What generates the problem? Confusion about money points to confusion about what we value in our lives; when you see things in terms of money, you are inevitably in one of the six realms; guided meditations: survival, getting emotional needs met, and self-image; intention versus self-image; valuing what can be taken away places life in other people’s hands.
Okay, got a level?
Ken: So, the first section we did here was basically focused on getting some sense of the problem. And there are just a few things that I want to throw in before I move onto the second part.
When we’re talking about money and our confusion about money—and this is the part we’ll be getting into more detail in a moment—we’re really talking about what we value, and what we value in our lives. And I want to throw out a couple references. How many of you have seen The Matrix? Okay. There’s a scene in The Matrix in which one of the humans is in the Matrix and he’s holding a piece of steak in his fork and he says, “I don’t care if this is an illusion, it still tastes really good.” [Laughter] That’s what he valued.
And so the question is, what do you actually value? That is probably the most important question in one’s life, is what do you actually value?
Everybody here is engaged in one way or another with the practice of Buddhism. There is a very explicit value there. I remember a friend of mine was talking about Buddhism at her work. And the response of one of her coworkers, and this goes back to the theme of refuge I was discussing earlier was, “I don’t get it. My god is money.” That’s what she valued. So, what do you actually value? And as I say, we’re going to move into a deeper relationship. And that’s partly what I was getting at with the question of what does money represent to you. We’ll take some response to that in a minute.
The other thing I wanted to point out, which you didn’t cover explicitly, is that when you regard money as the problem or money as the issue, you are inevitably operating in one of the six realms. Frequently, it will be the hungry ghost realm. But it isn’t necessarily. It may very well be the god realm. It can be any of the six realms.
How many of you have seen the movie Thank You For Smoking? Okay, there’s a wonderful line in that movie, and each of the main characters uses it—both the reporter and the hero—at different portions, just after they’ve done something horrible to the other person. And the line is, you know, “How could you do this to me?” And the line is, “I’m just trying to pay the mortgage.” [Chuckle]
You know, the reporter says, “I’m just trying to pay the mortgage. It’s just my job. You know, so don’t take it personally.” And when he turns the tables he says the same thing. This is animal realm mentality. I recommend the movie highly because it’s a textbook case in mind killing. Wonderful. And that great line from the son when he comes back from his mother, he said, “How did it go?” “It was an argument. It wasn’t a negotiation.”
Another example of this is the movie Wall Street, in which you see everybody in the hungry ghost realm or the titan realm, take your pick. And those are two movies in which the realms projected by money are very, very explicit. I’m sure many of you can think of others, but I just wanted to give you those as examples.
Okay. We’re going to do a bit of meditation here and this is a guided meditation. So, let’s just take a few minutes and let your mind and body settle.
Now, we’re going to look at three areas which all of us know intellectually are not true. But most of us, or at least there are parts in us, that emotionally or perhaps even deeper, feel are true. And I want to take this time to explore this. The first of these is that money is necessary for survival. Or my survival depends on money. Now, as I said intellectually we know that isn’t exactly true. But I’d like you to feel the parts of you that may not be convinced.
And a way to do this, you take the statement, “My survival depends on money.” What do you experience physically? What happens to you physically if you got a letter from your bank saying, “Sorry we lost all the money in your account.” That’s extreme of course, but just note what happens physically. For most of us there’s a bit of a shock. And those are the parts of us that feel that our survival is actually dependent on money. So rather than trying to dissuade, or persuade, or reason your way out of it, just experience that shock. How do you experience it? What are the emotions connected with it? When you can stay in the physical experience and the emotional experience, you can include some of the stories.
“My survival depends on money.”
You may find it interesting to explore what constitutes survival.
And for this part of you or parts of you that feel that survival depends on money, I want to borrow from Byron Katie’s work, her four questions. And just ask yourself for this part, “Is this true?” And again feel physically and emotionally what’s there.
“How do you know it is true?” That’s the second question. With that question you may feel some of the frameworks or ways you have of viewing the world being called into question. And that’s maybe not a bad thing. “How do I know this is true?”
Third question: “Is there a way I can hold this view and be free of stress or struggle?” Is there a way that I can hold the view that my survival depends on money and be free of stress or struggle? That’s an interesting question because it often reveals that our view causes much more stress than we are often aware of.
And then the fourth question: “What would I be like, what would my life be like, if I let go of this view?” This invites you to explore a new possibility.
So, go through these again. Open to the parts of you that feel, “My survival depends on money.”
Is this true?
How do I know it is true?
What do I experience when I hold that view?
What would life be like if I didn’t hold that view?
So, let’s hear from a few people. What was this like? Anybody?
Student: I’m a rat. [Laughter]
Darren: Yeah, everything was going okay but then my mind sort of shut down at the possibility of considering that my survival didn’t depend on money. Because I started to have this image of wearing buckskin clothes [laughter], and you know, growing my own vegetables, and you know, carrying a machete or something like that. So, in other words, the stress would still be there. In other words survival itself is stressful. So, whether it depended on money, then it would depend on hunting…
Ken: Gardening or what have you, yeah, okay. So, it’s the stress of survival more than the stress of money.
Ken: Okay. Anybody else? Michael?
Michael: What I realized is if I don’t have money then I have to rely on other people. So, it sort of brought up a whole struggle about isolation.
Ken: Can’t have relying on other people—that would be really bad wouldn’t it? [Laughter]
Student: On that same thought, I realized that I would need other people. And how money or the not having of money…having money actually shields you in a lot of respects from some communion.
Ken: Exactly. Okay, Lynea?
Lynea: I found myself moving away from survival a lot and going to feeling that my potential relies on money and that somehow felt better…
Ken: Your potential relies on money, not your survival—your potential; that’s interesting, say more. Your realizing your potential, or your potential?
Ken: Your potential relies on money. Hmm.
Lynea: Almost like that on some…that there are resources almost like water. And that money allows a person to water plants and that not having it means that they’re… [Laughs] Okay.
Ken: If I don’t have money I’m never going to realize my potential. Do you want to follow that one any further? [Laughs] Is this true?
Lynea: No, and as I was thinking about it, I realized that it’s the same thing. It’s that if you don’t water the plant, the plant will die. And then it does come back to the sense of survival—that I must have that to exist how I want to exist.
Ken: One day Nasrudin went to the market and he bought a donkey. Every week he cut the donkey’s rations in half. Over time the donkey got thinner and thinner. Eventually the donkey died. Nasrudin said, “It is really too bad. If he just lived a little longer he would have been able to live on nothing at all.” [Laughter]
Student: So how is our survival not tied…?
Ken: What happened when you entertained the fourth question? Raquel? [Chuckles]
Raquel: Well, I had a lot of problems with the first three questions. But yeah, sure, once I got to the fourth question, I did feel a little opening a little later. But I’m just…I’m totally stuck in the animal realm, I can’t…I can’t see…
Ken: Okay, so let’s take a really hard look at this. You get home from this workshop. You find you’ve been a victim of identity theft. Your credit cards have been maxed out. Your bank account’s been wiped out. You have no money, zero. What happens?
Raquel: So, I know I’m going to survive. I’m not going to die. I’m going to live.
Ken: Thank you. [Laughs]
Raquel: But…but I think as survival as getting my basic needs met, which is different than death. And you know all this talk about collaboration—when you don’t have money—it’s stressful!
Ken: Oh, I don’t doubt that this would be a very, very frightening and usurping experience. Would you survive?
Raquel: But, is it not useful to do, to do these reflective meditations and think about this in terms of getting your basic needs met?
Ken: Well, we’re going to move along on this, but first things first. Would you survive?
Ken: Yeah, you would. Okay. This is something that people forget. There’s a person I was coaching in an organization. And she got extremely angry whenever she was given any negative feedback. And I mean absurdly so. And I said, “Well, why? Why do you get so angry?” She said, “Well, they’re messin’ with my livelihood, you know. And I won’t stand for that.” And I said to her, “So, are you telling me that if you were fired from this job you wouldn’t be able to find another job?” And she said, “Don’t be absurd, Ken. I’m very good at what I do. I could find another job just like that.” [Ken snaps fingers] “Oh. Then how are they messing with your livelihood?” “Oh,” she said. [Laughter]
Okay. What I’m talking about are these reactive parts in us that really believe that survival depends on money. And in this case, it drove her to act inappropriately in the workplace. And we’ve all got that kind of stuff in us. And it’s where we’re tied into things in a way that we don’t need to be tied in. Okay?
Pat, then Randye, then Bud.
Pat: At the risk of being very revealing, I actually went to the Versatel machine a few years ago. And I thought, oh well—and I was going to dinner with some people who all had a lot of money—and I thought well I’m just gonna…I know I’m broke but I’m just gonna get $20. And I couldn’t get $20. And so, rather than ask for anyone to buy me dinner, I sat through dinner with no money. And the weird thing was I got home and there was a check. But I’ve been in this situation: the issue is not surviving, it’s how it makes you feel. And the issue is that it makes you feel that you’ve done something wrong.
Pat: That there’s something wrong with you. So, for me the issues around money are not that I’m going to not eat, or that I’m not gonna make it, or that I’m going to die. It’s that there’s something inherently wrong with the way I’ve lived my life or the way I’m living my life.
Pat: And then when you get money that somehow you’re living your life right. But then when you don’t have it you’re living your life wrong. But it’s the same life.
Ken: Yes, and [chuckle] this I think is a very, very good example of a kind of conditioning—that if you aren’t wealthy or getting money, then there’s something wrong with the way you’re living.
Pat: Or with you.
Ken: Or with you. And this is another question that we can explore in exactly the same way. It’s just not true. And I mean one of the things that always impressed me about you is how much you accomplish and how much influence you exert in the world. It’s quite extraordinary.
Student: With no money! [Laughter]
Ken: I mean, I don’t know how many of you know some of the things that Pat has made happen. But she’s got a very, very long list of quite remarkable social-activist accomplishments to her credit. So, you know, and she just makes things happen.
Pat: But no, I just…the reason I want to bring that up is because I don’t think it’s about survival…
Ken: No, it’s…it’s about…
Pat: It’s how it makes you feel.
Ken: Feel. And I’m going to get into that in the next section. Okay. Randye, then Bud. Just…Randye was first, and then Bud. Okay. Where’s the other mic?
Ken: Okay. Okay.
Randye: I honestly could not envision the first question about is life possible without money. You know I am….
Ken: No, I didn’t say that…is your survival dependent on….
Randye: Is survival dependent on it? And the answer is in a very logistical way, “Yes, it does.” But it’s not the money per se, obviously, it’s the survival—food, clothing, shelter. And what it brought up was in me was abject fear.
Randye: Total tight fear.
Randye: And then I got to the fourth question and I felt great. Because I realize that I don’t need money because I have skills where I can always get more money, if I need. And that’s something nobody can take away from me—is my own abilities to be in the world in a successful way.
Ken: Very good. Bud?
Bud: Yes, I…when you said everything was lost, and you…something…you no longer had any money, you know….
Ken: Oh yeah, I just played out that scenario.
Bud: Right, you played that out.
Bud: I felt as though someone kicked me in the stomach, right? Just a terrible awful…just the bottom dropped out of everything, and a gut-wrenching kind of feeling. And particularly because so much of what I do and the things that I do is wrapped around money; so much time is spent dealing with it. So, if all of a sudden all that is lost, all that time is lost. I mean, what did all that time accomplish? [Laughter] I mean, I spent hours, and years, and so it was meaningless. Now, it’s all gone. So, now I’m left with nothing, except me. You know, which is pretty good I think [chuckles] in the end, yeah, but anyway that’s…
Ken: Well, somebody was asking me about the difference between what you’re asking for and what you want. And there’s a story which many of you may have heard, about this Wall Street executive who goes down to a small Mexican town, and he’s there on vacation and he’s watching people live their lives.
He notices that all the fisherman go out in the morning and they all come in, in the afternoon, with their catches. But there’s one boat that always comes in earlier than all the rest. And this makes him curious. So he goes down to the boat and starts talking to the captain. And asks him if he can buy him a cup of coffee. And they get to talking. He says, “Why do you come in earlier than the other boats?” “I’ve caught my fish and I come in a bit early. I caught enough. I sell them and then I go and have a beer with my friends and play with my grandchildren.” “Well, why don’t you stay out a bit longer and catch more fish?” “Well, why would I do that?” And the Wall Street executive says, “Well, then you’d build up a surplus.” And fisherman says, “Well, why would I do that?” “Well, then you could buy another boat and you could catch more fish.” “Well, why would I do that?” “Well, then you would get a whole fleet of boats.” [Chuckles] “Yeah, and why would I do that?” “Well, then you could buy a processing plant and process your own fish.” “Well, why would I do that?” “Well, then you’d have a big business and you could sell it.” “Well, why would I do that?” “Well, then you could do anything you want.” “But I already do that. I come back, and I have a beer with my friends, and I play with my grandchildren.” [Chuckles]
So, we get caught up in this world of money, and we lose touch with what our life actually is—and it’s very important.
Okay. So second meditation. Again, just let your mind and body settle. And I want you to bring to mind what money represents to you and those earlier reflections that we did during your break.
First meditation we did, it was my survival depends on money. This meditation we’re going to take a different statement: “Getting my emotional needs met depends on money.”
If I want to date somebody, if I want to have a family, whatever your emotional needs might be. So, let yourself feel the parts of you that hold such a view. And getting these emotional needs met depends on money and on having money.
There are always parts of us that have these ideas. Well, pick one or more of them and just ask that part, “Is this true?” And note what you experience physically and emotionally. And then ask this part, “How do you know this is true?” Often what happens there are whole floods of stories. But stay in touch with your body and the physical reactions, and the emotional reactions, as well as the stories. How do you know this is true?
When you hold this view that your emotional needs or getting your emotional needs met depends on having money, how do you experience your life? How do you experience the world?
And, what would your life be like if those parts didn’t hold that view? They could let go of the view that getting emotional needs met means or depends on having money.
So, is it true? Getting my emotional needs met depends on having money?
How do I know it’s true?
How do I experience life with that view?
What would my life be like if I didn’t hold that view?
Okay. Comments, observations, reflections. Steve?
Steve: I was just thinking this time about the issue, which seems to be a fundamental one, that in our society money is…coexists with self-worth and how people view the value of other people. But then in this meditation I was thinking that also there are other kinds of status that have a similar effect. Are we—in these kind of meditations I went to that—are we equating them? In other words, there are people who have status, fame, kind of recognition, who don’t have money, but [who] have the same intrinsic repercussions from it. So when—is this related? Is it off subject for today? Is it…?
Ken: I think it is related. One of the key frameworks we use in Buddhism—I’m sure you’ve heard me mention it—is the eight worldly concerns. Or, to put it in less traditional Buddhist language, conventional criteria for success and failure: happiness and unhappiness, gain or loss, fame-obscurity, respect and disdain. A person who is happy, wealthy, famous, and respected is usually regarded as being a success. A person who is unhappy, poor, obscure, and not an object of respect is usually regarded as a failure. These are the socially conditioned notions of success and failure—and in most societies, not in all societies, but in most societies.
There’s a lovely story from, I can’t remember where, from Chinese Buddhism, of a Chán teacher who went to visit a professor of Buddhist studies who lived on the other side of the Yangtze River—which, as you know, is one of…really it’s like the Mississippi. It’s a huge river. When he got there the professor who prided himself on being free of the eight worldly concerns, and this is a theme in his lectures, wasn’t there. And so the Chán master went into his study and took out a beautiful calligraphy set that the professor had, and in wonderfully elegant Chinese writing wrote, “Professor Lee is a fart.” And went home.
When Professor Lee looked at this, he could see by the calligraphy who had done this. And he was just enraged. So, he immediately ran down to the Yangtze River, found a ferryman, had him row him across. Went storming into this Chán master’s house, waving this piece of paper and said, “How dare you write this!” And the Chán master looked at him and said, “I’ve heard that Professor Lee is free from the winds of the eight worldly concerns. But I see he’s been blown across the Yangtze River by a little puff of air.” [Laughter]
So yeah, we have all of these ideas. And we get caught up. And money happens to be one word to find success, fame, respect, etc. And we get into very similar states of mind around each of those. You know, people, I mean, people want to be famous. Some people feel that…and we can run through the same thing with fame. You know, my survival is dependent on fame. There are a certain number of people in Hollywood who probably believe that. There are any numbers of politicians who do. Okay.
You could run through the same thing. There are people who feel that it’s absolutely dependent on respect. And so they will do anything to engender people’s respect, which usually ends up in the opposite, of course, because you can’t be everything to everybody. So forth, so…and this is why I say any kind of idealism gets us into trouble.
Steve: So, what came to me is that whether it’s money or something else that what it comes down to is if I’m not special in some way…
Ken: Yeah. Okay, yeah.
Steve: Then my emotional needs won’t get met.
Steve: So it’s…I was going, it’s more of letting go of…it’s not just money.
Ken: No, it may not be just money. And this inquiry into money may lead into other considerations. And then you’re tying it down to specialness. It has to be something…okay, what happens if you’re not special?
Steve: Right. Aaahhh. [Chuckles]
Ken: And again this is very, very extensive social conditioning. And particularly in this society which worships the individual. That you’re unique, you’re special, etc., etc., etc. And how many of you saw the movie The Incredibles? Yeah, which had a wonderful line, you know, at the beginning of the movie it says, “The celebration of the trivial in order to make everybody feel special.” Okay, very good.
Other comments, observations on this: my emotional needs depend on money. Agnes?
Agnes: I’ve seem to come to this gauge of—two different gauges. One is, try to put a label on it, is like a critical threshold. Like, you know, you need money to pay the basic bills, mortgage, and everything else. But I use…pose the first question, “If I lost everything?” That was just abject anxiety and fear. Stomach tightening up, saying, “What am I going to do, you know, with the bills and everything else?” That’s one thing.
The second thing about your emotional needs, which is very curious to me, to myself. I have two cars. One car I feel very good about. The other I kept around because when I need to park all day in the UCLA parking lot, I drove that car and leave it there. I don’t care if somebody scratch it. [Laughter]
Ken: So, you have your parking car and your looking-good car. [More laughter]
Agnes: Yes. And that’s really amazing because when I go into my parking car I feel very differently, you know, I feel almost diminished and yet practical, because, you know, I leave it out all day. You know, nobody with self-respect is gonna scratch that car. [Laughter] Whereas, the other one is, you know, I feel like, yeah that’s…
Ken: That’s who I am.
Agnes: Yes! That’s really kind of like surprising to me, you know. And I play with those in the meditation. And I sense my emotion going up and down, like, “Oh, that feels good.” “This, well…”
Agnes: Okay. So, I don’t know what that relates to, so you know, it’s kind of like…
Ken: Well, this is exploration…
Ken: So, you can see how there is a tie there. Okay, other people? Anybody else? Laura?
Laura: It made me very sad.
Laura: This meditation, because I saw this enormous contradiction that I hadn’t quite seen before. When I was thinking about what does money represent to me, immediately it represents my ability to take care of myself…
Laura: …which is then ultimately a kind of competence.
Laura: And then, ultimately sort of my right to exist. Right? Wanting to…
Ken: So…but now you’ve…I just want to check this.
Ken: If you’re not competent then you don’t have a right to exist?
Ken: That’s something you might write down. [Laughter] I think that’s worthy of just a little note there. [Laughs]
Laura: Noting, noting, yeah. Well, it’s very closely related to what Pat was saying…
Laura: …about being wrong if you don’t have money.
Ken: Something wrong with you if you don’t. Yeah. Okay.
Laura: And if there’s something that wrong with me, I don’t have a right to exist.
Ken: Yeah, but for you it’s competence.
Laura: Yes, but…yeah, exactly it’s competence.
Ken: So note that down, “If I’m not competent, I don’t have a right to exist.” Well, that doesn’t put any pressure on you.
Laura: No, not at all. But it gets weirder here.
Ken: Oh! [Laughs]
Laura: So then this meditation, “Getting my emotional needs met depends on having money.” I…my mind just stopped, and every time you said it, I turned it around. Getting my emotional needs met depends on not having money, which is not something I particularly want to see or acknowledge. But I think there’s a sense in which I feel that in order…even though it’s constantly a struggle and screwed up, I feel like I put myself into precarious situations, because I think that I will then be taken care of. Or that that’s what I have to do.
Ken: Oh, it’s kind of a test. You know, you want people to relate to who you are. Is that right?
Laura: I’m not sure.
Ken: No, okay.
Laura: I couldn’t get past the, “Oh my god!”
Laura: I don’t really want to see that.
Ken: Well, you’re raising a very important point, thank you. Because we talk a lot about patterns, and patterns operate like trains operate on railway tracks. You know, you have the track and that’s how the train runs. And people sometimes, and sometimes I do this when I’m being a little careless with language, saying the pattern wants to do such and such, or tries to do such and such. Well, this makes as much sense as talking about a train wanting to run on railway tracks, or intending to follow the tracks. It doesn’t, it just does so automatically. It’s a machine, it doesn’t know any better.
What happens when you pick up the train and turn it around?
Laura: It goes back the other way.
Ken: It runs on the same tracks doesn’t it? So, the principle here is, the opposite of a reaction is also the reaction. The opposite of a pattern is the pattern. And that’s what you seem to be referring to here. And this again is another principle from Buddhist logic actually. When you define something by the negative, then the something is running your life just as much as if you’re defining it by the positive. And so that’s, that’s a very good point. So, if you’re trying to avoid money and, or relate to life without having any relationship with money, and money is driving you, again, because it’s this thing that’s exerting this force. Okay? Thank you, anybody else? Are you ready for the third…okay, Carol. Microphone’s right here.
Carol: Well I was taking this in, you know, to consideration my question about generosity, because…and thinking you know about being generous—fulfilling an emotional need. And of course I didn’t feel caught by this question.
Ken: You did or you didn’t?
Carol: I did not. I don’t believe it. And that was my final result, I just don’t believe it.
Carol: Because I could see that, you know, there are many ways to be generous, and it doesn’t have to be financial. And that, you know, the ways that I’ve chosen to do volunteer work at this point have been one-on-one kinds of things or…and I guess I have felt called in a sense to do something more generating. You know, something like to help plan something that would create something, you know. And you know I don’t need money for that; I just need to talk to other people who might have some ideas, and get together and make it happen, right. This is aside from money so—and actually it was very interesting because I realized that that is so much more important to me than redecorating my house or…
Carol: Which needs to be done.
Ken: So, you find that being generous isn’t a matter of affordability.
Ken: Very good.
Carol: It helps but it’s…
Ken: It’s not…it’s not limited.
Ken: Good. Okay.
Third meditation. Again, let mind and body settle. [Pause]
Feel the straightness in your body. Straightness and relaxation at the same time. And the statement we’re going to consider here is, “My sense of who I am, my self-image, depends on money.”
“My sense of who I am, my self-image, depends on money.”
And feel the physical and emotional reactions that come up with that.
And…let yourself feel the parts for which this is true. Several of you have referred to this already, one way or another. It’s something that’s conditioned into us quite deeply. So, feeling those parts you can ask them, “Is this true?” Well, it’s true for those parts. We know in a certain sense that it is not true in general, but our image of ourselves and our image of others is influenced by money to a considerable extent. So ask those parts, “How do you know it’s true?”
How do you know it’s true? Often there’s a very visceral feeling in here. Open to that visceral feeling. What’s the physical experience of it? What emotions are connected with it? And a little more difficult, what unquestioned assumptions are involved?
Third question: “How do I experience the world when I feel that my self-image depends on having money?”
You may see some things that you don’t like there, and that’s okay. Let yourself see them because they operate. And if you’re going to become free of the projection of thought and emotion associated with money it’s important to see those things. There may be whole systems of prejudice in there. A valuation of oneself and others. Maybe not.
What would it be like to experience the world with one’s self-image not depending on money? What would that be like?
Okay. My self-image depends on money.
What are the parts in us that feel that’s true?
How do they know it’s true?
How is the world experienced when you’re approached with that perspective?
What would it be like to approach the world without that perspective?
Okay. This touch anything in anybody? Janet?
Student: The mic’s not on.
Ken: It’s not on?
Student: I turned it off.
Ken: Oh, no, please leave it on because it crashes every time you turn it on/off.
Janet: Yeah, when I first attempted to connect with this idea that my self-image was based on having money, at first there was just a numb feeling, I couldn’t connect to it at all. And then to connect to it I recalled a time when I had just no money at all. And I was incredibly poor. And I lived in an incredibly seedy part of town. And my next-door neighbor was a drug dealer and had Dobermans. And there were cockroaches in my apartment that were so bad that I couldn’t walk in there and have my eyes open and bear it. [Laughter] It was sooo scary. And then revulsion, just revulsion came into my stomach in a big way. And the image and the feeling was, only bad people live like this.
Ken: [Laughs] So we have the equation…
Ken: Only bad people live like this. I’m living like this. Therefore I am a bad person.
Janet: Yes, exactly.
Janet: Shame and revulsion.
Janet: And then when the question is how would…how would it be if self-image were not based on money? Well first, how is it when you look at the world with self-image based on money—I felt like a child pressing against the candy store window, this big barrier between me and the world. And hungry ghost is what comes to mind.
Janet: You know, just desperate and oppositional, and then…and sad.
Janet: And as soon as the question was how about a world without that connection between self-image and money? I felt like the rays of kindness between me and other people. Like suddenly there was no barrier. You know, moments of real connection. That’s what that’s like.
Ken: Okay. Anybody else? Cara?
Cara: I’ve never been much of a materialist or aspired to have a great deal of money. And so there are a lot of these questions that you’re asking, I’m not…I’m not experiencing a real sense of like revulsion or shame. But this one: ever since I moved to Los Angeles I had to start driving a car again, and I have a really…I have a really great car and I love my car. And…
Ken: [Chuckles] It’s a car culture.
Cara: It is a car culture. And I was talking to my roommate about that last night. I was saying like it doesn’t matter where you live in the city, but if you drive a Mercedes Benz you know, you’re the ticket. Like, you could live in a shed, like you know, out in Santa Clarita and it wouldn’t matter as long as you had a BMW. But you know I love my Toyota. And I’ve actually had some conflict with people around my car, and like taking care of my car and not hurting my car. [Laughter] With that said, I don’t base my…everyone always laughs when I talk! It’s not supposed to be funny. Like…but my car is not…I don’t….
Ken: You know why they’re laughing?
Ken: They’re recognizing the same thing in themselves.
Cara: Right. Well, but here’s the thing. My car does not define me. Like, it’s cute, it’s fun. My dad picked it out.
Cara: Like, he thought it suited me, that’s great. Like, yay dad. The thing that I have viscerally, as soon as you said, what thing defines me is…is my Vespa. [Laughter] Like…and when I lived in Taiwan for three years I had a Vespa. And I rode it everyday, all over the city. It was like…I don’t know it was like riding lightning. Like I have never missed anything more in my life…like thing more in my life.
Cara: And so around my home now I have all of my…I have my Vespa jacket, I have my gloves, I have my pictures, I have my, you know, I have all of this stuff. But the one physical thing that I lack is an actual, like an actual physical Vespa in my driveway.
Cara: And it’s because right now I can’t afford to buy one. And that’s really, crappy. [Laughter] And it makes me feel crappy. [Laughter] Because you’re saying like, you know, live in a world where you’re not defining yourself by that thing. And I am now. And I’m fine with that. Like I’m not defined by my scooter, but at the same time I had built a little like monument to myself and my scooter, and I’ve done a lot of writing about it actually. And now I don’t have that and it is…it’s traumatizing. [Ken laughs.] It is…I don’t know how else to put it.
Ken: Thank you.
Ken: [Laughs] Okay. Lynea?
Lynea: I’m confused around the relationship between self-image and wanting to wake up. So, for instance, everyone here might not speak from my experience. I’ve invested a lot of money in time, in growth, in transformation in trying to open myself up, and look at things, and all of this sort of stuff. And practice.
Lynea: And that ties into this idea of, “Oh, I won’t realize potential.” And I don’t know…it’s not dependent on it, but there’s a really strong relationship between actually cultivating resources, at least in this culture, externally in the form of money, and having access or opportunity to open up to experience.
Ken: No argument there. But that’s different from self-image. Self-image is an idea of who we are, and that’s very much tied with what Pat was saying earlier, images of self-worth or notions of self-worth. This is all you know, “If I don’t have money then I’m bad. Or if I don’t have money then I…” What was yours, if I’m not?
Laura: Don’t have a right to exist.
Ken: Don’t have a right to exist. And there are large segments of our society that take that attitude. If you aren’t competent, and you aren’t earning money, and you aren’t being productive, then you don’t have a right to exist. That’s very different from managing and utilizing resources skillfully. And beginning in the afternoon we’re going to look at that aspect. And I’ll explain that; [I’ll] give an overview of that in a minute. Okay. Does that help?
Lynea: It does, there’s another question.
Ken: Go ahead.
Lynea: I don’t understand how if you believe in for instance this precious human birth, and so you’re…that that isn’t related to a sense of self and what you think you should be doing on this planet.
Ken: I probably should have been clearer about self-image. So, this is good that you’re bringing this up. In the way that I think about things, you’re talking about intention, as opposed to who you think you are. Do you see the distinction? Okay. And there’s having an intention and this is stuff we’ll get into this afternoon. This is very, very important. Whereas clinging to an identity, especially one that’s defined in terms of personal wealth or something like that, that’s a whole ’nother notion. And they’re very different. And we get very different results.
A lot of people pour a tremendous amount of time and energy into accumulating money so that they can feel good about who they are. Or they can go further, they accumulate money because they want control over their lives. Or they want security. Or they want to be highly regarded, etc., etc. This is different from, you know, what am I actually wanting to do with…they’re constructing a self-image and using money to do that. Okay?
Okay. Randye first, and then Pat, and Rita.
Randye: In my life, I’ve been at pretty much the extremes. I’ve been homeless, I’ve slept on the street. I’ve also driven, as you know, a nice shiny Mercedes convertible.
Ken: [Laughter] Which got you into trouble.
Randye: Which you’ve given me a lot of hell about. Yeah.
Ken: [Laughing] I didn’t give you hell about it but other groups did.
Randye: And so I kind of explored each experience and what I felt about myself in each of those places. And curiously at the lower end of that spectrum, I didn’t feel bad about myself at all.
Randye: But what I…I found myself really struggling with is at the higher end; I struggle with pride because having money means that somebody thinks you’re influential in some way. And then they listen to what you have to say. And then you start getting sort of puffed up about yourself. And I fight that. So I couldn’t feel it at the low end, but I definitely feel it at the high end.
Ken: Yeah, you start believing your own press.
Ken: Yeah. Always dangerous. Pat and then Rita. Could you hand the mic back? Where’s the other mic?
Pat: I was just gonna say that about the meditation of money defining who I am: I’ve done a lot of work on this notion of without money showing up with the identity of being a victim. And working on dropping that and having some equanimity with people who do have money. And what happens to letting go of that resistance. And being able to do the work then with people who have money in sort of more of being equal. To make a more equal playing field. Because there’s always sort of the attitude of well just give me your money and then I’ll deal with it. [Laughter] Then I’ll take on your problems. As if they don’t have any problems or any health issues or anything. Just give me what you have, and then I’ll deal with your shit. [Laughter] You know, these things are always for the victims. They’re never for people who have money.
Pat: And so I just found that this whole victim mentality that comes with the lack had to kind of go away before I could deal with any of it. Because it’s always…the identity is always from a victim place. So that’s what I thought about during the meditation.
Ken: Yeah. Okay, thank you. Rita?
Rita: So at first I had a hard time relating to the question because there have been times when I’ve left all security in order to pursue what seemed to be wanting to happen in my life. But when I looked at those times when I was without money what I still had was a complete faith in my ability to generate money.
Rita: So where I had to go with the question is, my identity is formed by my faith and my ability to generate money.
Rita: And if I didn’t have that—despair.
Rita: You know.
Rita: And that just really put me in touch with so many people who must feel that. [Teary]
Rita: And friends who have great skills and wisdom and can’t generate money. [Teary]
Rita: You know.
Ken: Yeah. Okay. Katherine?
Katherine: You told me about ten years ago that I have a poverty mentality, [Ken laughs] which is true.
Katherine: And I have enough money if I don’t go crazy. [Laughs]
Ken: Well, there’s always that isn’t there.
Katherine: To live…
Katherine: Probably until I die. But what came up for me in some of these meditations is I have a big well of anger toward those people who have a whole lot.
Katherine: A whole lot, so that I can feel like a big loser, because I don’t have…I can’t afford a jet. [Laughter] You know, I mean it’s always in context.
Katherine: The poverty.
Ken: Yeah, it’s a comparison, and there’s always someone out there with more, and so you’re talking about if not the hungry ghost mentality then the titan realm mentality. Exactly. Yeah. Thank you. Kim?
Kim: This is probably something similar to what Rita was talking about. For me it’s not self-image being related to money, it’s my own personal value, self-image I guess, is related to how other people value me. There’s nothing coming from inside.
Kim: There’s a big…there’s a big gap on the inside, a big whole, a big nothingness on the inside. So if I don’t receive—you know the money to me that I receive as a salary makes me believe that I am worth something. And if I didn’t have it, I think…I know, that I would have a really hard time dealing with life in general because I just wouldn’t believe that I was valuable.
Ken: Yep. So it becomes a way in which we perceive how other people value us.
Kim: And that that’s the most important thing.
Ken: Weeeellll, mmmm. It may be, but there’s a little danger there. [Laughter]
Kim: It’s horrible. [Ken laughs] It’s hell.
Ken: Yeah. There are many ways you can characterize Stoic philosophy but one of the characterizations that I like is, “You do not value what can be taken away from you.” It gets very interesting when you think about that. Because anything that can be taken away from us…if you value things that can be taken away from us, then we place our lives in other people’s hands. You follow? And then it’s very easy to become subject to the victim mentality, because we feel other people have control over our lives. So, then it becomes very interesting, what do you actually value.
Okay, I’d just like to take a brief—because we’re a little bit late for lunch already. At the beginning of this or before the break, I asked you, what does money represent to you? I’d just like to hear some of the things that you came up with. What does money stand for? What does money represent for you? Leslie?
Ken: Options. Okay. Anybody else? (Raquel, can you write some of these down please?)
Raquel: Oh sure.
Ken: Okay. Put them on this one.
Raquel: [Discussion concerning pens.]
Ken: I didn’t. Okay. Kim?
Ken: Okay, so, Options, self-worth.
Student: Peace of mind.
Ken: Peace of mind.
Student: Yeah, how much I’ll be able to do.
Ken: Okay, so that’s options, freedom, etc. Okay. Julia?
Julia: Ability to take care of members of my family or friends if they need it.
Ken: Ability to take care of others in need. Okay. Chuck?
Chuck: Buying what I want, or have to buy, or what I need.
Ken: Purchasing power. [Laughter]
Student: That’s it.
Ken: Safety. Okay. You doing okay there, Raquel?
Ken: Okay. Anybody else?
Ken: Security, safety. Okay.
Ken: It represents a burden. Okay.
Student: You want to know whether you’re utilizing it…
Ken: Yeah. So it’s a responsibility.
Student: Especially when money turns into material goods…
Student: …like jewelry…
Ken: Oh, yes okay. No, no, this is money represents responsibility. Yeah. Okay.
Student: Power and respect.
Ken: Okay. Yes, how many believe that you can gain respect by getting money? Oh, come on! [Laughter] There are a few people here who believe that. Okay, anybody else? Darren?
Darren: At first I wrote down leisure, and then I put a huge question mark next to it and decided it probably…
Ken: But write down…
Darren: The pursuit of money actually is the opposite…
Darren: Of leisure, so.
Ken: Yes, but what does money represent to you? Money can represent leisure.
Darren: Leisure, something I wrote down for the question.
Ken: Yeah, okay. Leisure. Okay.
All right, it’s a quarter-past now. Let’s plan to meet here, ready to go at 1:30 okay? It’s a quarter past 12 now. So that means being back here before 1:30. I want to be ready to go at 1:30 okay?
Student: Is there a microwave here?