Something We Can Be Grateful For

According to Bloomberg.com, with the bailout of Citicorp, the US government has now pledged over $7.7 trillion of our money; this represents “half the value of everything produced in the nation last year.” This is also the equivalent, according to Mish Shedlock, of about $24,000 for every individual in this country.

Now, while it is true that some of this money is simply pledges and represents money that will never be spent, it is also true that the amount is growing every day—just today the government began to bailout bad credit card debt—and no one knows what the total bill will be before this is all finished. It is clear that, at some point, the government will have to renege on its pledges or lead us into a hyperinflationary spiral. In either case, we will be far worse off than if the government had never commenced its program of bailouts.

But, there is good news, and the good news lies in the teachings contained in the perennial spiritual wisdom: The good economic news for this Thanksgiving is that the solutions for our seemingly intractable economic problems begin in our minds and not in the world. Real relief is just a thought away.

If the real problem were in the world, the situation would indeed be hopeless. As a nation, we are hopelessly in debt; state government pension plans are rapidly becoming insolvent; infrastructure in our cities is crumbling; and special interest groups seem to have complete control of the government. Some look to the world for solutions, they believe that if they elect the perfect leader then he or she will lead them out of the wilderness. Beginning in January, these same people will begin to see that this belief is just a juvenile fantasy, aided and abetted by watching too many television shows portraying a hero riding to the rescue, as well as by their lack of critical thinking skills.

But the real problem is not in the world, the real problem is in our mind. Thus, A Course in Miracles says this: “As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result and not a cause.”

Nightly on the pundit shows, there are those who claim to be philosophically and ethically opposed to bailouts, but at the same time support the bailouts as the lesser of two evils. They claim that without the bailouts the economy would suffer a deflationary depression. It is amusing and educational to listen to such nonsense. Never have these pundits been asked either of these two questions: “Can you name one time in your own life when violating your core philosophical and ethical principles led you to a happy ending?” or “If you are prepared to throw out your core philosophical and ethical principles, what principle(s) are you substituting in their place in order to evaluate which corporations and consumers get bailed out?”

In any case, their fundamental logic is warped. They claim that they must abandon their principles because of the current economic situation. In reality, they have switched cause and effect. The current economic situation exists because, collectively as a nation, we have abandoned our principles. Thus, the first step back on the road to recovery is to change our minds.

The great psychiatrist Thomas Hora observed this:

All problems in life are nothing else but certain invalid thoughts; all mankind is suffering from certain beliefs, and these beliefs create believers. The believers experience these beliefs. So, if you have a problem, you can know that this problem is not a person. It is not something concrete; it is always a thought, because the phenomenological world is just the outpicturing of a series of invalid thoughts. Whenever we have a problem, regardless of diagnosis, or the nature of the problem, it is nothing real; it is always a thought.

During this Thanksgiving week, we can be very grateful that the road to recovery begins in our minds and not in the world. How soon we choose to exercise our inherent freedom to realize this will go a long way to determine just how long-lasting and deep our national nightmare will be.

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10 Responses to Something We Can Be Grateful For

  1. H says:

    Ahh you have come around…that was my point in my post to your: Advice to Obama: Use Loving Principles, Not Force…our egos get in the way so often that it creates the very problems we face…those that are principally based will continue to prosper for they will continue to attract what they give and those with compromised principles will continue to attract what they (their egos) believe to be true and experience the nightmare…Indeed getting back to core fundamental values, maybe in this case the golden rule…do unto others as you would have done to you… would be fitting. Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. frankvv says:

    Dr. Brownstein,
    As Budda is quoted as saying; “We are what we think. All that we are arises from our thoughts, we make the world”. As I sat in a management meeting earlier this week at my place of employment, the fear of the potential fall of our business is causing the firm to retract: a company wide hiring freeze is in place and we are not allowed to replace any employee that leaves, regardless of the impact that the loss of this individual would have on the business. We have become a scarred business, afraid to step out into the world and make aggressive and bold moves to expand and grow. In fact, I believe that since we are cash rich at the present time we should be looking for growth opportunities that would allow us to be in a stronger business position when things do indeed eventually turn the corner. But rather than be opportunistic we are feeding on the negative energy that is abound. Now I’m not suggesting that we should not be financially prudent. Indeed we should. But letting fear take hold of sound and rational business decisions is in my mind a serious mistake. I am doing my part to try and not fall into this form of group think. But it is difficult.

  3. H,

    I don’t believe I have changed my mind :-). “Prospering” can only be guaranteed on the level of the mind and not in the world. That is not to say that there is not a connection between the mind and the world–as beneficial actions follow from a mind not in the control of its ego–but that we do not control events through such techniques as “The Secret.” (See my post on “The Secret”). Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

    Frank,

    If your firm is cash rich they have managed well. They made be holding their powder until assets are even cheaper. For instance, if I was a real estate investor I would not be buying houses yet. No way to tell for sure when the bottom is in, but the level of fear will be far greater than it is today and those who act will indeed have to ignore the herd and their own ego.

  4. H says:

    Prof B,

    I am not suggesting that the ego dictates how individuals will prosper…notice I choose prosper versus wealth. I do believe that ego dictates the accumulation of wealth and the perception of success based on possessions. For it is the ego that is never satisfied when the individual is driven by wealth. The Encarta Dictionary defines each term as:

    • Prosper – to be successful, especially in financial or economic terms…to flourish or thrive (to grow vigorously and healthily)

    • Wealth – a large amount of money or possessions

    In your response back to me about your “Advice to Obama: Use Loving Principles, Not Force” post you stated “You are correct, one does not have to view themselves as a victim but nevertheless if enough of their income is confiscated they will be poorer.” Yes, I would agree with this statement for those individuals driven by ego that is how they perceive the current economic situation. Those individuals do not know how to change the course that “recovery begins in our minds and not in the world.”

    You suggest in your post regarding “The Secret” “become more spiritually receptive. This receptivity begins with interest, not in getting more of what our ego wants but interest in being the highest expression of who we truly are.” Again I agree, and if individuals are expressing their highest being they will prosper, becoming successful through vigorous and healthy growth that is principally based. They are not focused on wealth and will not be swayed by immoral, unethical or irrational philosophies. They will always practice with their core values in times of prosperity and when the world external to them experiences poverty.

    As Frank indicated in his response “In fact, I believe that since we are cash rich at the present time we should be looking for growth opportunities that would allow us to be in a stronger business position when things do indeed eventually turn the corner.” Frank is looking for ways to prosper, thrive and flourish rather than to hoard and protect. To be cash rich, indeed as you indicated shows they have managed well even during times of exuberance, I would surmise there was a focus on organizational interest to the highest expression and position as opposed to pure profitability goals dictated by a leader’s ego. Leadership was based on organizational principles and rational decision making process.

    We now know what happens to those organizations that focus solely on profitability…growth may have occurred but is was neither healthy nor sustainable and suggests that decisions were not grounded in organizational principles.

    And as Frank also indicates focusing on the cash rich component or in this case the wealth of the organization is narrow minded and substantiates why his organization is retracting “we are feeding on the negative energy that is abound.” This further perpetuates the vicious cycle so even though we may not control events through techniques we are still affecting the outcomes and in this case as you suggest the length of the economic turbulence. Out infectious thoughts are controlling our individual actions. As Ginny O’Brien indicated during the 2008 Leading Women event, people are either mobilized by fear or love.

    I agree, I have NO CONTROL of the events in the world however at times I can substantially influence outcomes. Sometimes, I achieve what I intended while other times, I experience unintentional consequences. When unintentional consequences occur the majority of time it is due to ego based actions (fear) without regards to my highest expression of self or purity of heart (love). I wish Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, Christopher Dodd and Hank Paulson would take time this thanksgiving and raise their awareness, purify their hearts and re-evaluate the economic rescue plans since they are beginning to experience the unintended consequences of opening Pandora’s bailout box.

  5. H,

    I really appreciate the time that you took to craft your very well-thought out post. We would all benefit by reflecting on the points that you raise.

    I’m in agreement with much of what you say, but I remain uncomfortable with the idea that Frank’s firm is “feeding the negative energy.”

  6. Tesh says:

    H, the scary thing is that Pelosi, Frank, Dodd, Paulson, Bernanke and crew might actually believe that they are doing the right thing. As C.S. Lewis noted:

    “The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    There’s not much that can save us from those who believe they are doing us a favor, whether or not it is in reality a good thing that they do. That’s the trouble with basing “reality” off of perception; perception is relative. There actually are some things that are objectively true, regardless of anyone’s belief, ego, chi, spirit, or whatever you want to call it.

  7. Tesh says:

    Ah, addendum, since I hit the Submit too quickly:

    We can always define our reaction to reality, but we cannot always define reality itself, since it depends on other people and other actions outside of our power.

  8. Lila says:

    I’ve been studying with a Tibetan Lama. In his teachings he’s talked about the economic crises. Granted, he’s no economist. But it’s funny. He said, “Sure, there’s a crises, but I’ve decided not to participate.” Another comment he made was that, in any crises, there are always people who are benefiting financially. There are lots of “losers” financially, but there are also people profiting from that. Money is being shifted into certain individual’s pockets.

    It seems to be the economic policy of the United States to allow “those people” to continue to benefit. It’s a club of people, and they’re all making sure they all continue to rake it in at the expense of the whole….. I suppose you could also extend this model to the entire globe…..

    And yes, I am learning from the Buddha’s teachings about the mind, and how everything is illusion. But even the Dalai Lama says in his teachings that to a certain degree, material conditions do matter. Human beings have certain basic needs. So of course I’m not participating in the crisis. But I wonder how many of us will have to be sucked dry before the world becomes a more egalitarian place…. To extend a teaching of the Buddha, why is it that when someone says something bad about me I feel a sense of outrage, and yet when someone says something nasty about someone else, I don’t have the same reaction. The same harm is being inflicted, but I only react when my ego is being harmed. In the same sense, why is it that I feel a sense of fear at the thought of my own prospective destitution (hypothetical), but that when other people are starving or homeless, I do nothing at all.

    As one goes along up into the Buddhist path, one begins to loose a philosophical distinction between subject and object. So that another person’s suffering becomes my own suffering, and my joy becomes another person’s joy. One can only hope that the Buddha’s teachings will begin to permeate the upper echelons someday soon…. I wonder what that kind of society would be.

    A few days ago I was listening to a teaching of the Dalai Lama on the Internet. In it he described seeing homeless children in India. He began to sweat, he said. No one, he said, no one cared about those children. Not a single person. He described the pain he felt at seeing them.

    I wonder what the world would look like if those children were cared for, and if there were a little balance of resources. If the bankers could become a little less greedy, maybe homeless children in India could go to school and be fed and clothed, and loved a little. The amount of capital the greed mongers squander every year could go a long way toward solving some of the worst injustices.

  9. Tesh says:

    There certainly is a lot of waste in the system, and many who take advantage of it. Some use that to argue for equalizing measures that lead to Communism and other failed variants of socialism.

    Bottom line, you just can’t force people to care. They have to choose to do so. That’s the nature of free will. You can lead by example, and you can encourage behavior you see as good, but in the end, everyone has to make their own choice. There is a very real danger in letting people choose, and we’re seeing some of the results of it now with the economic meltdown… but there’s greater danger in force.

  10. Lila,

    Well said! Indeed that is at the heart of our journey–to stop seeing other people as objects.

    Tesh,

    Agreed, that is choice each of must make. Coercion takes us farther from this choice. I recall Peter Lynch (Magellan Fund) telling a story about flying in a planeload of pharmaceuticals into Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. Ordinary Russians after the fall of communism could not conceive of volunteer work. They were certain he was selling the drugs on the black market.

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