Spirituality, You and Money
LOOKING AT MONEY AS ENERGY EXCHANGE
Years ago I attended a Money and you Workshop because I felt that money is an expression of spiritual life. Money represents energy and energy fulfills things through beliefs, values and actions. How we think, feel, and handle our money is a direct reflection of how we position ourselves in this finite physical world. Since we are physical beings made of the earth, we are drawn to things of the earth. Food, shelter, closing, power; these finite things put restrictions on us, causing us some inner tension. When there is tension, there is dynamism along with the opportunity to make decision that can shape and reshape our lives. If we are wise, we use this tension or inner struggle for making good decisions around the accumulation, management, and use of our energy and our money. But why then do some people find themselves constantly in debt while other people hoard their money?
FOUR PERSONALITY PATTERNS
Personality patterns can provide a format for developing self-awareness of how we use our energy. For example, in the Money and You Workshop, there was an experiential exercise where we had so much time and so many pieces of paper that represented money that we could use any way we saw fit. After the exercise, we counted what we had and the person who had the most pieces of paper money won. I had the most money at the end of the exercise not because I was hoarding but because of what I did. Here’s what I did. I sat there and offered to give people a reflexology treatment, something I am trained to do and something I love to do.
While performing my services, one participant offered to be my manager. I agreed and he proceeded to sell my services to others, taking his commission for my services from the fee charged. I was doing what I naturally enjoyed doing and he was doing what he naturally enjoyed doing which was marketing. I had the most money when the exercise ended mainly because I didn’t have time to spend any money. My manager, because he went around the room, spent some of his money to engage others in my service living the idea that it takes money to make money. The spiritual lesson I took from this exercise was: do what you love to do in the service of others and money will flow your way.
We can think of ourselves as a three-sided triangle with each side as important as the others. There is the Mental Side, the Social Side, and the Physical Side – all three sides create a holistic dynamic system that is as strong as each side or as weak as each side. Although we all have these three sides of ourselves, we tend to prefer one side over the others thereby creating a dominant expression. As we go through life, we may or may not understand that all sides need to be developed and we also need to understand that sometimes the development of our one-sided preference may be too strong for someone else which can cause tension and conflict.
Following is a brief description of these three sides with the Social expression taking two forms. Through many years of learning, developing, and delivering personality workshops, I clearly see how these four patterns of human expressions often play out and I can relate these patterns to how people may show up around the topic of their money.
1. PHYSICAL: Some people focus more on security and safety needs while conserving energy and seeking stability in the physical world which I relate to the element of earth.
2. SOCIAL-Subjective: Other people focus more on relationship building, harmony, feelings and the social world of empathetically connecting with others which I relate to the element of water.
3. SOCIAL-Objective: Still others focus more on distilling complicated topics into bullet points, solving immediate problems and connecting the world of ideas to immediate actions with and through others moving ideas forward which I relate to the element of fire.
4. MENTAL: And there are people who focus more on ideas, systems, overviews and the mental world of inventing and creating new ways to view things which I relate to the element of air.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR REFLECTION
Struggles with money indicate opportunities for reflection in learning how to use money as a tool for spiritual discernment. For example, recently we had four different visitors to our summer home in New Zealand. Having a home in New Zealand and being on a fixed income was a new experience and as New Zealand is a long journey, we started having long-term visitors, something else we were not use to. Our struggle was how to receive people while honouring each others’ parameters – theirs and ours.
One visitor expressed himself as the earth element which can be characterized by more inwardness, not as chatty as some of the other elements, a slower pace, and a deliberate, thoughtful approach to spending. As time with this person and his wife wore on, we noticed they never offered to pay for gas, chip in for groceries, or when we went out to eat, meagerly ordered for themselves while eating our leftovers. We knew these people had a decent nest-egg, a good pension, and was debt-free; something an earth element person would clearly strive for in their need for building wealth and security. Our resentment grew as we began counting the days to his departure. We choose not to address the situation at the time of their visit because we were afraid we would say something we might regret. Because they were relatives that we’ve known for many years we didn’t want our resentment to get in the way of our connection with them so a few months later we decided to call and ask if they were having financial difficulties as they appeared to be concerned about spending money while visiting us. They said no they weren’t concerned about money but that they had put themselves on a budget. Staying with us for two weeks helped subsidize their vacation but did nothing for our pocketbook and their explanation did nothing to warm the cockles of our hearts.
We determined that in honouring ourselves, we needed to be more upfront with long-term visitors. These visitors’ relationship with money showed what Benjamin Franklin said – he that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.
Our second visitor was more the water element expression. We knew this person, now in his mid-seventies, had had a round of unfortunate financial set backs and the likelihood of getting financially on his feet was slim. Typical of the water person, in striving to serve others, he and his wife wanted to pay for more than his share. And in our concern for them, we looked for ways to buy food and gas when he wasn’t around. During their visit, using feng shui, they prepared our house for re-sale which resulted in an excellent offer within a few days. After the house sold, we sent our friend a $500 cheque that we called a marketing fee which they resisted but we which we insisted and thanked them for their service. Billy Graham said — if a person gets his attitude toward money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area in his life. We hope our friend in his service to others will keep some wealth for himself.
Our third visitor, a closer relative and someone I am more familiar with, came and I, perhaps a little too zealously, wanted to be straightforward about money. After the first two visitors, I longed to bring up the discussion from the start and proceeded to propose a system for sharing expenses. He wanted nothing to do with my system and said things would work out.
I’d say this person represented the fire element because, as is typical of fire people, they often find themselves at the starting gate revving to get into the race. Never remaining too long on any one track, they can be seen going from race track to race track which can also be true in their partnerships. As this was his third marriage, we had to get use to another wife. Fire people are constantly starting over as they get disillusioned by others. When this happens, they seek out a solution to relieve their inner tension. Never comfortable with inner tension for very long, their life strategies appear to be that of solving one problem after another.
Once their force is released in whatever context they are in, you will find that peoples’ wills are usually bent in their direction. And so, thrown upon myself and sometimes confused when it came to opening the purse, I seemed to have no choice; we were going to do it his way. The thing about fire people is that there is never a dull moment. Everything you do with them is faster than a speeding bullet. When things don’t go their way, however, their internal tension, expressed outwardly, comes across as over powering.
Fire element people live to solve problems and if there aren’t any immediate problems, they seem to create them. If their world becomes too stable, as in the case of the earth element person who strives for profound stability and the least expenditure of energy, fire people seem to constantly expend energy. Their spiritual struggle in life is that they forget to build down, living their life so much in the present tense. Being inclined this way because they fail to learn from past experiences, they tend to go through resources quickly; are never satisfied with what they have, they can take, grab, use, and often fail to replenish. When this happens, other people feel compelled to help out and can often feel left behind in a cloud of smoke wondering what just happened.
So I gave up my need to have a system and trusted that our visitor’s way of dealing with money would be fair – which by the way, it was. We had a good time because he and his partner enjoyed everything we did, we spent money doing just exactly what we all wanted to do, and they were always upbeat. So, once I let go of my struggle to have a system, I lived out of his system and Robert Frost’s saying – never ask of money spent where the spender thinks it went. Nobody was ever meant to remember or invent what he did with every cent.
Our last visitors were people we didn’t know very well. I determined the husband to be an air element expression because I found myself acting a little more formally when around him. This happens to me when I experience politeness and stillness of movement — something he expressed. We didn’t discuss money because there seemed no pressure to get the question of shared expenses out into the open. He and his wife were polite and considerate and our discussions tended to be more around world issues and planetary problems in the bio-geo-sphere. Although the time together went quickly, I don’t remember too much laughter and certainly no problems but a great deal of civility.
Air element people tend to be like clouds. They are present, you can see them, but then they disappear. The can be formal, detached, and conceptual. Drawn toward the world of ideas, they live in a creative flow of future possibilities. A natural distain for disagreement coupled with a need for recognition of their competencies, the air element person is not easy to know often because their standards are too high for the rest of us to achieve. Not wanting to lower their standards in any context, they would not work just for money but to bring something new into the realm of possibility and would tend to see money as Ayn Rand did – ask yourself – did you get your money by fraud, by pandering to men’s vices, by lowering your standards, by doing work you despise for purchases you scorn? If so, then your money will not give you a penny’s worth of joy.
STRUGGLES WITH MONEY – WHERE ARE YOU?
Our visitors came and went and we carried on preparing for our journey back to Canada amazed at the differences in the people we hosted. Seeing people from an elemental expression of air, fire, water, and earth helped us to understand and broaden our responses to our guests as well as temper our reactions. As flowers require different amounts of sunlight, water, soil, and nourishment, people require different ways of interacting and this is especially true when dealing with money issues. Using the elements, we can shed light on our use of money by how it flows in and out of our lives. Does it flow out too quickly or do we hold on to it too tightly? Struggles with money – where are you?
1. Earth people are never secure in the feeling of having enough money. To spiritually expand their view of themselves, they need to loosen up and spread their money around more.
2. To develop spiritually, fire people need to decide to hold on to their money because their money comes in and goes out quickly. Unless they stop and manage this flowing process, they never gain wealth and if they do, they lose it only to rebuild it and lose it again.
3. Water people, in order to expand themselves, need to put themselves in the equation when it comes to money as they tend to put others first.
4. And air people don’t pay much attention to things of the earth but prefer to work out systems while floating in abstraction. They prefer to avoid mundane topics that seem insignificant to them but which could increase their connections to others if they show more interest. Unless working with money for achieving something worthwhile, money discussions are not a favorite topic with this group.
AN EXPRESSION OF OUR LIFE FLOW
Money is not the roof of all evil but can shed light on some of our struggles in how we spend and use our energy. How we handle our money is really a direct reflection of how we think, feel and act. It is our energy; an expression of our life flow. An anonymous writer said – money can’t buy friendship – friendship must be earned. Money can’t buy a clear conscience – square dealing is the price tag. Money can’t buy the glow of good health – right living is the secret. Money can’t buy happiness – happiness is a mental condition. Money can’t buy a good character – good character is achieved through decent habits of private living and wholesome dealings in our open contacts with our fellow men.
Because money can be a great tool for spiritual enlightenment, we can see money as adrenaline for our soul in which our struggles, fears, and anxieties about money assist us in seeing clearly what we need to do to evolve. It’s amazing how life straightens out once we get a grip n our attitude and management of money.