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Lessons of Autumn: Abundance

Every season has its energy and its lessons to teach us. The first lesson of autumn I'd like to discuss is abundance.

Harvest festivals have been going on for thousands of years, celebrating the bounty of the land and gratitude for how Mother Earth has provided for us. Our scripture today from Psalms is thousands of years old and takes us back to a different time, a different culture and a different feeling around fall and harvest.

Psalm 65 gives us a glimpse into this celebratory time:

You have crowned the year with your bounty
And your paths overflow with a rich harvest;
The untilled meadows overflow with abundance,
And rejoicing clothes the hills
The fields are covered with flocks
And the valleys are blanketed with grain.
They shout and sing for joy!

This passage is filled with language and images of abundance – bounty, overflowing, rich harvest, blanketed with grain. Sadly, being primarily a group of humans who get our food from the grocery store, we identify less and less with the land and the importance of harvest time. Plus it feels like we're confronted with scarcity, not abundance, on a regular basis. Watching the news, going shopping, taking care of our homes and families, going to work, in each of these settings often experience a scarcity of time, money, resources, peace, goodwill, safety. Not to mention the pandemic, the flu, the shortage of medical professionals. And some of us are dealing with illness either personally or we're watching family members and friends declining and dying. 

Scarcity is the “never enough” problem. Brene Brown says that “worrying about scarcity is our culture’s version of post-traumatic stress. It happens when we’ve been through too much, and rather than coming together to heal, we’re angry and scared and at each other’s throats.” This is playing out in families, work, schools, and all forms of communities.

On the other hand, the definition of abundance is “to have a large quantity of something” or “more than you need.” Hopefully when you think of abundance, thoughts of home, family, friends, and nature all spring to mind.

Whereas scarcity leave you feeling afraid, anxious, depressed, worried, lost, uncertain, lacking, sad and even angry. Abundance fills us with joy, generosity, fullness, wholeness, optimism, contentment, satisfaction and safety.

The big question becomes, can we cultivate an abundance mindset, even when we’re surrounded by scarcity? Even when someone we love is struggling or dying? Even when the market has tanked and we don’t have as much in the bank? Even when toilet paper costs an insane amount of money? Even when we get sticker shock every time we go to the grocery store?

I believe the answer is yes, because spiritually, abundance isn’t about how much stuff we have, or even whether life is going the way we want it to. Spiritually, abundance is about appreciating life, opening to the wonder of simply breathing and being alive, and being grateful for the creative energy of the universe. This is an inside job. This is a choice.

Scarcity focuses on what we DON’T have while abundance focuses on what we DO have and learning to accept that.

So focusing on what we do have is the first step in cultivating a more abundant mindset. Here are a few other things you can do:

  • Stop the negative self-talk. Telling yourself you aren't enough or can't do something isn't helpful. Trust me, I know.
  • Learn to look for possibilities. According to one article I read, there was a Harvard study that found that when we focus on one particular thing very intently, other possibilities can go completely unnoticed. So, if we focus on "I can't" or "it's impossible" or the church favorite "we've never done it that way before" then our minds are so much less likely to consider any other options or opportunities.
  • Hang with people who have abundant mindsets.
  • Celebrate the successes of others knowing this does not detract from you in any way. And it might even make you feel good to see someone else shine in the glow of a compliment.
  • Giving back of our time, talents and, yes, even our money, without counting the cost! Let go of the fear and dare to give.

Holly Whitcomb, in her book, “The Practice of Finding,” tells a story of when she was 22 years old, had completed one year of seminary, and was doing her first unity of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Yale New Haven Hospital. She writes, “This educational requirement for seminarians is nothing less than spiritual boot camp. My first summer being a chaplain was a mind-boggling experience with a discerning and very tough supervisor. During that summer, it eventually came to be my turn to be the chaplain on call for all of Yale New Haven Hospital, in all of its immense fearsomeness. Petrified, I felt as if I would jump out of my skin if the on-call beeper went off. Sensing my panic, my supervisor told me bluntly to stop regarding the beeper as if it were the Ark of the Covenant and to get a grip on myself. Though young, inexperienced, and afraid, I survived my first trial by fire that on-call night and became a little more confident.

Then one afternoon revered theologian Henri Nouwen came over from the seminary to teach our CPE group as a guest lecturer… he told our class that day that we didn’t have to be anxious… 'you have everything you need. You are enough. You simply walk into each hospital room with a spirit of compassion, receptivity, and your open hands.' All you need is your humanness, Nouwen told us that day. Trust that and see what happens.” 

That is what it looks like to have a mindset of abundance, to stop focusing on the fear of perhaps being inadequate, but trusting in the creativity of the universe, in our own capability for compassion, and opening to the possibilities before us.

As Pema Chodron said, “relax and realize that, behind all the worry, complaint, and disapproval that goes on in your mind, the sun is always coming up in the morning, moving across the sky, and going down in the evening. The birds are always out there collecting their food and making their nests and flying across the sky. The grass is always being blown by the wind or standing still. Food and flowers and trees are growing out of the earth. There’s enormous richness. You could develop your passion for life and your curiosity and your interest. You could connect with your joyfulness. You could start right now.”

Love & Light!

Kaye