Eight Ancient Principles for Abundant Living, New York: Penguin Arkana, 1999.
The Tao of Abundance is perhaps the best book that Laurence G. Boldt has written. It goes way beyond what you would reasonably expect from a career coach, was he only a career coach!
This book is not a career guide, it’s not a guide at all. It’s the life vision of a Bodhisattva. I believe Boldt has attained the spiritual level of a Bodhisattva, a spiritual guide. And this is what this book provides, spiritual guidance, nothing lesser and nothing less noble than that, however not in the usual chewing-gum wrapping that you are used to get when you expect somebody to talk about so-called ‘spirituality’. Boldt will never obfuscate the message by rigidity of mind or of language, or by putting up inflexible strict rules. This is his unique genius.
This book is written from the perspective of an accomplished master, if he calls himself a master or not doesn’t matter! It is one of the most beautifully composed books I have ever had the privilege to read. But I admit that the book is not an easy read because of its complexity and integrated, holistic view of life.
Why should we always want to understand a book on first read? I guess we have been conditioned to believe that well-written books have to be easy to understand. Is that so? Have you ever studied the Cabala? Is that easy to understand?
When I was reading Plato, Kant and Hegel at the age of fifteen, I found they were not easy to understand, and when I read them again now, in my fifties, I still find them difficult to read. And I then discovered that the difficulty mainly comes from their particular point of view being different from mine.
Then I tried to put myself wholly in their world, in their shoes, in their skin, trying to think from their perspective, and suddenly I found it was easy to understand what they were saying. So it seems my ego had been in the way, and thereby, my conditioning, my little opinions, my experiences, my way of looking at the world. To get to realize this, you actually step beyond your world, and when that happens, in that very moment, you forget about yourself and begin to focus on what the other is saying.
By the same token, when you want to realize something that seems far beyond your present achievements and your present lifestyle, it is much easier to look into it, to imagine it, when you forget a little about your present world and your present ‘I’. This sounds very clear-cut, but it’s not. It is a dialectic process. We are actually always with one foot in our future. Boldt elucidates:
In the West, we have identified the ego as the final term of the self. The modern economic view of life, which pervades our culture, assumes the psychology of the ego, that is, the feeling of lack and the struggle for self-preservation. We have, more than any culture in human history, committed ourselves to the ego and its consciousness of lack. As a result, we are haunted by a prevailing sense of spiritual and psychological poverty in the midst of unprecedented material prosperity. We have elevated the ego to the status of a god and sought our happiness in its endless desires. Modern economic life demands the continuous expansion of these desires. Yet no matter how much we acquire, it never seems to be enough. We are never satisfied./xxviii
Of course, when you see your realization in material satisfaction only, you can never be satisfied. Self-realization, mind you, is not the shallow consumer credo that longs for material fulfillment. Work that is nourishment for your soul provides the streaming of love which is a fulfillment not easily put in words, but nonetheless real.
This fulfillment comes from your being properly aligned with purpose. But you can’t really separate material abundance from the abundance of love for both are melted, not synonymous. But typically, the two go together, while one does not match out the other. Boldt writes:
When we embrace our unique gifts and capacities as individuals and put them into expression, the road to true abundance opens before us./xxxiv
Now, what is abundance? Let us first ask what is not abundance. Ask the billions of people around the globe. They will talk about lack, because the mass mind, the pack rule, the herd instinct is focused upon lack. It’s the scarcity paradigm.
The first task is to recognize the inner and outer forces that conspire to make us believe in scarcity and thus to feel lack. Awareness of these factors will help us to overcome their influence over us. The second task is to cultivate a spirit of abundance in our lives, celebrating the gift of life with joy and thanksgiving. As we focus on our thoughts and actions on things that bring a feeling of connection with all life, we begin to move with the flow of the Tao. In this way, we allow blessings to come to us as a part of the overflow of an abundant spirit—not as things we crave and struggle for from a sense of lack or desperation. To come from lack can only bring lack, even when we get what we think we need. On the other hand, when we come from the spirit of abundance, we attract ever greater abundance./13
There is a rather queer parable by Lao-tzu that teaches what is essential in life and what is not, thereby conveying that abundance or lack are a matter of perspective, of how you get at the world, how you look at life, and how you envision yourself:
Lao Tzu reminds us that the useful part of the pot is not the outer rim that gives it form but the empty space within; the useful part of the house is the empty space within the walls, not the walls themselves. /53
How can something be useful that does not exist or that is defined by its very contrary? Here you see how useful it is to focus on the paradoxes in life, because they teach us long lessons about wistful living.
As Krishnamurti pointed out, it’s the same with love. We cannot define love, but we can well trace out negatively what is not love. While we cannot really describe what makes out loving behavior, we can easily list patterns of non-loving behavior.
Abundance also means accepting your perverse behavior, because it comes from denial, and by accepting your stray energies, you open the door to revise that decision to deny parts of yourself, and to suppress certain longings. It was perhaps not a conscious decision, as it’s part of your conditioning. In truth, when you dissect your perverse longings, you dissect all of your love. In other words, when you really yield to love, you must accept all and any of your perverse desires! And you will be surprised to discover that when doing so, those desires stop haunting you.
The classical Taoists take a much more positive view of human nature. For the Taoist, all depraved or perverse manifestations of human behavior result from rejecting our deepest nature, not from following it. It is by denying the unity of all life and committing to the attachment of the ego that we go astray./97
And here, many of our young men and women today are stuck! They feel that some of their sexual desires are perverse according to the standards of current society. And this inner conflict deeply affects their professional performance.
I am asking ‘Is there a way out of the maze?’ My answer is to ‘Free your Minotaur’, which means to work on the denial pattern so that your vital energies will flow again instead of being stuck in a neurotic condition. If you don’t want to go a daring way, there are other options. Boldt, referring to William James, proposes to act as if, and thus to simulate the behavior pattern or role you would like to mold yourself into:
The noted American philosopher and pioneer psychologist William James advocated the act-as-if principle as a powerful tool for transforming consciousness. According to James, it is easier to act out your way into a new kind of thinking than to think yourself into a new way of acting. As you begin taking definite actions toward the accomplishment of your goals, you demonstrate to your subconscious mind that you are serious about attaining them. If you want to be a writer or a painter, begin writing or painting, even if you can do it only part time. The body of work you amass will convince your subconscious mind that you are indeed serious about your new career and on your way to manifesting it. (…) Dare to begin taking immediate action toward the results you see, and you get energy moving in that direction. You build a force of momentum toward the results you desire. /114
The as-if method has proven very effective, for example, in pilot training. A good part of pilot training is done by simulation, using the flight-simulator.
This principle, you can apply it to all of your life, and all your desires, because indeed you can simulate every possible situation in your mind, by using the power of your imagination. I hope that by now you see that abundance is just that: an immeasurable wealth behind the little that can be measured. You can measure the present book by counting the words, but you can’t measure the depth of the book when judging it by its size …