It always amuses Kate and me that I struggle to write on the subject of abundance – I suspect it’s my Presbyterian soul asserting itself. But I’m sure I’m not alone and that Kate is just a freak of nature, being the most abundant of soul of anyone one I’ve ever met!
You may have already come across this little video on the concept of being ‘Above or Below the line’. My biggest takeaway is that for all the advantages of staying above the line, we are hard-wired to look for threats and to perceive scarcity. In fact, neuroscience would tell us that we are ten times more likely to look for threats than gains.
Trying to elevate ourselves above the line, when that is not what we are feeling, has a ring of the inauthentic about it. And, when we’re below the line, trying to recall all the things we’re grateful for doesn’t make that much of a difference.
Yet I believe, as author Arnold Patent observes, “We don’t create abundance, abundance is always present. We create limitation.” So in effect, while we default to looking for threats, there’s really no need to do so.
Part of abundance is allowing ourselves to fully experience the human condition and part of that is experiencing a sense of limitation, whether or not it’s real.
On the one occasion I had cause to think I might not be around forever, and that outcome was imminent (a cyst that could have been something more sinister but, as it turned out, wasn’t), I started thinking about what I would want to do if I really did only have six months left to live.
Interestingly, the conclusion I came to wasn’t that I wanted to be tearing round the planet ticking things off my bucket list. What I wanted was to really notice and experience life: the trees changing colours, the taste of a fresh strawberry, the sun on my face, the smell of my Beloved’s skin, a heartfelt conversation with a dear friend.
My sad reflection was that all these things are available to me on a day-to-day basis but I rarely take the time to savour how wonderful they are.
What I was yearning for was to fully experience the abundance of what it means to be alive. The other realisation I had was that this also meant affording myself permission to feel all my feelings, including sadness, and grief, overwhelm and anger – all the feelings I so often feel are unworthy and to be shunned or limited.
When I have these feelings it feels as if they’ll go on for ever, just as when I’m joyful I feel that I’ve finally reached nirvana and this state will be all I experience for the rest of my life! And yet, when I think of those times when the ‘negative’ emotions have been paramount, for example grief, as my Dad died – these were also times when I felt most alive. Life was at its most raw and I knew (‘for sure and certain’ as Kate would say) that I was fully present to one of life’s inevitable passages. And although it felt as if my heart was literally breaking and I would never be the same again (which of course I haven’t), I have, and continue to have, bursts of sheer joy and a keener appreciation of how precious life and the gift of love is.
The problem is that when I allow myself to feel what I’m feeling, it seems as if whatever that feeling is will go on forever. Of course the reality is that our emotions, along with our view of the world, ebbs and flows. I just have to remember that it is both all temporary and all good, from the perspective of feeling what it means to truly be alive.
And so I think there is a place for being below the line and/or conscious wallowing. As poet David Whyte so eloquently put it: “A well-felt sadness can be as generous to others as well-felt joy.” By which I think he means that in allowing ourselves to fully experience our feelings, we unwittingly give others permission to do the same.
The ultimate point of the video is to notice where you are in relation to being above the line or below the line, and to take this as a starting point for an authentic conversation – a conversation that is all about the fullness of the human experience.
I’d welcome your thoughts and experiences below …