I was invited to a lecture by Spencer Sherman at Naropa University the other week. Since it was right after I’d been hit by a car on my bike, I was still a bit of a walking zombie…and only stayed for half the talk. Still, it was a great opportunity to touch in with one of my favorite communities on the planet, and consider whether our financial health can be informed via our mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation.
While this may seem rather New Agey on the face of it, the fact is, is that a fulfilled life is often a simple life, and that much of our current, dire economic situation was produced by greed (which comes from inner want) and a failure to acknowledge reality (which is many of us bought big nice houses we couldn’t properly afford).
Excerpt via Kripalu, via Brent Kessel and Spencer Sherman’s “Solving the Financial Crisis, One Breath at a Time”:
Contrary to what we might at first think, everything that we do on our yoga mats and meditation cushions has so much to teach us about our personal financial lives—and about the global financial challenges we’re all facing.
In yoga practice, when we overstretch one part of the body, we usually pay the price in another joint, tendon, or muscle. When we’re injured, an astute teacher will direct our attention to the larger joint that is “upstream” of the injured area. So if our elbow is suffering, we’re very likely misusing the shoulder or upper back. If our knee is aching, the roots of our pain can often be located in a flaccid thigh muscle, an overly flexible hip, or just a plain lack of core strength.
Our economy is no different. The muscle which appears broken right now is the credit market, and by extension, the stock market and real estate values. But the “upstream” culprit is our own overconsumption—a result of our desire for things, including everything from electronic goods to houses, too many of us were willing to buy on credit items that we actually couldn’t afford. To survive this recession together, we must individually become aware of the insatiability of our own Wanting Minds, a term coined by the Buddhists to describe that part of us which can never have enough.
Awareness is the critical first step, but, to be effective, it must also lead to informed action. As you go through your life, see if you can first notice, and then let go of just one impulse of wanting per day. You may want a new stylish coat for this winter, or a laptop computer, or perhaps something as trivial as a chai latte. Instead of rushing out to satiate your impulse, create a noticeable pause between sensing your want and taking action on it. This won’t be effortless, because the things we buy do often bring temporary relief, and we’re now going to be foregoing that.
The big mistakes that we make with money happen when we’re jumping to the future, trying to avoid our present experience, and almost always, when we’re “barely breathing.” Going shopping to numb the pain in a relationship, or lack of a relationship. Selling everything out of an investment account to not experience further losses, or the fear of running out of money.
The practice of yoga teaches us to use the breath to bring awareness to the moment, and is particularly useful in those moments when we want to do something, anything, to escape our suffering—whether it’s being caused by an asana, a relationship, or sitting at the dining room table paying our bills. Breathing into these moments slows us down, creates space. In reaction to a rumble of financial insecurity, we may think “I’m not going to be okay. I need to do something. Spend. Save. Give money to someone.” This is the best time to simply breathe. The breath is here as long as we’re alive. It’s the cycle of death and rebirth. It is the foundation of our life force, of which money is but one manifestation.
spend, save, give
Whether we tend toward over-spending, over-saving, or over-giving, if we can become much more curious and spacious right when that emotional tremor first arises, we then have…
for the rest, go to Kripalu’s site.