How to Live in Abundance 4

Going with the Flow

This is not about going with your compulsive feeling of buying things or reacting to a situation when you are upset, excited, low or high. It’s better to let go of your thoughts and calm down first. It’s ok if you don’t know what to do and there is no hurry to take any action right away. Only go with the flow when you feel peaceful like unstirred water with no fast heart beats. Below are some of my experiences and hopefully they help explain what I’m trying to say here.

After selling my condo in 2004, I moved into an apartment and kept searching for properties. The longer I stayed, the more I felt like signing a month-by-month lease. In the summer of 2011 the apartment wanted to increase the rent by 5% for a one year lease and by 59% for a month-by-month lease (usually it was $100 per month more than a yearly lease). In addition, they had allowed pets on my floor since early 2011, so there were bugs and animal urine in the trash room. I accepted the situation and decided it’s time to move, even though I hadn’t found a house yet. Sometimes we need to let go in order to let in.

I wanted a month-by-month lease, but found very few opportunities. A friend who rented out rooms in her house had a room with a shared bath for about $850/month including utilities. Since there was no storage room, I’d have to rent a storage unit for about $150/month to store my furniture and boxes. I disliked the deal but decided to sit on it and keep looking.

In less than a month before my lease expired, one night when lying on my bed I asked god to guide me where to rent. The next day, Sunday, I woke up with Craig’s List on my mind. I checked there again and found a great deal. I went there immediately with my check book. I got two furnished rooms with a private bath and big closets for storing my boxes, and I could store my furniture in the basement for free. The rent including all utilities was $850 a month! My landlord said that he posted the ad on Saturday morning and usually the rooms would be taken on the same day. He thought it was strange that I could get it on Sunday.

That house had over 6,000 square feet with a huge kitchen. I liked the kitchen and a big kitchen was one of the criteria on my house hunting list. When cooking in that kitchen, however, I got exhausted by walking from one end to the other, especially if I forgot to take all the stuff that I needed from the pantry at once. I started thinking that having a big kitchen might not be necessary. Because of that I bought my house with a small kitchen. By utilizing two corner cabinets well I have a functional and efficient kitchen. I enjoy cooking in my small kitchen, no back and forth walking anymore.

The universe does answer our request, and it’s just a matter of time. Sometimes it guides us through events or other people to a better situation beyond our wishes. If we’re patient and open to it, we’ll receive it. Here is a miracle which manifested over months.

My original kitchen design involved a customized concrete countertop with matching color to the backslash tile. I found a concrete countertop contractor in another city, but he was about to have a vacation for a month. After seeing his work online I decided to wait for him. I moved into my new house with plywood on top of cabinets and no sink in the kitchen. He was very busy after coming back, so he stopped by my house a month later.

He took a sample of the tile, gave me an oral estimate and promised to give me a final estimate by the end of the week. A week later he informed me of a break-in in his house over the weekend and he needed to get a computer. It was the last time I heard from him. Later, on his Facebook I found he got more contracts from a major grocery store chain. I figured his one-man shop could not handle too many projects, so I started researching other counter surfaces.

Since I like solid colors, I prefer quartz. I received a few estimates, but they were all pricy and there was no matching color to the tile. One day a thought came to me – why not check out black granite? I went ahead and found one that was solid black, and granite was much cheaper than quartz. I searched online for a long time and found a couple of stores with good reviews and prices. I visited one of them which was a wholesaler, and found other black granite on sale. Although the color was not solid black, the pattern was not busy at all. And the price was great – it saved me about $2,300 compared to concrete; $1,720 compared to quartz!

A couple of months later, I saw concrete countertops with many coffee stains at Whole Foods. The store staff tried hard to remove the stains and finally gave up. I was so happy that I didn’t use concrete and just went with the flow. Compared to the money and cleaning fiasco I saved, living without countertops and sink for three months is trivial. I thank that concrete contractor.

When you encounter many road blocks on a planned route, it’s very likely a sign for you to take a detour. Take a deep breath, open to the unknown and let it flow to you. Enjoy the adventurous ride!

Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth. ~~ Rumi

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How to Live in Abundance 3

Gratitude

Appreciation, gratitude and love are the same vibration. They rise beyond thoughts, just like the pure appreciation we have experienced when we see a beautiful scene or a mountain. We cannot talk ourselves into loving someone, neither can we do this with appreciation or gratitude. It comes with no thought, no judgment, no expectation, no calculation, and no comparison.

When we’re full of gratitude, the gratitude would automatically flow out to others. We want to give and help, no matter whether it is money, volunteering, advice, or helping to build a house for the low-income people. We won’t expect anything in return even if we only have $100 in the bank. It’s because we feel we are living in abundance and expectation comes from a feeling of lack. Lack and abundance do not exist at the same time.

The interesting thing about gratitude is that our giving would somehow find its way back to us. It might not be a big amount of money, but every little thing adds up and helps us utilize our money better. We may receive rewards, get a promotion, win a prize, land a side job, get free advertising, or find new clients in the area we never set foot in. Since most likely it comes as a surprise, there is no way we can expect it. So why not just give as we can, and let the universe do the work? No interfering.

How can we feel grateful if we feel there is nothing to be grateful for? Since our thoughts determine our feelings, we can train ourselves to feel grateful. We can control how we feel. In the beginning it might feel awkward, but once we get used to it the fun begins.

  1. Thank everything in general: I felt very strange the first morning I said, “Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for giving me a wonderful day!” It’s silly. The day just began and I hadn’t seen any good results yet. What exactly did I thank for? Was this a joke? After a couple of days, however, I started feeling the change—I felt good saying that. Then I noticed that I couldn’t say that without smiling. The more I thanked, the lighter I became.
  2. Appreciate little things on a daily basis: If we deliberately pay attention to our surroundings, we could see the beauty in everything, such as a beautiful sky, sunshine, our job, our car, food, a nice building, plenty of parking, people’s smile or holding the door for us. We can practice this anytime and anywhere including walking, driving, eating, etc. Therefore, we raise our vibration as often as we can and allow high energy to flow into our experience.
  3. Appreciate the unexpected: Often we lose patience or feel bad when our expectations are not met. However, we could use those situations as opportunities to train our mind. For example, the slow car in front of me is preventing me from getting a speeding ticket (after I got two); an over an hour wait in the doctor’s office means that I will get the same amount of time and attention from my doctor if I have a health problem (I’m grateful he’s not an assembly-line or 10-minute-HMO doctor).

By practicing gratitude, we could improve all aspects of our life. Got irritated by your spouse? Write down how you feel first (accept your emotions without labeling or judgment) and then write down five things that you appreciate about her/him. Do this every day for every one you are upset about and see how you feel after a few days. Just writing five things that you’re grateful about every day will change your life too.

What are you grateful for today?

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself. ~~ Rumi

Continue to Part 4.

How to Live in Abundance 2

Acceptance

Acceptance is the root of power. When we accept ourselves on all levels, including our background, mistakes, credit card debts, fear, illness, uniqueness, achievements, dreams, and hopes without labeling them, we see our riches, and love ourselves which is the feeling of abundance. Without resistance and denial, we are open to love, healing, opportunities, and the universe. Then the power of changing and the solutions to our problems flow to us.

When we encounter hardships we may wonder why things happen to us. Years later we realize that without that unpleasant incident we couldn’t come to this present state. The universe might deliver our dreams beyond our preference, but there is always a chance for us to grow from it.

I was laid off once from a company demanding I change the data for the clients’ reports. The layoff was a blessing because I felt bad about the unethical conduct. But it stressed me a while due to my working visa. In the end I got a new visa and a new job which led me to the pharmaceutical industry that I had wished for. I thank for the layoff.

Another example of the unexpected is that I had to sell my condo because the new upstairs neighbors violated the HOA rules by replacing the carpet with hardwood floor. My ears are sensitive, and the noise from heavy walking (about 300 pounds) and parties at least twice a week really drove me crazy. I sold my condo in 2004 after owning it for two years and made a profit without having to pay taxes. It was my first home and I decorated it nicely – some people didn’t want to leave the open house. I felt being forced to leave because I even refinanced it before the new neighbors moved in. I had to accept the situation and moved on. The bottom line is I was unhappy living there because I simply couldn’t enjoy it.

Now I’m really happy that I sold it so that I could save the gain and more money for seven years, wait for the housing price to come down and buy the house I’m living in now. I couldn’t afford it in 2004. This is a single family home in a quiet neighborhood, and I really enjoy it. I thank the old neighbors for making noises, and I don’t need to pay high condo fees now.

When things are not going our way, over-thinking, blaming, regretting, cursing, judging and anger would not help much. Just accept it and let go of thoughts. Sometimes I ask god, the universe to guide me too. In a calm state the solution would arise. If you can change it, do what you have to do. If not, don’t do anything but just accept it. No action is an action.

Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure. ~~ Rumi

Continue to Part 3.

How to Live in Abundance 1

big_yellow tree

Abundance is a feeling of being loved and safe, knowing that no matter what happens one will be loved and protected. Abundance usually gets thrown into the prosperity field, so I’m going to share my experiences in this arena. I don’t have a bowl providing me with endless foods nor trees growing money. However, when looking back at my life and comparing to what I’ve learned in books, my attitude towards money and life brought me to my current state of abundance.

How do you really feel about money?

Based on the Law of Attraction, like attracts like. It’s not about what we think, but about what we really feel. Therefore, if we think we live in abundance, but deep down in our heart we are afraid we cannot pay the next rent, then it’s likely we will still lack money. My personal experience about money proves this theory without my knowing it.

In my whole life I hardly worried about money because I felt I had enough. When I was at third grade, not long after my parents started giving me allowance, my mom asked me where my money was. Just a couple of days ago my sister had asked me to give my money to her so that we could have more money together. I gave my money to her without a second thought. After learning what I’d done, my mom demanded that I get my money back. So I learned I’d better keep my money to myself (when I was married, I had my individual bank accounts as well as a joint account for shared expenses).

When I graduated from the college, I started from zero. Because of focusing on learning I changed jobs without thinking that I should get a higher paid job or get a new job before quitting. I worked very hard and saved money and then put all my savings into an MBA program. After graduation, I started from zero again in a new programming field with much lower pay than my classmates. However, money kept coming in, sometimes very surprisingly. When I burned out, I quit my job without worrying about money or what I should do next. All I knew was that I had to take care of myself at that moment.

Before quitting my last job, friends worried how I would feed myself. I thought about it and figured my savings would support me for quite a while. Because of my friends’ worry, I started thinking it would be nice to have more money. At least money would give me freedom and more choices to do what I like to do. So I changed my feeling about money by welcoming it.

I had stock options from my former employer, but about half of them the purchasing option was at higher price than the market price when I left the company. I had three months to exercise them or they would be all gone. I tried to exercise some years back, but I was blocked by the company because of a project I was involved in. Plus most of time I was either too unwilling to pay the taxes or too busy to exercise them. The bottom line is that I didn’t want extra money, so it didn’t come to me.

In less than one month after I left the company, buyout news doubled the company’s stock price so that I could exercise all my stock options. Although the money that I finally got was less than what I could have gotten if I had exercised years back, I appreciated that it arrived at the right time with the right amount. I was grateful that I was able to exercise all of my stock options.

Later after the buyout, my old colleagues all received very nice severance packages. They said if I had stayed six months longer I would have gotten the same thing. It stirred up my emotions a bit, but then I recalled my feelings before I left. I’m very happy I did leave early. My enjoyment is not something money can buy. Money will come when it’s time for it to come. An exit is always an entrance for something else.

Although there are many successful stories about gaining fortune by practicing the Law of Attraction, focusing on the outside world (to attract more money) does not connect us to the source, the stillness inside. Not getting what we wish for in a desirable timeline might cause disbelief, blaming, resentment, even anger. Then we might feel living in hell, not in abundance.

What you seek is seeking you. ~~ Rumi

Continue to part 2.

Can You Get By on Two Convertibles?

BMW2

Two ultimate driving machines kissing each other (photo courtesy of two macho men)

Not long after living in the United States, I noticed that this country is a nation of consumption. Many people like to shop and they are encouraged to buy more. Companies want people to keep buying, so they invent new products and invest in heavy marketing. The new products may all look great and fancy, but do you really need them? Or do you just want to buy the new look, or to look cooler?

Money cannot satisfy endless wants

Your neighbors have new cars every other year. Your brother travels to Europe, Australia, China, or Africa for vacations every year. Your friends all have a smart phone, iPod, or Kindle. Your best friend’s husband just gave her a new diamond ring for her birthday. You wish you could have the same or better items or vacations. Why?

Money cannot buy happiness. Trying to buy happiness for yourself or your loved ones is an endless and impossible mission. Instead of getting a second job, a third job for more income to spend, you need to listen to your need. Do you have to live in a one bedroom apartment instead of renting a room when you’re in debt (it might cut your rent in half)? Do you really have to dine out three nights a week? Is a sports car in addition to the car you’ve owned necessary? Do you really want a luxurious lifestyle so much that you cannot quit the job that you hate?

I have a friend who is frugal, works hard and makes a decent income. He started saving money since he was a teen and graduated from college with no debt. He was sure he could retire by 50 and I have no doubt about it. However, he married a spender. He thought he could make ends meet by having second jobs at night and on weekends. After twenty years, he couldn’t afford the endless spending anymore and asked for a divorce. The sad part was that their house value had doubled since they had purchased it, but they had to borrow money to put cash on the table to pay off their loans when they sold it. They borrowed too much money. Now he’s older than 50 and he’s still working.

Living within my means

My dad liked to tell us a Chinese saying: Switching from a frugal lifestyle to luxury is easy, but the other way around is difficult. Therefore, I choose to live according to my needs, even when my income grew at least ten times what I had out of college in Taiwan. I still wear 20 year old clothes because they are comfortable, well made, and not designed fashionably. However, living within my means does not mean eating cat food. I intend to have organic food as often as I can, and I like dining out at good restaurants once in a while.

I don’t have Kindle/Nook or iPhone/iPod/iTune. Not that I’m against them, but because I simply don’t need them. I have a pre-paid STI-Mobile cell phone for emergency and pay $3 per month and additional 8.9 cents per minute. In addition, I always have my cell phone turned off because I dislike being interrupted anytime anywhere. One of the reasons that I turned down a managerial promotion was that it would come with a Black Berry and 24/7 on call. Freedom is much more important than a prestigious title for me.

Life is about choice

Although spending is a way to stimulate the economy, the $6,500 average national credit card debt per U.S. resident indicates a spending habit without consciousness. The irrational and impulsive buying habits are driven by quickly satisfying desires. Is it really urgent that I have to buy the new gadget now? Can I wait for a couple years till the price comes down, or till I save enough to afford it? When I couldn’t decide whether to buy something, I gave myself an hour to think about it. If I still felt the need to own it, then I’d buy it. I rarely did.

A friend’s parents had 14 children and the youngest was born in 1961. They only had one source of income and 10 of their children are graduated from college. They lived frugally, retired nicely, built three houses in their lifetime, and left money for all children. The mother counted every single penny and carefully budgeted everything. My friend never went to a restaurant until he was in college. However, they encouraged children going to college by providing them with free board and food. They taught them not only value but also priority in life.

What is your priority?