The Heart of Money: Shall I Take a Pilgrimage?

The Heart of Money: Shall I Take a Pilgrimage?

I feel like I’m on the brink of a spiritual awakening. I’m far from rich, but I’ve decided that I really need to quit my job and go on a pilgrimage to follow this path. Is this crazy? How can I do this without ruining myself financially?

Paul Sutherland: If you truly are on the brink of a spiritual awakening, then the shift will happen—and you don’t need a pilgrimage. I believe that when you open yourself up to the spiritual path, God just grabs you and you go along for the ride and don’t try to push against the current.

I would suggest simplifying your life by selling off unnecessary stuff, prioritizing your relationships, and tidying up any commitments, so that if an awakening guides you to help orphans in Zambia, you’re ready. And here’s one last bit of advice: Get a rock-solid, practical, level-headed teacher to help you through this experience. The ego can really mess things up as we transition to a humble, spiritual life of compassionate, unselfish service.

Years ago, my brother opened a restaurant, and I supported him as an investor. Since then, I have become a strict vegan, and I feel uncomfortable and hypocritical owning a restaurant that serves meat. The business is a success—it’s purely a moral issue. Should I take my money out?

If it bothers you to support factory farms, suffering, and killing, then, yes, take your money out—that is the easy, “chicken” way out of what you see as a moral issue.

Another idea might be to patiently engage your brother. Ask him, “Can I help you turn this place into the best vegetarian restaurant in our area?” Don’t judge him or anyone else about eating meat—just make a strong case for the fact that you could make money with a vegetarian menu. A lot of veg-centric restaurants have a token meat-eater’s special every day. Maybe that could be a compromise in moving toward a menu with less meat. Compromising and staying in business with your brother might just move the needle slowly toward your restaurant being part of a “compassionate” community—and toward your brother realizing the health, environmental, and spiritual benefits of a plant-based diet. Don’t push or get judgmental—if you come from place of love, acceptance, and patience, you might help create a place that is transformative for your community.

I believe in the value of education, so I’m paying for an expensive private school. But my son doesn’t make much effort in his classes and doesn’t seem to appreciate what a great opportunity this is. Am I wasting my money?

I come from a family of educators, and my dad had a saying: “Education is the best place to waste money.” I think we should all responsibly, intentionally, and thoughtfully consider the best education path for our children—realizing that each of our kids is different and that, as parents, we will surely screw it up some of the time. I also think we should not be afraid to let our kids screw it up, too, so they learn responsibility and take ownership of their life’s path.

It sounds like your son might be reflecting his peers’ values. If he is at a school full of privileged, entitled kids, then he might be modeling what he is learning from his classmates. You said he is not making an effort and does not seem grateful for the opportunity you have given him, so have a chat with him. Suggest he spend a week in classes at a local public school or a less-expensive parochial school. Then sit down with him and make it clear that you’ll continue paying for his expensive prep school if he commits to giving it his best shot. But if he just wants to get by, let him relax, and save your money for a junior college that will help him prepare for a university education down the road. Boys can mature slowly. Trust that he will catch up, and let him take some ownership over plans for his education.

I go crazy watching my 401(k) go up and down with the stock market. Any advice for how to practice more equanimity as an investor?

Don’t watch the darn thing! Markets are volatile. If you’re a long-term investor and have hired a good values-driven, ethical manager, then relax and realize that volatility is a side effect of good long-term performance. —S&H

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