Do you perceive the world from a state of lack or a state of abundance? Changing your perspective can fundamentally alter how you feel and act. From the hoarder who buys toilet paper for a year – all the way to a poor Tajik family who shared their last grains of rice with a stranger. Enjoy the second episode of my new podcast!
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— Transcript of the podcast —
Hello and welcome to the second episode of this podcast. My name is Anne Westwards. I’m going to share some of the lessons with you that I learned during my bicycle expedition, that led me for a year and a half alone through Asia and the Middle East with my bicycle Emily here. Today, I’m going to talk to you about abundance. This may strike you as a strange topic these days because we are talking about lack the whole time. Why?
We are used to thinking from a state of lack
We’re talking about the lack of intensity care unit beds. We’re also talking about the lack of the occasional package of noodles that we would like to buy, which we can find in the supermarket right now. Or the lack of toilet paper.
And really what I would like to invite you to join me for is a different state of mind. We are trained or are used to thinking from a state of mind which I call ‘lack’. We compare all the time. We compare our achievements, our salaries or cars – well, I don’t have a car, I would compare bicycles, maybe – to those that others have. And you see, ‘Oh, somebody else has more!’ And then we take this one step further and compare our personal development, maybe, and think, ‘Oh, well this person is so much more spiritually advanced. This person so much calmer than I am!’ We’re constantly nourishing this thought of ‘There’s lack!’
And it makes a huge difference to change this state to a state of abundance. Nothing in the outside world has to change for that. That’s the beauty of it.
Owning next to nothing can be enough
I learned this in a very radical way, when I returned from my bicycle expedition. I was used to just owning two sets of clothing: one for cycling, one for sleeping. And then I had different layers, so I could adjust to the temperature range from minus 25 to plus 40-45 degrees Celsius. But essentially, I didn’t have to make a decision in the morning of what to wear. I would just change from my more or less clean sleeping clothes to my cycling clothes. That’s it. I owned one pair of most things. A couple of things I had twice with me – two sports bras, for example. And I did not feel I lacked anything at all during all this time. I slept mostly in my tent which I loved and still love. And everything I owned I carried with me and and never felt that I was missing anything. I didn’t have ebooks or audio books or podcasts that I’d downloaded. I had no music with me. Nothing of that mattered to me during this trip.
And also the food that I had with me: I had enough. I mean, water, in terms of water, I knew I needed water for at least four days. I could prepare for longer stretches, but then I would really need to prepare. But in terms of food, I was certain for most of the time that I could cope well for at least two weeks without any problems. What did I have with me? Essentially, just oatmeal and nuts and dried fruit, in case I could secure them somewhere at a bazaar. Other than that, a little bit of a security cache of food: power bars and some fish oil, if the worst came to the worst. And then maybe I was lucky and I actually managed to get some fresh fruit somewhere, some apples or an orange. And that was it. For the worst case, I still had vitamin C powder and milk powder and protein powder. But you can go for a very, very, very long time with that while actually doing physical work. In that case, getting a fully loaded bicycle with a lot of spare parts, tools and so on and so forth, so a heavy bicycle, over some of the highest mountain passes of the world.
If we’re at home right now and working remotely from home, taking care of our children at home, we don’t actually do physical hard work the entire time. So I’m very certain that we can cope with a lot less nutrition than I had with me for the cycling expedition.
Recognize the abundance around you
From that perspective, when I came back to Berlin I looked around me and I couldn’t believe this luxury. Back then, I was absolutely enamoured – and still am – with the possibility that I could take a shower whenever I wanted. And even with hot water! I just love taking hot showers. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t take showers all the time. It’s just that having the ability to wash myself whenever I wanted and having running water for that, clean running water, was absolute bliss. The excitement wore off, but it took actually more than a year for the excitement to wear off even a little bit. Sometimes even nowadays, I turn on a switch or a faucet and I’m fascinated that I actually get clean water.
If you look further around in our apartments: we have heating which works, normally (well, sometimes it breaks). But I’ve been to mountain villages where people just use wood to fire their ovens. And if they run out of wood, they’ll have to get an extra blanket. So that’s a huge luxury. And it just continues and continues with electricity. During my bicycle expedition, I generated power with my bike. Then sometimes, I would even somewhere find wifi. That happened very rarely, that’s why I blogged very rarely during this year and a half. But I was fascinated that all of a sudden, I could connect to the outside world.
We take so many things for given here in this Western society that we forget all the abundance we have around us. Changing this perspective is important.
The luxury of having access to health care
And most of all, right now, we realize how important it is: our health system. We have access to well-trained doctors, we have access to medication. I spent a considerable amount of time in regions which are so remote that when I came into the village and somebody asked me in… They were so kind to share their food with me and let me sleep somewhere indoors where it was warm when a snow storm was raging outside. I was incredibly grateful for that, so when I asked – normally I tried to give something back, so you know I looked around and tried to observe if there was something where I could help – oftentimes, people asked me if I had medication for an injury they got while they were cutting wood, for example. So they had this elbow or knee that really hurt. I became a rolling pharmacy, a pharmacy on wheels so to speak, because these people would not have a chance to see a doctor. There was no doctor, there was no pharmacy. They very rarely could take the time off and make the effort to actually travel down, for a couple of days, to a larger village where maybe they could see a doctor.
So essentially, during most of my trip, I wasn’t actually ill myself, except for one time. All the medication that I had brought with me, most of it I actually gave away. I hope they all understood the descriptions that I gave – sometimes drawing pictures or playing pantomime to make them understand that, ‘Just take it in the morning and in the evening’. And then, ‘Oh no, no, please don’t give it to the toddler! I know, the child is in pain because the teeth are growing, but these are painkillers and not suited for little children.’
In essence, I’m just trying to get to you that there is enough – we live in abundance here.
The abundance of sharing
If you look at people who buy supplies for a year in supermarkets – or so at least it seems – they obviously are in a state of lack. They believe there’s not enough and completely forget there is enough, in particular if we share. That’s another huge lesson that I learned. In terms of food, even right now, if I look at the supplies that I have just in my kitchen… I don’t have much in terms of supplies. But it’s going to last at least for one quarantine (2 weeks) in case I get sick.
What was really heartwarming for me was seeing how people who were actually and really poor, they were – in my perception, at least – more often in the state of abundance than those people who actually have a lot. I still very fondly remember the moment when I cycled into a little village in the Pamir mountains in Tajikistan. I had enough food for the evening, so I would have been fine. But I was invited in by a family and I offered them… I think I still had some bread from the last village and I had some nuts.
But they said, ‘No, no, no, that’s fine, that’s fine. Have some rice!’ Actually, their dinner – and that’s the case for many people in this region – their dinner consisted of rice. Full stop. They only had rice. Nothing else. But, without thinking twice about this, they had cooked rice for dinner for the family – and then they just made each portion a little bit smaller, so they had enough to spare to offer me some rice as well. They were actually grateful for… grateful is the wrong word… they seemed genuinely happy that they could offer something to a guest. They didn’t think from the state of lack. They said, ‘Oh, well, no, there’s enough.’
In the morning, breakfast would only consist of butter tea. Salted butter tea is very typical for this region. It’s literally just tea with a bit of butter, so you get some nourishment, and some salt, maybe also some bread. That’s it. And those are the two meals there are each day.
Being in a state of abundance changes you
I learned a lot from these very humble people and I think we all can, in terms of thinking from a state of abundance and acting from this state, instead of thinking from a state of lack. Because it radically changes our behavior towards others and towards the world.
I hope that I could share something that’s of value for you. If you would like feel free to share in the comments below what your experience is with being in a state of lack or being in a state of abundance. I mean, obviously, I am not always in a state of abundance, either. I still have moments when I think from a state of lack, but it’s always good to catch yourself there. To say: ‘Okay, interesting, now I’m in a state of lack. How can I change my perspective and be in a state of abundance?’
I’m looking forward to hearing from you, to reading your comments and I’m looking forward to seeing you again soon. Stay healthy! Bye!
PPS: Let me bring the Silk Roads into your living room! Join me for one of my upcoming travel talks (online):