Read an Excerpt
Creating True Prosperity
By Shakti Gawain
New World LibraryCopyright © 1997 Shakti Gawain
All rights reserved.
What Is Prosperity?
Most of us think that being prosperous means having plenty of money. So how much is plenty? Some people have a fairly clear idea of how much money would make them feel prosperous. "If I earned twice as much as I do now, I would be prosperous," or "If I earned as much as ____ (a specific person they know), I'd feel prosperous," or "Prosperity means being a millionaire," or "Winning the lottery would definitely make me prosperous."
Others define prosperity in a less specific way, something along these lines: "Prosperity would mean having enough money to feel secure about my future," or "Prosperity would be having enough money to do what I want, to have the things I want, and to not feel limited by money concerns. A prosperous person doesn't have to worry about money." In other words, prosperity is a kind of freedom to be, do, and have what you really want, without much limitation.
Most of us yearn for this kind of liberation from money cares and worries. We think that if only we could somehow earn, inherit, win, beg, borrow, or steal enough money to be prosperous, our financial worries would be over, and the money would probably solve many of our other problems as well!
The question is, how much is enough money to bring us prosperity? Some people have a specific amount in mind they feel would do the trick; others just assume there must be some amount that would work.
Yet the sad fact is that most of us do not experience prosperity no matter how much money we earn or have.
It's easy to see why we don't feel prosperous if we make very little money and have to struggle just to meet our basic needs.
It's also easy to understand why we don't feel prosperous if we have a moderate income but also have a lot of financial responsibilities: a family to support, a mortgage to pay, and so on.
Yet many people make a considerable amount of money and still do not experience prosperity. Somehow, when our income increases, our level of financial responsibility rises right along with it. The money goes out as fast as it comes in, and we find ourselves under more pressure to manage it all.
I recently read an article about one of the most successful movie stars in Hollywood. The interviewer asked him how it feels to earn several million dollars per movie. He responded, "Well you know, a million dollars doesn't go as far as it used to." Clearly this man was not feeling very prosperous despite what most of us would consider great wealth.
There are often anxieties that accompany having a lot of money: "How do I invest it? How do I manage it? What if I lose it? What if I do something stupid and it all goes down the drain?" We seem to work longer and harder and yet find ourselves missing many important aspects of life — relaxation, intimacy, spiritual connection, fun.
Oddly enough, many wealthy and successful people, especially as they reach middle age or older, find themselves yearning for the kind of simplicity they had earlier in their lives, when they had less money, fewer needs, and more time.
People to whom wealth has come easily, or not necessarily as a result of their own hard work, often experience other pitfalls. Someone who has inherited money, had a lucky break, married a wealthy person, become an overnight success (as with certain actors or musicians), or won the lottery has his or her own set of problems. These may include a lack of self-worth or personal power, inability to manage the money wisely or responsibly (often resulting in losing it), or feeling indebted to or controlled by the source of the money. These people may feel their lives lack direction, meaning, and satisfaction, or feel the tendency to overindulge themselves to the point of self-destruction.
And there are the reactions of others. Do they genuinely like you or are they just impressed by your wealth? Do they love you for yourself, or do they just want what you can give them? These questions can loom large when you have a lot of money. As you can see, things can disrupt the experience of prosperity at every level of financial wealth.
If you have never been wealthy, it maybe difficult to believe or accept that having more money will not automatically make you feel prosperous. Yet you probably know or have met someone who's in this exact predicament — they have more money than you, but they are far from enjoying it. They are unhappy, uptight, and obviously don't feel prosperous. I'm thinking of the brother of one of my best friends who is a successful Madison Avenue executive with a huge salary. Unfortunately he and his family are very unhappy people, always quarreling about their conflicting needs.
I've read many articles about extremely wealthy individuals — multimillionaires or billionaires — who seem intensely driven by the desire to make more and more money. Why? Once you have many millions, how could it matter whether you make another million or two? They don't seem able to enjoy the vast amount of wealth they've created, or able to put it to constructive use. They are obsessed with making more.
At every level of wealth, from the poorest to the richest, there are problems and pitfalls.
When we have very little money, we fear for our very survival. Life is an intense struggle just to take care of basic necessities. We have little opportunity to develop our talents and interests. We feel powerless and perhaps resentful when we see others with more opportunities and luxuries.
As we earn more, we almost inevitably take on more expenses. Life becomes more complex and stressful with so many choices to make. The more successful we become, the harder it can be to sort out our priorities. The more money we have, the more power and responsibility we have to deal with.
When we have wealth, we have to manage it successfully. We become afraid to make mistakes or be taken advantage of. We may be constantly approached by others who want something from us. We have to either face or deny the problem of guilt — "Why should I have so much when others have so little?"
On top of all that, wealth does not guarantee security. There is always the possibility of losing a fortune through bad investment, mismanagement, a lawsuit, a worldwide financial depression, or some other unforeseen calamity. Even a high degree of financial stability cannot bring emotional security. One reason some people continue to pursue money compulsively, even when they have a great deal, is that no amount will ever make them feel secure or powerful.
Having more money, then, does not necessarily bring fewer problems, greater freedom, or security. The truth is, prosperity has less to do with money than most of us believe.
So, what is prosperity?
Prosperity is the experience of having plenty of what we truly need and want in life, material and otherwise.
The key point to understand is that prosperity is an internal experience, not an external state, and it is an experience that is not tied to having a certain amount of money. While prosperity is in some ways related to money, it is not caused by money. While no amount of financial wealth can guarantee an experience of prosperity, it is possible to experience prosperity at almost any level of income, except when we are unable to meet our basic physical needs.
Problems exist at every level of income. Prosperity can exist at every level, too.
If we think that money has the power to bring us prosperity, we give away our personal power to money. When we give our power away to anyone or anything, we ultimately feel controlled by that person or thing. So, in order not to feel controlled, and therefore limited, by how much money we have or don't have, we must keep our sense of inner power.
We fixate on money because we see it as the means to obtaining the things we really want. Often, we forget that it is only the means, and it gradually becomes the goal. In the pursuit of money, we lose sight of the end we truly desire — what we hope money can buy us. In order to create real prosperity, we need to bring our focus back to discovering what it is we truly want.
If prosperity is the experience of having plenty of what we truly need and want, then in order to experience it, we must do three things:
1. Discover what we truly need and want.
2. Develop the ability to bring those things into our lives.
3. Recognize, appreciate, and enjoy what we have.
Depending on how successful we are with these three steps, we will experience prosperity at any level of financial wealth.
Every one of us is born into this life with the innate power to make our contribution and to create fulfillment for ourselves. However, this power needs to be developed. Most of us have been wounded during the course of our lives in ways that cause us to doubt or deny our own true power. Feeling somewhat helpless to meet our own needs, we repress them. So most of us go through life unconscious of our own real needs and desires.
Deep inside, we feel great yearning, but we don't know exactly what it's for. So we focus on external things — a bigger house, a better job, a relationship — hoping they will bring us satisfaction. Some of them do and some don't, depending on how closely they match what we really want. Ultimately, we don't find lasting satisfaction until we consciously acknowledge our true needs and desires, and learn how to fulfill them.
Start your process of creating greater prosperity in your life by thinking deeply about what you truly want. What is most important to you? What do you need on each of these levels: spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical?
Take time to acknowledge the prosperity you already have. How many of your needs and desires are already being met? Most of us have considerable prosperity in our lives. Often, we are so busy pursuing our unmet desires that we are unable to enjoy all that we already have. Allowing ourselves to really appreciate the prosperity we have created is a big step toward opening to even greater fulfillment.
Remember that creating true prosperity does not necessarily mean having more. Many of us are in the predicament of having too much. If we have too many things we don't truly need or want, our lives become overly complicated. This can seriously undermine our experience of prosperity. For many of us, creating true prosperity involves simplifying our lives by clarifying our priorities and letting go of things that we no longer need or that don't bring us real satisfaction. This is especially true for many of us as we reach middle age or older years.
Also keep in mind that we do not exist in a vacuum. Our personal experience of prosperity is inextricably linked with our collective prosperity. Using most of the world's natural resources to provide a small percentage of the world's population with material wealth, and leaving the earth depleted and polluted for future generations is the antithesis of real prosperity. This situation is a reflection of the healing that we need to do individually and collectively.
True prosperity develops as we learn to follow our hearts' true desires and live in balance with ourselves. As we develop this kind of internal integration, we naturally live in greater harmony with others and with the natural world. The greatest personal prosperity can only be experienced in a healthy and prosperous world.
Money And Prosperity
If prosperity isn't caused by money, what is the relationship between money and prosperity?
It is actually possible, under certain circumstances, to experience great prosperity with no money at all. Imagine living in a beautiful natural environment, building your own home, growing your own food, trading your skills for things you need, engaged in work you love, surrounded by family and community.
Indigenous peoples of the world may have experienced this kind of prosperity, at least intermittently, for many thousands of years. Perhaps some of our more fortunate ancestors may have enjoyed this type of prosperity. Even today, some people live more or less this way, with minimal need for money.
In the modern world, however, most of us choose a lifestyle in which we must deal with money. Therefore our prosperity is related to money in certain ways. For most of us, money plays a part in the process of creating what we want. Our finances are one aspect of our prosperity.
I would define true financial prosperity in this way: Having a relationship with money that supports and enhances our overall experience of prosperity.
In order to create true financial prosperity, it is important to understand what money is and isn't, and to learn to relate to it in a balanced and effective way.
In the next chapter, we will explore some popular viewpoints on money and prosperity.CHAPTER 2
Three Viewpoints on Prosperity
There are three common approaches to money and prosperity:
From the materialistic viewpoint, we believe that the physical, material world is what is real and important, and that our satisfaction and fulfillment comes from what is around us. Our focus is completely external. Money is the key to getting what we want in the physical realm. In order to find success and happiness, we try to make a lot of money so we can have the things we want and affect the world in the way we desire.
This view is probably held by a majority of people in the world today. Certainly most of the people in the Western industrialized world and, perhaps unfortunately, an increasing number of people in developing countries hold this perception. Most of us have either attempted to live this approach, or have rebelled against society's preoccupation with material possessions and financial wealth.
Transcendent Spiritual Viewpoint
The transcendent spiritual viewpoint of money and prosperity is taken from the transcendent religions of both the East and the West. It is more or less opposite to the materialistic point of view.
The Western transcendent spiritual traditions tell us that the material world is essentially a place of temptation, sin, and suffering, which we must pass through in order to reach a better place — the spiritual realm — after death. The Eastern transcendent traditions teach us that the material world is merely an illusion. The goal is to "wake up" and move beyond the limitation of physical form. Either way, the physical realm is viewed as a prison, a limitation, something to move beyond.
In this approach, truly dedicated spiritual seekers renounce the world and attempt to let go of their attachment to things, in particular money and material possessions. In both the East and West, the most devoted seekers take vows of poverty and give up all but the most simple and basic possessions. They trust that God will provide for them through the mother church or through the people to whom they minister and serve. They attempt, with varying degrees of success, to transcend their own needs and desires for material comfort, security, power, sexuality, and so on.
According to this philosophy, fulfillment comes from the spiritual plane. Prosperity is a richness of spiritual experience. The focus is completely internal. The material world is seen as a seduction away from spirit. We should remove ourselves as much as possible from worldly matters. We should minimize our needs on the physical level, and the emotional level as well. Prosperity comes from simplifying our needs and looking toward our spiritual connection for gratification. Physical poverty can bring spiritual prosperity.
In the materialistic approach, the strategy for creating prosperity is "have more." The more you have, the happier you'll be. In the transcendent spiritual approach, the strategy for prosperity is "need less." The less you need, the happier you'll be.
New Age Viewpoint
Another philosophy is very popular in New Age circles. In this approach, we recognize that the external world is the reflection of our inner world, that the physical realm mirrors our consciousness. "Our life reflects our thoughts" is the popular saying. If we begin to take responsibility for changing our thoughts, our experience of reality will change accordingly.
From this viewpoint, we live in a spiritual universe of infinite abundance. We are limited only by our own thoughts and beliefs about reality. Money is a reflection of our consciousness, and our experience with money is our own creation. Any problems we have with money or prosperity are a reflection of our negative thoughts and our belief in limitation. Unlimited wealth is available if we become willing to acquire it and change our thinking accordingly. We can use techniques such as positive affirmations and various forms of meditation or prayer to help us change our thoughts so that we can open up to the infinite plenty that is our spiritual birthright.
Excerpted from Creating True Prosperity by Shakti Gawain. Copyright © 1997 Shakti Gawain. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.