Dirty Money?

There are people who view money as a bad influence, and others see money as the currency of life that guarantees involvement. With free will, we can and do choose how we relate to money. Deeper introspection is often needed to understand how to heal our relationship with whatever money signifies for our lives.

When I was little, my grandmother told me not to touch money – it was “dirty.” My mom carried forward the same message. True – money changed hands, some of which could have been laden with bacteria. However, I also got the message that money was something unclean. Because I grew up in poverty, I considered people who had money “dirty” – in my country of origin, it was unlikely that money was made in “clean” ways.

Then, there was my father – a stepdad who took us to America. He went to a computer programming bootcamp upon arriving in New York to retrain himself for a new career in the U.S,., took English classes, and persistently applied for jobs. I was told that he sent out hundreds of resumes and got the one interview that landed him his first job. Because of him, I was able to attend college. He raised us out of poverty.

My father liked his job a lot. He also taught me that supporting family was the most honorable thing one could do. We didn’t talk about it – he lived it. Family and education were the most important things to bring one out of poverty. People who have not experienced poverty have no idea how powerfully it can drive one to seek a better life.

For a long time, I resisted my father’s push to get a stable job. I wanted to help people and, without giving it much thought, still believed that helping people and money were diametrically opposed. At one point, I asked a guru to live in the ashram, and she said “No, you are needed in the world. You must be out there on the frontlines.

When I was a single mom with my first child, I quickly realized that we would not live well on a teacher’s salary. I listened to my dad and got a corporate job. I rapidly climbed up the “ladder” and eventually made a moderate income. However, I had not realized that – at the time – I also carried a great deal of unconscious fear regarding losing money and not having enough to support my family. Poverty leaves an impression.

Even while bringing home a substantial paycheck, I felt fear about losing my job, about spending too much, and about not having enough. Eventually, I realized that no matter how much money I made, I still had fear of not being able to provide for my family or losing my job. My fear-based relationship to money brought conflict into my household, where my perception was that nothing is enough and no amount of hard work is too much.

It has now been years since I had my high-paying job. I am making a teacher’s salary again and have my children, now as a single mom once more. Although I have come full circle, my perspective is not the same. Although I still have financial pressures, I realize that things can be made to work out for my kids – but not without my active involvement and work ethic. It is possible to work hard without becoming negative and jaded.

My older son started college this year and I am fighting to secure money for his education from his dad. My younger one is still in his formative years and needs stability. I will need to fight for his stability. And, I will pick up whatever worshop “gigs” and summer school that become available to help make ends meet.

It took me time to accept that our world is set up a certain way around a currency and “market demands.” But these are just overt signs of a more profound universal process at play. One thing became clear to me: The pursuit of decent living and helping people are not incompatible. Regadless of what else I was doing, I made myself available to people.

I have enough life experience to now plan ahead and adapt to what’s needed. To live, most of us must be practical and work hard enough, but without the baggage of fear. The world needs skills and dreams – such people will always make it.

As a teacher, I see about 150 students a day. Some come from wealthy homes, and others are homeless. Many are getting a free lunch because of their family’s low income. When I ask them what they want to do with their lives, many say “I want to make lots of money.” When I ask “What will you do with this money?” Many say “Pay off my parents’ mortage” and other statements regarding rising out of poverty. Of course some also dream of having wealth, and expensive and luxurious things. Our culture seems obsessive about having things. Yet, all unanimously want to have a job that they enjoy and one that also provides.

I was fortunate enough to be persistent in my education and learn skills that were in demand. Others were not so fortunate and had impractical college majors, which ensured that someone else would always have to support them.

It is easy to talk about careers that make money as being less than noble. It is easy to put down people who work hard to bring opportunities to their children and pay the bills. But practical reality shows how a lack of money leads to unhealthy living, addictions, depression, and even crime.

For the love of our families, some of us need multiple jobs just to make ends meet, living from paycheck to paycheck. This is where I am now. It is likely that I will need to attend a crash course in Data Science and Machine Learning to get a new career and to provide more opportunities for my kids. I seriously prefer not to put back groceries on the store shelf just to meet my budget. That is reality.

Fighting reality by calling money “dirty,” necessary hard work “workaholism,” and the pursuit of higher-paying jobs “ignoble” is rejecting what is needed in our world. While all these labels are possible for some people, they do not necessarily apply to most.

Money can and does help people. Those in the STEM fields have the capacity to create and invent for our future. Those in the service industry have the ability to bring people together.

I like financial independence – it felt great to not need child support from my older son’s dad because I made enough at the time. I prefer an honest job that holds my interest, uses my brain, and pays as much as I can get for my family.

I’ve learned that practical and grounded living is essential to being on this planet. I am not afraid anymore, but neither am I grabbing a begging bowl and stopping my own education that can improve the lives of my kids.

Life on Earth is set up to immerse us in life experiences. Money is just how we exchange opportunities. If it weren’t money, it would be something similar. Spiritual living is more grounded when a person can be deeply immersed in life and with people.

Certainly, our society can improve in how we motivate people to engage in life (and not just look for escape), but calling money “dirty” and hard work unnecessary laughs in the face of our real lives. Why not, instead, ask why life is set up this way, and explore the question with deeper insight? For this is indeed a setup for us….

12 thoughts on “Dirty Money?”

  1. (I wish I knew the problem, InEx, I lose more comments on your site than anywhere else in WordPress. But I persist, lol.)

    You came to America from a life of poverty somewhere else. You see money one way. I was born to poverty in Canada, a nation virtually as rich as America, I see money a whole different way. Born of a Metis father and a European mother, I was neither red nor white, I belonged nowhere. My uneducated father had to take the worst jobs at the lowest pay. You live from paycheque to paycheque? We lived from day to day, in a world filled with riches we could not afford. When my father got permanently injured, life became even worse. My brothers had to leave school to support the family. They got the worst jobs at the lowest pay. It was cyclical, generation to generation. I myself had generally the highest or second highest marks in my school grade year after year. I was told I would easily get a university scholarship. Until in grade 11 a white teacher intentionally gave me a failing grade, because he wanted his son to get the scholarship. I don’t know if in those days a grade could be challenged. No one told me anything. Just, “Too bad, kid, you were so close.” I quit school in Grade 12.
    Money was something I never had growing up, so I learned to live without it. Poverty did not drive me to want money, it taught me to live within my means. I learned how to be happy. Life may have been cruel, but I didn’t care.
    This isn’t exactly where I was intending to go, so I will take a jump to the side. In life I discovered there were three main things that separate people from one another. To group them together I changed their names symbolicly: god (religion), gold (money), and government (nationhood). These three things, none of which exist in nature, all of which were invented by humans, divide people into so many different groups, all of which cause grievous acts of violence to others. Also, they divide humans from all other living beings. As long as the 3 g’s exist, there will never be true peace in our world. Someone will always want to be more important than someone else. More righteous than someone else. Richer than someone else.
    No, money does not have to be dirty, there are a lot of good people in this world. But wealth is dirty. And I will leave this discussion there for now.

    1. Oh… you understand poverty… so many live with uncertainty for the basics. I am now much better off than when I was in my country of origin. And I am not as financially stable as I was while I worked a high-paying job – although it was never “wealth.” I do prioritize my children and try for them, but I am also realistic and know when to accept and adapt to my situation. Right now, my situation is very much undefined for a variety of reasons that seemed to have converged all at once – so I am surfing the things that come up daily…
      Wealth is an interesting structure in this world, dating back to the beginning of time. It looks different on the physical plane than on other planes, but it is a definite “Jupiter storm” that appears to stay put. As I perceive it, it is tightly tied into “constriction” or “limitation,” “dominance” and “manipulation” – and all are rooted in a fundamental fear that is heavily felt on this plane of existence.
      The words have negative connotations and I won’t say more on this except… In your reflection, how would the world change if everyone had everything they needed? I reflected on this scenario for many years, studying the global structures that affect our lives at difference scales. To dismantle this structure seems to need dismantling the mechanism of fear, and then the vista transforms. Thank you, as always, for your comments.

      1. I may have overstepped my meaning a bit, trying to say everyone would have that which they needed to live. Food, shelter, protective clothing, hopefully health. * food and shelter above all else–they cannot seek higher meaning unless they are safe and secure in their needs. Coming from a college professor I can see why he feels these things are true. They help, certainly, but one can be poor and still be a seeker of spiritual understanding. Otherwise, for many of us, we would have no hope of rising to other levels. He sets as his goal of life self-actualization, becoming the master of your life. This is definitely one step along the way. But it is not the goal, the goal is finding purpose as I said in a comment yesterday. We will not find it here, as I also said, but we must drive ourselves to look. And having what we need to survive safely might be one key to more of us finding our way. I believe you said you do not like saying one has to be ready to find new levels, I do not like it much myself. But that does not mean it isn’t true to some extent. If we are worried to have a safe place to sleep, or enough food to sustain us, do we have time to prepare ourselves to learn? Some yes, others no. But there would be more chance if we did have some security. And that might be how the world would change. At the very least, I think, we would have more hope.

        1. Can you please clarify “one has to be ready to find new levels” – I’m not sure I understand the reference in this context…

          1. Actually, I could not remember what term you used for transcending the ego, or raising yourself up to what I call a spiritual level. Something you said the other day about not saying a person has to be ready for such work. I apologize if those were not your words. But no matter, while it sounds condescending of a sort to say someone is not ready, it can still be true. You cannot take Joe Blow off the street and teach them to transcend the level they are on, they need to have done some work already for a teacher to take them on. Aside from the fact I was told I was not ready yet, I used that as a stepping stone to where I am today. It was not intended as an inssult, but I could have taken it as one, if I did not think it was meaningful to the monk that I might be. But no matter, all that is in the past. The important part is where one is now.

          2. 😀 I should have said the opposite – it is better to be ready. But what does “ready” mean? In my case, more healing and releasing of old trauma would have been helpful. Preparation for opening helps one not to “burn up” or go crazy after opening.
            The timing of the opening is between the person and the light only. However, clearing up old debris is certainly helpful to avoid much turmoil, which I had to go through afterwards – for about 8 years or so…

          3. A being can help to catalyze opening, but it is the person opening who must stabilize it. A teacher is essential because they can help someone who is “burning up” to hold steady while the debris burns off. The metaphor is all to close to what I went through. My teacher died a year after I opened, so I was on my own to get through this – by sheer will power. It was not easy, but it must have been my path…

          4. It took me close to 5 decades to figure some of it out, and get it under control. Many were the times I thought I was going insane. But little by little I kept moving forward, and believing I was on to sometjing good, something worthwhile. Am I fully conscious yet? I won’t know until I know. But my footing is firm. And my vision is clear. I am home no matter where Iam!

        2. Oddly enough, those who seek something more than what a typical life claims to be, are often ill, depressed, and come from hardships. It is not the complacent who seek – it takes too much even for most committed to transcend the ego…

    2. (RE comments – I often have to check for them in Trash for some reason… It’s a WordPress thing – so I remove them from Trash to post them – I also persevere 🙂

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