Money and Self-Help

I have a little bit of a rant today.  I’m in one of my moments of being extremely frustrated with the self-help and spiritual movement or industry really.  I’ve mentioned The Secret a lot on this blog and in writing elsewhere.    That book helped me tremendously but also bugged me.  Every time I recommended it to someone, I did so with a warning to not get caught up in the materialism of it.

In the book and movie, when you looked past the people wishing for sport’s cars, checks showing up in their mailboxes, million dollar careers, and mansions, there were several spiritual gems there.  The thing is most people didn’t look past the cars, checks, money, and mansions.  In some cases it just fed the desire for more, more, more by convincing everyone they deserved it and would have it.

It is a tragedy that we think ourselves smaller than we actually are, but it is also a tragedy when put our own self-worth before the good of the people we are meant to be of service to.  I love to go to workshops and learn about new things, but I refuse to pay out the wazoo for something that is supposed to heal me and improve my life.  Shouldn’t we want everyone to be healed and improved?  Sadly, most of the teachers that offer these type of experiences make them unaffordable for anyone on a budget.  Those people who died at James Arthur Ray’s spiritual warrior retreat paid $10,000 to be there.  The last person I talked to about this said “Yep, that’s about the price of a funeral.”  From what I heard about the incident, James compensated the families of the victims by giving them $5000.  They didn’t even get the money their loved ones had paid to participate!

In everything I read there is a promise of abundance and prosperity to those who are awake and aligned with Truth.  I believe that, but I don’t believe that abundance and prosperity mean that if we connect with God and follow our hearts we will all get a million dollars and a fancy house.  I believe that actually the two are measured in love, not dollars.  If you love your work, are surrounded by people you care about, find joy in the small things, and allow yourself to be mindful in each and every moment than you are very wealthy indeed.

At some point we have to stop feeding this myth that money equals value.  Money doesn’t make people happier and healing/self-improvement should be accessible to even the poorest among us.  In the end it is what we offer to the world that makes us valuable…not what the world decides to pay us.

Fame and Fortune

In this era of reality TV and social networking, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the desire for “fame” is within all of us, even if it’s there in a very small dose.  We want to do something that will attract the attention of others.  I think it explains why we are inclined to put up those cryptic attention-getting status updates so that people will bang down our inboxes with questions and concerns.  Regardless of what our jobs are, we imagine reaching the peak of that experience.

I said in another post that I am low-maintenance.  I enjoy the simplicity of my life and at times am even proud of it.  But I’ve also always craved the limelight a bit.  When I was a teacher I did fantasize about being “teacher of the year” (or even being nominated) and the second that I started writing again I dreamed of being the next big author.

Then there’s the fortune part of this post.  I think it’s also in all of us to desire riches.  When I was young I had plenty, but there was always someone who had a little more.  Every time my mother bought me a new Barbie, the next-door neighbor’s mom would buy her two.  I had the Barbie Jeep and she had the Barbie RV.  She had the Barbie dream house 2 years before I had mine.  In high school, I drove a 1979 Honda Accord that we (my friends and I) named “The Little Brown Turd” and two of my closest friends drove much newer and better cars.  They also lived in bigger houses.  I had it good, but sometimes I thought if I had  a better car or a bigger house and more money to spend my life would be better.

Here I am as an adult and for the most part I have all the stuff I want.  Mark and I have come a long way through the years.  We started our life together with nothing but a few pieces of furniture we brought from our parent’s homes.  Each year we’ve grown a little bit richer and yet there is still the desire that if we just had a bit more we could be happier.  I still browse through Realtor.com from time to time checking out the bigger houses and occasionally wish I could replace my entire wardrobe with clothes from nicer stores than Old Navy and Target (no offense as I love these stores).

Recently I had the opportunity to get the feel of both fame and fortune.  I sat next to a woman at the television studio before Lissa’s interview.  I didn’t even realize she was famous.  She walked in fidgeting with her phone.  Apparently, it wasn’t working.  Being connected was an absolute necessity in her world.  She had a day filled with appointments including a telephone interview with NPR that same afternoon.  I was beside her as she made the call to her cell carrier and for the first time truly understood what it meant to feel someone else’s energy.  Her world was crashing down upon her because she didn’t have a cell phone.  It might sound like I’m picking on her a bit, but I really am not.  This was her world…one of fame.  In order to stay in the position she is in, she must keep all these balls in the air and that includes the ability to make and answer the calls that are constantly coming in.  I’ve dreamed of her life without even grasping just what it means and what has to be sacrificed to live it.

I also met someone who was ultra-wealthy.  This person had everything money could buy, yet longed for deep friendships and connections with like-minded people.  I looked around their amazing home and knew in that moment the grass isn’t always greener and money will not buy happiness.

I’ve alluded to this topic in my last two posts.  I wrote about realizing my big dream wasn’t really right for me and about how we miss opportunities to do things that are great for ourselves and the people in our small circle by trying to fit labels.  This is just an extension of that.  I think ultimately the motivation behind the choices we make has to be pure and beneficial.  If we are doing things just to get rich or famous, we will probably find ourselves less than full-filled.  My advice to myself (and you if you dare to take it) is to seek to give, help, connect, and heal and perhaps by following that path the stars in my eyes will be transformed.

Thoughts on Equality

This is my post in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day.  I have just returned from seeing Avatar and I am processing yet another very deep movie with lots of layers.  One quote that stands out to me from the movie is:

“The strong prey on the weak and nobody does a thing.”

Unfortunately this is the truth about so much that has happened throughout human history.  It is the people with money or political standing that get to decide for the rest of us.  It was someone with money and power that sent explorers to the new world and encouraged them to steal an entire countryside from the Native Americans.  It was someone with money and power that sent ships to Africa to bring back human beings for slave labor.  Generations later it was someone with money and power that decided the descendants of those human beings, that were stolen from their home country and forced to America, were not human enough to have the same quality of life as white people.

And I think a lot of people get convinced it’s all OK.  They decide that because the “powers that be” are doing it, then it must be just and right.  Sometimes those “powers” convince them that it is for the greater good.  They turn regular people with feelings and beliefs into enemies.  Once you are convinced that people are a threat, you can ignore the tug at your conscience that tries to remind you they are just like you.

Sometimes though someone is strong enough to stand up for what they believe in and risk it all for change.  It starts with just one person brave enough to do this.  Eventually people start to take notice.  They hear the truth in the message.  We are all equal.  Flesh and blood.  Thoughts and emotions.  Souls.  In these ways we are all connected.  Anything I do to another, I do to myself.  Every prophet, mystic, Master has told us this.

Christmas Wish

I’m writing this on the 23rd and of course it is posting on Christmas Eve. Between the cold I’m suffering from and the stress of preparing for Christmas day and a trip to NC, I’m low on insightful reflections. I thought I’d just take a paragraph or two to tell you what’s on my Christmas list.

I’ll start with the simple stuff. These are the items I’ve shared with Mark and may or may not be receiving on Christmas day. I want an Ipod dock/charger/player. I love my Ipod but get so annoyed when I have to charge it on the computer. It takes a few hours and I have to constantly check to make sure the computer hasn’t “gone to sleep” thus halting the charge. I’ve gotten to where I just forget to do this and then when I’m all psyched up and ready to go to the gym, I realize I have no music. Having no music to listen to while exercising has become excuse number 1 not to work out at all. It’s a vicious cycle that I feel confident will end once I have an easier place to charge the Ipod.

The other item on my list is a bible (King James version with Jesus’ words in red). For as much as I write about spiritual stuff I am embarrassed to admit I don’t have a bible in the house. I’ve had my mother searching her house for the bible I had as a teen and she hasn’t had any luck finding it. I’ve said before that I read a lot of books by people who quote and talk about the bible, but now it is time for me to practice what I preach and read and study it for myself.

Now for the more complicated wish list. These requests truly require a miracle Santa to make happen. What I’d absolutely love is to have more time and money to take a few trips this year on my own. The first is a cruise or Caribbean vacation with my two best friends, Heather and Kristin. The second is the Goddess Retreat at Amrit Yoga Institute. The third is the BlogHer conference in New York City with my Twitter friends @2MuchPerfection, @OpinionatedGift, and @Kitterztoo. I’m pretty sure the first of these will happen. It will be a small miracle if I am able to participate in two of them and an extraordinary feat if I’m able to do all three.

Now what about you guys?  Care to share your Christmas wish list….

My Shopping Problem

Those of you who don’t know me well are probably going to read the title of this post and assume that the problem is too much shopping.  That does seem to be a common problem, I know plenty of people that suffer from it, but I am not one of them.  I can’t stand to shop or spend more money than I have to.  And despite the economic crisis going on in the world, I am actually trying to encourage myself to let go of that attitude a little.  It’s not as easy as it sounds since I am married to a “saver” and we tend to enable each other, all the while talking ourselves out of experiences that would surely benefit us.

Once again, while reading Martha Beck’s book, I realized this “problem” of mine goes way back.  You see my father was always “tight” with his money and my mother loves nice things.  Obviously, that didn’t make a great combination.  When we did go shopping and get nice things, there was definitely a black cloud of “daddy won’t approve” hanging over us.  It haunted me to the degree that even as a child I remember feeling sick with guilt when my mother bought me clothes.  I loved them and gratefully accepted them, but always felt at least a little bit wrong about it.  As I got older and had my own money to spend, I always found ways to get the most out of it.  I’d ride around town scoping out the cheapest gas station, even if the difference was just 1 or 2 cents.  I ended up quitting my job at The Gap because I just refused to buy new clothes and the ones I wore weren’t current enough for my employer. (The only time my dad ever encouraged me to quit a job was when The Gap sent me home for wearing an out of season outfit.) It was in college when I discovered the art of finding new clothes on sale for $10 or less.  With inflation it’s gone up to $15 or less, but I swear I only buy clothes that cost more than that if I have a gift card or Mark talks me into it because it’s something very flattering.  In fact if you click on my “about” page and notice the dress I am wearing…got it on sale for $14.99 marked down from $36.

This summer my cheapness has been brought to my attention more than usual.  I’m sure part of it is that everyone’s worried about money these days and we are all feeding off of each other’s fears about it, but I am just getting very tired of overanalyzing how I should spend it.  I keep reading things that encourage you to pamper yourself from time to time.  But I just can’t seem to do this.  It is difficult enough for me to pamper myself with time to do activities I enjoy and to be with friends, when you add money into the equation I just am overwhelmed.  I think that what you are willing to give and do for yourself says a lot about what you think you’re worth is.  Maybe this is why I’d really like to be able to indulge myself without the guilt…to prove to myself that I’m really worth it.

Bella’s Money

So far Bella seems to be a numbers girl and part of that might be due to her interest in money.  Mark and I are both really careful with our money.  We only buy things we can logically afford and have agreed that our money is best spent on things which benefit the health of our bodies, minds, and spirits.  That being said, we don’t buy a lot of unnecessary stuff for ourselves or for the girls.  Bella and Callee pretty much know that unless it’s their birthday or Christmas they shouldn’t bother asking because the answer will be “no.”  Often when they do ask that “no” is followed by “we don’t have the money for that.”  When Mark says it, he’s joking in his not so funny way.  When I say it, it means I don’t have the cash for it and I won’t buy it with the card.    Either way, Bella has become very interested in money, how much things cost, and whether we can afford them.

Since Bella is getting ready to start Kindergarten, I have been scoping out backpacks.  I want to get her a good quality one but recently noticed that Jansports cost $40 at JCPenny’s.  I was at a bit of a loss until the L.L. Bean catalogue arrived and I saw that the basic backpack that would be just right for Bella cost $27.95.  I decided I’d order her one from them and gave her the catalogue so she could choose the color.  Wouldn’t you know that she flipped past the page I had given her and found one she wanted more and wouldn’t you know it cost $40.  When I insisted that we get the less expensive backpack, she insisted that she would pay for the more expensive one herself.  (She has a piggy bank with at least $80 in it and she knows this because she has sat with her daddy and counted the money more than once.)

The compromise I have come to is that I will pay $30 and she will pay the rest.  I am currently trying to figure out what lesson, if any, she is learning from this.  By not agreeing to just pay for the more expensive one, I think I am teaching her a little responsibility and accountability.  But, by making such a big deal out of it, am I teaching her to be miserly?  And then what about my whole view on “material things,” what happens when the backpack becomes the shoes or the cell phone?  I’d love your thoughts on this matter and any personal experiences you have.  (Also, I totally get that I am over-analyzing something that’s really no big deal…but hey if you can’t do that on a blog where can you do it!)