Here’s the question at the crux of this meditation on virtue, aspiration, and authentic wealth: How can a nice person like you aspire to a virtuous life and still participate in the intentional creation of wealth?
Aspiration is a yearning that impels you forward
Aspiration is the yearning for and intention to achieve something beyond your current reach. Aspiration to the virtuous life gives your life dignity and meaning. It’s how you get in line for grace.
Aspiration to material wealth gives your life creative focus. It shapes the way you direct your energy in the material realm.
There is poignancy in both sorts of aspiration because, by definition, aspiration means you are not there yet. You are always to some degree short of that to which you aspire.
And the way you interpret and experience that poignancy determines whether your aspirations are life-denying or life-affirming.
Aspiring to virtue can be risky
You encounter two risks when you aspire to the virtuous life: the risk of the risk of spiritual despair and the risk of contracting against material aspirations.
Perhaps spiritual despair is too strong a term, though that’s what it can feel like when you keenly experience the gap between the goodness you imagine and that which you embody, especially in difficult times.
Whatever you call it, falling short can be grist for the self-critical mill
You can become chronically dissatisfied and discouraged by your failure to be endlessly compassionate, flexible, intelligent, patient, resourceful, vigorous, visionary…
You may try to protect virtue by rejecting material aspirations.
One way you may try to manage the fear of falling short of your virtuous aspirations is to contract against material aspiration. You want all of your intention, energy, and focus to go to virtuous ends, so you pull away from worldly things.
That can be a wise and honorable path, if indeed that’s the path you are on. But if you are taking what the spiritual traditions call the middle way, contracting against the material world actually closes you off from encountering and expressing your spiritual nature.
The middle way asks for full engagement in the both worlds
The middle way requires that you participate fully in both spiritual and material aspects of existence. It is essentially life-affirming.
Engagement in the material world means stepping into the role of creator. As a conscious creator, you agree to be the wise steward who takes what she is given and uses it to generate new life and wealth in the service of the master, however you define that.
Conscious creation asks you to expand your world
By definition, to create means to make something new. To be a creator means to envision and pursue something beyond what already exists.
When you accept the role of conscious creator, you make a spiritual agreement to align your pursuit of virtue with the intentional creation of wealth.
And part of honoring that agreement is to craft your definition of wealth so that it is generous and life affirming in both domains.
Hold your aspirations lightly
Remember that aspiration is the yearning for for and intention to achieve something beyond your current reach. Because of that, it’s important to hold it lightly.
Notice what happens when you shift from requiring yourself to perfectly embody the virtues to embracing and celebrating your heartfelt aspiration to embody them.
And what happens when you shift from attachment to material outcomes to embracing your material aspirations by committing to the creative process.
Both shifts are a powerful and liberating change from trying to meet imposed and impossible standards to attending to an interior and irresistible call.
Who do you want to be when you grow up?
When you accept the challenge of the middle way, you’ll see that the question is not, “How can a nice person like you aspire to a virtuous life and still participate in the intentional creation of wealth?”
The question is, how can you not aspire to both?
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