About seven years ago, I decided to take the leap and become a full time yoga teacher. I was single at the time and living alone in a city as expensive as Zurich. Even though I lived simply in a cheap studio apartment and didn't need much, I was often worrying about money. Every coffee I bought, every time I allowed myself to eat out, I couldn't help feeling a cold weight of fear on my chest.
It can't have been as bad because I scraped together enough money to gift myself a retreat in Bali for my thirtieth birthday. One day I was standing with my teacher in the yoga shala in the middle of the buzzing jungle. In the silence of the retreat my existential fears were gnawing away at me and I was sharing my concerns with him. My teacher said to me: "Why worry?" He gestured to the huge trees and beautiful resort above us. "You still have abundance."
There's always enough
It was only months later, sitting by the Zurich lake, that I understood what he had meant. Worry we always will. Whether we have a little or a lot. If we only have a small income, we worry that there won't be enough. If we have a larger income, our expenses increase and we worry about how best to invest that money. Or we still fear that there won't be enough. So we keep reaching for more and trying to improve our situation.
That's what I did after Bali. I accepted a job as an assistant. From one day to the next, I was making more money again. But I had barely tasted my relief when I already started to feel dissatisfied again. Yes, my bank account was well stocked again. But I also immediately started spending more money and raising my standard of living. And I resented not having as much time any more.
It was a key moment. I realized that the feeling of there not being enough doesn't depend on outer circumstances. It is something deeply rooted in our nature. It comes from within. In early life, it's important for survival. As a baby we need the instinct to want more - more food, more sleep, more affection from our parents, more information - in order to thrive. Most of us carry that impulse into adulthood without being conscious of the tendency to always want more or better. So it turns into a greedy chase that never stops.
Were we to pause and ask ourselves (especially in this privileged country): "Has there ever been a moment in my life when I didn't have enough?", most of us would have to say no, there wasn't. And even if we have known hard times - and I don't deny that some really have - I think we also often experience that somehow there is always enough. Somehow life always provides. Somehow it always works out.
However, trusting that it is so is easier said than done. The fear of there not being enough has deep sticky roots.
Looking back, I think generosity was a game changer. It was a decision I made for myself, almost like a self-imposed therapy. I decided to just give without thinking too much about it. I decided to no longer worry. According to the law of karma, we are constantly receiving from this earth, this life, the people that surround us. Not giving in return would be to break that circle.
Slowly I started being more generous with myself and others. I would start small and simply buy someone a coffee. When I really needed something for myself and was afraid I couldn't afford itI would tell myself: "Do what is necessary."
As I started to relax around my finances, I experienced that it was true: somehow there was always enough money rolling in. Even if I was generous and picked up a the check. Or maybe, because I was generous with myself and others.
Over these last seven years my life has changed enormously. I'm no longer alone, I co-own a yoga studio and technically, I don't have to worry about money. Thing is sometimes I still do. I come from a family of meticulous savers, which is a pattern that runs deep. Sometimes I still catch myself thinking up ways of saving money. My husband laughs at me and shows me the figure on our shared back account, so I have to admit I'm being ridiculous.
Trusting that there is always enough is a conscious decision. One that I have to make over and over again, not just where money is concerned. I find it helps to buy people coffee. A little gesture of generosity to remind myself that I have plenty. To this day, being able to give without worrying is one of the greatest luxuries for me.