For those on the spiritual path, we pride ourselves on being mindful in a myriad of ways. We eat organic food, follow plant-based diets and strive to live in environmental harmony with the planet. We exercise, practice yoga or tai chi and use natural healing modalities to keep our bodies in tip top shape. Many of us even meditate regularly to stay connected to Spirit and maintain inner peace.
But how many of us are conscious when it comes to earning, saving and spending our money? In our consumer-driven society that glorifies the rich, vilifies the poor, and encourages us to live beyond our means to quench an insatiable appetite for more, it can often be challenging to walk our spiritual talk.
Many seekers believe focusing on money is detrimental to developing higher spiritual qualities, as it ties us down to the material plane and lower-chakra values of ego survival, body consciousness and personal power. Others believe we should live like saints, some of whom took vows of poverty to grow closer to God. This may work for a monk living in a cave in the Himalayas, but for the average person living in the light of the real world, money is a practical and necessary tool.
The Soul of Money
Contrary to popular belief, money is not the root of all evil, but our attachment to it that distorts the divine plan. According to many spiritual paths, money is simply an expression of universal energy, like water. When we are aligned with the flow of the Universe, our money flows easily and effortlessly, creating an experience of abundance. When we are out of alignment, we experience lack and limitation. As such, spiritual and financial health are inextricably linked. As we become more aware of our divine nature as spiritual beings, we learn to move through life in greater balance and harmony with the world, including how we use money - a resource meant to be used for our highest good and the highest good of all living things.
In her bestselling book, the The Soul of Money, global activist and humanitarian fundraiser Lynn Twist argues that using money in a conscious way is essential to living a purposeful, fulfilled life. Through soul-searching exercises, Twist challenges readers to step back and deeply examine our attitudes and relationship toward money, including how we earn it, how we spend it, and how we give it away. This exercise can uncover surprising insight into our lives, our core human values, and what we believe about prosperity.
After traveling the world for over two decades to minimize poverty in third world countries, Twist found that one of the most damaging beliefs about money is the “scarcity myth”. Surprisingly, one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. is storage units. According to Twist, 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 drives our need to accumulate and hoard unnecessary “abundance” - more than we actually need - which may eventually end up in storage.
For Twist, abundance thinking is merely the flip side of scarcity thinking. Whether we believe it or not, the truth is there are more than enough resources on our planet for each one of us to live happy, healthy and productive lives. By focusing on what we lack in the world, we’ve misallocated our global resources. As a solution, instead of striving for abundance, she suggests we 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. It also requires being grateful for what we already have. Instead, many of us fly past “enough” without even seeing it, always yearning for more as a proxy for happiness and self-worth.
How Conscious Is Your Money?
To gain more insight on your money consciousness, it’s important to ask yourself powerful questions. To get started, read the statements below and as honestly as you can, determine whether or not they apply to you.
- You worry there's never enough. Assuming your basic needs are met, do you feel that you’ll never have enough, no matter how hard you work?
- You have trouble communicating honestly about money. When the check comes after a dinner with a friend, are you the one who silently pays the entire bill, even though you want to go dutch? Do you exaggerate or minimize your current financial needs or status?
- You live above your financial means. Do you carry high credit card balances? Do you find yourself making purchases on credit and justifying why you “need” it, even if you can’t afford it? Do you often pay your bills late and regularly file extensions for your taxes?
- Your self-esteem is conditioned on your bank account. Does the size of your paycheck make you feel better or worse about yourself as a human being?
- You compare your wealth to others’. Do you strive to keep up with the Joneses’, whether it’s scoring the latest gadget, a bigger house, designer shoes or a five-star wellness retreat?
- Your spending/investing doesn’t track your values. Do you buy goods produced in accordance with fair trade principles? Do you know where your financial institutions invest your money?
- You use money as a means of emotional release. Whether it’s shopping, gambling or giving money away, does spending money makes you feel better, especially when you’re bored, stressed, tired, angry or anxious?
- You use money to control others. Do you use money - whether giving it, withholding it or taking it away - to punish or reward those around you?
- You judge others based on their economic status. Do you believe that rich people are inherently less spiritual or that poor people are inherently more spiritual than others?
- You earn less than what you believe you’re worth. Are you a consistent underearner? Do you give away your time or money for free, then resent it later?
- You believe living your passion requires struggling financially. Have you sacrificed living your dream in order to make a “living”?
If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, your relationship with money may be in need of a conscious tune-up. Though it can be challenging at first to admit that our beliefs about money may not be in alignment with our highest core values, acceptance of where we are on the journey is a necessary step towards healing. By confronting our beliefs and the uncomfortable emotions behind them in the broad daylight of our spirituality - whether through prayer, meditation, or financial counseling - we can transcend scarcity consciousness and experience the freedom, sufficiency and serenity we all deserve.
Financial Self-Help Resources
1. The Soul of Money, Lynn Twist (W. W. Norton & Company, 2006)
2.The Emotion Behind Money, Building Wealth from the Inside Out. Julie Murphy Casserly (Beyond Your Wildest Dreams, LLC, 2008)
3. Richest Man in Babylon, George Samuel Clason (Penguin Books, 1926)
4. Overcoming Underearning, Barbara Stanny (HarperBusiness, 2007)
5. The Energy of Money: A Spiritual Guide to Financial and Personal Fulfillment, Maria Nameth, Ph.D. (Wellspring/Ballantine, 2000)