In a conference on building mega brands and mega businesses, years ago, my colleague Nicola Bird asked the only question that mattered: ‘How do we know when to stop? What is enough?’
The seminar leader couldn’t answer.
‘Enough’ was, for that leader, an unexplored concept. And this lack of enquiry, this assumption that the next thing is always, unfailingly necessary and better meant the underlying theme of the conference was actually ‘how to spend your life in relentless seeking’. With break-out modules on ‘Burn-out – how to get there faster’ and ‘ten ways to reach the death bed wondering wtf have I been doing all my life?’
Until each of us answers the question ‘What is enough?’ we will believe that the next bonus, meal, award, conquest, fix or purchase will finally be the one to stop the seeking. And it is. Temporarily. Then, immediately after, in comes the need again.
There is no presence of what has gone before, what has accumulated already. That counts for nothing. It might as well not be there. In comes the feeling of lack, the horror of not being, having or doing enough and it drives us out into the world wanting whatever it is we believe will stop these feelings.
The billionaire, believing his wealth is not enough, lives in poverty. The world’s most obese woman was starved as a child.
We are the billionaire and the woman and this has nothing to do with greed, not for any of us. It is only about unquestioned lack.
Until we question the wanting and the self that wants, the desiring of more of anything whatever it is – profit, attention, food, drink, income, love, fame, recognition, property, clothes, control, sex, power – does not come from greed or excess, it does not even come from pleasure. It comes from absolute insufficiency.
What happens when we question that idea of lack?
Something wonderful happens.
Greed happens, in all its abundant, bounteous, over-flowing glory.
When we genuinely, honestly and bravely explore, as Nic did, the concept of enough, we hold this insecure needy idea of self up to the light.
That feeling of lack had come from an idea of a self that is incomplete and insecure. It could never be completed or secured because it is made of thought. Insecurity looks like it has to be fixed. It looks like we should not feel insecure. And this of course drives that seeking behaviour.
With this realisation, insecurity is no longer something to avoid or fix. The seeking, restless self that desperately needed to control experience starts to soften, dissolve even.
And what remains?
Life. Awareness. Being.
Life is living. There is nothing not to live.
Awareness is aware. There is nothing to not be aware of.
Being is being. There is nothing not to be.
All of it. No limits. No boundaries. No this is ok but not that. No resistance. No pushing away. No seeking.
The self dissolves, we see who we really are, what is really there.
And we are greedy for the whole entire lot.
Including that fear of not having enough.
Including the experience of poverty, hunger, insatiability, desperation.
Including the inferiority, the insufficiency, the comparison, the inadequacy.
All of it is life being lived, felt, inhabited.
The idea of closing off to any of it is ridiculous.
We could die in five minutes time. These could be the last five minutes of experiencing anything so why on earth would we not welcome in every aspect of life with all the attention and care in the world.
Five minutes of life left with our soul mate. To celebrate, absorb, marvel at and explore.
And our soul mate is whatever is there, whatever is now. Fear and lack are the loves of our life when we understand them, when we welcome them in.
Now we know the answer to that question. ‘What is enough?’
Now is enough. This feeling of not enough is everything we could ever want, right here. Such richness to explore.
And now, greedy for all of it, with nothing to seek, how mega will we live?
[Original artwork available for sale from artist and illustrator Siri Stiklestad Opli]