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The Role of Money in Our Life




by Lenedra J. Carroll

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way that it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you love to do, in order to have what you want. — Margaret Young


From 1991 through 1993, I lived an experiment of abundance. It was an experiment of faith and hope, one of radically changing my ideas about my self-provision, a time of challenging my most closely held fears and mythologies about money. Leaving Alaska with only three hundred dollars, I landed in Seattle planning to start over and rebuild my health. I stashed my two boxes of possessions with a friend and flew to San Diego to meet with a natural health care pioneer, Dr. Bernard Jensen. Two important things happened on that trip. I met Dr. Ellen Jensen, his daughter-in-law and protιgιe, who figured prominently in the restoration of my health, and I fell in love with San Diego. I never did use my return ticket to Seattle.

During those three years I concentrated primarily on my health, never working more than part-time, and then only taking on work that fully suited my creativity, passion, and health requirements. I found it necessary to completely reexamine my beliefs and ideas about money. For example, I was aware that many of the world's great visionaries — whether entrepreneurs such as the Fords or Rockefellers, or humanists such as Desmond Tutu or Mother Teresa — commenced their dreams successfully without financial resources. In spite of these examples, I discovered that I deeply believed that money was the basis of most of my own needs, and that my dreams could not move forward without it. I could not write until I had money for a computer. It was not possible for me to have a certain job, or take a trip, without money for a car or money for gas. My son couldn't visit until I had money for airfare. It all seemed to be about money; my entire life, in fact, seemed horribly limited by lack of money. Though I knew better from my childhood experiences of self-sufficiency in frontier Alaska, the fears and misperceptions were deeply embedded in my psyche.

When I was young, we always had two freezers full of meat and lots of favors outstanding in the community. My father was often paid with fish, moose, and other game by local people that he flew to the good hunting spots. He also frequently flew supplies to people who lived a "subsistence" lifestyle. Money was not the currency with them, barter was; they would fix a piece of machinery or help wire a house. Remembering this, I began to examine my current ideas about money and look for freedom from my beliefs.


Our Monetary Belief System

There are many ideas we have accepted about money, value, lack, work, and worth. These ideas form a belief system that creates the principles that we operate by regarding money. They vastly influence our relationships and dreams. As an exercise, I wrote down many of my personal beliefs as well as our cultural views about money and reviewed them alongside my experiences of money. Upon closer examination, I saw how commingled, confused, and conflicting this mix was.

  •  I have to work hard for money and if I don't put forth lots of effort I will be poor.

  • People respect me more if I have money. I respect people more if they have money.

  • I earned it the hard way, everyone else should too.

  • It's not spiritual to have money; it's better to give than receive.

  • It is wrong or weak to receive assistance from others.

  • It's all about who you know.

  • I can't trust people who ask for money.

  • I should help people who are in need.

  • People I give money to probably misuse it.

  • Everybody should just get a job!

  • When I have enough I will help others.

  • Spiritual and humanitarian services should be free or at least darn cheap.

  • No one should make that much money.

  • People should be able to charge as much as they can.

  • If I don't have enough money something bad will happen.

  • People without money are losers, not interesting, charity cases, unhappy, don't have anything to offer.

  • People without money are better off, happier, have simpler lives, don't have as many worries.

  • I need a lot of money to be secure.

  • There is never enough money.

  • There is never too much money.

  • There is not enough money to go around.

  • Once I get money it's hard to keep it.

  • I need to save enough to last me forever.

  • Everything depends on money.

  • I can't accomplish my dreams without money.

  • It takes money to make money.

  • Money is power.

  • Money can't make you happy.

  • I can't be happy without money.

It fascinated me to also go through the list substituting the word "money" with "power," or "love." Then for fun I tried the words "time" and "success." These five concepts — money, power, love, time, and success — are what we most commonly associate with wealth. As I looked closely at the underlying beliefs, I discovered many useless ideas, even lies. I began to question them all. What is the belief? Who says so? Does it serve me to operate from that belief? Who will be upset if I don't? Why do I care? What did I believe about it as a child? (We often knew better then.) To change our relationship to prosperity, we must first see what our current relationship to it is.


A Personal Economy

On Jewel's first tour of Europe we were in a different country nearly every day. Before going shopping I would get information about the local currency and exchange rate in each new country and then dutifully make the conversions into dollars, trying to understand the value of items we were purchasing. Pounds, lire, drachmas, pesos, centimes, guilders, francs, krona; Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, England, Italy, Norway, Sweden. Soon the currencies lost all meaning for me since I could not readily understand what anything was "worth." I stopped trying to keep track. Instead, I began asking myself different questions: Do I need this item? Do I love it enough to drag it around on tour with me? I entirely stopped asking, "How much is it?" though that is the first question we ask under normal circumstances. Suddenly, money had no value at all and the question of value shifted from cost to the items' value to me.

The value of money is fluid as well as relative. It grows and changes in one's life. We each have a personal economy. The framework of our personal economy is created by factors such as the region and culture we were reared in, financial circumstances of our youth, events such as the Great Depression, religious beliefs, or personality traits. These determine whether we dread tending to our money, fear it, or handle it with ease, whether we value thrift, generosity, luxury, where our comfort level is, and so forth.

It is important that we remember to place ourselves in our own economy. It is important to determine what our time is really worth and begin to value it. What is the value of our time? It's not how much we are making, but what we are worth to ourselves. We are the only ones who can spend time on our dreams. We may spend much of our time on chores, for instance, out of a false sense of economy, when our time would be far more productively spent developing a skill or project. Daily we bump up against the value of money in our individual economy. We may refuse to pay someone the thirty dollars to mow our lawn or clean our house because we "cannot afford it," yet we wish we had time to write or work with children, or take a class. We place "what we can afford" in the primary position in our economy. Meanwhile, our real life, our real self is indefinitely postponed. What we say in this decision is that we value money more than our own time and creativity. In doing this, we are devaluing our own dreams, demeaning our passion, overriding choice and freedom, and not putting ourselves into the equation of our generosity. And our dream suffers because the universe responds to the primary message: Leave me out of the abundance equation.

I know we can become so bound by the idea of what we cannot afford that we can hardly breathe, let alone take a class or pay someone else to clean our house or mow the lawn. But I also know that at the core it is never about the money. There is always a way for the determined person to understand their purpose and dream, and be guided to its fulfillment. There are moments in one's life when one has to stretch, to risk, to leap forward naked into the wind.


Invest in Yourself

One of the greatest thinkers of our time was Buckminster Fuller, scientist, writer, philosopher. He suggested that everyone quit their jobs and just go home. And stay there until they fully understood what is and is not necessary to do, what they are best suited for, most passionate to do, and fulfilled in. Only then did he recommend that we return to work, bringing those capacities and energies to the table, and even then doing only what is truly necessary. If we did this, he felt, we would have a vastly improved society.

Following high school I worked for two weeks at a car rental company at Anchorage International Airport. After just those two weeks of work, I felt dull and anxious and I was appalled at the prospects for my life: endless, mind-numbing work, minimum wage, one week vacation and some travel benefits after the first year. This staggered my mind. I quit. I committed to myself that my work from then on would be wonderful even if it paid me nothing, and I have never looked back.

Initially, I set a minimum wage for myself of twenty-five dollars an hour and determined that I would either get that wage — in work that suited my creativity — or make my hours an investment in myself. It was surprising how much people objected to this idea. Many argued emphatically with me, thinking me irresponsible, unrealistic, or crazy. However, I never lowered my minimum wage, and over the years I raised it to fifty dollars an hour. Following my divorce, I seemed to be qualified only for minimum wage jobs or welfare. Neither was a viable choice to me because they would not lead me out of my limited circumstances. People in my life harangued and pressured me to "just get a job." One person even sent in a McDonald's application for me!

Instead, I taught art and music classes. I led self-help and spiritual development groups. These were some of the ways I could meet my criteria. I developed a radio show, had a newspaper column, produced two record albums, developed an art glass business. There were many times that I worked for myself and received little pay. But it was a choice I made to have personal freedom, flexibility, and creative opportunity, which I value above money. Each work effort shaped my skills, and brought me important personal growth, leading me closer and closer to my most authentic self instead of farther away. Later, when I left Alaska and was "living on the wind," there were times when I got extraordinary jobs because of my unwillingness to work for less than my full value; on several occasions people invited me to make up my own job. Courage, moxie, and passion are far better stakes for one's future than cash.

If peace of mind is what you value, then value it monetarily as well. If writing, or nature, or volunteer work is vital to you be sure that it shows up in your personal economy. Value yourself, value whatever is your lifeblood, value your thoughts and dreams, your soul. Give them your power, your time and money, and energy. In business, it is necessary to invest a good share of the earnings back into the business so that it remains healthy and generative over time. In the same way, your investment in yourself will bring the highest gain.

In my own personal economy I bank on joy, fulfillment, and my values, on love, freedom, people, community, creativity, nature, spiritual consciousness, on my own soul. These are my riches. These are what form the foundation of my individual economy. Developing them seems always to bring financial satisfaction.

Your prosperity consciousness is not dependent on money; your flow of money is dependent on your prosperity consciousness. As you can conceive of more, more will come into your life. — Louise Hay


How It Really Works

Ten years ago a friend and I very much wanted to take a class on spiritual development. The cost for the half day was $65. He was affronted that a spiritual teacher would charge so much, feeling that it excluded too many people. He opted not to take the class. I felt that this was an exciting opportunity and, though I had extremely limited finances, I paid the tuition.

I have, at times, had to pay as much as $450 for just one hour of legal advice, or $125 for an hour of plumbing services. I felt that if I didn't pay well for what I actually value most — the right opportunity for spiritual growth, for instance — that I was creating a strange valuation for my personal currency. And a skewed message regarding my priorities.

When I first began in the music industry, I had a steep learning curve and an overwhelming task load. Many of those tasks were secretarial. The financial duties began to escalate as well, and neither are areas of expertise or interest for me; quite the opposite in fact. I had barely enough money to cover rent and food — this was early in Jewel's career, before there was much income. There was no money, but I was not the right person to take care of the filing, office organization, and bookkeeping. I made a decision to hire a part-time assistant/bookkeeper even though it appeared she would receive all of my meager earnings. Conventional wisdom seemed to dictate that it was foolish to pay someone money I didn't have if I could do the tasks myself.

However, I opted to trust that if I positioned myself so that my best abilities and my joy could serve the goal, this correct alignment would cause the money to expand to accommodate it. And, magically, it did so. The woman I hired is still with the company and is one of our most valuable employees. She brought with her not only the support of her excellent skills but also her respect, trust, and delight in the intuitive and spiritual methods by which I work. This was invaluable to me at the time — she was one of the few people who understood and encouraged me. So the leap of faith had surprising payoffs to me.


Money, Money Everywhere...

In the desert city of Tucson, Arizona, the annual rainy season brings torrential downpours that flood the streets and arroyos. Millions of gallons of water rush through this town, but the city lives in drought conditions. Lacking rainwater catchment systems, water is piped from the Colorado River at great expense while water falls all around.

There is money all around us. While doing taxes this year, two friends of mine looked at their total cash outflow for the past three years, and they were shocked to discover that a million dollars had flowed through their hands. They were millionaires and didn't even realize it. Most of us would be surprised to see how much total money flows in and out of our life. One of the reasons so little stays with us is lack of catchment systems, or containers.

Our currency exists primarily in the virtual reality of cyberspace. It is systems oriented — a numerically based binary structure of valuation. As such, it responds on the physical level to structures and plans. It is made visible in tangible systems. Money needs containers. One of those containers is a good financial system. The system can be a simple one or a complex one, but for money to be sticky — to stick with us — it needs a grid to attach to. That system requires clarity, discipline, and order.

Our system reflects our beliefs and fears about money. The truth is that we have a lot of pain and fear surrounding our experience with money. Many of us want money but we don't want to deal with it; we want to pretend it is not necessary to pay attention to it. If we dread our accounts and keep them in chaos, if we hate the practical necessities of money, that constant avoidance will divert the flow around us. We are the most important container for our money. When we are clear, when we truly have room for money, for abundance, it will fill us, which is wonderful news.

To become "real," money needs to be grounded. Outside my window, as I write, stand several magnificent conifers. These ancient spruce are masterful containers. They know how to collect energy from the grid that is this planet. They stretch into the sky for its rich resources of sun, water, and pollinating wind, and they ground deep into the soil for support and nourishment. Accessing fully what both air and earth have to offer, they create the perfect container so they can spread out branches filled with a wealth of life, vitality, and abundant return into the system.

All too often we only have our heads in the clouds when it comes to our finances. Money can be grounded by creating and tending to systems and containers for it, and by moving within to source our clarity and knowledge of providence.

When Jewel's first album became successful, money began to pour into our coffers. The mounting sales and touring augured even greater financial success to come. Many in the music industry criticized me for not capitalizing more fully on this. "Get more merchandise out there," they would say. "Do some endorsement deals. You are missing big opportunities; you could be raking in a lot of money."

I knew that quantum growth can capsize an endeavor. It was not time to make more money. It was time to pause, manage thoughtfully, and create larger containers. I formed a financial team with the expertise to handle this new level of abundance. I educated Jewel and myself to our new situation. Systems were put in place and a plan laid to assure her financial security and to allow for expansion. We were not planning for a rapacious gold rush career devised to make as much money as possible while we could. We were planning for a long-term career to serve artistic development and humanitarian goals. We revisited our goals and questioned what we wanted to do with our money. We established the channels it would move along, and by what means. And, as importantly, we paused to understand ourselves in relationship to this new abundance. A truly beautiful and expert system was created with very big buckets and we began to watch them fill with delight.


Radical Generosity

My building contractor is a man who has made the courageous decision to work on only one job at a time. He believes that this is the way to provide the best service to the client and the most quality in his own life. There was a moment when he and his wife sat down and decided to understand their needs and ambitions in terms of their value for family and their honor and pride in work. They decided to forfeit the seemingly more profitable and secure method of juggling numerous jobs at once because it meant the clients were not well served and the longer hours brought him greater stress while taking him away from the family. They agreed that a simpler life financially was preferable for who they truly were. They determined not to give in to the fear that if they didn't have several jobs going at once he would soon be out of work. Because he loves his work, he chose to do it only at the level that allowed him to maintain the highest quality.

They made the leap to trust Spirit to provide the work. That was several years ago. He now says that not only does the next job always appear at the right time, but the quality of clients and jobs has vastly improved, bringing greater satisfaction into his work. I so greatly respect his values, choices, and what he lives that I am generous with him in bonuses and appreciation. Whenever possible in my own economy, I value people who make such choices by being generous with opportunities and/or financial reward. In addition, I feel I am supporting the development of a saner and far more abundant world.

I have felt it an important obligation, no matter my financial state, to practice a radical generosity in terms of what I will support joyfully, helping to birth it into our common experience. I want to support the development of services, talent, and expertise that are not typically valued in our culture. Because of this support, I have always gladly shared my abilities, encouragement, energy, and money with the ideas, people, and causes that strive to move us beyond our limitations and into our excellence. Though it varies from year to year, I challenge myself to disperse up to 60 percent of my income, after taxes, to benefit areas other than my own personal gain, primarily humanitarian endeavors. I am aware this constitutes a radical generosity, yet it seems my income expands so exponentially as a result of my commitment that my personal wealth continues to grow rapidly.

Money is a lightning rod for what I call the lie, or the myth, of scarcity. It's not merely that we believe things are scarce, we have a mindset or a frame of reference that no matter what's happening, there is not enough.  We are continually scrambling to get more of what we really don't need. We are reaching for this, wanting more of that.... If we can let go of the constant trying to get more, it frees up unbelievable amounts of energy to make a difference in our life with what is already right there in front of us. — Lynne Twist


A Hungry World

What are we so hungry for? All of this striving for more, the feeling that there is not enough, that we must hoard our money, our love, our power, and time. All the while compressing ourselves into very tight corners, becoming enslaved by our financial goals. The clamoring ego, the body that feels vulnerable, are all so hungry to know what the Soul knows: There is enough. It is sufficient. It's going to be okay.

We can feed the hunger with any number of compelling addictions and distractions: possessions, food, sex, talk, relationships, television, work. But our hunger is not physical. It is the hunger to have purpose, the hunger to be filled with the wisdom of the Soul, to reconnect with our spiritual base, with one another, and with the earth that is our life. It is the hunger to possess peace and clarity and to abrogate our constant fear that there is not enough.

To return to Buckminster Fuller, he held that there was enough to go around. He believed that we had enough resources, for instance, to feed the whole planet right now, today. It is true. Our deficits are not about lack. They are about how we perceive and how we act on our perceptions. So much is possible when we realize what is available to us right now, when we see what we have. Stepping outside of the idea that "nothing can be done," we begin to see that much can happen incredibly differently, with great speed, and with preternatural ease.


Becky's House

One morning, a woman called a local San Diego talk radio show, with DJs Jeff and Jer. She spoke of an abusive situation she was in, without the means to get out of it. A female police officer called to offer help and a conversation developed about the need for a shelter for women in such situations. Jeff and Jer suggested that enough money might be raised to at least help "Becky" (not her real name) get a couple of months' rent. They suggested that anyone who wanted to give a few dollars could drop it off at a downtown location the following morning and the station would see that it was given to Becky. The following morning, in just an hour-and-a-half's time, $42,000 was dropped off by people on their way to work!

When Jeff and Jer shared the exciting news on the air that day it galvanized the audience. Almost immediately Becky had a new apartment, counseling, and support, and volunteers who helped her relocate, even moving her belongings. But the on-air conversation continued about a facility that could help others in similar situations. A city employee called to say that their office had land set aside for a shelter for abused women, but no resources to develop it. A contractor called in offering to oversee the construction, an architect offered to design it, and many people donated plumbing, electrical, and other labor for building it — all volunteering their services free of charge. Funds began to come together and in a matter of days Becky's House, as it came to be called, was well under way.

For years the City of San Diego had been trying to set up such a facility. Yet, in a very short time, generous individuals pooled their powerful and nearly boundless group resources, achieving what government agencies could not. Within seven months the ribbon was cut at the opening ceremony and Becky's House was a reality.


There Is Enough

Switching through television channels one Sunday morning, I observed a dynamic black preacher interact with his congregation. It was a large group; thousands were in attendance. He called out, "How many of you need jobs? All of you stand up!" Hundreds of his parishioners stood.

"Now," he said, "how many of you own businesses that need employees?"

An even larger group stood up. "You see, it is all provided for us, if we only ask. I want all of you who are standing to leave before the sermon; we are going to do something about this right here and now. We have people that will take you into our conference rooms and help you find each other. God doesn't mean for these wonderful resources to go to waste. God makes everything ready but it's up to us to see what's in front of our face!"

Many people got jobs that day, even some who had been searching for months.

There is enough. Even in those passages in our life that seem to be barren, everything we need is there — all the resources, all the gifts. It is easier than we have come to believe. The power to demonstrate this is not franchised solely to the wealthy, or government, or the large corporations. That power is housed most fully, most limitlessly, within. And that power quite literally can move mountains.

Money has immense power, because we've said so, and now let's give it the power that the Universe, humanity, that the earth needs. — Lynne Twist

From The Architecture of All Abundance by Lenedra J. Carroll. Copyright © 2001 by Lenedra J. Carroll. Excerpted by arrangement with New World Library. $24. Available in local bookstores or call 800-972-6657 ext.52 or click here.




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