How do you feel when you think about your finances? Whether it makes you anxious, greedy or completely on edge, your beliefs about money impact how much (or how little) of it you have. Author Geneen Roth explains why seeing is believing. She should know: She lost everything to Bernie Madoff and found a new way to value herself.
At 10 a.m., my retreat students arrive at the meditation hall with money in hand. Some are carrying five-dollar bills. Some have their hands stuffed with ones. A few are toting a single dollar bill. One woman says, "Did anyone forget their money? Because I have extra."
"In a few minutes," I say, "I am going to ask you to mill around the room carrying your money in your hands. When you are face-to-face with another person, you are either going to give or receive money. If you're the giver, decide whether you want to give some or all of your money away, at which point you will say, 'I'd like you to have this.' If you are the receiver, you are going to take the money and say, "Thank you. I appreciate it." When you come face-to-face with your next partner, you are going to go through the whole process again. Before we actually do the exercise, I'd like you to imagine that the exercise is over and you're back in your seats. Tell me about the cash you have in your hands at the end: Is it more or less than what you started with?"
A 30-year-old named Catherine says, "I will end up with less because I have to. I will feel terrible if I end up with more than I started with. In fact, I will feel terrible if I end up with more than anyone else."
I notice one of my longtime students walking to the back of the room as she nonchalantly stuffs money into her bra. No one can see her but me, since they are all looking toward the front of the room, but since this too is part of the pattern we are exploring I imagine that Marion believes she has no other choice.
According to psychiatrist David Krueger, author of The Secret Language of Money, we understand situations by giving them meaning. And the meaning we give them is in the creation of beliefs—which, once formed, become the template for how we see ourselves and how we behave. We then spend the rest of our lives acting as if our subjective beliefs—I am dumb/lazy/unlovable, I will never have enough, money corrupts, rich women are bitchy—were reality itself. We believe that the way we see our situations is the Way Things Are; there is no other way. And our actions proceed accordingly.
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