Yet another holiday season is upon us– and what should be a happy time can sometimes be stressful and sad for some. It can also be a time of financial stress and can make us feel less than adequate about ourselves and our ability to give of material items to others. That this has become more difficult is not your imagination. I believe that the economic downturn in recent years can also be tied to a lot of spiritual matters as well, and I’ll explain why.
America, for example, has always been touted as the land of opportunity, a place where if you work hard, you have the same opportunities as everyone else. What many throughout the world are beginning to realize is that opportunity in general has actually been shrinking, and income inequality has dramatically increased since the late 1970s. In the late 1970s, the wealthiest Americans earned about 10% of the income nationally. Currently, they earn 30% of the income and control about 40% of the total wealth of America. This increase is pretty staggering when you think about it. It is also a concern when you factor in the fact that Americans are more in debt than ever and struggling to meet their daily needs. The wealthiest folks have seen their incomes rise almost 20% over the past decade, and middle class families have seen their incomes fall. In other words, all the economic gains of the last 30 or so years have exclusively gone to the top 1% of people.
You are probably wondering what this has to do with work in the spiritual realm? Well, it has a lot to do with everyone and everything around us. Many people are living beyond their means. Trickle-down economics may seem like an outmoded concept, but what I term “trickle down behaviorism” is very, very real. While the rich have gotten wealthier, the energy around greed has also flowed down to the regular folks like you and me. Materialism and consumerism are huge parts of our culture now. The acquisition of material goods (many of them disposable) has also increased dramatically in recent years. Remember Gordon Gekko in the film “Wall Street” exclaiming, “Greed is good!” ? Unfortunately many of the people in the middle classes have also decided that “greed is good” too and are willing to go heavily into debt to acquire the material items they want.
This causes stress, anger and makes us question our real values. It is also resulting in a new kind of selfishness, a new kind of “me-ism”– or even what could be labeled as a new kind of narcissism — that is becoming a huge problem in our society. When criminal activity happens in our banks and financial institutions, that energy is bound to “trickle down” and send the message to everyone else that you should grab what you can, when you can, regardless of need or ethics. In extreme cases this is even resulting in violence.
This shift in our energies is also causing us to have less compassion, less empathy, and less caring for our fellow human beings. This does not just apply to the pursuit of material goods, either. This is also an emotional selfishness that can be very destructive to individuals, families and our society as a whole. Try to be more aware of these issues during this holiday season, because they do affect every single one of us. We all feel these energies– this “trickle-down” of selfishness, of entitlement, of greed. We all see things in the media, in politics, and with our friends and family that project onto us as well. Common decency is disappearing and this should be of serious concern to all of us. The greatest gifts we can give each other, each and every day, are an abundance of kindness, courtesy and compassion –not material goods.