Buddhist thought says attachment to anything, money included, is a cause of suffering. But as a youngster before I was introduced to Buddhism I had a dis-ease with money, consciously thought I never wanted to define myself by it or with it, even after having brief opportunities to live around extreme wealth, and continually thought “money does not matter.”
Part of my growing up curve has been that money does matter. At least in the space and time in which I find myself living. So I set myself about earning as much as I could reasonably earn to pay my bills, not seeking anything more than I needed. As a graduate student without health insurance, when I needed more than I could earn for medicine and things I wanted to live comfortably, 1 followed by 2 followed by 3 credit cards got involved, followed by bankruptcy, shame, and years of working 50 to 60 hours per week to stay in that space where needs are met.
One year I made a conscious decision to earn less than I needed, quit one of my two jobs, and used my glorious free time gardening in two food bank gardens. This was the healthiest summer of my life. I became physically strong from being away from the desk, skin glowed from the sun, and general happiness with my lot in life improved. Plus I was gifted nutrient-rich produce from the earth in exchange for my labor.
That happy summer was followed by a fall of being unable to pay rent for few months, but I learned a powerful lesson about aligning my own nature with nature’s bounty. That nature’s ways can lead to health and happiness and I needed to seek this richness more.
Studying ecopyschology, I have come to believe following our attractions in nature can teach us everything about our inner state and solve all our problems. The severity of our addictions, mental health, and physical health are directly proportional to our personal and societal level of separation from nature. Nature that most of us have forgotten how to listen to, involve ourselves in, or observe.
So I decided to ask a 100+ year-old cherry tree in my backyard what it thought about money.
First it’s leaves laughed and chattered in the wind. Then it showed me gold oozing from its bark in the form of ribbons and nodules of amber sap. Bark whorls twisted with time.
Then it said:
“You have enough. Money is not a focus when everything is connected. You have been gifted far more than money could ever give.”