(thanks for the inspiration JZ)
How much is enough? Can we ever have ENOUGH? Or is MORE always better?
Psychological studies show that beyond a certain point, more money is not necessarily better.
Many of the happiest countries in the world are materially poor (at least relative to the United States, for example). In the study above, the US ranks a relatively disappointing 15th (lower than Costa Rica and Mexico, by the way). The report strongly suggests that well-being, rather than just GDP/wealth, is at the heart of being happy. We can take this to mean that no matter how much money we have, we cannot be happy if we are not healthy. Shockingly, Japan (where I live) ranked 46th, behind Uzbekistan and Guatemala, and only one place above South Korea.
Many people I know seem gripped with fear - fear that they will never have enough; never have enough money, but also never enough time, enough love, enough respect or fame. We run around so busy in our lives, as if frantic action (or more action) was the key to having more of the things we think we want.
By working harder and harder, we actually have less and less. Maybe a bit more money, but less of everything else. Subconsciously realizing we have less of the intangibles which we know really matter (time, love, energy, health, relaxation) we panic more, and the spiral spins faster...until something bad happens...
Somehow, we are led to believe that being successful is being BUSY, when maybe it should really be the opposite. Maybe success is about having more free time to pursue the things we really feel passionate about. Maybe success is having the time and resources to learn and grow, rather than falling into bed exhausted at midnight every night, running to and from the airport on business trips to have meeting after meeting after meeting.
For many of us, the idea of contentment, being happy with what we have, is scary. It suggests we will NEVER HAVE MORE, and TV, movies, and marketing gives us enormous social pressure to believe more is always better. It's just NOT.
To Buddhists, desire/wanting ("Upadana" or "clinging") is one of the two the root causes of suffering. Particularly, this is the desire for things to be "as we want them" or for things to "stay the same" which, understanding impermanence, is impossible. To want the impossible creates an inability to accept The Truth of what IS, and leads us to fear of loss - causing us instead to cling far too tightly and become unable to experience real happiness or contentment. In short, the pain of loss is worse than the loss itself.
At the last Japan seminar, Guro Fred mentioned that we will be the first generation of people in history to have a shorter life expectancy than our parents...this is as profound as it is sad. The stress is killing us.
The CDC reports that heart disease and cancer (both linked to stress) are the leading causes of death for people in the US. More disturbing is the data showing that suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-34. This strongly suggests that the stress and pressure of trying to be "a successful adult" is more than many young people can handle.
In search of MORE, we do stupid things. In search of more money, some people break ethical/moral rules they otherwise would not. In search of more love, many people look outside their marriage or relationship rather than invest in the one they have. In search of fame/respect, we become willing to give up our self-respect, pride or dignity in the hopes that others will like us. In the search for more time, we stay up late and don't get enough sleep, indirectly causing health problems. We eat more and more every year in the search to consume and experience more, putting additional stress on our fragile bodies.
I am now almost 50 years old. I have learned not to be afraid. Martial arts taught me that. The training taught not just to be unafraid of death, it has taught me that there will be enough: I will have enough time to train; enough time to work and be productive; enough love; enough money; enough respect to feel good about myself; enough resources to help others; enough opportunities to learn and grow. I don't have enough to be wasteful or foolish, but if I am careful and consistent I will have enough to have a comfortable and contented life. Thinking about this makes me feel at peace. It can make you feel at peace, too.
The mantra "I have enough" is one of my favorites for meditation - reminding myself again and again not to be in a panic to collect more of anything than what I need to be happy.
As I told a dear friend of mine the other day,
In life we will not be judged by how much money we have or how many bottles of champagne we drank, we will be judged on how much we loved and were loved by those who matter to us; by how much compassion we showed, and how much we were able to improve the lives of others. How much we inspired and were inspired. How much passion we had. How brightly we shone; how intensely we lived. What values we had and whether or not we stayed true to them when things got tough.
Trust me, Enough in Enough. More is not necessarily better. Focus on the human things that matter most.
If you must seek more, SEEK MORE BALANCE.
See you at class.