My novel Yoga Bootcamp emphasizes the role of household and outdoor chores in maintaining their back-to-the-earth ashram. In fact, paying guests are expected to pitch in, too, including the hard labor.
It’s an important teaching tool in more ways than one. Attentiveness is one of the keys to doing it well.
What’s an important chore you do? How does it fit into the larger whole? Do you find satisfaction in performing it?
One of Sarah Ban Breathnach’s daily reflections in Simple Abundance presents Quakers, or the Society of Friends, as “individuals who manage the delicate balance of living in the world but not belonging to it. This is because they refuse to segment their lives into the sacred and the secular. Instead, Quakers believe that all of life’s daily experiences are spiritual in nature, from preparing a family meal to protesting public policy. The British writer George Gorman has observed that ‘the essence of Quaker spirituality is the certainty that everything we do has religious significance. It is not cutting ourselves off from life but entering deeply and fully into it.’”
As I Friend, I can reply, “Well, we try,” though I doubt we succeed nearly as consciously or often as she claims. This time, looking at the concept of “being in the world but not of it” (based on John 17:14-16 and passages in the New Testament epistles), I am struck by a reading that suggests being in the world but not being owned by it.
When I began this project, money was indeed compartmentalized in my life, away from spirituality. Money presented a struggle in which I felt inadequate to the callings I sensed for my life’s direction. My handling of money was poisoned by feelings of impoverishment, inadequacy, and resentment. I was in self-denial, especially in regard to the fears and anger money issues stirred within me. Not only was I not seeing both sides of the coin, and harmonizing their innate tensions, I wasn’t even seeing the coin. Spiritually, this could be seen as a refusal to even admit being in the world, much less having God’s kingdom come, “on Earth as it is in heaven.” In terms of religious practice, ignorance typically presents itself as superstition rather than wisdom, and magic rather than mystery.
Look at a possession you wouldn’t part with. What makes you value this object? Is the value in its beauty or history? A fond memory? Its usefulness? What does it say about you?
In Facing the World With Soul, Robert Sardello relates another challenge to our personal encounters:
Economics and money work together as the primary veil covering direct perception of the soul in the world. Thus, we shall have to work very hard, first to comprehend the veil itself and then to see through the veil, to see how in fact the very same thing that obscures the world soul can also provide access to it.
Religious and ethnic values aren’t the only ones we’ve inherited.
The American outlook was forever changed by the California Gold Rush. For the first time ever, there was “wealth for the taking.” Unlike piracy, this was legal. Unlike privateering, you didn’t need arms and a privileged charter. It was equal opportunity, claimed by neither the state or a king, attracting all strands of ambitious hopefuls. Its rewards arose from luck far more than skill or labor. It was first-come, first-served. There was no longer shame in going bust; you might strike it rich again. You’d likely go bust again, too. Easy come, easy go. It was all in the nature of this upheaval.
And you were accountable to no one.
But there were severe consequences, especially on the environment. California’s rivers and foothills have never recovered.
And it’s still in the soul of greed.
Look at the state-run lotteries. What do you really see?
This discovery of religious dimensions to money issues will continue to raise deep questions, where we’ll struggle to reach what in the end have to be individual answers. Each of us is in a different time and place in our spiritual trek with different understandings of what our religious traditions have to say to us about what we do with our money.
The Church of the Saviour’s Elizabeth O’Connor raises some troublesome points:
Do we believe that money and possessions have a way of coming between people who want to be in community with each other? Do we really believe that every life has resources more priceless than gold, and that our hearts, minds, and labor are adequate for any task? What if the world is right and there are things that only money can buy, gifts of the spirit that only money can unlock, and blocks that only money can push aside?
A next step in taking control of your resources is to create a giving plan. Making conscious donations to the causes you value can point you to religious concepts such as Tzedakah and tithing, which we’ll get to in a few months.
For now, consider budgeting your time as well as your money. It’s a good way to revisit the ideals of Sabbath, of margins and breathing room, and feasting and fasting. (Hint: If you have any flexibility over your work schedule, you may want to put your day of rest within the regular week rather than the weekend. It’s about a lot more than worship.)
These steps can lead you to a renewed sense of generosity and community.
Meanwhile, your spending brings you back to the counsel of Plainness, simplicity, frugality, and stewardship.
How you spend your time and dollars, then, can be seen as planting seeds that will become blades and then harvest. Did you expect your spending would become a spiritual practice as well?
Here’s where your personal values take root and bear fruit or grain.
We’ll be examining these closer in upcoming posts.
Ask yourself: Just how much of my income stream is for me alone? How much of it is for others?