Conscious Prosperity
by Joan Sotkin

A few years ago, I attended a non-denominational church that was very focused on prosperity. They hosted prosperity seminars and sermon topics often revolved around prosperity. Tithing 10% of earnings was touted as a prosperity tool and the pitch for funds was hard core.

Prosperity, as defined by traveling seminar leaders, meant having lots of money and material rewards. The promise was that if certain prosperity principles were followed, money would follow.

Despite their prosperity education most members of the congregation were not comfortable financially. The 10% of their earnings they struggled to give the church caused more pressure than cash flow and few ever felt they had enough.

If you have read the material on Prosperity Place, then you know that my definition of prosperity has more to do with how people feel than what they own. Longing and desire for more rarely coexist with satisfaction. It seems to me, that being satisfied is part of the prosperity equation, and money is not necessarily the key to satisfaction. There are many people who have lots of money and still feel empty, deprived and unfulfilled.

I'm a bit concerned by what seems to be a cultural obsession with having more of everything. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and other ultra-rich individuals are often idealized because of their ability to amass large sums of money, huge houses and anything money can buy. Advertising reinforces our "need" for energy hungry cars and a dazzling array of gizmos and gadgets.

As a result of our perceived need for so many things, the majority of Americans are deeply in debt, paying today and tomorrow for yesterday's purchases and using up planetary resources in the process. Debt and prosperity do not go hand in hand.

I think we are reaching a point in our history when we have to become more conscious about what we do with our individual resources. Somehow, I have a problem with someone building a $50 million house (as Bill Gates is doing) when there are people living in cardboard boxes. It matters to me that nature is being depleted as people attempt to satisfy their emotional needs with things.

A basic spiritual tenet is that we are all one being expressing itself in myriad ways. By caring only for our individual accomplishments, we cannot connect to our greater self, which is one infinite being. By selfishly accumulating goods and financial energy, we deprive ourselves by not reaching or knowing our full potential.

It's a paradox that in order to experience individual freedom and abundance we have to connect to the collective consciousness of humanity. When we realize, even if only intellectually, that we are one, then we will care that many are deprived while relatively few flourish.

At this point, I don't know if it is possible to come up with a comprehensive solution that will lead to a more equitable system. But it is possible to set an intention to develop a new paradigm. Instead of blindly accepting the living standards defined by the advertising community, we can begin to dialog about alternatives. We can also make genuine inner satisfaction a goal and learn to appreciate what we have, not long for what we don't have.

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