Accounting for Happiness

Day one of the BALLE breakouts and I attended the Gross National Happiness Business Lab Part 1: Aligning with Purpose, and Part II: Entrepreneurs in Love—Compassion and Generosity in Business. 

The conversation focused on ecosystem awareness and the intersection between personal transformation and external impact. We discussed the idea that economic thought should evolve in step with the evolution of consciousness and that our systems need to be re-imagined and redesigned for generosity; reoriented to revalue the small and ordinary.

This was an interactive lab and we were asked to break into groups of three and each answer three questions. My answers in the moment were a work in progress; this is what I would say today.



Question One: Over the past days, weeks, months, where have you seen the future? A tangible example in the external world?

My notes read: “When people have permission to find out who they are, they end up going so much deeper.—Eileen Fisher.” And then the underlined sentence: “Accessing deeper Force.” Cryptic clues that contain my response.

Throughout the conference, there was much discussion and modeling of creating and holding space; moments of silence and stillness. Opportunities to arrive in your heart, open and go deeper.

While still in college, my nephew Leo called periodically for a sanity check; or I’d call for one.  We’re connected on a level beyond personalities and we hold a space for each other to feel fully seen and safe. A truth I could say of all my family; I am immensely blessed.

I introduced Leo to Eckhart Tolle the year before he went to college, and for four years he struggled to stay centered in an environment that afforded him no personal or mental space. When he graduated, he moved to Buffalo and moved in with me.

Christmas his senior year, I had each member of my family choose from the leftover spoils of my costume as a snake oil salesman. Metaphoric medicine, the symbols were wrapped and tossed in a hat. Leo chose a piece of flotsam I’d brought home from a dog walk one day and for my costume had tagged as a Vision Quest.

I saw it hanging in the rafters of my cellar the day he moved out, thought of the essay I’d written for him when he was still a sophomore, and put it all together—his eleven months living with me were his vision quest. By example, I gave him permission to question and search. While he lived with me, I held a calm, unconditional space for him.

I referenced my nephew Leo when I answered this question during the session. I feel strongly that as a culture, and as communities, we need to address the gulf between our ages; respect every life stage, slow down, widen our perspective and open to supporting and learning from one another. Strengthen “Me” by nurturing “We.” While Leo lived with me, I signed on to help care for my elderly neighbor whose husband, her sweetheart of 80 years, had just passed away. A depth of loss, at 44, I can hardly conceive. Her grown children had been incredibly generous to me since I’d moved to my street of good neighbors and I recognized an opportunity to give back. We have tea in the morning and I take care of her housekeeping. We share dinner at night and I rub her legs. Together we discuss life, death and everything in between.

Motivated to give, I found myself receiving. By holding a space for each of them, I also went deeper; much deeper. This planet is plagued with suffering and need—opportunities abound to give and receive love. Not as saviors and heroes, but as quiet witnesses and guardians. Peers sharing respect; exchanging love; holding space for mystery. Grace needs space to arise and stillness to be recognized; this is the future I see and have seen. An economic future where Grace guides intent toward action and more people trade their living wage for a living return. Chose potential over probability; value freedom more than comfort. Where old and young stand together with dignity in the circle of life.



Question Two: Where do you sense a future possibility that is important and uniquely depends on you to come into being; something that connects to your very essence.

My nephew’s family nickname since birth has been Spike. Being named Spike, he has a small but varied collection of spikes, including the “Mr Spike” award that he left with me. I was his vision quest; he was my alignment.

I am a storyteller, and the star of my own narrative: a page turner I live in the present. Depending on the day and the demand, my role and responsibilities shapeshift to mirror my mood. I am a freedom fear fighter here to hack archetypal code and liberate innocence. Innocent, I model for Liberty. I am one person with many aspects. I am the Republic of Page.

This is my personal trick for transformation: metaphoric triangulation. By indulging my imagination in an alternative storyline to the one my DNA dictates or society suggests, I shift my bearings enough to shift my perspective and change my experience. Storytellers are alchemists, and I have the Midas touch. I have transformed every experience in my life into wealth.

Wealth is an energy of power and with power comes responsibility. I am committed to a life of personal integrity; a conscious and constant alignment with self truth. Acknowledging this, I chose to engage my time with my nephew as an opportunity to refine my experience of myself and tune to a higher truth. Using the respect and unconditional love I hold for him on a soul level as magnetic north, I played with my response to our moments of discord until I struck a harmony between me and we.

I am the only one familiar with my life as an instrument of harmony and only I can keep it playing in tune. The future depends on me, and each one of us, learning to love and honor the song of ourselves. My nephew’s line was: “you do you and I’ll do me.” That’s what we did, and both of us evolved.



Question Three: Think of a gift you received, something small and ordinary, that changed the way you perceive.

At the conference, I shared my story of a mango; that felt appropriate. I was, however, wearing my Liberty medallion—an ordinary gift, I once dismissed, and now recognize as magic.

The necklace belonged to my grandmother. I remember her wearing it; I do not remember her giving it to me. Tucked away in the bottom drawer of a chest, it remained out of site, out of mind. Then recently, it came to mind—curiously unbidden and crystal clear that it wanted my attention. I pulled it out and examined it. The Eagle, symbolic of Spirit in indigenous tradition, and Liberty. I found myself trying to imagine what compelled my grandmother to wear currency as jewelry. I imagined her possessing a pride and reverence for country I don’t feel, not as a fundamental, everyday experience. I found a chain and knew I needed to wear the necklace—it had something to offer me. Energy, wisdom, information, an experience? I embraced not knowing and signed on for the adventure.

The first time I wore the necklace publicly, I attended a media panel discussion with Get Out the Rust guest Amy Cortese, author of Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From It. I felt slightly self conscious wearing the piece and definitely kick-ass. My ego and my super self negotiating their opposing positions.

Sitting in my backyard Wednesday night, I told Don and Bill that I am writing an economic, sci-fi fantasy set in Buffalo and ghostwritten with Germaine de Staël. Both a truth and a declaration of intent. I have always loved the E.L. Doctorow quote that likens writing to driving in the fog—though you only see as far as your headlights, you somehow make the whole distance. The same advice applies to living with magic and intuition. Alert, patient and trusting—you keep going, slow and steady.

The coin is one of an accumulated history of clues and coordinates directing my life path. It is symbolic of my journey to free my Spirit and model Liberty. It is my reminder to keep the eagle’s lofty perspective and never fail to perceive magic for what it is.


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