How to Cope in Tough Economic Times
[00:45] Tough Economic Features
Jai Guru Deva. Thank you for joining me on my podcast, The Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles. The question about how to cope in tough economic times has come up on a number of occasions, and I’d like to spend a few minutes looking at the question of tough economic times and perhaps get some kind of definition of what it all means.
There are always some tough economic features of every time. There would be people still alive who could remember today, the worst aspects of the Great Depression, going back nearly a hundred years ago, tough economic times. Then there are people who can barely remember who, some of my listeners, the global financial crisis of 2008, 2009, tough economic times.
Right now, we are experiencing uncertainty in 2023. About every six months, we get promised that a recession is coming, and it’s right around the corner, is what everyone is certain about, and well may it be.
Inflation, which looked as though it was going to go galloping out of control, is, evidently at least, just barely under control. The jobs market that we’re facing in 2023 is on the boil. That is to say, currently, there are more jobs than there are evidently people to fill them.
[02:25] Contributing Factors
One of the great complaints of employers in today’s environment is that they can’t get people to come to work. There may be other facets of this.
The housing market has gone wild. And a home that was worth $250,000 in the United States two years ago, it’d be worth $1,250,000. And it makes it hard for people who are beginners in the buying-your-own-home market to ever feel as though they have a hope of being able to buy their own home, because prices are so high.
The Airbnb model, which has become very popular all over the world, has also driven prices up. A house that could achieve $250 a night for Airbnb isn’t going to allow itself, the landlords won’t allow them to rent it for $250 a week, or even $500 a week, when they can achieve $250 a night on Airbnb.
And people are now buying houses and properties with the sole intent of turning them into BnBs, and not actually available for rental. And so then I do hear from, particularly younger people, that it’s very hard to find even a place to rent that has a reasonable rent.
So these may be some of the elements of the hard economic times.
We’ll throw in the potential that artificial intelligence, which has come on the scene, does appear to make it possible that at least some kinds of jobs may become available for being done by AI.
[04:13] Problem is a Consciousness State
And there are certainly a significant percentage of people who are concerned about bots, robots, and AI being able to do their job and whether or not they’re going to face redundancy as a result of this.
So what do we do in tough economic times, whether it’s 1920 or 2023? What is the Vedic worldview about the response to all of this? And ultimately, it comes down to one keyword, a hyphenated word, self-sufficiency. We want to be sure that we have our wits about us.
Generally speaking, tough times means a tough consciousness state that we’re in. We come back to the Vedic concept of how to deal with a problem in the Vedic worldview.
“Problem” is a consciousness state. Problem is not a circumstantial state. And we use many analogies to give this proposition distinction. A problem, according to a five-year-old, might be, where do they find their Darth Vader toy,
when any adult in the room can see that it’s sitting right over there and there’s not actually a problem. What’s happening is the incapacity of the five-year-old to use their available perceptual acuity, and patience, to be able to look around and locate it.
[05:46] The Impact of Consciousness on Coping with Economic Hardship
What is a problem? A problem is, “I’m in a consciousness state where I cannot see my way past what appears to be an obstacle to what I want. I want to have a particular experience.”
The experience might be feed the family, pay the rent, buy a house. Or the experience might be, have a holiday or go on a vacation. Whatever the obstacles appear to be to my capacity to shorten the gap between the rising of a desire and the fulfillment of that desire, the time that it takes between the rising of a desire and the fulfillment of that desire shouldn’t be a long gap. I want it to be a short gap. I get a desire, and I’d like to see that desire fulfilled.
And so we have, in order to deal with the proposition of how to cope with difficult economic times, we have to look, first of all, at how much of our potential are we using. And this is a classic thing to do in our Vedic worldview.
It is well-known and well discussed, and non-controversial that, on average, humans use a tiny percentage of their brain’s available computing power.
Now, I want to state that again because it shouldn’t be conflated with, or mistaken with other statements that are sometimes made, where people attempt to summarize what I’ve said by getting it wrong, that, on average, people are using a fraction of the potential, the computing potential of their brain.
[07:31] Overloading the Brain
Sometimes people will say, “Oh, Thom says that we only use a tiny fraction of our brain, 2% or 10%.” The fact is, I don’t say that. We use a hundred percent of our brain. 100% of our brain is active at all times. The question is, what is the brain active doing? What’s it doing?
And the analogy that I like to use is an iPhone. You go and buy yourself a brand new iPhone, which has perhaps an enormous memory.
Suppose you purchase the highest level of memory, and it has a certain CPU. That is to say, the output that can come from the computer chips that are inside your iPhone. But you begin to go home, and you get excited, and you begin to put into your phone all kinds of downloads and programs that are constantly running in the background.
And if we were to be extreme about this, just to prove a point, you could, within a week, load up the telephone’s CPU to such an extent that when you go to type a text message, your typing is going faster than the cursor is able to put letters on the screen.
And it takes a while for the letters to catch up with what you’ve just typed. And you might think, what’s wrong with this phone? But then you look at it and you realize that you’ve downloaded weather reports for Antarctica.
[09:07] Fight-Flight Reactivity
You’ve downloaded the stock prices for various kinds of stocks in Argentina. You have, going in the background, constant information about certain commodity prices in Myanmar. And your phone is just overloaded with requests, and is performing all kinds of functions that you don’t particularly find relevant at all times.
You haven’t gone to the trouble of turning off some of those applications. Some of those apps, and so your iPhone’s overloaded.
And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with the phone, except that it’s been exposed to too much information overload, and it’s trying to provide you with information constantly that you don’t actually need most times.
This is a very good analogy for the way our brain tends to work. We get overloaded with extraordinary levels of pressure, of perceptual demand, sounds, sight, the longevity of the perceptual demands for how long you keep your eyes open in a given day, and then, at night, watch a movie and see all kinds of flashing lights and extraordinary things on the screen. And then you go to bed. Overloads of emotional types, overloads of changes of expectation, whether or not you reacted to those changes of expectation with fight-flight reactivity, or you engaged the changes of expectation and were responsive, but the process of interacting with the change exhausted you.
[10:46] Stress Accumulation vs Deep Restfulness
So levels of tiredness, exhaustion, overloads of experience. And this information gets stored in the form of information, which is distorted information, held in chemical form, in the cells of our body, our brain particularly, but also throughout the body. We store premature cognitive commitments.
This is the way in which our brain and body, prematurely, have available a set of responses, inappropriate responses, by the way, to the memory of past overloads of experience.
And in case something that has the same color, the same sound, the same smell, the same environment, happens to awaken inside of us, it triggers cascades of irrelevant responses.
And our brain’s computing power is largely taken up maintaining these irrelevant distorted informations, distorted data in the system, which gives a distorted priority to reactivity and stress reactivity in environments in which, in fact, you’re not being challenged.
So most of us, for most of each day, are not actually being challenged. We’re being challenged for peak periods of a day. And yet our bodies are reacting as if they’re constantly being challenged, because they’re constantly being triggered by these distorted memories in the cells of the body. This is stress accumulation.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that as Vedic meditators, we have a strategy, a systematic technique, that we can apply every morning and every evening to close our eyes, to decrease the excitation of the mind and the brain, decrease the excitation of the body to draw the body into states of unprecedented deep restfulness.
[12:56] Unleash Your Brain’s Potential with Vedic Meditation
That deep restfulness, five times deeper than the level of restfulness that can be attained to at any point in a night’s sleep. And this deep and profound restfulness that occurs during the practice of Vedic Meditation, for 20 minutes twice a day, allows those irrelevant distorted memories in the cells to dissolve. To use the common parlance, we refer to this as “stress release.”
We’re able to release the impact of accumulated stress. And this stress release that occurs on a regular, systematic basis can take place where we are removing stress from the physiology faster than we’re able to replace it.
And that means that the overall inventory of stress accumulation is going down on a daily basis. As we liberate stresses from the body, we are liberating our brain’s capacity to think outside the box. We’re liberating our brain’s capacity to challenge assumptions that we’re making.
We’re liberating our brain’s capacity to connect the dots that this particular body of information over here and this other body of information over here, these two things have a relationship that I may have only just now discovered right now. If I am able to connect that body of information and this other body of information, it is as good as raw creativity.
The discovery of what we are going to term a new connection, not actually that it is new, but it was always available, but we’ve made the connection. The discovery of a new connection between two items of knowledge, or three or four or 10, yielding a whole new platform, a basis for ideas, those “aha” phenomena, those “eureka” phenomena. This is what gives us access to our innate creativity.
But in order for that to be our truth, we have to have cleanup on a daily basis. Cleanup means meditate twice a day and remove all of the stresses.
So during any kind of tough times, whether they are economic times or they are times of any other kind of challenging of our assumptions, changes of expectation, and so on, our very first point of reference is to be certain that we’re making use of the full potential of our brain.
What is our brain’s full potential? What is our capability for creativity? And one of the great opportunities that we have is inventiveness. And what are we inventing, really? Ultimately, as we grow in our consciousness state, as we evolve, we are reinventing ourself constantly.
The you of 10 years ago would not be able to compete with the you of today. The you of today has access to considerably greater creative intelligence, has access to considerably greater stability. The ability to look at what the 10-years-ago version of you would’ve considered to be, “Oh, no. Oh.”
Now that same kind of level of challenge comes to you 10 years later, and you can look at it and say, “That’s nothing I’ll deal with that this way, this way, and this way. I’ll interact with it. “
So things which once upon a time we considered to be overloads today, and now we’re practicing Vedic Meditation twice every day.
[16:57] Accurate Expectations via Vedic Meditation
This is my fundamental assumption. If it’s not true amongst my listeners, then you need to do something about that. And you can make those arrangements by going on my website and making an inquiry, how to learn Vedic Meditation.
But with this assumption that you’re practicing Vedic Meditation twice a day, the ability to easily deal with a wide variety of changes of expectation, and indeed even to get our perceptual mechanisms so fine-tuned that we have very few changes of expectation.
Because as we grow in our capacity for clarity of perception, our expectations turn out, with greater and greater regularity, to be more accurate than they were before. Accurate expectations means fewer surprises.
Fewer surprises means fewer events that required you to be adaptive. You don’t have to be adaptive if what is happening right before you is exactly what you expected.
And so then, when we don’t have to spend our adaptation energy at such a pace because our expectations are becoming more and more accurate with each passing day, we have fewer and fewer stress reactions. And this is the life of a meditator.
Meditators have a greater capacity to operate along the lines that I used to watch my own master, Maharishi, operate along. So many times, he would have a grand idea of the building, of very often had to do with building, building land acquisition, and building of academies of meditation.
[18:52] “Where’s the Money Going to Come From?”
He was in that phase of spreading the knowledge where he felt that it was important for there to be permanent structures to which people could go regularly, reliably. And that there, they could spend time away from the big cities, and dive deep into their meditation practice, and have industrial-strength levels of meditation.
And so frequently, he would say, “We need a place in South America. We need a place in Africa. We need a place in Europe. We need a place in Asia. We need a place in North America, South America, Australia.”
And on more than one occasion, I heard people who were his well-wishers, sitting with him, sometimes these were business people who would make some kind of a wry comment, which was a comment that one often hears business people making. “Maharishi, where’s the money going to come from?”
To which he would simply answer, “It’s going to come from where it is.” It’s going to come from where it is. Wherever it is now, that’s where it’s going to come from.
And it was a stroke of genius. He had the amazing capacity to come up with an idea and to make that idea something that was eminently fundable. That could be self-sufficiently funding, an idea that could pay for itself. And he never had any trouble with this.
[20:27] Opulence at $5 a Day
I used to laugh because journalists would sometimes say, “Oh, does Maharishi live an opulent lifestyle?” Asking me, one of his minders, that question.
And I would just laugh and say, “It costs about $5 a day to pay for his needs. He only has three changes of clothing. You know, some cloth dhotis.”
A dhoti is like a wrap that you wrap around the top and a different wrap that you wrap around the bottom, in such a way that you might wrap a towel after bathing. That was his bottom half.
And then the top half was another one of those, same size, wrapped around the top. A pair of wooden sandals. And he sat on a deerskin.
And for a toothbrush, he had a Neem stick, a little stick made of Neem wood, which he would chew the end of, and it would spread out and he could scrub his teeth with that. It’s an Ayurvedic technique. Seemed to work very well. He had a beautiful smile all the way through to his, into his 10th decade.
[21:31] Sleeping on the Couch in the Presidential Suite
And I mean literally, this was a man who, wherever he was staying, sometimes hotels, because he was famous and a public figure, they wanted him to be seen staying in their hotel, so they would frequently gift him the presidential suite of a hotel in a particular city where he might be known to be lecturing, hoping that the many thousands of followers would follow him right to the lobby of the hotel, and good advertising for the hotel.
But where did he sleep? Most frequently, he slept on the couch in the living room. He would lay out one of pieces of cloth that he used to dress himself with on top of his deerskin on the couch. And then others who were working in his entourage would be directed off to the bedrooms. He didn’t even need a bed.
And he only laid there for about two or three hours each night, anyway. He had such energy. He worked about 21-22 hours a day.
And so then, what were his personal needs? I would jokingly say, somewhere between $2 and 50 cents or $5 a day on an expensive day would look after him. He ate about one meal a day.
[22:53] A Fully Awakened Brain
And yet, by the time his 50 years of service to the world were ended, through all kinds of economic difference, from the 1950s, when he started, through to 2008, when he dropped his body, over that 50-year period, there were every imaginable kind of economic problems in the world. None of it ever seemed to matter to him.
If prices were low, that was time to buy. If prices were high, that was time to sell. But you could have taken him at any time and deposited him in a forest in India, and he would’ve been just fine. His lifestyle wouldn’t have changed, whether he lived in a forest in India or he was in a five-star hotel, his lifestyle was identical in all those situations.
This is someone with a fully awakened brain, who could make maximum use of the surroundings anytime, 24 hours a day. He was my role model. And I would like for a similar role model to be there in your awareness, even though you’ve not had the chance to meet him the way that I did. The stories themselves are highly inspirational.
[24:12] How to Deal with Problems
So, how to deal with problems? Tough economic times, being simply a problem-consciousness state, is to treat the word problem as a consciousness state. There’s not a problem; there’s a change of expectation that needs to be dealt with.
Use your fullest potential. Use your creative intelligence. Look for the opportunities that are present in every moment. Whatever the economic status is, there are always opportunities present and available. To what extent can you make maximum use of your surroundings? This is really the question. To what extent can I make maximum use of my surroundings? My surroundings exist to bring me happiness.
If they’re not bringing me happiness, then it’s not because of the surroundings. It’s because of the failure of my consciousness to interact effectively with the surroundings. Effective interaction with the surroundings always will yield waves of happiness. So let’s come out of problem consciousness and come into solution consciousness.
One of the things that I really enjoyed was when, during the 1970s, at the height of Maharishi’s fame, when he was known by millions of people all over the world; he was one of the most recognizable people in the public arena, his face was.
[25:41] Welcome to the Solution to All Problems
And at his home, he had a banner over the doorway to his home. And when you walked up there, you could read it. It was like in a rainbow motif sitting up there, not the colors of a rainbow. It was basically white with gold writing on it but in the shape of a rainbow over the doorway.
And what did it say? Welcome to the solution to all problems. What a great statement to make.
This is what I wish for everyone to experience with you, the meditators, the practitioners of Vedic Meditation, my listeners. That people meet with you, and instead of thinking, “Oh, oh. Here comes a bundle of problems.” They think to themselves, “Here comes the solution to all problems.”
This is the visage. This is the countenance that we wish to radiate. We wish to radiate life for all to enjoy. Jai Guru Deva.