Personal Wealth

This morning I met my friend Julia and her friend Val for the first of a series of pilot workshops Julia’s running, which are “designed to explore ideas and to encourage conversations that matter.” Today’s workshop was on personal wealth, exploring ways to transform our thinking, leading us away from a scarcity mindset and toward an abundance mindset. As Julia says: “Too often we focus on what we don’t have now or yet, rather than tuning in to what we already do have, right in front of us and also inside us. We will dig a little deeper into this phenomenon and learn how to realign ourselves to the abundance in our lives“. This is some of my thoughts during and since the workshops.

Julia first asked us to define a series of words in our terms, which are below with my own interpretations:

  • Wealth – This for me is taken to be often associated with money and materialism, the more we have or the bigger we have the wealthier we are, however I also add a second version which I termed ‘social wealth’ that is the friends, family and loved ones we have that enrich our body and soul by loving, accepting and supporting us to memories that makes us laugh and/or cry, which money cannot buy. We look at those that have excessive wealth and do good work for charitable causes as philanthropists, but what of those that give themselves not which may not have an that type of wealth, not because it may make them look good to others, instead it makes them feel good and making a positive change or contribution to the society or world we live in?
  • Rich – As above it is often associated with money, having more than one car or a second home abroad for example. I think of the kids cartoon series Duck Tales, in which the lead character Scrooge McDuck during the opening titles dives into a pool of money to symbolise quite how rich he is. However, as with my thoughts on wealth, can we not be rich in ways not associated with money? As with wealth can we not be rich on happiness? We can spend money on a child’s education from school to university, buying them anything they ever wanted and more, but will it make them happy in the end? When perhaps spending quality time with their parents for a few days together rather than buying them a new designer handbag or day at the races as have not got the time.
  • Abundance – To me this is having far more of something than is necessary, in financial terms we might think of having a greater income than have outgoings. Someone may have an abundance of friends on Facebook, but how many of them do they know well, would any of them support them in an emergency, or do they even know outside of it? However, is having too much of anything a bad thing? Having an abundance of love may at first a good thing, but by spreading it among many those that truly deserve our love are losing out to those that may not give us a second thought, unless they can gain from it.
  • Affluence – Similarly to abundance but an overflowing of material wealth, which maybe associated with prosperity, opulence, and luxury. However, unlike the other terms I could not come up with an alternative of it.

Julia then discussed three truths she learnt from Lynne Twist’s book The Soul of Money, which are:

  1. There simply isn’t enough is a myth that we use to delude ourselves into believing that there is a “pie” of a certain size that can’t grow any larger and that if we don’t grab a bigger slice of it, someone else will.
  2. More is better causes us to always grab for that bigger piece of pie, even to the exclusion of others.
  3. This is just the way things are gives us a very weak excuse to act greedy.

The truth? All of these are complete myths – there is abundant resources for all and the only reason to grab more and more and more is greed; we use these myths to justify greed. So what can we do about it? When we realise this is the case, some do nothing as expect someone else to make that difference, but why should they? Or if they do it maybe to perpetuate these facilities further for financial gain. Having worked with grassroot organisations in Africa and Asia I have seen how something small can make a difference to a community and with support it can grow with potential to become a forest not just a lone tree…as per the phrase ‘mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ .

From this we looked at what we can give, this was my list:

  • Empathy, understanding and support
  • Non-judgemental
  • Friendly and approachable
  • Life experiences
  • Time

For me giving myself be it in physical or spirit form to another or cause not only makes me feel good inside but as I have said since early childhood there is so much darkness in the world, why add to it? If would want someone to be there for us, show by being that person, rather than expecting it to appear like some divine miracle. I do not do things for financial gain or fame but because I want to, I believe in others and want them to succeed. I have no place for hate, envy or jealousy, they only make your eyes deader and deader until no light shines from them and blind to all.

This lead on to how we see life right now, which for me is a real mixed bag:

  • Frustration
  • Ever changing but groundhog day
  • Thoughts and ideas but unable to develop them
  • Restricted but free
  • Content and happier than ever been
  • Feel loved, appreciated, respected and wanted by friends

I know that we cannot control every part of our life, but there are somethings in my life that upset and frustrate me that I cannot move forward with. Trying to open doors and keep them open once I’ve peaked inside seems like a constant battle. However, my friends make life special, without them I feel I would not be as far forward as I have come in terms of self acceptance, respect and love to doing what for them as shown me back what I give to them, it truly is beautiful.

For me the workshop was an interesting way to look at personal wealth particularly as I have never been financially driven and see money often being used as golden carrots to entice us to do things that we may not otherwise do and/or encourage us to follow behaviour that maybe against our beliefs. It has also helped see clearer how fortunate I am in a spiritual way, the inner contentment I have now to the friends I have, which matters to me so much and could never have dreamed of either perhaps a decade ago. As a child I only wished for three things as an adult: a place to call home, a dog and to be happy…I’m getting there, slowly, but one day at a time.

If you live in Edinburgh please check out Julia’s workshops, as worth attending as the discussion helps not on Julia to develop these as future workshops for others but does encourage us to think and discuss as well as learn new ideas and concepts.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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The Big Issue

When I lived in Aberdeen (Scotland) in the late 90s/early 00s I regularly talked on and off to a man that sold a magazine for the homeless or those in vulnerable housing called The Big Issue outside the supermarket I would go to. To many he was invisible, not even a face in the street or another human being. He was not much older than I was so really hit home to me how life could be different, he was still someone else’s son or brother. I never learnt his name and he never learnt mine but still would stop to see how the other was. Now and again I would buy the magazine but usually I would give him the ‘free‘ from my “buy one get one free” offers in my food shopping, usually fruit such as oranges, bananas or apples, as rather give him that than money as a student I did not have and felt it was better to give him something to eat as could see how thin he was. By my final year in the city I moved away from the area, however, one evening I saw him walking along the main street, we recognised each other and to my delight he had got a home a few months previously. He was grateful for what I did, which to me was nothing but giving the time of day to another human being, which was only a couple of minutes once a month or so.

Fast forward to the present; for the last two years now I have been talking to another Big Issue seller but this time it is similar but different. For a start I know his name is Donald and we discuss his bad health, his history that made him homeless, to the world around us. When I first started to give him my ‘free’ tea from the supermarket I again saw the invisibility I had seen in Aberdeen, to which I was uncertain if was due to the upper-middle class nature of the area or that people had developed a blind spot to the homeless, and simply do not want to acknowledge such people exist. However, my actions prompted others to see us talking, which I will admit caused a few funny looks at first as not the sort of thing a Morningside lady would traditionally do (I grew up in the neighbouring Grange that has a similar reputation). However, a few regulars realised that the ‘free’ hot drink we got with a loyalty card was a way to pay to it forward as I was doing. In fact, he now has to turn down drinks or keep the cups as people are generous in their support, with many of us stopping for a good five to ten minutes to catch up with him. He also has been known to be given Easter eggs by children to other delights (sweet and savoury) from the store….he’s put on so much weight his doctor said he may need to go on a diet!

I will not give to beggars on the street for I have seen a few climb into their Mercedes cars after they have finished and some have become quite rude to me when I offered them something other than money. However, those that sell The Big Issue I understand how the selling works and the revenue they can get from it, dropping a random bar of chocolate or a bottle of water to them and catching their smile as I do is something I’ll never tire of…the gentleman who chased after me to say thank you could not understand at first as had not asked for it and that someone simply wanted to give to him. Equally I am fortunate in my city that there are places like the Social Bite that help the homeless by selling suspended drinks like teas or coffees and lunches, with one in four of their workforce formerly homeless and currently running a campaign to create a small village that will give them a home, job and the help to deal with issues they may have (details here). There are organisations such as Shelter that also help the homeless. However, what matters is we remember that these people could be any of us, our fathers or sisters, aunts to nephews, and be grateful for what we have now no matter how small it may seem compared with others as life can change in seconds. Do not judge or hate another for what they have as will never know their full story, and pay it forward because we can not for rewards (financial or otherwise).

© Fi S. J. Brown

A question of survival

This cage is no wilderness,
And the computer screen
Can conjure up the image
Of an Edinburgh sunset
But it doesn’t know it from
A sale at Next or Sainsburys,
So it’s up to me to remember
Birds singing, leaves dancing,
Puddles for jumping or leaping,
Skies filled oranges and reds
Memories fading as day ends.

A person thinks they make a living
But the real living is far from here
I see a dog run into the waves,
Trying to fetch his ball again,
Following the horizon and beyond
Watching dreams just out of touch.
Wishing I could soar like an eagle,
Over those hills and far away
I light a candle but blow it out
Making that wish and whisper
Believe it again under my breath.

© Fi S. J. Brown

A new canine friend

Met a lovely West Highland Terrier outside Starbucks in Edinburgh today, full of hugs and sniffs, returned the hugs and gave tickles. Staff told me he and his owner are regulars, with the manager keeping dog biscuits for his visits. Perhaps this is something coffee or tea shops could consider, a dog for hugs on your visit!

© Fi S. J. Brown

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The big question(s)

As part of the Edinburgh art festival a couple of installations have sprung up in the Grassmarket area of the city asking several questions. Here are the questions with my answers to them, have a think how you would answer them, welcome to leave yours in the comments below.

We are all going on a journey but before you set out:
1. Where do you come from?
2. Where do you do you feel is home?
3. Where do you belong?
4. Where are your roots?
5. Do you know where you’re going?
6. How will you know when you have arrived?
7. What is it like there?

1. I grew up in this city but do not feel part of it, I have moved away and she called me back a few times, when I had no choice but to return to her, always with a heavy sigh and heart.
2. I have yet to find my true home as nowhere calls me other than when I am at one with nature listening to birdsong, watching trees dancing in the wind and streams laughing from tickles of the rocks below them. I feel like the dog in the television series “the littlest hobo” and maybe tomorrow I will want to settle down.
3. I belong nowhere I have yet lived in Scotland, England or Italy, but felt happiest when not in Scotland. I am a free spirit that belongs among the natural world or in a landscape painting of days gone by.
4. My roots are a mix of England and Scotland, so maybe I am British rather either as both are marked by a line on the map, the course of the River Tweed. I love this island’s nature and landscapes.
5. I have no idea where I am going in life, but part of what I love about life is living in the moment, as can change for better or worse in an instant and what happens tomorrow will happen, I cannot change that just as I cannot change the past.
6. I will know when my instincts tell me and feel at peace with myself, those I love, my surroundings and doing what I enjoy best in life.
7. Full of nature, music, art, laughter and endless love for all.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The number 11

Everyday I travel by bus, people young and old, filled with their stories to tell. Each one deserves to be heard, as to not stop and listen may mean never meeting that new partner or friend, to give hope to a strange that feels that nobody cares about them, or maybe a favourite teacher who’s teaching years past lay the foundations of today.

Sat beside me is a little girl of around seven. Her hair is blonde like Cinderella, and falls all over her face like a waterfall. It is her pink shoes that draw my eyes as have a name all over them, not a designer one I recognise. I discover Rachel herself did the writing. From then on she became Princess Rachel of the pink sandals.

Behind us are two older ladies talking of all the South Edinburgh gossip they know. Did Elizabeth know that Simon’s wife just gave birth to twins, no Margaret did not but she had heard the sad news that Nancy had died. They both remark on what a lovely lady Nancy was and recall one time at the Assembly Rooms they all went dancing.

It is now tourist season, so at the very front are the tourists sitting with at least two maps of the city centre that do not show where they are now. Frantically checking with guide books and mobile phones, where they are and where do they get off they cry! As if by magic five strangers ask them at once can they help and where are they going.

A group of three school boys sit to my right. Each eagerly showing off their knowledge of football, which seems far greater than any pundits’ script I have ever heard on television. One knowing that it was some Ukrainian, with an unpronounceable name, had now scored twenty four times this season for some obscure sounding Spanish team.

A girl with the fake tan, yes the older ladies noticed her too, talking loudly on her phone to her friend Stacey that she is on the bus now. It is not just the fake tan and shouting making the ladies tut, but her fake eyelashes and nails, and less clothing on than most of us wear at bed times. I can only say for me she is brave to do so in this climate.

Three seats down are two men singing, it would not be an Edinburgh bus journey without a drunk or two. Like all storytellers of days now long gone, they sing their sad laments, including the wife of one who ran off with their mate and taking the kids with her, and another wishing they were both still young in body as well as in their hearts and minds.

There is a lady of around my age who I meet eyes with as I go to ring the bell to depart. The empath in me reads her face like it is screaming out in hidden tears and pain. I send her a smile, to give her hope, and send light to shine wherever darkness or pain is hurting so. Sadly, I get an unwanted grimace not a smile back. Still cannot help everyone.

Now it is time for me to depart from what is but a snapshot of life in this city and it’s people. A journey filled with stories, people and events that will never be repeated the same way again; this is a bus not a time machine. Their stories may get repeated in years to come or forgotten in the mists of time, but that moment was shared by each of us.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Soothe my soul

I went to the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, yesterday afternoon, a place that really helps to soothe and calm my soul. The flowers vibrating in the wind sounded like Tibetan singing bowls, all different tones to match the different species and colours, making my every step like a mediation. The trees gave me hugs like a parent to a child, with their overwhelming height and branches so long, I felt loved and safe in their arms. Watching the animals, birds and squirrels, they took my worries in their wings or up trees far away where they could no longer hurt me and stop me dwelling. The river that runs throughout whispered to me I must relax; stopping to watch her flow felt like a massage touching my every part, and by the end her rhythm had become one with my heartbeat. 

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