Simple Things

I've never admired those
who have more than me
my lip curls with contempt
at the American obsession
with wealth and power and fame

I don't want to watch documentaries
about the painfully overprivileged few
and how they rationalize their "success"
I'll stick to reading Charles Dickens
and doting on David Copperfield

Nothing is more inspiring than
learning to celebrate what you have
especially when it may not seem like much
my sentimental heart aspires toward
Beth March in Little Women

Even in imagination wanting nothing
but the pleasant company of loving family
and just enough to keep from struggling too much
just enough money to eat and enjoy one another
the softest pleasures that dollar bills can never buy

Excessive good fortune can be a distraction
my old soul has always seen through the illusion
that big business and the finer things are prerequisites
to a fully satisfying and worthwhile existence
I have no desire for sparkling falsity

I know the diamond of my happiness cannot be obtained
it is within me, buried behind solid, black rock
my tedious task, to lovingly uncover it's brilliance bit by bit
to teach my longing heart that we've always had enough
to settle into the glistening pools of gratitude already open to me

Within all the small pleasures that I take for granted
are housed the beauty and boundless joy of life
I have no interest in material fortune and wealth
what I am seeking is much more complicated,
ambiguous, and tricky to obtain

Mansions, cars, and golden rings hold no value to me
I'm not impressed by yachts and private islands
instead, I bow before the gentle, simple, silent things
my spirit has always been a flightless bird that cannot help
but sing when its feathers are ruffled by the strong breeze
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Signs and Synchronicities

I go back and forth every single day. The clarity it comes to me in choppy waves.

Aloha Ke Akua – Nahko Bear (Medicine for the People)

Last month, for perhaps the first time, I truly felt like I was receiving messages from the universe. I was open to little nudges, unseen hands guiding me toward the correct path in life. I’m not usually one to believe in “signs” or “universal messages” but the way they began to pile up and manifest themselves in exactly the right moments really had me paying attention. I was in awe at the way the small suggestions and confirmations I was noticing in my daily life seemed to be telling me exactly what to do, encouraging me to make the decisions I was making. My doubt was at an all time low when it came to this type of thing. I followed with confidence, trust, and a heart open to new experiences despite the fear. The universe was on my side.

Then suddenly this past Monday, just as it appeared I had reached the pinnacle of where the universe was leading me, all the signs started to shift. Why were they saying the opposite of what they seemed to be saying a week or even a few days earlier? Had I misunderstood then? Or was I misinterpreting them now? Or had I been kidding myself the whole time, just seeing what I wanted to see? I still don’t know. I’ll never really know. All I know for sure is that I followed them both times. Even though they started to shift in the opposite direction, perhaps contradicting all I had just put so much effort into doing, I continued to follow with curiosity and faith.

To be more specific, the “signs” I thought I was seeing were all pointing me toward a new career path, telling me it was time to break out of my comfort zone and make big changes in my life. Absolutely bizarre coincidences began appearing all around me, unbelievable opportunities suddenly manifested themselves. I was seeing synchronicities everywhere. There was an electric static feeling in the air. It felt impossible to ignore.

Like I said, on Monday of this week, it all came to a head. I had an interview to be an English teacher at a local high school, and they offered me the job. I couldn’t believe it. It had all happened so fast, so miraculously. Somehow I had applied before they even posted the job online. They were so pressed to find someone before the impending school year that they were willing to work with my unconventional licensure situation. I even had exactly the right amount of time to give two weeks notice at my current job. This was the path I had been pursuing before I found myself where I am now. It seemed too perfect, too good to be true. I had to take it. Didn’t I?

That night, my excitement slowly began to wane and turn into a tangible fear. Was I really going to do this? Was this really still something I wanted? Would I be happier somewhere else simply because it offered a bit more money and the potential for more future security? I was so flooded with conflicting emotions and I felt smothered under an impossibly short deadline to decide. I didn’t like the way this pressure was affecting my ability to make a calm, informed, confident decision. It didn’t help that all the signs I looked to to reaffirm the messages I had been receiving now seemed to do a complete 180.

At the final hour, when I had accepted and told my beloved coworkers, but hadn’t yet signed a binding contract for the position, I experienced a physical sensation I had never before experienced. The only way I can describe it is utter dread. My skin was cold and clammy. There was a strange, disgusting, static pressure on the back of my neck. I couldn’t eat that evening. I could barely sleep and woke up at 3am in a complete panic attack.

That morning I let everyone know I was having second thoughts. Somehow I found myself online investigating for the millionth time the steps I’d have to move toward for complete licensure once I accepted this position. Somehow I had never noticed until then what a convoluted, expensive, intensive, seemingly impossible process I was about to commit myself to at the risk of losing everything. That was the tipping point. I decided to back out.

The sense of relief and certainty that washed over me when I changed my decision was immense. I could finally breathe again. I was so unimaginably grateful for where I am right now, the people I get to spend my days with, the work I do, the incredible, supportive family I have. I was also so grateful that I had listened to that palpable force of intuition inside of me that began screaming for my attention.

So what happened? I thought the universe was telling me to do it, but then just before I could, it told me not to. Why? Feel free to think this explanation is completely nuts, I’m sure I would have a few years ago myself. But I still think I heard the messages correctly the entire time. The universe was guiding me toward that interview and that job. I was just getting a bit ahead of myself as to the reasons why. I was not being guided there to accept the offer, or to completely change course. I was guided there to show me something important about the life I have now.

The last few months had left me feeling very unsatisfied and frankly ungrateful for where I am in life. I felt trapped in a shitty situation, doomed to a life I had never foreseen or chosen for myself. This whole experience gave me something so much more valuable than a new job, it gave me a wake up call. I LOVE the life I have now. I’m not stuck here. I WANT to be here. The universe showed me that I have other paths open to me. I can choose a different life whenever I want to. But I don’t want to.

It’s not just complacency or fear of change. It’s because I have everything I could have ever asked for, everything I never even knew was possible for me. I have a job I adore. I get to work with people I not only get along with, but who I love as dearly as my own family. For the first time in my life, I enjoy, even look forward to going to work every day. It doesn’t even feel like work. It feels like spending time with my friends. I get to laugh everyday, feel genuine joy and connection, be my true, authentic self, have lots of downtime and flexibility, caring, understanding superiors, and even beautiful rolling fields with cows and a little pond to take walks to every day. I might not be paid a lot, but it’s enough to live, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted anyway. This job gives me the only kind of wealth that truly matters: community, love, and happiness.

After this harrowing ordeal, I’ve come out of it trusting in the universe, synchronicities, and signs more than ever. I’ve learned to trust myself and the universe a lot more. If I had just kept going, ignored the new messages I was receiving in favor of continuing to follow the old ones, I would have completely destroyed my life. Not only would I have lost everything I have now, I’m certain I would have crumbled under the pressure of everything I hadn’t realized I would be taking on.

Thankfully I listened to the new, seemingly contradictory, guidance and feel happier than I have in a long time. I’m closer than ever to my friends at work. It was beyond touching to see how sad, yet supportive they were about my initial decision, and then how overjoyed they were when I changed my mind. Now more than ever I see the true value and importance of the genuine connections I’ve made here. I got to fully realize the support and love I have from my family, particularly my mother as well. My boyfriend’s mom yelled at him when he said he wanted to turn back from the career path he had chosen. My mom embraced fully whatever path I wanted to choose, assuring me that she loved and supported me no matter what. I hadn’t understood what a rare and special blessing that I had.

Now I know I’m exactly where I need to be. No matter what happens, I am so grateful for all that I have been given and get to continue to enjoy for the time being. I feel refreshed, refocused, and invigorated to be the very best I can be and emboldened to show my undying love and appreciation for the people that give my life purpose and meaning. What a journey these last few weeks have been. Everything I’ve experienced so far in life has been necessary to bring me to where I am. I wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.

The Intersection of Spirituality and Business

People who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish desires and schemes that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For love of money is the root of all of evil and some having pursued its power, fall from faith and end in sorrow.

Saint Timothy
Money and Spirituality. Group Game, Russian House #1, Jenner, 20 June 2021

Affirmations are still new territory for me. I’ve been trying to incorporate them into my life for a few months now. I have a couple apps that will generate one randomly for you every day. Although I still find the ones I come up with myself to be the most beneficial, which is to be expected. Getting back to the apps though, there are all genres of affirmations to choose from. There are affirmations for love, health, positive energy, self care, inner peace, etc. These are all beautiful and exactly what I anticipate an affirmation to feel/sound like. The ones that stand apart for me are the “financial” or “monetary” affirmations. These ones leave a bad taste in my mouth.

I’ve been seeing a lot of these types of affirmations recently. I’ve also noticed the realm of manifesting being infiltrated by similar motivations. Far be it from me to tell anyone what to do in their own spiritual or self-healing journey, but in my opinion, these money focused affirmations and manifestation efforts are ill-suited to the overall energy of any spiritual movement. Self-love, self-care, healing, personal growth, even abundance do not have anything to do with property or possessions, monetary or otherwise. The journey of the soul is not concerned with such such trivial, worldly pursuits and interests.

The idea of money and, what I perceive as, the ego’s desire for monetary wealth clash horrendously with things like affirmations, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, gratitude, etc. Yet as these practices become more and more popular, I see them being co-opted by capitalism, self-interest, and greed. I’ve heard many of the otherwise positive yogis, psychologists, life coaches, and so on that I follow attempt to justify their focus on and mild obsession with business and making money. There is a hint of defensiveness as they try to explain why they have every right to charge people for their advice and services and partner with toxic corporate advertisers. They even lay the groundwork to promote others doing the same thing.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. There is nothing wrong with starting your own business or wanting to live comfortably in life. However, these things are separate from spirituality. Trying to intertwine these opposing energies is damaging to the pure, selfless, loving nature of the spiritual practice. If you want money because you believe it will afford you safety and peace, why not skip the middle man and focus on the safety, peace, and ease that you are truly seeking? Maybe these things will come to you in the form of greater income, but money itself should never be the goal.

When it comes to the purely business side of things, I’m not exactly sure what position I hold. I don’t expect yoga teachers or life coaches to work for free. They have to make a living somehow. Even so, it has always felt dirty to me to charge for my classes. Especially charging as much as my studio does. My goal when I became a yoga teacher was not to make money. It was to give back to my community by sharing the transformational gift of yoga with as many people as I could. I had always planned to get my certification and teach for free, whether in person or online. My teachers even addressed this urge during our training in order to discourage such behavior. They framed it as if I would be cheapening the entire industry and making it harder for other teachers to make a living, which was not my intention. I guess with this in mind, I don’t think it’s unethical to charge a reasonable amount in order to support yourself, but I draw the line when people start getting rich. At that point I do really feel as though you’re taking advantage of people in a particularly egregious way. It reminds me of those awful “for profit” ministries.

In an ideal world, I think all of these spiritual teachings and services would be purely donation based. Then, those that were able could give more, while still allowing the less fortunate to have access to these ancient healing methods. I don’t know how we could make this work in practice, but the energy of this idea feels more right to me. Otherwise, I am just reminded of those awful “for profit” ministries taking advantage of people who are desperate to improve their lives. Spirituality, like traditional religions, should not be about accumulating personal wealth. It is completely antithetical to the ideas and practices being taught. As I said, I don’t know what the answer is, nor do I pretend to. I just had to speak my mind about this issue and how much it concerns me. Let me know your thoughts on this. Sometimes I feel like the only one who finds it unsettling while it appears to become more and more prominent every day.

Financial psychologist: Why it's important to ask yourself this money  question now

The History of Humans

I am easily frustrated by the many ways in which corporations and governments take advantage of average people. Advertisements sicken me. The stagnant low wages fill me with rage and resentment. The broken healthcare system in the United States is an abomination. Racism, sexism, and bigotry seem to be everywhere I look. Hypocrisy, idiocy, selfishness, etc. No matter what I shift my focus toward, I can find something unjust about the systems that support it. It can become overwhelming to be confronted by such obvious inequality and corruption every day.

While I’m not suggesting we merely accept these injustices, I am starting to realize that while things are not perfect by any means, they are a hell of a lot better than they have been in the majority of human history. I’ve been reading A Tale of Two Cities for the first time, and it is really highlighting this fact for me. Set in the 1700s the story is filled with tragic images of starving peasants and monstrous upper class tyrants. In one scene there is even a child that is run over in the street by a wealthy man’s carriage. While the father of the child is hysterical, no one seems surprised or even outraged. This is simply the treatment they’ve come to expect. The rich man feels no remorse and is actually irritated that he had to stop his carriage at all. He callously throws a coin at the dead boy’s father as if that is any type of compensation for the life of his son.

While I know this is a fictional story, I also know that it is an accurate reflection of the way things used to be. It’s a delicate line to walk between gratitude and the passionate urge to do better as a society. Of course, I’m not saying that the suffering of the lower and middle classes today don’t matter. There are real, egregious issues with our current system, but comparatively the most unfortunate among us still have it better than the majority of the population throughout history. And while that doesn’t erase our current problems, it is still something to reflect on and be grateful for.

Things are far from perfect, but I’m quite surprised and pleased by how far we’ve managed to come as a society. It really puts into perspective just how lucky I am that my biggest irritation from day to day is something as frivolous as advertisements on billboards along the highway. Oh, how the characters in that story would envy me, would quite literally kill to be in my shoes.

I’m working on finding that middle ground between gratitude and fighting for further social justice. Allowing my anger and indignation to obstruct my perspective isn’t serving anyone, least of all myself. Instead of coming from the hateful, entitled space I’m used to, I want to fight for what I believe in while also being thankful for what I do have. I want to make my voice heard, but within the context of hope and the belief that we truly can do better for ourselves and our community, rather than from a context of disgust and disappointment.

There are a lot of similarities between the elites of the past and the present, but as for the peasants and paupers (the group I would have found myself in) we have made monumental improvements. As with most things, I hold extremely high standards for my fellow humans. But placing today’s society in developed countries within the context of the societies of the past, shows that while humans are not what I hope for them to be, they could certainly be a hell of a lot worse.

What an absolute miracle it is that someone like me even has the opportunity to make a difference and have my voice heard. Some may have it better than I do, but to just imagine the luxuries I am able to take for granted is staggering. Glancing back at where we’ve come from, it’s honestly surprising we were ever able to improve things so much. There is a certain beauty and hope in that realization.

Despite my near constant complaining, at the end of the day, I am overwhelmingly grateful for the life that I have been given. Even with all the issues we are faced with today, I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. I am so fortunate. And I’d like to spend more of my energy enjoying and appreciating that fact even as I advocate for us to do even better for the many, many people who are less fortunate.

Peasants in an Interior, 1661 - Adriaen van Ostade - WikiArt.org

Love the Life You Have

You can’t love the life you live until you live the life you love.

Fortune Cookie

I read this riddle of a fortune cookie last night after dinner, and I have been pondering it ever since. I suppose there are a lot of different ways that you can interpret the message behind these words, but for me I read it as you won’t love your life until you are able to acquire the life you want to have. Not sure if that was the intended message, but I would have written instead: Love the life you live and you will live the life you love. Not a huge difference, but I think my way emphasizes more that we already have a beautiful life to be grateful for exactly where we are. The way to find happiness isn’t to make this “perfect” life of our dreams. Happiness is there waiting for us right where we are, in the life we already have. No matter what that may look like.

Ever since I was little, I found it interesting that so many people desperately wanted to be rich someday (or famous, which baffled me even more.) Imagining being rich and having the ability to throw money at all my problems and buy whatever I want whenever I want does sound fun. It’s just not really very important to me. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a million dollars, but I also have no problem accepting I’ll never have that kind of money. And as an introvert, being famous never appealed to me at all.

I guess I learned early on that buying things never brought me happiness for long. Sure there was that initial sense of satisfaction, but it quickly dissipated, leaving me right back where I was before. The most appealing part of being wealthy for me was never about what I could buy, it was more about the idea that I wouldn’t have to spend 40 hours of my week working. Now, I’m not sure I’d even quit my job if I could, because I love the people I work with and what we do so very much. So really, I don’t think being rich would change my life that much.

Whenever I sit and write down my goals and aspirations (which I do often) it always leaves me in a strange state of mind. I begin to wonder why exactly I want the things I’m listing. Sure it might sound like a cool thing to pursue, but is it even worth it? After all, I am already perfectly content with the life I have. I make enough money to live and support myself and my fur babies, and that’s all I’ve ever really wanted. I’m sure I even have enough that I could splurge on bigger purchases for myself every now and then, yet I never seem to have the desire to do so. I have what I need and that’s always been enough for me.

Still, it seems strange to not have any plans for my future, so I’ve been trying to shift the focus of the goals I make for myself. Rather than thinking about the outcome, I try to consider the process. Do I want to practice a new form of art or start a business in order to make money? Or do I think I’ll have fun along the way? If starting a podcast causes more stress than enjoyment, is that really what I want to do? I’ve lived long enough to know that white-knuckling my way through steps towards a goal, rarely results in the level of happiness that I’ve envisioned. I’d much prefer to enjoy the journey. That way whatever the ultimate outcome, I won’t feel as though it was a waste of time and effort.

Especially in America, we’re always taught to focus on the things we want rather than what we already have. The thing we don’t realize is that if we’ve taught ourselves to always be looking at what we lack, we’ll continue to find that sense of lack no matter how much we acquire or accomplish. But if we can practice being grateful for what we have now, we will always be able to feel that gratitude regardless of where we find ourselves.

Somehow it’s seen as a virtuous quality to always be striving for more. It almost makes me feel guilty for being okay staying where I am. But working with low-income, at-risk populations every day, all I can think about is how fortunate I am. It seems selfish to ask for more when I already have so much.

So my advice to anyone reading this that is struggling to find happiness in their lives is to stop focusing on what you think you want and start focusing on what you enjoy doing. If you like to write, go ahead and write. It doesn’t have to turn into a best-selling book, or anything at all. Even if it’s just one poem that no one else ever reads. And maybe you don’t even think it’s particularly good. It’s still important because it brought you happiness while you were writing it. If you want to start making YouTube videos, ask yourself this first. Are you only imagining what it might be like to be a famous YouTuber? Or do you think you’ll have a nice time coming up with videos, filming, and editing? If the latter sounds like a burden instead of something pleasant, maybe YouTube isn’t the right path for you.

Spend more time focusing on where you are right now and what might bring you pleasure in the moment instead of obsessing over where you’d like to be someday. Because no matter what your future looks like, I promise you that your happiness isn’t waiting there. Happiness lives in the present. All you’ve got to do is let it in.

The Health-Wealth Connection - Coastal Wealth Management