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Value, Money and Privilege

I recognise I create value for the community by offering my skills and knowledge in an accessible way i.e. being queer-trans in the queer-conscious-sex-positive community, and offering my service as cheaply and as flexibly as I can sustain.
I know that value is recognised, because I often get feedback about it.  Which is extremely lovely.
But at least two things that can get in the way of that value flowing into the community: money, and privilege.
With money, I need some money to be able to pay the bills and maintain my health so that I can keep on offering the service. But there’s many people for whom my relatively low hourly rate (by industry standards) is just too high.  They may recognise the value, but the practics of money just prevents them taking up the service. It’s a pisser, but its’s also reality.
With privilege, I get to see other people’s privilege in specific areas where I’m marginalised: sexuality, gender, relationship style. At the same time, I’m immensely privileged myself: white, male-assigned, middle class, my dad was an economist, etc. Setting up in business as an accountant was incredibly easy for me.
But aside from the privilege I brought with me into accounting, being an accountant has privilege in itself.  Having those special skills and knowledge gives privileged access to a bunch of stuff.  Many accountants use that privilege to benefit themselves by “enclosing” their professional knowledge behind all sorts of walls – exactly the same process as Enclosure in English history, where already-privileged people basically prevented less powerful people from getting access to valuable resources.
I’m super-keen to make the benefits of my privilege as available as I can in my community.  That’s the only thing that makes sense to me around it.
But I’ve learned that when I don’t recognise my privilege I can unconsciously push people around: make assumptions about them, be patronising, not notice that some things take more energy for them than for me. All this results in me being unapproachable or difficult to approach – which reduces the availabllity of my service in my community.
To try to modulate the impacts of money and privilege, I do two things. With money,  I have a Pro Bono budget: basically I spend 10% of my time working for free, or very low cost. I offer a 30 minutes chat no charge – and I’m totally happy for people to use that just to get info or check something, and I never see them again. I also have Pro Bono clients: community groups or projects that contribute to the community.
With privilege, it’s basically about awareness – and here in effect I rely on supervision as a practitioner in the community.  I pay for professional support on an as-needed basis, and I  have deep discussions with good friends who are willing to help me around this area.
I love being a valued and recognised person in the community. And I love contributing value to the community.  It’s amazing – a dream come true – to make my income in this way, in the same way my great-grandad Thomas Wood did in his community.
What makes it not just a dream but very real is the obligations back the other way.  I feel I’m accountable to the community: for the availability of the service I offer and how I offer it, for the money I receive from the community, and for the integrity and reliability of my service.
None of this is perfect. It’s necessarily a work-in-progress.
So I’m totally up for hearing anything you want to say about this, discussing, exploring, and developing further. Do get in touch.

Money is a litmus test of spiritual alignment

It’s very common among people with a spiritual bent that money, commercialism and profit are seen as a negative. As Bob Dylan once said, “Money doesn’t talk; it swears obscenities.”  Even more comprehensive is the old aphorism “Money is the root of all evil.”

I think these quotes don’t actually talk about money itself. Rather, they reflect one aspect of the very schizophrenic attitude that the West has towards money. On the one hand money is inherently bad and as far away from ‘spiritual’ as you can get.  On the other hand money is the main measure of social success and progress (think GDP and economic ‘growth’), the issue discussed most often in the news, the top issue in every election, and something we need even before we can have food.

In other words our Western attitude to money is that it is at once centrally important and morally unacceptable.  A sure recipe for psychosis and neurosis of all sorts.  No wonder people associate money with ‘obscenities’ and ‘evil’!  But those qualities are not in money itself – they are just in our attitudes towards it.

Many of us on the spiritual path seek to generate our income by doing work which is fully aligned with our values.  Some go out on our own as freelancers or set up a business that offers what we feel is our unique gift to the world, or gives expression to our reason for being.  Through my own path around this, and working with clients who are on a similar path, I’m starting to see that, in addition to the mundane material aspect of paying the bills, there’s another deeper dimension to our relationship with money.

As spiritual beings who want to bring spirit to our ‘work’, the implicit belief here is that we are each here for a reason, that we each bring a unique gift into the world, and our ‘work’, our job, is to make that gift manifest – to bring it into concrete reality and offer it to the world.

The old way to do this assumed a split.  Either you do your spiritual work for nothing i.e. you offer your services voluntarily (“if I’m doing it for love, how can I charge for it?”) and you struggle (the artist in the garret).  Or you disconnect work and spirit, live a venal life during the week (pursue profit), and confine your spirit to church on Sundays.

Our challenge these days is to resolve that split.  Our challenge is to meet the world as it is now – as it ACTUALLY is in all its material reality, with all its problems and faults and foibles and cruelty and destruction. Indeed it is often the existence of all these horrible things which calls forth our unique gift. Many people feel called to address difficult issues, to repair or heal things, to open up new spaces, to lead new freedoms.

It is here that money can be a very concrete litmus test of our spiritual alignment.  When we are deeply in alignment with our ‘purpose’ or our calling, when we are offering our unique gift with all our heart, when we are truly in the flow, then there is the experience that everything flows – love, pleasure, creativity, friends, the right contacts, and so on.  Since money is actually a part of the world, part of this flow will take the form of money.  In other words when we are in the flow, money flows easily, like everything else flows easily.

This is not to say, as in “The Secret”‘s Law of Attraction, that money is the only thing that flows, nor that it is the most important thing that flows.  When money is flowing easily this is a sure sign that we are beneficially aligned with our society at a very material level.  But this is only the material level – it is possible to be immensely wealthy without having a single spiritual bone in one’s body, so to speak.

But when at the same time we also feel carried by the flow of spirit then the easy flow of money denotes something really special:  that we are artfully dancing the balance between spirit and the material – that we are for the moment finding a way to manifest our unique gift, our contribution to the world, in all aspects at once.

So the aspiration to have a profitable business and to have plenty of money can be a profoundly spiritual goal. In itself the goal of money is flat – only material.  But when harnessed with spirit, a strong flow of money is a sure sign that we are not only in alignment with our path but also that we are making our gift available in a very tangible practical form that is recognised by others and accessible to them. Not only are we being true to ourselves, but also others recognise and value our gift – and express that value through giving us money.  Which means we are making that gift manifest in the world beyond merely our own fulfillment.

In this way, then, money can be seen as a litmus test of a really thorough and grounded spiritual alignment.