so easily chasing shiny reminders of what it can feel like.

Ask yourself: Where will you be in 5 years if you keep consuming Shiny New Things? Does the happiness of consumption build on itself, growing proportionately to the size of each purchase? If that were so, everyone living in a mansion would be enlightened.

How happy will you be in 5 years if you begin a daily meditation practice today? Does the happiness that meditation can bring build on itself, growing proportionately with the amount of experience you have training your mind? It would seem so.

You have at this moment the ability to walk in the footsteps of your future enlightenment.

Simplify into the present moment. It makes good financial sense, and you won't be paying it off at a high interest rate. You will, however, only be able to withdraw what you deposit.

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