Monthly Archives: November 2011

Rethinking Rich

At its worst, this recession has left countless people homeless, jobless, hungry, angry and injured. At best, it’s led many Americans to cut up their credit cards and cut out unnecessary spending. Others are voluntarily simplifying their lives, reducing consumption, sharing resources with neighbors, and finding new value in the so-called “simple” pleasures of a not-so-big life. I say “Amen” to that.

I know a lot of people with very rich lives and small bank balances, and I know some wealthy people who feel trapped and miserable in their lives. Of course there are lots of folks in between those simplified extremes, but I’m starting to know in my bones that feeling rich has more to do with how we are living that what we earn for a living.

I should disclose that I’m an American who has never known poverty. As a kid, I watched my parents struggle when my father was starting his own business, but that just meant more homemade gifts and hand-me-downs during lean times. I myself have never earned six figures, but I’ve always paid my bills, pursued my pleasures and lived comfortably. I have a roof over my head, food in the ‘fridge, health insurance, disposable income, and a ’98 Corolla that gets me where I need to go. I recognize that I live in a state of abundance compared to most on the planet, and I try not to take it for granted.

And so while my income is smallish these days, I feel rich in many things, including time. I work from home and make my own hours, which allows for sleeping in, dressing comfortably, taking walks in nature, and running errands leisurely. I also feel fulfilled by the work that I do as a writer and teacher. I have a husband and family who love me, and cherished friends with whom I can share the good, the bad and the ugly. While these things alone put me in the lucky camp, I also get a 20% family discount at Whole Foods Market, my version of Bergdorf Goodman. Ch-ching!

Curious to know what was making others feel rich these days, I asked. Most who responded to my query echoed my appreciation for family, friends, good food, pets, and natural delights like trees, sunsets, dragonflies, and a night sky thick with stars. One friend said, “I like who I’ve become in recent years,” while another feels enriched by “clarity, mutuality, partnership, and learning.” A former student says she feels wealthy when she orders whatever she wants from the menu, including dessert, without sweating the bill.

“The thing I’m most grateful for these days is all the spiritual teaching I’ve received over the years,” says a new acquaintance. “It’s been a reliable friend through some tough times and always something I can count on.” Others said they find tremendous value in feeling seen and validated, connecting to people with similar interests, donating to the local food bank, expressing their creativity, experiencing synchronicity, being there for someone in need, and enjoying art and music.

Comforting pleasures made the list, too, including fresh sheets, warm beds, purring cats, belly laughs, home-canned goods, home cooked meals, long distance calls, fireplace fires and cuddling. One friend appreciates easy access to organic produce, while another luxuriates in “reaching for something to wear after all the laundry is washed, dried, and put away.”

Good health makes many feel rich, including me. Last month I watched my dear friend Tom lose a noble battle with cancer at the young age of 50. While it was a sobering, terrible loss, those of us who companioned him during his last days actually felt gratitude—not only for our own health, but also for the chance to be included in his passage. For months, members of Tom’s spiritual community came forth to offer him support, prayers, sacred chants, and loving presence. Many of us remarked about how rich in community he was—in life and in death.

“My yogic breath makes me feel full of life,” my sister-in-law reports. “There is nothing like a deep, sweet sip of healing breath to make me feel blessed.” I agree with her, and with a fellow writer friend who says, “I love the feeling I get when I write without effort…and sometimes I am just blown away by the fact that I can see and hear and have a home to rest in.”

Whether or not you’re feeling abundant and giving thanks this week, consider these words from writer/astrologer Rob Brezsny, who notes that, no matter what’s troubling you, “Thousands of things go right for you every day, beginning the moment you wake up.”

Including the fact that you can read this right now, while many lack literacy. Give thanks. Feel rich.

This essay was also published at www.jasminbalance.com/rethinking-rich/

 

 

From Panic to Purpose

It was 7:05 a.m. on Thanksgiving eve, 1997. I was anchoring a public radio newscast in Newark, New Jersey, as I’d done every morning for months, when the music host left the studio to grab more CDs. Alone with the microphone and a million listeners, I became aware of a sinister thought. It said that I was about to blurt something outrageous over the air.mic

I pushed down this thought and kept reading, “Mayor Giuliani and Police Commissioner Safir say everything’s all set for tomorrow’s big parade in Manhattan…” Inside, I was battling a rising tide of fear that set my heart racing and squeezed the breath from my lungs. Finally, my voice failed me and the host took over, apologizing to the audience for “technical difficulties.”  I gulped enough air to proclaim “Sorry, coughing fit,” but that was a lie.

I was having a panic attack.

Somehow I managed to get through the rest of my shift and hide my condition from coworkers. Terrified of what was happening to me, I went straight to my doctor, who put me on anti-anxiety medication. Terrified of becoming addicted to medication, I cut out caffeine, increased my yoga practice, and booked sessions with hypnotherapists, massage therapists, and homeopaths.

Eventually I found my way to a psychotherapist, who held my hand on the journey of recovery and healing that I was apparently beginning.

The panic attack didn’t cause my departure from radio news; it hastened it. I’d spent nearly a decade in public radio, producing and reporting for local and national programs. My favorite moments on the job were those spent interviewing fascinating people, telling their stories, and hearing from inspired listeners. I loved the work, until I found that the kinds of stories I wanted to cover were not the ones my editors wanted to assign. As my personal recovery work was pointing me toward hopefulness and healing, I could no longer muster enthusiasm for city hall corruption, drug war updates and presidential sex scandals.

When I quit my news anchor job in the fall of 1998, Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky were dominating the headlines. Yuck.

In the year following the panic attack, I had binged on self-help books, personal growth workshops, and audio recordings by spiritual teachers. I’d committed to therapy and joined the 12-Step world to heal childhood wounds and dysfunctional patterns that were no longer serving me. My life began to feel saner and, when I finally quit my job with none other in sight, I did so because I trusted that I’d be okay. I had no kids, no debt, good health and cheap rent. I could afford to take risks, and I was rewarded for them. My resignation letter was barely out of the printer before I had two exciting freelance jobs to sustain me for several months.

I’d taken the leap, and the nets were appearing.

A month after leaving my job, I met a psychic named JT at the gym. We struck up a conversation on the treadmills one day and he offered to give me a free reading. Being someone with no real plans for the future, I accepted. Among other predictions, JT told me, “You will teach one day in your purpose way.”

While I was more interested in knowing when I’d meet my soul mate, his odd words gave me some hope.

The following summer, still clueless about my next career move, I bought a car, sublet my apartment, and headed to the Kripalu yoga center in western Massachusetts for a work exchange program. The idea of spending the summer chopping vegetables and doing yoga in the Berkshires held much more appeal than temping in hot, steamy Manhattan.

I went to Kripalu for three months…and stayed for two years.

During that time I met people who spoke my language of recovery, emotional healing, spiritual seeking and transformation. I danced, drummed, emoted and chanted with fellow seekers and free spirits who quickly became my new tribe. I learned about holistic health and Eastern spirituality, eagerly soaking up knowledge from world-renowned teachers and alternative healers.

Eventually, I became certified to teach Kripalu yoga and started leading others in the transformational practice that was changing the way I related to my body and my self. I also started guiding groups of people in creative recovery workshops based on The Artist’s Way, the book I was working through when I had my panic attack on the air. Finally, I started to write about my journey, publishing stories about the life lessons I was learning.

When I left the yoga center to seek my fortune in Boston, I had new words to describe myself: writer and teacher. Years later I added another title: life and career coach.

Today, I understand JT’s cryptic message. I can accompany my clients and students on a path to more authentic and inspired living because I’ve been steadily walking my own. While words are still the tools of my trade, I now use those talents to speak and write helpful, hopeful messages from the heart. My work feels like play, and it’s profoundly meaningful.

While I wouldn’t have chosen a panic attack to launch my reinvention all those years ago, I’ve come to understand that I once lost my voice in order to find it, and use it, on purpose.

Kim Childs is a Life and Career Coach specializing in Positive Psychology, creativity and sacred living. Click here to learn more and schedule a free initial consultation in person or over the phone.