Consuming too much is the scourge of modern Western culture. Anything consumed beyond moderation becomes a destructive force, and Westerners consume too much of everything.
The impact of greed on your health is obvious. A great percentage of medical problems have their source in food and drink disorders as well as in the inappropriate consumption of drugs. Both anorexia and bulimia have serious health consequences that often lead to death.
Eating Disorders Involve Self-Rejection
Eating disorders involve rejection of yourself, anger, and a cycle of deprivation and self-gratification. When you starve yourself in anorexia, you are saying, "I am undesirable at any weight. I must not eat so I can lose weight and get what I want: Love and attention. There is no weight that is acceptable. Therefore, I will starve until I die and then I won't have a problem."
If you are bulimic, you experience a cycle of eating and purging. The eating is gratifying, it temporarily relieves tension, and it is often a release for a great amount of anger and frustration. You may say, "I hate being deprived. I can't stand it. I'm going to have as much as I want of anything." Immediately after splurging, you experience remorse as well as self-rejection: "I'll lose love. I better lose weight. I am unacceptable." Your purging begins with vomiting and then the cycle moves on to rebellion and eating again.
Greed Causes You To Risk Everything
However, food is not the only thing you may over-consume. Greed causes you to risk everything for the sake of acquisition. This acquisitiveness destroys the health of society and culture as well as your own life.
Greed on a national scale ruins the health of smaller economies around the world. Cultures that consume more than their share of Earth's resources doom themselves and other cultures to natural disasters and eco-destruction.
A small country that gives up its diversity, to provide a single cash crop to meet the needs of a developed nation, is courting disaster. Whose greed is this? The small country's or the developed nation's? Perhaps both.
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The Impact On Your Creativity
The greed dragon waylays your creativity by making your acquisition goals more desirable than your expression goals. In their times, the great masters might never have produced their great masterpieces had they been more concerned with greed.
Greed fixates you on acquiring substitutes rather than on releasing your true self-expression. If you are a greedy creative artist, you are going to go for the big ticket items when it comes to your artistic expression. Hollywood has been fixated on creating sequels to known successes rather than striking out into the unknown territory where true creative expression lies. In the arts, the tried and true is the death knell of creativity.
The hallmark of greed is the substitute of artifice for something with true artistic value. If you are a greedy seascape artist, you may churn out variations on a theme, day after day, to lure the pocketbooks of tourists at the seashore. If you are a pulp fiction writer, you may pump out formula look-alike novels in lieu of real literature. Currently, greed is rampant in the creative arts, and satisfaction is at a low point.
Perhaps the most dismal of all results of greed in the arts is the inflation of masterpieces for their investment value. The world's outstanding artistic masterpieces are often under extreme protection and hidden in vaults where no one can see them because they are worth too much to their owners.
Greed and Sexuality
Sexuality is intimately associated with creativity. If your greed fixates on sexuality, it tends to divorce it from its creative qualities and drive it toward obsession. Under these conditions, your sexual fantasy life fixates on a narrow focus, like body parts or related objects such as articles of clothing.
Sometimes your fantasies revolve around a specific scenario or series of steps -- like a dominant mistress with black boots who methodically spanks you. You are then driven to acquire the object of your greed until you can experience it over and over again, like a pigeon at a feeding station.
If you are sexually obsessed, you may collect or hoard objects that are fantasy related, to the exclusion of real relationships. The problem is that your hunger for satisfaction is never satisfied and your obsession gets stronger and stronger until it drives you into a frenzy.
The Impact On Your Presence
If you are under the influence of greed, you may not be able to be truly present with others. Your attention is somewhere else rather than with those you are relating with. You are concerned with acquiring someone else's attention because you have already acquired the attention of those with you.
Imagine trying to talk in a satisfying way to someone who has not eaten in a week or is extremely thirsty. His or her thoughts are on the next meal or oasis. Imagine trying to be intimate with someone who is already planning the strategy of the next sexual conquest, since he or she has obviously already conquered you.
The alcoholic is not present and neither is the drug taker. If you are not present, you have little presence either. Presence is the result of focusing your attention on what is immediate, not elsewhere.
The Impact On Relationships
If you are a greedy person, your demands in a relationship are great but your willingness to satisfy the needs of others is limited. You want everything from your partner, including affection, attention, understanding, and sympathy. You resent the slightest inattentiveness or insensitivity demonstrated by your partner or mate. You desperately need the love of your mate but are resentful and hostile toward her or him for not always delivering what you need. Your resentment undermines the relationship while your greed drives your partner away.
In more committed relationships, you may become unfaithful in order to punish your partner for failing to deliver, or you may be unfaithful out of your greed to find a more attentive partner. Your spouse may then become unfaithful just to get away from you.
Relationships cannot tolerate greed for long. Greed is designed by its very nature to ambush relationships and destroy them. The two are by nature incompatible.
The Impact On Your Spiritual Life
The paradox introduced by the greed dragon is at times most obvious in the spiritual realm. Greed and all of the other dragons infiltrate all areas of life, and religion and spirituality are no exceptions.
Hunger for spiritual truth sometimes becomes a voracious consumption of religious teachings. If you are bitten by the dragon of greed, you may collect gurus and spiritual teachers like so many butterflies. Yet, no one teacher is ever the right one, and you may keep searching and searching but never finding. Every other week you convert to something else.
If you are in a spiritual community, you may be greedy to be in the presence of the guru at all times. You may compete fiercely to see if you can be closest to the guru or the favorite of the cardinal, bishop, or pope. I was once nearly trampled by people rushing to get the choicest seats to see a visiting guru. This did not appear to me to be enlightened behavior.
There are historical examples aplenty of those who climbed the ladders of power and influence within their spiritual communities. Their greed was fixated on power, and these people made sure they sat at the right hand of the guru or in the seat of greatest influence.
Spiritual materialism has been around at least as long as religion. The idea that you can collect brownie points for heaven or buy forgiveness through donations and contributions to a church or temple has greed at its source. If you are a greedy soul, you may believe that a more expensive ritual sacrifice insures salvation. The notion that you get to heaven by demonstrating material success is another distortion based on greed.
The Self-Depriving Aspect of Greed
Yet greed has another form that is harder to see. If you are controlled by greed, you may try to handle it by repressing it or denying it. Greed has a self-depriving aspect to it. Therefore, you may try to control or hide your greed by joining a religious order, taking a vow of poverty or chastity, choosing to live as an ascetic, or eschewing the pleasures of the world. You may sermonize and preach against "filthy money and sex" and extol the virtues of living without them.
Yet a closer inspection may reveal that greed is actively present in your everyday affairs. You may profess to be a servant of this god or that, but you enjoy hobnobbing with the rich and famous, generously sampling their sumptuous feasts and parties. You may be a professed pauper who ends up with a weight problem and an ample girth.
Many priests of the Catholic Church have been accused of both child sexual abuse and having sex with members of their congregations. This is a classic example of the greed dragon at work. These individuals promised society to do something that was beyond them, which was to remain chaste. Their deprivation led to a hunger for sex that undid them in the end. Perhaps the promise to be without gratification is simply unrealistic for these people.
While individuals within religious organizations take vows of poverty, the organizations often grow rich and are at times obviously greedy. The people of a small, poor village may give everything they have to help build an opulent temple or cathedral. Icons and vestments are gilded in gold and the stout priest is finely arrayed while the people dress in rags and go to bed hungry.
Many a church has turned its greedy organizational eyes covetously on the government treasury and has warred with kings over the control of power and wealth. A greedy organization is simply an organization controlled by individuals within whom the greed dragon has gained control.
Although the greed dragon has corrupted religions and clergies, and infiltrated itself into individual spiritual development, there are, of course, many people with spiritual convictions untainted by greed. These people often come into conflict with those who are run by it. This makes for great drama.
How to Transform the Greed Dragon
As with all the dragons, there is a way to "starve" the dragon of greed. If you do not starve it out of your life, it will feed on your vitality and life energy until you die of starvation. There are good examples of those who did not fight greed but allowed it to run rampant in their lives: Howard Hughes, Adolph Hitler, Jim and Tammy Bakker, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, and Leona Helmsley, to name a few. Scrooge from Dickens' A Christmas Carol was saved because he made the choice to transform. This story contains valuable clues to the overthrow of greed.
You can choose addiction, sadness, and endless suffering, or, happiness, productivity, and serenity. Not everyone chooses the latter because the dragon of greed is so seductive and hypnotic that many choose to follow it and become ensnared in its lies. Some sense the danger and have the insight to fight back. Fighting back involves recognizing that there is a way out and becoming committed to that disciplined but liberating process.
Your arsenal to combat greed is diverse and at times may seem paradoxical or contradictory. It takes a great deal of maturity to understand the nature of these paradoxes and to avoid losing your way.
Affirmations to Beat the Greed Dragon
* I have everything I need or want in order to be happy.
* I love to share what I have with others.
* The more I give, the more I get.
* I thoroughly enjoy everything I have.
* I am confident enough to face my sadness.
* I no longer feel the cravings I used to have.
* I am powerful and no longer need to blame others for anything.
* I am completely satisfied with what I have.
The greed dragon works with the self-destruction dragon. Together they can deliver a one-two punch that can knock the vitality and life completely out of you. If you struggle with the greed dragon, then you are fighting with the self-destruction dragon as well.
The best way to approach this is to tackle self-destructiveness first, because it is so life threatening. When you have succeeded at this, you will develop an appetite for life and everything it has to offer. This appetite can cause problems, too, because it can so easily be taken over by the greed dragon. Then you are stuck again. That is why you have to work on eliminating both dragons.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher
Bear & Co./Inner Traditions, www.innertraditions.com.
About The Author
José Stevens, Ph.D., is the founder of Essence Psychology and lectures internationally on essence and personality, shamanism, and prosperity. He is the author of Earth to Tao and Transforming Your Dragons, and co-author of The Michael Handbook and Secrets of Shamanism. The author's website is at www.pivres.com.