Many spiritual and psychological teachings help us to see how much is within us — how much we have to give. Let me share a story builds on this theme.
Once there was a group of people who lived in a dry desert land.
Life was challenging for these people. There was little food or water; in fact, the community only survived by clustering around a stream that ran though the land. Although it was meager, the stream offered fresh water to drink and irrigate a few crops. The people who lived by the stream managed to survive.
However, one year the stream began to run weaker than it had before. The following year, the water levels dropped even further. The people began to panic — after all, this was their only source of sustenance.
One evening, an argument broke out as one person accused his neighbor of siphoning off extra water. A few weeks later, there was another argument. The people began to live in fear of one another. Was that person stealing extra water? Did those people think that we were stealing? The sense of suspicion grew as the water continued to drop.
The community experienced great strain; neighbors eyed each other warily. When people drew drinking water from the stream, they did so surreptitiously. The townspeople barely spoke to each other, worried about sparking a conflict.
Finally, the stream dropped to a trickle. There was no longer enough water to sustain the community. A few people became belligerent, and accused others of causing the water to drop. Hostilities flared. Someone was injured in a conflict; this sparked a violent retribution. Soon thereafter, the community collapsed and disappeared.
Many years later, a new group of people stumbled upon the site of the old town.
"Curious," one of them said, looking at the remains of buildings. "I wonder why these people left."
"Look," said another, "there's no well anywhere. Perhaps these people never realized they were sitting over an aquifer. All they had to do was dig ten feet down, and they could have found enough water to last for lifetimes. It looks like they never realized how much they had."
I share this story to illustrate an idea about scarcity and abundance. Where there is scarcity, there is bound to be fear. People can become intensely self-interested and competitive as they fight for the last scraps of a scarce resource. History is filled with examples of this.
However, one central theme of A Course in Miracles — and other spiritual teachings — is that abundance is the natural state of the spirit. Like the aquifer that quietly rested beneath the desert community, a spiritual aquifer resides within each of us. This aquifer contains limitless gifts of the spirit — peace, wisdom, fulfillment, and above all love. We simply need to tap it.
As we do, our old sense of scarcity is replaced with a deep sense of abundance.
The Getting Game
Like the desert community, many people tend to seek sustenance almost exclusively from external sources. Life becomes a "getting" game, in which people acquire the things that seem to give them happiness: romantic partners, entertainment systems, status symbols of various types.
There's nothing wrong, of course, with enjoying these things. However, the problem is that as we try to draw sustenance from scarce externals, we completely lose sight of the abundance within.
The community in the desert sustained itself for a while by drawing on the stream. However, the whole time they missed out on what lay beneath them. When the stream dried up, they descended into competition and fear.
Similarly, we often miss out on what lies within us. Within each of us is an abundance of spiritual gifts — a limitless abundance waiting to be accessed. As we tap this abundance, and allow it to flow into the world, we find great joy.
There's no end to the wisdom and peace within each of us. There's no end to the love that we can draw forth. Tapping this abundance, and letting it flow through us, is our true calling here. We can bring endless amounts of water to a dry and dusty world.
Many spiritual teachings offer an alternative to the thinking of the world. Sometimes these spiritual teachings reverse our thinking completely. One teaching that I have found quite interesting is the idea that:
What we give, we keep. What we share, we strengthen.
This is particularly evident when it comes to internals. When we draw on the love within our spiritual aquifer — and share that love with others — the sense of love becomes stronger within us.
When we draw on a sense of peace — and share that peace with others — it stays with us and grows. The more of it we give, the more of it we have.
Now, this "giving" is difficult if we believe that there is only a little bit of love and peace to go around. Giving from scarcity would be like asking the faltering community to give away their small amount of stream water.
Thankfully, that's not what we're being asked to do. Instead, we're asked to access the abundance within, and then share from that endless aquifer. This is a very different type of giving.
So how is this done? How do we give of our inner abundance? A Course in Miracles offers one simple method. "Through prayer love is received," says the Course. "Through miracles love is expressed."
The idea is that in our prayer or meditation times, we can reach down into that inner aquifer of the spirit. We can drink deeply from it. Then, having accessed the abundance within, we can share it with those around us.
When we have a free moment, we can once again reconnect with the abundance. Then, when we're ready, we can share it again. Through this process, we become conduits for divine love, peace, and wisdom — or as A Course in Miracles puts it, "miracle workers."
We, of course, aren't doing a whole lot of work in this process. We're simply reaching down to the abundance within, and allowing that abundance to flow through us. It's one of the most fulfilling — and most needed — activities in the world.