The Money Money Money edition
January 25th, 2018 | Letter № 06
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
Generations of headline writers have milked these lines from W. B. Yeat’s poem The Second Coming.
It’s easy to play the best/worst game, isn’t it? Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Our minds are hardwired for negativity. Judgement, fear, self-doubt, and criticism overstay their welcome like bad smelling houseguests, while, in a moment, happiness, appreciation, joy, and gratitude fly out the window, taking all their good vibrations with them.
Like most belief systems the Tibetan Buddhist tradition is syncretic, absorbing deities from the Pon and Hindu traditions into its cosmogonic frame. So while the Buddha was agnostic about God, Tibetan Buddhism is populated with a whole retinue of Gods and Demons, treated much the same way we would name psychological states.
My favorite of these is the Hungry Ghost. The Hungry Ghost is this little dude who spends every waking hour of existence trying to fill up his big fat belly.
Problem is — he’s got this itty bitty stringy throat. He can never take in the nutrients he needs.
I don’t know if I have ever met an enlightened person, but I’ve been in rooms with junkies and I’ve been in rooms with master teachers. From what I can discern, addicts have a single-pointed focus on an object of desire that can never solve their actual problem. They live in the realm of the Hungry Ghost. Masters, by contrast, drive with the seat back, with a friendly attitude towards everything that shows up in their experience.
Science is starting to bear this out. [Can I get a 🤦 for every time science catches up with an idea that’s been around for millennia?] Zoran Josipovic, a research scientist and professor at NYU, has been researching how meditation reorganizes the mind by monitoring the brains of Buddhist monks. Most people switch back and forth between the parts of the brain responsible for dealing with external stimuli and the parts responsible for interoceptive awareness. The brains of the monks, however, remained active in the regions for sensory processing and the areas responsible for regulation of internal bodily states simultaneously.
People who actually study the brain like Jospovic reject the information processing view of the human brain that came about in the 1950’s with the development of computers and gave rise to using words like data, lexicon, algorithm, and model to define intelligence.
In another experiment, at Northwestern University, study participants who were exposed to a series of mental puzzles showed an entirely different neurological response to the Aha! moment — that sudden burst of clarity — than they did when trying to use their logical minds to solve the puzzles.
Getting back to our hungry friend, what does this have to do with him?
From a non-dualist perspective (which can be found in the Western canon as well, in the writings of Meister Eckhart or in the Epicurean poem On the Nature of Things by Lucretius, for instance) everything that comes into our experience has something to teach us, in the best of times and the worst.
So when the hungry ghost shows up, singing his little ditty of not enough [insert Time, Money, Love, etc.], not good enough, never enough, what do we do?
In You are a Badass at Making Money, Jen Sincero recounts a story from the salad days of actor Jim Carrey. When Carrey first moved to Los Angeles, after dropping out of high school and living in a van with his family, he was determined to make it as a comedic actor in Hollywood.
Broke as hell, he wrote himself a check for $10 million dollars for “acting services rendered” and visualized all the things he would do with that money, especially raise his family out of poverty. Three years into his LA tenure, he received $10 million dollars for his first majorly successful role in the movie Dumb and Dumber.
Not-so-dumb-after-all Jim Carrey: 1
Hungry Ghost: 0
For the next week, I challenge you to an experiment. If you are in a position to set prices for your work, if you are working from a project budget, or you get a paycheck or salary, or you are living off of a check from social security…
Take that number. Double it. Imagine what you’d do with that extra money. Who would you help? Or what cool stuff would you buy? Don’t worry, no one will be in your mind to judge you except you-Ha!
Or if you want to go full monty, leave behind whatever “truth” about your experience you are convinced is reality and allow yourself for a few minutes to move into the realm of imagination and spirit. What kind of space travel would you invent? Or maybe you would fix the NYC Subway and become a hero to millions?
Don’t worry — nothing bad will happen — I promise. And have fun with it!
Because you are awesome!
Until next time, I bow to you, ado.
Erin Marie Sickler
Life, Creativity & Mindfulness Coach
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