Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Tao of Abundance - Laurence G. Boldt

This wonderful book was gifted by Suresh after I posed him questions concerning my unclear relationship with  money. Written by Lauren G. Boldt, writer and career consultant, the book needs slow and careful reading to ponder and comprehend. I read it twice, making notes the second time around. The book dwells on eight ancient principles for abundant living. I will try to limit myself to the understanding and application of the same. I will also use quotes and reproduce excerpts to convey the essence.

Some basic Taoist principles and ideas of the universe and us.
It's not the world that is insufficient - it's the way to relate to it, to one another, and to the deepest parts of ourselves. The world is a naturally abundant place. Appreciate leisure and beauty in the simple things in life. Value humility, naturalness, and spontaneity.

The fundamental principle is that the universe is you and for you. Be in the way of the universe and it will take care of you abundantly.

Become aware of the inner process through which you create an experience of lack and struggle and refrain from it. A feeling of abundance and gratitude is natural. Be aware of resistance. The system is the ego. A feeling of separation. Incompleteness. Attachments. Struggle. Approval. Envy. Greed.

A psychology of abundance flows naturally. The Taoist advocates oneness with all life, to live in harmony with it and its cycles.To respect our humanity over any outer goal or reward.

 There are 3 tasks on journey to life of total abundance
1) Recognise the inner and outer forces that conspire to make us believe in scarcity and thus to feel lack

2) Cultivate a spirit of abundance in our lives, celebrate the gift of life with joy and thanksgiving. Focus our thoughts on things that bring a feeling of connection with all life

3) Become a liberating and empowering  force in the lives of those we interact with

To embrace all is to be selfless - Lao Tzu

To the mind that is still the whole universe surrenders. - Lieh Tzu

On Lack
The author says that we have to accept responsibility for creating our experience of abundance or lack. He also points out that money is not everything - you are greater. The questions that one needs to ask about money are - 1) how much do you need and 2) what is it going to cost you to get it.

How we create lack
Sense of separation (the ego) from the whole, causes a sense of lack (contraction, incompleteness). This causes a need for attachments. Attachments cause a perceived need to defend and expand and create struggle. Struggle creates resentment, ingratitude and withholding. It stops the flow.

The 8 Principles
1) The Nameless Tao, Wu-ming - The Unity of all things
2) The Nature of Abundance, Tzu-jan - Learning to receive opens the door
3) The Ease of Abundance, Wu wei - Follow the path of least resistance
4) The Flow of Abundance, Chi - Circulating the energy in your life
5) The Power of Abundance, Te - Honoring your innate dignity and actualising your inborn ability
6) The Harmony of Abundance, Yin/Yang - Balancing yin and yang and eliminating stress
7) The Leisure of Abundance, Jen - Taking time to grow, nurture yourselves
8) The Beauty of Abundance, Li - Achieving your destiny is a matter of trusting and embracing the organic pattern

1) The Unity of Tao
The art of abundance is the art of knowing how to live. According to the Taoists abundance is based on the realisation of a natural state of abundance. The ego's insistence on separation cuts us off from this natural state of abundance. When we  realise that we are part of the whole and the whole is represented in us, that all good and bad, all of the whole is in us; once we accept that, it is easy to be in unity with the universe, to flow.

The ego wants us to possess. To compare. But is it possible to use all things without lack-inducing feeling of possession. That is real abundance.

Trust in the innate intelligence of the universe. The universe is you. You must let go of control in order to find real control. There is an overarching intelligence within the universe and there is a means within human beings of accessing or becoming conscious of this intelligence. Trust people to be people and accept the totality as basically good. Trust and surrender (of control) are the keys that open the doors.

This is not a world that has been made. There is no maker or Creator God. Nature is of itself so. Things are not made from outside but expand from within. We come from the earth and return to it. The mountains are not obstacles but lift us higher. We must understand that we are one. There is nothing wholly apart or other. All are interrelated. Not to determine that 'this' and 'that' as opposites is the key essence of Tao. Ego is the propensity to separate consciousness.

Abundance is the feeling of enough, and to spare. To be fully alive, free of any sense of lack or desperation. Knowing how to live!

"Stop analysing, making distinctions between one thing and another. Similarly see that you are the center of the universe and accept all things and beings as part of your infinite body." - Lao Tzu

We must stop doing and let the universe do us.

Whatever we focus our attention on, expands in our lives.

The dilemma - We require our ego to function as social beings and yet the ego puts us int an experience of separation, isolation and conflict.

The 3 eyes to the world
Dharma eye - the world as separate things
Wisdom eye - thoughtless being and seeing the world as undifferentiated beings
Buddha eye - seeing the world from form and emptiness

To integrate the ego - if we view the earth as a living being we can appreciate and receive its gifts of nature with genuine joy and appreciation. We are free to move in a world of plenty. The key is psychological disengagement from the concept of ownership.

Why money at all? Two motives that bring happiness are 1) pure enjoyment of money and 2) being of service to others

In your original nature, you are one with everything; in your human nature, you are a social being; therefore being yourself means being helpful to others. To deny this desire its fullest expression is to go against your nature.
The test of any desire is -  does it make you feel more isolated or more connected to life?

The essence as I got it:
Knowing that we are all connected, that the universe is for us, all we need to do is trust and let go of control. There is an abundant world that is ours without needing to possess it. One we realise that abundance is the true nature of the universe and that we are the universe, that we are all interconnected we'll never experience lack.

2) The Nature of Abundance
It is the nature / receptivity of the Tao. This principle looks at developing our innate receptive capacities to bring in abundance.

Receptivity brings a feeling of participation in life and a sense of gratitude for it, an openness to creative ideas and inspiration, a spontaneous joy and zest for life, an expression of love. We can only respond spontaneously when our receptive capacities are open.

Giving provides ego gratification. When we are giving we are in control in a way that we are not when receiving. Receiving requires a humility and letting go that can make us feel uncomfortable. Ability to receive is as important as ability to give.

When we allow ourselves to open and receive, giving takes care of itself. Genuine giving is always and only the result of having first received. When we first receive, our giving is without effort. without ego.

Intend to receive. Being receptive is an ability to be one with. Become one with what you want. Don't separate yourself. Don't block your understanding by struggling to figure things.

We cannot demand, earn or negotiate love. We can only open to receive the love that is the Universe.

Remember that the useful part of the pot is the empty space.

No good and bad. Love god and do as you please. We resort to 'goodness' and righteousness' when we lose real love. we resort to 'filial piety'.

Love is superior to any ethical code.

Genuine receptivity requires and almost child like innocence. Ego is an artificial boundary in a world of interconnectedness. Attachment is not physical but a mental, emotional string. Engage with the world.

The degree to which you're free of unconscious associative attachment is the degree to which you can concentrate your attention.

Meditate on bamboo for ten years, become bamboo and then paint yourself.

Path to spontaneity through concentration. Absorption or merge consciousness is the state of being so completely absorbed in an object, experience or an event that all sense of time, self, space is lost.

The way of Tzu-jan means following our nature in each and every moment, however politically correct or incorrect we may appear to be.

Often we limit our capacity to receive by confusing the roles that we ourselves play with the roles of who we really are. As our receptivity diminishes, so does our sensitivity.

Keys to loving relationship - never to forget what we receive from the other is truly a gift

Noting must happen before you receive
Limiting beliefs. To overcome attachment, be aware. Awareness transforms. Mindfulness - being fully conscious helps. Intervention - mentally replace agitative thoughts.

There is no abundance or lack, no separation or unity. We have become the universe and all its treasures are ours.

Stilling the mind is the purpose of meditation. When we are still we are at one with the natural intelligence of the universe. Intuitive. allow yourselves to be guided by the intelligence of the universe.

First receive. Then give. Be, then do.

Discard old grudges and grievances, old ways of doing things, old ways of relating, old things, old limiting beliefs. Law of vacuum - nature abhors a vacuum.

The essence as I got it:
This principle is brilliant. Having accepted the unity of all things and that we are part of the whole, we must open ourselves to receiving from the universe. Receiving is as important as giving. When we are empty we can be spontaneous. We can give genuinely, spontaneously. True giving is giving from the space of having received already. Open yourself to receive. Create the space to receive by discarding old stuff. Be empty.

3) The Ease of Abundance
Use what is naturally useful, do what you spontaneously can do - this is the most easy matter of non action. When you are in accordance with the principle of non action, your life cannot but be perfect. -
 Chuang Tzu

Abundant living has an easy and effortless quality to it if you're one with the process that is the universe. If you have opened and received the bounteous gifts of life, you are free to live with ease in a work you feel at home in. Follow the path of least resistance.

We are normally creative beings. When you are open to natural intelligence, act freely in an unforced and effortless manner. Unforced action is about using least amount of energy and not mere passivity or avoidance. It is receptivity in action. Effortless action assumes the capacity to open and receive and then seeing the essence of things and their principles. Action in harmony with the intelligence of the Universe.
Effortless action is fluid spontaneous action arising from emptiness. A man of perfect virtue has not thoughts, no action, no anxiety. Anxiety arises from attachments which are thoughts.
Free of ulterior motive, non action, not laziness or passion

 Being at ease is about the center of the circle - be still. In stillness there is clarity.

If nothing within you stays rigid
Outward things will dissolve themselves

Young and growing things are soft, supple and yielding
Old dying things are hard, brittle and rigid

Preconceived notions - acceptance
We-wei, unforced action, is letting things come to us. Letting things become us. Move like water. Let things be as they are and at the same time transform them.

'The leader leads by embracing and effortlessly guiding forces of human nature. She doesn't differentiate between right and wrong and lets people be as they  are. There is no position to defend, no opinion to ram down. Lead without leading. Direct the attention and action of others but they do not feel forced to go the way.'

Make money like the bees - who do not hurt the flower - Pali Canon

To be free of anxiety is to be without thoughts when still, and without anxiety when in action. When our minds are fully aware and wake, yet fluid and relaxed, our actions have a simplicity and clarity to them. We are capable of spontaneous, decisive action.

Tao abides in non action
Yet nothing is left undone - Lao Tzu

Struggle - A sense of struggle is critical to the psychology of poverty. To maintain the illusion of separation we must make an effort to deny, reject and repel the natural abundance of Tao.The ego sees the Universe against us, They against us, you against me and I against me.

Be open to natural abundance, act with ease, from a feeling of openness with all things. Opening to receive always, free flow of energy, effortlessly

We come out of the world and return to it. Mountains are not obstacles, they lift us.
Me and not me. Like me and not like me. Fight against evil is a fight we will never win.
Perfect happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
You are not your biography, you are your biology.

Shame and guilt about our condition can prevent us from keeping our wits about and acting intelligently enough to survive. Most of us die of shame slowly.

All depraved and perverted manifestations of human behavior result from rejecting our deepest nature, not by following it.

Create with ease.

Sensible people get paid for playing. that is the art of life. - Alan Watts

God gives every bird its food but he does not throw it in its est. - JG Holland

'People often fail on the verge of success
By giving as much care to the end as the beginning
there will be few failures" - Lao Tzu

When you receive an idea, know that its done.
Harmonise, refuse to send your body to do any task without uniting heart and mind fully behind it.
Visualisation. When the task is done beforehand, then it is easy.

"The considerations of the intelligent always include both benefits and harm. As they consider benefits, their work can expand, and as they consider harm, their troubles can be resolved" - Art of War, Sun tzu

Use the basic spirit, instead of struggling. Step back.
Formulate the question and wait upon the universal intelligence to supply the answers. Act as if though you have already received what you asked for, be it an answer to a question or an object or circumstance you require to accomplish.

Be happy and attract good fortune. Meet life with a smile. prepare for success. Act on expectation.

'If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.' Chinese proverb

Life is to be enjoyed. Don't resist, struggle, fight against what we don't like. If we resist poverty we cant be free form it. If we run from lack it will follow us. Agree to experience these situations without being affected or emotionally drawn out. then you transcend them.We are at ease when we don't have anything to prove.
Ease comes from doing what we are doing without using it as a means of trying to do or get something else.Use the spirit. Step back.

The essence as I got it:
There is an ease, a path of least resistance that we must follow. Do not struggle. Life is to be enjoyed. Effortless action comes from a space of receiving, of allowing things to come to you. Be happy. Ask the question and await the answer form the universe. Act as if you have already received it. Visualise the outcome you want. Effortless action comes out of emptiness. Be still. Be clear. Ease from acceptance of all parts of you; unease from nonacceptance.

4) The Flow of Abundance
Abundant living requires abundant energy and a flow of that energy (chi). Free flow of energy brings spiritual, emotional, physical health.

Chi is related to breath. Chi means 'no fire'. Chi follows through meridians.
Returning is the motion of Tao. What we give returns.  Give what you what to receive.

To increase experience of abundance increase circulation.
Don't resist. Don't hold on. Let it flow. Life is bliss. Joy is in the circles.
Blocked up energy needs to circulate. Find expression.
Resentment robs your chi. Resentment leads to guilt. Guilt makes us feel unworthy and undeserving.
Can stop a downward spiral anytime by practising gratitude
Act as-if it already happened. It builds momentum.
Put your whole self into your efforts. Don't hold back. Close the back door of escape. Opens front doors of commitment.

Complete things. Don't leave things incomplete. Close them.
Communication problems result from a lack of circulation. Happens when we block our free expression or jam our ability tor receive. We may withhold, we may resist hearing. Being aware of where in the cycle we are blocked and releasing them can be energising.
10 steps to Cultivating chi - vitality of mind, body and spirit.
Increased sensitivity to life.
1) Be cheerful 2) Breathe 3) Eat well Move your body 4) Rest your body 5) Master your emotions (forgiveness is the most essential) 6) Meditate 7) Simplify 8) Spend time in nature 9) Cultivate an awareness of your surroundings

As you sow, so you reap.

The essence as I got it:
You need abundant energy for abundant living and abundant energy comes from free flow of energy. This is about flow - the principle of returning. What you give will return. Circulate to increase abundance. Don't hold on. Keep the flow going. If energy is blocked get it flowing - find a means of expression. The big block to flow is resentment which leads to guilt. Guilt makes us feel unworthy and undeserving. To stop falling practice gratitude. Put your everything into your efforts, your life force, without holding back anything. Complete things. Cultivate chi.

5) The power of abundance
Be what you are, follow your nature. This will lead you to your destiny. Instead of seeing the way, we crave for approval. We lose our Te, our real nature.

Everything has its own Te. Everything is happy if allowed to be in accordance with its nature. Accept nature as it is - mixed bag. 1st umbilical is cut by the doctor. 2nd umbilical must be cut by you.

Everything grows according to its nature.Your nature is your strength. The Tao's principle is spontaneity.
Choose work for the sake of work itself. Be simple and follow the way of your own heart.
Do not seek approval from others.

The clever often end up outwitting themselves.
Leaders ought to lead with an extremely light touch avoiding excessive regulations, laws and interference and refrain from placing heavy burden on citizens.

What is in harmony with nature is to be pursued. What is contrary to nature is to be avoided.

Rule of money
Middle class feels shame for not achieving the material level of their parents generations. Sense of shame.
Use creative gifts and persevere until you create a platform that will...

The essence as I got it:
This is about your innate nature. Following your nature will lead you to your destiny. We lose our Te and seek approval from others. Instead of second guessing yourself, be what you are, follow your heart, be simple. Follow what is in harmony with nature. Persevere with your creative gifts.

6) The harmony of abundance
Yin and Yang. The world is a dance of their complementary energies.
3 elements of yin and yang
1) Complementary
2) Non absolute
3) Yin transforms yang, yang transforms yin

Complementary: One cannot exist without the other.
Taoists considered sex could aid spiritual enlightenment. To end the battle of sexes, one must end the battle against sex. If nature is anything, it is sex. If we deny sexuality we end up being repressed, perverted and exploited. Sexual imagery is prominent throughout all systems of alchemy.
Alchemy  for daily lives - affirming, denying and reconciling
Duality is not conflict, its complimentary

Non absolute:
Anima (male) capacity for female (You don't care about me
Animus (female) - capacity for male (You don't respect me)
Emptiness embraces all.

Dynamic: Change is an expression of the rational order of things. It is gushing life. Things are either in the process of becoming or 'un' or 'de' becoming. The manipulation of the yarrow stalks makes it possible for the unconscious in man to become active.

Competitive hostility
Without the experience of our Te, our natural power and dignity, we seek unauthentic power and control.  We abandon our innate dignity and become involved in a desperate search for attention and approval.

The essence as I got it:
There is no this and that; everything is flowing from one to another and belongs to the other. The yin and yang show that the world is complementary. If we understand that we are living in a world which has the three elements of yin and yang i.e. that they are complementary, non absolute and are dynamic, we have the power to accept and transform everything.

7) The leisure of abundance
Every man knows how useful it is to be useful
No one seems to know
How useful it is to be useless
- Chuang Tzu

It takes time to be human. 
Leisure is one of the great abundances of life. Leisure preserves and develop our humanity. Leisure is the sense of losing awareness of time while engaged in them. To forget time is to forget ourselves. To lose self-consciousness. For Taoists leisure is the essence of abundance.

Contemplation of nature, in the now. Emphasis is on relationship, beauty, humanity and not possession.
In advertisements the model is selling an idealised version of oneself.

True abundance is first and foremost an abundance of time ad the freedom to choose what to do with it.
Time is the new poverty -

Ancient Rome had 175 public holidays, medieval England holidays were 1/3 of the year, French had 90 rest days and 38 holidays, work free Sundays, Ohlone of California work 2 hours a day.
Nap times, siestas.

Taoists - do what is needed, leave undone what is not.

Important things are those that reflect your values and sense of purpose in our lies.
Leisure to be - Time to be idle, to play, to experience
Leisure to grow - Time to think to learn and o express
Leisure to relate - Time for our mates, our children and our community

Be the kid again, nurture playfulness, eat and converse with mindfulness, figure out how to use time in the 20%,

Play seems to be the essential feature of productive thought.

Learning is the essence of humility.

Still the mind, observe, penetrate into the essence of things
Whatever you want to do, do it.

The essence as I got it:
Leisure is one of the great abundances. It is the sense of losing time when we are doing some things. It happens when we pursue and admire beauty, humanity and relationship and not merely possession. Leisure is about play, about mindfulness, about being fully immersed in a child-like manner. The creative minds convert everything into play. Just go ahead and do whatever you want to do.

8) The Beauty of abundance
Organic pattern within nature, collective human consciousness and the life of each of us reflects the natural order of life. It is the inner flow of things. It is not some separate thing from us, rather it is in our minds.

People must discover for themselves that this thing is truly in them, the everything will be ok.
- in every individual
- within human consciousness
- grand pattern of patterns

Rhythm of nature. Nature is wholeness, rhythm and harmony. When spirit is left out, the form is dead.
To essence of the pursuit of beauty is to show the Buddha nature in things.

Release control. Let go. Unite with the higher order.
We can bring beauty to life by following the organic pattern of our lives. Organic pattern - life energy, follow your bliss. Beauty is in excellence - in love and wisdom, care and attention to detail

Ease is often hard won.

If people know how hard I worked to get my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all- Michelangelo

Ease comes in embracing discipline.
Add beauty in little things. Trust the energy, the organic pattern of your life.

Don't fall into the trap of - Envy and self-pity

'The abundance and beauty of life are here now for those who will embrace them. The purpose of life is to live it. So many want to change the circumstances of their lives, but how many will change their attitude. Your attitude toward things makes all the difference."

Eliminate self pity. If you don't bring yourself down, you don't have to bring yourself up.
You never get the lessons by struggle. Finally you have to embrace it.

The essence as I got it:
There is an organic pattern within  that reflects the inner flow of life. There is a rhythm, an inner beauty that exists. We can bring it to life by following our bliss, our life energy. The rhythm is in care and attention to detail, love and wisdom. Beauty comes from an ease; an ease that comes from discipline, from long hours of practice. One way to block beauty in our lives is to eliminate self pity and envy. Don't struggle, embrace.

In summary
Though I realise that this blog is still rather uncoordinated and needs more work, I feel I can summarise it for now and then come back and relook and make whole some parts. The Tao of Abundance is in effect about bringing true abundance in our lives, not just money. It is a way of life which if practiced, can bring us to a state of natural abundance.

The universe is abundant and supports us. In our natural state if we are in tune with the universe, abundance is a natural state for us. However our ego, with its need to be separate, struggles against what is.
The eight principles show us ways to avoid the struggle.

By understanding that we are one with everything and accepting it, we find the Unity of things.
By opening ourselves to receiving, we find the abundance of receptivity.
By practicing the path of least resistance and effortless action, and allowing things to come instead of struggling, we find abundance of ease.
By understanding that we create abundant energy by circulating energy, that what we give is what we get, we create the flow of abundance.
By understanding that we must pursue our true nature to achieve our destiny, we choose to be ourselves and create authentic power, irrespective of the approval of others, and find the power of abundance.
By understanding that we are not opposites but of yin and yang which are complementary, non absolute and 
dynamic we find the power of harmony.
By understanding that leisure is a way to lose time consciousness by losing awareness while doing things, we find abundance of time.
By understanding that there is an organic pattern within and flowing with that pattern, by following our bliss, our rhythm, we find abundance of beauty.

This is a book to imbibe it. To practice. I am yet to do the exercises but I propose to do them soon, upon which I shall add a bit to this post. Whatever else it does, this book makes life easier, makes things easier to come. I have started living more spontaneously and can feel the difference in the quality of my life. When I am in the loop, I have no lack to fear. I am abundantly blessed. Thank you Suresh. Thank you Laurence Boldt.


Madhav said...

To be honest, I just skimmed through this book review as I do the others.
But then the bit about "Leisure of Abundance" cought my attention.

And I read the whole thing.... twice. Powerful stuff. Need to get my hands on that book.

Thanks Hari

Harimohan said...

Thanks Madhav. The second principle about receiving, the third about ease, the fourth on the flow and the one on leisure are my favorite four. Enjoy reading.

Rajendra said...

Coincidentally, I read a condensed version of Lao Tzu's principles at Pune last week. Some of the ideas were there. I also like the Leisure of Abundance a lot.

Also, do whatever you want to do is a good principle. Confucius is supposed to have said, "When hungry, eat. When sleepy, sleep."

Harimohan said...

Raja, I love the Chinese.