In these 2012 times, how do I deal with my personal wealth?

Michelle (right) with her father and sister by the Muskoka River, Ontario, Canada

Or more accurately, how can I make money and save my soul at the same time?

BY MICHELLE MORRA-CARLISLE – With $100 I can buy a lottery ticket that could win me a car, a big house in the city or a lakeside mansion in cottage country. I can’t afford the ticket, but have been known to buy one anyway because I badly want a lakefront cottage.

How else will I get one except through luck or a miracle? Luck might make it happen, but would it be spiritually enlightening?

Religious types and New Agers don’t believe in luck. They believe that you create your own luck. Or at least attract it.

They would say that whatever cottage I do, or do not end up with, has more to do with what my intention is. Does it lead to a higher spiritual purpose?

That’s the difference between “sheer luck” and synchronicity.

Luck and material wealth

Luck suggests that whatever good or bad thing happens to a person is by accident or chance. And oh how we try to sway the outcome – through prayer, rabbits’ feet, frequent purchases of lottery tickets or cranking of slot machines.

Others are not content to hope for chance or divine intervention, but attempt to take the reins of their own destiny. An American entrepreneur who was born and raised in Canada once told me what she saw as the biggest difference between the two countries. She said Canadians tend to be “too easily contented,” and that Americans have a knack for achieving greater wealth “because they’re never happy.”

Sadly, ambition and games of chance don’t always bring good luck. When I pass the local Bingo hall I see teen moms and destitute grandmas, none wearing smiles. And while there are priceless benefits to prayer, luck isn’t one of them. A sports team that wins a championship might believe God was on their side, but what about the losing team that also said a prayer before the game?

How I learned luck the hard way

I learned about luck the hard way when my father, after brain surgery complications, was in a coma with no chance of recovery. As I prayed in the hospital chapel, “Please let him live,” I was suddenly struck by the unfairness of my request. In a place where no doubt there were children dying of leukemia and young mothers dying of breast cancer, who was I to believe that I or my dad deserved special treatment from God?

Here is the strangest part. I have felt the greatest peace – not joy, but peace – when surrounded by the worst “luck.”

In that same hospital where my father was dying, the intensive care unit waiting room was a place of sheer misery. My relatives and I and the relatives of other dying people were exhausted from many sleepless nights of worrying and sobbing. But when we heard that our loved one wouldn’t make it, the clenching stopped, and the misery turned into the strangest feeling of warmth. I know that we all felt it. At the worst time of my life, why did I feel so wrapped up in an invisible hug? It felt so good I didn’t want to leave.

The second place I experienced bad luck and serenity was a small art gallery, where the artists and most of the patrons were people with schizophrenia. I was there as a reporter. Compared to my own lot in life, theirs was tragic. Yet I swear, the artists who greeted me were the most at-peace people I have ever met. Their horrible, incurable mental illness had cost them their jobs and homes and alienated their families and friends, yet in this tiny chalet where they could paint and sculpt together they radiated something wonderful. Again, I didn’t want to leave.

Can people achieve serenity or even happiness without luck? Maybe it’s not what we have on the outside, but what we make of it inside. It is possible to lose everything – like mourners, schizophrenics, or Indian gurus who give up all worldly possessions and still find the “peace that passes understanding.” They have nothing yet they have peace. Cottage or no cottage, I’d like to get me some of that.

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4 Responses to “In these 2012 times, how do I deal with my personal wealth?”

  1. So well written.
    Thank you.

  2. Thank you, Michelle, for reaching so deep.

    Your essay called to mind the same qualities in myself — buying a lottery ticket, for example. I precisely bought a $150 lottery ticket 10 months ago — the beneficiary being San Francisco’s main arts center — where the prize was a ‘dream home’ :)

    Was not a case as you cite — and Charlie Sheen articulates — of, Winning!

    I can also relate to your visit to the art gallery where the work of men and women diagnosed by the Ontario Health Care system with schizophrenia displayed their work.

    One of the most humbling and heart-wrenching experiences of my life was visiting my own mother at Toronto’s Mt. Sinai hospital in such a ward on Christmas Eve — and a random charity had given a pair of socks to each of the patients.

    This site, Soul’s Code, is a way of universally giving, and we will directly aim surpluses at those who would benefit from the worldly wisdom and abundance by all the presences who have a share in this community.

    The meta-message I got from your column was something that the Dalai Lama’s official translator told me (Dr. Thupten Jinpa):

    “Freedom is freedom from excessive self-concern.”

  3. We find peace or as I call it Inner Peace in the strangest place. Thank you for sharing this great post. I can really relate to what you are saying. While going through a troubling time in my life, I found inner peace while walking through the crowded streets of San Francisco. Somehow the random noise and surging energy forced my mind to quiet down.

  4. There is so much to be learned from this post, thanks Michelle.

    Lately, I have been coming to my own realization that everything changes, everything is in a state of flux and what we (as human beings with egos) think is SO important is not.

    Our civilization will crumble- as have all before us — we are no more important, or less important than those who have gone before.

    Realizing all this gives me an incredible sense of peace and allows me to live in the moment, cherish the good times with those I love (and with all of humankind for that matter) and not be too upset about anything “bad” that is happening around me.