I work with many clients who come in with a sense that they have been stuck forever; whatever healing they try, they can’t get “traction.” I’ve been noticing this pattern for a while. And I am beginning to notice two of the things that are often at the heart of it.
In one instance, people are stuck because they are in deep pain about not having the life they expected. Often this is the result of a dramatic event, the kind of thing that creates the sense of a fork in the road, when life is permanently changed, and the life they thought they were going to have is lost forever. A sudden miscarriage, going to jail, an accident leading to a permanent disability–these kinds of things almost feel like a theft of a life they knew they were going to have.
The other instance is when someone had a terrible experience of childhood that was especially lonely or unnoticed by others. For many of these people, to “move forward in life”–to become more healthy, or get work they love, or see their business thrive–feels unconsciously like abandoning their past, unhappy selves. Almost as if, to move forward, they have to tell their past selves that “it didn’t really matter.”
In both these instances, there is a version of you that is almost holding the present version of you hostage. In the first instance, we can’t move on because we only want the life we didn’t get to live; in the second, we can’t move on because we can’t bear abandoning our past self.
In both instances, when we look at the situation systemically (which constellation work makes possible), your parallel self (the life not lived) and your past self (the one who had it so hard), are both real elements of your system that have real effect on you and your life. We feel compelled to stop our life in its tracks because to do so is a betrayal of those other selves.
This is classic devotional patterning: the way we make our lives impossible out of love for someone else in the system. It’s just in this case, the loved one is an alternate version of ourselves. Bert Hellinger would say we are “entangled”: we are trying to include and love someone else in the system whom we perceive as lost or not fully respected.
So what is the answer? The answer is to consciously respect these alternative selves. In the first instance, see the version of us who continued living the undisturbed life, acknowledge that one, grieve the loss of that one, and ask for that one’s blessing. In the second instance, we acknowledge the younger one’s fate, and notice that things get better for our past self only when we allow that one’s future (that’s us) to get better.
There is no difference between this and honoring the ancestors properly. In this instance, we are respecting our multiple selves properly, and including them, giving them a place in our hearts (as Hellinger put it).
The important healing is coming into rapport with all aspects of ourselves; in this instance, our selves across time. It’s astonishing how stuck we can make ourselves when we are at odds with other selves in time. And it’s also astonishing how quickly we can move again when we find that rapport, the sense that none of our selves across time (even the times when we were most self-destructive) are against any of the others.
As a last movement, we can notice our future self, doing so much better than we are, now in full motion and happy about it. It’s important to see that one concretely. It turns out many of us, in childhood or at other critical moments, imagine that we have stopped having a future, because we can only imagine our future being painful. That can really help for a time (especially in childhood, when we have so little control, or in times of special, ongoing crisis), but eventually, we need to regain our future.
Because when we imagine a future self doing well, that one starts to have an effect on our system, truly, as another living representative within it. It inevitably affects us, and helps move us toward what we most want.
Are you unable to get traction? Take a look at your past and future selves, and see if some honoring and respect for all of who you are can help. And, if you suspect something like this may be at work, but you can’t feel it fully, connect with me, and let’s see if we can’t create life changing rapport across your life, for yourself.
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For much of my adult life, I admit, I had a decidedly childish relationship with my finances. I ignored them as much as I could, and when I did deal with them, it was usually at the last minute or entirely too late. I am embarrassed about the amount of money I wasted on late fees, lost opportunities, and ignorant spending as a result of having no awareness of my financial situation.
About two years ago, I suddenly felt inspired to sit down and start exploring my finances. Over the course of about three months, I informed myself about my situation, and gradually put things in order, creating systems, getting advice, and gaining clarity.
After years of struggle, I was surprised this simply was not such a big deal. Yes, it had a learning curve, but it was all learnable, and anything that required more than I knew I could get help with. In fact, I stumbled on an amazing discovery: managing my finances responsibly was interesting and fun. Wow.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been reflecting with you about how we are of infinite worth, and how that can get distorted in our lives and in our families.
How about for business? Many of you on my email list are yourselves alternative practitioners and coaches, or in business of one sort or another. What does it mean when struggles with worth show up in business?
Frankly, it’s almost impossible to be in business if we don’t have some sense of of our infinite value, at a deep, unconscious level. What trouble can that cause?
- A tendency to undercharge, or to attract clients who say they can’t afford your work.
- Excessive indebtedness.
- Consistently poor income.
- Worry and anxiety about money that makes enjoying your work almost impossible.
- Struggles with financial management that make the necessary ongoing maintenance of your business really difficult.
- An inability to market, be seen, and share the word about what you do.
Sometimes, these problems are big enough to prevent success and/or joy in your work. At that point, we inevitably wonder if it makes sense to give up, change direction, or get a job instead of pursuing our passion.
Every day, I work with amazing practitioners who are really skilled at what they do, but they can’t share it because money issues are making it impossible for them to build their businesses consistently.
For some reason, I take it personally: when I see gifted practitioners, I really want them out there, doing what they do so well, without a lot of worry, and with enough confidence and joy that they can keep moving forward successfully. And when they can’t, it’s really frustrating for me.
Money problems like these are manifestations of struggles with worth in our families. Discouraged practitioners cannot just force their way through: they need insight into how things went so awry in their families, and they need a better way to belong than to lovingly continue the struggle.
When this happens, a new way appears. There’s no more struggle. We try, and it works, and we recover our confidence.
This is what happened to me two years ago, when suddenly, dealing with my personal and business finances became doable, interesting and fun. Believe me, before that point, I simply would not have believed it was possible, but now I know what I’ve always suspected: when we clear and complete old patterns, change becomes inevitable, a natural expression of our being.
This healing is possible through the power of family constellations. Want a taste? Join me for two free calls that are coming up this week! They are on July 3rd & 10th, 6-7p PT.
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If this title makes you uncomfortable, join the crowd: It actually makes me feel very uncomfortable. But it’s an important question, not because it’s answerable (it isn’t, and it shouldn’t be), but because it points to the deeper heart-ache and desire for unconditional love at the heart of every family.
How did people know what was worthwhile in your family? Was it:
- making sure you had financial security, no matter what?
- doing better than “the Joneses”?
- not embarrassing anyone and making sure you go with the flow?
- giving everything away and keeping nothing for yourself?
- keeping everything, and giving nothing away?
- or, perhaps, having nothing to begin with?
In themselves, there’s nothing really wrong with any of these standards of worthiness. But they are a poor replacement for genuine love and belonging, which we all naturally want.
They are also a terrible guide to how to deal with money, in any form. As I wrote last week, human life, love and meaning cannot be measured in dollars and cents. The only way to answer the question of “What is someone worth in your family?” is “Everything.” From the Family Soul point of view, everyone is precious, necessary, included and belongs.
We live out our lives in the tension between this radical inclusion of our family souls, and the contradictory messages we receive from our families about worth. What happens next?
- We have jobs we hate.
- We are drowning in debt we can’t pay.
- We are underemployed throughout our lives.
- We can’t ask our clients for appropriate payment, or we attract people who are unable to.
- We find ourselves in money relationships of conflict and unending resentment.
- And much else.
What a mess. But the good news, there is a way out. Proper belonging–a way of belonging that doesn’t require our families to become better than they were or are, and which provides infinite support, inclusion and love.
This may sound unrealistic. And if I suggested you do it just by “changing your mindset” or snapping your fingers or placing an affirmation on your mirror, you’d be quite right about that. That’s not realistic. Systems are powerful, and we can’t think our way into a different experience of them. The emotional system always wins.
Finding proper belonging is not a mindset fix. It’s genuine healing of the Family Soul of which you are a part.
This healing is possible through the power of family constellations. Want a taste? Join me for two free calls that are coming up in a few weeks, July 3rd & 10th, 6-7p PT.
Next week, I am going to continue this article series on our Infinite Value with a focus on the special anguish that comes from how our complicated inheritance around worth makes being in business especially difficult. You might be able to scrape by with crappy work, but if your relationship with worth and your family (and how it impacts money) isn’t in order, being in business is almost impossible, and makes it hugely painful.
I want to introduce these topics as I invite you to consider joining me for a deeply healing series this summer: You Are of Infinite Value: Healing Money Problems that Come From Your Grandparents (and their parents). This is a six week teleseries that I hope you’ll be part of. (See more info about that, below.)
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Let’s get this straight: Yes, you are of infinite value. And, we don’t always feel that way. Not to mention even believe it. So much gets in the way of knowing this, and in a lot of ways, it doesn’t appear that life looks this way.
We think in terms of prices, because we live in a culture where most things have a price, including the medical costs of our birth and the costs of raising us. So, we naturally ask questions of worth about all kinds of things. But the truth is, the attachment of “worth” or “value” to our existence is pretty silly.
The better way to say it really is the old credit card ad: we are “priceless.” That is, we cannot be measured in any way by money. Just like you can’t measure the volume of air with a ruler (meant to measure length), or the square feet of your apartment with a geiger counter (meant to measure radiation), money simply isn’t a meaningful measure of our value. The best we can say (and it isn’t really a good way to say it, but let’s stick with it for now), is that we are of infinite value.
Okay, we say, no big deal, got it. But then, we have to do things like: ask for a raise for having gone above and beyond for our employer; balance time spent at work vs. being with the kids; figure out how much we can afford for a vacation; the price of a special meal for our sweetie on our anniversary; or price our services with our clients. And then we start to ask “What is it worth?”
Again, it’s a perfectly logical question. But for many of us, this sets off all kinds of alarm bells. What am I worth? Am I worth a vacation, a raise, to be paid this rather than that? And if you have any struggles with self-worth, issues of belonging with your family around money, or any one of a dozen different money-related issues, we are going down the wrong road, one that simply does not get us to any useful answers.
“What is it worth” is almost always the wrong question, because every single one of those things is ALSO of infinite worth. I can even argue that going to a movie (which usually costs $10-15) could potentially be of infinite worth, if we see it as part of a life of joy, delight, fun and recreation. What would a life be worth without those things? Not much. And yet, your local movie theater has to price these things in some way that makes sense to you and me when we think about going to the movies.
When we are solid about our infinite worth–when we know it, deep in our bones, without question and really without even thinking about it much–then we can start to bring some logic, consideration, meaning, choice and heart-felt desire to what we want in life that costs money, or with respect to asking others for money to pay us for our services. These become, then, transactional relationships of dignity and simplicity.
So, the big question, for any of us who struggle with this, is: How do we learn, deep down, our infinite worth? That’s a big question, but I’d like to start us in a useful direction: it has something to do with proper belonging in the world, and bringing in strength from a place much greater than one we can exercise on our own.
Many of us struggle with our worth, because worth was a struggle in our families. Ouch. But, this is available for healing. It is changeable, for you and the life you want to create now.
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In my late 20s, when I had my wonderful conversion experience (maybe I’ll write an article about that sometime!) I had to choose a church to join. Immediately, I found myself needing to balance ends of a ritual spectrum: the churches that had lots of sensual, spiritual abandon, but didn’t seem to me to be very thoughtful and reasoned about their beliefs, and other traditions that were very thoughtful in ways I trusted, but weren’t very sensual or experiential.
In the end, I chose the Episcopal Church, having found a church (St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco) that seemed to have balanced these two perfectly. When I became a priest, though, I found that I had chosen a very thoughtful tradition that has wonderful rituals that are usually not very sensually carried out. We are very book-oriented, we don’t move a lot in the service, we all face forward, and most of the action happens “up front.”
I loved my church, though, so I committed myself to this world that turned out to be not as lively, sometimes, as I wanted. And, in extreme cases, what I found were communities that were almost obsessed with “being careful,” not breaking the rules, not upsetting anyone, maintaining order. There is great beauty at the heart of this instinct (go to any monastery in Europe that has maintained the old prayer traditions, and you’ll know what I mean) but for day-to-day life, it was almost suffocating.
I realized that I needed an occasional “big Jesus” moment, as I called it. Some form of worship that was entirely abandoned, carefree, not careful at all. Most of the places I found this kind of worship, I never could have made my permanent home because often that abandon came with beliefs and behaviors I found pretty worrisome, but I loved their full-hearted, sincere, uncareful way of worshiping.
Do you struggle, in your business or in your life, with having to find a balance between these two? Do you spend so much time trying to be careful, make sure you’re doing it right, that sometimes you feel you are suffocating?
It doesn’t work forever. At some point, it becomes a deep instinctive need to risk, try something new without worrying so much about whether it will work or not. To do it just to find out if it feels good.
In a world where we often have to be heart-breakingly careful so much of the time, it is deep relief when we don’t need to, we can trust, relax, let go, and allow what comes.
When I work with heart-based practitioners, I almost always find this dynamic. And often, they haven’t been able to find the balance in their work. They are caught in “being careful,” either with others in their lives, or with themselves.
My job is to create a good space to feel free to be imperfect, beautiful, and growing. And to know that this space is the best space for having a business or a happy life.
Where do you find the balance between “letting go” and “let’s be careful”?
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Some people in my line of work might say that patterns are what all change work comes down to: Patterns you have that you don’t want, and the new patterns you’d prefer. If something is a one-time event, even if it was terrible, if it doesn’t create an unwanted new pattern (or intensify an existing one), people don’t usually come to me for help.
As true as that is, patterns go much, much deeper. There are the patterns of nature: tides, plant leaves, snail shell whorls, the cycles of the seasons. And there are the patterns we humans seem to be compelled to make, even in the midst of randomness, like when we create the constellations in the sky or pile stones into cairns.
Some anthropologists say that what distinguishes humans is our propensity for seeing, creating, and thinking about patterns.
Healers and spiritual teachers have long prescribed the sick and despairing to engage with beautiful patterns: labyrinths (see my logo), rituals, mantras, dances, cycles of prayer, not only for their content, but also because engaging in life-giving patterns seems to deeply re-organize and therefore heal.
So it’s always interesting when a pattern gets over-turned or up-ended. In some ways, that’s what my work is all about–finding the “third way,” the unexpected re-frame, the new, life-giving pattern that the current pattern couldn’t allow us to see.
Occasionally, a new pattern shows up in our lives that feels so “right,” we almost can’t tell it’s new. That’s wonderful.
But other new patterns, like new music in a modality we’ve never been exposed to, can’t be easily understood, perceived, or integrated. Such a new pattern at first can feel chaotic, wrong, disturbing, or confusing. So, it needs to keep flinging itself at us (like new music listened to many times) until we can perceive it’s meaning and feel its beauty.
Have you experienced one of these? Is there any chance one of them is showing up now in your life? Hmmm….
Well, it seems to be happening to me. Lately, alternative healers and coaches keep approaching me and asking me, how did I do it? How did I create a viable business? They ask me, not because I seem so amazingly successful (although I am living well on my work–yay!), but, I think, because they perceive that I’ve used a different model for succeeding as a practitioner, and they’ve looked at other models, and they’re wondering, how did she do it?
As a result, I’ve tenderly dipped my toes into something new–not really business coaching, because I don’t really have that skill–but something more like:
- Using NLP and Family Constellations to discover and create your authentic business identity (aka “brand”)
- Identity level growth for the newly and tenderly self-employed
- Clearing ecology and old energies for thriving forward
- Finding a “true north” that can hold your integrity through the ups and downs
- Creative, joyful engagement with business learning and development
And perhaps above all:
- Becoming a practitioner that is successful while being fully in alignment with HOW you are becoming successful.
I’m still feeling this all out, with a great deal of surprise that this is what is emerging in my work. I am already leading a business development group where I am putting this all to the test, with five amazing practitioners are having a blast becoming the business owners they want to be. (More on that down the road.)
The immediate result are two more offerings, which you can see more about here. One’s free, and the other is an affordable one-day workshop. I hope you join me! Or, if you aren’t a practitioner, share this with others who are and who need support.
And whoever you are, and however you make your way, look out for the new patterns, the one’s that, just maybe, are about to make trouble in the most wonderful and challenging way possible…
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Lots of people have animals as spirit guides, but what about flowers?
No so on tax day! There were millions of them, and they were everywhere. You couldn’t choose a view without seeing fields of them. It was riotous, abundant, overdone, wildly extravagant. As I enjoyed and photographed them, I would feel myself getting giddy, a bit high, overwhelmed by the sheer over-the-top-ness of it. They made me happy.
During this retreat I was focusing on a set of issues, and some of them were pretty thorny. One in particular, every time it came to mind, I had to deal with strong feelings of wrongness, failure and inadequacy. In my worst self-disrespect, I would feel deeply, unchangeably flawed, and I would dance with the despair of that.
If you acknowledge that we are worthy simply because we are alive and beautiful, then what about you?
I was stunned. The voice had immense authority, and I knew it was the iris speaking.
Everything alive is worthy.
It felt like the kind of experience I’ve sometimes had with animal guides, but this was a plant. I am aware of plant medicine in many cultures, but I’ve never directly taken part, and yet here it was, in all its power.
Can you hear the iris speak to you? Or some other authoritative voice saying, “How can you see the worthiness of some other part of the universe, and not see your own? It’s contradictory! You are alive. You are worthy.”
That voice knows something we need to hear. It’s time to let it speak, and see how it re-arranges pretty much everything.
It’s time for the irises to speak, and be in charge for a while.
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Do you ever get shut down?
It can be in small ways, or it can be in big ways:
- You are writing your blog, and you get tempted to look at incoming email, and something triggers you and you just can’t finish anymore.
- You decide to eat a little better, and for a meal or two or three, you do alright, and then you trigger your feelings of deprivation, and you binge for weeks.
- You KNOW you are supposed to do more networking (or exercising, or job interviews, or…), and you start making yourself do it, and then…everything shuts down. Not just the thing you were trying to do, but almost everything.
We’ve just poked the tiger too many times, and it’s gotten pissed off. My advice? Stop poking the tiger; it’s gotten grumpy.
What is the tiger?
The tiger is our inner balance system, the one which, for better or for worse, tries to keep things pretty much the same. This tiger is doing it’s very best to keep us well, safe and happy. Truly. And, most of the time, it’s the sweet cat we can rely on to keep us on the path we most prefer.
However, this balancing system has some beliefs that are profoundly out of date, beliefs about what is truly safe and useful to us. When we try to do something that contradicts or threatens one of these beliefs, the tiger gets grumpy. If we push it enough, it can react by shutting everything down in a attempt to maintain the safety it thinks we need.
Most of us, as adults, have a sense of what those areas of our life are. We’ve experienced how crazy our eating can get. Or we know the perfect circumstances to provoke our procrastination. The problem is that we feel like we need to change these patterns by pushing harder, and forcing a change.
Let me be clear: Force doesn’t work. It might work for a little while, but eventually, our inner balancing system will put things back on the track it thinks is best for us (even though, again, those beliefs are terribly out of date and not in alignment with what we know and want now). If this tiger thinks we are in total risk of our lives, it will shut us down to save us.
Now, there are ways to change these patterns so that the beliefs get updated and we can move forward in ways that feel good to us. That’s what I use NLP and Family Constellations for, and there are other modalities that do that, too. In the meantime, though, what do we do?
Well, don’t poke the tiger! Don’t rile up that inner balancing system so much it feels provoked to shut things down. This is so important, because, again, sometimes we feel like if we just applied a bit more force, we could get it to change.
So, if force doesn’t work, what keeps the tiger from getting upset and shutting everything down?
- First, remember, don’t force. If you’ve tried something and you can feel things collapsing, back off.
- When there is some area of your life that you can’t “fix” or really move forward on, be intentional about doing the things you can do. Momentum is very important; without it, we get discouraged. Do what you can do.
- Don’t try to overload your plate. Do a bit of this and that. Don’t try to change or address more than a few things at a time.
- Attend to your wellness (at least the kinds of wellness that are pretty much easy!). Pleasure, beauty, self-care–these are the kinds of things that make moving forward on the stickier parts of life easier.
- Support is critical, and find the kind that works for you. We really can’t build new patterns in our lives on our own. That’s very, very hard.
- And again, don’t force. Sorry to repeat it, but I see clients do this to themselves so often, especially people who are in business for themselves, alternative healing practitioners and coaches. If your work on the website it shutting everything down, focus on something, anything, else.
Another way to say all this: Be kind to yourself. Gentleness takes most of us further than an aggressive stance toward ourselves. Poking the tiger, in the end, is really us poking, unmercifully, at ourselves.
And although I have offered some advice for avoiding aggravating our inner tiger balancing system, this also applies to any good change work system, whether NLP or Family Constellations or anything else. Change work is never about simple force. It’s about finding the “third way,” the unexpected path that we couldn’t see.
All movement forward is about respecting the inner self that is so kindly trying to care for ourselves.
We need that tiger. Respect it. Don’t poke it.
5 Responses to “Don’t Poke The Tiger With a Stick. It Doesn’t Like It.”
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Everybody knows the need for basic positive self-regard. Generally this does not need to be a big deal. The people who have it don’t spend a lot of time looking in the mirror at themselves, saying affirmations. They just have a proper sense of who they are in the scheme of things, and that supports a positive experience of the world.
And, of course, many (most?) of us struggle with this at times. We become aware of the ways we almost invisibly make ourselves terribly wrong, function as if we are permanently broken, or carry guilt our sins just can’t explain.
Sometimes, this emerges in a terrible experience of self-loathing. It usually has something to do with a specific incident: an ended relationship, a big conflict, a business failure, a sudden disaster we think we should have seen coming.
I’ve had one of these lately. I just can’t seem to get things right, and it’s been heart-breaking and demoralizing. In that state, I am tempted into resignation, despair, and just plain giving up. I am too flawed. I cannot fix it.
Strangely enough, when one of these states almost clobbers us in the head, as painful as it is, it offers us an amazing opportunity to look at this usually-invisible set of unconscious beliefs that run the show behind the scenes. It may feel like it’s something new, something awful that’s interrupting the more usual experience of basic okay-ness, but actually it’s the operating system showing itself for once, making awareness and revision possible.
Unfortunately, the first task is to feel it, and that’s just awful, truly awful. Time for support, for rest, for all the stuff that we use to helpfully get us through the hard times. But when the worst passes a bit, and we can begin to work with the self-loating a little, something becomes possible that hadn’t been before.
- What good thing comes to someone who pre-determines that s/he is loathsome? What’s the useful pay-off?
- What might I lose that I value if I knew I was, well, okay?
- In my family, if I retain the guilt, who gets to retain the innocence? (Usually a parent.)
- If I give myself a break, does it mean I have to give someone else a break, and I really, really don’t want to?
- Is there any chance that if I weren’t really so guilty, I might not belong to my family so well?
- Is it truly likely that I am actually the spawn of satan that I imagine myself to be? Is it more likely that I am an ordinary human with ordinary limitations?
- If I were to see myself as okay, right now, in this situation, how might it kind of change everything, immediately, in the blink of an eye?
- What kind of universe do I want to believe in? One where someone like me is loathsome, or one where someone like me is mostly just fine?
And now that it appears that you aren’t loathsome, what miracle becomes possible?…
4 Responses to “When I just don’t love myself anymore…”
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How much money do you have? Do you have too much? Do you have too little?
These may seem like rude questions (they kinda are), but lately the news has been highlighting an article by Sam Polk in the New York Times, “For the Love of Money.” In this article, he says that, as a bond trader, he became addicted to money: “In my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million – and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough.” Eventually, he realized that there was something really wrong with this experience of money.
Now, this is not generally our problem. Many of us struggle to have enough. But underlying both of these conditions is a deep unhealthiness with money in our culture.
Why? Why does our culture have such a difficult relationship with wealth, abundance, and prosperity?
When we begin to think systemically about it, get a bigger picture, we might begin to wonder what it means that our country’s history has been filled with people who had more than enough, and others who actually starved to death for lack of resources.
This doesn’t matter if we are all individuals, but if we are part of a system that feels the desperation of some while we also feel the luxury of others, something is going to start to get fundamentally out of whack.
Having said this, however, you’ve still got whatever problem you’ve got with money, right? Getting paid enough, or having a good enough job, or falling constantly into debt–whatever it is, you’ve got to solve it. Ugh.
What if we could find a way to come into harmony with the centuries of wealth inequality so that we could have our own proper relationship with money? What if, by including the dignity of everyone, we could start to breathe and receive and move forward with honor and action?
Take a moment, and imagine all of your ancestors before you: poor and rich together. See the dignity of everyone, including anyone who was “bad,” used money wrongly. Thank them for your life. And ask for their support as you choose an honorable and life-oriented future for yourself with money.