[This article has also been published on the Huffington Post.]
Now that the president has released his proposed budget, I thought I would take the opportunity to talk about something that for a lot of spiritually-oriented people is anathema—money. More specifically, I’d like to talk about how money was hijacked to serve the purposes of ego.
When I talk about ego, I am talking about a thought system based upon the idea of separateness. Because separateness is an illusion (the only place it exists is in the mind) the ego itself is an illusion. Yet this illusion has shaped the world in which we live.
Believing separateness to be real, ego constantly fears for its survival, and its deepest hungers are for security, worth, power, and status. Money came to be seen as the provider of all of those things.
By its very nature ego is insatiable. No matter the present circumstances, it always wants more. More power, more influence, more security, more status. Ego, in other words, is an addictive thought system, and money is one of its drugs of choice.
All of this makes the claim on our currency “In God We Trust” especially ironic. God is the Reality of Love, of Interconnection. Ego—the idea of separateness—is the denial of God-Reality.
Because money has become such a convoluted symbol in our world, many of us have complicated relationships with it. On the one hand we need what money can provide, just as the vegetable farmer needs warm clothes in the winter, and the tailor needs vegetables in the summer. But many of us also have an aversion to all that money has come to stand for.
All I can say is, poor money. It never set out to be a source of suffering. It was created to serve us, not enslave us, to ease our lives, not make them more miserable.
Setting Money Free
In a previous post, Donald Trump: Spiritual Teacher in Disguise, I wrote about Donald Trump as a symbol of ego, and how his appearance on the national scene presents us with a precious opportunity to recognize and transcend the ego mind within us.
As a symbol of ego, Trump shows us a life devoted to the egoic drive of amassing wealth, and his recently released budget spells out for us the ego’s priorities. The proposed budget increases funding for programs that feed ego’s need for security and dominance, while cutting those that acknowledge and respond to our interdependence.
But before we engage in the egoic practice of condemning Trump for his heartlessness we might examine our own relationship with money, because perhaps he is simply expressing in an extreme fashion beliefs that most of us hold and would do well to liberate ourselves from.
Let’s get personal for a moment. Do you, like Trump, think that money establishes your worth? Do you look to it to provide for your ultimate security? Do you think having it makes you better than others, or not having it diminishes you? Do you believe having money entitles you to things that people who don’t have it aren’t entitled to? I invite you to be absolutely honest with yourself. Chances are you’ll answer yes to at least one of those questions.
What if this particular moment in history, in which a self-proclaimed billionaire sits in the Oval Office, is an invitation for all of us to liberate ourselves and money from our captivity to ego?
What if now is the time to restore to money its original benign intentions?
Better yet, what if we were to see money as an ally in our spiritual awakening? Because that is exactly what it can be.
In the natural world, water and air are elements upon which we all mutually depend. In the human sphere, money is their closest equivalent.
Money symbolizes our interdependence. It reminds us how much we need one another, how much we rely on one another’s expertise, time, insights, and talents. It reminds us that we don’t exist as isolated individuals but as part of a complex and interconnected web of human activity.
What could be more spiritual than something that symbolizes our mutual interdependence?
What could be more helpful to our awakening than something that can remind us, with every monetary interaction, that we are not isolated individuals?
What behavior could be more enlightened than allowing money to flow from us to those places and causes where it can support our collective wellbeing?
The more we awaken from the illusory nature of the ego and its erroneous belief in separateness, the more our relationship with money will be transformed. It will no longer be used in service to the illusory ego’s fears. Instead, it will become a potent symbol of the profound truth that we belong to each other.
[image by: Pictures of Money. Used by permission.]