The Virtuous Circle of Gratitude and Abundance

olives

Abundance. This is a difficult word for most of us to swallow. Our entire economic system is based on our desiring what we don’t possess. We often feel like we need more, that we never have enough, that tomorrow we will nothing left. As Assagioli wrote we are driven by Original Fear – fear of not having enough food, fear of hunger – and by Original Greed, which fundamentally is the desire for unlimited growth. So we consume and purchase, possess, save and hoard.

I live in a small Italian village that is slowly dying from the effects of globalization. This story is not new nor limited to the confines of Italy. Only 40 years ago the town was thriving with 1000 inhabitants, a shop, cafe, and school. Now only 100 people live here, many of them over 80 years old. The shop, cafe, and school are all gone. Only the church remains open (just because the 73-year-old priest has chosen not to retire).

Villagers once worked the land, raising the food they needed to live, tending their vineyards and orchards. Families would band together to collect the harvest and slaughter a pig once a year. The priest and doctor were paid with eggs and chickens.

Then progress came and people wanted more. Young families started moving out, many emigrating to Luxembourg where the men could find work as masons. In the 1970s, the nearby town then filled with ceramic, refrigerator and washing machine factories, luring those who had remained off the land onto assembly lines. Over the years, the factories started moving to Turkey, Romania, and China. Today only two remain. Out of a total local population of 25,000 inhabitants, more than 5000 people lost their jobs, leaving the younger generation to once again emigrate or move to bigger cities.

When Emptiness Accompanies Abundance

Leda
Leda (91) still hoes the land. Here she is supervised by Leo.

Our house stands surrounded by six empty houses, shutters clamped shut. The hamlet along our country road once thrived with more than 50 inhabitants. Now we are 8 – one is 91 years old and another 87. The community wood-burning oven has fallen to ruin. Not so long ago, the women used to gather every week and bake their bread together. Most of the land has gone wild, left to nature to run her course.

Paradoxically, alongside all this emptiness and loss is an Abundance. The fields are full of abandoned cherry, apple, pear, plum, almond, walnut, and fig trees as well as grape vines. They offer us so much fruit that we cannot manage to eat, preserve, freeze, press, or dry it all. As much as we try, most of the fruit drops to the ground, becomes covered with flies, or ends up filling the bellies of crows and porcupines.

Our Daily Bread

Perhaps you are familiar with the prayer “Our Father.” There is one line in this prayer that we would all do well to recite, no matter what faith (or non-faith) we adhere to:

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

People gather to receive a piece of traditional Christmas bread in Belgrade

Orthodox Christians share holy bread as a community.

So much is held in this simple sentence. First we are asking for “bread,” the “staff of life”. Perhaps the most basic of foods that can support life, bread has accompanied our meals since time immemorial. Secondly, this bread that we ask for is enough for just one day – enough to meet our needs for the present. We do not ask for enough bread to last until next year. Or for enough bread to go on holiday or pension. Or enough bread to fill our freezer. We are asking for daily bread so that we can remain grateful everyday for what we have in the present moment (which is just enough). When we ask daily for what we need, we are also continually reinforcing our relationship with the Higher Source of all the abundance in our lives.

Thirdly we ask for our daily bread. We are not just asking that we ourselves have enough. We are asking that there is enough for our entire community, for the entire world.

Gratitude Activates Abundance Activates Gratitude…

004941 Virtuous circles DiagramYou have probably heard of (and perhaps even experienced being in) a “vicious circle.” This pattern corresponds with one of Assagioli’s Psychological Laws:

“Law IV – Emotions and impressions tend to awaken and intensify ideas and images that correspond to or are associated with them.”

For example, you fear becoming lost, so you imagine yourself lost, and these mental images soon produce corresponding situations in your life where you are lost.

But there is good news! We can also use this law for our benefit by entering into a “virtuous circle.” For example, Assagioli wrote of how a spiritual attitude of gratitude and appreciation can bring about abundance.

In note he wrote:

“Gratitude and appreciation should be taken and maintained towards everything. This means to acknowledge and honor the presence of God in all affairs. But … we must appreciate without attachment. Our detachment is facilitated by our appreciation of everything and not just one special thing.”

A Remarkable Story about Emptiness filled with Abundance

004941 Virtuous circles edited

Techn. ψσ (ψς) /”Virtuous circles”/ Gratitude –> Abundance –> Gratitude … (Assagioli’s Archives)

Finally, I want to share a remarkable story of Abundance. My dear friend Susan (not her real name) was on holiday walking to a bus stop when her body violently twisted in the air and she fell to the ground unconscious. She awoke to learn that she had brain cancer. During a phone conversation, Susan asked me, “Catherine, why did I always worry about money?” Susan is a wonderfully talented writer. Although she has won many awards and international recognition, she has always struggled with supporting herself as a writer.

Only at the end of our conversation, did Susan reveal what was burning behind her question. A New York client of hers, whose work she has edited over the past years, did something extraordinary when he learned about her health crisis. He wrote her a check. A check for $80,000.

Trust me. God’s Abundance is beyond our imagination. More fruit than you or me can eat off the tree. More help than you might ever dream of. We have just to direct our will into the virtuous circle of Joy, and be continually grateful for our daily bread.

Many thanks to Susan for letting me share her story.

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