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How minimizing may set you free

HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU NEED?As I’m walking down the street in Encinitas, having a break between two clients, I’m reminded of how beautiful this place is. For ten years I used to live close to here and have always loved this town. The ocean in front of me, the sun glistering on the surface of the ocean water, with the golden domes of the Self-Realization Fellowship’s temple down the hill, I’m reflecting on how this amazing place became famous.

What makes this town special is the divine imprint of Paramahamsa Yogananda, who received the donation of the property by a disciple in 1935. Over the years, this once sleepy and unknown seaside village became an international pilgrimage site. What attracted me to the town at first were the quaint cottages, yoga schools, and pronounced spiritual vibe.

Now, years later I’m surrounded by multi-million dollar houses on all sides. Most of the yogis that once lived here scattered around town have fled, unable to afford the ever-rising prices. It has become a genuine yuppie town, with money from neighboring San Diego and Orange County pouring in.

It’s still incredibly beautiful here, perhaps even more beautiful than it ever was, but it saddens my heart that the once prominent spiritual atmosphere seems to have all but evaporated.

I’ve always been attracted by spiritual communities, as I have found that nothing helps us in our spiritual search more than holy company. How nice, I reflected, walking down the hill towards the ocean, would it have been to be able to buy a little place near a temple like this, and be inspired by similarly devoted fellow travelers on the path.

How come we have allowed money to become such a powerful force in society? A power that seemingly swallows divine principles, holy aspirations, and noble intentions? I’ve always tried to look upon money as a positive energy, a force that makes things possible. But when it becomes all-important and dominates every aspect of our lives perhaps we need to stop and wonder, is this best for us?

Making the change

Encinitas is a beautiful example of this tsunami-like force of money sweeping through this once predominantly spiritual enclave. You can’t really stop it and I have no illusions trying, but what we can do is have a look at our own lives and see how much of our energy is dedicated to the pursuit of money and prestige, versus how much time we allow ourselves to be with our loving family and friends, and dedicated to the pursuit of enlightened consciousness.

The main reason my wife Jenna and I have moved to the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina is to find that healthy balance. A balance between how much time and energy we are willing to spend making a living, versus pursuing higher enlightened qualities and enjoying each other’s divine companionship. We have found that just running after money and prestige cannot co-exist with living a spiritual life. Something has got to give.

No matter whether you have a lot of money or a little, the psychology behind it is largely the same. We do need it, of course, and a certain amount of energy is required trying to have enough to live comfortably. But what makes us go overboard? What makes us dedicate either too much time and energy trying to get more than we really need, or too much time trying to sustain or uphold what we already have? Obviously, not everybody is striving for more, some already have plenty. Yet these people too are tied up in money-mindedness for the simple reason that they cannot look upon themselves as divine.

This may sound strange, but what I mean by this is that what’s behind the striving, behind the appearance of wealth and success is the need to present yourself as successful. You hope to gain a position in society and an identity within yourself that fits in with the accepted norms of what a great and successful person does and looks like. The car, the house, the job, all these create a perceived identity. You feel good if that identity is recognized and accepted, and bad, very bad, if it’s compromised. The norms and values of society, others, a force outside of yourself, is now what determines your self-esteem. If instead you could see how amazing and divine you really are, you wouldn’t have to spend so much time and effort striving for more or trying to uphold a false identity.

If you look at yourself as a container that is filled with 100% energy, and in order to sustain a very high standard of living or a false identity of success, 75% of that energy is required, how much will you have left to spend on loved ones and spiritual practices?

It’s not about limiting your ability to succeed and excel, nor about limiting your safety and security, but about becoming more aware of the percentage of inner energy that you spend pursuing or maintaining it. Even more important is the realization that you are enough. You are divine, beautiful, amazing and inherently free. The task is not to find acceptance outside of yourself but to realize this brilliance within.

This realization will offer you more freedom than you could possibly imagine. Because suddenly you don’t really care what car you drive, what clothes you wear, or what kind of house you live in. What you really value is always feeling amazing on the inside. Feeling full in the bliss of internal wellbeing. The fountain is within. You care to create a beautiful environment around you and within yourself that sustains this realization.

In our new mountain cabin here in North Carolina, we now have the time to sit down and do our morning meditation, write blogs and books and enjoy each other’s company. We made it cute and cozy, have a beautiful shrine and hope to build an amazing garden, to remind us and sustain us in this spiritual quest. Where you place the emphasis of your efforts is important. If it leads to more inner peace and freedom then such effort is helpful.

We succeeded in making a conscious decision to find balance become a reality in our lives. The external circumstances of our lives are as important as the inner state of our minds. These are the two wings of a bird. Only if the external situation, i.e. making money and feeling secure, having healthy and loving relationships, are in balance, can we hope to free up sufficient energy to find peace of mind and pursue a higher state of enlightened consciousness.

Perhaps it explains the rise of the Minimalist Movement, a group of inspired individuals who have understood these same principles. They stress the importance of becoming more aware of how much we really need and to focus on the divinity inside instead.  The emphasis is to apply the minimalist principles in our lives so that an incredible return of internal energy becomes available. This allows us to have time and energy to engage in our inner world to find inner peace. Looking at it in this way we’re not really minimizing, we’re maximizing internal happiness and doing away with what stands in the way of this.

Yes, I still would love to live in a place like Encinitas, inspired by the likes of Yogananda, yet I’m eternally grateful that in North Carolina, amidst the high mountain peaks and flowing rivers, I have been able to build my own spiritual temple, my meditation cabin. We have to shape our own destiny and do it willingly and consciously. Making the right internal choices has the power to set us free to discover a tremendous inner peace unfolding.

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