Have you ever opened a bank statement and, observing a diminished balance in your savings account from the previous month, felt a pang of fear? (Or maybe even, depending on how low the balance had become, felt assaulted by a full-on, frontal fear attack?) I suspect it’s fairly common during these tumultuous economic times, and it is a distinctly unpleasant experience. At the risk of stating the obvious, that fear arises because of our belief that money equals security. So when we have less of it, we feel less secure.
I know many people might object to my use of the word belief – money does equal security…doesn’t it? It is a fact, not a belief…isn’t it? From a certain perspective it is indeed true, as anyone who has lived without the basic necessities that money can buy would attest. And yet every true spiritual tradition tells us that nothing in the material world can be secured because all form is impermanent; our security lies not in the forms themselves but in our connection to Source, which feeds our creativity in generating the forms we need to sustain and nourish us. It is in cultivating our innate creative potential that we develop the flexibility, resilience and faith that lay the foundation for a different kind of security.
Helping me to see this clearly was a client I worked with recently whom I’ll call Kathy. After devoting several years to mothering her two children full-time, Kathy courageously and creatively navigated an emotionally trying divorce and the concurrent requirement to re-enter the work force. She had to quickly dust off an outdated resume and find paying work outside the home. And she did just that, taking on with great focus and enthusiasm a sales job which was 100% commission-based. In other words, there was no predictable base salary; she was paid only after she closed sales.
During the early years of her return to the workforce she supplemented her small but growing income by pulling money from a little nest egg she had in a savings account. Finally she reached the point where the income she generated from her job covered her monthly expenses, and the withdrawals from her savings account stopped.
Shortly after her monthly income and expenses reached equilibrium – and long after she had acknowledged a secret dream to find work that would be more deeply fulfilling to her – she discovered a training program she was genuinely excited about that would qualify her for the work she wanted. The fee for the program was several thousand dollars, and she hesitated to enroll because of the cost. As we explored her deep feelings and fears about considering this investment, she shared with me that she really didn’t want to touch her nest egg because leaving it intact gave her a feeling of security.
I completely empathize with the association of a tidy sum in a bank account with a feeling of security. But like so many of us, Kathy was confusing “effect” with “cause.” She thought the nest egg gave her security, when in truth it was her inner security that gave her the nest egg. It was her confidence and focus and creativity that was exchanged in the marketplace for cash, and in continually expanding her talent, skill and productivity she expanded the cash flowing into her life.
Now she had an opportunity to invest in her true self, to expand her capacity for giving and creating from the place within her that most wanted to give and to create, and she hesitated because of a misguided belief that money provides security. She temporarily forgot that money has no inherent worth or power; it has only the power we give it, which means that the power is ours to give.
Kathy’s nest egg, while not being the source of her security, was a reflection of her power and creativity. As a form of energy it held the potential to support her ongoing learning and expansion. Yet that potential could be released only through her conscious choice. Money must be put into circulation to release its value; money sitting in a bank account, or stuffed under a mattress, provides no security if we don’t actually exchange it for what we need.
Admittedly the purity of this concept gets a little muddy when we factor in the element of time. Until we are able to instantaneously manifest our desires from the life-giving field of pure potential, as Jesus did in multiplying the loaves and the fishes, we are wise to save money for future needs rather than putting it all into circulation right now. Yet the choice to save money for our future is just that, a conscious choice we have the power to make. And as our present unfolds into our future, we choose when, and how much, to withdraw from our savings. The power is always within us – the power to choose, to direct our energy in the form of money in accordance with our highest intentions.
This may seem like a trivial point, but I see it as fundamental to the shift in perspective that is needed when we seek to live our dreams. If we view money as a source of security, we subtly disempower ourselves. Security is seen as an object outside of us rather than as an innate aspect of our inner creativity and connection to Source. And as we chase that outer symbol of security, we’re more likely to choose work that pays the most, even if it does not provide an opportunity to develop our true passion and talent; we’re also more likely to hold onto money that we’ve accumulated, as Kathy did, rather than invest it in ways that could enrich us on all levels.
So if, like so many of us, you believe that money equals security, how do you begin to shift that belief? Let me be honest – that isn’t the kind of shift that generally happens overnight. Yet the earnest effort to reach for the deeper truth about the nature of security can open us to fresh insights and a greater sense of creative freedom. Here are a few steps you can take right now:
• Be willing to see “money equals security” as a belief, and to consider the possibility that it might confusing or constraining you as you seek to live your dreams.
• In your journal or on a notepad, write “What is the real source of my security?” at the top of a page. Put the pen down, close your eyes and quiet your mind. Consciously let go of any preconceived notions of what the answer might be. Invite Source to fill you with clarity and insight. When you feel at peace, open your eyes, pick up the pen and start writing. See what shows up.
• For the next week pay attention whenever you interact with money in any way – when you purchase something, when you check online to see if your paycheck has been deposited into your checking account, when you open your 401-k statement. Notice what you’re thinking and how you feel. Take notes about what you observe at the end of each day. Then at the end of the week pull out your journal and answer the following questions:
o How would I characterize my current relationship with money?
o Am I earning and spending it in alignment with my highest intentions?
o What change(s) might I make to bring me into greater alignment with my highest intentions?
• If you don’t have a regular spiritual practice already, contemplate deeply your willingness to commit to one. It is only though an intentional connection with Source, and the deeper wisdom that issues from Source, that our deepest needs can be seen and met.
As I said, this shift in perspective doesn’t happen overnight; it takes conscious choice and effort. As does virtually everything in life that is worthwhile. Imagine how you might feel – and how you might live your life – if your inner peace didn’t fluctuate with your bank or portfolio balance. Imagine the clarity, insight and inspiration that could arise from that deep sense of peace. I say that’s a peace worth cultivating. You might even call it…security.