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Are You Singing "The Inner Bag Lady" Blues?

11/21/2008 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Lessons in Living: Part 3
The Wisdom of Warren Buffet and Eckhart Tolle

Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked.
Warren Buffett

Focus your attention on the Now and tell me what problem you have in this moment.
Eckhart Tolle

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.
Janis Joplin

OK, I slipped the Janis Joplin quote in here, because after reading my monthly investment statement yesterday, I did not feel like some who's last name is Rich! Anything but. In fact, I felt more like singing another chorus of the perennial favorite, "Here Comes The Inner Bag Lady" blues!

Perhaps I should explain about the bag lady part. Remember the little gerbil from last time? Allow me to formally introduce you. Her name is Eloise McPhee, (no relation to Nanny McPhee, but a devotee) but I call her "Ellie", for short. Not only is she the icon of my fear, but she doubles as my inner "Bag Lady In Waiting".

After seeing the look on my face when I opened the envelope containing the "good" news, it took Ellie less than a nanosecond to jump on the wheel and start grinding away. The lyrics to "Me and Bobby McGee" came to mind as I contemplated approaching my own "freedom", defined by Janis as "nothing left to lose".

As Ellie began to work up a sweat, I thought it best to offer her some words of assurance. "It isn't the end of the world, Ellie," I offered. I wasn't sure I believed it myself and clearly, she was hearing none of it. She took one look at all those minus signs and was chained to the wheel for a good two hours before I could get her down and on board with the tea and rocking chair.

"Listen, Ellie", I whispered in my most reassuring voice, "I know this looks and feels scary, but really sweetheart, it'll be OK. You know how you like to keep going round and round on your favorite wheel? Well, the market's kind of like that. It goes down and it goes up. But look, you and I have weathered many storms together and we've always come out on the other side, haven't we? We will this time too. You've just got to trust." (Trust seems to be a big issue with her!)

"And Ellie, remember what our good friend Eckhart says: "Focus your attention on the Now and tell me what problem you have in this moment". You and I get into trouble if we get too far out ahead of ourselves." "And don't forget," I remind her, "we have so much to be grateful for. Let's take a bath in gratitude while we're here and after, we'll have cookies to go with the tea."

Believe it or not, Ellie is actually getting better at coming down from the wheel these days, not that she doesn't jump on with a high degree of regularity. Maybe it's a factor of age. She is a seasoned vet, you know. But after all these years, she's finally beginning to get that there's another world beyond the wheel!

Ellie loves the tea and rocking chair routine and often reminds me to get on board if I forget. "Uh, excuse me," she'll say, looking at her watch. "Aren't we due for a session together? It's 4 PM. Isn't it time for our break?" I know something is shifting inside when the roles are reversed and she's the one reminding me that it's time for tea and a gentle rock together.

From time to time, I still get hooked when I look at those financial statements (an activity I'm disavowing for the foreseeable future, by the way). I momentarily become identified with the numbers on the page and lose sight of what really matters. I mistakenly believe that I am what I have or don't have; that I am my "stuff" or my bank account balance. The doom and gloom refrain plays on in an endless loop and in spite of the fact that my mortgage is current and I've never made a late payment in my life, I have already mentally begun to pack my bags and take up residence on the street.

I haven't met a woman yet who doesn't secretly harbor similar fears. Remember Lily Tomlin's endearing Trudy, the Bag Lady? Come on now, women! Who among you doesn't have an Inner Bag Lady lurching in the shadows of your psyche? And how about it, men? Don't you have the equivalent? Let's give them names and "out" them! What do these characters really want? If we can shine the light of awareness on them, perhaps they'll shrivel up and die like snails crawling through salt.

Here's another quote from Tolle that puts this all in perspective:

"Those who have not found their true wealth, which is the radiant joy of Being and the deep, unshakable peace that comes with it, are beggars, even if they have great material wealth. They are looking outside for scraps of pleasure or fulfillment, for validation, security, or love, while they have a treasure within that not only includes all those things but is infinitely greater than anything the world can offer."

I can laugh at myself when I sing "The Inner Bag Lady Blues", but I know this to be true: in terms of what really matters, I am abundantly wealthy. At the beginning and at the end of the day, what matters to me most is priceless: the love of my family and friends, and being in service to the community of Beings who share this planet. Why not consider and acknowledge your own abundant wealth, no matter what the numbers are on your financial statements?

Please consider this an invitation to share your thoughts here; now, and in the coming weeks, as we continue to discover what these times have in store for us. We might be in for a rough road ahead, but let's see what pearls we can find by the side of the road and share them with each other.

Remember, the blessings are always with you.