The hypnotic sound of singing bowls filled the humid air, heightening our clarity and intuition, and clearing our minds for the taboo topic that came next:
Money. Friend, foe, tool for good or evil—and the cultural and family conditioning surrounding it that often blinds us from the truth and steals our joy.
How do we claim our power around money, and make the impossible… possible?
On a warm May night, over 30 people gathered at the Conduit Center to hold space for a way of thinking that can arm us with the courage to stand and face our money demons. In service to giving ourselves the choice to authentically live according to our values, Joe and I led an exploration on what holds us back from making that choice. This can be very frightening because people don’t often openly talk about money in this way. Actually, they don’t openly talk about money at all.
Conditioning & courage
So many times we live with the painful belief that we will always struggle financially. Or even if we are okay today, in the recesses of our mind we worry that we won’t be able to get by or that we’ll experience hardships in the future. Money can be an evil master that peddles the dream of power, joy and unimaginable freedom. At the same time, it can hold us prisoner, play on our weaknesses, keep us in bad relationships, turn us into deceivers, crush our spirits, and emotionally manipulate us.
“The idea of money often has us put aside our true hearts in favor of what our logical mind says is ‘right, or keeps us living the life society says we ‘should’ be living. Often, these fears hold us back without even pausing to consider where that ‘should’ comes from.”
Deeper than you can imagine
Stories of the way we handle and think about money are interwoven throughout our families and our culture—going much deeper than we can ever imagine. Our group explored these family and cultural stories, behaviors, fears and beliefs, and how we adopt them for our own over time. Then, when something triggers them, we react in order to protect ourselves.
At first the conversation felt uncomfortable and unfamiliar. People worried about what others might think. It even felt a bit selfish. But under Joe’s compassionate guidance, we cracked open Pandora’s box. People began to practice real courage, openly sharing the truth of what they want, think, and believe. It was a relief. They voiced appreciation for the place and time to discuss an issue they purposely never talk about for fear of appearing rude, inappropriate, or stirring up conflict.
With such diversity in the room, each of our triggers and responses were completely different. Some had never experienced powerlessness or poverty. Others had. Some had always let someone do their financial thinking for them, many didn’t even know they had a problem until they made space to reflect on it, and still others seemed remarkably at ease, finding great joy in what money can do when it is used as a tool to empower and improve lives.
“Throughout our lively exchanges, one thing surfaced—we began to see how our reactions were triggered by an unconscious fear—a fear borne of a need for survival, mentally and physically.”
Identifying where these thoughts stem from, in an honest exploration, Joe Lander guided us to look at the bigger picture. We exposed how the family and cultural stories around money may not serve us well, and possibly for the first time, many gave themselves permission to take responsibility for their own patterns and thinking.
Then we began to create guardian beliefs to protect us.
Lucky Sperm Pool
We had fun writing our beliefs on “Mega-wealthy people are…”. Here’s what we captured:
Lucky sperm pool, smart, creative, selfish, corrupt, super happy, not happy, manipulative, out of touch, generous, powerful, lack financial worries, capable, full of opportunity, privileged without earning it, not happy, psychotic, a symptom of an unsustainable system, controlling, the first with a security system, charitable, are in control, hard-working, lucky, responsible for changing the world, patting themselves on the back for doing good…
Cultural and family messages ran rife when it came to everyday beliefs that guide how we make decisions around money.
When asked, “What beliefs do you have around money, good, bad or in between?” here’s what came up:
There’s never enough money
Be creative to make more
People who have money are a** h***s
You deserve it if you have a college education
Should have learned to work smarter
Motivator to work hard and make more
Appreciate $ when you work hard to afford things
Pay the bills… have fun with the rest
Be sparing with money
Money is control
Money creates opportunity, blessings
Can’t be too rich or too thin
Doesn’t grow on trees
Money is security
Spirituality and money don’t go together
The more your earn, the more you spend
Save for a rainy day
Money is freedom, stability
Need more, more, more
Everyone has to get paid
It takes money to make money
Money = power & privilege
Money is a tool
Money can’t buy love, happiness
Grind it out for money
You need $3M to retire
$ makes the world go round
I think most everyone in the room agreed that our conditioning is so deep-seated that we aren’t even aware of how we react. Our responses just become automatic, and we often blame external circumstances or others for our own financial situation.
Inevitably a time in life arrives when we allow ourselves to claim who we actually are—flawed, brave, vulnerable, and authentically human. Joe and I hoped to help the group begin the journey to a place where we can transform the lessons we’ve learned into wisdom and understanding in order to reveal what is right and sacred in life.
“The warm aura from gratitude and welcoming abundance in your life touches everyone around you.”-Joe
The idea that I might find strength in others’ beliefs, struggles and vulnerability was only a remote flicker on the edge of my consciousness when I first began to delve into the power that money exerts over people. I found that by diving deep into the same questions we shared as a group and journaling my own story, I arrived at a completely unexpected and surprising place. The beautiful thing I also discovered is that when you stand and face your enemy, it shrinks away.
Photography and video by Mike Marques of Arbor Light Studio
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