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Life, the Universe, and Money

Written by Dan Linton

Have you ever felt like your searching for an answer and at the same time don’t know what the question is?

For me the topic of money is currently evoking that angst, and I have no intention of waiting 7.5 million years to figure it out. I’ve spent a lot of time recently reflecting on how I use and how I don’t use money, and I know I’ve been using/not using it in ways that are having an impact on my ability to experience joy and bliss.

I used to believe that money did indeed buy happiness – and by that I mean a lot more than creature comforts. Certainly money does buy me food, shelter, medicine – all the essentials of a comfortable life. I also believed it could buy me safety, predictability (I’ve written about “peace at any price” before), prestige, friends, popularity, favors, skills, love, and control over others – basically I used money to try to ensure my ego never got bruised. I believed money could be used to avoid any risk to my ego and pride – no need to face rejection or failure when I felt I could buy all the attention and control I wanted.

Money wasn’t buying me any of those things – absolutely none of them – because they can’t be purchased.

To further add to that, I was jealous of others who seemed to have these things. I didn’t feel confident enough to be worthy just by being myself, and I wasn’t comfortable not having control. Money is a tool like any other, and to a hammer everything is a nail. I was constantly measuring myself against others and I believed for a very long time that I could use money to get what I thought they had.

Many years ago I purchased a extraordinarily high quality Halloween costume created by a small movie studio, costing thousands of dollars. I believed that it was an extravagant “gift” to myself because I loved the character that it was designed upon. The reality is, I bought it because I wanted to be popular – and by some definitions indeed I was. There were hundreds of pictures taken of me in that costume by people I had never met before.

Yet it was temporary, any feelings of satisfaction and security I experienced were false. Yes it was truly fun to wear, and had I bought it primarily for that reason it may have even been worth it. Instead I wanted to show off – much like a peacock fanning his feathers. I was buying my way into what I believed was popularity, and to me popularity meant I would be noticed and gain the affection of others.

I feel it’s worth noting that I have never in this lifetime experienced significant long-term discomfort due to lack of money – I have always had somewhere to live, a bed to sleep in, and had plenty of food to eat (an argument could be made that I’ve had too much food!). And yet I have not been confident in myself, constantly seeking ways to ensure the safety of my own ego. Somewhere along the way I came to believe I could (and had to) reduce the risk to my ego with cash – that costume helmet was an excellent way that I could feel popular and loved with absolutely zero risk of rejection – no one would even know it was me.

The irony is not lost on me that people had no way to identify me underneath the helmet – it was a very substantial and large science-fiction-based “armor” that covered me from head to toe, completely hiding my every feature. I’ve worn that costume a total of 3 times – and always for the same reason – essentially the costume isolated my body and my ego.

Being rejected was not a risk I was willing to take, my pride and ego was at stake and I needed to be in control. I doubted myself instead of trusting myself, and the easiest path forward was for me to buy my way to being equal or superior, and be able to use that status exert influence over others.

As a result, one of my strongest drivers has been to ensure that I felt I had enough money, so that I would always be able to eliminate all risk of rejection and be able to get what and who I want. I  believed I needed it in order to feel safe and secure, and then I justified that feeling with “creature comfort” logic – I needed to have enough money for a down-payment or for retirement etc.

Those are all fine reasons to save money, and they weren’t why I was making the decisions I was. I’ve made relationship decisions based on whether there would be a financial savings or advantage. In my past I’ve often left jobs for others which paid more money despite many negative implications to me and my family. When I’ve been presented with a choice of using my money for something highly valuable – like amazing opportunities for personal growth – instead I’ve made the mistake of choosing to hold on to my money in case I need it to protect my pride and ego.

So what happens if I run out of money?

Do I become worthless?

If you’ve ever been seriously injured, you know that money cannot buy safety. If you’ve ever had a loved one die unexpectedly, you know that money cannot buy predictability. If you’ve ever gone on an expensive date that didn’t work out, you know that money can’t buy love or real  affection. Having money doesn’t make you better than anyone else, not having money doesn’t make you less than anyone else, and no one can truly control people or outcomes with money.

Using money in this way I never actually got those things I wanted anyway. All I experienced was distractions, self-doubt, dangerously shaky self-esteem, the wrong people in my life, absolutely nothing of real or lasting value, and no real control.

The part that shakes me to my core in all this is that by taking this approach to win over others, I’ve also used the same tool to evaluate someone’s worth to me in similar measures. It has not always been money, but more often I’ve evaluated what benefit I received in exchange for a relationship with that person, or what level of control I would have over that person. I’ve made the grievous mistake of ending friendships and relationships based on what that person could “do for me”.

I’ve been trying to purchase protection and control for so long now, I’m just beginning to fathom not needing to  – and not needing to be in control at all! Not everyone is going to respect me / covet me / do what I want / love me, and that’s just fine. I’ve realized that using money to try to get those things doesn’t work, and the Practice has taught me that if I’m not getting what I want it’s probably because there is something better waiting for me – and those things will come if I simply let go.

When my ego has felt bruised or my pride has been hurt, it’s me that has chosen to feel bruised and hurt. I have made many mistakes and poor decisions that have impacted my life and the lives of others, and I will make many more. Now I am forgiving myself for them, and that forgiveness is allowing me to let go of many things.

I am letting go of my need to control people or outcomes – because they can’t be controlled. It’s a waste of energy for me to try,  and the only thing I can control is myself.

I also am letting go of my need to protect my ego – I have realized that I am loved because people have made the choice to love me, and I know I will be loved no matter how big or how small my 401k is.

At the same time, I am letting go of my need to judge others by what “value” they bring to me – their love is more than enough, and I understand that my choice to love them is all they require.

What I choose to do with my time here on Earth is what really counts. I’m embracing what the Universe is offering me, and I’m embracing who I really am. I will find all that I ever need, and more than I ever imagined – in abundance. It is my journey that is my goal, it is my path that is my prize.

If the question is – where is my joy? Well I know I can’t buy it, and the answer is simple – my joy is walking my path. From now on my decisions will not be made with money, ego, pride, control and influence in mind, instead they will be made based on whether they will take me further down my path towards my bliss, or away from it.

About the author

Dan Linton

Dan likes video games, pizza, and spending time with his dog. He has been a student of NextStage since December 2015.

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