The art of feeling wealthy and understanding money

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Year after year, job after job, it is the same story. Whether the salary is 70K or 150K; whether the hike is 5% or 20%, one keeps complaining how she deserved more. Is there a number that makes you feel safe? Why do we have this constant feeling of being poor?

The concept of wealth is a very subjective one that I have found evolving from one definition to another over time. Feeling wealthy and empowered has very little to do with the actual bank balance (above a minimum threshold you need for basic sustenance) but more with a clear idea of your needs. When you understand your basic needs and the extra comfort buffer you wish on top of that, anything beyond it makes you feel rich. On the other hand, earning a higher amount but not being clear about these needs will never give you a sense of fullness. You will always chase a higher salary and cut extra corners. But whatever you do, you will always find yourself poorer than someone else.

When I was working in corporate America, I earned x amount but would always think before spending and always crib when yearly appraisal happened. There was always someone else to compare with. Finance guys like bankers make more, so I felt poorer. My company did not give as much bonus as my friend’s company did, so I felt poorer. All the while, I was living in a luxury apartment and saving ample amount. Still I never felt rich. Because I had extra money, I would shop more. I would buy stuff I never used. I thought buying the next expensive thing would make me feel better but it never did.

Then, I left it all and came back to India. For two years, I took no salary and spent from my savings. It sucked to spend your savings but somehow, the independence and working on my own ventures was peaceful. So, I persisted. My concept of wealth had already shifted. I was not focusing on a number but more on my happiness and independence. I had more control over my time and could spend time on things I enjoyed. This was also a kind of wealth. My persistence paid off as my business started becoming more stable and I started drawing a salary. I was no longer digging into my savings and in fact, was starting to save again. What a delight!

Last year, I crossed another aggressive business target which gave me more room to spend. But I recognized that I was falling in the same old pattern. While I was having more to spend at my discretion, I would think twice before spending and kept feeling unfull. Fortunately, I still decided to do something I had wanted to – I decided to spend 3 months in Auroville – a place that resonated with me. I knew I could afford it and I decided to go ahead with it although the orthodox Indian in me kept nagging how I was being a spendthrift.

In Auroville, as if by the hand of destiny, I got to read about Aurobindo’s philosophy on Money. It is a small booklet that compiles what Sri Aurobindo and Mother have commented on money and concept of wealth. Great, this is what I was looking for! This is what it said about Money –

“Money is indeed one of the three forces: power, wealth, sex – that have the strongest attraction for the human ego and the Asura and are most generally misheld and misused by those who retain them. The seekers or keepers of wealth are more often possessed rather than its possessors.

You must neither turn with an ascetic shrinking from the money power, the means it gives and the objects it brings, nor cherish a rajasic attachment to them or a spirit of enslaving self-indulgence in their gratifications.

The ideal Sadhaka in this kind is one who if required to live poorly can so live and no sense of want will affect him or interfere with the full inner play of the divine consciousness and if he is required to live richly, can so live and never for a moment fall into desire or attachment to his wealth or to the things that he uses or servitude to self-indulgence or a weak bondage to the habits that the possession of riches creates.

Money belongs to the one who spends it; that is an absolute law. You may pile up money, but it doesn’t belong to you until you spend it. Then you have the merit, the glory, the joy, the pleasure of spending it!

Money is not meant to generate money; money should generate an increase in production, an improvement in the conditions of life and a progress in human consciousness. This is its true use.”

So earning or desire to earn more is not at all bad but hoarding or spending for the sake of spending on material things that you do not really need causes negative energy. Earn more so that you can be empowered to do things you really wish. Buying books to enhance your knowledge of taking a course to build a skill set or spending on traveling to explore the world are all worthy causes. This is where the importance to understand your needs comes into the picture. Discussing this topic with a friend, I came to realize that I never define my needs or that of my business. By doing this, I never know how much is enough, and how much feels abundant? So, I calculated how much I need for basic needs every month and how much extra I would like to have an option of spending on things I wish to do. If my business helps me earn more than this, I am already rich! I could simply move to a place like Auroville for 3 months – affording the expenses is one big part but isn’t this availability of my time and the freedom to make this decision actually the true wealth?

No wonder, I have never felt richer in my life. More importantly, I am learning on how to spend freely on things that matter. It is as important to know where to spend as it is to understand where not to.

Sit today and understand your needs. Save for a rainy day but do not hoard. Money is an excellent medium to pursue self growth. Use it for that instead of stashing it in a bank thinking that it will help in case your children can’t build a good life for themselves. If your children are dependent on the money you are saving, you already have bigger problems in life.

  

Announcing ‘The Meditation Journal’

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Last year, I did a personal photo essay project Tretar that I thoroughly enjoyed. It got too consuming at times but in the end, it was worth more than I could imagine. I wrote nearly 5000 words in those 24 posts. This year started on exciting notes and saw me traveling to a place I had always wanted to see – Pondicherry. What I did not anticipate was discovering the real gem – Auroville. Thanks to a Morpheus planned retreat on exploring higher consciousness, I found myself sauntering through the dusty red lanes of this very interesting town. I added couple of days extra to explore and spend some time writing. If you do not know much about Auroville, you should read about it and better yet, check it out! It is an experimental township that was created on a wasteland and harbors the philosophy of oneness as visualized by Mother (read about Sri Aurobindo and Mother) – “Auroville is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realize human unity.”

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auro-1From its organic food to spectacular architecture to the feel of community, Auroville has become one of my favorite places in India. It was in this serene environment that we began our 3 day workshop with Partho. There was no agenda and no goal. I did not even know what to expect. We entered this hall in Verite where the session was scheduled. It was a high and wide hall with magnificent windows and a big glass hole on the top that bathed the whole room with ample sunlight. The trees outside rustled and filtered the air. We took our seats on the cushions and chairs. Roughly at 9, the session started and Partho asked, ‘So what do you guys want to know?’. It was perhaps a weird way to open but it could not have been better. The whole 3 day workshop continued as a QnA after that. From 9 to 5, we just talked and talked for 3 days. I am not going to bore you with the details here but will pick up on some insightful threads in the series I intend to do for my blog this year – The Meditation Journal.

So yes, my Tretar project for 2015 is to unravel the mystery of Meditation. I am a novice at it and I shall transcribe my experiences of tackling it head-on. How far shall I go remains to be seen. My interest has been piqued since this workshop because some of the things we talked about seemed so right to me. It answered some of my questions, clarified many doubts and opened up a new direction of thought. And it also shed light upon something that has always intrigued me – How to approach Meditation? What is it? Why? How? And, I think many people have the same questions. After coming back, I further explored the topic and happened to read more on Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and even some Tibetan Buddhist approaches. I am thoroughly enjoying this exploration and I am sure other Meditation enthusiasts will too. So, if you are interested, join me in this voyage – let’s find out together if it demystifies you or is it just a hoax 🙂 Either ways, we will come out enlightened!

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Seeing Mother’s room and Aurobindo Ashram: Pondicherry visit

21 Feb 2015. I was in Auroville for a workshop and had kept one day to roam around Pondicherry. Around midnight, my Dad messaged me that it was Mother’s birthday and one of the few days in the whole year when her quarters are open for the public. I thought it was a significant coincidence and I must avail this opportunity. To my chagrin, there were no bikes available to rent because it was a darshan day. Since 7 am, I had been trying to call bike lenders but no one had anything. Around 9 am, a scooty became available due to a last minute cancelation. Stroke of luck!

Pondicherry Ashram
Pondicherry Ashram

When I reached the Ashram at noon, a long queue filled the street. Token for half an hour slots were being handed out to people when they could come for visiting Mother’s rooms. I had to return to Auroville before dark and it seemed impossible to get a token for myself on time. So, I went away for lunch. While eating, I felt a tug to go back to the Ashram and give it another try. When I reached back, the queue had doubled. I spotted the girl with whom I had chatted before leaving for lunch, she seemed ahead in the queue. I am usually a shy person who would never do a thing like this but I saw no other option. I went to her and asked politely if I could join her and her father in the queue. I expected her to give me a look. I expected the person behind to complain. Surprisingly, neither happened. She very happily let me in. I still cannot believe how sweet she was. I chatted with her and her dad for few minutes until we got our token for 5:30-6pm. I thanked Lakshmi and went to see Sri Aurobindo’s samadhi. I wasn’t familiar with his or Mother’s work until then. So, all I can say is that I was meant to visit and pay my respect there. I liked what I saw – the peaceful ambience, the lovely flowers, the quietude and the stillness.

Lakshmi and her Dad
Lakshmi and her Dad
Pondicherry beach
Pondicherry beach

I spent sometime roaming around the beach and parks. As scheduled, I returned at 5:30 and got to see the rooms and some of Mother’s and Sri Aurobindo’s personal effects. I would not claim to have felt any extraordinary vibes or visions but I do feel that it was no coincidence my being there. Since then, I have come to find out more about Sri Aurobindo and my interest is piqued. Some of the people I respect have great appreciation for his philosophy, perhaps it is time for me to explore him in greater detail. Whether it was a calling or my imagination does not matter, Pondicherry visit (and overall my exploration of Auroville on which I will write separately) was a revelation to me in more than one sense. That day started another journey.

My Pondicherry shopping
My Pondicherry shopping