It doesn’t matter if we have millions of dollars or none at all—everyone worries about money.
I know it seems like our money problems are serious, like we’ll be in dire straights if we don’t get more money soon. I know it feels like that.
Sometimes I call this the “300 pound, homeless-on-the-street” fear. Not that there’s anything wrong with being 300 pounds or homeless, but what is wrong is how scared we are of becoming these things and how much worry and struggle we put into to trying to prevent them. Like if we were to just take our eyes off how much we eat or spend next week, we’d be both these things.
This is just one example of the stickiness of money neurosis and money karma. They’re pervasive and get under our skin and into our thoughts and can feel impossible to shake.
But has worrying about money ever made financial challenges easier?
It definitely hasn’t for me.
What has made money worries easier is what I call the Jack Kornfield technique of opening my heart to the suffering of others. Here’s how it’s done:
Notice where your money stress is residing in your body. Is it in the shoulders or the heart? Or right smack dab in the pit of the stomach?
Just experience what there is to experience and feel compassion, forgiveness and self-love for that.
After we’ve noticed our own feelings, we start to extend our compassion. Think about everyone you know who’s also worried about money: friends, a boyfriend, a girlfriend or a spouse. Think about how so many people you know are also worrying about money. We aren’t comparing money worries here, just extending the love and compassion we have for our own to experience to the painful financial experiences of others we know.
Next we extend our love and compassion to people we don’t know. We can think about all the people who live in slums and work for $1 a day and worry about feeding their children. We can think about the millionaires who worry about their investments and multiple mortgages.
And we can just notice how much suffering is caused for everyone by worrying about money.
And then we can extend the healing. We can dedicate our own healing of money neurosis or money karma to the whole world, to everyone suffering from being worried or stressed about money—no matter what their situation. Because looking back on all the times in my life when I’ve freaked out about not having enough money, I can now see that they were a royal waste of time.
Everything always worked out.
And all the worrying just stressed me out and made me miserable and made the people around me miserable, too.
The cause of my suffering was me, not the amount of money I had.
And that is why the only real way to end suffering is to train the mind—to train our attention away from the thoughts that brings us suffering—and come back to the moment.
Sometimes when I feel stressed about money, I tap my legs and my arms and say to myself, “Where is the money problem? Where is the risk?” And I feel my body and I look around and try to find the actual problem or risk to my life in the present moment.
And I can never find it. I just see my house and my family. I just see safety. And then I know my perceived risk of being in danger because not having enough money is simply a mental construct.
So, it doesn’t matter if we have a million dollars and are worrying about buying a mansion or have a hundred dollars and are worrying about buying food—the worrying part doesn’t help.
We need realize that when we perceive we’re at risk and feel like we might get hurt if we aren’t on guard (worrying), we can easily spiral into despair. Before we know it, we’ve gone down the drain—and nothing takes us down the drain faster than thinking about money.
Am I suggesting something easy here? No, definitely not. Letting go of the belief that we need to worry about money in order to keep ourselves safe is quite difficult. It is completely ingrained into our psyche and culture. But I am suggesting this because I don’t think the belief system of stressing about money serves us any more as individuals or as a society as a whole.
Want to change your life and the world around you? Then change your mental and emotional relationship to money through mindfulness practices that steer you away from worrying about money and bring you back to the moment. This is a direct route to living more peacefully in a world with money.
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Evan Yerburgh