Cleona is an Independent Financial Advisor who is particularly interested in money and consciousness. She attended one of my Money workshops in 2016. She has an ongoing interest in the Money work and in other approaches to working with the unseen emotional and psychological dynamics related to money. She interviewed me for her blog in 2016 and this is an edited transcript:
What got you into money work?
TM: I got into this work when a friend recommended it back in 2005. I don’t recall exactly what he said, but he was so impressed by the process developed by Peter Koenig, and it was his sense of interest rather than any particular money concerns I had at the time that led me to it. Indeed in the first workshop I attended, my own experience wasn’t that deep – but I could see that others were having powerful experiences and I was fascinated by the range and depth of material that the subject of money unlocked. At subsequent workshops, and in the trainer training I did go a lot deeper and discovered a great deal about my unconscious attitudes not just toward money but toward myself and life in general.
What are the repetitive patterns of thinking that you see in your money work with individuals that you would most like to see transformed?
TM: The thing I love about this work is that it is both uniquely individual and completely universal. In other words everyone seems to have their own unique constellation of concepts and emotions related to their money story that ties them in knots. That is individual, although certainly one does tend to see patterns. At the same time the process of projection – the way, according to this work, that we project¹ repressed or disowned aspects of our own psyches onto money – seems to be universal. Exactly what we project is individual, but the process is universal.
Beyond that, perhaps at an intermediate level are three main gestures we see people do with money: pushing away (if our projections onto money are negative, for example if we think money is evil or unfair); grasping and pulling towards (if our projections onto money are positive, for example if we think money represents power and success) or doing both in a somewhat confused way (if we have both positive and negative projections onto money, which many of us do).
As a Buddhist for over 20 years, I can see those three gestures – pushing, grabbing and messily doing a bit of both, as examples of the fundamental patterns of greed, hate, and confusion which are traditionally said in Buddhism to be the core distorted thought patterns that take us away from experiencing reality directly and accessing our natural wisdom. So I guess the repetitive patterns for me are at that level – noticing and working with the unconscious projections, which lead to, or reinforce tendencies toward, grasping, aversion or basic confusion.
What is your vision behind doing this work? You say you would like to run more workshops. Why is this important to you?
TM: That’s a good question. What I like about this work is it is both deeply personal – some would say spiritual or at least deeply transformational, and it is also very systemic in that it quickly leads us to consider wider social, economic, organisational systems of which we are all a part; for example questions of inequality, value and what a successful life, enterprise or economy really looks like. That connection appeals to me personally – the connection between what we might call the micro and the macro, or the intra-personal and the systemic has always been an important part of the work I do.
Peter Koenig’s original vision behind this work is that without a change of consciousness around money we cannot hope to transform the obviously dysfunctional monetary systems we now have. I think that is true, and I do have a longstanding interest in new economics and a number of approaches to economic, monetary and business reform that are going on.
I certainly notice that many activists working for political and economic change often lack deeper self awareness; they lack awareness of how they are fighting – to some degree at least – their own projections and shadows. I think change work and activism becomes all the more powerful as one becomes a more whole person. In other words many activists are in part fighting against aspects of themselves that they are not in touch with, and which they therefore experience ‘out there’ in the world as negative, blameworthy and shameful.
As Solzhenitsyn famously says, ‘the line between good and evil exists in every human heart’. I think activism and efforts to create social change become massively enhanced when we become more aware of our own capacities to be unfair, greedy, exploitative etc – with no blame, just acknowledgement. We become bigger people at that point – more capable of taking action with wisdom, compassion and skill. I very much agree with Peter’s vision in that regard.
I think what has always inspired me most deeply is personal transformation. There is something one comes to see in this work about how we all trap ourselves, how we all limit our sense of and experience of freedom in some way that we can discern from exploring our money story. That is inherently tragic, and I love the way that this work can quickly and powerfully free people up. You see it in their faces and bodies when it starts to happen. The wider social and economic change comes from that energetic, embodied freeing up – and I guess it is that intensely personal, unique moment of shift and discovery that is the primary driver for me².
If someone did want to have a better relationship with money, where would you suggest they start?
TM: Come on a workshop!
Seriously there still seems to be a lot of stuff out there about changing your relationship to money but usually in order to get more – there still seems to be a subtle, or not so subtle, grabbing projection behind it. So I think many of those books don’t go nearly as deep as this work. On the other hand many people have done lots of other personal development and the Money Work still helps them uncover unconscious material – it seems to be because money is such a universal, early, and pervasive thing it becomes a recipient for very early projections that lie buried for decades. So that is why I love the Money work.
How deep is money work and the beliefs held? What are the shifts possible when people transform this? Could you share a couple of stories without names to inspire others?
TM: I think when we get very deep, money has become the channel to recover an important unconscious projection, but not necessarily the issue.
For example, on one workshop there was a woman in her 30s who had no obvious money issues. Her life was good, she had enough, she was in a good relationship and a good job, which she enjoyed. As we talked she sensed that somehow things were good and that she wasn’t able to fully enjoy this because she felt she didn’t really deserve such good luck! She hadn’t done anything to deserve or earn her happiness!
That went very deep – as it does for many people. For her, it led to a connection, first acknowledging her own current lack of self worth, experiencing her belief in her own worthlessness, and then, which I experienced as particularly beautiful and touching, her reclamation of her intrinsic value, her preciousness and perfection. My experience of her as she did that was that she physically transformed in a very powerful way. As she reclaimed that buried aspect of herself, the truth of her own perfection (which of course had always been true, as it is for each of us, though we often are not in touch with that truth), to me she appeared sacred and divine in that moment. She seemed to have a very powerful and unexpected experience from her own side. I don’t know how the others in the group saw it, but for me it was quite profound and a powerful teaching for me personally. And as I say, not arising from an obvious money worry, more an exploration of her relationship to money.
This is just one example. There are many, many more examples of people using this work to reconnect to hidden or disconnected aspects of themselves. Everybody is different in their experience at a workshop, and the process supports people to work at different levels of depth very safely. I’ve written some of these up on my blog.
What were some of your own dis-empowering money stories that you have moved past? Do you still work with some deeply held patterns or would you say you are now fairly conscious (or whatever the term may be that you prefer?).
I feel that I am often conscious and yet still somewhat held by old patterns. Perhaps this is a transitional phase. For example, I notice very clearly my tendencies to relate money to security – which I can now see relates to my own personal feelings of insecurity rather than anything externally real or rational.
A big area for me around money has been relating it to masculine ideas of success – so I’ve tended to think for example that if I have lots of money that makes me a proper man and a success. This is something that I can still sense energetically, but has freed up a great deal. It is interesting that rationally I would have been able to argue with great clarity and confidence for years that money is not at all what makes a man a man, or what makes a success a success. Yet I can see that I have nevertheless been quite trapped by that view unconsciously. This is how the Money Work happens – it helps us uncover and release truths that are in the body even if the mind is holding on to an entirely different story.
I am a great deal freer these days to experience graciously both my success and my failure, and to locate my sense of power and manhood in other ways that do not involve money or status. This is definitely freeing up to do more of the work I want to do and be more of the person I want to be – with and without money.
- The idea of projection is that we unconsciously come to believe that money represents qualities which in fact are simply aspects of ourselves that we don’t consciously recognise. Thus if I see money as ‘the root of all evil’ or as ‘power and status’ then paradoxical or strange as it at first appears, I need to recognise that the qualities of ‘power’ ‘evil’ or ‘status’ do not reside in a piece of paper in my wallet! Rather they are aspects of my full humanity. The more I connect with this the more I can handle these aspects of myself, and money itself, with skill, creativity and freedom rather than a sense of constraint.
- The Peter Koenig Money process invites us to consider the differences between ‘Normal’ and ‘Natural’ approaches to life and money. The Normal approach (not particularly healthy, but normal) is based on what some psychotherapists term a ‘survival strategy’. We are driven to secure money/livelihood as a way to survive, feel safe or earn a living – but this often is not well connected to what truly brings us alive, to our passion or vocation. The Natural cycle is to follow the path of life’s calling and passion and to develop greater trust that one will be supported to continue to do this, with and without money.