The first line of the first page in most introductory finance textbooks says that we should seek to maximize wealth. The basic idea is applied to both businesses and individuals. That means every decision comes back to one simple goal, get and keep as much money as possible. This narrow focus makes a lot of people uncomfortable and seems at odds with a spiritual life. Because of this, there is a strong temptation for seekers to avoid thinking about money. Perhaps a spiritual practice makes us above money concerns. But, the reality for most is that money remains a part of daily life.
Money issues can be a roadblock on the spiritual path. Talking openly and authentically about money is not easy or automatic. This lack of genuine communication about money leads to wandering around in the dark looking for answers. Financial literacy is often not covered in schools, and we rely on our upbringing and experience to teach us what we know. Often, this isn’t enough.
In what ways does money create issues for you? Everyone has their own unique relationship with money, but there seem to be three main money problems for seekers.
There Never Seems to Be Enough Money
Not having enough money makes us feel insecure. This in turn leads us to worry about money and distracts from our purpose. Wanting more money can come from either a true lack of funds or from a constant craving for more. Regardless of the source, the desire for money changes how we live. How many people stay in a job that is unfulfilling just to pay the bills? How many restless nights are spent obsessing over expenses? How many relationship problems relate back to money issues?
A host of life choices often revolve around money. Will I have enough money to go to college or get training after high school? Do I have the resources to live on my own? Am I financially ready for the responsibilities of children and family? Will I be able to live the life I want in retirement? Should I pursue a different path even if it means giving up opportunities to make a lot of money? We may delay pursuing our dreams because we don’t have the needed funds.
Sometimes, we really do need to make more money to meet our basic needs. But, it is also possible that we need to review our past approach to money as we seek our mission. Asking ourselves important questions can help us see a way forward. Do I know where my money is going? Does my spending match my values? Am I satisfied with how I make money?
Finances Can Be Confusing
Many feel like they don’t understand money. This makes us feel like every financial decision is a mistake, and this drains our energy. We’d rather not deal with money at all sometimes, and even when we are ready to tackle our finances, we may not know where to start.
The good news is that we can learn to manage our money better. Like many other areas of life, if we keep our money questions in our mind and stay alert, we will find synchronicities. A good place to start is with a budget. Until we know where money is going to and coming from, it is hard to know where we might improve. The best way to learn to better manage finances is to carefully consider each item in our budget. The basic lesson of budgeting is pretty simple. If we want to end up with more money we need to make more, spend less, or do both.
Spending is often easier to control. The motivation behind our purchases is not always clear at the time of the transaction. In the First Insight, we learn about the sense of restlessness we all feel. One unhelpful way to try to ease that feeling is through acquiring material possessions. The next big planned purchase is not what we’re truly missing.
We Want to Help Others but Lack Resources
Many of us want to help causes and communities that are important to us. While money isn’t the only way to help, it is hard for any project we care about to be truly sustainable without money. We wish we could give more.
For me, I’ve always struggled between the desire to help without expecting anything in return and the reality of money in our world. I often find it tempting to obsess about having more money. This usually comes when I’ve lost an attitude of being of service.
This is where tithing can be transformational. The practice of tithing switches us to a focus on how we can help. Approaching our finances with an attitude of how can I help rather than what is it in for me can be a challenge. It is particularly hard if we don’t feel we have the money to meet our own needs. But, it is necessary to help us find opportunities and avoid getting sucked into material only pursuits. As discussed in The 12th Insight book, giving can change the type of events and people in our lives. We can also provide helpful synchronicities for others by sharing what we have.
Shifting Our Attitude about Money Is Possible
Money and a spiritual path don’t have to work against each other. If we are willing to include money in a review of how we live our lives we may find areas for spiritual growth as well as answers to common money problems. If we’ve struggled in this area, we may need to clear out our past issues before we go any further.
If we start off by deciding what we most value, then it makes sense that our energy, and yes our money, align with our goals. This change in attitude can be energy creating. Aligning our finances with our goals can bring clarity to our mission.
Money skills can be learned, money doesn’t have to be a source of grief, and money can be a part of the spiritual path. Making and spending money can become a healthy and conscious part of our lives.
Join me in Part Two next month for some practical ideas on how to remove money roadblocks from your life.