When I decided to let go of Road to Walden as the title of this blog, it was not because I thought the search had ended. I will always be on that road, which is the road to the home within, while also aware that that destination is right here, right now, on this road.
I decided to change the title because apart from the many wonderful things that Thoreau’s Walden represents to me, it also represents a notion which I am leaving behind at this stage in my life: the notion that the quest for happiness (= home) is about finding out how little you need to be content with. I still agree that happiness isn’t in „stuff“, and yes, it is true that so much of what we do in order to afford a lifestyle we think is necessary to make us happy leads us to the exact opposite („lives of quiet desperation“ anyone?).
Yet at this point I feel the question of how little I can live with isn’t all that interesting to me anymore, even though some part of my mind is still playing that game („Will I run out of money on this trip before I can access new sources of steady income?“ is one of those classics on repeat in my head some days). The way I see it now, the two don’t have to be connected, although my brain is still pretty wired that way. I am not interested in tying finical wealth and worldly possessions to judgement anymore. It’s possible to have very little „stuff“ and money and be happy. It’s possible to have very little and be unhappy. It’s possible to have a lot and be happy, and it’s possible to have a lot and be unhappy. At this point I feel like an experiment on how little it takes for one to be happy is not really the interesting question.
I know that might sound strange because it is exactly what I am living right now, not owning more than I can fit into my backpack, proving to myself everyday that yes, it’s very possible to be happy with very little stuff (and yes, some days: not so happy, for all kinds of reasons). As always, it’s the intention behind it that counts. I do believe that while it’s true, happiness isn’t in material objects, rejecting them for that reason is not changing the game – you’re just playing on the other team. Chasing wealth and objects just for the sake of it is just as uninteresting to me as it is rejecting them just because you know they won’t make you happy. Because guess what: joyless asceticism isn’t the road to happiness, either. I imagine that if you feel empowered by experiencing how little you can make do with, then that can be a joyful and thus valuable experience, and that is definitely part of this journey, too.
At this point however I am most interested in the notion of non-attachment. I am interested in enjoying all that life has to offer, including material wealth, without making it my golden calf. I know that is something very „now“ (The Secret/the Law of Attraction), and that just really wasn’t on the menu for Thoreau*. It felt like Road to Walden wasn’t really including this aspect which has become a focus for me in all areas of my life.
The idea to change the title to www.sarineturhede.com was triggered by the process of revamping the site overall in order to showcase my work better but the actual reason behind it was that I wanted to mark for myself that this is my path now, the one that’s still inspired by others but where I am the pioneer after all.
* Although who knows – he only lived at Walden Pond for about a year and not his whole life, so I maybe the question of how little you could live with wasn’t a lifelong quest for Thoreau, either …
I am still thinking a lot about the whole abundance thing. No matter what angle I look at it from, and no matter in what form or what area of my life I experience it, I always come to one conclusion: it’s everything. It’s the key to everything and anything we desire in life. It’s the one thing we should be putting all our energy into, the only thing we really can do to make sure all our dreams will come true: see to it that our mind is in a state of abundance. The rest will follow.
I had this realization for the first time a few weeks ago, when I saw an interview with online business coach and entrepreneur Mara Stix. As I understood her, the further up she got in her pursuit of financial success, the less her personal wealth concerned her. Once she had arrived at a level of income that afforded her the standard of living that she wanted, there was nothing that even more money could have contributed to that area of her life. Instead other things became a focus of interest, like how to expand her business, and how to manifest more and bigger things she would like to see in the world.
Last fall I had a vision of something I should build. It was as if the idea rained down on me after I had emptied my mind. While I was completely aware of the magnitude of that project, I was also overcome by a certainty that my mind wasn’t just making this up. I just knew that I had conceived this idea because it wanted to be manifested by someone. And If that idea saw me fit to be that someone, then it would also see to it that the means for its manifestation would be provided, regardless of whether or not I could see how at that point. I could not see anything at all about how to get there.
Since then, I have mostly practiced to let the idea go, to be open to any signs without trying to force things. I didn’t want to feel like I was just waiting for the right time to manifest this project. Therefore I have been focusing on being happy, doing whatever makes me happy. At the end of the day that’s what determines what kind of life I have. For the most part, that worked well, but there were definitely some days where I did wonder what anything I was doing had to do with that vision, if I hadn’t missed the exit and was headed in the wrong direction after all.
When I watched that interview with Mara Stix, it was like a switch was flicked. Suddenly I understood that I had been doing exactly the right thing, and why my personal happiness was essential to the whole project. Because how are you going to manifest something big and joyful, that requires a large amount of resources (both when it comes to material and labor) if not out of a sense of abundance?!
We need to be in a state of abundance on the personal plane before we can help abundance to manifest elsewhere. There is no other way. Actively inviting (and permitting!) abundance to flow into all areas of our life then is not just a mind-game, something fun to do, it is deeply meaningful.
For me this insight is very important when it comes to dealing with that voice that says it’s selfish to let your actions be ruled by what feels good, what seems like it would be fun. That you can’t have both – happiness and success, love and wealth. That voice may have served us and our ancestors in the past. Life was tough, we had to work hard in order to survive, pursuing our passion often came at a price. We know how to do that. And it is clearly still possible to live that way, if that is what we want. I see lots of people doing it, and I thought it was the way it had to be up until about a year ago.
When I look around, however, I see that times have changed. Something else is possible. We can rest in the certainty that our survival is secured. It’s time to find other life missions. Let’s start by following the signs happiness is putting up for us.
The interview with Mara Stix (in German) is part of a series of money mindset interviews by Linda Benninghoff (MyMoneyMind). They are available for free when you sign up for her newsletter.
I have been thinking about money a lot lately. Or rather: I have been observing the way I think about money, and how I handle money.
Three things have triggered this sudden interest: First off, I am at my grandparents‘ house, and a lot of family-related issues have surfaced since my arrival, the importance of success, prestige and financial wealth being a dominant theme. Second, I have come across the blogs of two women who talk about how to deal with money issues in a way that really speaks to me (Mara Stix and MyMoneyMind – both in German). Third, for the first time in my adult-life, I don’t have an income. I am currently living on my savings. Some days that feels like the greatest luxury, other days it terrifies me.
The money mystery
Not all of the insights that keep coming are new, but what is new is that for the first time in my life I am taking an active interest in my financial situation. I am realizing how much my avoiding the topic has been connected to my fear of lack of control. I have mostly lived with the feeling that I can afford everything I really want to do – which is not a bad place to start. However, since I avoided thinking about money, I always felt a powerlessness, both regarding my income and my expenses. It seemed like a kind of magic: if I went into my savings because I wanted to travel, money suddenly appeared (often only after I bought the tickets). The times I did try to take responsibility, I thought tracking my expenses was the best way to gain control – but suddenly all I saw was money running through my fingers like sand, and I hated the feeling of having to think over every cent I spent. It made me feel poor, even though technically I wasn’t.
I wasn’t able to connect the dots, so I thought that it was best for me not to actively think about money – I thought that was the part that made it „disappear“ because whenever I just did what I felt like, I was fine! I honestly thought that thinking about money was the problem. I am taking the liberty to blame my German heritage at least partly for that – just look at German expressions and proverbs about money, and you’ll understand: money stinks; stinking rich; Money isn’t something you talk about, it’s something you have; … the list goes on, not everything translates well but you get the gist.
This is also where family history comes into play: like everything else, my family’s values and ideas about money shaped my own values and ideas about money. Since I avoided thinking about money, I naturally was blind to how my family’s way of handling money had shaped my own view on it.
So here are the facts: I have never been actually poor. Even as a kid, my parents (and my grandparents, too) had savings accounts for us, so as an adult it was a given for me to keep it that way. I have gone into these savings whenever I wanted to travel or if I really wanted to buy something that my regular income didn’t cover. I have never spent any money I didn’t have, meaning, I have always made sure my credit cards had their limit at the amount that the balance on my account covered. I have been fortunate to have parents who paid for my university studies. The only time I went into debt was when I bought a house with my boyfriend. And even then, we would have had the means to pay cash, and that was the main reason we felt comfortable taking the loan. (Before you get the idea that I am loaded: houses on the Swedish countryside are ridiculously cheap, at least in the less populated areas, for obvious reasons – lack of jobs, schools, etc.) Since I no longer own that house, I don’t have that mortgage anymore, either.
All that sounds pretty good, right? Then here’s the real question: how is it possible for someone like me to have money issues? How could I for even the fraction of a second be under the impression that I am poor – let alone for longer periods of her life? The answer, as the a fore-mentioned blogs reminded me, is that wealth has less to do with your bank account balance than your state of mind. The Secret, anyone?
Abundance and scarcity – It’s all in your mind
According to the law of attraction, what you think is what you get. When you experience yourself as being in a state of abundance internally, abundance is what you get externally. Same goes for scarcity, of course. That explains why money always „magically“ appeared, when I decided to spend it on something that wasn’t a necessity for survival but just something I knew I’d enjoy. You can only make that kind of decision out of a sense of abundance, with the confidence that you’re provided for, that the money you’re spending on something fun won’t be missing when it’s time to pay the rent. The law of attraction is also the explanation why money suddenly seemed to be disappearing whenever I focused on money: the only way of focusing on money I knew was looking at the expenses. Naturally that created a sense of scarcity, which in turn invited scarcity into my life.
In the past few days I have been observing myself, and experimenting with some of the insights I’ve had.
How much money does it take to feel rich?
I started tracking my expenses shortly before I understood that the focus on them can produce the scarcity-mindset that leads into panic. After giving it some thought, I decided that I’d continue anyway because I wanted to know how much I need to live comfortably. Of course, the sky is the limit but sometimes it helps to have an actual number. It feels easier to think, „OK, I need X€“ thank thinking „I need a lot of money“. What was even more surprising: My X turned out to be not even a crazy high number. I have only been tracking my expenses for little over a month but I am seeing that I’m nowhere even near that number, and I have been making an effort to not be cheap. That was one of things I had promised myself: if I was going to live on my savings, I didn’t want to do it feeling like I can’t afford anything. I mean, savings are finite, so I obviously need a new source of income at some point. I’d rather have short while of fun with my money than a long period of dreading every cent I’m spending of it. From that perspective, keeping track has calmed my mind tremendously, and has reduced that aspect of lack of control. Just goes to show that it’s not what we do, it’s how we do it that makes all the difference.
Napkins, prayers and wedding dresses
Speaking of intention: I found that when it comes to spending money, how I feel about it has often very little to do with the actual amount.
The other day I found myself fretting over buying paper napkins. I was standing in front of the shelf thinking „Yeah, but I don’t really need those. Sure, these are prettier but I still have napkins at home, better use those up first.“ Then I realized: I was acting as if this were a life-and-death-situation when in fact it was napkins – that cost 99c! Also, the reason why I still had napkins at home was that I never wanted to use them because they were depicting a scene from a children’s book in which a teacher is chastising his student. (I’d really like to meet the genius that thought „Hey, this’ll make for great merchandise – how about some napkins!“. No wait, I don’t.) I came to my senses and bought the happy napkins. Really, they have hearts and birds and little doodles and it even says „Happy“ on them!
The next „exercise“ was more legit: taking my wedding dress to the dry-cleaner’s because I was planning on selling it. I learned that depending on the dress, it was going to cost somewhere between 75 and 140€. If you consider how my mind felt about the napkins you can do the math and figure out how it felt about that … Was I even going to get that money for the dress?! Heck, I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to sell it at all – not because of the dress but because I don’t consider myself to be a good sales-person (that’s another story for another time). Then it occurred to me that this was just what I needed as incentive. If it costs that much to clean it (and I knew I wouldn’t have the guts to only pretend I cleaned it and sell it as is), there was no way that I wasn’t going to sell the dress. So the same mind that almost wasn’t going to spend 99c on napkins was suddenly ok with spending up to 140€ not knowing whether that would turn out to be money down the drain or an investment. (Still not a life-and-death-situation, though.)
As I approached the dry-cleaner’s with my dress the next day, I noticed how much I was worked up over the whole situation. Of course, it was more than the money – I clearly hadn’t really come to terms with the whole decision to sell my wedding dress … I stopped, took a deep breath and prayed. More specifically, I prayed for help to let go of my fears, to stay with love, and for the whole situation to resolve itself in the best way possible, regardless of my fears. This is what happened: when the lady at the dry-cleaner’s saw my dress she said: „OK, this may have been your wedding dress, but here it’s an evening gown. That’ll be 17€.“
Do I think that was an answer to my prayer? Maybe. OK, I do. But I am not sure that that prayer was my prayer. Maybe the fact that I had made a deliberate choice to be fine with the cost and not fret over it was that prayer already. Maybe that was the step that was enough to tell the universe I was ready, that it was OK to come and meet me (more than) half-way. Maybe that prayer on top was just for me and my fear. Maybe it got me an additional discount. I don’t know.
I have been doing a lot more things since then: taking my beloved cat wrist watch in to get fixed (it was so cheap that the cost of fixing it was absurdly disproportionate to the original price). Buying a new pair of glasses AND sunglasses even though I don’t „need“ them (everything is relative – I’ve had my glasses for 9 years, and besides, some might say that there are more decadent things to own than a second pair of glasses). Buying a bunch of flowers for the house (my no. 1 quick fix tip for creating spaces with a sense of abundance when a place is lacking that feel). Eating out (I haven’t felt like cooking or doing the dishes lately, so I decided that it’s time to take a break at least some days).
The luxury of not buying something
As I am conducting my little experiments, I notice several things:
1. I can afford everything I really want because none of the things that I find pleasure in turn out to cost as much money as my fear wants to make me believe. For instance, I have no desire for objects that are mere status symbols. I tried on two pair of sunglasses that looked almost identical. Both were brand names but one was about half the price of the other. Of course I didn’t get the expensive one, just because it had the Michael Kors logo! I don’t think I will ever define wealth as the ability to afford brand names for their own sake. (Which is not to say I judge people who do – if it makes you happy, it’s cool. It’s just not me.)
2. When my mind is in a state of abundance, I actually buy less of certain products. I used to buy a lot of groceries in bulk – because it’s „cheaper“ that way. I bought stuff just because it was on sale. I bought things „just in case“. All of these types of purchases come from the scarcity mindset. The amount of money you spend on those can just as easily add up to a small fortune – or even a large one. I love having an empty fridge because that makes it easier for me to eat whatever I feel like on any given day. If the fridge is full, I feel burdened by the „task“ of taking care of its content before it goes bad.
3. When I am in a state of abundance, I suddenly have to focus more on what I really want. I wouldn’t buy a pair of glasses that cost a fortune when I don’t feel like they’re „totally me“. However, I have probably spent a fortune on things that were not „totally me“ – just because they were cheap. Abundance then is not just being able to afford „expensive stuff“ – it is also being able to afford not buying something that doesn’t feel 100% right. In that sense, I can feel rich not buying something. It is about living in the awareness that I am provided for, always.
You may have noticed that my focus here was purely on the expense side. That’s because the income side has been even more „magical“ in the bewildering and confusing sense to me. I am in the process of changing that but not quite at a point where I have anything ready for sharing yet. If things keep going the way they are right now, that is going to change.