Money and Sex: Portals to the Soul
Money and Sex. Two of my favorite things. For soooo many reasons. First, both of them are so fun! So much potential, learning, pleasure, transcendence, power, healing, limitlessness, fluidity, soulfulness and …. divinity, sacredness. And they are also things that drive so much of our behavior, our feelings, our thoughts, and yet we rarely speak about them directly. Conversations about both of these things are often sheathed in layers of shame. This is the realm where our shadows thrive. The shadows are the hidden beliefs and agreements that we have that shape our behavior, flying below the radar of the conscious mind. What’s on my mind today is to point out that money and sex are powerful portals for self-discovery, and to share a bit about my journey with both. In some ways, they are so powerful that often there is a lot of “pre-work” that has to be done before we can even step into these “rooms” of our psyche. It’s like before we tackle that basement that contains decades of stored family sentimentalia (I just made up that word), first we need to clear away the boxes that may be stacked in front of the door. So if the idea of healing your relationship with money or sex seems like work that is waaay too far out there for you, I get it. I feel like I had to spend a few decades preparing myself first. Doing things like learning how to deal with intense feelings (thank you, Non-Violent Communication), learning how to “work on myself” and stay inwardly focused (thank you to the Gurdjieff work and my former husband, Carl), learning how to hold and create ritual space and be comfortable with hosting elemental energy from other dimensions (thank you to the Ifa tradition from Nigeria). Oh! And learning about Shadow Work (thank you Kelley Kosow and The Ford Institute).
Another reason why these two portals are very much part of my learning right now is because I have realized that I have been a big spiritual bypasser. Kelley Kosow tried to point this out to me a few years ago and I sort of heard her, but not really. It wasn’t until I read Sera Beak’s book, Red Hot and Holy, this summer, that I realized how much spiritual bypassing I have been doing, and will likely continue to do since I’m sort of addicted to “high vibing”, transcendent spiritual work and teachers. Sera was the person who really helped me to understand the difference between spiritual work and soul work. Here’s a link to an article that summarizes the distinction Much of the yoga, meditation and pranayama I have been studying have really been enabling spiritual bypassing. This is good and valuable work, and necessary for building the capacity that maybe I need to face some of my issues more directly. And now I am being called to work on the deeper, darker stuff that is actually a bit more charged and challenging for me. I’m delving into the realm of the soul. Money and sex are two immediate ways to wade into those soulful waters.
Let’s start with Sex. I’m using capital letters here because I am honoring Sex and Money, not in their ordinariness, but as portals or classrooms for learning. When I attended my first “Celebrating the Body Erotic” workshop three years ago through the Body Electric School, that marked the beginning of my journey to heal my relationship with sex. It took me over a year between when I heard about this work and when I actually felt brave enough to sign up and attend the workshop. Since then, the way I show up sexually has changed dramatically, and the way I relate to sensual, sexual energy is also completely different. Now, it’s the same as spiritual energy to me. One big thing that shifted for me as a result of this workshop was seeing the way my sexuality was a product of media-induced cultural conditioning, and how much power I was giving away by wanting to be an object of male sexual desire. What blossomed instead was an embodied experience of the transformational power of soft, relaxed, feminine sexual and sensual energy. This new embodiment of sensual pleasure seemingly dissolved the confines of this former paradigm of sex as a process of consumption, possession or domination of another, opening entirely new vistas for connection and intimacy for me. That’s a helluva lot to try to communicate in just a few sentences, so hopefully all of that made sense.
And what about Money? Well, that’s actually the thing that has prompted this post. This year, Money has been showing up as one of my biggest teachers. So many feelings about her, and they run so deep. I have so many money issues going on right now… I’ll list a few just to give you an idea of how intense this work is for me at the moment.
Oh wait, before I go there, let me say one more thing about something that these two portals have in common. They both are scary because they feel so personal and so powerful. And they contain a personalized map for how to transcend the “small self” and enter this realm of the “higher self”, or universal consciousness, aka God. I was reading my friend Andres’ master’s thesis; it’s about the Body Electric work and *why* it works, and he drew a lot of references to “transpersonal psychology”. I had an epiphany as I was reading. That’s what’s scary about sacred sexual healing… we don’t want to lose the “personal” feeling, the “special” feeling about how we connect sexually, because we sense, intuitively, that this is a portal to something much bigger than ourselves, something more powerful than we can imagine. The idea of “depersonalizing” or “transpersonalizing” our sexuality feels deeply destabilizing. And Money, I think, has much the same feeling about it.
So back to me and my issues. When my Dad passed away two years ago, he left me a significant sum of money. I have soul-level feelings about how to spend, invest, allocate or give away that money. I feel these things at a cellular level, beyond just my “heart” level; this effects my whole body. I recently decided to buy a house, and I have committed to making a large cash contribution to a friend’s ashram in India. Those two things have cut the amount my Dad left me in half. A few other issues on the table right now: I had a conversation with my sister about how to divide up the proceeds from Dad’s coin collection, which we are about to liquidate, which really illuminates some of our family dynamics. My team at my coffee company just asked me to consider taking a smaller salary, which brings up all kinds of feelings for me. I have recently gifted/invested money in my sweetheart’s travel/art business in India. I have taken a leadership role in an initiative to transition the Body Electric school to a collective ownership model, which involves lots of conversations about money and valuation. AND my daughter asked me to loan/gift her money towards a new car.
My dear friend and life coach, Kathleen and I have had a joke lately since each one of our weekly calls recently seems to be about money, and how it is moving through my hands, heart, bank accounts and life. Can you see why? Oh, and also, I have been coaching a friend who owns a very successful financial advisory practice; just another way that Money seems to be raising her hand in my life right now.
As all these meta-level issues and decisions swirl in my life, let’s look at a smaller dilemma I had recently about where to spend the night as I was driving across the country. I had vaguely planned to sleep in my car in a Walmart parking lot, somewhere around Tulsa, Oklahoma. I have slept in my car many times, I know it works, although as I drove across miles of hot prairie, I worried that it would be too hot to do so comfortably. Furthermore, I was looking at another 10 hours of driving the next day, so getting a good night’s sleep seemed quite important. However, I liked the idea of saving $50 on a hotel room. As I debated spending the money on a hotel room and being comfortable or saving the money and making the situation in a Walmart parking lot “work”, I realized that I was really wishing that I had a goal or a game or a budget, a more “fixed” container, rather than this idea that my money is a constantly moving, shifting and possibly expanding entity. When I spend more than I have in my bank account, I keep dipping into this money from my Dad, which doesn’t feel great, since I do it reactively rather than proactively.
How do I feel about sticking to a “budget”, or trying to fit my life into a predictable rhythm of expenditures, to dictate my behavior and choices? Sometimes I wish I had a tight budget, someone else I was accountable to, a clear “purpose” for my money, so that when it comes to choices like this, I would feel constrained by a container of some sort, it would make the decisions more clear. And I also know that I don’t like saying “No”, I don’t like not being able to do things or go places because of financial limitations. Maybe one way to reconcile this is that when there is a budget or a sense of self-imposed financial discipline, we are simply letting money know that we are still focused on a goal, on a larger purpose. I am enduring this discomfort or difficulty or inconvenience because with this action I am affirming that my original stated goal is still important to me. And the stated goal can’t simply be the stockpiling of money for money’s sake.
While I was in India this month, I had more issues come up around money. The plan for the trip was that I had pre-paid my sweetheart, Vicky, with a chunk of money so he could make hotel reservations, buy plane tickets and plan our trip, so that when I came to India, I would only need a little money to buy souvenirs or incidentals. However, half way through the trip, it became apparent that he had spent some of the money I gave him on something else. He used it to pay a lawyer because he is dealing with some “legal issues” in his hometown. So in order to finish the trip as we planned, I was going to have to come up with more money. I was enraged. Mostly because it took me two days to drag this information out of him. If he had told me clearly what the situation was, as soon as he knew about it, I would have been less angry. Yet strangely enough, after a lot of coaxing and compromising, I found myself agreeing to more-or-less complete the itinerary. I still had to pay for it, but we found a way to do it for less. I was also enraged because Vicky smokes and drinks (a lot) and this also meant that I would be financially supporting these two habits of his for the latter portion of our trip. Over the course of this intense experience, I was finally able to understand what money represents for me. Money represents the power to create the world that I want to live in. One of my deepest held values is that I wish to be contributing to creating a “new world” with as many of my actions as possible. And when my money is going to things that do not feel in alignment with this purpose, it feels like a compromise of my integrity.
This realization alone is probably worth all the money that I spent. Grateful for the clarity, and awestruck at the cost. I think this question of determining what Money most “means to us” is an important step in the journey of healing our relationship with her.
I am posting this here to share with you where I am in my journey, and to let you know that I foresee myself continuing to “do this work”. One way I anchor learning for myself is by sharing it with others and inviting others into the “classroom” that I have discovered along the way. There’s a good chance that I will be offering opportunities for friends to engage with me in this work, and to “do our work” together. I’m not sure exactly what that’s going to look like yet, so stay tuned. Thank you for reading and thank you in advance for comments and questions!