Rethinking “Abundance” Spirituality
As a yoga teacher in a decidedly alternative/new-agey community, I’ve had many encounters with folks who promote abundance or manifesting spirituality. It’s really common in the yoga world. “If you visualize it, you can manifest it!”, “The universe is infinitely abundant!”, “Your thoughts create your reality!” and my personal fave, “Just ask Lakshmi!”
The problem is … life doesn’t really work that way.
When you’re talking about the physical plane, there’s never a simple or straightforward connection between visualizing and making stuff manifest. There are karmic and/or genetic factors, samskaras, as well as psycho-social and geopolitical limitations to our individual access to physical resources.
Lakshmi is no fairy godmother.
It might be fun to fantasize, but Harry Pottering reality into existence is not that easy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about thinking good thoughts – thoughts really do matter.
My mom, the reigning queen of the positive attitude, taught me to look on the bright side of everything. But optimism and looking for lemonade opportunities is a different skill-set than the ability to think physical stuff into existence.
This planet is in serious trouble. We have spent the greater part of the last 200 years squandering its abundance and our life-sustaining resources are rapidly and painfully dwindling. People are starving, being displaced, dying, and increasingly fighting wars over resources.
So, the idea that I can manifest any particular “thing” that I want into existence is not only inaccurate in terms of the physics/metaphysics of it – it’s simply unsustainable in terms of the resources available on this planet – not to mention somewhat heartless. You can’t possess a lot of resources without it directly impacting others’ access to them – whether it’s access to food, fossil fuel, water or anything else.
I believe that there are limitless resources – but they aren’t physical. They exist on the psycho-spiritual plane. Ideas, innovation and creativity are endless. The potential for friendship, community, compassion, human connection, and respect is vast. The deepening capacity to love and tap into the wellspring of spirituality is definitely limitless. These are all resources that can most certainly be manifested – both through top-down cognitive strategies and bottom-up embodiment practices.
And, when you have your basic needs met, these are the resources that the world most needs you to possess.
Recently I learned about an abundance business coach who has his students literally burn the bills in their wallets to prove that their potential to earn money is infinite.
Maybe he’s thinking that you have to be willing to lose it in order to make it? I don’t know. But I do think that the fear of poverty, pain and hunger lies at the root of much of the greed-tinged mental illness that has caused most of the problems in the world.
Nevertheless, burning or squandering physical resources like cash is horrifying at best.
If you want to overcome your money fears, then share the contents of your wallet with a homeless charity, a pet shelter, a food bank, or a refugee organization. Please don’t burn it. Despite the banking system’s penchant for creating money out of thin air, for most people, access to financial resources is not unlimited – and there are many in desperate need.
The niyama “tapas” is often translated as “burning” or “igniting.”
I think we can ignite the flames of compassion by offering or giving of ourselves in an almost infinite number of ways. Giving can be a little painful sometimes, but it is in that discomfort that we find a deeper sense of meaning and purpose – and this is the underlying spirit of tapas.
This is a great season for practicing tapas – instead of “What can I manifest?” perhaps a better questions is, “What can I let go of?” Or:
- What can I give?
- How can I stop clinging to…?
- Who can I help?
- How can I best serve someone who is struggling?
- How much stuff do I really need anyway?!
- What limitless positive qualities do I want to cultivate?
There are many ways to demonstrate to yourself that you are powerful and can accomplish much in this world. Particularly when you examine the possibility that once we have our needs met most of what we desire exists in the realms of the mind and the spirit.
What we really want is abundantly plentiful, simply waiting to be manifested.