Money and abundance have always been big topics of interest: on one hand money has been called the root of all evil, and on the other hand we are told that we all deserve to have an infinite amount of it—if we apply ourselves accordingly. Unfortunately there are some widespread misconceptions about what wealth and money flow mean, which end up justifying suffering in society from various points of view. In the human potential movement, it is often declared that we can all have endless amounts of money by maintaining the right focus, but this is a meaningless idea in practice and overlooks what really needs addressing to release human potential and end suffering—the embodying of our authentic selves and the creation of local community economies that support authentic living. In this post I will cut through three common myths about money and money flow, provide a bigger picture to bring clarity, and explain how we can all use money authentically to fulfil our potential and live with greater wellbeing.
Three Common Myths about Money and Money Flow
Myth 1: Money is the root of all evil
Money and the prospect of acquiring it or losing it triggers our reactivity very strongly, especially as it is often linked to our survival and status. It is a powerful trigger for the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which explains why, for many people, the prospect of acquiring money is not only highly motivating and addictive, but also the drive behind many harmful and antisocial behaviours. For this reason, when the reactive desire to accumulate money takes over, it can lead to greed, profiteering, gambling, theft, fraud, robbery, usury, and ultimately the creation of a materialistic debt-based money system that drains money away from people and their communities to benefit financial elites.
Given the above, it is understandable that money has been seen as the root of all evil. Yet this perception is a distortion of thought, since money itself is neutral and exists simply as a medium of exchange. Rather, it is our states of reactivity and inauthentic values that lead us to pursue money in harmful and destructive ways.
When we view money as the root of all evil we need to become aware of the reactivity at work that causes us to react against money. This reactivity has often been instilled into religious and spiritual people who feel guilty or fearful about having money, or who prefer to practise self-denial, in order to avoid the traps of materialism and live a spiritual life. Sometimes this reactivity has been created to take advantage of people’s good intent and to manipulate them into accepting their poverty.
Yet, although we can react against money with guilt and fear, it is once again true that money is neutral and exists simply as a medium of exchange. Being spiritual does not require us to deny ourselves of money to avoid being trapped in materialism. It may well be that withdrawal from the material world is of value to some people for enhancing their spiritual contemplation and purity of mind. But without the possibility for grounding our spirituality into material form, the duality between the physical and spiritual that can exist in the mind will only deepen and cause us suffering. We need the spiritual light to infuse and guide the shaping of our material lives. With mindfulness and a debt-free money system, we can start to use money as it was meant for, as a medium of exchange, and avoid the traps of reactivity that prevent us from meeting our authentic needs. We all deserve to meet our authentic needs, which range from survival to self-realisation, and money, by facilitating the exchange of resources with others, can enable us to do this.
Myth 2: Those who apply themselves deserve to accumulate endless money
The myth that it is a good thing to apply ourselves to accumulate endless money has sold capitalism to entire countries and justified the addiction to money. This in turn often feeds the reactivity that causes us to consume endless products in the mass market. The suffering this myth has caused is now seen by the staggering disparity of wealth between the rich and the poor, and the ecological cost upon the planet as rainforests and topsoil disappear at alarming rates, as well as by the way that so many people are caught up in the Spectacle of Materialism, increasing their dissociation and perpetuating trance-like patterns of inauthentic living.
The problem with accumulating endless money is that money circulates in a system that we are all part of, and there is not an infinite supply of it. When a person acquires money, it flows to them from other people. If that flow increases more to make them financially wealthy, the money is clearly flowing away from others more, making these other people less wealthy. Unless the flow is returned or equalised, a divide soon occurs between the rich and the poor. Unfortunately many people justify this flow of money based on self-worth. If the poor want to stay stuck in poverty-consciousness, they say, it is their own fault as they are not valuing themselves by applying themselves. Whether or not some people value themselves more than others, the idea that it is acceptable to perpetuate the division of rich and poor has to be questioned, for when people we are connected to suffer, we also suffer too, and communities and ecosystems break down. We are all part of one whole: we are one humanity, one planet, and one life.
Therefore while we all do deserve to meet our authentic needs, which the exchange of money can help with, the idea that anybody should deserve endless money at the expense of other people’s poverty is destructive to the whole, and a demonstration of narrow self-interest.
Some people maintain that inequalities of money can be good because someone who is financially wealthy can redistribute that wealth through charity or investment into projects that benefit others. While it is true that some people may choose to redistribute their wealth or serve others with it, not everyone who is wealthy does, and actually the damage is already done the moment we allow poverty to exist to justify our behaviour. The solution to the rich-poor divide is not to maintain it or increase it by justifying its existence, but to look at creating alternative, authentic money systems and economies that serve the authentic needs of all.
Myth 3: We can all manifest infinite amounts of money
This myth reveals a complete misunderstanding of money, and yet has taken some of the human potential movement by storm because it is an enticing idea that we would all love to be true. The idea is damaging because it perpetuates the desire to accumulate endless money, and sends people’s self-worth crashing down after its promise is not met. Infinite amounts of money for all is not possible because an infinite amount of money does not exist, and once again, when money is acquired it flows away from somebody towards somebody, creating inequality. Even if the money supply is magically topped up with extra money, the result of an increased money supply is a corresponding increase in prices and a reduction in the value of the currency, showing the absurdity of the claim that we can all manifest untold wealth. In reality, all that can happen is that some people can acquire large (but not infinite) amounts of money at the expense of others, and so this myth is simply a disguise of Myth 2.
To cut through this myth completely, let us look at some mathematics based on the statistics of money available in the UK economy. In 2010, the total money supply in the UK was £2.2 trillion, while the actual money in circulation was £47 billion. The population of the UK at the time was 63 million. Now let’s do some simple mathematics:
Total money in circulation divided up equally amongst all:
47 billion divided by 63 million = £746 each
Total money supply divided up equally amongst all:
2.2 trillion divided by 63 million = £34,920 each
While these figures do show the clear benefit of redistributing money to end poverty, neither of these figures leave each person with anything suggesting that we can all have untold wealth if we just apply ourselves.
What is True Wealth and Abundance?
Our ideas of wealth and abundance become distorted when we only apply them to money, because we are then using selective thinking. Some of the most poorest people in the world in terms of money are exceedingly rich in their spirit and humanity. Wealth implies abundance, or having enough. But enough of what? Since we have many needs other than to have money, to be well-rounded and whole requires that all of our needs are sufficiently met equally, so that we are rich in overall wellbeing. This means taking a full-context approach to wealth and fulfilment, and not limiting it to money.
In order to fulfil our needs, we need to ensure that they are genuine or authentic, otherwise we can end up justifying any reactive desire as a need. To identify authentic needs, we can practise mindfulness and embody our authentic self, which is the non-reactive, unconditioned self that is found in the centre of our being behind the contents of our mind. The authentic self is not the ego-self, but the experience of pure being that we are deep down. When we are in a mindful state and present in our authentic centre as observer, we are free of the reactivity that leads to distorted perceptions, beliefs, and impulses, and can start to lead healthy, fulfilled lives with greater choice.
To help us to open to abundance it is important that we develop our self-worth, release any limiting patterns through self-inquiry, and cultivate gratitude. Cultivating gratitude helps us to stop the automatic reactive mind and to recognise the blessings that we were previously unconscious of. With mindfulness-based gratitude, we open our eyes and direct our attention onto all the blessings in our life, and come to recognise that our life is a lot more abundant and blessed than we thought it was. With gratitude for the people around us we can enrich our relationships. With gratitude for our life we can enrich our health. With gratitude for the Earth we can enrich the health of the ecosystems that sustain us.
Authentic Money Systems and Economies
As a means to fulfilling many of our needs through the exchange of resources, money has its role. It is not the only means of exchange since we can exchange through barter and gifting, and we will benefit by keeping these other forms of exchange alive and flourishing, as they enhance community spirit and help to keep our exchanges grounded in gratitude. They are also powerful and easy ways of transitioning from the economies of mass society towards local, sustainable community economies.
We can all use money authentically once we start to live mindfully from our authentic self, and create from that space the economies and money systems that support authentic living. This requires the willingness to change, and to be part of a cultural change in order to stay true to ourselves. We can’t afford not to change, because the economies and money systems that we otherwise participate in are unsustainable. In order to make the change we need to reach out and build networks of community support.
One of the clear benefits of creating local authentic economies is that they can be built in an enlightened way to address the true needs of a community, and to harness the full potential and economic resourcefulness of a community. Unemployment is reduced as the local market is transformed to bring a new demand for previously unrecognised skills, products, and services that we all need to live authentically.
The following three conditions need to be met by the economic system that our authentic local community uses:
- A debt-free money system. A debt-free money system is an alternative to a debt-based money system, and prevents money and energy from being drained away from communities into banks and other institutions. A debt-free money system removes money-making banks from the equation and allows people to trade with locally-issued money that is free of interest. The Local Exchange Trading Systems and Community Exchange Systems are just two examples of debt-free money systems that are being used successfully by communities around the world, and their models can be adopted to suit our local community. For more information, see my post Debt-Free Money v Money-as-Debt.
- A local community economy and currency. Keeping our money local, where it is observable and where it can meet our local needs, is essential for authentic living. Creating a mindful, local economy involves rescaling economic activity to a local level and, ideally, tying it to our community with a local currency that is unique to our community. A local community currency, because it is tied to a local community, stops money leaving the community and draining its wealth away, as it inevitably does with a national currency. Keeping our money local by exchanging it for goods and services provided by community-owned businesses and local people that we know is the essence of local economics. The main challenge to keeping money local is to stay mindful and break the habit of convenience shopping, where we buy from chain stores or from online global businesses. Keeping our money local not only means purchasing locally, but also borrowing money locally. Whenever we borrow from a bank that charges interest on the loan, money will end up leaving the community economy through interest repayments unless that bank is community-owned. For more information, see my post 5 Powerful Benefits of Keeping Your Money Local.
- A steady-state economy. A steady-state economy is a stable economy that does not grow beyond its social and ecological limits. We need a steady state economy because the pursuit of economic growth and the associated practices of overproduction and overconsumption are unsustainable. Downscaling economic structures and businesses to the community level is essential for a steady-state economy, as is the use of a debt-free money system and the circulation of money to prevent hoarding. Using gift economies also supports a steady-state economy. For more information, see my post The Benefits of a Steady State Economy.
For further assistance and support with authentic money systems and economies, consider booking an Authentic Living consultation with me on this topic and I will help you to identify your challenges and assist you with creating and implementing a development plan. You can also invite me to give a talk, interview, workshop, or webinar on the topic.
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