Money often costs too much. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
How true. As true today as it was when the 19th-century poet and philosopher said it. Money is a strange substance when you think about it—It’s material and at the same time it’s really imaginary. It can grow when we have it and disappear at warp speed when we don’t. We don’t think of money as being spiritual or having a soul, which may be why so many of us experience so much distress handling it.
Money hasn’t always been about paper bills, gold and silver coins and credit cards. It once was about bartering– crops, crafts and even live animals. Buyer and seller decided on the value their items held and a one-to-one deal was struck. It was only some 5,000 years ago that the Mesopotamians created the shekel, possibly the first known form of currency. Gold and silver coins date back to the 600s B.C. when stamped coins were first used to pay armies. Finance has come a long way, for better or worse.
Rich is usually portrayed as better. No wonder so many of any have a scarcity mindset when it comes to that green stuff. Somewhere at our core it often feels that there is never enough. We think about our bank accounts when we must and it may be more with dread than satisfaction. In fact we may not feel financially safe—even when, objectively, there is probably enough (if not a surplus) and we are in no (imminent) danger of living on the street or on someone’s couch. This is not surprising since money represents value, worth, and status. So, what is the spirituality of money, anyway?
It is easy to see the unspiritual side of finance. We see something expensive, and we automatically assume it has “value.” Conversely, we see something “free” or “by donation,” and we assume it has little or no value. We are all familiar with that classic marketing strategy — raising prices so that the product is seen as more valuable than it would appear at a lower price.
But we can turn our back on these consumerist attitudes when we intentionally endow our money with soul, when we spend and save and give back –backed by our deepest values.
Do you put your money where your values are? Do you know what your values are? What about your inner world, your spiritual life? Are you using your money to support a rich inner life as much as you support your life in the outer world? If not, why not? It’s worth a little self-cross-examination. For some of us, money means security above all. For others, it represents status in the world and the respect and regard of others. For still others, it spells independence. And for even fewer, yes, money is the means to eat and pay the bills, but also to speak good, do good, be good, as well as to spend good.
Unless you know what money means to you personally you’ll never relate to it in a healthy way, say experts. Answering these questions may start to uproot some clues.
- What did you learn about money as a child? Was your parent (s) always working to make ends meet?
- Did your family always or never talk about money? In a positive or negative way? What were their values when it came to spending and saving?
- Did you feel that you had enough of life’s necessities in your family growing up?
- Did you feel valued as a child by your family for who you were? Feel that you would be enough in the eyes of the world as a grown-up?
- Was there great loss, great wealth, poverty, or bad financial decisions that led to less of life’s necessities in your early life? Do you think your adult feelings about money have been shaped as a consequence by these events?
- How do you value your life’s work today? How does that manifest?
For a lot of us, there may be more negative responses than positive ones to those questions. But you are not the child you once were. There are many ways to think about money not just from your amygdala (fear center in the brain) but from your wiser soulful self. And financial advisers aren’t always the place to look for solutions. Yoga tells us money is related to the seventh chakra in the ancient energy system. This center is located at the base of the spine around the perineum and down into the legs and feet. It has to do with our sense of security, safety, groundedness, and, yes, money. Regardless of how much money you do or do not have, take a moment to notice how it feels physically in your body to think about it. Do you notice any change around the pelvic floor/perineum when you think about saving, spending, having, or losing money?
Similarly, In the tarot deck, money is represented in the Suit of Pentacles, which also represents earth, home, and security ( the same things as the seventh chakra), while The Wheel of Fortune card reminds us that nothing is permanent — including our finances. It is a reminder that if you feel financial stress, it isn’t forever; money comes and goes, and with time it will come back to you.
DOLLARS AND SOUL SENSE
We live in a culture where “enough” is elusive. Consider storage units, one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S. The scarcity myth tells us “there isn’t enough,” “more is better” and “that’s just the way it is.” This comes from our collective belief that all good things, including money, are a limited resource, and this drives our need to accumulate and hoard unnecessary “abundance” – more than we actually need – which may eventually end up in storage.
Whether we believe it or not, the truth is that there are more than enough resources on our planet for each one of us to live happy, healthy, and productive lives. Instead of striving for abundance, we might focus instead on having enough. Enough reflects a simpler way of living, with a deeper faith in ourselves and the Universe to meet our needs. And it also requires being grateful for what we already have. More is not a proxy for happiness and self-worth.
STEPS TO GREATER COMFORT AROUND FINANCES
- Live from the inside, not the outside. Don’t let material possessions dominate your consciousness so that your personal worth as a human gets overshadowed by what you own. That lays the groundwork for chronic dissatisfaction n and unhappiness.
- It is spiritual life that is synonymous with an abundant life. When we identify as already abundant from within, we can begin to create more abundance in the form of friends, pleasures, employment in the outside world. Maybe even more money may follow.
- If focused on love, you’ll feel (and be) wealthy. If financial stressors threaten your sense of lovability, then your heart, and ability to receive abundance, can shut down. Take a look at your expenditures for a month or two. Divide them into categories. Where is most of your money going? Does that make you happy or sad?
- Ask yourself what would you do with a sudden windfall? Do you put it into your retirement fund, donate some to a needy cause, pay for a yoga retreat? Or blow it all on a pair of irresistible designer shoes? The first is smart, the second is compassionate, the third is wise investment and the fourth is well, materialism in action. How does each action make you feel?
- If a good fairy could grant you one wish – what would it be? Is it something you could work towards with a little time and even without much money? Is it something you think you would value a year or two from now?
- How much stuff is there in your life? Do you need to rent storage to handle it all? Why?
Try bodywork to ease the financial stress you experience (in the form of a racing mind, doom and gloom, stuckness, and pessimism). Get out of your mind and into your physical body with these two yoga poses that work on ease in the root chakra.
DOWN DOG: This asana inversion changes your perspective by quite literally flipping things upside down. It invigorates and improves your outlook.
Inverting your body forces you to take on a new perspective, and re-energizes at the same time – something you can extend to your financial life as well.
Start on hands and knees. Use blocks under your wrists if your wrists need it or for more lift. Walk the hands forward so that when you lift your body takes the shape of a pyramid. Keep ears between the arms. Try to lengthen through the back of the legs and press into heels. Hold for 10 seconds, drop to the knees into child pose. And repeat three or more times.
BOAT POSE. This asana challenges you to let go and find your balance (at the root chakra) representing grounding and security.
Start seated on floor with knees bent. Lift through the top of the sternum and lean back slightly, then balance your weight on the tripod of sitting bones and tailbone. Bend your knees and lift thighs in line with hips. Extend arms and balance. Release and repeat.