A few weeks ago, my wife and I were discussing the differences between the two sides of the fracking issue in our county. On the oil side, there were corporations spending millions on ads to convince voters to side with them and allow minimally-regulated fracking in their backyards. On the community side, there were a few unpaid volunteers with petitions hanging out in front of the library. All the while, my eight-year-old daughter was listening. She’s always listening. Except when I tell her to clean. And a little while later, she asked us, “How much money does it cost to get a law changed?”
We started to explain that our laws are made by people – and our elected representatives – based on what we collectively agree is best for the community. But she’s a smart cookie, so we decided it would be better to tell the truth. The truth, of course, is that tons of money is spent to influence voters and lawmakers, so the answer – especially if your opponents are oil companies – was “tons.”
“That’s why I want to be rich!” she responded. “So I can change the world in ways that are good for everyone.”
And that, folks, is pretty much the best reason I can think of to become wealthy.
If there were more community- and sustainability-minded people with oodles of money, the world would be a better place. Which is why I want you to become one of those people. Because, chances are, if you’re on our mailing list, you want a peaceful, healthy, equitable world. And if so, I want you to be rich and generous. Please.
But why should I, as healthcare practitioner, be concerned about people’s financial status? Three reasons. First, I want people to be healthy in all areas of their lives, and unhealthy relationships with money are epidemic and a cause of great stress. Second, another facet of whole health, as I see it, is the ability to develop and share your gifts, and having ample money usually allows for the freedom to devote yourself to these gifts. Third, I want to leave our children with a healthy planet and I believe the extreme division of wealth today is an impediment to this goal. We need more healthy, wealthy, conscious people in order to tip the scales.
If you’re up for the challenge, the first step is healing your relationship with money. Unfortunately, the corporate politics that started this conversation are precisely what make many conscientious people averse to acquiring money. I should know – I’m a former member of the Money is the Root of All Evil Club. But such an aversion to wealth is misguided and disempowering. Denying yourself money because some people do unethical things for it is like denying yourself a glass of wine because some people are alcoholics.
Back in grad school, I did an internship at a public health facility serving homeless youth. My mentor ran an acupuncture clinic in the basement. The “treatment rooms” were constructed from old blankets hung from the ceiling to create partitions between the beds. Everyone could hear everyone else. It was pretty squalid. Then we got a $1 million donation and everything changed. We were able to make tremendous improvements to the facility. Guess who gave us the money.
The donation came from a man named Bill Gates, and whatever your feelings about him or Microsoft or Windows 8, you must admit, that’s a cool thing to be able to do.
These days, most big accomplishments – good and bad – have a lot of money behind them. So, whatever cause inspires you – saving tigers from extinction, educating women, providing people with fresh water, preventing the immersion of Louisiana – you’ll be more successful at it with a pile of cash in your corner.
Healing your relationship with money is a process. I’ve been consciously engaged in it for 20 years and I’ve been amazed at some of the stuff that’s come out of my subconscious mind. I realize how much I opposed the flow of money into my life out of solidarity with those who are impoverished – even though I could have helped all of us if I were wealthy and generous. I was embarrassed to be seen in new clothes or with nice possessions. I believed that having money would make me shallow, or greedy, or unable to relate to people without it. If you’re carrying around any such beliefs, I recommend you research rich people who are still “real” and doing great, charitable things with their money. Dismantle your stereotypes. Because you’ll never let yourself gain wealth if you have disdain for the wealthy.
You don’t need to have the drive to change the world like my daughter to “qualify” for an abundance of money. Whatever your gift – to educate, to love, to heal, to make art, to listen, to keep peace, to raise children to be good people – it all adds up in the world when you share it. But your ability to devote yourself to it can be undermined by inadequate finances. Too often, I’ve seen talented people sideline their gifts because they don’t trust themselves to bring in money through their passion. Too often, I’ve seen kids who don’t receive the attention they need because their parents are disabled by medical problems they can’t afford to get fixed.
I have a friend, a healer, who is the kindest, most guileless woman you could ever meet. Lots of people in the healing arts have trouble asking for money in exchange for their services – I think we feel it makes our work less noble – but not her. Once, when I paid her after she worked on me, she got a huge smile on her face, clapped her hands, and said, “Oh boy! I love money!” It was entirely innocent and sweet. The “love of money” usually carries negative connotations, but hearing her say this erased any notion in my mind that money itself is the problem.
There’s so much to be said about bringing money into your life in a healthy way, and I’ve only scratched the surface today. If you’re interested in reading more, two great books on the subject are Lynne Twist’s The Soul of Money and my good friend Bari Tessler’s The Art of Money.
Think about who you could help if you had more money. Think about how you could develop and share your gifts if money weren’t an impediment. And if you feel so moved, share them in the comments section below.
Dr. Peter Borten