Money and Happiness: The Foundation
The fundamental idea of martial arts is to teach a system of doing something in the most efficient manner possible
and simultaneously help the practitioner discover how to be happy. We all have two objectives in life: to live and
to be happy. We seek joy and we avoid pain.
First we address the ability to accomplish our goals in the most efficient possible manner. In martial arts
training we learn to find those behaviors that leave us open being defeated in accomplishing our goals and close
them. Invariably our weaknesses are derived from a superficial view of ourselves on an unconscious level and how we
relate to the world around us. If someone asks you where you are, you will instinctively reply, “here,” and point
to the current location of your body. This is natural. We believe at an instinctive level that our body represents
ourselves, who we really are. We have a mind, which is somehow permanently affixed to this body. If you asked
whether our "self" is permanent and fixed, generally we think we are permanent. But something which is structurally
permanent is static - it cannot move. So if our "self" is our body, we could not move. Obviously something is wrong
with our instinctive view of ourselves; we must learn to correct it by bringing our awareness fully to the
contradictions at hand.
When we are defending this body, we become overly afraid of harm and hunker down to protect it. This process makes
it painfully obvious to a martial opponent exactly where the object they wish to injure is located, and therefore
exactly how to inflict the greatest harm. Similarly when we think of money as something we need to protect this
body, we covet it and place it in a very secure location. But when we do so for long periods of time, the
purchasing power of this money is certain to decline due to its failure to generate income that exceeds the rate of
inflation. So we are assured to lose purchasing power (what we needed the money for in the first place) when we
strive the hardest to avoid that outcome. In this way our unconscious ideas of who we are obstructs our ability to
accomplish our goals of protecting ourselves.
With regard to happiness, when we think of this body as ourselves, we think we can find happiness through the
senses. Food, physical contact with others, endorphins through exercise are all positives we may seek. We think the
happiness to be gained through the senses is permanent and unchanging. But our senses can only produce temporary
effects. For example, eating chocolate may bring true joy for a few minutes. But try eating chocolate nonstop for
three days and it would probably not be so joyous. The chocolate does not produce lasting joy and neither does the
sensory input. By pursuing permanent happiness through the fleeting senses we again guaranty failure. Regarding the
ability of money to produce happiness, see the Can Money Buy
Happiness? article. Let’s just say the short answer is the same as chocolate. So pursuing money with the
intent of using it to produce happiness through sensory stimulus for example will guaranty failure.
So if these instinctive approaches fail to produce the desired results in handling our money efficiently or
producing happiness, how do we accomplish our financial goals and still find the time to be happy? We need to
understand what will enable us to accomplish our goals and what will cause happiness. If this was easy, you could
just read the next paragraph or two and be set for life. But for most of us it will take time, so we describe it as
a process leading to our goal over time.
The first thing we need to do is take a very close look at what we have been doing (as described above) and realize
it can never work. If we want to handle our wealth properly and find happiness, our current strategies are simply
the wrong way to go about it - we need to realize this with our full consciousness and pursue a different strategy
The second step is to add power to this change in strategy. One of the best ways to do that is to commit to make
positive changes not only for yourself, but for others as well. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is one of the
beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Taking
this principle to its logical conclusion, all sincere acts to help others will produce happiness for ourselves,
while all acts to find happiness for ourselves (in the wrong places, e.g. sensory stimulus) will produce suffering
for us. So if we want to be REALLY happy, we need to amplify our efforts by trying to make EVERYONE else
The last leg in this process is the specific way we change our view from thinking unconsciously that we are merely
our bodies in favor of a more wholesome approach. There are many ideas, philosophies, etc ranging from Socrates and
Wittgenstein to Jung to Buddha and Christ, all of which are capable of producing happiness and eschew the
instinctive notions permanently affixing us to our bodies. You might choose any one of these or make up your own,
as these people have done. Whichever you choose, this track will require great diligence as you bring your full
being to realize this consciously.
Then when we approach the administration of our financial affairs we will be able to do so in a much healthier
manner. Rather than cloud our decisions with incorrect ideas of whom we are and how we can pursue happiness in the
world, we can simply look at what needs to be done and respond naturally. We will not live our lives to accumulate
wealth only to lose it when we die. Instead we will properly care for ourselves and at the same time use our wealth
to contribute to the world in a manner that will bring as much happiness to everyone as possible.
In martial arts training, they explain that in order to be effective, you need both technique and understanding of
the underlying principles. For example, the best meditation master in the world could easily be killed by a novice
swordsman if the master has no knowledge of the sword. He needs technique. However, if two swordsmen both know
technique and only one understands the underlying principles, the other has no chance of victory. So effectiveness
in administering our financial affairs is dependent upon proper knowledge of the techniques. Yet we cannot be truly
effective and truly happy without correctly understanding the nature of ourselves and the world around us. We need
both to develop a healthy and constructive relationship with money.
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there is any way to be more helpful.
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