Each of us has a relationship with money that influences our peace of mind and the choices we make. In my coaching conversations, people often bring up the theme of money, especially when they are considering life changes. Letting go of an unfulfilling and stressful job that they have to force themselves to go to each morning is nevertheless daunting, especially when they start staring down the black hole of financial uncertainty.

I’ve been through this process when I left my secure, well-paying academic job to become a self-employed coach living and working in both Germany and India, doing both for-profit and non-profit work. I’m in the first two years of establishing myself in my new profession, and the money comes in either as a slow trickle through individual coaching appointments or in bigger gushes through workshops and retreats. My annual income is nowhere near what it was during my University assistant professor job, and the uncertainty of how my money will come in is much higher. After leaving my job, my savings started slowly depleting and I used to get tormented with fears and doubts. My meditation practice helped to bring me back to the reality of the present moment, to realize that I had more than enough to survive on right then. It also helped me feel the fear in my body and let it go through me like a storm, creating waves and ripples of unpleasant sensations in my body accompanying the fears and doubts. Slowly, I started embracing and even relishing the uncertainty of my financial status. After all, uncertainty comes with the great gift of freedom- freedom to choose the work I love, freedom to live the way I want to, and freedom to become more of me than I have ever been before.

I have started thinking of money being like water, an idea I first read about in Lynne Twist’s beautiful book ‘Soul of Money’. She tells the story of an economically poor, wise and large-hearted African-American woman called Gertrude, who donated fifty of her precious dollars to Lynne Twist’s fund-raising project to end world hunger. Gertrude had said, “To me, money is a lot like water. For some folks it rushes through their life like a raging river, but the money comes through my life like a small trickle. But I want to pass it on in a way that does the best good for the most folks. I see that as my right and as my responsibility. It’s also my joy.” Thinking of money like water has helped me immensely and I wish to share with you five ways in which this analogy helps me get through phases of financial uncertainty with more equanimity and joy.

Like water, money fouls when it stagnates, and sparkles when it flows. This thought helps me derive great joy from seeing money flow out of my account to finance coaching trainings, daily living costs, helping friends and family, donating to causes I care about, travel and more. And it gives me even more joy to see fresh money flow into my account from doing work I love.

Like water, a clean source of money nurtures, whereas a dirty source harms. I have become very discerning about the source of my income. Does the source of my money align with my values? Is it ‘clean’, as in, does it truly nurture me and others, and is it fully honest and above-board? Will the way I earn money cause me stress or compromise the quality of the work I do? Based on this principle, I have turned down lucrative offers that were not aligned with my values and have taken up non-profit projects that are, and I have always come out ‘richer’ as a result.

Like water, money flows down-hill. I have noticed something fascinating: whenever I take bold financial decisions like joining an expensive but very helpful coaching training course, or taking a chunk of time for ‘soul-work’, like volunteering at my favourite tribal village school in India or joining a meditation retreat, I invariably find money flowing into my life, almost as if it was waiting for a a ‘gradient’, i.e., a meaningful cause to serve. The money flows in after I have committed to these decisions, and only if I invest in things that benefit both me and others.

Like water, money is precious, and needs to be spent meaningfully. I have become mindful about how I spend my money. If I buy vegetables, I try to buy them from people who grow them organically with love and care. If I travel, I choose to stay in places where I feel my hosts really care about their guests, even if they charge a little more than others, and so on…

Like water, money comes in waves. I watch money come and go like I observe the weather. Like a farmer who plants seeds in fertile soil hoping for the rain to come, I invest my energy into projects that are likely to give fruit, leaving the rest to the universe. No matter how much money I have in my account, I remind myself of the ever-helpful tenet “This too will change!”
Where is your money coming from? Where is it going? I hope reflecting on money being like water will help you have a healthier and more nurturing relationship with money, and in turn live a more courageous and meaningful life.