Does money equal happiness? I’m sure you’ve asked this question, but do you have an answer? The answer that feels right is, “No, money does not equal happiness.” But if this is a universal truth, then why do so many of us sacrifice so much in the name of making a dollar?
Well, it’s not a universal truth, that’s why. At least not in that simplest form. The answer is always more complicated; money does not equal happiness, but a feeling of security does. We need enough money to pay our bills and enjoy life. We need enough money to take a vacation and send the kids to college. We need enough money to go to bed at night without worry about providing for tomorrow. The problem comes in defining how much is enough.
According to a study at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton, enough is about $75,000 a year. Yep, apparently, once a person makes $75,000 a year in the US, not a single penny more will generate an ounce more happiness.
When I heard about this study, it really got me thinking. If that’s all we really need (and no, it’s no small sum, but it’s not a huge one either), why do so many of us seek more? Why is “wealthy” defined as earning $250,000 or more in our country? Once we reach $75,000 in salary, why don’t we stop and say, “Okay, I have enough now?”
To understand the human desire for “more,” it is important to understand how we function both anatomically and psychologically. Anatomically, the higher parts of our consciousness have the power to overcome the base reactions of our bodies. This occurs in the brain, in a portion of the mind called the cortex. The cortex is the highest part of the brain. When the lowest part of the brain – the brain stem – has a natural urge to carry out a bodily function, such as elimination, the cortex can step in and say, “Nope! Hold on, you should make it to the bathroom first.”
The cortex is extremely powerful, and many people think the cortex can go much further than controlling the elimination response. Researchers are constantly studying the effect of deep concentration on lowering blood pressure, reducing the stress response, fighting disease and otherwise impacting the body. But no matter how powerful the cortex is, eventually, we still have to go to the bathroom. If we ignore this urge totally, we’ll either be entirely unable to concentrate or – perhaps, no definitely, worse – just pee right there in our pants.
So that’s the anatomical relationship between base desires and higher reasoning. The cortex must accommodate the needs of the body, but it must force the body to operate on its schedule. The cortex is like a parent to the brain stem’s child. Yes, it is possible for the parent to act as a tyrant, forcing the child to behave. But none of us want to be that type of parent. We want peaceful families. We want children who feel loved but are still disciplined. We want to tell the body to “hold it” at times, but we know we must eventually make it to the bathroom. This “perfect family” model also carries over to the chakras.
On a psychological and emotional level, the chakras represent the higher and lower urges we all have. The root chakra (mooladhara or first chakra) is the chakra of money, support and security. It is the ultimate “child,” needing to be attended to and cared for, constantly yelling out demands and asking they be immediately met. The third eye center (ajna or sixth chakra) and the crown (sahasrara or seventh chakra) have the ability to reason. They are the source of divine knowledge and psychic intuition. They are the all-knowing “parents” of the chakra family.
Just like you use the cortex to control the urge to pee, you must use the knowledge held in these upper realms to control the urge to constantly seek more. Whenever mooladhara starts calling out for more money, more power, a bigger house or a bigger job, it is the job of ajna and sahasrara to say, “Enough is enough, now, no need to whine.” Disciplining the lower chakras is essential to maintaining focus, control and simplicity in life. But, just like a child who has been repressed, ignored or yelled at too much, mooladhara will rebel if it is not cared for appropriately. You must ask if everything is okay, if there is enough security, enough stability, enough love. Ask your base instincts, “How much do I really need to be happy? How much is enough?”
In our modern world, according to Princeton, mooladhara needs $75,000 a year, but this may be different in each person. Whether your magic number is higher or lower, you should know what it is. You should have a number in your head of when enough is simply enough. Like a child at a dessert buffet, the base urge within us will continually seek more, not aware of the consequences of that decision. Only by consciously checking in with mooladhara, by both caring and setting distinct boundaries, can the family within you be peaceful, happy, and content.