Be content with what you have. Rejoice in how things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking the whole world belongs to you. — Lao Tzu
Are you rich? Do you feel that you have what you need to be happy? A lot of people don’t. Why is that? It’s an important question. Because as nice as it is to have lots of money and beautiful things, I believe real wealth comes from within.
Let me explain.
I got thinking about this recently when my wife sent me a BBC article entitled, “Can the world get richer forever?” It asked some important questions about the pace of economic growth that’s steadily accelerated since the industrial revolution.
One of the things that caught my attention was how the article suggested that unless we change our definition of “rich” we may tap out the earth’s resources irreparably. They cited a wonderful quote from Indian activist Vandana Shiva.
Being rich means living a full life, living a life of meaning. Having work for your hands and your mind and your heart. Having a wide circle of compassion to give. On that there is no limit.
I have a pretty modest life. As an entrepreneur, I’m in the early stages of building my business. According to U.S. standards of wealth–based on our shared income–my wife and I live just above the line defining most people as “poor.”
But the truth is, we feel rich and not wanting for anything. Sure, we’d love to own our own house and have a backyard. We’d like to have more money. We’d love a lot of things. But I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. And it doesn’t stop me from feeling that my life is abundant.
Where Does Inner Richness Come From?
Here’s the thing. I’ve noticed that my greatest happiness comes from a sense of inner richness. The essence of that richness is tied to a few things that don’t fit the normal definition of wealth. The following questions more or less capture that essence.
1. Are my relationships healthy and productive? I’m talking about my closest friends and family. Yes.
2. Do I have routines that support my mental, emotional, and physical health? Yes.
3. Do I believe in the work I’m doing every day? Am I creative and producing things that matter? I believe I am.
4. Am I progressing, learning, and growing? Inwardly and outwardly? Am I enlarging my perspective, my capacity to give, create, discern, and know? Are my fingers getting more nimble on the strings of my guitar and do they stir the music in my soul? Yes.
5. Do I make contact with the still and silent center within me on a regular basis? Yes.
All of these are super important, but the last one stands out for me. Meditation can introduce you to a kind of baseline of happiness and fulfillment that’s qualitatively different from the other examples I gave. And it may explain why science is finding that meditation can make you happier.
According to psychologist Dr. Robert Puff, “one study demonstrated that after only eight weeks of meditating for approximately one hour each day, six days a week, test subjects reported they had become happier.”
There are probably a lot of reasons for these results. This is how I think about it.
The Power Of Simply Being
Unlike the fulfillment I feel from an insight, a great conversation, a loving touch, or from creating a new piece of art, meditation connects me to life in a way that nothing else does. At the same time, it directly influences my ability to feel fulfilled from my engagement with the world around me.
In meditation, I discover the amazing nature of presence. In the radical immediacy of the present moment, there is no fear. There is no doubt or resistance. There is just the delicate but overwhelming certainty of being. I discover this fullness of being in the midst of silence and stillness.
There are some important qualities here that I want to draw out. First, in that silence, I don’t want or need anything. I am completely fulfilled. I discover anew that I am whole and happy as I am. I don’t need or want anything more.
That’s one of the miracles of just being. It unveils a dimension of life and self that I believe is important for every human being to experience on a regular basis. That experience fills us with confidence that there is inherent happiness and fullness at the core of who we are.
Life is good it whispers through the quiet stillness. On some pre-thought level, we already know this. Everything is fine as it is. Happiness is already there at the silent center of you and me.
Do You Need Anything More To Be Rich?
That lesson blends into the rest of my life. It reminds me again and again that I don’t need more. The world suggests that I need more things. I think I deserve more recognition for my work, I need a flashier car, I need better clothes, I need…more.
Can you relate? I think this is a question that never ends and one we should return to again and again. “Do I really need anything more to be completely happy and fulfilled in the immediacy of this moment?”
I’m not telling you there’s a right answer to this. But I do think we all need to live with this question.
The truth is…I don’t need more. Of course we all need to take care of the basics. Good healthy food isn’t cheap. And depending on where you live, commuting to work, paying the rent or having a mortgage are expensive.
Am I immune to financial stress? Absolutely not. I fret about it too. Sometimes a lot.
But that’s not what I’m talking about.
Get Rich With Meditation
My happiest moments come stealing up to me when I least expect it. And when they do, they always sing the same refrain. I don’t need anything more. I am happy as I am, right here, right now. I don’t want anything more. I’m rich.
I am happy because I’m alive, in a universe that appears to be filled with love and creativity at its core. I am happy because I connect with that love through silence, my relationships, creative acts, and through constant learning, insight, and growth.
Do you ever hear that voice I’m talking about? The one that says: This Moment is enough. Life is good. I am as happy as I will ever be, and I am happier than I could ever imagine.
For me, meditation has been one of the keys to knowing that I’m rich. Of course it’s not the only the thing, but just like compounding interest, investing in meditation over the long-term pays big dividends.
Want to grow your inner riches? Try our free How To Meditate Mini Course. Learn to meditate in five easy lessons.
(Photo Credits via Flickr Creative Commons: Evan Leeson)