Don Paglia | Marriage and Family Counseling. Constellations Workshops


Tip #64:

“The man who coined the phrase ‘Money can’t buy happiness,’ never bought himself a good fly rod!”

                                                                Reginald Baird, from his video Labrador Trout

Most of us have limiting thoughts and ideas. These thoughts we tell ourselves and tell others are the ones that keep us in the exact “reality” we have created for ourselves. The Law of Attraction says that “thoughts become things.” Gandhi said, “A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” Too often we focus on and think about what we don’t want. The Law of Attraction would tell us to focus on what it is we do want, and to think only about that.

Money is a funny thing. Lots of times people conclude that “they can’t get enough of it” or they “can’t ever keep money,” or “money is the root of all evil.” And so this is exactly what happens. There are many stories of people who when they win the lottery they go right through their new-found fortune and end up soon being broke again because they have such limited thoughts about wealth and prosperity.

Some people have superstitious notions regarding money. They think if you have wealth you are a dishonest or mercenary person. Or if you are an artist you can’t have abundance but must struggle to get enough money to live. Hence the Starving Artist stereotype. The truth is that when all is said and done, money is just money. It is not anything more than what we use to provide us with whatever it is we need or want.  

It has always stuck me odd that as a nation we are always able to find the money needed to go to war. But we’ll conclude we cannot do some useful or noble thing because we say “there just isn’t enough money” for it. There is enough money for whatever we say there is.

Families always seem to find the money needed for a loved one’s funeral. Do we find it for living? Do we generate the abundance needed in order to have a life we say we truly desire? Or do we hold ourselves back with limiting and negative thoughts such as, “I don’t deserve it”? “It’s not practical to have the career or relationship or (fill in the blank) I’d love to have because it costs so much.”

This is not a blog about money. It’s really about living an abundant life. Thinking limiting thoughts and using phrases like “not enough” regarding the necessary resources to live an abundant life is the real obstacle. There is enough food to feed the entire population on our planet. We first need to believe this is true, then have the will to do so; and finally the persistence to go about creating structures that would facilitate ending world hunger. The whats is the key part. The hows are just the details. Included in this example would be redistributing various resources in order to insure all get enough food. One does not have to look far to see how so much food is wasted daily and not even utilized.

This brings us back to the basic understanding that we are all connected and we in this world together. We are but one race – the Human Race – and each of our individual actions have consequences – either for good or for bad.

Many of us had parents who were not environmentalists thinking about conservation. They were simply frugal people who liked utilize things rather than discard them. They had a value about not wasting. A favorite expression from my childhood was: “save the juice when not in use.” This meant we were to shut off lights, or a radio or T.V. when we left the room.

My father filled the bathroom sink with water and shaved his face by periodically dipping his razor into the sink water and rinsing only at the end. Often our supper was dependent upon what needed to be used next from the refrigerator so as not to have it spoil.

The fishing quote above isn’t about money; it’s about happiness. If an expensive fly rod makes you happy then by all means go get one. Real happiness comes from first using compassion and understanding to improve our own well-being. Knowing what it is that makes one happy and then pursuing this is a worthwhile pursuit. This pandemic has provoked a long social isolation and many of our usual ways of coping to get some stress relief in our busy and full lives have been seriously curtailed or eliminated. This has left us to discover the value of slowing our lives down in general, as well as seeking better alternative ways for coping. It has also shown us that life can be different from how we’ve held it to be up to be until now. The pandemic has become a tipping point. Most people are no longer interested in getting back to normal. As it turns out normal was not so terrific.

This pandemic’s “silver lining” has been a facilitated “down time.” It has provided us an opportunity to slow down and become more reflective. Even contemplative. Contemplative living provides one with access to a wonderful life. Cultivating an authentic and meaningful contemplative life can be developed at any time in one’s life. It starts by formal practices such as meditation and prayer. It can also come about from our experiences with nature, art, music, poetry, relationships and many other things.

Living a contemplative lifestyle is something that intersects all aspects of human life and activity. These various Contemplative Practices provide self-awareness to objectively and mindfully be present and aware of one’s thoughts in order to view all our thoughts as mere phenomena flowing in and out of one’s consciousness. We get to reflect about thinking our thoughts. This is a powerful way to live. Usually we only think thoughts. To think about thinking thoughts allow us to be mindful. It frees us from our otherwise reactivity and knee-jerk tendencies we’ve developed over a lifetime, and thus have become automatic and never questioned.

There is a Theology of Christian Contemplation. One way to explain it is that Contemplative practice rests on a theology of being loved by God and loving God, self and others in response. This is a huge and sometimes paradigm shifting idea. Those who live by this theology say that God’s Spirit permeates the whole of life and that God is relational.

When starting my day in contemplative prayer and reflection, and embracing the premise that God is in everyone and everything, I am able to become calm. I also become freed from whatever thoughts I was previously having that were causing me stress. When I dwell on the belief that God loves me exactly as I am I relax. I can surrender to this Divine Love and suddenly those things I was previously carrying around and were weighing me down dissipate. My body relaxes; I cannot help but smile, and I have am full of confidence that there is nothing I cannot deal with.

It is not magical thinking. My life struggles and problems do not vanish. Rather I am able to face them calmly and with a conviction that I have or will find whatever resources I need. I also bring into this moment a practice of having gratitude for my life, as well as, for all that is about to happen. I imagine the future I seek already here or soon to come about. I focus on this end result I am seeking and see it as having occurred.

We often associate the contemplative lifestyle – a life filled with deep and serious thought – with monks, nuns, philosophers, and theorists. But it is quite possible and very much available for all of us. This pandemic’s “time-out” has nudged some of us into such a practice.

An obstacle that has possibly made such a practice less viable has been a long suffering mentality that stems from a classical spirituality that separates the body from the soul. We’ve come to think in either/or terms. But the truth it is our spirituality is a both/and – needing a non-dualistic approach – and one that can then carry us to a greater depth and a more solid happiness.

Modern psychology has professed an impressive list of benefits that comes about from a practice of contemplative living. These include the following:

Remedies for ADHD, addictions, high blood pressure, eating disorders, fibromyalgia, and heart conditions. Also there is evidence that it increases creativity, memory and empathy, and healing from anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. This is a powerful drug-free approach to living a happy and more balanced life.

The take away? Slow down. Reflect and learn to live a contemplative life. Discover your connection with God and all of humanity, as well as, all of creation. Acknowledge we are each other’s keepers. Ask for what you want. Believe you can have it. Live in gratitude.

Final thought:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Matthew 7.