"Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship." -- Buddha
Few people know the story of who Buddha actually was. For those who don't, he was a prince born into the royal family on the border of India and Nepal more than 2,000 years ago. Buddha was neither a prophet nor a god -- he was a human being just like the rest of us.
Buddha was born into privilege, but was disillusioned by his family's riches when he understood that money could not protect from illness, aging and death. And so he abandoned his wealth and pursued a path of enlightenment: seeking an existence based on virtue, consciousness (achieved through meditative practices) and liberation from the ego mindset. Buddha itself means "the awakened one."
It is often said that the best things in life are the most simple and therefore the most under-appreciated. If you think of the happiest times in your life they are most likely to be around loved ones, when you were being creative or when you were giving of yourself. These have nothing to do with money.
Wise old Buddha certainly knew a thing of two the rest of us don't about attaining lasting happiness through non-attachment to possessions and power. The fact is, abundance is a mindset -- not an amount in the bank. And this mindset is available to you anywhere, in any moment.
The never-ending quest for more money is not akin to abundance, its contradictory to the true meaning of wealth. Here is why:
1. With money, there is no such thing as enough.
Unlike food, entertainment, sleep or social stuff -- few people ever say, "That is sufficient -- no more needed." There is no 'X' amount of dollars in the bank that feels satisfying.
2. Someone has more. Always.
If we live a life of comparison we set ourselves up for misery. Someone else will always have a bigger house, fancier wedding, grander vacation. This never, ever ends.
3. If we have more, we spend more and "require" more and newer things.
This is like a trap. We start out small, get a little promotion and we are thrilled. Quickly we are used to a new standard of living and want more. And it continues. It's a cycle. Psychologists call it "hedonic adaptation." We get used to our fortunes (both good and bad) very quickly. With a sailboat and a fancy car you will be looking achingly at yachts and the newer version of your already sweet ride.
4. As you earn more, the stakes are raised.
Each time our income is increased, taking us from one economic bracket to another, we find ourselves at the bottom of a new league once again. The lifestyles of those amongst your social and professional circles elevates each time. We never feel we have made it as we are either new to a certain bracket or comfortably within in it and therefore focused on the next bracket.
5. Lack is a recurring mindset.
True wealth is an internal condition. The sooner we make up our minds that our lives are already truly abundant, the better off we are. Coco Chanel put it best, "There are people who have money and there are people who are rich."
The way to recognize your true wealth is to bless and honor everything in your life -- particularly the things that money cannot purchase -- love if you are so lucky to have it, the health of your family and your loyal and lasting friendships. Think of how much everything you have would mean to somebody less fortunate than you. Believing that you need more will always leave you feeling unhappy and deprived when you already have plenty.
Buddha understood that is it not money, but our precious time that matters most. Our time on the planet to become who we are here to be. To serve our purpose and live our authentic truth. He said, "The problem is, you think you have time." The problem is we think our time here is eternal but the truth is we never really know when it will come to an end. It's too easy to forget to live our lives in a meaningful and lasting way -- especially as we often think that chasing more money is the answer and the goal.
Meditate on this, "How do I want to honor and spend my real riches, my time -- while it lasts?"