Here we are at greed, the second of the seven demons. Greed can be a tricky one to identify within ourselves because it appears on the scene when we fail to fully pass our initiation into adulthood as a woman or man. During our earliest years as children, our role is one of being a taker. We are fully dependent upon our parents and we are in the receiving mode. But by the time we reach the rite of passage known as puberty we are in the position to give to others and not just take. In many societies puberty is a time in which we are old enough to really begin contributing to the greater good of our families, and perhaps even the community. We refer to this stage as our “coming of age”. But for many people this initiation and rite of passage continues to present itself to us whenever we succumb to doubt. Doubt that there is not enough is the soil in which greed grows.
Believing in scarcity will cause you to succumb to greed any time you are presented with an opportunity to take. In the movies greed is often portrayed as a hallmark of the very wealthy. But in truth there are many wealthy people who are incredibly generous and greed is truly not a part of their being. In contrast, there are many who do not have wealth but who have a strong sense of greed.
Greed can be subtle when it represents itself in the person who always wants things for free, having a sense of entitlement. Greed exists in the person who downloads free music from YouTube because they don’t want to pay for it, the person who makes copies of homeschool worksheets rather than going to the website and buying it, the person who gets $20 extra by mistake from the cashier and keeps it, the guy who gets his restaurant bill and sees that the server forgot to add in the bottle of wine and fails to correct it, the friend who tries to constantly pick your brain for business advice but who never wants to pay for a consult. These are all differing ways that the demon of greed can sneak into your life.
I had an interesting experience last year with someone who was consumed by greed. I participated in a small group yoga intensive with a teacher who trained with Pattabhi Jois in India. She is a true yogini and I loved learning from her. She was offering an extended workshop that focused on the deep intricacies of the Yoga Sutras and I was very much looking forward to it. I grabbed a flier because I planned on signing up. As I walked to my car one of the other teachers who had studied under this yogini came up to me and asked “are you planning to take the workshop?” I said, “yes definitely”. She said, “I trained with her for the past 5 years and I know what she is teaching inside in out. I have all of her materials and I can just give you my materials and work with you one on one for a fraction of the cost, her workshop price is so high.”
Greed. There it was. Full blown scarcity mentality. Not to mention the dishonesty and lack of integrity, but the primary demon in this woman was greed. I said to her “she charges the price she charges based on her level of wisdom, and I personally believe it to be highly valuable, if I didn’t I just wouldn’t attend.” The woman was a bit stunned. She immediately responded with “oh no doubt, I LOVE her, she is amazing that is why I have studied with her. But the price is just so high that I thought I would help people out by offering something at a lower cost.” I said to her “that is not an option, it’s not yours to offer. If someone does not want to spend that much money they do not get her work. You are actually not helping anyone but yourself. You are stealing. You feel entitled to her proprietary work because you paid for it. But you paying for it does not entitle you to give it to anyone else.”
I encouraged her to break out of this pattern of scarcity and greed because it is in direct opposition to the laws of abundance and creates stress and misalignment in the energy body and usually more scarcity.
When you do not trust that the Universe will provide all that you need, you make a grab for money, possessions, information, or whatever you can that makes you feel more safe. If you believe that the world is scarce – it is. Believing in scarcity cultivates greed, and greed causes you to hoard these “things” mentioned above. But in truth the only true power is spiritual power which comes through the angel of generosity – the opposite of greed. Shaman in Peru have a particular name for generosity and it is ANYI. In the Quechua language anyi means reciprocity. The spirit of anyi is that the more you give the more you receive. Anyi is the way our universe works, it is a true universe of abundance. Anyi always must be given without expectation and is given purely for the sake of generosity and never to expect something in return.
The more we believe in a world that lacks, the more we find ourselves in an environment of lack. This happens on an individual level but also on a global scale. We see wealthier nations feeling entitled to use up a disproportionately high amount of natural resources compared to the rest of the world. When you see on the news that wealthier nations are destroying indigenous cultures for want of gold, such as what is happening in Papua New Guinea right now, do you see that as greed? Do you see the destruction of pristine rainforests for the production and consumption of palm oil by wealthy companies as greed? When you see the CEO of Nestle buying up water and making billions from it, stealing it right out from under the disenfranchised, do you see that as greed?
Most people will answer “yes” to those questions because they are brazen examples of greed on a grand scale. But in shadow work on the shamanic path, we heal ourselves and our world by looking at the areas in which the demon of greed has hijacked us. What things have we felt entitled to? What things have we taken for ourselves out of scarcity consciousness? Did we return that $20 to the cashier? Did we alert the server to the omitted bottle of wine? Did we take ownership of someone else’s hard work?
So what is the counterbalance to greed? It is the angel of generosity.
Growing up I was blessed to live with the most generous human I have ever met, and it is my father. His lack of greed was a powerful teaching for me. He generously served many people and always without fanfare. When he donated, he did so anonymously. When he helped out a friend or an employee, he told no one outside of our family. He always would leave giant tips for servers at restaurants, and often, they would remember us and offer “free” things as a thank you. He always refused. He did not give to get credit. He taught me that to be generous is a great blessing. Most of the people he was generous with – through both time and money – were people who were never going to be in a position to “do anything” for him. The heroin addict that worked for him, who he drove to a clinic to receive treatments to get off of drugs, the cat from the ASPCA that no one wanted because she was missing an eye and had only three legs, the multitudes of orphanages in developing nations that he sent large amounts of money to, all coming directly from a heart filled with tremendous generosity and not a spot of greed.
I remember growing up going to church on Sundays when the money basket would come around. My mom was an official patron of the church so she had this box of envelopes that you were supposed to put the money in so they had a “record” of what you were donating. Mainly it was so that the church would know how generous you were and mention you in certain bulletins and at certain events or offer you a pew with your name on it when the new church was built. My dad would reach into his pocket and grab a few hundreds every Sunday and drop them in. Just cash. No name, no envelope, no record of his generosity. It amused me how many times my mother would ask him on the way to breakfast afterwards through the years why on earth he insisted doing that. To her the act of generosity was in the giving. But my dad knew better. He knew that true generosity seeks nothing in return. It doesn’t mean that donating with recognition is not helpful or nice, but it is not true generosity.
I share this story of my dad and his acts of generosity because the demon of greed can only be remedied by the angel of generosity. True generosity never depletes you, it strengthens you. Sometimes I hear people say “I am generous to a fault”. I ask them “What does that mean? In what way do you believe that being generous is a fault?” Typically they will say that they give too much, they are always volunteering, giving time, money, etc… and they are depleted. But that is not generosity. When you are depleted from all you have given and you are exhausted or bitter or angry or feeling unappreciated that is because you had an expectation that people would appreciate you, people would be thankful, people would perhaps offer you something in exchange. But if you truly want to rid your life of greed and embrace generosity, only give when you can without the expectation of anything in return.
The shamanic path teaches you to find your balance, your anyi, between giving and receiving.