Happiness Comes from Giving and Helping, Not Buying and Having By Steve Taylor Ph.D

Materialism doesn’t lead to well-being, but altruism does.

So many of us strive so hard for material success that you might think there was a clear relationship between wealth and happiness. The media and our governments encourage us to believe this, since they need us to keep earning and spending to boost economic growth. From school onwards, we’re taught that long term well-being stems from achievement and economic prosperity – from ‘getting on’ or ‘making it’, accumulating more and more wealth, achievement and success.

Consequently, it comes as a shock for many people to learn that there is no straightforward relationship between wealth and well-being. Once our basic material needs are satisfied (i.e. once we’re assured of regular food and adequate shelter and a basic degree of financial security), wealth only has a negligible effect on well-being.

For example, studies have shown that, in general, lottery winners do not become significantly happier than they were before, and that even extremely rich people – such as billionaires – are not significantly happier than others.

Studies have shown that American and British people are less contented now than they were 50 years ago, although their material wealth is much higher. On an international level, there does appear to some correlation between wealth and well-being, partly because there are many countries in the world where people’s basic material needs are not satisfied. But this correlation is not a straightforward one, since wealthier countries tend to be more politically stable, more peaceful and democratic, with less oppression and more freedom – all of which are themselves important factors in well-being.

So why do we put so much effort into acquiring wealth and material goods? You could compare it to a man who keeps knocking at a door, even though he’s been told that the person he’s looking for isn’t at home. ‘But he must be in there!” he shouts, and barges in to explore the house. He storms out again, but returns to the house a couple of minutes later, to knock again. Seeking well-being through material success is just as irrational as this.

Well-Being Through Giving

If anything, it appears that there is a relationship between non-materialism and well-being. While possessing wealth and material goods doesn’t lead to happiness, giving them away actually does. Generosity is strongly associated with well-being. For example, studies of people who practise volunteering have shown that they have better psychological and mental health and increased longevity. The benefits of volunteering have been found to be greater than taking up exercise, or attending religious services – in fact, even greater than giving up smoking.

Another study found that, when people were given a sum of money, they gained more well-being if they spent it on other people, or gave it away, rather than spending it on themselves. This sense of well-being is more than just feeling good about ourselves – it comes from a powerful sense of connection to others, an empathic and compassionate transcendence of separateness, and of our own self-centredness.

In fact, paradoxically, another study has shown that this is one way in which money actually can bring happiness: if you give away the money you earn. This research – by Dunn, Gilbert and Wilson – also showed that money is more likely to bring happiness is you spend it on experiences, rather than material goods. (1) Another study (by Joseph Chancellor and Sonja Lyubomirsky) has suggested that consciously living a lifestyle of ‘strategic under-consumption’ (or thrift) can also lead to well-being. (2)

So if you really want enhance your well-being – and as long as your basic material needs are satisfied – don’t try to accumulate money in your bank account, and don’t treat yourself to material goods you don’t really need. Be more generous and altruistic – increase the amount of money you give to people in need, give more of your time to volunteering, or spend more time helping other people, or behaving more kindly to everyone around you. Ignore the ‘happiness means consumption’ messages we’re bombarded with by the media.

A lifestyle of generosity and under-consumption may not suit the needs of economists and politicians — but it will certainly make us happier.

We would do well to heed the words of the American Indian, Ohiyesa, speaking of his Sioux people:

‘It was our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to be overcome. Its appeal is to the material part, and if allowed its way, it will in time disturb one’s spiritual balance. Therefore, children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving.’

References:

(1) http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~dtg/DUNN%20GILBERT%20&%20WILSON%20(2011).pdf
(2) http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/files/2012/09/CLinpress.pdf

Steve Taylor holds a Ph.D in Transpersonal Psychology and is a senior lecturer in Psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK. For the last three years Steve has been included in Mind, Body, Spirit magazine’s list of the ‘100 most spiritually influential living people’ (coming in at #31 in 2014).

Steve is also the author of Back to Sanity: Healing the Madness of Our Minds and The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of A New Era. His books have been published in 16 languages and his research has appeared in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, The Journal of Consciousness Studies, The Transpersonal Psychology Review, The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, as well as the popular media in the UK, including on BBC World TV, The Guardian, and The Independent.

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A Generous Heart ~ Tara Brach

Published on Dec 2, 2014
A Generous Heart
Our deep potential is to live from an awake, loving heart. This talk looks at how, with a kind and mindful attention, we can de-condition habitual tendencies toward grasping and self-centeredness, and nourish the sense of connectedness and care that gives rise to generosity. As we bring these heart practices alive in our most immediate relationships, they have the power to evolve consciousness in widening circles across the world.

The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible (Sacred Activism) by Charles Eisenstein [Updated Feb 11, 2014]

Pub Date: Nov 5 2013

In a time of social and ecological crisis, what can we as individuals do to make the world a better place? This inspirational and thought-provoking book serves as an empowering antidote to the cynicism, frustration, paralysis, and overwhelm so many of us are feeling, replacing it with a grounding reminder of what’s true: we are all connected, and our small, personal choices bear unsuspected transformational power. By fully embracing and practicing this principle of interconnectedness—called interbeing—we become more effective agents of change and have a stronger positive influence on the world.

Throughout the book, Eisenstein relates real-life stories showing how small, individual acts of courage, kindness, and self-trust can change our culture’s guiding narrative of separation, which, he shows, has generated the present planetary crisis. He brings to conscious awareness a deep wisdom we all innately know: until we get our selves in order, any action we take—no matter how good our intentions—will ultimately be wrongheaded and wronghearted. Above all, Eisenstein invites us to embrace a radically different understanding of cause and effect, sounding a clarion call to surrender our old worldview of separation, so that we can finally create the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

With chapters covering separation, interbeing, despair, hope, pain, pleasure, consciousness, and many more, the book invites us to let the old Story of Separation fall away so that we can stand firmly in a Story of Interbeing.

Charles Eisenstein is a teacher, speaker, and writer focusing on themes of civilization, consciousness, money, and human cultural evolution. His writings on the web magazine Reality Sandwich have generated a vast online following; he speaks frequently at conferences and other events, and gives numerous interviews on radio and podcasts. Eisenstein graduated from Yale University in 1989 with a degree in Mathematics and Philosophy, and spent the next ten years as a Chinese-to-English translator. The author of Sacred Economics and The Ascent of Humanity, he currently lives in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Information about his work and future appearances can be found at charleseisenstein.net.

Charles Eisenstein: The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

This is Charles Eisenstein’s plenary talk at ISEC’s Economics of Happiness conference held in Byron Bay, Australia in March 2013. Charles is the author of The Yoga of Eating, The Ascent of Humanity and Sacred Economics. For more information about the conference or ISEC’s work, go to the economicsofhappiness.org

2012-08-03 Charles Eisenstein – The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible (excerpts)

Charles Eisenstein Presents Free Webinar – The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible

Published on Dec 10, 2013

http://CharlesEisenstein.net/

Author of Sacred Economics and The Ascent of Humanity, Charles Eisenstein discusses ideas from his newest book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, during a free webinar on December 10, 2013 before embarking on the second leg of his world tour in January.
• Discover how small, individual acts of courage, kindness, and self-trust can change our culture’s guiding narrative of separation.
• Learn how to overcome cynicism, frustration, and paralysis in the face of our current planetary crisis.
• Become a more effective agent of positive change through increased awareness of interconnectedness and interbeing.

Presented by http://NABCommunities.com/

The Evolving of Generosity (11/27/2013) ~ Tara Brach

Published on Dec 3, 2013

The Evolving of Generosity
This talk explores how we can open out of the habit of grasping and deliberately nourish our natural capacity for generosity, for living love.

Video

1.Tears of Recognition – one way our souls speak to us. 2. What is your life consecrated to? ~ Richard Moss


Richard talks about why we should listen to our tears of recognition. It is the soul saying this is what matters. When we listen we know why we are here. What our lives are consecrated to.

What is your life consecrated to?

Richard speaks about what it means to live a consecrated life.

Saracen Chivalry: Counsels on Valor, Generosity and the Mystical Quest ~ Pir Zia Inayat-Khan

Saracen Chivalry explores the space between Arthurian romance and the ethics and spirituality of Sufism. Framed as a medieval treatise penned by a fabled African queen, the book articulates a vision of life centered on the virtues of wisdom, courage, temperance, and generosity, illustrating these virtues with scriptural verses, prophetic sayings, sage maxims, and traditional legends and lore.

From the Back Cover
Queen Belacane is dying. As a last act, she inscribes a book of counsels, or prince’s mirror, to guide her newborn son on his life’s path. The Queen’s counsels illuminate the way of futuwwa, a tradition of mystical chivalry traced to the Prophet Abraham. If the Prince would unite the chivalries of Christendom and Islam and attain the Cup Mixed with Camphor, he must fulfill the pillars of his faith, and uphold the universal virtues of wisdom, courage, temperance, and generosity.

Click Here To Look Inside

Biography Pir Zia Inayat-Khan, PhD, is an Anglo-Indian scholar and contemplative leader. He is president of the Sufi Order International and founder of Suluk Academy and Seven Pillars House of Wisdom. He lives with his wife and two children in rural upstate New York.

Interview with Pir Zia Inayat-Khan

An interview with Pir Zia Inayat-Khan from the October 2008 Sufi Conference held on Asilomar Conference grounds.

5 Spiritual Practices for Aging Well ~ Lewis Richmond

I often teach that Buddhism is about how to be truly happy, so I have been studying the new research field of “happiness studies,” which focuses on the objective measures and causes of happiness. Researchers have found three factors that reliably increase happiness as we grow older — gratitude, generosity and reframing (seeing your situation from a more positive perspective). Not surprisingly, the Buddhist tradition offers these same three factors as spiritual practices for cultivating happiness. I would add two more — curiosity and flexibility.

Gratitude. When I ask audiences what they like about being older, people often answer “Gratitude,” and then say what they are grateful for: grandchildren, good health, free time, wearing what they want, the chance to travel, giving back to the community. One person included the ham sandwich she had just had for lunch. I have an exercise I call the “thank you” prayer. People repeat the words “thank you” silently to themselves and watch what comes up. It’s amazing how many and how readily images of gratitude come to mind.

Generosity. One happiness study reported that if giving weren’t free, drug companies could market a great new drug called “give back” instead of Prozac. It’s scientifically proven: giving back and helping others makes us feel happier and more content. Giving is a universal spiritual value taught by every religion, and the desire to give back naturally increases as we age. It is part of our emerging role as community elders — something we can do into our sixties, seventies, eighties and beyond. Giving is truly a spiritual practice, and it naturally lifts our spirits. My new book Aging As A Spiritual Practice: a Contemplative Guide to Growing Older and Wiser offers many tangible methods to cultivate a generous spirit. Among these is a contemplative exercise from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition that allows us inwardly picture recipients of our generosity and direct compassionate feeling toward them.

Reframing. Aging includes its share of reverses, losses and sorrows. What makes the difference is our attitude about them. If a bad knee means we can’t jog anymore, we needn’t despair; we can take up swimming. If we lost money in the recession, we can cherish what we still have. If we become ill, we rejoice when we recover. I have developed a meditation called “Vertical Time” that focuses on the positive aspects of the present, rather than regrets of the past and worries about the future. We tend to think of time as linear and horizontal, but it is also vertical — one breath at a time. Vertical Time is really breath-based reframing.

Curiosity
. Curiosity is an important attitude to cultivate as we age. There’s a tendency to hunker down in our old familiar routines. It’s good to resist that temptation. Physical exercise grows new muscle, mental activity grows new brain cells, emotional engagement lifts the spirit. Curiosity keeps us young; we need to cherish it. If you see an interesting ad for a wildlife class, consider taking it. If you go into a bookstore, try browsing in sections you don’t usually visit. If you haven’t seen a friend in too many years, reach out. Children are naturally curious, and we can be too.

Flexibility
. Things change as we age, and some of those changes are irrevocable. Our youthful stamina is gone forever; a dying friend will never return. In the face of these changes, it’s important that we not become rigid and stuck in our ways. With every reversal comes new opportunity. No matter what the issue, no matter how big the problem, there is always something constructive that you can do. Never give up, never let aging get the better of you. This is how the “extraordinary elderly” do it — the ones who have beaten the odds to enjoy their old age to the very end.

The Spiritual Life. A spiritual perspective on aging is not just for personal transformation; it is a medicine for longevity and health. Research shows that people with an active involvement in church or spiritual community live on average seven years longer than those who don’t.

These five practices for aging well really work; science says so, common sense says so, and every religion says so. Aging As A Spiritual Practice builds on these truths to treat the process of aging as an opportunity for inner transformation. We deserve to enjoy our aging; it is our reward in the continuing adventure of living a whole and fulsome life.

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