A small fortune

January 18th, 2015

Fortune_cookieI got an email callout today from a filmmaker friend, asking if anyone could help him pay down some credit-card debt. The bastards had let him exceed his credit limit, and then without warning had simply upped his interest rate and added a hefty monthly surcharge to his bill.

My friend declared that he would much rather pay the interest to a friend than to those bloodsuckers. He is confident that he will be able to repay the full amount, with interest, within a few months. Could anyone lend him $1,000 for a few months?

I know this person to be of  highest integrity and intelligence. He has helped me in the past and  I have helped him. I am able. And so, I immediately sent the money over to him; grateful to be able to help him with his projects, and happy to see my money go to help a friend rather than to fatten a planet-raping multinational. I have enough, I have friends, and I have faith. I will not starve. And I credit my friend for having the courage to ask for what he needs, and for offering me the karmic opportunity to help. No doubt he will receive as generously as he gives, and so the energetic cycle will continue.

I want to write about how it is that I have this money to re-cycle. For those of you who think I am some kind of entrepreneur or trust-fund baby, I assure you that is not true. My family was the middlest of middle-class, and it has been a long time since I grossed over $15,000 in a year. My savings are tiny, and I don’t even try to manage my money. The reason I  live so well for so little is because my needs are modest, and seem to be on a steady downward slope. But I did make one significant financial decision in my life. Here’s the story.

One sunny spring day in 2001 I was riding my bike along Point Grey Road, and  a minivan drove into me. I bounced off the hood as my bike was dragged under the van. My bike needed a new front wheel and fork, and my right knee was pretty messed up.

The driver of the van, a young Korean woman, was in Canada on a student visa. She had a learner’s permit and was out on a practice drive with a friend. When I arrived home from the hospital and hopped out of the cab in a leg brace the two women were waiting for me at my apartment, with flowers and cake. I accepted the gifts and talked on the phone a couple of days later with the driver’s companion, who said her friend was unable to sleep and had been crying constantly. I felt terrible for them, but the fact is, cars are dangerous things. The woman had accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake, and now, I had a year of physio ahead of me, and a potentially permanent injury.

I called David Hay, a lawyer friend who specializes in bicycle injuries. The case with ICBC dragged on for about three years. It was  weird and conflicting. At the end of it all David handed me a cheque for $25,000. Out of my misfortune came a very small fortune.

This is when I did the really smart thing. I’m no financial genius but I knew that if I put the cheque in my savings account I would whittle it away day by day, and soon enough, it would be gone. So I took $5,000 and used it to pay off my credit card and other minor debts, and I put the remaining $20,000 in a Guaranteed Investment Certificate. The account gathered modest interest, but more importantly, it required that I make some effort to access it. I mean, it certainly wasn’t inaccessible or locked down—but in order to free up any of the money I had to physically walk into a bank and talk to someone. That was enough. Then I played a clever mind-trick on myself, by forgetting that the money even existed.

Of course, I knew the money was there, but it was sacred. It was my Deep Pocket, only to be used for VERY SPECIAL things. Of which there were few. I have never made much income (at the very peak of my business I probably grossed $25,000), but with no debt to service, no mortgage, no dependents, and no car expenses to suck my earnings, I got used to living well for very little. So, for many years, I had no need to crack into my small fortune.

However, even though I wasn’t using the money, it had a real effect. Once in a while I’d take a notion to do something a little wild – like go travelling, or turn down paying work so I could start the Commercial Drive Festival or some other crazy project, or go off to Arcosanti in Arizona for a few months, or whatever. If I charged up my credit card, I would pay it all off as soon as I could, even if I wasn’t sure there would still be enough to cover my rent. A bit of financial anxiety might arise—what if I can’t afford to do this? And then, I would remember the Deep Pocket, and it would be like a magical charm. I’d recall that money, and then I’d go ahead and take the risk—which always, always, was worth it. And then I would make myself forget about the money again. It strikes me as funny and magical,  because even if it turned out that that money had never existed, it wouldn’t have mattered. What mattered was the trick of convincing myself that I was safe, that I was covered and would be OK. Every time, I would find my faith, and move forward.  And it turned out, again and again, that I didn’t actually need the money.

Finally, however, I did reach into the pocket. My friend Robin desperately needed $3000 to finish a project on her farm, and it was a no-brainer—I marched into the VanCity and freed up the cash to give to Robin. She finished the project—a tiny guest cabin—which she named ‘Carmen House’. Years later, when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she paid me back the money. A couple of years after that I extracted a couple of thousand to lend to a friend to finish a video documentary series, which was proved to be successful, and one day he walked up to me at a party and handed me a cheque for the full amount. I used a couple thousand dollars to get some major dental work done, and withdrew a thousand for a new bike. I took out $4,000 last year, when the opportunity came to buy my lovely bus. I always know immediately when something is Really Special, and then, the money iss there for me to use. And when it comes back to me, back it goes, into the account.

Now, fifteen years after the original bikefall/windfall, I still have $10,000 in the bank—half of my original small fortune. It is there in my Deep Pocket, waiting patiently for the next Something Special. For some people that would be a massive amount of money, and for others, it is next to nothing. How many dollars it is, is really irrelevant. I know that if I continue to practice owning little and owing nothing, then I will be rich beyond numbers or words. I can continue to use the powerful energy of money to serve the highest good. I will do this until the pocket is empty. And then I will imagine myself a new one.


<<other posts I have written about Karmic Economics:>>
Privilege and power
How i got rich
Lend it spend it give it away
Your parents will die they will leave you some money


Only seeing one side of the moon

December 22nd, 2014

dark moonWhen you see forms or hear sounds fully engaging body-and-mind, you intuit dharmas intimately. Unlike things and their reflections in the mirror, and unlike the moon and its reflection in the water, when one side is illuminated, the other side is dark. –Eihei Dogen, Genjo Koan

I knew there would be darkness, outside and in. Can’t say no one warned me, I said, I understood. On this long night the dark lies thick as a rug and the rain falls like stones from the sky. I don’t mind the dark, and I don’t mind the rain, blackness warm as a sweater, rain caressing my spine.

But the blackness within, well—I knew that would come. I was warned. I understood. I was ready, I said. In the blackest of mornings I lie curled in a ball, unable to recall, the wherefores and the whys of my curious state. Alone, so alone, as I wanted to be. In that moment for the life of me I can’t see the moon. Knowing there is light, is just no help at all. I unwind my body, relax the grip of my mind, til they both drop away and all that’s left is the dark. The dark of the darkness, dark side of the moon.

I climbed up the bluff to meet the moment of solstice. At 3:03 on the nose the clouds broke, sun blazed forth, sunbeams and trumpets to herald the day. Earth paused in its orbit, trajectory resumed, predictably elliptically back to the sun. Then, though I twisted and squinted and frowned, the dark side of the moon was nowhere to be found.

I live for library day

December 18th, 2014

libraryThe new library at Linnaea Farm is the joy of my week. In the summer i’d ride around the lake to the farm, stopping at the produce stand for blueberries or peaches. I would choose a book from the library, then wander down the trail to the huge fallen log, strip off my clothes, and dive into Gunflint Lake. And then I would lie naked on the smooth old log among the bullrushes, reading my book and eating blueberries, or dozing in the sun to the sound of blackbirds and giant dragonflies. Careful not to drop the book in the lake. Read the rest of this entry »

Never take this for granted

December 16th, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADaylight shreds through the clouds beyond the lagoon. For once, so rare, no rain. A clear cold morning, and today  Geshe Yongdong is giving a teaching on Quadra Island. It is a perfect day for a ride, and yet my grumpy mind finds resistance. My lower back stiff, my bed still warm. It is Sunday.

But then I dress and drink my coffee, stuff some snacks in my bag. Heading out I am creaky and slow. The thought of my warm bed lingers. But then I break out of the woods, hit the sweep of pavement, opening sky. Mist hangs low on the fields, shards of sunshine on Gunflint Lake. Swing onto Gorge Harbour Road toward the ferry on the roller-coaster ride, not a car to be seen. My lungs squeeze in and out, mind and body clear as I jet snot from each nostril. Read the rest of this entry »

Little lemon tree

November 19th, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe little lemon tree is crying again. Infested with scale, it weeps sticky tears.

On homecoming to Vancouver I find the little tree in sorry state. Once again I apologize for my absence and neglect, and set to tending her. I borrow pruning shears from my neighbour, kneel before the little tree, and amputate the most crusted branches, knowing new ones will sprout at the stumps. Then I set to work with rag and dish soap, gently cleaning  each leaf and stem. It takes a couple of hours but when I am done she stands shiny and straight.  I scratch a glossy leaf with my nail and the clean tang of citrus fills my nose.

Pablo planted this tree from a seed oh so many years ago. He gave it to me when he went away. When I clean the the little lemon tree I think of beautiful Pablo and his sticky tears.

I’m in the soup

November 5th, 2014

rainy-lake-and-islandRain drums on the roof of my bus, waves pound the rocks below. Into the darkness and back to the light, I commit, to this. I commit to this slippery grey stone in the Salish Sea, which will be my home through this winter. I am stoked, intrigued, and a little terrified.

I have taken a job as part-time Marketing Assistant at Hollyhock, until May, and who knows from there. I was hesitant, because the word ‘marketing’ kind of makes my skin crawl. But mostly it  will be graphic design, writing copy, and connecting people up – more or less what i like to do, and do well. I know it really grounds me to have some kind of a job, to give a semblance of structure to my time. I respect Hollyhock and think the work will be fun. And of course it will pay the rent, which on Cortes Island, is pretty cheap. Read the rest of this entry »


October 31st, 2014

Rooster-crowingScreaming down Seaford Road on my bike in the bucketing rain, i rocket round the tight horseshoe curve to Lagoon Road, crowing, WhatEVER!!!! WhatEVER!!! at the top of my lungs. With no one to hear me, not a single car, just grey fog, and rain. Rain, rain, and more rain. Aw hell, let it rain, bring it on—WhatEVER!!!

After weeks of wiffling and waffling and riding my edge, chewing on my arm, late last night I reached the point of whatEVER! An explosive release, into the big question mark. So I stay. So I go. So I have a lover, so I sleep alone. So I rise, I fall, I succeed, I fail. I take this job. I take that job. I take no jobs. Give it up. WhatEVER!!! Read the rest of this entry »

the binding of baskets and nets

October 23rd, 2014

49a9d142677e4_63192bRealize the fundamental point, free from the binding of nets and baskets.
Eihei Dogen Zenji, Recommending Zazen to All People

Just do it! called Nike, of glory and speed. With a flash of white sneakers running into the night.

Do i gotta? I plead, left to pout in the dust, do i gotta, do i haveta, for what reason and rhyme? Echo of her laugh on the wind as she flies. Just do it, just do it, just do it. Just do. Read the rest of this entry »

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