When I arrived in Toronto on August 12th 2011, I had one bag (packed tightly) and a satchel filled with my prized possessions (laptop, diary, kindle, ipod, phone, passport, purse, Rosary Beads from a best friend’s husband). I had everything I needed. A hairdryer and straighteners I would have loved, but, though I hear my best friend screaming in horror, I did not need. Touring around the CN Tower, Casa Loma, and particularly the Eaton Centre, I saw some beautiful things- souvenirs, books, clothes, and I walked on. At this stage it was easy. I had to carry all my worldly goods, and the sheer weight of my bag was a powerful disincentive. In Montreal, I visited the Biodome. I was texting and walked into a column. It was a plastic container filled with mobile phones. It asked on the back whether we needed to constantly update and so through away our old models? Trainers, children’s toys, fur and STUFF filled other plastic containers and the bottom line was that our consumption is getting out of hand. On the wall were statements, in French and English naturally, “Do I need this?” “I recycle” “I need new yoga pants”. It was a small room, and yet the message was powerful. I felt guilty. I thought on the boxes and boxes of clothes, shoes, handbags, books, sheets, towels, pillows, duvets I brought to the Charity Store before leaving, let alone the sheer volume that was binned. I immediately e-mailed an eco-loving friend and promised to think more about consumption.
Arriving in Bannf, I moved into a basement bedsit. It was small, dark but I liked it. After living in hostel dorms, I had my space. I started yoga. At the end of each lesson, the instructor places a card at the end of each mat: “thought for the day” I suppose. I got Abundance. I thanked God for all that I had. The next day, I got Abundance again. I thought on my healthy family, my opportunities in life, and I thanked God. The next practice, Abundance. Yes, God, I have been given a lot, and I appreciate, and am told often, how lucky I am to take this time to travel in Canada.
I joined the library free books without having to carry them with me or abandon them (I had to do this at an airport in Spain once, I cannot recall the book, but it broke my heart). I chose a new book from a writer I enjoyed, Geneen Roth. She asked a question: Have I enough? I thought about it. I listed my family, my friends, my health, my ability to run when I want, a roof over my head and a job that puts food in my tummy. I added the mountains and river and trails around here because they definitely are a gift. Sure, I once lived in a whole house just for me, but I am genuinely happy to be here now, in this bedsit. I once had a job that drove and stretched my passion and skills, but I am deeply grateful for a dependable job with a day’s pay for a day’s work.
I borrowed a book from the yoga studio. The writer is introduced as a master who shares his wisdom and compassion in abundance.
The Higher Power (I call him God, but you can call him, her or per anything you want) was shouting silently at me. I do not have enough. I have plenty. I have a lump of happiness in my gut. I walk around looking at the snow peaked mountains or the low-lying clouds and enjoy the show. I meet people from all over the world in the store and they share their stories generously. I wake up and practice yoga facing a mountain. One day I couldn’t see the mountain because of the cloud, but it was ok, I knew it was still there. There are different trails and different hikes. I walk past deer. My world is between these mountains right now, and all I need is within walking distance. Thanks to technology, I have spoken to each member of my family in the past 2 weeks (this is more than when I lived 20 miles from them). Abundance? I am living it. I have enough and loads left over. I know this, but I didn’t get it. Now every ounce of my body knows it too. My mind has shifted from seeing over-consumption as a negative to instead appreciating how rich I am when I appreciate and value that which is in my hands.
I promise I have not gone all wishy-washy, and one day I will again own straighteners. We know to appreciate nature, love, kindness and we need gentle, or not so gentle, reminders to stop and see and feel the beauty. I think however, I have forgotten to appreciate money, and the work that brings it to us. When we were little, our Mother loved dolls. She would help us wash our dolls, brush their hair, wash their clothes and get them looking great. We fed them, slept with them and if our doll fell, she would pick it up, hug it and comfort it. We valued our dolls, and my older sister and I got a new doll every Christmas. On Christmas Eve, our dolls sat out, gleaming, to show Santa Claus we really looked after the toys he gave us. Somewhere along the line, I lost that value. I bought and bought but left clothes lying on my bedroom floor, DVDs out of boxes, my car’s dent unrepaired. I left my Kindle on an armchair with my one year old niece. I stopped valuing items that cost me, or someone, money. My new thinking on Abundance is about also valuing the things I have bought, not feeling guilty or mindlessly spending, but enjoying the things my money buys. This has renewed my wish to be an ethical shopper: not having my hard-earned cash trap people in unjust work practices or polluted communities.
I am richer than I ever was, not because of where I am, but because I know it.