Friday, January 8, 2010


"Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench.
Care about other people's approval and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity."
~ Lao-Tzu

I hate money. Probably as much as I desire it. In fact, my abhorrence likely arises from my desire and attachment. More than anything else, money worries can shake my core so strongly my insides wind up quivering with anxiety and my worldview goes from relatively calm and hopeful to deeply panicked and a mite conspiratorial.

An insurance bill arrives. Panic. The car needs repair. Panic. The dog is sick. Panic. The taxes are soon due. Panic. There are a veritable dearth of jobs posted in my field and we're not even sure I can work full-time yet without all of us careening into rudderless thrashing as we seek to balance preschool/housework/homecare/lifestuff with the practicalities of a toddler how may not yet be ready for a full schedule and two parents working their butts off. Yes, panic.

In my calmer moments, I remember to be grateful. I recognize the blessings of my situation and consider all those in even less secure states than that of my family. We are very, very lucky.

So why, then, this constant buzz of worry? Why do I create a self-imposed tug-of-war between using time heretofore unavailable to pursue something intangible, unpaid, fulfilling, or otherwise un-monied... versus filling each spare moment with a frantic and downhearted search for some kind of income stream that miraculously snuggles into our three lives with perfect conformity?

The conscious inner scrutiny of the last year or so has uncovered some less-than-attractive traits. My tendency toward immobility despite high potential. Persistent ennui borne of low self-esteem and too-often lack of motivation. A pessimistic attitude worsened by emotional bouts of fruitless anxiety. And a nagging belief that even if such things as finding the job you love, working and then concerning yourself with the outcome, or living without concern for financial stability were possible... they are not possible for me.

Oh this is a whiny post. Sorry about that! So... the point. The spiritual lesson and potential opportunity of my awareness in this moment:

I think what Lao-Tzu is emphasizing in the above, is the hungry aspect of acquiring certain things in one's life. There is danger in seeking so blindly we overlook the purpose behind our search, or fail to question the rightness of our actions (like a hungry ghost).

When I read his words, I think about how my attachment to security (be it financial, emotional, or otherwise) has more to do with the outer nature of things than my inner experience. I name security through what I possess, rather than what I do. I attach it to how I feel, rather than how I behave. I seek it from outside - from others - rather than remembering it is ultimately inside, within my control and solely my responsibility for maintaining.

Today I think money is a food that does not fill, an activity that does not sate. Because even when I have enough, I am always worried I need more. This knowing of money addresses my own emptiness and refuses to look away when I see fear.

It is sugar. Or cigarettes. Or sex. Compliments, trappings, extravagance and desserts piled high atop over-caloric meals on sauce-strewn plates.

Empty echoing emptiness.

May you awake to your emptiness and embrace it without actions of fear. May you fill yourself in serenity.


  1. Your daughter will be young only once. If you have the ability to stay home with her, stay, even part time. You know, I am going through the same thing right now. You speak my heart at this moment. You have a great way with words.

  2. I am so glad my thoughts and words were helpful to read; knowing I have connected to the experience of someone else is one of the greatest gifts of doing something like this. I believe it's important for us all to feel less alone.

    Too true that she will only be young once. I missed a lot of her childhood while in graduate school, and so this time with her - though challenging and new - has been an incredible blessing. Something I would not give back.

    Yet I do struggle to find a balance... some way to be both mommy to her and also an individual to me (though I suppose those distinctions are very ego-driven). But for now, I tend to remind myself that what we have in this moment will soon disappear, and then I will miss it, I'm sure.

    Thank you so much for your words. And best of luck to you. ;)