a couple of years ago

What is real wealth?

My wife and I have historically had quite different views of regarding money.

When I was in my 20s, I worked as a freelance web developer and instructor. I was in the right place at the right time. My day rate was approximately the same as my average monthly income has been over the past five years.

I was so anxious at the time, I pissed away the money I made. As an example, I purchased several very expensive mattresses in succession, decided that they were somehow toxic, and I gave them away on craigslist.

That was my life. I was hemorrhaging money.

But not as fast as I was making it.

Money surplus gave me plenty of opportunity to continue to indulge my compulsive behaviors so as to avoid facing the underlying feelings and fears.

Anyway, strangely, even having gone through all that, I didn’t learn the lesson: money isn’t real wealth. Money doesn’t equal happiness. Money doesn’t give true security.

So over the past eight years that my wife and I have been together, I have continued to hold to the idea that if only I could make enough money, my family would be happier. I’ve often viewed money as the solution to most problems. And, conversely, I’ve seen a lack of money as the cause of many challenges in our lives.

My wife, on the other hand, has often advocated for reducing our expenditures. She has made strides toward developing self-sufficiency.

In theory, I have shared her ethic: sustainable, human scale, DIY. But when under stress (and I’m easily stressed), I have frequently fallen back on my old position: money is the answer.

The reason that I’m sharing this is not to suggest that money is good or money is bad or that capitalism is good or capitalism is bad or any such thing.

The reason is this: only recently did I realize on a much deeper level that the core insight regarding the directness of direct experience (which I have written about many times over the years) is applicable to most if not all domains of life.

Here’s what I mean, using money as an example. I recently realized – and yes, I know this is a remedial insight – that money is a terribly indirect strategy for happiness. Or love. Or okayness. Or security. Or any of the other things I have used money as a strategy for.

By virtue of being indirect, it is also inefficient. And furthermore, it is often completely hopeless and flawed. In other words, in most cases it will never work. Or, put another way, no amount of money will lead to true happiness or true love or true peace.

I know that should be obvious. And maybe most readers of this blog already know this. But for me, seeing how I had continued to silo off domains of life – spiritual, psychological, somatic, achievement, financial, health, etc. – is eye-opening.

The principal of directness seems to apply to all domains. And, in fact, all domains would seem to be one, not fundamentally distinct.

Again, most readers of this blog may have already realized this. And perhaps had you asked me this a few years ago, I would have been able to see that there is no meaningful distinction between these so-called domains of life. But somehow it hadn’t sunken in as deeply as it has recently.

This principal of directness is profound and powerful. And simple.

The principal is this: Whatever I desire is best available through the most direct route possible. In other words, the quickest route to happiness is to access happiness. The quickest route to peace is to access peace.

Mediators are not really necessary. At best, they are crutches. At worst, they lead to unnecessary suffering.

Here’s what I mean. Let me give you a practical example from my life.

I rent. And thus far in my experience as a renter, renting has meant heightened insecurity (the owners could sell or decide to stop renting) and diminished self-determination (the owners may not agree to all things that I wish to do).

I want greater security and greater self-determination. And furthermore, I have the underlying belief that if I have greater security and self-determination, I’ll have greater happiness.

The means by which I have sought to solve this puzzle is…acquire more money.

In other words, I have been acting under the belief that the way to greater happiness is to acquire more money. Which is indirect and inefficient. And, by the way, doomed to fail, ultimately. Not because more money can’t buy a property title. (Because it can.) But because that’s putting the cart before the horse.

If happiness is the aim, what is the most direct route? Obviously, go right for happiness!

What stands in the way of happiness? Nothing. Happiness, or we could call it contentment or okayness, is readily available. All I have to do is cease looking for it somewhere else, stop making it conditional.

Even at the next level up, however, this same principal applies, making this a very practical principal on many levels. Because once I directly access happiness, which is the ultimate aim, I am also free to explore the next level up – in this case wanting greater security and self-determination.

What is the most direct route to security? Obviously, the most direct route is to access security. And what about self-determination? Obviously, the most direct route is to access self-determination.

This is perhaps so obvious as to cause some people to role their eyes. But at least for me, the more I welcome the profundity of this simple truth, the more it blows my mind and puts me at ease.

What stands in the way of my access to security? Only my insistence in the reality of insecurity. To the degree that I play the victim, I am giving power to insecurity, which has no power on its own. The moment that I cease doing that, it is completely evident that security is the primary reality. It is already given.

Or, if I prefer, I can see it in the inverse. Let’s say that there is only insecurity. This is also a valid way to perceive it. After all, I can never have a guarantee that anything will last But when I fully let that in, I access the security of utter insecurity. In other words, I can be completely secure that there is no security.

This is not a mind game. It’s not just some psychological babble. What I’m suggesting is ways to perceive something and open up to a reality that is primary – that contains and precedes the apparent reality of belief. Belief – such as the belief that I need to do something (like make a bunch of money) in order to be happy or okay – is limiting and divisive and blinding. What I am proposing with these inquiries is to see through the blinding beliefs to what precedes the beliefs.

And, by the way, this principal of directness also applies to the next level up. The next level up in this example is “I need to make a bunch of money”. But we could more broadly call that abundance. Money is really just symbolic of abundance.

I can apply the principal at the level of abundance. What is the most direct route to abundance? Accessing abundance directly, of course. And what stands in the way of me accessing abundance? Nothing. Only my belief that I lack can cloud the present, inalienable reality of abundance.

After all, I have air, water, sensation, experience…all in abundance. And this is perfectly clear the moment I cease to insist that I lack abundance.

I see it again and again the more I look: trying to solve problems from the top-down – starting from the assumption of separation and a hostile reality – doesn’t work. But when I start from the bottom-up and directly access the primary reality…things are much better.

Joey Lott

Joey Lott is the author of numerous books, including The Best Thing That Never Happened and The Little Book of Big Healing. He lives in southern Vermont with his wife and children.

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