it is with gratitude and no shame that I acknowledge the teachings of Poverty and am thankful for them
I had a visitor a few years ago who gave me some advice in hushed tones.
“Don’t talk so happy,” he said. “You can get more help if you complain more and let people know how you’re living here.”
Then he gestured to my entire apartment. I suppose he was referring to our paint job and the lack of decor. We have a child with special needs, and décor doesn’t work out. Aside from that, we had everything we needed, including comfort and entertainment. I know this man has two houses, cars, and a high paying profession. I assume he meant well. Perhaps he could not imagine himself in an apartment and his comment reflected his own fear?
I see adults complaining over t.v. channels and kids crying because they have no wifi.
I am reminded of myself some years ago. I feel blessed that our family transcends such silliness – for the most part. As I grow, I gain more gratitude for the Spirit of Poverty. I don’t require gourmet foods nor the “right” pizza to be happy. I used to discipline myself to feel gratitude before eating a meal. But it became difficult to put food on the table. And in that difficulty, I learned what is written in ancient texts, that food is life. There is no more need for the discipline. It is learned through experience that food is life.
I feel rich when I eat fresh vegetables. I hope that feeling never goes away. With food, water, clothing, breathable air, and shelter, there is not much more that makes life real and livable because everything else gained comes with extra work, concerns, and consequences. Anything else is not required for spiritual growth because all I need is to live.
I live in a society where much of education and income relies on an internet connection. We need a car, we need cell phones and much more to keep up in society. But as I gain stuff, I am not attached to stuff the way I was before Poverty. When things break down, shut down, need to be canceled… My life doesn’t fall apart.
I remember what is needed because I have had the blessing of experiencing only what was needed for spiritual progress. It was indeed a blessing.
This is how I’ve come to define spirituality: self-honesty leading to experiential change and growth which acknowledges and connects with the Changeless, promotes compassion so that others can grow in peace, and recognizes that all changing situations (worldly things, emotions, situations, etc.) have no bearing on the Unchanging Truth. The focus is not on perfection nor right and wrong. The focus is only on growing and being. That is all.
Spiritual growth is not about gaining or accumulating things. Its not about rewards nor recognition. It is not about having “fruit” to show. It is about releasing, shedding, and stripping down to what matters.
It is a progression, and as I do it more, I become more free. This doesn’t apply only to material things. I applied what I learned about low income to other aspects in life like low quality relationships. I began to view relationships the same way that I viewed material and essential needs in life. I started to realize that I was not at all poor in relationships. There was not much that I truly needed from others and what I did get from others was precious and more than enough. I would not become offended or feel unimportant anymore.
I no longer felt the need to work to keep up with expectations and appearances. I wore what I had, I cut my hair when I could. I didn’t stress out and spend a lot of time and money just so others would complement me. I discovered the right work. The right work, in my situation, is meeting the needs of family, making wise choices and shopping decisions, cleaning, preparing food, generating income, etc. The wrong work would be activities that take time and money to create any illusion that I am something else or that I live some other way.
Trying to buy spirituality was also some wrong work that I engaged in for a short time. Spirituality means different things to different people. This is nothing new. We see “spirituality” advertised everywhere – usually with a modest price tag. Having so many meanings, spirituality can cause confusion and scattered focus for some. I have only had few opportunities to buy into spiritual classes and seminars.
I learned to stay away from places that advertise getting my desires and things I “deserve”, controlling others, or making things go my way as “spirituality”.
The situations and things I desired just last year are things I now know would have hindered me. And if there is no heartfelt change for good, it doesn’t qualify as my definition of spirituality. With every selfish desire achieved there comes consequences including but not limited to the suffering of pleasure and pain. I would rather use what appears in front of me as tools for growth, asking for nothing. Financial situations kept me away from the wrong “spirituality” for the most part, and this fact has changed my views. It is an ancient idea that we are born into lives where we can resume our spiritual progress from where we left off in the last life, and that our situations are our teachers. True or not, I have learned much from my life situations.
In meditation, I was reminded of being a little kid who had many metaphysical experiences leading to bits of spiritual growth, yet I had no tools save for my existing environment. I realized that to live in honest spiritual growth, I have to be honest about “buying spirituality”.
- Was I not born with the tools I need to learn what I need to learn?
- Are all impoverished people banned from spiritual growth?
- How many gemstones do I need to buy before I’m spiritual?
- How many feathers, how much sage, does it matter if a mala is plastic?
It certainly does not matter if a mala is plastic. My only tools now are my plastic mala and my drum! I know that if I had no financial concerns, I would have had an array of spiritual tools and extra drums for house guests. I still would buy house guest drums! How fun would that be? There is nothing wrong with those things when the attitude is right towards them. But these things, at a time in my life, served as a hindrance to what I needed to know about true spiritual growth.
Poverty (or low income) is a situation for so many people. It is one that requires attention and change, yes. But meanwhile, as a teacher, Poverty worked to simplify my way toward spiritual growth when I was beginning to search in areas that would hinder me.
I gain freedom with every selfish desire and false need that I shed.
I have only a single desire now – to grow. For that reason, it is with gratitude and no shame that I acknowledge the teachings of Poverty and am thankful for them.
Can you relate to the lessons Poverty taught me? For what unlikely teachers are you thankful?
I know what I want the most. Do you think goals and priorities play a part in your definition of spirituality? What is your definition?
Susan created the Humanity Refresh Press Blog which aims to connect community that encourages, pursues personal growth, acknowledges inter-connectedness, and strives toward mindful living through non-harm in word, in thought, and in action.
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