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What Is Enough?

I am a financial life planner, advising my clients with cash flow planning, insurance recommendations, investment strategy, retirement planning, etc. But the deeper service I provide is helping my clients answer the question, “what is enough?”

The people I work with have “enough” by most metrics: food on the table, a roof over their heads, access to health care services, not to mention cars, televisions, clothing and various forms of entertainment. Yet most remain anxious about their money, worried that it won’t last no matter what their level of wealth.

IIt's not their fault. As members of a consumer society, we are taught from a very young age that owning things is the primary means to happiness, and that net worth = self worth. Marketers exploit our very human need for security, belonging and status, by having us believe that each successive purchase will provide relief from the anxiety of not being accepted, from loneliness, from a feeling of anxiety.

How do we break this cycle? Well, we begin by noticing it. We can notice our craving - to hold on to positive experiences and sensations, and our aversions - to get rid of negative experiences and sensations. And we can acknowledge our delusional thinking that by spending money existence can somehow become other than what it actually is.

I teach what I need to learn. I supported what I would now consider an oversized lifestyle for many years, all the while feeling that there was never enough. I was physically and spiritually wasted by the time my Wall Street career ended. And the large house and fancy vacations never really compensated for my low self esteem…..my feeling that I was never really seen.

Now I live in a smaller home, and am in the process of selling my vacation home. I am much more mindful of my spending choices. That, however, is the easy work. The harder work, as defined by the economist Claire Brown, is moving from “closet-full economics” to “mind-full economics.” Moving to a true understanding that not only is it impossible, it is actually delusional,  to attempt to satiate material cravings, and that true happiness comes from altruism, sustainability and a meaningful life.

Practice: Sit comfortably, with your spine erect and your heart soft. Bring your attention to your hands resting in your lap or on your legs.

Let the palms be open and facing up.

Let the fingers soften and relax.

You do not need to hold on.

You are not in need of anything in this moment.

Become aware of the exhale. See if you can feel the breath leave your body freely. Feel the breath leaving your body. Allow the breath to complete itself naturally.

Be aware: “I have no need to hold on to this breath.”

Sit for a few moments in this posture. Allow whatever is presenting itself in this moment to be fine, to be good