"We have forgotten what enough feels like," writes Wayne Muller, a Santa Fe-based therapist, public speaker, minister, and bestselling author. His previous books include Legacy of the Heart, How, Then, Shall We Live?, Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest and Delight, and Learning to Pray. He is the founder of Bread for the Journey, a nonprofit organization that supports community organizing and neighborhood philanthropy. Muller is also one of Spirituality & Practice's Living Spiritual Teachers.
In A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough, this gifted spiritual writer takes on a complicated subject that is more relevant than ever in a world that seems to have reached a crisis point of exhaustion, disappointment, fear, and anger. Talk to any group, and no matter what their job status or economic situation, they will tell you that they feel at the end of their rope. People are frightened about the future when they may run out of money, lose their homes, or be devastated by some physical debilitation.
Part of the problem lies in the speed and volume of our culture and our work loads. We all have a difficult time of it during periods of relentless deadlines, demands on our energy, and information overload. Many of us find it hard to take a Sabbath, to slow down or to stop for replenishment and renewal. Herein lies another part of the problem, an inability to allow our work to feel sufficient for the day. Enough, Muller states, is an inside job. The choice is ours to make: do we want "to feel the cramping fear of scarcity, the bloated saturation of over-abundance, or the gentle, effortless release of easy sufficiency." The author challenges us to listen to our inner thermostat for signs that we have done enough and can take a break or stop altogether. This inner wisdom or heart's knowing is a much more reliable guide than the deluge of external forces, schedules, and e-mails that assault us on a daily basis.
One of the paradoxes of enough is that it is a mysterious process: "Enough is a verb, a conversation, a fugue, a collaboration. It is not a static state, something achieved or accomplished. It is relational, by nature unpredictable, punctuated by wonder, surprise, and awe. It may feel dangerous and inefficient. It demands that we stay awake, pay attention to what is true in this moment, in our hearts, and make the choices always and only from that place. Then whatever we decide brings a sense of rightness and sufficiency, arriving with an exhale, a letting go, a sense that this, here, for now, is enough."
Muller is convinced that a life of enough is nurtured by "choice points." In one eye-opening chapter he points out how the Seven Deadly Sins have been repurposed as the new Seven American Values: "We're number one! (Pride) You can have it all! (Greed) Sex sells! (Lust) I just want to be famous on TV! (Envy) All you can eat! (Gluttony) The world owes everything to me! (Sloth) If any bad guys stand in my way, well, bring 'em on! (Anger)."
It is much wiser to simplify the choices we make by seeking the guidance of the Ten Commandments, the Buddha's Eightfold Path, or the Five Pillars of Islam. Muller also includes the following Sufi practice for choosing words to pass through our mouths: "The first gate Is it true? The second gate Is it necessary? The third gate Is it kind?" And as Muller explains, almost all of the world's religions and spiritual teachers counsel us to believe in our Divine goodness, our hidden wholeness, and our calling to be lights in the world.
There are many hindrances to a life of enough and they are covered in chapters on the worrying of days (with all those to-do lists), the fantasy of getting caught up, hurtling through our lives at light speed, our inability to handle silence and stillness, our propensity to harshly judge ourselves, and our addiction to endless self-improvement and progress. Muller doesn't forget to emphasize blessings on the path to a life of enough. He recommends valuing the riches of small things, having mercy on ourselves, seeing the bloom that can emerge from loss, savoring the benefits of good company, the sufficiency of presence, and the value of bearing witness.
One of the major spurs to Muller's deep and abiding interest in a life of enough was a heart attack which completely changed his life. Over the last four years he has wrestled with new limitations of his energy and habitual ways of doing things. It has been impossible for him "to regain any kind of life at warp speed" or "to imagine anything larger or more complex than the immediate choices before me." As a result, Muller has been amazed by the delight he senses in being fully present in the moment. It is good enough. He has been able to reshape his life to a smaller and simpler scale that makes a place for deep listening, dependency on others, right action, gratitude, compassion, mercy, and happiness from the inside out. He concludes:
"A life of enough is born in every moment in the way we listen, the way we respond to the world, the way we see what is and tell the truth of who we are. Every single choice, every single moment, every change of course can bring us closer to a life of peace, contentment, authenticity, and easy sufficiency, a life of being, having, and doing enough."