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 Conversations with Leaders in Self-Care: Money, Friends and Health 
 
Interview with Michael Phillips
   as interviewed by Tom Ferguson MD

The effort of going out and earning the money to do what you really want to do is almost always less effective than just going out and doing it. By the time you do have the money, you may have lost all your vigor and joy.

Is there something about striving for money that makes people put less energy into their friends?

That is an absolutely great question. It takes us back one step to an even more basic choice people make, the choice of how much of themselves they're going to be willing to share—"How open am I willing to be?" And as you make that decision, you're also making the decision between friends and money.

Somebody once asked Einstein what was the most important question facing human beings. He said the question was this: "Is the universe friendly?"

Yes, and in making the decision to be open or not, a person decides whether his or her own universe will be, very literally, a "friendly" one. Because if you are open, friends will come to you, and help you meet your needs. If you are closed, you will need money to get the things you want.

I see a real connection between this kind of openness, and the kind of calmness, the ability to sit still and do nothing, that we were talking about earlier. If your life is chronically hectic, if you don't have many friends, if you're doing work you don't really like, then the world will be a pretty hard, tight-fisted place for you. If you're calm and relaxed and doing work you love, you can very easily be open and generous.

We seem to be getting into the realm of religious values.

Well, I think that our obsession with money verges on making it a religion. In the minds of many, money equals happiness, security, respect, and freedom, the very same things religion offers. I think that if people really believed you could take your money with you, the religion of money could compete successfully with Christianity.

The ideas you've been describing sound very much like the Buddhist idea of right livelihood.

I really don't know enough about Buddhism to say, but I do know that these ideas can be found in the wisdom and teachings of every spiritual tradition.

The institution of the sabbath comes to mind. Isn't the sabbath just institutionalized sitting still and doing nothing?

Yes. And the same idea is to be found in the practices of the Amerindians who lived here in the San Francisco Bay area. The teachers of all traditions have told us that the goal of amassing material wealth will not lead to good results. The wise people of every culture have advised us, for the longest, happiest lives, to love and care for one another and to do the work we love.

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 About The Author
Tom Ferguson, M.D. (1943-2006), was a pioneering physician, author, and researcher who virtually led the movement to advocate informed self-care as the starting point for good health. Dr. Ferguson studied and wrote......moreTom Ferguson MD
 
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