When I was in high school, I swore I would get rich working on Wall Street. I knew if I had a lot of money I could get whatever I wanted to be happy. My parents would tell me that this wasn’t the case, but I knew better. In college I majored in economics because knowing how money works helps you make more money. Duh. Well, thankfully, some things shifted, and I began a deeper exploration of what it means to be human and of where happiness comes from.
From my studies of Buddhism, I turned on to the view that we are interconnected. There is no me with you. In fact, what we call “me” is always enmeshed in this seamless web of life, this conglomeration of constantly changing conditions. The Buddha said separateness is an illusion and the cause of suffering.
I’ve learned that my earlier yearnings to make a lot of money came from my stuck state in separate selfhood. Being a separated individual, I wanted a lot of money so I could get whatever I wanted and needed. Forget other people, if I had a lot of money, I wouldn’t need to depend upon anyone else. And I would feel good about myself because of my nice things.
After college, I had thoroughly transitioned from the Wall Street path to the path of the artist wanderer. I was determined to live simply, perhaps in a cooperative house, and pursue my passions of ideas, poetry, music, yoga, and relationships.
In a cooperative household called “Dreamship,” I lived with as many as 15 other roommates at once. I deepened in new relationships, practiced my craft, and worked on health and healing. From the lens of our society’s value system, my path was perhaps unwise. I was working part-time at a coffeeshop, writing poetry, learning music, and living with 15 other wandering souls.
What about saving money for a house? Children? Retirement? A few years later however, I see with crystal clarity how those investments paid off.
I find myself today in Sedona, Arizona staying with two dear friends I met at Dreamship. They are offering me a room in their home if I ever want to move here. I feel so blessed everyday with these friends — my extended family. I see now how happiness comes through the flow of love that we pass to each other. Each moment there is an opportunity. Will I share goodness with the world? Will I act in a way, however small, to uplift those around me? There is no happiness without this flow of energy back and forth with others.
The Buddha talked about the state of emptiness as conducive to peace and happiness. When I am empty of my own self-concerns, I breathe easily and tune in to what’s happening around and within me. Thus, in this state of emptiness, I am in relation to the actual phenomena of the world, and peace and wellbeing naturally arise. It’s about letting the energy flow freely.
The Buddhist practice of loving kindness can help open one to the flow of gifts that connect us. By simply thinking and feeling an intention for others to be well, we may release defenses and fears that separate us. When we begin to see others as deserving of love, and of our purpose to share our own love, then we can expand out of the separate ego into a relational state of being rooted in the flow of gifts back and forth with others.
Daniel White is a writer, poet, and yogi who wanders the world sharing his gifts and co-creating deeply fulfilling connections and moments.