Abundance in Hard Times

I don't need to gather depressing facts to convince you we are living through hard times. You already know. But what might take some convincing is to suggest that you can also experience abundance in the midst of all this change and uncertainty. Many years ago when June and I lived in Hawaii, our Zen Center of Hawaii started a community garden. We didn't have a lot of money. The local school in the center of town let us use their land. We didn't have money for expensive fertilizers, but a local chicken farm donated fresh chicken shit which I hauled in my beat-up ford truck.

We called the garden "I Ka Pono" which means "cultivate the goodness". Our mission was threefold: to model sustainable farming, to celebrate biological and cultural diversity and to nurture community.

We didn't grow crops. We grew top soil. From the compost crops rich in carbon we grew in the garden and the nitrogen-rich chicken shit we made the best humus from our compost, which we then turned back into our garden beds. Many hands helped us weed, turn the beds, make the compost, sew the seeds, harvest the crops and sell them at our weekly farmer's market.

We supported the garden from farmer's market sales and local grants and eventually a Federal DOA grant. Though we had little money, we always had enough. In fact, we were always giving away food.

We had community and we had a sense of place. Every day we worked with our hands growing food for ourselves and others. And at the end of the day, I came home, tired, muddy and happy.

People can have a lot of money but if they have little community in their lives, they may be very lonely and unhappy. So perhaps abundance is really a state of mind. If you live a Zen-inspired life of openness, empathy and clarity, you have everything you need right now. You know how to be satisfied with little. And you know that true wealth resides in your social relationships woven from the rich fabric of your family and community.

When you have a poverty mentality, no matter how much money or good luck you have, you will never be satisfied. You'll always find something to complain about and someone to blame for your troubles.

When you are proactive in your approach to life, you work in the circle of influence where you have the most leverage. You don't spend your time worrying about things you can't change. You set to work with whatever is in front of you. It might be dirty dishes in the sink, or a crying child. It might be a job that has to be finished, or a floor that needs to be swept. When you are one with your life in this way, you carry the good weather with you wherever you go.

We have a slogan in our tradition which says "Always have a joyful mind." Where does this joy come from? Surely it does not come from things outside of yourself. This joy is who you are. Sometimes it's hard to trust in this way.

There's a beautiful poem by Rumi. It speaks of that love we all have that isn't the stuff of currency in the market place. We don't have enough money to purchase it, but we always have enough loving-kindness to cultivate it.

"A pearl goes up for auction No one has enough So the pearl buys itself."

by Robert Althouse