Our unique paths

Having been in, and around, the world of clergy, ministers, missionaries, monks, nuns…etc. for most of my life, the idea of self-sacrifice, poverty and suffering as the path to a spiritual life, was proffered constantly. Guilt for wanting nice things; comforts, beauty, and  time for one’s self, was the order of the day. So many of my good friends and colleagues won’t even talk about their desires for material possessions because they feel that this is somehow wrong. I used to be one of these too. At one point in my life, I gave all of my worldly goods away and went to work, and live, in the poorest region of the United States. My car barely ran, I owned one pair of pants and a few t-shirts. I lived in a house with fleas and plastic where a wall should have been. I don’t think it made me more spiritual. I don’t think that I was more helpful to people. It was just what missionaries did.

The thought in these circles is often, “Why should we have anything when so many are going without?” My question over the last 10 years has been, “How can we teach others that they can do, be and have anything that they want to accomplish in this lifetime, by a policy of self-deprivation?” So often, examples of great people who changed the world by embracing poverty, like Gandhi, (who without a doubt did) would be cited as the way to live, and yet,  Sarojini Naidu is said to have remarked, “It took a lot of money to keep Gandhi in poverty.”

We came here in bodies, that like soft, warm clothing, with eyes that can see beauty, taste buds that can appreciate wonderful food, bodies that have the capacity to love sexual experience and can appreciate rare and fine incense and perfume, minds that love great literature and books. Was the way that we were created a mistake? or one big test to be resisted? That does not seem like the plan of a loving God/Universal Spirit to me.  We are all different and have uniquely individual tastes and preferences for housing, cars, work, dress, worship….some find a very simple dwelling and no technology best for them. Others want elaborate furnishings and every gadget ever made to accompany them on their chosen path. How can we say what is right or wrong for someone else? There is no virtue in poverty or in living an inauthentic life. I am more helpful to others when I am living from my true center.

It is quite a mistake to suppose that we must restrict and stint ourselves in order to develop power or usefulness. This is to form the conception of Divine Power as so limited that the best use we can make of it is by a policy of self-starvation, whether material or mental.” (pp. 90 The Hidden Power, Thomas Troward)

24 thoughts on “Our unique paths

  1. “It took a lot of money to keep Ghandi in poverty” !!!!!!!!! That’s amazing to me. Thanks for showing me a different path. Have a wonderful day everyone!

  2. As women we are taught to sacrifice our wants & needs for others who need our care. It’s so nice to hear that it’s o.k. to want nice things as long as the finer things in life are not all you live for.The best part of life for me is sharing the experience of a new car,a new hair cut, a new outfit or new knowledge.If there is nothing to strive for life would be dull. My latest delightful discovery is this blog! Thanks Mary.

  3. Wow. Spot on. I have struggled with this, too: the idea that one cannot be *spiritual* if one is also *loaded*!

    Though they do not get much press, there *are^ kind, wealthy, generous people in the world who quietly take action every day to make this a better place…and let’s face it, some kinds of effective help do require $$$!

    Thanks to you, Mary, I have begun to believe this: the Universe “conspires to bless us” because the Universe trusts us to use our wealth (in any form) to improve the situations of others.

    Blessings and a beautiful weekend to all…

    • I was actually taught that the poor are “closer to God”…an idea that kept a lot of people poor, while the wealth of the church substantially!

      • So true, Mary! The instructor in my Art History class (we were studying the construction of the great cathedrals of Europe) got an earful about the church’s exploitation of its followers during those times! Selling favors, indeed…

  4. Psalm 1:1-3 “Blessed is the man (person) who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”

    I’ve been empty and I’ve been full…full is much better! But His blessings go so far beyond the material, but definately do include the material….

  5. Thank you Mary, I’m grateful to be open to what the
    universe has in store for me…

    I am worthy…(still not easy somedays)…it was confusing as
    a five year old hearing the song – Oh Lord, I am not worthy …

  6. In his book, “the Ultimate Happiness Prescription,” Deepak Chopra says that the #1 reason for unhappiness is Mistaken Identity. In my meditation of Lovingkindness the last line of one of the many phrases that can be used is “may you be free from mistaken identity.”
    If you don’t know who you are, what do you know? If you live to be something for someone, who are you?
    Let It Be
    Thank you, Mary

  7. So much to talk about today! I had already read the book, but went to see The Help this week, and was touched by the scenes in which toddler Mae Mobley was held tenderly by her black nanny Abby, and told, “You is kind, you is smart, you is important”. Pam shared Chopra’s view that the number one reason for unhappiness is mistaken identity, and yet here is Abby planting the seeds of worthiness into her small charge’s mind. What a beautiful mantra for a child, and for us all. And thank you Tricia for sharing those words of scripture. I ask myself reading them, “Where do I plant myself, that I may bring forth fruit in its season, where do I nourish myself so that my leaf does not whither, and that whatever I set my mind to will prosper?” The scripture makes reference to a tree planted by the water, – water without which nothing can survive. What is that element for each of us? What is our water? What is the bread of our life? Once we know what that is, I feel certain abundance in forms seen and unseen will follow. And. “enough is plenty”, another phrase I love, but just wish I could remember where I read it!

  8. Most of us struggle with the subject of wealth and abundance vs. poor and scarcity. Too much, too little, how much is enough. We don’t want to be discontent or burdened by the extremes. Whose to know?

    “If you want to re-summon Wild Woman, refuse to be captured. With instincts sharpened for balance–jump anywhere you like, howl at will, take what there is, find out all about it, let your eyes show your feelings, look into everything, see what you can see. Dance in red shoes, but make sure they’re the ones you’ve made by hand. You will be one vital woman. “Women Who Run With The Wolves” Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D.

    • Mary Lou, thank you for this quotation from Women Who Run With The Wolves. It definitely belongs on the White Feather Farm Book Shelf everyone! I read it ten years ago at least and it stands out in my memory as one of those books you could return to many times for inspiration. Amazon describes it as: Folklore, fairy tales and dream symbols are called on to help restore women’s neglected intuitive and instinctive abilities in this earthy first book by a Jungian analyst. According to Estes, wolves and women share a psychic bond in their fierceness, grace and devotion to mate and community. This comparison defines the archetype of the Wild Woman, a female in touch with her primitive side and able to rely on gut feelings to make choices. The tales here, from various cultures, are not necessarily about wolves; instead, they illuminate fresh perspectives on relationships, self-image, even addiction.

  9. this is a powerful, thought-provoking post for me. having grown up with a conservative mennonite/pentecostal religious background has assuredly taught me of self-renunciation and deprivation.

    in my twenties i discovered a great restlessness of spirit and that took me on a path of seeking out the ‘forbidden’. this unrelenting search for my true identity has not disappointed. i feel blessed-esque nearing my 63rd b-day.

    today i have/had many spiritual gurus and teachers. my latest, a true godsend, mary muncil.

    my love and gratitude, mary, for this gift that you bring to all of us and the blog. and, and; all you, whose posts i slurp up each morning with that first cup of coffee. thank you dear souls.

  10. I didn’t realize how much I was struggling with this until you brought it up, Mary. And it really does go way beyond money and material possessions. I’ve been recalling a lot of phrases heard in childhood that were well-meant, I’m sure, but which have had a not-so-good impact. When you hear successful people accused of “bragging” or “boasting” or “stealing the spotlight” or being “too big for their britches”, it can tell a child to hold back, to think small, to hide her light. And yes, SueV, hearing and saying a daily/weekly “prayer” that begins “Lord, I am not worthy. . .” It does stick with you, doesn’t it?

  11. Mary – thanks for the thoughtful post. I’m one of those people who love my gadgets and I use them all too! Somedays I feel so guilty that I have my material possessions, but I really really like them. Are they my end all and be all? Nope. Never have been. I don’t usually have the latest and greatest – what I have it what I need for now.

    Thanks for the “permission” to be myself and enjoy myself as I am.

    Nancy
    http://www.dogear6.com

  12. My 2 cents…The natural world has so much abundance variety that it seems that humans can and should expect that too, but our desires are endless and so contradictory. If we can believe the possibility of choice, maybe it’s important to pursue whatever we want to help sort out what makes life meaningful. The comedian Steven Wright has a line, “You can’t have everything, where would you put it?”

  13. So much wisdom in such a small space! Thank you all for sharing. I have found that abundance is not all that evil it’s just the desire for it if that’s your goal in life. Pretty much what is stated here. I had an acquaintance once that was a millionare. He wouldn’t let his wife use the dishwasher because he didn’t want it “used” if they sold their house. They pinched pennies and were miserable. All he wanted was more money, never could have enough. It taught me a life lesson I will never forget.

  14. Monday morning, just read this. Great Post and comments. The first Christmas that I celebrated with my husband, I gave him 12 gifts for the 12 days of Christmas. Some were small, funny, or sentimental. All were wrapped, except for the guitar which I wanted him to see and use right away. He surprised me!
    He didn’t open even one of the wrapped presents, and left the guitar sitting untouched all day while I prepared Christmas dinner because we were having another couple over. I was very hurt. When the couple arrived later that day they exclaimed, “You haven’t opened your gifts yet?!”. I expressed my confusion. It turns out that my husband felt unworthy of these gifts. The male guest picked up the guitar, agreed playing with it and said, “Hey, if you don’t want it, I’ll take it.” He didn’t take it. Was just making a point. And the point of my story, to relate to this blog, is that for me, my “Higher Power” who I choose to call God, gives me all kinds of gifts some small, some wrapped that I need to open to appreciate, some large and just sitting there begging to be used. I feel that I would be rejecting these gifts and disrespectful of The Great Gift Giver if I leave them unwrapped, unused, and attach no joy to them.

    P. S. My husband eventually opened his gifts, but it took him the 12 days of Christmas. And I started giving him less, and giving my soon to be born children more. We had many happy, excited Christmas mornings with gift wrap all over the floor!

  15. p.p.s. I just reread my comment above. there is one typo; I typed Agreed where I did not intend to – or was that a Freudian typo?

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