Rebecca Elia's Blog

All about Feminine Health, Healing, and Greece

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Eyes of Abundance

Metropolitan Museum of Art - Ancient Greece
What is your reaction to scarcity?

With the financial crisis, I have observed a lot of constriction. This may, in fact, be our first unconscious response to the illusion of scarcity. One need only look at the stock market to view the typical American reaction.

But not everyone responds this way. Thankfully. Several brave souls begin to see this shedding of the old, the unnecessary, the unsupportive of life, as not only liberating but as a treasure trove of possibilities. I, perhaps ignorantly, or, better, blissfully, am one of those souls – glad for the opportunities to move on, to reach for my dreams. When better, when there is nothing to lose and everything to gain? And now that I am in Greece, I’m reminded of what it is like to live from this place of abundance all the time.

I am reminded of how during my first trips to Greece everything was on strike (and I mean everything – banks, garbage collection, electricity, travel agencies…) for two months, and life continued as usual. The Greeks are used to operating in the midst of unknowns. What looks like scarcity to us Americans just looks like everyday life to Greeks. They have mastered living in the present.

Twenty years ago, on the island of Skopelos, I was in awe of their dedication to recycling—this they did out of necessity, reusing everything from paper to boxes to string to glass. Lovely gifts were decorated with small sea shells. No food was thrown away; there were plenty of hungry animals to feed.

I hesitated to come in the midst of their economic crisis. I was worried I would not be able to handle their depression, but I was wrong. Give the Greeks an economic crisis and most are generous to a fault. Has crime increased? Yes. My professor friend’s car was broken into. Banks on Alonissos were robbed. Athenian friends are scared to walk their city’s streets at night.

But none of this has stopped their generosity. Although every family has at least one unemployed member, they find the means to give give give.

Their gifts overwhelm me.

My landlords in Athens announced, several months ago, that I would stay in their lower level flat as their guest this year. And as if that weren’t enough, they had me over for dinner each night. My landlords on Skopelos invited me to a family celebration, an eight hour feast, in which we must have consumed one of each of their farm animals and drank more wine than I’ve seen in my life. Another friend embroidered a bookmark for me in the time it took me to name my favorite color, and then announced she would make another for my five-year-old nephew, who is proudly reading any book we place in front of him. My landlady just gave me a huge jar of preserves. The gifts go on and on.

Yes, I am overwhelmed.

How different our lives are when we view them through the eyes of abundance. It feels biblical—like the loaves of bread and fish multiplying in the loving arms of Christ—arms we all share.

What would change in your life today if you viewed it through the eyes of abundance?


  1. Thanks for making me think with yet another beautiful post, Rebecca.

    I, too, believe in focusing on abundance. I have been lucky to create and receive much of what I want in my life, and many things I didn't expect: love, health, friendship, joy, work that I love, a sense of purpose, and more. I believe it's empowering to focus on what we have rather than what we lack. I know that I can only control my actions, not outcomes, so I take joy in the actions and try to let go of the outcomes. I believe that we can't always control our circumstances, but we can control our attitudes... which can sometimes improve our circumstances. I believe that it's not important how many times we fall down, but how often we get up.

    However... I have encountered people who do face true scarcity: no home, no job, no clean water, insufficient food, ill health, no insurance. Their attitudes are not the problem. They are often people with positive attitudes who focus on what they have, and make the best of things. Sometimes bad things do happen to good people, and I think sometimes modern ideas about having a positive attitude can put pressure on them to pretend they're OK when they're not. Sometimes scarcity happens by chance: a drought, an oil spill, an epidemic. Sometimes scarcity happens because those of us with abundance don't recognize the reality that not everyone has what we have... including our ability to have a positive attitude.

    I've learned that my mental gift for seeing abundance in my life is not a mental ability everyone has. True, humans can train themselves to develop new mental attitudes. However, the vagal dorsal response is a strong one: people who have suffered severe childhood trauma, such as deprivation, neglect, or violence have nervous systems that have become conditioned to spot trouble and run for cover. Even when they have abundance, sometimes they are unable to experience it, because brain patterns set to react appropriately to old realities will not let them react appropriately to new ones.

    I think it's important to maintain the kind of outlook you talk about, but to also keep our eyes open to the fact that there are realities that exist outside our attitudes, that the universe operates in many ways that are indifferent to our attitudes. Although I choose to focus on the abundance in my life, I do not think scarcity is an illusion, and I think it's important to recognize the existence of both. If we don't recognize those people and places experiencing real scarcity, how then can we create solutions that might lead them back to abundance? Both abundance and scarcity are part of the grand dance of life, which contains darkness as well as light.

    Consider another biblical story: because Joseph knew that there would be 7 years of famine, he was able to prepare for it by storing food during the 7 years of plenty. He was not focusing on scarcity for it's own sake, but because he knew that planning for it would lead people safely to the next time of plenty. In a way, he was doing what you so beautifully describe in talking about the people of Greece: creating abundance in the face of scarcity. But first he had to acknowledge the reality of scarcity. In so doing, he saved many lives.

    Consider this, too: the people who created the latest worldwide financial crisis were definitely into abundance. They thought the party would never end. In response, perhaps I'm suggesting what the Greeks suggested in ancient days: an attitude of moderation in all things, including our attitudes toward both scarcity and abundance.

    If you have 10 minutes to kill, here's a video with another take on what I think of more generally as "positive thinking":

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful response, Cara. I agree with you.

  3. A truly delicious post that made me conscious of my blindspots. Superbly so! Oh boy do I get tight and cynical sometimes. I'm cooking with abundance right now thanks to you.

  4. Thank you, Kathy. So glad it got you cooking with abundance (that's a biggie in my family!). And thank you for propelling me into completing my next post...that's been sitting on my desktop for weeks!