In our culture the concept of ’success’ is usually associated with accumulating as much money, property, and power you possibly can. To me, this has never felt right. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with these things, but should they really be the fundamental measures of success? Once our basic needs are met (which I believe is our birthright anyway) money has little impact on our happiness. I don’t even think there’s anything wrong with having a lot of resources, but if you do, you have taken on a great responsibility. In your hands is a powerful tool for change, are you going to use it to support the solutions or feed the problems?
The capitalist cult of individualism encourages us to ask how much we can take from the world for ourselves, but this philosophy has brought us to the brink of a global crisis that threatens our survival. Is humanity’s ‘success’ really successful if it has come at the cost of others and the planet? We can’t keep taking and taking without giving back in return. Living in a way that we know isn’t sustainable is the real madness.
Instead, we all need to start asking: what can I do to give back to the world? Perhaps success should be achieving a balanced relationship with the interconnected web of life. For me this means allowing the gifts of nature to nourish and replenish me, whilst living my dharma, giving back and serving mama Earth. Balance in ecological systems arises from cycles of giving and taking. Reciprocity is how the biophysical world works. And as a species, we have taken a lot from the Earth. And now it is time to start giving back.
I don’t intend to blame or shame anyone, but just to encourage us all to think about what we’re trying to achieve, and the impacts this has. I certainly don’t always get the balance right and can find myself getting sucked into the fear-based thought patterns and the pressures of society, though much less so now. A lot of our desire to accumulate more comes from the encouraged fear of lack, of needing to get more because there might not be enough to provide for ourselves or our families. This is fantastic for marketing, but not for long-term survival. The reality is that there is more than enough for everyone in the world, though it is currently in a way that is painfully and blatantly unfair.
And you might also argue that greed is just ‘human nature’. Whilst this may have some truth, it is not an excuse. We have the choice to evolve from this mindset, and as so many ancient and indigenous traditions have taught for millennia, giving back in return for what we take is essential for our survival and the thriving of all life. Sustainability is success. Let’s all choose to cultivate sacred reciprocity, ayni.