Money

Given that money is a huge issue for many, if not most, people, and that children are affected by the feelings of their parents—including fears that there is, or will not be, enough, it seemed like money might be a good topic to explore today.

Before delving into pretty talk about the spiritual aspects of cash, we must acknowledge how much collective dread the whole subject of money often brings up.  Often I have found that people are more comfortable, even in therapy, talking about the intimate details of their sex-life than they are talking about the intimate details of their money.  How much we make, have, owe, dream of having and/or think would be truly enough are details that we tend to guard closely, not to mention often carry quite a lot of shame about.

Los Angeles is a particularly challenging money town insofar as a good number of people go out of their way to appear to have more money than they actually have (in contrast to a city like Boston, for example, where I’m told by certain wealthy Bostonians, people might be more likely to play wealth down—driving old cars, for example, when they could afford more showy ones).  Still, no matter where you live, it’s those who have more, or who appear to have more, that tend to trigger our own feelings of envy and/or inadequacy; and the closer we are to the street, the more agonizing it is to see rich people coming out of expensive restaurants, leaving posh stores with bags of loot or driving around in cars that cost more than six figures.

And while there are certainly neurotic fears about money, there is also the very real experience of being broke and in fear about losing one’s roof or not having enough food—especially for our children.  I worked with a child at a special needs school whose address remained a mystery until it came out that he was living in a shelter with his mom and sisters, a fact he was mortally ashamed of; another child, then living in the group home, spoke of living on the street with his mom as a young child—sleeping in empty lots; another kid in the group home entered the system when he was found, abandoned in the lobby of a flea-bag hotel.  When statistics become faces, hearts and souls, we both deepen our gratitude for what we do have and also lose our stomach for excessive wealth.

Meanwhile, a man I know who worked on hunger issues in the past once explained to me how the problem of feeding the poor was seen by those truly in the effort as a matter of will more than one of adequate resources.  For this reason, I think our first task is to support each other to prosper, those in our circle, those reading these words who are worried about money today… and then to ripple out our concern in the hope that no people should have to feel poor, or watch children wither for lack of food, shelter or health care.

In this spirit, I share a few thoughts about money that I’ve found useful over the years—and while I’m not particularly “rich,” I feel as if I am as I know I am rather fortunate to have what I have, yet I also keenly recall being quite truly broke—overwhelmed and frightened at times with huge student loans racking up interest while in forbearance, credit card bills I could not pay, a meager salary far below expenses and two children to support.  I can also remember days when dinner was half of a bean and cheese burrito shared with my equally broke wife.

It was in that lean period of fear, anger and shame that I came across a little book by a Brazilian rabbi named Nilton Bonder, called The Kabbalah of Money.  The main point I gleaned from that book was that wealth is ultimately spiritual, and that if you had a lot of material wealth without underlying spiritual wealth then the money would naturally ebb away, and/or load you with an uneasy feeling of misery to maintain a harmony between inner and outer worlds as well as material and spiritual.  This made sense to me, as although I was materially in dire straits, I did not feel spiritually poor, and this helped me trust that somehow or other, I did, and do, have what I need.  That, along with consistent work trying to provide what is needed, seems to result in somehow just getting by (for more on Nilton Bonder see his web site: http://www.niltonbonder.com/).

This karmic or cosmic balance of spiritual wealth and material wealth helped explain the people I’d known who had a lot of money and yet lived in bitter misery; it also helped explain those mysteriously happy people I’d know who seemed to have much less than I thought one needed in order to be secure and content. 

The notion of spiritual wealth hinges on transactions and interactions where you win and the other does not lose; this, says Bonder, creates wealth.  Place this paradigm in contrast to exploitation of resources, manipulation of markets, creation of bubbles, etc. where someone definitely does lose.

Now, if we trust that loving and giving, as in parenting, creates spiritual wealth (even as it simultaneously greatly drains material wealth), we can speculate that perhaps parenting is the paradigm, par excellence, for spiritual wealth creation.  As a parent I have thus far learned that enough somehow does show up; or I should say, the opportunity to work and earn just enough, seems to continually present itself.  The problem, for me anyway, often boils down to tomorrow, rather than today.  How will I pay the taxes, the tuition, keep helping my parents, etc.?  Yet the truth, however tenuously secure or insecure it might make us, is that if we are able to log-on and write and/or read today, we probably also have enough to eat and a safe place to sleep tonight.

So, here we get a little spiritual.  It seems that if we assert the simple, but true, statement:  “I have more than I will ever need” (at least in terms of this singularly present moment, leaving tomorrow out of it for now) we send a message of calm and abundance to each of our cells.  If the 50 billion-cell community that we call our body starts to pulse in the same harmonious direction of calm, trusting the universe abundance, we then make choices consistent with a life grounded in abundance and gratitude.  This is a touch different than the New Age ideas about “manifesting” things; it is a more Buddha-like dispersion of the Maya of lack. 

Although I may struggle to pay the bills, I have found that having children has made me much more effective at earning; this, I believe, is because my deepest dread is in letting the team down.  From quivering in right field and praying that I would catch the ball, to wanting to do my part to leave this world kinder and more conscious than I found it, I am much more effective at helping others than myself alone.  While mine is not the DNA of a corporate titan, I trust that if we all had each other’s backs, none of us would go hungry, uneducated or homeless. 

So, while these ideas may seem a bit tepid in the face of steep bills, the spirit that drives them is far from tepid.  My wish is a truly concrete one that all who read these words in fear about money might meditate for five minutes on the notion “I have more than I will ever need,” and if a check, job offer or other windfall appears, please post about it to inspire others to use their minds to interface to healing advantage with his or her circumstances of the moment.

To recognize that we have more than we need—right now, pierces fear (of not having, or being, enough) and also it slays desire (of delaying happiness until we have acquired or achieved something that currently eludes us).  Consciousness is a key portal into happiness, and with the liberation from fear and desire, we can find, and ride, the groove of what the Tibetans call “all accomplishing wisdom,” neither passive and paralyzed, nor manically busy—just getting done what needs to be done and enjoying the ride.  But keep in mind that money is a lightning rod for anxiety, a place to put all our dread and attempt to explain all our angst; such “binding” of anxiety attempts to make the beast of uncertainty more manageable, but again it is important that we stand, or lay down, connected in our mutual dread of attachment and loss, of the great dark mysteries from which we come and into which we vanish.

Finally (for today, at least—I think there will be more to talk about on this subject in future posts), it can help to think about money as if it were a friend.  Contempt for money sends the message that money is devalued and, therefore, why would it want to hang out around us?  On the other hand, the idealization of money (blowing smoke up money’s skirt and fawning over it) is likely to also make our would-be-friend, money, feel like they’d rather hang out with folks who actually understand them and take them for who they truly are—a trickster currency that connects us each to the other. 

Money is a symbol, it is the mark of a culture that allows for the trading of goods and services; in our culture, however, we have taken what was supposed to be life blood, flowing between us all to make art, music, education and architecture possible (rather than each hunting and gathering for herself), and we have made it into a demigod.  It’s a short skip from a golden calf to a portfolio.  So, if money is like blood, there are some of us who are a bit anemic today and truly need a little more (and for them I say let’s all send good wishes for healing levels of prosperity and abundance), while the rest of us probably have just the right amount of blood and don’t need to bank extra so much as trust that our bodies will make more as needed.

So, here’s to wishing us all the feeling of security, prosperity and community today, in the service of all our collective children who we want to be able to trust that there is more than enough for them to be safe and to have wonderful, connected and meaningful lives—not merely of survival, but of unfolding and rising consciousness.  When we truly grasp that there is ultimately no “other,” and that our fellow is our Self, we will learn to love and prosper as a untied family, fed by the earth and sun, all renting rather than owning in our pulsing perpetual moment.

Namaste, Bruce

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8 Responses to “Money”

  1. Aidan Donnelley Rowley @ Ivy League Insecurities Says:

    .”..wealth is ultimately spiritual, and that if you had a lot of material wealth without underlying spiritual wealth then the money would naturally ebb away, and/or load you with an uneasy feeling of misery to maintain a harmony between inner and outer worlds as well as material and spiritual.”

    There is something very compelling about the concept of spiritual wealth. Explains why so many exceedingly wealthy people I know are also exceedingly miserable. The question of how to obtain spiritual wealth is a daunting one, but one I will now think about.

    Thrilled to have found your blog!

  2. BigLittleWolf Says:

    I recognize and appreciate the validity of what you have written. But when you have spent years trying to rationalize the depletion of everything, spiritual wealth seems of little consequence. If not a roof over our heads and the possibility of a future, there is only so long you can fight. Or perhaps it’s too many bad days in a row, too many nights without sleep. This “now” is not sufficient to numb the terror.

  3. Travis Says:

    @BLW – Your argument is just as valid, and required as privilegeofparenting’s what it appears is that we have two sides, that appear to be different in view, when in fact they mesh.

    In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs it puts spiritual need and wealth, at the highest point. Stating that physical and financial needs are at the bottom.

    What I don’t think people realize is that it isn’t hierarchical. The thing to remember and what I see a lot of people fail to do, is that temporal needs are just as important as spiritual. That one can be without the other. If you spend all day praying. And, your neighbor went hungry, and you could help, then you have spent all day allowing one to suffer. And, likewise, if you spend working to gain financial wealth, and you don’t take that minute to gain a spiritual wealth, you’re life will be absent of the fullness.

    Spiritual cannot be without temporal, and temporal cannot be without spiritual if you expect to live a fulfilled life.

    Our most basic of actions state this. When you smile at someone, you are passing on your sense of happiness. Which may allow them to work with a smile. You have done something good, to allow someone else to continue forward who may pay it forward to provide someone else with that smile.

    Money is a tool. it gets you from point A to point B when dealing with others. In societies we have to be able to work through the bargaining of items that each need. Most of us, can not fully provide all things that a growing society expects. We all have gifts and talents that need to be used for others. And the basic’s of societies starts with compensation that allows that person to go to someone else and ask for there services.

    Money is just as important to understand, as it is to learn a trade, to learn to dig in the dirt. These things need to be understood just as the spirit needs to be understood.

  4. Beth K Says:

    I like Travis’ comment that money is a tool. Sometimes when I feel that we paid too much, or money was otherwise wasted, I say out loud, “it’s only money; we’ll make more.” That helps me put it into perspective. Luckily we do have enough of the basic material things. It’s my spiritual wealth that is at times lacking.
    There’s a lot of social justice work to be done so that everyone can get their basic needs met. Part of the dark side of human nature seems to be that some of the powerful “haves” tend to rip off the “have nots.” I’m proud to play a small part in the solution when I do pro bono legal work at our local clinic.

  5. BigLittleWolf Says:

    @Travis – My spirituality is perfectly intact. But it won’t pay the bills. It won’t clothe my children. It won’t provide health care. It won’t keep the roof over our heads. It will not stand up to broken systems, and I don’t mean Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

    There are millions of people with much to contribute who fall through the cracks because we are “in the middle.” We are invisible – a new kind of poor, we do not resemble the recognizable, statistically estimated, feel-good-in-your-heart-and-help-them “poor” in shelters and clinics. We are too poor to pay for help and not yet on the street so “free social services” are denied.

    Cynical? Hierarchy of cynicism? Yes, and yes. And even that coexists with spirituality still intact. Go figure.

  6. Travis Says:

    @BLW – Oh, I understand very well, about being just above the line to get no support, and well below the line and got tremendous support. I’ve been both.

    It feels that this an argument, when all I was trying to say, was that we should do both.

    And, I understand that it’s easy to spout trying to do both, when medical bills start to climb and you were just getting by in the first place. I understand way too well. And, I know what broken system your referring too. 😀

    I hope I didn’t come across as attacking your view. I was agreeing with it, but that I saw both as being important, no matter what our current lot is.

    Hierarchy of cynicism… Hmm, now that’s just awesome. I love it!

  7. BigLittleWolf Says:

    Sorry, Travis. Not a good. Another in a series growing too long and too heavy. Perhaps we can float a “hierarchy of cynicism” seminar, make a few bucks, and pay a few bills.

  8. April Says:

    I tend to be with BLW on this one (who, incidentally, is why I’m visiting this blog).
    The thing about the hierarchy of needs is exactly that: if the worry about keeping the roof over your head, enough money for groceries, your kids outgrowing clothes, then it IS something you need, and to be told over and over again that money means nothing is all well and good for people that aren’t constantly struggling with the BASICS. While, yes, we may have them today, most of us are still worried about our jobs, living paycheck to paycheck, and one emergency could drastically change our lives.
    The 3 most common reasons for bankruptcy are divorce, job loss, and health issues. NOT that people are trying to keep up with the Joneses.
    And I agree, our worry about money affects us as parents, but it’s just not as simple as saying to appreciate what we have, when we also have to be prepared for losing what we have.

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