I have done a lot of healing in my life. Done a ton of emotional and spiritual work — everything from Scientology to soul retrieval, from Buddha to Byron Katie, from Mormonism all the way to Wicca. I’ve gathered wisdom along the way, my medicine bag growing richer and more potent with the years.
Notwithstanding all this accumulation of know-how and merit, a nagging shame has been dogging me every step of the way. Hidden in the room where nobody goes, in the house of me.
The way I handle (and don’t handle) money. The steady unconsciousness I perpetuate around it. The looking away and away and away, until something blows up in my face. And then the shame and the guilt and the fast, desperate thinking, and the Not Enough state of mind.
Having rambled through sixty-two years of this, I decided it was time to face this demon down and have it out, once and for all. I signed up for Bari Tessler’s “The Art of Money” program (aptly described on her website as “a year-long, online money school designed to help you transform your relationship with money”). This post is about one of those important transformations.
At a certain point in the course, I was invited to become aware of all the ways in which I (thought I) had failed at money. To really look at those situations…and see if I could find the source. It’s a lot like therapy, only with money as the main character. Once I’d identified the source of these difficulties, I was encouraged to create a healing ritual that would address them.
Having grown up in a wealthy family, my main problem with money was a big fat guilt complex. Along with the consequent blindness to all things money. And the sense of “fraudulence” that many of us carry, regardless of financial status. The list went on and on. So I sat with those feelings, remembered the specific incidents that brought them up, and then made space for what might heal me. It took a while. It wasn’t easy. But here’s what came…
The Money Puppy.
Who of you can look at this picture —
and say to it, “You stupid IDIOT. You selfish asshole. What were you thinking!?”
Nobody can do that.
So that gave me my direction for this healing ritual.
I thought of the four biggest mistakes I’d made with money, the four biggest areas of trouble. And I found four distinct breeds of dog (this becomes important later). I printed out the four pictures of these adorable puppies, and glued them each to the front of a card. Gave each a caption, summarizing the money screw-up in question. So now I have four cards, with four tender puppies on each card, each with its own caption. I read the problem, looking at the image. My heart melted. I didn’t feel the self-loathing and sharp judgment from before.
Then, I found the grownup version of each breed, and printed out the photo of that version, for the other side of each of the cards:
I sat for a long time, contemplating the original problem, and listening for what the grownup dog would say to her puppy about it. And I wrote that down under the picture of the adult dog.
As I contemplated each problem, each trouble, each mistake, looking at the love-inducing photograph of each puppy, there was no way to sustain any ill feeling. It just wouldn’t hold.
What wisdom came from the grown ups in each case, well, it came in sweet and sometimes hilarious ways. And it was for real. And it was for me.
And it worked.
I know they are all me. I know this. But something about placing my difficulties at the paws of my puppies gave me the willingness to be tender with myself, and gentle about how to find my way to better places in my money life.
So, a deep bow of gratitude to Bari Tessler for nudging me in this direction, to all the puppies and adult dogs in the photos that opened my heart, and to all the spirit and imagination that inhabits the world I live in. Thank you all.
May all beings benefit.