Category Archives: money

Money and the Spiritual Path: Being a bridge

Abandoned_Railway_Cutting_in_OtleyFor many people who are committed to spiritual growth, a major question is how to combine spiritual path with generating an income.  This is often a tricky area because many people who seek to integrate path and income also seek to bring something new into the world. So, almost by definition, what we seek to bring into the world is not widely recognised as valuable or useful – otherwise it would already be in existence!

It’s easy to go into despair about money and our spiritual path – or go into anger and resentment.  These two common emotional responses keep us focused on money as a stumbling block.  But what if our struggles around money are trying to tell us about something else?

I think of us ‘spiritual activists’ as being a bridge between social life as it is now, and another reality where beauty, love and similar non-material forces hold sway. Our work is to bridge those two worlds, and to bring more of love and beauty into current social life.

Bridges have the extraordinary quality of being anchored in two places at once.  Each end of the bridge rests solidly on the ground in each place – these resting points are called the abutments.  Without both abutments, the bridge is not actually useful – it doesn’t stand and gramlins.netdoesn’t do its job of being the passageway from one place to the other. It ends up looking like this bridge: well-anchored at one end, but it leads people straight into the water.

Both abutments have to be present. One abutment anchors the bridge in the spiritual world – the world-yet-to-be. This anchor emerges from our knowing that our gift is right and true – and for those of us active in our paths this anchor is usually very solid and vivid.

The other abutment anchors the bridge in the social here-and-now, in existing social arrangements and conventions: the language we use to communicate about our gift, and the structural and organisational things we have in place which allow people to come into relation with our gift.  When these concrete things are solidly in place then people’s energy can flow from the existing social world across towards the yet-to-be and help to bring it into being – including financially supporting us to be that bridge.

In this picture money is like a glue that sticks our bridge solidly onto the ‘society’ abutment.  Without money then the bridge just sits there by chance – it stays only so long as everything else is stable, only as long as our life circumstances allow us to give our gift for free.    Without the glue of money, life’s normal circumstances can disrupt the bridge: changes our relationships, our health, our community, our home.

This analogy suggests that money is a result of us being very grounded in society as it is.  So problems with money can prompt us to look at how we are engaging with existing society.  Even though we may believe we are doing our best around integrating money with our path, society is so various – so multi-faceted – that there are always other ways to engage with it.

If we are trying to run a business then there’s some good basic places to start looking at how we can do things differently:

  • language: how do we describe what we offer? The phrasing and terms we use may make sense to us, but how do we describe something we know about from our own experience to someone who has never experienced that? It’s obviously not possible.  But many people have a yearning for what we offer – and they can’t put that yearning into words.  So maybe we can put it into words for them… because we know what it’s like on the other side of that yearning…
  • where we are looking for the people? Because we’re offering something new, our potential clients are seldom clustered into established demographics or familiar marketing groupings.  It’s likely we’ll need to contact people through groups which have a different-but-related interest.  For instance a tantra practitioner has a profile in the nudist community and picks up people who want to go deeper than just physical nakedness. Part of my target market is healers and therapists – people who recognise and value presence and deep communication.
  • What form are we offering our gift in?  We might offer one-to-one sessions, or weekend workshops. Or we might deliver classroom programs. Or write a column.  Or consult to organisations.  We might do several of these things.  Often the form we offer is driven by our own ideas about our gift, what sort of lifestyle we want, what we believe our strengths and weaknesses are, and so.  All these are valid considerations.  And also we can ask: what form(s) might work well for those we want to reach? Maybe introductory talks are what’s needed. Maybe a book is important.

Doing things differently to how we’ve done them is very challenging. The areas I’ve discussed above are generally called “publicity”, “advertising” and “marketing” – for many people very confronting to get involved in.  Yet if our priority truly is our path and not protecting our ‘small’ self then when we engage with challenges amazing resources emerge to help us on our path.

We don’t have to frame these challenges as advertising or marketing – labels which keep us thinking in conventional social terms.  We can think of our activities in these areas as enhancing our capacity to be that bridge – by learning to reach across and anchor ourselves even more firmly in the social here-and-now.

Related Links

Money as a Spiritual Asset http://www.visionarylead.org/articles/money_asset.htm

Money and Spirituality http://www.powerattunements.com/article153.html

Money and the Tao http://taoism.net/tao/money-and-spirituality/

Practicing Spirituality with Money http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/ecourses/ecourses.php?id=79

Identifying our cultural attitudes to money allows us to be empowered

It’s common that people with left wing or progressive values, people in the helping professions, and people involved in personal/spiritual development feel suspicious about money.  At one level this makes sense:  Capitalism is damaging the world in such horrific ways and generates huge inequalities.  And many of our internal obstacles to growth and fulfillment come from pressures to “fit in” to a soulless commercial culture.

But is this really a problem with money? William Bloom, a Fellow of the Findhorn Foundation, points out that money is just a thing in the world. It doesn’t have a morality in itself.  It’s neither good nor bad – it simply exists.  What connects money with “evil” is what we do with it, and especially our attitudes to money.

Western culture contains a profound split in attitudes to money. On the one hand, money is morally dangerous: “the root of all evil”. The biblical question “do you serve God or Mammon?” clearly implies that it is impossible to serve both – it’s impossible to be spiritual and be financial.  On the other hand money is a primary theme in the news, government, and politics, and is often the main measure of how we are going as a society or a nation.  And for many people money is so important that they feel they must compromise their values in order to get it.

William Bloom contends that this is nothing to do with money itself.  Rather, what we are looking at here are the cultural attitudes we bring to money.  We believe that money is dangerous or sinful.  At the same time we believe money is more important than anything else.  Is it any wonder, then, that most of us have “stuff” around money!

Increasingly in progressive circles, however, this split is no longer passively accepted.  More and more of us are refusing to go along with the either/or attitude to spirituality and money.  There’s increasing recognition that it’s crucially important to link money and one’s income to one’s passions, values and path.  This is often a tough call, as it’s common that what one is passionate about is something which doesn’t yet exist – and so it’s inherently difficult to ‘monetize’ it.

Widespread negative attitudes about money mean that many people have not learnt the skills of handling money or finance, doing the accounts or reading financial reports.  But strip away the negative attitudes, and money and finance are just skills – a combination of knowledge and practices that are learnable and teachable.

Of course not everyone wants to learn these things – not everyone has the interest or the time.  Luckily, there are accountants.  But even when you use an accountant it’s incredibly helpful to understand the difference between money itself, the cultural attitudes in which we live, and the attitudes you personally carry and operate within.  In fact it’s more than incredibly helpful; it’s empowering.

Money isn’t dangerous or scary. It’s not inherently anti-spiritual.  Money isn’t vital to our wellbeing.  It just feels that way because of how we are culturally supported to approach it. Making the distinction between money itself and our feelings about it means that when we have these feelings or perceptions about money we can make internal shifts within ourselves, rather than simply acting out in relation to money itself – avoiding money, grasping for it, worrying about it, and so on.

We might still have the same feelings, but being empowered means we also have space alongside those feelings to take new and positive life-affirming actions.  And then everything feels alright!