Saturday, August 29, 2009Are there any adults in the room?
In past posts I have explored the idea of "getting ready." There is the game the world plays. It is a difficult game to win because inherent within it is the compromising of values and dishonesty, and we are certainly seeing more and more of that everyday.
And what is it to win at the world's game anyway? The world is run by a negative power that is a master at the game.
So we must play a different game and follow another master, hence this blog outlining the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity which require one essential step--connecting to the divine. Not through words but through action. It is a winnable game because it is not a worldly game. It is a game of consciousness.
If I would name the game I would call it, "Can You Let Go?"
The below is one of the best articles on the economy I have read in a long time. It is non-technical and clear and free of invective. PLease take the time to read it. I have reproduced it in full. It is by John Maudlin.
An Uncomfortable Choice
As our family grew, we limited the choices our seven kids could make; but as they grew into teenagers, they were given more leeway. Not all of their choices were good. How many times did Dad say, "What were you thinking?" and get a mute reply or a mumbled "I don't know."
Yet how else do you teach them that bad choices have bad consequences? You can lecture, you can be a role model; but in the end you have to let them make their own choices. And a lot of them make a lot of bad choices. After having raised six, with one more teenage son at home, I have come to the conclusion that you just breathe a sigh of relief if they grow up and have avoided fatal, life-altering choices. I am lucky. So far. Knock on a lot of wood.
I have watched good kids from good families make bad choices, and kids with no seeming chance make good choices. But one thing I have observed. Very few teenagers make the hard choice without some outside encouragement or help in understanding the known consequences, from some source. They nearly always opt for the choice that involves the most fun and/or the least immediate pain, and then learn later that they now have to make yet another choice as a consequence of the original one. And thus they grow up. So quickly.
But it's not just teenagers. I am completely capable of making very bad choices as I approach the end of my sixth decade of human experiences and observations. In fact, I have made some rather distressing choices over time. Even in areas where I think I have some expertise I can make appallingly bad choices. Or maybe particularly in those areas, because I have delusions of actually knowing something. In my experience, it takes an expert with a powerful computer to truly foul things up.
Of course, sometimes I get it right. Even I learn, with enough pain. And sometimes I just get lucky. (Although, as my less-than-sainted Dad repeatedly intoned, "The harder I work the luckier I get.")
Each morning is a new day, but it is a new day impacted by all the choices of the previous days and years. Tiffani and I have literally interviewed in depth well over a hundred millionaires, and talked anecdotally with hundreds over the years. I am struck by how their lives, and those of their families, come down to a few choices. Sometimes good choices and sometimes lucky choices. Often, difficult ones. But very few were the easy choice.
What Were We Thinking?
As a culture, the current mix of generations, especially in the US, has made some choices. Choices which, in hindsight, leave the adult in us asking, "What were we thinking?"
In a way, we were like teenagers. We made the easy choice, not thinking of the consequences. We never absorbed the lessons of the Depression from our grandparents. We quickly forgot the sobering malaise of the '70s as the bull market of the '80s and '90s gave us the illusion of wealth and an easy future. Even the crash of Black Friday seemed a mere bump on the path to success, passing so quickly. And as interest rates came down and money became easier, our propensity to acquire things took over.
And then something really bad happened. Our homes started to rise in value and we learned through new methods of financial engineering that we could borrow against what seemed like their ever-rising value, to finance consumption today.
We became Blimpie from the Popeye cartoons of our youth: "I will gladly repay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."
Not for us the lay-away programs of our parents, patiently paying something each week or month until the desired object could be taken home. Come to think of it, I am not sure if my kids (15 through 32) have ever even heard of a lay-away program, not with credit cards so easy to obtain. Next family brunch, I will explain this quaint concept.
(Interestingly, I heard about a revival of the concept on CNBC radio, coming back from dropping Trey off at school this morning. Everything old is new again.)
As a banking system, we made choices. We created all sorts of readily available credit, and packaged it in convenient, irresistible AAA-rated securities and sold them to a gullible world. We created liar loans, no-money-down loans, and no-documentation loans and expected them to act the same way that mortgages had in the past. What were the rating agencies thinking? Where were the adults supervising the sand box?
(Oh, wait a minute. That's the same group of regulators who now want more power and money.)
It is not as if all this was done in some back alley by seedy-looking characters. This was done on TV and in books and advertisements. I remember the first time I saw an ad telling me to call this number to borrow up to 125% of the value of my home, and wondering how this could be a good idea.
Turns out it can be a great idea for the salesmen, if they can package those loans into securities and sell them to foreigners, with everyone making large commissions on the way. The choice was to make a lot of money with no downside consequences to yourself. What teenager could say no?
Greenspan keeping rates low aided and abetted that process. Starting two wars and pushing through a massive health-care package, along with no spending control from the Republican Party, ran up the fiscal deficits.
Allowing credit default swaps to trade without an exchange or regulations. A culture that viscerally believed that the McMansions they were buying were an investment and not really debt. Yes, we were adolescents at the party to end all parties.
Not to mention an investment industry that tells their clients that stocks earn 8% a year real returns (the report I mentioned at the beginning goes into detail about this). Even as stocks have gone nowhere for ten years, we largely believe (or at least hope) that the latest trend is just the beginning of the next bull market.
It was not that there were no warnings. There were many, including from your humble analyst, who wrote about the coming train wreck that we are now trying to clean up. But those warnings were ignored.
Actually, ignored is a nice way to put it. Derision. Scorn. Laughter. And worse, dismissal as a non-serious perpetual perma-bear. My corner of the investment-writing world takes a very thick skin.
The good times had lasted so long, how could the trend not be correct? It is human nature to believe the current trend, especially a favorable one that helps us, will continue forever.
And just like a teenager who doesn't think about the consequences of the current fun, we paid no attention. We hadn't experienced the hard lessons of our elders, who learned them in the depths of the Depression. This time it was different. We were smarter and wouldn't make those mistakes. Didn't we have the research of Bernanke and others, telling us what to avoid?
In millions of different ways, we all partied on. It wasn't exclusively a liberal or a conservative, a rich or apoor, a male or a female addiction. We all borrowed and spent. We did it as individuals, and we did it as cities and states and countries.
We ran up unfunded pension deficits at many local and state funds, to the tune of several trillion dollars and rising. We have a massive, tens of trillions of dollars, bill coming due for Social Security and Medicare, starting in the next 5-7 years, that makes the current crisis pale in comparison. We now seemingly want to add to this by passing even more spending programs that will only make the hole deeper.
Frugality is the New Normal
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. The time for good choices was a decade ago. It would have been more difficult at the time, so that is not what we did. And now we wake up and are faced with a set of choices, none of them good.
Reality is staring back in the mirror at the American consumer, and especially the Boomer generation. The psyche of the American consumer has been permanently seared. We are watching savings beginning to rise and consumer spending patterns change for the first time in generations. Even as the authorities try to prod consumers back into old habits, they are not responding. Borrowing and credit are actually falling. Banks, for whatever reason, now want borrowers to actually be able to pay them back. Go figure.
Frugality is the new normal. We are resetting the underpinnings of a consumer-driven society to a new level. It will require a major overhaul of our economy. The normal drivers of growth - consumer spending, business investment, and exports - are all weak, and it is only because of massive government spending that the second quarter was not as bad as the two previous quarters and that the coming quarter will be positive.
But what then? How long can we continue with 10%-plus GDP deficits? We have an economy that is in a Statistical Recovery, fueled by government largesse. In the real world, we are watching unemployment rise, and it is likely to do so through the middle of next year. Deflation is in the air. Capacity utilization is near all-time lows. Housing numbers are only bouncing because of the government program of large tax credits for first-time home buyers and lower home prices. It will be years before construction is significant.
We will be faced with a choice this fall and early next year. If you take away the government spending, the potential for falling back into a recession is quite high, given the underlying weakness in the economy. A few hundred billion for increased and extended unemployment benefits will not be enough to stem the tide. There will be a groundswell for yet another stimulus package. Another 10% of GDP deficit is quite likely for next year.
As I (and Woody Brock) have made very clear in these e-letters, deficits that are higher than nominal GDP cannot continue without dire consequences. Good friend Richard Russell writes today:
"The US national debt is now over $11 trillion dollars. The interest on our national debt is now $340 billion. This is about at 3.04% rate of interest. In ten years the Obama administration admits that they will add $9 trillion to the national debt. That would take it to $20 trillion. Let's say that by some miracle the interest on the national debt in 10 years will still be 3.09%. That would mean that the interest on the national debt would be $618 billion a year or over one billion a day. No nation can hold up in the face of those kinds of expenses. Either the dollar would collapse or interest rates would go through the roof."
That would be at least 30% of the national budget. How would your household do, paying that much as interest? How can you operate when interest payments are 30% or more of the budget? Do you borrow to pay the interest? And the Obama administration openly admits to deficits of over a trillion a year for the next ten years, under very rosy growth assumptions. Anyone outside of Washington and rosy-eyed economists think we will grow 4% next year? I am not seeing many hands go up.
And Then We Face the Real Problem
If we do not maintain high deficits, it is likely we fall back into recession. Yet if we do not control spending, we risk running up a debt that becomes very difficult to finance by conventional means. Monetizing the debt can only work for a few trillion here or there. At some point, the bond market will simply fall apart. And it could happen quickly. Think back to how fast things fell apart in the summer of 2007. When perception of the potential for inflation changes, it changes things fast.
The problem is that we are now in a very deflationary world. Deleveraging, too much capacity, high and rising unemployment, falling real incomes, and more are all the classic pieces of the formula for deflation.
Let's look at what my friend Nouriel Roubini recently wrote. I think he hit the nail on the head:
"A combination of higher official indebtedness and monetization has the potential to yield the worst of all worlds, pushing up long-term rates and generating increased inflation expectations before a convincing return to growth takes hold. An early return to higher long-term rates will crowd out private demand, as lending rates on mortgages and personal and corporate loans rise too. It is unlikely that actual inflation will emerge this year or even next, but inflation expectations as reflected in long-term interest rates could well be rising later in 2010. This would represent a serious threat to economic recovery, which is predicated on the idea that the actual borrowing rates that individuals and businesses pay will remain low for an extended period.
"Yet the alternative - the early withdrawal of the stimulus drug that governments have been dispensing so freely - is even more serious. The present administration believes that deflation is a worse threat than inflation. They are right to think that. Trying to rebuild public finances at a deflationary moment - a time when unemployment is rising, and private demand is still contracting - could be catastrophic, turning recovery into renewed recession."
There are no good choices. Nouriel, optimist that he is (note sarcasm), suggests that there is a possibility that the government can manage expectations by showing a clear path to fiscal responsibility that can be believed. And thus the bond markets do not force rates higher, thereby thwarting recovery.
And technically he is right. If there were adults supervising the party, it might be possible. But there are not. The teenagers are in control. Instead of fiscal discipline, we are hearing increased demands for more spending. Please note that the very rosy future-deficit assumptions assume the end of the Bush tax cuts at the close of 2010. But raising taxes back to the level of 2000 does not make the projected future budget deficits go away.
I mean, seriously, does anyone think Pelosi or Reid are going to lead us to fiscal constraint? Obama talks a good game, but he has not offered a serious deficit-reduction proposal, other than further tax increases. And by serious, I mean we need cuts on the order of several hundred billion dollars. The Republicans lost their way and their power (deservedly, in my opinion). Just as at the high school prom, the very few adults are being ignored.
It is the proverbial rock and the hard place. Cut the stimulus too soon and we slide back into a deeper recession. Let the budget spin out of control for a few years and we will see inflation return, with higher rates and a recession. Raise taxes by 1.5-2% of GDP in 2010 and we are shoved back into recession.
There are no good choices. If we do the right thing and cut the deficit, it means very hard choices. Can we keep our commitments to two wars and our massive defense budget? Medicare and Social Security reform are not painless. Education? Research? The "stimulus"? But cutting the deficit by hundreds of billions while raising taxes by even more than is already in the works, is not the formula for sustainable recovery.
Have we grown up? Are there adults in the room? Sadly, I don't think there are enough. We are still a nation of teenagers. We will do whatever we can to avoid the pain today. We will kick the can down the road, hoping for a miracle. Will we grow up? Yes, but the lessons learned will be hard.
There are no statistical signs of an impending recession. We are not going to get an inverted yield curve this time, which made it relatively easy for me to predict recessions in 2000 and 2006. We are in a deflationary, deleveraging world. A far different world than in the past.
I see little room for us to avoid a double-dip recession. It would take the skill and speed of former Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett hitting a very small hole in the line to break us into the open. I see no running back in our national leadership with such ability. As I have outlined above, recession could be triggered again in any number of very different economic environments. It all depends on the choices we make. But the choices lead to the same consequences, at least in my opinion.
As I wrote in August 2000 and August 2006, I write again in August 2009: there is a recession in our future. I was early both of those times and I am early now, maybe two years early, though I doubt it. And as I pointed out both of those last times, the stock market drops an average of over 40% during a recession. When I was on Kudlow in October of 2006, I was given a hard time about my recession call and prediction of a bear market. I think it was John Rutherford who dismissed my bearish vision. And he was right for the next three quarters, as the market proceeded to rise another 20%. I looked foolish to many, but I maintained my views.
You have choices. You can buy and hold (buy and hope?) or you can develop a strategic alternative. The next bear market, as I wrote in 2003 and in Bull's Eye Investing, will likely be the bottom. (It takes at least three of them to really take us to the bottom.) But the next one will change perceptions for a long time. Valuations will drop. Savings will rise even more. And a generation will grow up. The adults will return. Chastened. Scarred. Shaken. But we will Muddle Through. That is what we do. Even my teenagers.
John Mauldin, Best-Selling author and recognized financial expert, is also editor of the free Thoughts From the Frontline that goes to over 1 million readers each week. For more information on John or his FREE weekly economic letter go to:
Monday, June 22, 2009Inspiration
Absolutely stunning shots of ice in Greenland. It will transport you to another world.
A must read short article on the thoughts of a 90 year-old vibrant Rabbi, 6 Reasons to Grow Old. Excerpt:
Tranquility tops his list. “You have achieved in old age what you have wanted to, if you are fortunate,” he said. The important battles have been waged, the decisions made. “You no longer have to do the pushing, the striving, the struggle.”
“You don’t rush to quick action,” Rabbi Haberman explained. “You’re more likely to stop and think.” These days he’s hardly indifferent to the world’s problems, he added, but he’s less inclined to think he can solve them, or that they’re soluble at all.
Americans are activists by nature, but “more happens to us than we cause to happen,” he has found. “You have to accept the unalterable.”
Moreover, the rabbi confessed, he’s increasingly apt to consider the possibility he’s wrong, a gift of old age (fourth on the list) he labeled “liberation from the compulsion to set everyone else straight.” He has loosened up, he told me, since his more dogmatic youth.
Each night before bed, he recites in Hebrew a passage from Psalm 31: “In God’s hand I entrust my spirit, when asleep and when awake/My body and spirit, God is with me, I shall not fear.”
“And I leave it at that,” the rabbi said.
Friday, June 12, 2009Back from Europe
If ever an article represented the ethos of this blog and is reflective of my own personal values this piece in the New York Times by the superb writer Pico Iyer does it. Please read the whole article. Excerpt:
"I had been lucky enough at that point to stumble into the life I might have dreamed of as a boy: a great job writing on world affairs for Time magazine, an apartment (officially at least) on Park Avenue, enough time and money to take vacations in Burma, Morocco, El Salvador. But every time I went to one of those places, I noticed that the people I met there, mired in difficulty and often warfare, seemed to have more energy and even optimism than the friends I’d grown up with in privileged, peaceful Santa Barbara, Calif., many of whom were on their fourth marriages and seeing a therapist every day. Though I knew that poverty certainly didn’t buy happiness, I wasn’t convinced that money did either.
"So — as post-1960s cliché decreed — I left my comfortable job and life to live for a year in a temple on the backstreets of Kyoto. My high-minded year lasted all of a week, by which time I’d noticed that the depthless contemplation of the moon and composition of haiku I’d imagined from afar was really more a matter of cleaning, sweeping and then cleaning some more. But today, more than 21 years later, I still live in the vicinity of Kyoto, in a two-room apartment that makes my old monastic cell look almost luxurious by comparison. I have no bicycle, no car, no television I can understand, no media — and the days seem to stretch into eternities, and I can’t think of a single thing I lack."
For Your Education Dept.
"Although we in the West tend to forget, 190 years ago one-third of the world's gross domestic product was in China. But then, rather suddenly, colonial exploitation and unfair trade agreements, combined with a technological revolution in Europe and America, left the developing countries far behind, to the point where, by 1950, China's economy constituted less than 5 percent of the world's G.D.P. In the mid-19th century the United Kingdom and France actually waged a war to open China to global trade. This was the Second Opium War, so named because the West had little of value to sell to China other than drugs, which it had been dumping into Chinese markets, with the collateral effect of causing widespread addiction. It was an early attempt by the West to correct a balance-of-payments problem."
--Joseph E Stiglitz writing in Vanity Fair
Friday, May 1, 2009More of Enough
As an interesting follow-up to yesterday's post, Superhero blog by Andrea Sher had this to say (excerpt):
If you are reading this you are probably overwhelmed. Right? (If you aren't overwhelmed I would love to know your secret!) But for the rest of us, we live in a world where we are juggling so many things. Whether it's juggling kids and work, a day job with your creative life, or all the other commitments and responsibilities we take on, it's hard not to feel overwhelmed a lot of the time. But something got clear for me today.
Really, truly. In the world of overwhelm there is never enough. There is not enough time, money, resources, to keep you going. Your heart is racing, you are always behind, you are not doing enough. It is a rough way to live. I know this from personal experience.
What I considered today was this: What if I decided what was enough? What if I decided that posting three essays a week was really, really enough? Or maybe two essays is enough. When I think about simplifying my life, I need to consider the question: How much is enough for me to feel satisfied? How much will get the job done? It occurred to me that it's possible that I already average about 2 or 3 posts a week, but I never feel the satisfaction of a job well done, or a sense of completion because I never declared what I was committed to. I never decided what was enough.
I can also see that I suffer from the same problem in the realm of finances. I don't create sales goals or budgets, I don't know for sure how much money I make or how much money I need to earn to keep my finances healthy and abundant. I simply bust my butt to make as much as I can, spend as little as possible, treat myself to cute clothes occasionally and pray that everything works out. This does not make me a bad person, and so far it has worked out okay, but I also rob myself of the satisfaction of knowing I am earning what I set out to. My default is to assume that I'm not earning enough, or not doing enough to earn that money, but a lot of the time I actually am.
Where in our lives have we not distinguished what enough looks like? Without this, we are constantly disappointed in ourselves, constantly afraid and thoroughly overwhelmed. And if we are creating realistic goals and still feeling overwhelmed, perhaps it's time to simplify again. Saying no is powerful.
And if you are a perfectionist like me, and wonder if good enough is well, good enough, I am here to say that it is. Good enough is really effin good.
36,000 people die a year of seasonal influenza and its complications in the U.S., so why the present manic outcry over Swine Flu?
From the Financial Times today:
The future is, of course, unpredictable. Flu is a notoriously fast-changing virus, and it may mutate into a much more dangerous form. Or it may turn out to be less lethal than normal seasonal flu, which kills 500,000 in a bad year.
Well, that was helpful.
I found these Public Service Announcements (1 1/2 minutes) from 1976 interesting--I ain't saying, I'm just thinking.
Thursday, April 30, 2009Enough
It's understanding that lifts the consciousness.
It's not saying understanding;
it is living understanding,
it is doing understanding,
it is where, in the midst of misery,
you still have understanding.
People say, "But I'm confused. I don't understand."
I say, "That's your concern."
For you must still keep breathing,
even if you're confused,
and you must still eat,
even if you don't understand,
for no one will do these things for you.
Oh, you might get a slave for a while,
but even slaves eventually say,
"When do I get mine?"
And the master always answers, "Later."
And so the slave revolts.
But if the slave is smart, it just evolves.
For at that point of evolution,
you find out that the one who has served you
has been your god,
and the one who has understood you
has been your light,
and the one who walks with you
has been the Beloved.
And you never had to go anywhere.
(From: The Tao of Spirit by John-Roger, DSS)
I have had two examples in the last week of people (not on MSIA staff) coming to me with not feeling they have enough. They had a good paying job, and were healthy, and one even had a great relationship yet they sought more. I advised one today, (unsolicited--there are still too many times where I need to keep my mouth shut!) to learn to enjoy where they were. Then they would have a new skill that they could apply to anywhere they went. They smiled--unknowingly.
Seth Godin's post below is about business but it resonated with my thoughts above:
Infinity--they keep making more of it
If you had a little business in a little town, there was a natural limit to your growth. You hit a limit on strangers (no people left to pitch), some became friends, some became customers and you then went delivered as much as you could to this core audience. Every day wasn't spent trying to get bigger.
There's no limit now. No limit to how many clicks, readers, followers and friends you can acquire.
I don't think this new mindset is better. It shortchanges the customers you have now (screw them, if they can't take a joke, we'll just replace them!) and worse, it means you're never done. Instead of getting better, you focus obsessively on getting bigger.
You're at a conference, talking to someone who matters to you. Over their shoulder, you see a new, bigger, better networking possibility. So you scamper away. It's about getting bigger.
Compared to what? You're never going to be the biggest, so it seems like being better is a reasonable alternative.
The problem with getting bigger is that getting bigger costs you. Not just in time and money, but in focus and standards and principles. Moving your way to the biggest part of the curve means appealing to an ever broader audience, becoming (by definition) more average.
More, more, more is rarely the mantra of a successful person.
There are certainly some businesses and some projects that don't work unless they're huge, but in your case, I'm not sure that's true. Big enough is big enough, biggest isn't necessary.
Sunday, April 19, 2009Today's Heroes
The hero is commonly the simplest and obscurest of men.
--Henry David Thoreau
Here is a rather large excerpt from financial pundit, author, and TV celebrity Ben Stein. It's the last of his biweekly column called 'Monday Night At Morton's.' Definitely worth a read as it covers the change of values taking place that we have talked about in this blog. (Hat tip to Billy in Kaua'i)
I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end. It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world's change have overtaken it.
I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to. How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a 'star' we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails. They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer.
A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.
A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordinance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded.. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad .
We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.
There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament...the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.
I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin...or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.
But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me.. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.
This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.
Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will.
--By Ben Stein
Saturday, April 11, 2009The Gleefully Frugal
When you attune to the Beloved, you find out that you want to produce unconditional loving and be in that energy field. Those people who are also working in the unconditional energy field start blending together with it. However, if you start to produce unconditional loving with the idea of getting somebody to blend with it, it won’t work. That’s manipulation and you won’t like the consequences. It really has to come from the place of un-condition—no condition. It’s the attitude that however the wind blows is fine with you. And if it doesn’t blow, that’s equally fine. That’s getting into unconditionality. It can be a scary place to be when you are used to being controlling, demanding, and spoiled. But regardless, it is the unconditionality of life that must be lived.
(From The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS, with Paul Kaye)
Whatever you are doing, love yourself for doing it. Whatever you are feeling, love yourself for feeling it.
Great short article in the New York Times today on the gleefully frugal. Definitely one to read for the times we live in. Excerpts:
...a subset of savers are reducing costs not just with purpose, but with relish. These are the gleefully frugal.
“I’m enjoying this,” said Becky Martin, 52, who has cut up her 10 credit cards, borrows movies from the library instead of renting them, and grows her own fruits and vegetables — even though her family is comfortable.
Ms. Martin is a real estate investor, her husband is a plastic surgeon, and their home sits on the 12th hole of a Cincinnati country club.
“It’s a chance to pass along the frugal lifestyle that my mother gave to me,” she says, noting that her sensibilities seem to be rubbing off not just on her sons, but also on her husband. “We’re on the same page financially for the first time in years, and it’s fabulous.”
Americans’ spending is down and their personal savings are up — sharply. “It’s huge,” said Martha Olney, an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who specializes in the Great Depression, consumerism and indebtedness. The rapid reversal is even more remarkable, she said, because in recessions consumers usually save less money. Not this time. “It implies a re-emergence of thrift as a value,” she said.
The gleefully frugal happily seek new ways to economize and take pride in outsaving the Joneses. The mantra is cut, cut, cut — magazine and cable subscriptions, credit cards, fancy coffee drinks and your own hair.
Monday, March 23, 2009Stillness
I have been very busy and have missed a couple posts recently. I have been preparing for the health class and my lecturette on the stress response and the cascade of hormones that results from it. So when Marjorie pointed out this quote is was particularly apropos.
As you take each situation as it comes, one at a time, it's very easy. As soon as you feel overwhelmed, or reactive, relax, rest, and gently pull your energy field back in, strengthening it by being still. Maybe you maintain your inner stillness for a moment, or a day, or a month. You simply maintain your equilibrium, looking at the situation, thinking, "Why does it think it can outlast me? While it is in a state of change, I can be in a state of spiritual holding and fulfillment and outlast the change."
(From: The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS, with Paul Kaye)
SInce we have been speaking about, and will continue to speak about, trust and values, I also found this quote to be relevant. I have often said that the world works as well as it does because of the many silent saints that surround us and go about their lives without any thought of compensation or recognition for what they do.
The world is upheld by the veracity of good men: they make the earth wholesome. They who lived with them found life glad and nutritious. Life is sweet and tolerable only in our belief in such society.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thursday, March 12, 2009Feeling Good--and Responsible
My brother sent me an interview with Terry McBride, CEO of Nettwork Music Group. I thought this comment from Terry was worth quoting here:
To me all emotions are simply choices. You can choose to be angry, upset, or wound up in stress, or you can choose to be happy, easy-going, and of a quiet mind. Once you understand the power of choice, you will be much happier even in tough times.
It complemented today’s Loving Each Day:
You are the one in charge and responsible for your life, and even if you've empowered something or someone else through blame or playing the victim, you are still in charge and responsible for your life. You can't get away from it.
(From The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS with Paul Kaye)
Here is a feel good five minutes. (Hat tip to my Kaui’i buddy Brian Carson). The piece gets better and better as it goes along.
Saturday, March 7, 2009Simplify
Simplify your life. You do not need all the clutter you are holding on to. Get rid of it now because it is stealing your energy.
The clutter in your life takes energy to maintain. Start with the smallest things. Clear away a little and you’ll be amazed at the vast amounts of energy it releases inside of you.
(From Spiritual Warrior by John-Roger, DSS)
The world is moved not only by the mighty shoves of the heroes but also by the aggregate of the tiny pushes of each honest worker.
I haven’t yet seen Slumdog Millionaire but I get the idea and so I found this story of an Australian family choosing to live the slumdog life in India, fascinating.
This next section interested me when put in a broader context. I think that how we identify ourselves and what we identify with is most important. To me it is embodied in the saying that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a human experience.
In a study that contradicts prior research, Stanford psychologist Kevin Binning has found that mixed-race students who consider themselves multiracial tend to be happier than mixed-race students who align themselves with a single ethnicity.
Binning asked 180 college students of mixed racial or ethnic backgrounds to identify themselves as black, white, Asian, Hispanic, or mixed — and the last group scored highest on standard measures of psychological well-being and social engagement. Does acknowledging a multiracial background build confidence? Or does confidence encourage a broader sense of identity? Binning’s study leaves that chicken-and-egg question unanswered. But like the examples set by Tiger Woods and Barack Obama, it does indicate that a multiracial self-identity needn’t bar one’s path to success.
(From Very Short List.com)
Monday, February 23, 2009The Good, the Bad, and the Adorable
Here's the paradox:
Spirit has always been here.
And for the most part,
it seems like we've always been here.
So if we've always been here
and it's always been here,
why are we not knowing
that we're both here?
What is this thing inside of us
that stops us from knowing
what's going on?
(From The Tao of Spirit by John-Roger, DSS)
I am not a political person. I am not an activist and politics has not been an interest of mine. I do feel privileged to be able to vote. People have fought and died for that right and in a strange way I feel I am honoring them by voting. I don’t have an allegiance to any party. I don’t care about the parties or partisanship. What I do crave for is good, honest leadership. That last sentence, while true for me, is of course a set-up.
I voted for Arnold Schwartznegger for Governor of California because I thought he would be a refreshing change. He promised not to raise taxes. Last week he broke that promise and has to al large part broken his ties from the Republican Party as a result. When his term expires and he leaves office next year my guess is that he will joining Obama’s government in some capacity. Undoubtedly he will be continued to be rewarded for breaking promises and essentially doing nothing except what is in service to his rise to power.
This last year I have been left in a state of disillusionment. It’s a good thing. A reality check for me. I have been awed by the extent of the corruption lies, and insincerity at the heart of our public leaders. I am just fed up with the whole economic political thing. It’s enough to drive anyone to doing spiritual exercises.
At the end of the day we can only trust ourselves, which is why we must develop that trust within ourselves. And we can trust others if they have EARNED that trust and if they are trustWORTHY. In this time and age, may take on is that this trust will become increasingly important and define our relationships to a much greater extent than in the past fifty years.
Okay, time for a complete break. You’ve got to check this website out.
And here is a contemporary bedtime story for you:
Once upon a time....
Young Chuck moved to Texas and bought a donkey from a farmer for $100.
The farmer agreed to deliver the donkey the next day.
The next day the farmer drove up and said, 'Sorry Chuck, but I have some bad news, the donkey died.'
Chuck replied, 'Well, then just give me my money back.'
The farmer said, 'Can't do that. I went and spent it already.'
Chuck said, 'OK, then, just bring me the dead donkey.'
The farmer asked, 'What ya gonna do with a dead donkey?
Chuck said, 'I'm going to raffle him off.'
The farmer said 'You can't raffle off a dead donkey!'
Chuck said, 'Sure I can. Watch me. I just won't tell anybody he's dead.'
A month later, the farmer met up with Chuck and asked, 'What happened with that dead donkey?'
Chuck said, 'I raffled him off. I sold 500 tickets at two dollars apiece and made a profit of $898.00.'
The farmer said, 'Didn't anyone complain?'
Chuck said, 'Just the guy who won. So I gave him his two dollars back.'
Postscript: Chuck went on to become president of a large Wall St. investment banking company and although he drove the company to bankruptcy and was fired, he now lives comfortably on his own island, with his wife, two dogs, and several hundred million dollars, and lived happily ever after.
Monday, February 16, 2009In the Midst of the Meltdown 2
What is the work that you’re here to do? The most immediate thing in front of you, and there are two choices: either live under the law of karma or live under God’s grace of loving. You can have your choice. And the grace of God did not say for one minute that you won’t have any pain. It just said you can live in the Spirit while you walk through this world.
I have been to many poor countries over the years and also those that were in the midst of a financial crisis, and one thing always struck me—people were getting by. So, we will get by.
Then what does this all mean? To me it has more to do with a change in expectations than in reality. If you are living your life according to a set of spiritually based principles and values, then the probability is that you will sail through this period of time. For those who do have not a set of solid principles the likelihood is that they will flounder until they find solid ground by acquiring a set of their own meaningful values.
When we are secure in our principles and values it is then important that we be open to Grace. If you have been tithing and seeding joyfully and unconditionally, the doors are wide open for you to receive and to participate in a life filled with miracles.
Monday, February 9, 2009True Manifestation
Manifestation is successful only if it results in a change of consciousness. That’s a little different from how most people see it. Manifestation has usually been defined as the ability to make something appear physically. But if you only take into account the materialization of a physical form, you have missed the essence of creation. When manifestation results in a change of consciousness, you no longer need to see the form in the outer world, but you move to the very essence of its fulfillment inside of you and then you truly have it. Truly having something does not mean you possess it as a form, but that it is present for you in its essence.
(From The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS with Paul Kaye)
I mentioned over the weekend the emerging trend of peer-to-peer lending. Another emerging trend in these times is Community Supported Agriculture. In both cases the meta-trend is distrust and lack of confidence in the regular supply chain. Richard Russell of Dow Theory Letters commented on this today:
We get all of our fresh vegetables through a CSA program, CSA is an abbreviation for community supported agriculture. Essentially a group of consumers pay up-front at the beginning of a growing season for a small (usually family) farm's start up costs. Its like a share, the dividends arrive every Wednesday in the form of a box brimming with seasonal produce--all organic vegetables and fruits at a very reasonable price. There are even meat CSAs now. Check out the CSAs in your area. Faye and I are members of Bee Wise and they usually give us so much food we have a problem finishing all of it.
I found this interesting from Strategic Forecasting:
Ultimately, the issues dividing the world are not, in our view, subject to personalities, nor does goodwill (or bad will, for that matter) address the fundamental questions. Iran has strategic and ideological reasons for behaving the way it does. So does Russia. So does Germany, and so on. The tensions that exist between those countries and the United States might be mildly exacerbated by personalities, but nations are driven by interest, not personality.
Biden’s position did not materially shift the Obama administration away from Bush’s foreign policy, because Bush was the prisoner of that policy, not its creator. The Iranians will not make concessions on nuclear weapons prior to holding talks, and they do not regard their support for Hamas or Hezbollah as aiding terrorism. Being willing to talk to the Iranians provided they abandon these things is the same as being unwilling to talk to them.
PK: My point in posting the above excerpt is to show that some things are changing rapidly and some things barely at all. Do not look to the Government for help because it is still basically the same people with the same agendas playing them out in the same way. It is really a time for taking personal responsibility. There will be change, we just don't know what. So stay healthy and flexible.
Of the reading I have recommended over the last few days, this one quote stands out:
I don't care how hard this period is. You have to have the combination of believing that you will prevail, that you will get out of this, but also not be the Pollyanna who ignores the brutal facts. You have to say that we will be in this for a long time and we will turn this into a defining event, a big catalyst to make ourselves a much stronger enterprise. Our characters are being forged in a burning, searing crucible.
Friday, February 6, 2009A Crisis of Values
An MSIA staff member approached me the other day and said that reading this bog had made them scared to spend money. They had wanted to go to a Judy Collins concert but didn’t want to part with the $40 ticket price.
I was both proud and horrified. Proud that they were carefully evaluating where to spend their money and not acting on impulse. Horrified that they were scared of spending money.
So let me clarify. This blog has followed three main themes:
1) Yes, we are in a financial crisis but that following the principles of abundance and prosperity, also known as being a Joyful Giver, puts us on a Grace track as opposed to a struggle track. We are watchful, alert, and relaxed.
2) That deciding what your values are is a critical piece of the puzzle, for that will guide you on your actions and spending your money.
3) There is never a reason to live in lack because there is endless supply.
I do believe that the reason this economy is in such trouble is that the foundation on which it has been built over the last 25 years has been dishonesty and greed. In other words--no foundation at all. It had to fail. Dishonesty and greed are not values for sustained growth and expansion.
Please read this excellent interview with best-selling author Jim Collins in Fortune Magazine. Excerpt:
So what did these companies do to get through the tough times?
A couple of things really jump out. No. 1, in times of great duress, tumult, and uncertainty, you have to have moorings. Companies like P&G, GE, J&J, and IBM had an incredible fabric of values, of underlying ideals or principles that explained why it was important that they existed. One of the things that was very distinctive about P&G, for example, was that they said a customer will always be able to depend on the fact that a product is what we say it is - we will always build our reputation on quality. When they were under pressure to start cutting corners or use cheaper ingredients, they just didn't do that. What we have found is that what really matters is that you actually have core values - not what they are. The more challenged you are, the more you have to have your values. You need to preserve them consistently over time.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009Revisiting Trust
Tithing should be one of the most joyful things you can do—to give to a Source that is reflective of your own Source.
Your own Source then knows and understands the vessel by which it is going to give and receive in the world, and it will magnify the glory of your own countenance.
Do you want to miss that?
(From God Is Your Partner by John-Roger)
From The New York Times today:
The American tax system depends heavily on voluntary compliance. It would send a terrible message to the public if we ignore the failure of yet another high-level nominee to comply with the tax laws.
I must say I am shaking my head. Three Obama appointees have now been shown have not paid their taxes. Three. These are the creme de la creme of our politicians and they cheat, knowingly. Fortunately, two have backed down but we are still left with a crooked Treasury Secretary who is being entrusted with trillions of dollars of taxpayer's money.
This is not a political statement but one of revisiting trust, and values. As we have discussed in the past the only thing about trust that makes sense is what J-R has said: "Trust people to do what they are going to do." Clearly the era of placing our trust in politicians, bankers, and financial wizards is over.
That comes back to trusting ourselves. Keeping our word with ourselves. In short, being honest. And if honesty is one of our values, then we will live accordingly. I do believe in the saying that you can't cheat an honest man.
Then there is our trust in the Divine/God/Spirit/Beloved. We tithe as a demonstration of that trust. We give to God, our Source, first. It's a very big statement that we are making to God and to ourselves.
Apart from Loving Each Day my favorite email each day is Word of the Day.
Today's word is:
to steal or misuse money or property entrusted to one's care
I don't think I need to say any more about that.
Monday, February 2, 2009Flying High
Tithing is something you give unconditionally, and once you let go, it’s like cutting the string of a kite. It’s gone.
But this kite flies high and eventually reaches God's attention, and in God's attention all the goodness that you want will start coming your way, like health and wealth and happiness and more good things than I could ever imagine to tell you.
(from God Is Your Partner by John-Roger, DSS)
When you follow the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity there is much cause for optimism, as the above quote shows. You walk blessed among humankind. It’s a wonderful thing.
And of course we must always keep our eyes open and live a practical life. As we face an economy and a world that has changed and will continue to change, I find my primary anchor point (my security) with the Beloved. I also find security in my values. They have been an enormous source of strength and they guide my actions both in the way I conduct my life and in my spending habits.
I agree with Tim Price below that we have all been complicit in what has taken place.
From Tim Price, published by PFP Wealth Management:
"Banks have done more injury to the religion, morality, tranquility, prosperity and even wealth of the nation, than they ever will do good.”
--US President John Adams, 1799.
"It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning."
The scale of the banking crisis is so huge, and the dislocating damage wrought across all financial assets so extensive, it challenges language and thought just to try and articulate it. But one response has been almost universal: having been monumentally cheated, we demand an apology. Yet answer comes there none.
The lack of contrition may have something to do with the breadth and diffusion of the guilt. Since a housing and credit bubble also requires the willing participation of a greedy and credulous public, there are really few people who emerge entirely untainted from the wreckage. By and large, we are all complicit. What matters is how we reach resolution.
This is interesting because so many people are predicting the demise of the dollar.
Underlining all aspects of the recession will be a single, undeniable fact. The dollarization of the global economy that began so torrentially in 2008 will reach a fever pitch in 2009 as a variety of investors — private, government, American and foreign — pour their resources into the American market. They will do this first to escape the volatility that resides elsewhere in the world, and later to ride the U.S. recovery out of the recession.
Sunday, January 18, 2009The Grace Track
Because energy follows thought, my advice has always been to hold thoughts that uplift you. Hold images in your mind that you want more of.
Be careful what you ask for because if you get it, you also get what goes with it -- which is fine if, when it does come your way, you are prepared to handle it to completion.
From: The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS with Paul Kaye
So with the double whammy of the above quote, it is time to place our seed. Remember to see yourself in the picture receiving or being part of what you are seeding for. Make your claim and keep in mind the highest good. And please share with us your success stories.
I was counseling someone the other day and pointed out to them that they were on the "struggle track" and needed to make the switch onto the "Grace track". Not surprisingly they had stopped tithing a while back, ironically when things had been going well. It got me thinking about this quote from a Hopi Elder:
Banish the word 'struggle' from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we've been waiting for.
Grace is there, waiting. All we need do is turn.
Frugality appears to be the new American way of life as this article, Outsourced Chores Come Home, demonstrates.
There is of course a paradox in this. It’s called the Paradox of Thrift. As Americans save more, less money goes into the economy and, in the short term, things get a lot worse for a lot of people. That is what we are seeing right now in abysmal retail sales, from which other consequences emerge (store space for rent), and so on.
Susan Todoroff, a personal trainer in Ann Arbor, Mich., has begun brewing espressos at home and cutting her hair and cleaning her house herself. And Tamar A. Zaidenweber, a health care market researcher in Astoria, Queens, is spending more time walking her dog instead of taking it to day care each week.
All of these consumers could praise themselves for their newfound frugality in the midst of an economic downturn. But every step they take toward self-reliance — each shrub they prune themselves, each cupcake they bake from scratch — hurts the people and small businesses that have long provided these services professionally.
Thanks to Sumi for these Thomas Jefferson quotes. If only we had listened.
“When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.”
“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
“It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes, a principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.”
“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”
“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.”
“To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”
Saturday, January 17, 2009Letting Go, Service, and Integrity
And the reason all this works is that you let go and give to God, joyfully and unconditionally.
From God Is Your Partner (on seeding) by John-Roger, DSS
Well, if that short sentence doesn’t say it all regarding living the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity I don’t know what does. Please take it in.
If you didn’t see Michelle Obama’s call to service on Martin Luther King Day on Monday here it is. (2 mins)
This is a must see video, named Four Generations, to warm your heart and may redefine abundance for you.
The Achaemenid Persian Empire (550–330 BCE), which at the height of its power had more than 20 nations under its control, was built on the most basic principles - that of truth and justice, which formed the bases of the Achaemenid culture. Based on the Zoroastrian doctrine, it was the strong emphasis on honesty and integrity that gave the ancient Persians credibility to rule the world, even in the eyes of the people belonging to the conquered nations.
This largest Empire of the Ancient World was forged by Cyrus the Great, and spanned three continents, including territories of Afghanistan and Pakistan, parts of Central Asia, Asia Minor, Thrace, much of the Black Sea coastal regions, Iraq, northern Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, and all significant population centers of ancient Egypt as far west as Libya. It is also noted for freeing the Jews from their Babylonian captivity, and for instituting Aramaic as the empire's official language.
As we have seen, the United States of America has wandered far from its founding fathers who did have the principles of truth and justice in mind. And certainly we have seen any emphasis on honesty and integrity evaporate before our eyes in the last six months. It has taken a generation for things to come off their tracks and in my opinion it will take a generation to get them back on again. Let’s hope that Tuesday will get us off to a good start.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008"Us Band of Brothers" (and Sisters)
My blog readers are a small bunch. There have been times where I have thought of giving this up only to be told by someone that they are an avid reader and they have gained great value from it. So I am going to continue with my daily posts for another six months to complete a year of doing this. After all, this is the craziest time of our lives.
As I have said before, you certainly don’t need this blog to get a take on the teachings—there are plenty of J-R books and cd’s where you can get that straight from the source. This blog is a reflection on the spiritual principles of abundance and prosperity plus my personal opinion on the world financial backdrop. It is not the opinion of J-R or John Morton. I don’t know if they agree or disagree. I say this because I am going to be getting increasingly direct, starting with this post. It is my opinion. Please feel free to share yours in the comments.
I love this quote from J-R that I posted recently:
“What is the work that you’re here to do? The most immediate thing in front of you, and there are two choices: either live under the law of karma or live under God’s grace of loving. You can have your choice. And the grace of God did not say for one minute that you won’t have any pain. It just said you can live in the Spirit while you walk through this world.”
I love it because it says clearly that we can have our choice. And we will have the opportunity to choose. The system is collapsing. We need to be strong to keep choosing and being open to the grace. Who the President or Prime Minister is really doesn’t matter at this point in the big picture. We all need to do our best to prepare. And nothing is better than what we already know--s.e.’s, service, tithing and seeding. The things that direct us to God—where there is endless love, endless supply.
I do strongly believe that what will emerge out of this will be a better, more enlightened world—a Golden Age if you will. But to get there we need to do things differently—very differently. Since, as human beings, we tend to be reluctant to change when we are comfortable, change is being thrust upon us. But don’t feel like a victim as what stood as a system was a fraud and a grand illusion. A mockery of what was put in place by the enlightened Founding Fathers of this great country. Principles were thrown out the window. Now we face the music. Our Light, our neutral loving, and our empathy will be the most wonderful assets to assist ourselves and others.
Blogger and innovator Robert Paterson went to the John Boyd Conference and came back with a summary that is both disturbing and fascinating. I have excerpted his post below because I agree with, not all, but most of what he is saying:
Boyd 2008 - My Overall Conclusions
So what in summary did I take away from this amazing weekend?
That there is no soft landing. We are not in a recession. We are not even in a depression. We are at the end of an era. The Tipping Point is of course the financial collapse. The Vast Ponzi Scheme of our financial world - with the vast sums in the Derivative Market and the Credit Bubble are all in effect lost – they cannot be saved. There is not enough money in the national accounts to pull this back.
The search for efficiency and the urge to consume has set us all up like a row of dominoes - there is no buffer, no resiliency. As one problem rises it causes another. As one solution is tried it drives another problem. We all pull back and the consumer economy stalls. The auto industry and credit firms feed the media (40% of conventional advertising). Papers and TV and Radio networks, many subject to LBO's (Levereged Buyouts) will have to fail as per the Tribune. Every sector will be laying people off. Sales of all things fall off a cliff - driving more business failures and layoffs. Cities and states that depend on sales tax and property tax and the credit markets can rely on none of these. So they too will have to lay off millions - thus making all the problems worse. National governments will be asked to save us all and of course cannot. As States and Cities get squeezed and cannot borrow, they will too lay off millions - teachers, firemen, police.
The world food system is exceptionally connected and tightly coupled. High fertilizer prices in 2008 will drive a food shortage in 2009. Inventories of grain are already low. The collapse of commerce and credit may risk food supplies in 2009. The 2008 rice problem was a harbinger for what is to come.
The problem is our mindset - the Newtonian Machine view of reality. It has outlived its value and become its dark side. We have given up all our power to it and those who control it could not help themselves from looting it.
The solution is a new Mindset that of an interconnected world with organizations and a leadership model that fits this new reality.
The goal for us all to work to is clear - that we have to build back into the system Resiliency. This means that each region has to work to become largely energy, food and financially self-sustaining and that each region needs to network into the others. In effect we shift from an efficient machine to a resilient network.
That the leadership model is no longer the dominant hero but the egoless servant.
That we cannot wait to be saved. We have to all do our part to make our place "Home."
Many are desperate that somehow President Obama save us and importantly turn the clock back. Take us back to consumer heaven of 2006. Even if he could, would this be the right thing to do? To take us back to a world that is a fantasy?
What got us to this place?
The Dark Side of a Mindset. The Machine/Institutional/Newtonian/Engineering Mindset that created most of the wealth of the 19th and 20th century tipped over into the dark side. Where not only did we give up all our power to institutions but gave the few that ran them the license to use these institutions for their own benefit.
So we spend nearly a trillion on defense but not on what the troops really need. We spend billions of health and America is on a par with Cuba. We spend billions on education and more than 50% of Americans are functionally illiterate. We spend billions on food and we eat crap. We make no progress toward energy independence.
The problem is how we all "saw" the world/reality. We gave up all that was important to us to faceless bureaucrats. Our energy, our food, our health, our education, our security and our wealth. We ended up like peasants in the middle ages who gave up their soul and their chance of salvation to the Bureaucrats who ran the church - who made a business - indulgences - out of our naive faith in their ability to act on our behalf.
So what can we do? This was a huge focus of the conference.
We have to shift the Mindset and hence the design of our world from Efficient Machine to Resilient Organism. We have to shift the mindset of the leader from the hero/Savior to the servant leader.
Above all, each place has to be largely self-sufficient in:
So the Boyd Conference was both depressing and exhilarating. It seemed clear that there was no way back but that the way forward could be wonderful - if we chose it!
(Full post here.)
Friday, November 14, 2008Return to Manifestation
We humans are experts at making negative assumptions: I’m unworthy; I’m terrible; I’m a failure; I’ll never get anywhere; God doesn’t love me. You can be equally successful at holding to your true direction and overcoming whatever distracts you. Here is how this practice works: whenever you experience a distraction—let’s say, feeling unworthy—go back to your center, find the clarity within, and say, “Right now, through invoking the Law of Assumption, I assume that this feeling of unworthiness is gone and will stay gone. I’m busy doing other things. I don’t have time for this distraction.”
The part of us that keeps the spiritual Law of Assumption from working is the ego. The false self uses the power of the mind and the emotions, backed by willpower and the power of the body, to prevent us from manifesting wonderful things in the world. But there’s a bigger will, the Soul. Once you connect with the Soul, the ego seems like nothing. You wonder why you allowed your life to be run by such an inconsequential thing!
If you start assuming that you are Soul, you will become Soul, the Beloved. This is not something that will happen in some future time and place. It is true right here, right now.
(From: What’s It Like Being You by John-Roger, DSS, and Paul Kaye)
After a few weeks of writing about the financial meltdown, I think we have a good idea of where we are, the context for the whole thing, and indeed the context for the times. It now has to play out and as it does we have spoken about the inner and the outer preparation needed to deal with the consequences.
So enough about all of that for now. Let’s return our focus to the good stuff—manifestation. Living the life we aspire to, regardless of circumstances, meaning that we are not dependent on materiality for our fulfillment.
We start such a journey by asking ourselves what we want. That is the key to this. So let’s begin there. And what we come up with can be evaluated and measured against the values we have as individuals. (If you are new to this blog see “Values” tag on the right).
Clarity is important. I know what I am looking for to create. I have thought about it, and written it down. Most importantly, I have a clear picture of what it is, and I can clearly see myself doing it.
What do you want to manifest, for the highest good?
Ever wondered what you would do if you had to start from scratch? I enjoyed this review of Scratch Beginnings by Adam Shepard.
And who are the happiest at their jobs? According to Yahoo Hotjobs it’s Clergy, 67.2% of them. The second happiest were firefiighters.
For a good financial read see David Brooks' Op-Ed in the NY Times. Some very difficult decisions are up for the new U.S. Government. There are no easy choices. Which means we send the Light.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008Consumerism
You can return to the Beloved on your breath, on your gratitude, on your loving, and on your unconditional giving. There are many ways into the Beloved when you are prepared to let go and let God. Your reward will be the enthusiasm you have for your life regardless of your circumstances. You will walk in Grace. And the Grace of God did not say for one moment that you wouldn’t have any pain, or that you won’t meet any adversity. Its only promise is that you are going to live in the Spirit while you walk through this world.
(From: The Rest of Your Life by John-Roger, DSS, and Paul Kaye)
One of the more extraordinary things that I have heard was when George W. Bush, in the wake of 9/11, told us all to “go shopping.” More recently he gave us our own money back in a Government stimulus package which was aimed for one purpose—for us to go shopping. As some cynics have pointed out, not completely erroneously, we got money from the Government so we could buy Chinese goods, so that they then could lend it back to us, so we could then afford to pay unfriendly countries for their oil.
In actuality, none of this is surprising when you consider that 70 percent of the U.S. economy is consumer driven. In other words the economy depends on us spending money on things. Now some things we need, food for example. But a lot of things we don’t. In other countries they save money. In the U.S. we don’t. Consumerism is built into the American psyche. Indeed, in his bestselling book Dumbing Us Down, award-winning educator John Taylor Gatto argues that our current education system is designed to make us into compliant consumers.
How we got into all this is beyond the scope of this blog. How we are getting out of it is the drama unfolding before our eyes. Are we learning? I hope so. But if we really learn, as a nation, to live within our means, then that is going to mean that the U.S. is going to be turned upside down. So Light to all that. I have had my dealings with the I.R.S. and while everything turned out spectacularly well, thanks to grace, I can tell you that basically they are unforgiving. The Government encourages you to spend as much as you can, but do not depend on them to help you out when you enthusiastically take their advice.
But we will leave the world to unfold as it must. The approach of this blog is to live our lives in accordance with our values, spiritual and otherwise, and spend our money in accordance with those values.
Giving to God is the first step--that opens the channel. The money magnet is the second--that gets the very important relationship with the basic self on track. Gratitude is a major key to feeling, living, and representing the fullness. Living within our means engages the conscious self. Seeding, the fast way to personal abundance, brings in the High Self. We then tap into the endless supply of our Source, and Grace Tithe on the overflow we experience.
The path to abundance has been clearly laid out for us, all we need to do is walk it—lovingly.
Frugal Tip of the Day from The Simple Dollar. Great post on what his readers have found to be their "25 Best Actions for Saving Money." A really good read.
And Very Short List gives us good reason for paying off more than our minimum payment on our credit cards.
Financial Quote of the Day
But the U.S. economy has now lost jobs ten months in a row, while wages and incomes have been stagnant, all of which suggests an economy that’s basically been in neutral or heading backwards for almost a year now. In other words, one could make a case that we’re well into the recession rather than near its start. Normally, that might make you think we’re also closer to the end than the beginning. But the worrisome thing about this downturn is that the bottoming process may be a long and drawn-out one, rather than anything resembling a quick snapback. Which is yet another reason for the government to think bigger when it comes to a new stimulus package.
JAMES SUROWIECKI from his New Yorker blog
Saturday, November 8, 2008To Cut Back or Not to Cut Back?
Well things have certainly quieted down in the financial world as stability slowly returns. However, that doesn’t mean to say that we are not in the midst of one of the severest recessions in a very long while. The word “deflation” has been bantered around and “depression” has also been talked about.
But what does it all mean for us ordinary folks trying to get by in an increasingly complex world?
The blog, Blueprint for Prosperity, has this take:
In times of uncertainty, the prudent thing to do is to save so that you can weather whatever the world throws at you. That rule has been and always will be one of the unassailable ideas in personal finance (unless you’re facing rampant and runaway inflation, fortunately that has never happened in the United States) and that’s the mantra I, and many other people, have started to live by.
The first step is to cut back on spending somewhere and we’ve decided to cut back on eating out as often as we had been. My wife and I are fortunate to have disposable income and we treated ourselves to eating out at restaurants several nights a week. We didn’t go to lavish restaurants or anything like that. We’d go to our local pizza joint for a $20 meal of pizza and calamari or our local restaurant for a $15 meal (those are totals for two). Even at a mere $15 a night, three nights a week, ends up being $180 a month.
We’ve replaced them with more cooking. We’ve made cooking a fun activity that’s part entertainment, part sustenance. Cooking is also much cheaper, makes more (for leftovers!), and saves us on gas (we can walk to our grocery store). A simple, delicious meal of some pasta and tomato sauce can’t cost more than a dollar or two per person and can feed us for several days.
In our case, we’ve “cut back” financially but enriched ourselves in other ways.
But is cutting back the answer? After all, are we not supposed to expand in the midst of contraction? And if we do cut back doesn’t that make the general economy worse, and create an even steeper downward spiral?
We’ll explore this more this coming week, but for now my take on it is to return to your own values (see “Values” tag on the right for past posts on this) and act in accordance with them. My own values lean towards the bohemian (see August 16 & 17 posts) but I do not impose that on anyone.
And Frugal Dad has this to say in summarizing a post on Blaming Parents for Financial Problems":
So maybe your parents weren’t the best example, and you did follow the wrong crowd financially growing up and made a few mistakes. Congratulations. You are human. We have all made mistakes. What separates you from serial failures is that you are willing to learn from those mistakes. You are willing to get smart on personal finance topics by reading magazines, books and blogs. You are willing to work extra to dig out from your own financial hole and change your family tree. Quit waiting on someone else to save you, or someone else to blame it on. Take responsibility for your financial decisions, and start making better ones to provide a brighter future for yourself, and your loved ones.
Friday, November 7, 2008The Best Financial Decision You Will Ever Make
We can help to break the greed pattern by tithing, giving 10 percent of our personal wealth. When we tithe, two levels are activated—a level here in this world and, at the same time, a mystical, invisible level. The mystical is a communication saying, “You are abundant and handle abundance well, so here’s some more.” The other level, in this world, is when we look at our abundance and contribute joyfully through tithing. We are actually cheerful about it. This action sets up a countenance that is a form of glory in the human being, and that glory attracts more abundance.
John-Roger, DSS (From: God Is Your Partner)
This blog is based on the principles, purpose, values, and practices of abundance and prosperity, and health, wealth, and happiness.
So what is our primary principle? Giving. Joyful giving. Because giving opens the space that allows us to receive. Just as our breathing out allows us to receive in our next breath.
Yet, between breathing out and breathing in, there is a pause--a brief moment of rest. Just as our heart beats for 11 hours and rests for 13 hours, so rest is built into the mechanism of our breath. When we give there is a pause between us receiving. We allow for that space, that emptiness, and if we listen and follow closely undoubtedly we will find that it is filled with loving.
In the same way, when we give of materiality, money, and we give joyfully, we pause and allow the loving to fill our being. We give because it is necessary in order to live. We give because it feels good. And we give because it is God’s plan for us. The foundation of our giving is the way that was laid down thousands of years ago, spiritually, for our enrichment—10 percent of our increase.
If that is too much for you, start with 1 per cent and as you gain trust, in yourself and God, build up to 10 percent.
When I first speaking about this around 25 years ago, I said that speaking as an accountant (as I was back then) giving to God in this way was the best insurance, the best investment, and the best financial decision anyone can make. It is as true for me now as it was then. The difference being that I have validated it further, through my personal experience, in those 25 years.
Quote of the Day from Seth, who once again nails it:>
The Sad Lie of Mediocrity
Doing 4% less does not get you 4% less.
Doing 4% less may very well get you 95% less.
That's because almost good enough gets you nowhere. No sales, no votes, no customers. The sad lie of mediocrity is the mistaken belief that partial effort yields partial results. In fact, the results are usually totally out of proportion to the incremental effort.
Big organizations have the most trouble with this, because they don't notice the correlation. It's hidden by their momentum and layers of bureaucracy. So a mediocre phone rep or a mediocre chef may not appear to be doing as much damage as they actually are.
Frugal Living Tip of the Day:
By using less expensive but equally effective ingredients found around the home, you can prepare effective substitute cleaning products.
Sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda is an excellent material that can be mixed with water to remove tar, bug juice, tree sap, bird droppings and other organic material that can etch into the car’s paint. Commercial products can cost between $10.00 and $40.00 per container.
For stains on the interior surfaces of your car, try a solution of vinegar and water applied with a tooth brush. Turtle Wax Spray Cleaner costs about $7.00 a can; vinegar is about $1.79 a pint.
Zen Moment of the Day
A student at Tassajara sat facing Suzuki Roshi on a tatami mat in his room. The student said he couldn’t stop snacking in the kitchen and asked what he should do.
Suzuki reached under his table. “Here, have some jelly beans.” he said.
(From: To Shine One Corner of the World: Moments with Shunryu Suzuki)
Thursday, November 6, 2008Trust
You do not have to trust anybody else if you trust yourself. When people tell you something, you can just say, “Well, that sounds good,” without jumping into their information and without agreeing or disagreeing with what they say. You then take whatever time you need to look at it carefully and consider whether their information relates to you and whether you can make it work for you. If you can, use it. If not, let it go.
John-Roger, DSS (From: Fulfilling Your Spiritual Promise)
One of the aspects of the “Unravelling” has been the falling away of trust. Trust is hard to earn and, once lost, is even harder to build back up. So much trust has been lost in our "trusted" institutions. It’s one of the reasons the financial system is still having difficulty re-booting.
A top financial strategist, Mohamed El-Erian of Pimco, has a great everyday example. (Courtesy Bill Gross’ Monthly Report at www.pimco.com).
"Imagine yourself at the drive-thru ordering a Big Mac. At one window you order and pay, at the other – 20 feet ahead – you pick up your lunch. What if you thought that after paying at the first window, your 1000 calorie sandwich might not be waiting for you a few seconds later. You might not pay; business as usual might not take place. That is what is happening in the credit markets."
However, one thing we must always do is maintain our trust with ourselves. I am constantly striving to maintain and improve mine. We can't win the outer game, but the inner game is always in our hands.
Recommended Reading. (Thanks to Marjorie for this one).
The following is from a well-written and clear Wall St Journal article on How to Create a Spending Plan:
A budget is the very tonic many households need. It doesn't have to be painful if you understand one salient fact: You control your budget; it doesn't control you.
Every month, you, dictate how you spend your limited financial resources. Your budget has no control over that. You can choose to eat out every day, or you can choose to replace your wardrobe, or you can choose to pay off additional principal on your debt balances, or you can choose to afford a getaway over a long weekend. Whatever you want to do with your money, you can do it.
But here's the catch: You can't do everything.
Along the same lines here is a quote I liked from yesterday’s post on vigilance from www.bluntmoney.com.
Moneywise, being vigilant means doing things like tracking your spending, balancing your checkbook, making sure you’re adequately prepared for financial disasters, and constantly working to improve your performance in the workplace. In other words, being vigilant means exactly what it sounds like: paying close, careful attention to the little things that will make a big difference in your life.
Being financially vigilant allows you to feel more confident and optimistic about your life, because you’ll know that you have control over your finances. You won’t be buffeted about, at the mercy of whatever bill happens to arrive in your mailbox.
Reason of the Day to Send Barack Obama the Light:
"When policies encounter realities, harsh things happen to presidents. Most presidents are worn down by them. Some accommodate themselves. A few — a Lincoln or a Franklin Delano Roosevelt — find opportunities that no one else can quite see. The first test for Obama will be Iraq, to find an exit that isn’t disastrous but fulfills his commitments. We don’t see the path. It will be interesting to see if Obama can invent one — not only on Iraq but on a range of foreign policy issues."
Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor.com)
Tuesday, November 4, 2008The Principle-based Life
Q: How can I live life with more trust and love?
A: It is called being less materialistic, thus no hidden agendas, thus no suspicions, thus trust, thus love. Thus spoke love.
John-Roger, DSS (From: Fulfilling Your Spiritual Promise)
We have spoken a little about values. I believe in living a principle-based life. A principle can be defined as a personal or specific basis of conduct or management. I don’t like rules. They are made when brains run out and tend to self-defeating in the long run. Rules are restrictive, principles are freeing.
Everyone needs to make up their own minds as to the principles they live by. For example, a good one for me, and on point for this blog is, “To Live Within One’s Means.”
I mention principles today because no matter who is elected President today, and no matter what initiatives get passed, it makes no difference to one who is living a principle-based life. We live our principles, regardless.
There is great strength in this. It is a center to which one can hold to in times of plenty or in times of turbulence. I invite you to explore your own principles.
Quote of the Day
Experience isn't things happening to you, it's learning from them, seeking solutions.
Friday, October 31, 2008The Importance of Values
Being attached to the accumulation of material wealth might be a deterrent to discovering the more spiritual aspects of yourself. But material wealth can also be an outer reflection of the inner wealth and abundance that you are experiencing inside. There is nothing “wrong” with having material possessions. Sometimes they can assist you to live a more comfortable life so that you can more easily be of service to others. And many times sharing the abundance of your material possessions can be beneficial to others. It’s all in how you handle it inside yourself.
(From Wisdoms of the Spiritual Heart by John-Roger, DSS)
We have been talking about values this week and I have been sharing a couple of mine. The purpose is for you to consider your own values and then to make sure that your actions are consistent with them. Going against your own values is a problem for a whole lot of reasons that I won’t go into here, but may do in a future post dealing with trust. What I do want to go into here is that your spending habits need to also be consistent with your values. If not, once again you are going to be in conflict with yourself.
For example, I like quality materials. One of my values is frugality. I act in concert with this particular value in two ways:
1) I shop at sales, outlets, or cheaper stores to see if I can find the quality I want at a price that is within my means
2) I buy less. I have fewer clothes but the ones I have are higher quality. (Plus this is also consistent with my value of simplicity).
Another example of this is organic food. I would rather have 3 ounces of natural beef than 6 ounces of regular beef. Thus my budget stays the same, even if organic beef is twice as much. And most importantly, my values stay intact--eating more slowly to appreciate the quality, plus I may get to lose a couple of pounds!
And, I do happen to think that a match in values is the most important factor for a long term and successful intimate relationship.
Oh, and one more value of mine—giving, joyful giving. That’s why I like to make my tithing check the first one of the month, before my other expenditures.
Smile/Zen Moment of the Day (my favorite Haiku of all time, given that I was raised Jewish, and that I love cats):
Left the door open
for the Prophet Elijah.
Now our cat is gone.
(From Haiku for Jews by David M. Bader)
Financial Quote of the Day
Really hear what I'm about to tell you. The center of gravity of the world economic system has moved from New York to Washington. Let me illustrate what I mean so you understand just how profound this is. Banks used to compete against banks. US carmakers competed against each other and the Japanese. And the New York financial markets told you how they're doing against each other.
Understand what's happening now. The US Treasury has become the only "customer" that matters. The Treasury is now the customer—and investor -- with the $750+ billion checkbook. The Treasury is now the "investment banker" of last resort, arranging and financing mergers. Banks are competing against insurance companies for their slice of the bailout pie. Chrysler and GM (and the Michigan Congressional delegation) are looking to Washington, not Goldman or Merrill, to facilitate a merger. This is a seismic shift.