I’m not gonna lie, on Friday I started fantasizing about moving to another country. One where people don’t have the right to walk around with guns in public, people with uteruses can get a safe abortion, and lives are valued in other ways, like with universal healthcare and free education. Yes, I live in a progressive state where some of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions are overruled by local laws, but still. I kept thinking to myself, “Why is the U.S. like this?”

As is often the case when I have a question I want to be answered, I turn to astrology and in this instance, it again gave me more insight. You may not be aware, but countries have astrological birth charts just like people do. There’s some controversy about the time the U.S. was “born,” but even still, I’m pretty sure you can guess the date and the location: July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia.

No matter the time you pick for when the U.S. was “born,” a few elements remain the same: We have a Cancer sun and an Aquarius moon. A Cancer sun denotes a desire to preserve your roots and cares about home and family. Cancer is the archetype of the mother and typically doesn’t embrace change readily and wants things to stay the same.

abortion rights

I liked the combo of life and abortion in this photo. Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

With regards to the Supreme Court decision on reproductive rights, also embedded in the U.S. birth chart is Saturn squaring our Cancer sun. In other words, Saturn’s position in the sky is roughly 90 degrees from the sun in Cancer. Saturn is a planet of boundaries and restrictions. A negative integration of Saturn is oppression, which is what we’re seeing now. Saturn, a planet of boundaries, keeps enacting its will of oppression and domination on “mom.” Most recently in overturning Roe vs. Wade.

This makes a weird sort of sense, doesn’t it? On the one hand, we hear a lot about “family values,” which would be the Cancer sun, but we also have a high maternal mortality rate and no paid parental leave, which is the hardship of Saturn. In other words, this is what it means to live in the U.S., to face these issues over and over again.

However, I’d be remiss here if I didn’t also mention we have another energy in the United States: that of an Aquarius moon. An Aquarius moon is the polar opposite of a Cancer sun. It’s revolutionary, progressive, and forward-thinking. In other words, embedded into the fabric of the U.S. is this pendulum swing one way and then another from conservative to progressive. There’s a constant tension in the U.S. between how things were and how they could be.

It’s not only the U.S. that sees this pendulum swing, obviously, but it’s interesting to notice this dynamic play out. Instead of saying to myself, “Didn’t we already go through this? Aren’t we past this already?” to remember we will perpetually have this tension because these are the issues inherent with the United States.

My spiritual teacher says, “Let us fight these divisive tendencies which want to make our life dark …. All human beings want light. One individual human is more luminous and more throbbing than that universal darkness. So human beings should always be optimistic. The cimmerian darkness cannot retard your progress, cannot cover the light of the human heart. The spirit of your heart must move on and on against obstacles. Kick away your obstacles like pebbles from your feet – you are stronger than your obstacles.”

I dream of a world where we aren’t constantly surprised that certain issues keep resurfacing in the U.S. A world where we understand being in the U.S. means dealing with a certain tension. A world where we recognize politics swing one way and then another but we remember our progress cannot be permanently thwarted. A world we understand we are stronger than our obstacles.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I’m Different Now

Back in November, a friend told me, “There will always be an invitation to the fear party, but you can decline.” Lately, I’m reflecting on how not only is there a perennial invitation to the fear party, but also the grief party and the trauma party. There are endless opportunities for me to worry about X, to grieve about Y. Some of that is warranted, emotions show up for a reason, but some of it is needless suffering.

I’m reading a new book about intergenerational trauma and the author, Rabbi Tirzah Firestone, mentions that some people with trauma in their background have tremendous guilt that they didn’t do more to stop the terrible thing from happening. Like they should have fought back against an attacker, or run away, or whatever. I burst into tears when I read that because I’m quite familiar with second-guessing myself and playing “what if” games. Because of the trauma, a part of me also thinks if I’m hypervigilant enough, I can prevent something from happening. If I’m tracking all the sights, sounds, and other cues around me, then I’ll be safe.

This ties into family trauma because there is a part of me keeping watch for Nazis coming to get me. I’m on the lookout for threatening people and situations, which is an inheritance from my grandparents. They were deeply scarred from the Holocaust and as a sensitive descendent, I’m carrying that load. That means I carry fears that aren’t really mine because I don’t recognize I’m in this body, this life, this time.

hand holding up a tree

This image came up when I searched for “support.” Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

I had a scary, traumatic situation happen the other week that shook some things loose in my psyche. I don’t want to share the details online, but in broad strokes, my sense of safety was disrupted. I wasn’t in any actual danger but it felt like I was. To give you an idea, the police were involved. And because I was so scared, I called a friend in Australia because I knew she’d be awake as it was late in the evening California time. She asked me what would restore my feeling of safety and the answer was, “Not sleeping here tonight.” So I didn’t. I called another friend, stayed at her place, and then another friend offered her place for multiple nights if I needed it. During that time away, I met up with still more friends for a walk and dinner. In short, lots and lots of support showed up for me.

Now that the dust is settling, I’m processing the experience with my therapist but also noticing the hypervigilance hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s gotten worse because I’m not reminding myself of what actually happened or how I took care of myself. It’s important for me not to discount that when I needed help, it showed up immediately. I had people to talk to, places to go, and tools in my toolbox like qigong, EFT, yoga, meditation, journaling, etc. In other words, I did not and am not experiencing what my grandparents did, which was a hard scrabble to survive using only their wits.

Instead, I have choices. I have options. Yes, we’re experiencing a surge in antisemitism along with so many other attacks on minorities, but I have friends all over the world who would gladly take me in if I needed shelter. I have a global community that my grandparents did not have. In other words, what happened to them won’t happen to me.

There will always be an invitation to the trauma party but I can decline. I don’t have to reenact or hold on to family patterns because I can instead embody myself in this time in this world in this situation. I’m not powerless, I’m not helpless. The world will always have threats, that doesn’t change, but I’ve changed. I’m different and that’s something I can hold on to and maybe the same is true for you.

I dream of a world where we take the gifts and lessons from the past and then move forward into the future. A world where we understand we don’t have to keep opening old wounds. A world where we remember we have choices and take comfort in our own self-empowerment. A world where we recognize the environment around us may stay the same but we can change and that makes all the difference.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

I’m recycling this post from November 2009 so a lot has changed in my life since then but I think the message is still a good one. Enjoy.

There is a quote that says, “Even if a young boy says something logical, it should be accepted, and if the Supreme Creator says something illogical, it should be rejected as rubbish.” It’s a good point. As a friend says, the truth has a ring to it. There’s a resonance when someone speaks the truth and that can come from any source, including yourself! However, before this week I really wanted to follow someone blindly. I wanted to be shrouded in ignorance and let someone else discern the truth for me. I wanted to be led and not have to worry about anything. I wanted someone else to know all the answers and to just tell them to me.

As a child, the people I followed blindly were my parents. It was painful when I learned my parents are indeed human and thus make mistakes. After I learned I couldn’t follow my parents blindly I turned to spiritual teachers. Spiritual teachers must know everything and thus I can accept whatever they say, right? The thing is, the spiritual teachers who encourage blind faith, who encourage their followers to never question anything, have a tendency to be the “drink-the-Kool-Aid” variety, meaning the kind that swindles people or abuses them. Yet, a part of me really wanted that. Not the abuse, but rather really wanted someone else to come along and fill my brain so I didn’t have to think at all.

trust truth sign

Trust your small truth. Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash

I don’t know for sure why people join cults but I think it might be so they don’t have to discern anything for themselves. It’s so tempting to surround one’s self with someone who speaks with conviction and confidence. Someone who claims to know all the answers. Someone who talks about the future and seems to know things. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of, “So and so said” to give authority to a statement. “Well, if so and so said it, it must be true!” I think most people long for an ultimate authority, an ultimate truth, and that’s why people quote sacred texts like the Bible or modern sources like Google.

I am no different. But this week I painfully learned no person speaks the Truth for all people at all times. The guiding principle I must rely on is my own higher self. If I think something is wrong, then it’s wrong for me. No one else has all the answers because everybody is just trying to figure out things for themselves. Besides the fact, as far as I know, all spiritual faiths say divinity resides within. How can I truly honor that notion if I think someone else will be able to tell me how to run my life? Or that someone else knows better than I do what’s in my best interest?

The entire point of the spiritual path is to find God within me, and that means looking to myself for answers. It means tapping into my higher power to learn my own Truth. It means living awake, it means discerning for myself what is in my best interest and what is not. It means trusting myself and also taking what other people say with a grain of salt because I recognize there is such a thing as a small, personal truth and that varies from person to person.

I dream of a world where we honor the God within us. A world where we trust in ourselves and our intuitive ability. A world where we look internally for the answers to our questions while also recognizing consensus reality exists. A world where we allow for multiple small truths, realizing that looks different from person to person.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Joy is Our Birthright

There’s a post-it on my bathroom mirror that says, “Remember life can be surprising and delightful.” To be honest, it’s been ages since surprises were anything but terrible. For instance, “Surprise! The water on your street has been shut off!” or “Surprise! You lost your wallet!” I’d kind of forgotten that surprises can be enjoyable and had an experience on Saturday that recalibrated me.

I’d intended to go hiking nearby but because of how my day unfolded, that no longer made sense. Not wanting to be cooped up all day, I chose to walk around my neighborhood instead without a destination or intention in mind. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one to see. When I approached a certain intersection, I opened the maps app on my phone and noticed there was a trail nearby. “Great! Maybe I’ll go hiking after all!” What I didn’t expect is the route to the trailhead involved a hidden staircase. That’s right, the staircase was smushed between two houses and if you didn’t know it was there, you might overlook it.

Even now I’m smiling as I think about it because it felt like an adventure ascending those stairs and finding the trailhead, which similar to the staircase, was smack dab at the end of a residential street. Houses, cars, and then boom! Woods. I love that about my neighborhood. The trail itself also surprised me because it was decorated with art pieces. Children and adults alike painted wooden planks with smiley faces, decorated mailboxes, and constructed fairy houses. Not only that, dangling from certain tree branches were swings! In the middle of the woods! I truly was not expecting that although I know it happens.

painted mailbox

A smidge of what I saw on Saturday. Photo by me!

My good mood started to radiate out and inspired me to chat with people I saw on the trail, especially if I passed them twice. “We meet again,” I said to one of them. “Your dog is beautiful,” I told another. The trail wended through redwoods and along a creek. The creek sluiced through concrete tunnels, which were yes, covered with graffiti, but also art. Someone painted two dolphins arcing on either side of a tunnel. Others spray-painted hearts everywhere, which you may or may not know is my thing. In short, hiking the trail was exactly the sort of experience that reminded me life can be fun, that it’s not all drudgery.

I mention that because it’s VERY easy for me to focus on how hard things are, the problems I’m facing, and forget the good stuff. I forget about or overlook the fun stuff, the stuff that makes me happy to be alive. But that joy is the undercurrent of our world. I’ve used this quote before but the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, say, “This quinquelemental world has been born out of joy, is being maintained in joy, and into sacred joy will melt.” We come from joy, live in joy, and return to joy. Joy is within us, which David Whyte reminds us of in a line from his poem that says:

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

For some of us, that great shout of joy takes longer to be expressed. Sometimes the joy is silent for months or even years, but it still exists all the same. Maybe like I wrote about in April with regards to mood, we just have to wait and that joy will return.

I dream of a world where we all experience more joy. A world where we remember joy can arrive in the form of an unexpected sculpture or a flower bursting from the soil. A world where we remember if we’re going through a hard time, joy will find us once again because joy is our birthright.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

For a long time, I’ve strived to make my home a sanctuary. I want it to be a safe place, free from chaos and aggravation. In my ideal world, you wouldn’t hear a jackhammer, music from a neighbor, car alarms, or any of the other issues that go along with high-density living. Many years ago, I was on the quest for the perfect sanctuary space. I moved on average every three months for three years. In some places, I stayed longer, but in others, I stayed shorter.

I moved to the middle of nowhere Missouri in an attempt to find my safe refuge and even there, a sanctuary couldn’t be found. I heard a train whistle piercing the air regularly. Even in the remote countryside, I was irritated by sounds. Not only that, I worried about snakes, ticks, and wild animals. You would think after searching for so long I would give up the idea that I could ever find a “perfect” place, but I didn’t.

When I moved to my current apartment, it felt like a gift from God. I was living in a quiet place where I didn’t need a car and next door to a friend to boot. For a long time, my apartment was at the top of my gratitude list. That’s not the case anymore. I don’t dread being home, but I don’t love it either. The past month especially has been rough because I’ve contended with construction next door, the sounds of a baby crying, weed wafting through the air, and much more.

orange flowers

We all need a peaceful place. Photo by Masaaki Komori

In other words, home does not feel like a sanctuary. Will I move? My mind is spinning contemplating various possibilities but I haven’t settled on anything. More will be revealed on that one, but what I’m coming to realize is I’ve been trying to control and manage external circumstances to create an internal feeling.

I want everything on the outside to be fine and dandy to feel fine and dandy on the inside. But that’s like telling the ocean to stop ebbing and flowing. In life, nothing is ever perfect. Even if I lived somewhere remote and away from people, I’d have to contend with other problems like wildlife or lack of community. Instead of seeking an external sanctuary, I’m starting to ask the question, “How do I create a sanctuary on the inside?”

I already have a meditation practice, but I’m not taking the time to visualize a beautiful place free from disturbances. I’m not giving my nervous system the chance to learn what that feels like. The brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality, which is why everyone and their mother talks about the power of visualization. I guess what I’m saying is perhaps it’s time to seek a sanctuary within my own mind and body.

My spiritual teacher says, “If one has to take refuge in any entity, or has to contemplate any entity, one should take refuge in or think about only the Supreme One because whenever the mind broods on a second entity, it will become one with the latter; that is, if the mind constantly reflects on physicality, one’s whole psycho-spiritual existence will become physical.” He also says, “An individual always seeks out a safe refuge, but no refuge can give lasting shelter. Only Cosmic Consciousness is the Supreme Refuge.”

I want lasting shelter. I want a place I can go to anytime and not contend with reality. That place exists, within my mind, and now it’s up to me to visit.

I dream of a world where we understand sanctuaries exist both internally and externally. A world where we remember if we can’t find what we want in the outside world, we can certainly find it in the inside one. A world where we realize true refuge comes from aligning ourselves with divinity.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

For a long time, I considered myself safe only if there was no presence of danger. That makes sense if you look up the word “safe” and “safety” in the dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines safe as “secure from threat of danger, harm, or loss.” That’s how I’ve tried to live my life: not running with scissors, wearing my seatbelt, looking both ways when I cross the street, etc. It’s been my prime objective to avoid danger. However, if you live long enough, you soon realize you can’t avoid danger.

To be alive means to encounter threats. They could be in the form of other people, like a mugger or a drunk driver; a wilderness threat like a snake or a wasp; or a natural disaster like a flash flood, fire, or earthquake. There are more threats, of course, I’ve just named a few, but the point is, no one can live in a safety bubble. It’s not possible. How then do we keep ourselves safe? What does safety even mean in that context?

To go back to etymology, the word “safe” was derived from the Old French word sauf, which means protected and watched over. I like that definition because it means even in dangerous situations, I can be safe because I’m protecting myself, I’m watching over myself. In other words, I’m making good choices to ensure my eventual safety. That could be slowly backing away from a mountain lion, carrying pepper spray to ward off an attack by a person, or evacuating my home in the case of a fire. Just because there’s risk of harm doesn’t mean harm is inevitable.

Mountain lion

Do you know what to do when confronted with a mountain lion? Photo by Zach Key on Unsplash

When it comes to safety, that’s the piece that’s been missing for me. I discount my ability to take care of myself, to show up for myself in dangerous situations. Instead, I’ve believed the worst possible thing will happen and I’m helpless to prevent it. Um, not true. I keep a cool head in stressful situations, choose wisely, and prepare as much as I can in advance, like looking up what to do if encountering a mountain lion. That’s called keeping myself safe.

For someone like me who is perpetually worried about safety, who’s scared of danger, and tries to outsource my safety to someone else sometimes, recognizing the power and ability I have within me is huge. That may not be you. You might be a person who already feels confident in yourself and your abilities, but for the person who identifies with me, the anxious scaredy-cat, I hope you hear me when I tell you: You can do this.

I’m reminded of the quote by A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh who said, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know.” Yes. We are. I don’t know about you, but I often sell myself short. I don’t want to do that anymore. Having an inferiority complex is not accurate because as my spiritual teacher says, “A person must not suffer from an inferiority complex, because that person and his or her friends and siblings are all the progeny of the same Progenitor. They come from the same origin.”

That means I’m just as capable as anyone else. That means I absolutely have the power within me to protect myself, to keep myself safe. Not because I’m avoiding danger at all costs, but because I’m making choices in the moment to minimize risk. That matters. A lot.

I dream of a world where we recognize we are safe not when we avoid danger, although that may be a part of it, but rather due to what happens after the threat arises. A world where we remember we have a force within us, an instinct to keep us alive. A world where we understand we are capable people and we create safety for ourselves.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Lately, I’m struggling to accept reality. I don’t mean things like the Earth being round, I mean the reality of my life. For instance, a client is one month late on a payment. I haven’t heard a peep despite the repeated telephone calls and emails I’ve sent. Every day I check my bank account hoping the payment has arrived, and when it doesn’t, I call them again, email them again, and still nothing. I’m having a LOT of trouble accepting that situation. And then there’s what happened on Saturday.

My next-door neighbor, the one that lives in a house, hired a construction crew to jackhammer their pool from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Yes, I used noise-canceling headphones, and yes it helped a lot, but still. Reality was not what I wanted. When I fantasized about how I would spend my Saturday, it was not wearing headphones all day.

For things I don’t enjoy, a part of me says, “No! It’s not supposed to be this way! Something different is supposed to happen!” It’s true I want a different reality, but that doesn’t mean it’s occurring despite my best efforts. If there’s a way for me to will my desire into existence, by golly, I’ll do it. And yet, there comes a point where there’s nothing left to do. There comes a time when you just have to wait for the jackhammer to finish, literally and metaphorically.

white flag

I’m waving the white flag, so to speak. Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash.

The only time I felt peace on Saturday is when I surrendered, when I stopped fighting reality. When I said, “You know what? This sucks. I don’t like it. But there’s nothing I can do to change it and instead of spending energy wishing things were different, I’m accepting what is.”

I don’t want to sit with pain because it’s well, painful. It’s uncomfortable. I try my best not to feel uncomfortable, but that’s not reality. In reality, life is messy, uncomfortable, it doesn’t go our way. In reality, a client is late on a payment and a jackhammer runs for about six hours. I can’t dictate reality but I can control how much or how little I’m surrendering. There’s a story I like about this.

A professor walked into class one day, held up a cup of water for all to see, and asked, “How much do you think this cup weighs?” The students answered, “50 g! 100 g! 125 g!”

“What would happen if I held the cup like this for a few minutes?” the professor asked.

“Nothing.”

“What would happen if I held it up like this for an hour?”

“Your arm would begin to ache.”

“You’re right. What would happen if I held it for a day?”

“Your arm would go numb, you would have muscle stress and paralysis and have to go to the hospital for sure!” one of the students shouted amid laughter.

“Very good. But during all this did the weight of the cup change?”

“No.”

“Then what caused the arm to ache and the muscle stress?” the professor asked.

The students were perplexed.

“What should I do now to come out of pain?” asked the professor.

“Put the cup down!” said the students.

“Exactly,” the professor replied.

I don’t have a magic wand to make things the way I want them to be, but instead of expending energy stewing in irritation, I can put the metaphorical cup down. I can say, “OK,” and stop fighting. Surrender isn’t sexy in action-oriented cultures, but there’s a reason it’s mentioned so often in spirituality. Surrender usually leads to serenity and that’s certainly something I could use more of. I bet other people could too.

I dream of a world where we accept reality. A world where we understand the wisdom in no longer fighting circumstances, of instead surrendering to what is. A world where we let go of what we can and cultivate a feeling of serenity.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

All week the topic of self-compassion versus self-esteem has come up in conversation with friends. I learned recently that what I thought was self-compassion is actually self-esteem and the two are very different! That matters because self-compassion is the trait that gives us more motivation, more grit, better health, and greater happiness, according to research.

Self-compassion is the desire to alleviate your own suffering whereas self-esteem is a positive judgment of yourself. It’s saying things like, “I’m a good person, I’m a success, I’m attractive.” Self-esteem is important because the opposite, hating yourself, can lead to some dark places, but the trouble with self-esteem is it’s conditional. It’s dependent on you continuing to do things that bolster your self-worth: acing a test, killing it at work, etc. What happens when you fail?

As for me, I keep leaning into self-esteem when I fail. I say things like, “It’s OK, you’ll do better next time.” Or, “You got this! You can do it!” The trouble is, self-esteem messages don’t work.

Juliana Breines and Serena Chen conducted a study at UC Berkeley about a decade ago where students were given a difficult vocabulary test that everyone failed. The researchers split the students into three groups: a self-compassionate group, a self-esteem group, and a control group.

In the self-compassion group, students were told, “If you had difficulty with the test you just took, you’re not alone. It’s common for students to have difficulty with tests like these. If you feel bad about how you did, try not to be too hard on yourself.” The self-esteem group was told, “If you had difficulty with the test you just took, try not to feel bad about yourself – you must be intelligent if you got into Berkeley!” The control group was told nothing.

flower on fingers

Self-compassion is soft, like a flower. Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash.

The students were informed they would receive a second vocabulary test and were given a list of words and definitions they could study for as long as they wanted before taking the next test. The researchers used study time as a measure of students’ motivation. They found students who were told to be self-compassionate after failing the first test spent more time studying than those in the other two conditions. Not surprisingly, study time was linked to how well the participants performed on the second test.

Self-compassion helps with more serious issues too. Numerous researchers found that self-compassion helps war veterans. Soldiers who practiced self-compassion were less likely to develop PTSD symptoms and functioned better in civilian life. They were less prone to use drugs and alcohol, and were less likely to commit suicide.

What is self-compassion? It has three main components according to Dr. Kristin Neff, a preeminent researcher on the topic. She says self-compassion is self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness means showing care, understanding, and support toward ourselves when we fail. Common humanity involves recognizing all humans are imperfect, that you’re not alone with your flaws. Mindfulness is being aware of the pain associated with failure without trying to shove it away.

For the past week, instead of beating myself up for not exercising as much as I’d like, or telling myself, “Come on! You can do it!” I practiced self-compassion. I said, “Hey, this week has been stressful and you’re tired. It makes sense that you don’t want to exercise. Lots of people feel that way. When you’re ready, I know you’ll move your body in a way that feels good.”

It was the first time in a while that I didn’t have a nagging sensation I was doing something wrong for being sedentary. It was the first time in a while I didn’t conduct internal bargaining and say, “You can rest today, but tomorrow you need to make up for it.” Instead, I gave myself what I needed and it was glorious. And wouldn’t you know it? When I felt energetic, I was motivated to work out because it came from a place of love, not fear. There’s something to this self-compassion thing after all.

I dream of a world where we show ourselves love, care, and understanding when we fail and make mistakes. A world where we ditch the conditional self-esteem messages and instead give ourselves the unconditional support we crave. A world where we all practice self-compassion and recognize it for the valuable trait it is.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

 

Someone asked me recently, what do I care what Elon Musk does with his money? To start with, why shouldn’t I care? We live in a society that pretends we’re not all connected. That what one person does somehow has no effect on anyone else. Want to own a newspaper company? Sure, go ahead! Build a rocket so you can go to space? Knock yourself out! Won’t make a difference in my life! But it does.

My spiritual teacher says, “The establishment of an ideal society depends on the mutual help of the members and their cooperative behavior.” We don’t have that. Instead, we have a hypercompetitive, rugged individualism mindset that is frankly antisocial. To take a recent example, Elon Musk’s buyout of Twitter is for his own gain. He’s not using money to help solve world hunger like he suggested he might.

In October 2021, David Beasley, the director of the United Nations’ World Food Program, told CNN that it would only take “$6 billion to help 42 million people that are literally going to die.” When the article was shared on Twitter, Musk responded and said he would sell Tesla stock if the program could provide a plan. Beasley did and thus far Elon has not donated. Some people think he still will, but I’m not holding my breath because again, most billionaires use their money for selfish pleasures like going into outer space, buying yachts, and building numerous multimillion-dollar homes. Either that or they use their money to acquire more wealth.

Hundred dollar bills

Some people need less of this. Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Another reason why I care what billionaires do with their money is it gives them an outsized voice. In the case of Elon Musk, owning Twitter will give him far too much influence on a media platform that has repercussions worldwide. Why should one person have so much power? Plus, when it comes to governance, the opinions of Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk far outweigh mine because they can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions. If a bill is bad for their business, it’s highly unlikely it will get passed.

Not to mention, the average citizen suffers when wealthy people make mistakes. When the banks failed in 2008, people lost their investments and their homes while bank executives received huge bonuses. We bailed out the banks but the ones who caused the loss of homes and investments became richer, according to Reuters.

What’s the solution here? A maximum wage, for starters, but also changing what we value. Instead of being in a race to acquire as much as we can as fast as we can, yogic philosophy touts aparigraha or non-indulgence. Specifically, not indulging in the amenities and comforts of life that are superfluous for the preservation of physical existence.

In the case of billionaires and their vast accumulation of resources, they’re hurting everyone. Income inequality depresses economic growth, leaves less for society to divvy up, and gives rise to criminal behavior, according to several studies referenced in the Washington Post.

So the short answer to why I mind how billionaires spend their money comes down to this: I care about the collective. My spiritual teacher says, “The collectivity is not outside you – your future is inseparably connected with the collective fortune. You must take the entire collectivity with you and move toward the sweetest radiance of the new crimson dawn, beyond the veil of the darkest night.”

To take the collectivity with us, we have to concern ourselves with what billionaires are doing and furthermore, not let people become billionaires in the first place.

I dream of a world where more people care how billionaires spend their money. A world where we understand our futures are inseparably connected to the futures of others. A world where we take to heart the principle of aparigraha. A world where we move together to create an ideal society.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

This post was originally published in July 2017.

The other week I read an interesting philosophical treatise about the structure of our universe, which is an oval. We are made up of atoms with electrons moving around a nucleus. On a larger scale, the Earth is the nucleus and the moon is moving around it. In our solar system, the sun is the nucleus and all the planets are moving around it. However, there is also a Supreme or Cosmic nucleus, according to my spiritual philosophy.

A friend commented on the discourse and said from his perspective, we are all emanating out from the same nucleus. We all have the same center, the same core. Regardless of whether or not a person believes in a Cosmic Consciousness, or subscribes to my spiritual philosophy, we do have the same core. It is a fact we are all made up of atoms. It is a fact we are all made up of stardust, to paraphrase Carl Sagan. To quote an article on the subject:

“The carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms in our bodies, as well as atoms of all other heavy elements, were created in previous generations of stars over 4.5 billion years ago. Because humans and every other animal as well as most of the matter on Earth contain these elements, we are literally made of star stuff.”

I’ve been hearing about this concept for many years so it’s easy for me to gloss over it, but thinking about how we all have the same core, allows me to connect even deeper with others because inside we are the same, and knowingly or unknowingly, we are moving together. Some people are moving closer to the Supreme hub like the Dalai Lama or others like him that carry a universal outlook. 

We are all dancing around a nucleus. Photo by Hulki Okan Tabak on Unsplash

People who espouse ideas about oneness, connection, and moving beyond the boundaries of our identities are getting closer to the Cosmic nucleus. They aren’t necessarily joined just yet, but they’re getting closer! And that’s what my spiritual teacher says we should all do. 

“Each and every aspirant, each and every artist, each and every scientist, and each and every philosopher must be ensconced in this supreme veracity,” he said. “They will have to be one with the Supreme, [and] each will have to coincide his or her microcosmic nucleus with the macrocosmic one.”

The speed with which this happens varies, and some people move further away from the nucleus, but no one can move beyond its scope. Even the most terrible person, even the most despised people are still circling the nucleus. They may be at the periphery, but they still have the same nucleus, and that means I can recognize those people, too, are a part of my universal family. They, too, are on a spiritual journey with me and that means I can soften my heart toward them. Because we are all connected at the core.

I dream of a world where we recognize we are all made of the same stuff. A world where we recognize we all emanate from the same source. A world where we remember we are all circling the same nucleus. A world where we recognize we are more connected than we often acknowledge. 

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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