"Not just another 'get rich without losing your soul' book.
The abundance Boldt eloquently speaks of isn't material but spiritual
or psychological: it's the experience of living in accord with nature—
a challenging lifelong quest. Boldt offers a smart, radical understanding
of how quiet ageold wisdom can help us survive our frantic consumerist society with sanity, grace, even leisure."
—Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia
Using eight guiding principles from Taoist philosophy, Boldt presents new definitions of success and new attitudes toward material ambition—proving that real abundance is about much more than money and careers.
"Recommended reading for anyone searching for a personal definition of enough."
—Vicki Robin, coauthor Your Money or Your Life
"Once again Laurence Boldt gives us the tools we need to live our passion, follow our true work, and make our living in harmony with our true spiritual path."
—Michael Toms, co-founder New Dimensions Radio, coauthor of
True Work: Doing What You Love and Loving What You Do
"The Tao of Abundance presents an elegant formulation for an analysis of the economic opportunities and behavior patterns that impact our lives. I was struck by the author's ability to use the wisdom of such an ancient tradition to transcend every age and financial fashion."
—Jacques Vallee, author and President of Eurolink International
"The Tao of Abundance is another enlightening book from Laurence Boldt. I loved the earlier book, Zen and the Art of Making a Living, which remained at my desk for more than 5 years. These well presented books are worth the price for the quotations alone. Although intended as a guide for living abundantly in these challenging times, there is a wonderful introduction to Taoism here and considerable information about the Taoistic approach sprinkled throughout. Boldt, long a student of Eastern spiritual traditions, brings this wisdom to the contemporary situation and allows it to inform a normative view of modern living. We gain from this reading and the suggested exercises a personal perspective on our life-situation; an awareness that offers an opportunity to create a new way for ourselves in the world. Installing the eight essential principles of Taoism into our life structures could be quite transforming. I highly recommend for you an assiduous study of this book to start off the new millennium."
—Roger Ebsen, Spiritwalk Foundation
"The Tao of Abundance will passionately and emotionally change your life. To realize that true abundance is a mindset and totally within our control is both energizing and reassuring."
- Tom Kuczmarski, President Kuczmarski and Associates,
author of Innovation and Values Based Leadership
Faculty member Kellogg Graduate School of Management—Executive programs
"Tons of books are out there on health, wealth and prosperity . . . and after a while they kinda get boring. But Laurence's work is absolutely magnificent. A masterpiece in every sense of the word. Laurence creates a beautiful tapestry of Eastern and Western philosophy to create a book that reads more like a poem, than a book of facts. A book that has changed my life—and a book I intend to read throughout my life."
—Dr. Sundeep Bhasin
"What the Culture Doesn't Teach You: This book can change your life. Feel like you are always chaseing rainbows, but never reaching the pot of gold? Have too much stuff, but never enough? Fed up with your job, but don't know what else to do because it pays just enough to keep you affluent, but not enough to be independent? YOU NEED THIS BOOK.
"The Tao of Abundance will help you examine your relationship to things, to money, to work and to yourself. More than that it will help you understand how you are being manipulated by things outside of yourself - and how you can break free of that manipulation to gain control of your thinking, your goals and your life.
"This a terrific book. I have worn out one copy of the printed version, given another away (OK lent to my brother and never had it returned), bought a second, and bought the tape to listen to in the car."
"Read this book! This book is awesome! I am on my second read. The more I study Eastern philosophy, the more it resonates with me. This is especially true of Taoism. When I first learned about it, it seemed like such an apathetic world-view—stressing the importance of, basically, not caring. As I learn more, though, I think I got it wrong. Boldt presents topics in such a way that many are truly incredible insights into basic truth and the way the world works. Taoism has many *very* valuable teachings that most of us could benefit enormously from."
—Susan J. B.
"The Tao of Abundance [is a] thoroughly excellent book that examines modern global society and some of its downsides, with a look towards Taoism and Zen Buddhism for guidance and precedents in dealing with a complex commercial culture."
- Anthony R.
"Laurence G. Boldt has written a truly useful, elegant and wonderful book that can, in the most subtle way, radically change your perspective on what it is to incorporate eastern philosophy in every area of Western life. . . . If you're serious about discovering your life's purpose and understanding the underlying economic, social and historic variables that led us to the collective reality we are now living in, this book is a gem and worth its space on your bookshelf."
Greenwood Lake, NY
"Not since Alan Watts has there been a lay expert with the erudition and insight to so expertly pack a difficult package of unfamiliar notions into a book of immediate relevance. What is consumerism to me? and sex? and money? How do they relate to my goals and aspirations? Laurence Boldt, a career counselor and author of the bestselling Zen and the Art of Making a Living, presents a sophisticated alternative to life as we know it. Fully equipped with opinion polls, sociological studies, intellectual histories, and classic economics texts, Boldt dismantles the foundations of our consumer society brick by brick and, more importantly, our unquestioning acceptance of it. The alternative is a path of awareness, of flowing, and of sufficiency that together result in the joyful abundance of a productive, natural life. The shift in world view that Boldt seeks to effect in the reader has such profound practical implications that this book could very well change your life—which is exactly the author's intention. Boldt can be excused for slipping into fuzzy notions like the so-called perennial philosophy, for his recasting of modern life in Taoist terms of ready abundance is so convincing that it makes you wonder how we got stuck in our lifestyles of lack in the first place."
- Brian Bruya,
"The art of abundance is not the art of money making, but the art of knowing how to live." Drawing heavily on Taoist concepts of work, creativity and love, Boldt (Zen and the Art of Making a Living, etc.) offers a systematic program for achieving well-being. Asserting that the Western emphasis on subduing nature and our relentless consumer culture offset the perception of "abundance," he suggests that feelings of prosperity and contentment can flourish independently of actual material wealth. He offers the Taoist pursuit of harmony, leisure and beauty in simple things as a means to help readers appreciate the world's inherent pleasures and to create a sense of fulfillment. According to Boldt, everyone can live abundantly by identifying their true sources of happiness, by following the path of least resistance and by redirecting energy that is unnecessarily tied up in the daily struggle to survive in our culture. Each chapter contains short sections focusing on specific Taoist concepts and showing how readers can apply them to their lives, as well as inspiring quotes from Eastern and Western thinkers. Boldt also provides a workbook section to help readers examine their ideas about money, careers, relationships, time and more. Those looking for a way to sidestep the endless cycle of getting and spending will welcome Boldt's practical, humanist approach to change."
- Publishers Weekly
"At some level, we all know that materialism won't bring us true happiness, but we haven't really figured out how to fill that void if we don't have material wealth; we haven't understood 'true abundance.' Focusing somewhere between material wealth and spiritual prosperity, this book takes us away from the 'psychology of poverty and lack' and into a life of balance and total fulfillment. Following in the Five Fingers of The Tao, the reader learns the eight principles—such as recognizing the unity in all things, learning to receive, following the path of least resistance, taking time to be—that enable one to live abundantly. A workbook of exercises and assessments provides the opportunity to apply and integrate these Taoist principles into daily living."
- Napra Review
"After years of rising stock prices and unprecedented economic growth, has the feeling of abundance passed you by? In The Tao of Abundance, Laurence Boldt, author of the best-selling Zen and the Art of Making a Living explains why and what you can do about it.
"While many have been left behind by the recent economic boom, even among those whose incomes have risen, many feel that the quality of their lives has actually deteriorated or only marginally improved. Despite the longest period of sustained economic expansion in the postwar era, the lowest level of unemployment in decades and a 45 percent increase in consumption levels in last twenty years, the number of Americans who describe themselves "very happy" peaked in 1957!
"The Tao of Abundance examines the reasons behind this contradiction: Why in the midst of the unprecedented material affluence are so many troubled by a nagging sense of lack? Boldt argues that in defining abundance in abstract economic terms we have overlooked important human factors related to quality of life. Drawing on eight principles of Taoist philosophy, he explores spiritual insights and psychological attitudes that will move us toward an experience of real abundance. Along the way, he exposes the core beliefs that comprise a psychology of lack and shows how we can overcome them once and for all.
"The Tao of Abundance also addresses social and economic factors that contribute to an individual and collective experience of lack, and offers suggestions for how we can mitigate these effects in our own lives. This is not a book of spiritual platitudes divorced from the realities of our everyday lives, but one that demonstrates the relevance of ancient Taoist insights to enriching our lives today. The exercises at the end of the book assist readers in making the attitudinal, lifestyle, and behavioral changes that will bring a greater experience of real abundance into all aspects of their lives."
- Business Spirit Journal Online
"Through his intelligent, appealing integration of Eastern philosophy and practical advice, Laurence Boldt has helped thousands of readers find personal satisfaction in their work and personal lives. Now he applies these principles to the subject of abundance: How do we achieve material wealth without sacrificing our souls?
"In The Tao of Abundance, Boldt applies ancient wisdom to modern times, presenting eight guiding principles from Taoist philosophy geared to help readers make practical life changes that will bring them a truer and deeper sense of abundance. He encourages readers to strike a balance between material and spiritual wealth - not to favor one over the other - and argues that increased material wealth comes as a natural byproduct of psychological fulfillment. With exercises designed to help readers find their own balance between societal demands and their own deepest desires, this helpful, inspiring book offers the chance to experience a new feeling of abundance in all aspects of life."
- Fellowship for Intentional Community
"No sin can exceed / Incitement to envy; / No calamity's worse / Than to be discontented," said Lao Tzu centuries ago. The alienation and anxiety that stalk our lives today are the result of a "psychology of lack." Laurence G. Boldt, the best-selling author of Zen and the Art of Making a Living, believes that eight ancient principles from Taoism can put us on a path of abundance. The first principle is to accept the unity of all things, or as Lao Tzu put it: "To embrace all things means also that one rids oneself of any concept of separation: male and female, self and other, life and death. Division is contrary to the nature of the Tao."
"Abundant living comes when we are open to receive and when we follow the path of least resistance. This is the art of wu-wei (effortless action), which is an antidote to the struggle for survival. Boldt is convinced that contentment comes not by succumbing to social pressures but by honoring our inborn abilities. Or as Chuang Tzu put it: "Obey your own destiny; it is often very difficult, but it is the only means of attaining serenity."
- Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
"A book that tackles many of of the difficult questions regarding consumerism and money. Author of the bestselling Zen and the Art of Making a Living, Boldt draws from opinion polls, sociological studies, Taoism, the perennial philosophy, and more to deconstruct our present notions of a consumer based society and reconstruct it along lines that encourage a more flowing, harmonious, rewarding and spiritual relationship with money and the world around us."
- Soul to Spirit
The Tao of Abundance by Laurence Boldt Philosophy of Happy Life
In The Tao of Abundance you will go on a journey that will help you discover what your true belief system is and how your life is being manipulated by the misconception that peace of mind is gained through the acquisition of material things.
The old saying goes that money can't buy happiness. Regardless of what is going on in the economy or in one's bank account, or even if people are doing well financially, they still might feel empty and bankrupt on the inside. They might go around with feelings of deep insecurity. Many people feel this way. Sadly, in today's materialistic world, people think that they have nothing, or that they are nobody if they don't have financial wealth. This sad mindset causes many people to become depressed, and to give up hope on themselves, and in life. However, in The Tao Of Abundance, Laurence G. Boldt makes us re-examine this misconception. In this book, you are going to have your core systems and believes challenged. Much to your surprise, you are going to see that you are being manipulated and brainwashed into thinking that you need "stuff" to feel whole.
The author points out six things that money can't do in the Tao of Abundance. The six things that money shouldn't do are these:
Sacrifice your soul, relationships, health, intelligence, joy, and most important, your dignity. Aren't these concepts amazing?
Then, the author challenges you to examine what financial wealth is costing you, and what price you might be paying. You will begin a journey of self discovery by thinking about the Taoist teachings that are used in the book. You will then gain insight and knowledge regarding the misguided thinking that many people have, that material things and wealth bring you peace. You'll learn to find contentment via your own self created life peace and fulfillment. You are the author of your own success, and you only can decide what it's going to take for you to have inner peace.
The Tao of Abundance give you eight principles such as:
The unity of it all starts you on a path of true abundance.
Learning to receive opens the doors for you to receive your greatest good.
Getting on the path of least resistance give you success with the greatest of ease.
In order to improve health, and to have deeper, healthier relationships, and to generate wealth for yourself, you have to circulate your energy.
The road to your authentic power is the road that enables you to honor your dignity and to use your inborn abilities.
In order to rid yourself of stress and gain peace of mind, you must find the Yin and Yang balance in your life.
Take the time to nurture yourself and the things that are important such as relationships. Give yourself time to grow, and to be.
You must learn that in order to reach your destiny, you have to trust in and embrace the way things naturally turn out in your life.
You'll find that The Tao of Abundance will allow you to change the perceptions and the focus of your life. In this way, you can use your energy to move with the flow of the universe. Then you will see the doors open that grant you abundance, inner peace, and satisfaction.
- Ben Sanderson - www.buzzle.com
The Tao of Abundance: Eight Ancient Principles for Abundant Living
In my own personal search for meaning and the deepening of my capacity for human compassion and understanding, I find myself drawn to reading books from many different perspectives, cultures, philosophies and belief systems. I have spent the past three enjoyable weeks reading The Tao of Abundance: Eight Ancient Principles for Abundant Living by Laurence Boldt. I say ‘enjoyable’ because every page of this book has been a pleasure to read. Boldt’s style of writing is both professional and competent. He demonstrates a thorough understanding of Taoism and invites the reader to reinterpret modern economics and Western beliefs on ‘abundance’, ‘time’, ‘leisure’ and ‘beauty’ through this Taoist lens.
The book is written in eight chapters and begins by providing a basic introduction to Taoism for readers who are new to this ancient philosophy. Boldt then explores the theme of abundance in its many forms, for example, The Nature of Abundance, The Flow of Abundance, The Power of Abundance, The Harmony of Abundance, The Beauty of Abundance, and so on. Boldt draws heavily on the wisdom of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Lieh Tzu and also includes insights from the Bible, Mother Theresa, Ghandi, Albert Einstien and Carl Jung, among others.
In his writing, Boldt expresses his concern regarding the common Western view of abundance and the real sense of scarcity and lack that many people feel in their lives today. Boldt writes:
In a world that defines abundance in terms of scarce resources and economic abstractions, the Taoist philosophy defines abundance in human terms and sees the world as a naturally abundant place. In a do-oriented society that puts faith in future progress, it reminds us to be, and that here and now is the only place we live. In a world caught up in glamour and obsessed with consumption, the Taoist perspective offers and appreciation of leisure and beauty in the simple things in life. In a society that values the cerebral and abstract, the Taoist remind us to trust our intuitions and to recognize the power of the unconscious intelligence. In an increasing narcissistic and artificial society, Taoist philosophy values humility, naturalness, and spontaneity.
A very helpful feature of the book is the workbook found in the back, where Boldt has created a series of exercises to help readers identify and explore their own deeply held beliefs about wealth, abundance and prosperity. I was astonished at some of the limiting beliefs I was able to identify in my own mind, beliefs that first formed as a child growing up in a world where money was scarce, hard to earn, and even harder to keep. Re-examining my old beliefs and replacing them with a more accurate and positive framework has helped me experience the world in a fresh new way. Through his clear writing, Boldt has also given me a solid introduction to the Tao and the immeasurable joy and fulfillment that comes from living in the Tao.
…as you give your gifts and express your inmost nature in the outer world, you attract to yourself the people, circumstances, and resources you will need to fulfill your destiny. You enter a field of experience that, from a conventional perspective, seems magical, but in fact is only the natural state of your being. Spontaneous, creative action and synchronicity in relationships and events become the order of the day. You’ll find yourself being in the right place at the right time. It is not anything you are consciously doing; you are simply allowing your own nature to move you into the flow of the Tao.
Boldt writes competently and communicates his ideas clearly. There is also an intimate quality… he writes as a friend, sitting at the table with you discussing The Tao of Abundance over a cup of jasmine tea… Other works written by Boldt include Zen and the Art of Making a Living and How to Find the Work you Love. He conducts workshops and offers career coaching via his website www.empoweryou.com. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Taoism or creating a new economic paradigm in these highly turbulent times. As Ghandi once said, “There is enough for everyone’s need, but not their greed.”
"The more you learn what to do with yourself, and the more you do for others, the more you will enjoy the abundant life."
—WILLIAM J. H. BOETCKER
Before I say anything about what this book is, I want to begin by saying something about what it is not. This is a not a "get rich quick" or "think your way to riches" book. You will not be admonished to "think like a millionaire," "dress for success," or "climb the corporate ladder." You will find no advice in this book on managing your investment portfolio or planning for your retirement. There are more than enough books of this kind already. In this book, the emphasis will be on a deeper experience of abundance than can be realized by the mere accumulation of goods or by amassing an impressive balance sheet.
To be sure, many readers will find that applying the eight principles contained in this book will, in time, bring greater material abundance into their lives. Certainly, applying these principles will assist you in opening to receive the creative ideas from which all wealth ultimately springs. Yet this increased material abundance will come not from struggling to attain it as a goal in itself, but rather as a natural by-product of experiencing a deeper state of psychological abundance. The new feeling of abundance that you enjoy within will come to be reflected in all aspects of your outer life, including your finances. Yet even if you make not one dime more, or even a few less, but come to earn your money in a way that truly reflects your nature and expresses who you are, your experience of abundance will be enhanced. Indeed, some may find that a truer experience of abundance requires that they relinquish their attachment to social status or excessive material consumption.
Real abundance is about so much more than money. A "healthy bottom line" does not equate with a healthy and abundant state of mind. Evidence of the psychological and spiritual poverty of the rich and famous fills our newspapers, magazines, tabloids, and television programs and hardly needs repeating here. Suffice to say that many who own great stockpiles of material possessions, and who are, to all outer appearances, extremely wealthy individuals, do not enjoy real abundance. They are never content with what they have, and live in fear of losing it. Clearly, real abundance must be something more than having a lot of money and things. But then how do we approach it?
The fundamental premise of this book is that the universe is you and is for you. If you put yourself in accord with the way of the universe, it will take care of you abundantly. To experience this abundance, there is nothing you need do first. It is not necessary for you to earn one more dollar, get a better job, buy a new home or car, or go back to school. All that is required is that you become aware of the inner process through which you create an experience of lack and struggle in your life, and refrain from doing it. Feelings of abundance and gratitude are natural to the human being; they do not need to be added or put on. We have only to become aware of how we are resisting and inhibiting this natural state.
Throughout this book, you will be asked to accept responsibility for creating your own experience of abundance or lack. Of course, no individual operates in a vacuum. It would be absurd to deny the impact that the values and organization of the broader society have on us as individuals. In an effort to secure the ever-expanding productivity and consumption upon which its "health" depends, modern commercial culture vigorously promotes a "lack consciousness." We buy things we don't need (or even want), because we have become convinced that we will be somehow lacking or inferior without them. We do work we don't want to do, because we have become convinced that there is a scarcity of good jobs and that we can't create our own work. Thus, even while we amass more and more stuff, the feeling of abundance keeps eluding us. In addition to the role that the values of the broader society have in promoting a psychology of lack within the individual, the current organization of society poses institutional barriers to his or her creative development and financial independence.
Nevertheless, ultimate responsibility for the individual's experience lies with the individual, not with the culture into which he or she has been born. Awareness of the broader social dynamics that promote a consciousness of lack, as well as the inner ego drives that bind us to them, empowers us to break, once and for all, the chains of psychological poverty and lack. This book will address the root causes of the psychology of lack, and how these can be overcome.
Ultimately, the system is the ego. Freeing ourselves from the dominance and control of this system will be our primary concern. What we see reflected in the broader social and economic system alienation, attachment, struggle, resentment, craving for approval, competitive hostility, pride, greed, and chaosoriginate within the ego. We are the system, or, as J. Krishnamurti put it, long before the popular song: "We are the world." This book will contrast the way of the Tao with the way of the ego. The way of the ego necessarily produces a psychology of lack one that cannot be overcome, regardless of the quantity of money or goods we accumulate. Alternatively, the way of the Tao naturally yields a feeling of abundance, regardless of how great or meager our accumulation of money and goods may be. Though he was often without money, and at times even food, William Blake's poetry exudes abundance. As he put it:
I have mental joys and mental health,
Mental friends and mental wealth,
I've a wife that I love and that loves me;
I've all but riches bodily.
This is not to say that we should reject material wealth or shun the blessings that come with it. With money, much good can be done and much unnecessary suffering avoided or eliminated. Moreover, in the culture we live in today, time is money and money is power. It takes time to appreciate and enjoy life and all of its simple beauties. It takes time to stop and listen to the voice of our true selves. It takes time to develop our gifts and talents. It takes time to learn and grow. It takes time to develop and nurture meaningful relationships. And in making time for all of these, money is a great help.
Money can also give us a measure of freedom from the control of others and in this respect is more important today than ever. Throughout most of human history, one did not need money to live, that is, for the basic necessities of life. For one unable or unwilling to fit into society's mold, there was always the option of retreating to some remote place and subsisting on the landan option that isn't really feasible today.
The Taoist values freedom and preserving the dignity of the human spirit, and in this respect, would not object to Humphrey Bogart's assertion that "the only point in making money is, you can tell some big shot where to go." The idea here is not to express (or harbor) hostility toward others but to affirm and follow your own path, free from intimidation or the control of others. The big shot might be a boss for whom you do soul-draining, monotonous worker a landlord or mortgage-holding bank, whom you must pay for the privilege of a little peace and quiet. In as much as money is an important factor in determining the time we have to enjoy life and the power and freedom we have in it, the pursuit of money is a worthy goal. On the other hand, if we are looking to money to fulfill or satisfy us, we are sure to be disappointed.
In lacking money, we too often think a lack of money is our only problem. Money can give us the time to appreciate the simple things in life more fully, but not the spirit of innocence and wonder necessary to do so. Money can give us the time to develop our gifts and talents, but not the courage and discipline to do so. Money can give us the power to make a difference in the lives of others, but not the desire to do so. Money can give us the time to develop and nurture our relationships, but not the love and caring necessary to do so. Money can just as easily make us more jaded, escapist, selfish, and lonely. In short, money can help to free or enslave us, depending on why we want it and what we do with it. In this respect, nothing has changed in the two thousand years since Horace wrote, "Riches either serve or govern the possessor."
Money is a relatively simple issue. There are only two important questions: (1) How much do you need? (2) What is it going to cost you to get it? It is keeping these two questions in mind that gives us a true sense of money's relationship to abundance. If we have less than what we need, or if what we have is costing us too much in either case, our experience of abundance will be incomplete. As things stand in the modern world, you need money to eat, sleep, dress, work, play, relate, heal, move about, and keep the government off your back. In what style you choose to do each of these will determine how much money you need, that is, your lifestyle. Remember in choosing your style that it comes with a price tag. How much money it costs is not the issue, but how much the money costs you is of critical importance. Keep in mind:
Money should not cost you your soul.
Money should not cost you your relationships.
Money should not cost you your dignity.
Money should not cost you your health.
Money should not cost you your intelligence.
Money should not cost you your joy.
When it comes to determining how much you need, there are two important categories to keep in mind. First, there are the material things you need to keep body and soul together. Second are the areas of "need" related to social status and position. With both, you have a great deal of discretion. The ancient Taoist masters were keenly aware of the cost of money and were particularly skeptical of the cost of attaining social status and position. In the Lieh Tzu, Yang Chu says:
[People] realize happiness is not simply having their material needs met. Thus, society has set up a system of rewards that go beyond material goods. These include titles, social recognition, status, and political power, all wrapped up in a package called self-fulfillment. Attracted by these prizes and goaded on by social pressure, people spend their short lives tiring mind and body to chase after these goals. Perhaps this gives them the feeling that they have achieved something in their lives, but in reality they have sacrificed a lot in life. They can no longer see, hear, act, feel, or think from their hearts. Everything they do is dictated by whether it can get them social gains. In the end, they've spent their lives following other people's demands and never lived a life of their own. How different is this from the life of a prisoner or slave? . . .
In the short time we are here, we should listen to our own voices and follow our own hearts. Why not be free and live your own life? Why follow other people's rules and live to please others?
Why, indeed? In a recent study, 48 percent of the male corporate executives surveyed admitted that they felt their lives were empty and meaningless. When one considers the cultural taboos against such an admission, the figure is surprisingly high and leads one to conclude that the real number must be higher still. Yet these are the ones who have the money and status so many others desperately crave. Napoleon Hill, who wrote the classic "success" book Think and Grow Rich, learned the hard way that true riches can never be equated to dollars and cents. In a later work entitled Grow Rich! With Peace of Mind, he described how his own obsession with money and material success had indeed made him rich but had cost him his peace of mind, health, relationships, and ultimately, even his financial fortune. He acknowledged the spiritual dimension of true and lasting prosperity and determined that in reacquiring wealth, he would keep money in its proper place as but one of the many abundances of life.
Many think they'd be happy if they had enough money to give up working altogether. Yet this is often only a reaction to the drudgery of working day after day at things they find meaningless or even absurd. In response to my previous books Zen and the Art of Making a Living and How to Find the Work You Love, I receive many communications from people about their experience of work. One day, I received a phone call from a man halfway around the world who, at forty-five, had never worked a day in his life. As a beneficiary of a sizable inheritance, he was free of the need to earn his daily bread. Yet he was not a happy man. Indeed, he was deeply troubled by the fact that so much of his life had gone by without his having expressed his own talents or made a difference in the lives of others. Like good health, spiritual growth, and nourishing relationships, meaningful work is one of the abundances of life, that we neglect at our peril. It is this kind of wholistic approach to abundance that I will be taking throughout this book.
To begin with, it's worthwhile to ask whether the world we live in is one of natural abundance or scarcity. The way we answer this question depends in large part on how we define wealth. Traditionally, economists have defined wealth in terms of scarcity. In fact, economics itself is defined as "a science concerned with choosing among alternatives involving scarce resources." The first economists viewed land as the basis of wealth. While land provides sustenance and often an abundance of food to exchange for other items, there is a definite limit to the amount of land available for cultivation. Next came the mercantilists, who viewed gold and silver as the basis of wealth. Gold and silver are valuable because they are scarce. This conception of wealth spurred the colonial expansion of European nations, resulting in what remains to this day worldwide cultural and economic dominance by the West. Later economists viewed labor as the basis of wealth. Early industrial development required vast numbers of "cheap" laborers. Generally, the more people one employed, the richer he became. Yet there is a finite number of workers and a finite number of hours each can work. All of these definitions of "wealth" (land, gold, and labor) then are based on limited, that is, scarce resources. Now, to state the obvious, if wealth is based on owning scarce resources, a relative few can be considered wealthy.
The noted architect, inventor, and futurist Buckminster Fuller begins with a fundamentally different definition of wealth. For Fuller, wealth equals physical energy (as matter or radiation) plus "metaphysical know-what and know-how." This conception of wealth as "all energy available to planet earth and ever-growing-human-knowledge" makes us all, as Fuller puts it, "billionaires." This is so since physical energy, as we know from physics, is always in some way conserved and since the application of knowledge brings ever greater knowledge. From Fuller's conception, then, the basis of wealth is virtually infinite. We live in an abundant world.
After many years of compiling and evaluating data on global resources and technologies, Fuller concluded that "humanity can carry on handsomely and adequately when advantaged of only its daily energy income from the Sun-gravity system." In other words, there is enough for everyone to live comfortably without exhausting the earth's natural resources. (I haven't space here to examine the research on which Fuller based his conclusions, though I encourage interested readers to investigate his findings.) While their approach was naturalistic and intuitive, not empirical and methodical, the Taoists arrived at essentially the same conclusion: We live in an abundant world. Their assertion that "if all things are allowed to fulfill their natures, all will be happy" assumes a natural state of abundance one that comes from being at one with the process that is the universe.
If we live in an abundant world, if we are all, as Buckminster Fuller puts it, billionaires, why do we see so many examples of scarcity and lack? Beyond issues of economic and political control and the distribution of wealth, most people believe in and operate from a psychology of scarcity and lack. The psychology of lack relies upon wide acceptance of the belief in physical scarcity. To be sure, there are powerful interests that have a stake in promoting and perpetuating this view. As Fuller puts it, "With their game of making money with money, the money-makers and their economists continue to exploit the general political and religious world's assumptions that a fundamental inadequacy of human life support exists around our planet." People who believe in lack are more likely to become lackeys for those who would manipulate them for their own purposes.
Whether or not we accept Fuller's findings, or even his definition of wealth, the important point here is to recognize that the way we define wealth has a great deal to do with our individual and collective experience of abundance or lack. Moreover, each us can benefit from challenging the assumption that we live in a world of scarcity and lack. On a more immediate level, we each might ask ourselves, if we don't already live in abundance. Certainly, on a material level, most of us enjoy an abundance unprecedented in human history. Think about all you have and enjoy. First and foremost, you have your life. I'm willing to guess that you have enough to eat, ample clothing, and a place to sleep, out of the elements. Beyond the basics, the average middle-class person in the developed world has a higher standard of living than the kings and queens of earlier eras enjoyed. We have running water and indoor toilets; we have central heat and air conditioning, and refrigeration. We eat exotic foods from all over the world. In the dead of winter in New York city, one can enjoy bananas and other tropical foods, something even Queen Elizabeth I would have been unable to do. In addition, we have means of communication and transportation that would have seemed fantastic even a century ago. Through most of their time on this planet, the life expectancy of homo sapiens was about forty years. Today, a good many will live twice that long.
Regardless of the facts of abundance on an individual or planetary level, for many, a feeling of lack persists. To be sure, the psychological factor is critical in determining our experience of abundance or lack. Even hardheaded economists recognize the psychological component to wealth creation and valuation. When economists use terms such as "consumer confidence" or "investor confidence," they are recognizing the importance of the psychological dimension in economic life. In the fluctuations of the stock markets or in the individual valuation of a particular company, psychological factors often play a significant role. The perception of, or belief in, the strength or weakness of a given market or company may override the "economic fundamentals" in the determination of value. Even the paper money we use backed as it is by absolutely nothing depends on our collective belief in it. If believing in the reality of planetary and individual abundance is an act of faith, it is certainly no less an act of faith than believing in the real value of the paper money we use everyday.
Because the psychological dimension is so important to our experience of abundance, this book will address it at length. The Taoist principles examined here will provide powerful keys to embracing and integrating a psychology of abundance. In the first two chapters, a groundwork will be laid for overcoming the sense of alienation and separation that are the underpinnings of a psychology of lack. Again, for most of us, the feeling of lack is not a result of a lack of things or material stuff. It is a sense of struggle and a lack of ease; a lack of energy; a feeling of powerlessness and blocked expression; a lack of harmony and connection in relationship; a lack of time to be, grow, and relate; and a lack of opportunity to fully appreciate and celebrate the beauty in life that give a sense of deficiency to our existence. Each of these "lacks" will be considered respectively in chapters 3-8, both in terms of understanding their causes, and in terms of practical suggestions for creating greater abundance in each of these areas. The exercises at the end of the book will help you to integrate and apply the information you encounter in the text.
The Eight Principles of Abundant Living: The dynamics of the psychology of lack go like this: Simultaneous to the formation of the individual ego there arises a profound sense of lack, a feeling of separation from everything else in life. This sense of separation brings a feeling of contraction and a sense of incompleteness, which we try to mitigate through mental, physical, and emotional attachments. The perceived need to defend and expand our attachments, in turn, creates a feeling of struggle. Struggle brings resentment, ingratitude, and withholding, which rob us of joy and keep the energy from flowing freely in our lives. This leads us away from the path of our inborn destinies. Instead of following our own paths, we crave the approval and attention of others. This craving for approval, in turn, produces competitive hostility and envy. Envy, in turn, provokes greed, which agitates our minds and sends us on the mad chase that today we call the "rat race." In the process, we lose the ability to appreciate the simple enjoyments that come with leisure. Ultimately, this leads to a sense of chaos and confusion that obfuscates our innate intelligence and robs us of our capacity to appreciate the beauty in life.
On the other hand, a psychology of abundance flows naturally from the Tao, the way of life. Moving from the unity of the Tao, from the experience of oneness with all of life, we receive the natural abundance of the universe with ease in a spirit of gratitude and joy. Thus, the energy flows freely in our lives, and we fulfill our innate destinies. Recognizing the innate power and dignity of all of life, we live in harmony with it and its natural cycles. Respecting our humanity above any outer goal or reward, we cultivate the sense of leisure and peace necessary to appreciate the beauty and order inherent in life, and thus, allow it to express itself through us in all we do. (For more on the eight principles and their counterpoints, see the highlights at the end of this introductory chapter.)
In addition to the inner or psychological dimension, The Tao of Abundance will address some of the social and economic factors that contribute to an individual and collective experience of lack, and offer suggestions for how we can mitigate these effects in our own lives. This book purports to apply ancient wisdom to modern times, and in this, the modern times are as important as the ancient wisdom. I have no interest in spouting spiritual platitudes divorced from the social and economic context in which we live today. Rather, I will attempt to apply ancient, really, universal, principles to the situation we find ourselves in at the beginning of the twenty-first century. The classical Taoists were keen social observers. Lao Tzu, in particular, often had harsh words for those individuals and systems that oppress people or lead them away from their true natures and thus from the fulfillment of their inborn destinies. In the spirit of this tradition, I will address social and economic factors that contribute to a mass psychology of lack, as well as institutional barriers that limit the natural creative development of individuals.
You may reject the values of the broader society; you may even be actively working to transform them. Still, you needn't make your own experience of abundance contingent on that change. To view the economic system as an enemy that must be overcome before you can prosper and be happy is to put yourself in a position of powerlessness, frustration, and resentment. While there is a place for collective action, in this book, the emphasis will be on what we as individuals can do to enhance our own experience of wealth and well-being within the system as it now exists. By becoming living examples of genuine abundance in our own lives, we participate in the transformation of the broader culture. While no individual can single-handedly change the global economic system, each of us can transform our own experience of abundance. Where once we saw lack, debt, and conflict, we can begin to see gifts, opportunities, and mutual support. We can each, in our own way, challenge the widespread belief that we live in a world of lack.
By now, you're probably getting the idea that what I mean by the "Tao of Abundance" is something altogether different from the Dow Jones version of abundance. The Tao of Abundance is more wholistic in its scope, addressing the entire issue of quality of life, and not simply financial goals. It assumes an innate order in life, one that we as individuals realize as we fulfill our inborn destinies. It further assumes that the world we live in, the world we grow out of, is an abundant one.
Now, if in fact, we live in an abundant world, there are three primary tasks for us on the journey to a life of total abundance. The first task is to recognize the inner and outer forces that conspire to make us believe in scarcity and thus to feel lack. Awareness of these factors will help us to overcome their influence over us. The second task is to cultivate a spirit of abundance in our lives, celebrating the gift of life with joy and thanksgiving. As we focus in our thoughts and actions on things that bring a feeling a connection with all life, we begin to move with the flow of the Tao. In this way, we allow blessings to come to us as a part of the "overflow" of an abundant spiritnot as things we crave and struggle for from a sense of lack or desperation. To come from lack can only bring lack, even when we get what we think we need. On the other hand, when we come from the spirit of abundance, we attract ever greater abundance.
Finally, as we move in the world from the spirit of abundance, we become a liberating and empowering force in the lives of those we interact with. We help them see, not by preaching, but by example, that we all live in an abundant world and that they as well can free themselves from lack consciousness. Together, we can unite in a spirit of abundance and create new patterns of community and social organization, new lifestyles, and new ways of relating, based on cooperation rather than competition. As envy, greed, and competition flow from lack, so do compassion, service, and cooperation flow from a spirit of abundance. It is this spirit of abundance that will be our guide as we embark on the journey to creating total abundance in our lives.
THE EIGHT ANCIENT PRINCIPLES OF ABUNDANT LIVING
The principles of abundance are stated in English. The corresponding Chinese term is often not, nor is it intended to be, a direct translation of the principle as expressed in English. Rather, the Chinese terms give the essence or active ingredient of the principle. For example, when I use yin/yang in correspondence with the harmony of abundance, I do not mean that yin/yang literally translates as "harmony." Rather, I mean that an awareness and understanding of yin/yang dynamics will help us to find greater harmony in our own lives.
Chapter 1 The Nameless Tao Wu-ming
Recognizing the unity of all things starts you on the path to true abundance.
Chapter 2 Nature Tzu-jan
Learning to receive opens the door to your greatest good.
Chapter 3 Ease Wu-wei
Following the path of least resistance brings success with ease.
Chapter 4 Flow Ch'i
Circulating the energy in your life strengthens health, deepens relationships, and generates wealth.
Chapter 5 Power Te
Honoring your innate dignity and actualizing your inborn abilities is the road to authentic power.
Chapter 6 Harmony Yin/Yang
Balancing yin and yang eliminates stress and brings peace of mind.
Chapter 7 Leisure Jen
Taking time to be, to grow, and to nurture your relationships gives you the strength to persevere.
Chapter 8 Beauty Li
Achieving your destiny is a matter of trusting and embracing the organic pattern of your life.
Copyright © 1999 by Laurence G. Boldt
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt from The Tao of Abundance may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.