Spirituality and money seem to live at opposite ends of a spectrum. Many people think of money as being “unspiritual” and often associated with greed and ego; however, it’s not money that is the problem — it’s often the way we think about it. Money is simply a representation of energy. It is our greed and fear surrounding money that causes so much suffering and is detrimental to our wellbeing.
Being mindful about how you manage your money can have a significant impact on your overall wellbeing and enable you to be more financially creative. Money used wisely — for example, to help the people you care about or to build a savings buffer against unexpected crises — can be empowering and increase your wellbeing and happiness.
Mindfulness frees your mind to live in every moment and allows you to use your money purposefully and in alignment with your values.
By cultivating a mindful money mindset, you can weave your values and your resources together and be purposeful about how you use your money. To paraphrase James W Frick’s notion, don’t tell me what your values are; show me where your money goes and I’ll tell you what you value.
Money mindfulness is particularly useful if you find yourself worrying, unable to relax and come up with creative solutions to your financial situation. When you’re mindful, you’re able to pay attention to the present moment and not get caught up in the stresses of the past or worrying about the future. This frees your mind to live in every moment and allows you to use your money purposefully and in alignment with your values.
Understanding the flow of life
It is one of the most natural things in life to want to prosper and to want your loved ones to prosper, too. But it’s important to remember that it’s the focus on “my money” or “my wealth” rather than the prosperity of all that separates us each from the other and causes fear.
If you’re doing a job primarily for the money, you will never be truly rich and in touch with the natural flow of life. You may achieve your money success and reach your targets of financial wealth but you will most likely end up feeling empty. Focusing only on “your” wealth might be the mindset that gets you your billion-dollar mansion but it will also be likely to cause you so much suffering from loneliness.
By understanding the importance of giving and receiving and how it relates to money, you can have a more fulfilling and positive relationship with your finances.
Importance of giving & receiving
Finding a balance between giving and receiving with yourself and others is a universal law that brings positive energy into your life. Every day you are constantly giving and receiving energy with time, thoughts, words, actions and money. Money is just another form of energy that can be exchanged.
When you’re doing what you love and allow life to flow freely through you, then you offer your gifts and talents to your community out of love rather than a drive for profit. It’s then that others will love what you share and want to give back to you and contribute to your prosperity.
You are sure to feel this sense of gratitude and desire to give when someone sings from their heart or creates a unique solution that makes your life easier. In situations like these, we are happy to give back to others and show our gratitude by giving money and allowing life energy to keep flowing.
Some people might consider a spiritual teacher charging for a healing or therapy to be inauthentic and that they should never ask for money. But what about their security, comfort and prosperity? If you find yourself thinking, “They should be giving this to me for free!”, remember that you’re not recognising the energy the teacher is giving you in the form of new knowledge and that, to balance this, you need to provide an energy exchange in return.
More than numbers & dollar signs
“Before you speak, listen. Before you write, think. Before you spend, earn. Before you invest, investigate. Before you criticise, wait. Before you pray, forgive. Before you quit, try. Before you retire, save. Before you die, give.” ~ William Arthur Ward
It is our motivations and intentions that make managing money mindfully so empowering and liberating. Derek Lin, author of The Tao of Success and an expert in Eastern philosophy, writes: “A poor person can be highly spiritual, not spiritual at all or anywhere in between. The same is with a rich person. If you think you have to choose one or the other, [it’s] a false dichotomy.”
Focusing only on “your” wealth might be the mindset that gets you your billion-dollar mansion but it will also be likely to cause you so much suffering from loneliness.
By being mindful about your money’s flow and considering the importance of giving and receiving, you can add to the prosperity of the world. Money undoubtedly has the ability to transform people and situations in a hugely positive and healthy way.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to make money — it is our wish to contribute to the world. When you have money, you’re able to do more of what brings you joy and in turn add to the joy of others. Lin takes the teachings he has received on monetary abundance and writes, “No amount of poverty on my part will help ease … the many people in the world who live under such crushing poverty. On the other hand, the more resources I can utilise, the more I can do for them.”
Achieving financial balance & harmony
Trying to achieve balance and financial wellbeing can seem difficult. It can be hard when you find yourself spending too much when you should be saving and avoiding your finances when you should be planning for the future and budgeting.
Unfortunately, today’s culture may make you feel that managing money well is only for those with cold, greedy hearts. But being someone who loves managing their money thoughtfully, investigating new investment ideas to look after their future and finding great Deals on presents for their family means you will enjoy the freedom of choice that money provides.
By adopting the following money mindfulness suggestions, it’s possible for you to experience a deep sense of balance and satisfaction in managing your money’s flow and future uses.
You can imagine it in a similar way to how a gardener feels when planning next season’s patch, nurturing its growth and then enjoying the harvest. Managing your money mindfully can help melt away your financial stress and help you achieve financial abundance. From the guidance of the Tao, Lin asserts, “Everyone deserves abundance. That abundance includes love, friendship — and financial prosperity. You deserve it all!”
Make the shift to mindful spending
Mindless spending is so common and is the primary cause of increasing levels of debt around the world. Our spending habits are often automatic and we dig ourselves further and further into debilitating debt. This kind of spending and relationship with money is unsustainable as well as unkind to yourself and others.
When you have money, you are able to do more of what brings you joy and in turn add to the joy of others.
One of the keys to developing a better relationship with money is to cultivate a greater awareness of your money-related beliefs and habits. Then you can try to understand and work with them rather than letting them control you. You don’t need to eliminate the desire for money and the things that it can buy; just stop confusing money with feelings of greed, guilt and ego.
Often, when we think of mindfulness we think of meditation and yoga but we don’t think about the way we spend our money. Dr Jan Chozen Bays, author and Zen teacher, believes that practising mindfulness gives important insights into our relationship with money and why we spend it.
She offers a few important suggestions for those interested in undertaking this exercise in conscious, mindful spending.
- Surf the urge. When an impulse to buy something arises, ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Do I need it now?” What are the alternatives to buying it and what if you saved the money?
- Question the desire. “We have a notion that our desires need to be satisfied right away,” says Bays. But what need are you trying to fulfil? Are you really hungry? Do you need a distraction?
- Avoid habitual momentum. This type of momentum comes from habit and impulse, not from being present. Resist the momentum and become more conscious about your spending habits.
- Stay with discomfort. You will encounter suffering in life. We try in modern society to buy our way out of it but of course we can’t, says Bays. Mindfulness teaches that there is no place to go but the present. With a focus on the present, you will find that the discomfort changes.
- Value your life’s energy. Money is a symbol of energy, says Bays. It’s a way to exchange energy. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself if it’s worth your effort. “You may decide to buy the shoes,” notes Bays, “and that’s fine. Just be sure you’re making the decision consciously.”
Choose the path of abundance
Buddhist teachers Kulananda and Dominic Houlder write in their book The Buddhist Path to Abundance: “The root of suffering in our financial lives is our desire to use money to make us feel complete, and the problem is that money cannot do that — in fact, nothing can.” Kulananda and Houlder suggest the Path of Abundance, which offers practical strategies for countering our suffering.
The path is formed on the five precepts — kindness, generosity, contentment, honesty and awareness — which together teach us to earn and spend creatively: the key to living peacefully with money.
The lesson here is that it’s our underlying attitude toward money that matters most. Handling money lightly and thoughtfully, not seeing it as an end in itself but for what it can do, will make it more like embodied energy than a trophy. The meaning of any thing or object comes from what you bring to it.
Simple steps to financial balance
If you’re seeking to create financial balance and wellbeing, here’s a quick checklist of some practical things to consider. These simple tips will help you start to track and manage your money and so help you better direct it toward what matters.
Budgeting & money management
- Create/update your budget
- Set savings goals and spending limits
- Look for ways to cut/reduce costs
- Reduce credit card spending/debt
- Switch to a no-fee credit card
- Refinance and/or consolidate loans
- Set investment goals
- Look and research ways to reach these goals
- Check your superannuation and consolidate funds to reduce fees
- Check your life, income and disability insurance
- Make sure your beneficiaries are up to date
- Keep all policies in a safe place
Banish negative money mantras
Many of us get stuck in a cycle of negativity when it comes to money, yet the things you say to yourself have a huge impact on your overall wellbeing and ability to find financial balance. Rather than focus on the negatives, try practising the art of possibility.
Rosamund and Benjamin Zander, authors of The Art of Possibility, write that in the face of difficulty we can despair, get angry — or choose possibility. So, if you find yourself facing debilitating debt or are unable to break your mindless spending habits, allow yourself to take a breath and think through the possibilities.
Zander suggests “defining yourself as the chessboard”, not as a piece being “played” in life. In the same way we create dangers and obstacles around us, we all have the power to invent a different way of managing our money so that it enhances the quality of our life and the lives around us.
By creating a more mindful and conscious relationship with money you are far better at channelling your energy to help yourself, others and the world at large.
This article originally appeared in WellBeing Magazine Dec 2015 and is for general information purposes only.