Monday, April 16, 2012

Reflections & Musings: Money and mantras.

"The real measure of your wealth 
is how much you'd be worth
if you lost all your money."
-Author Unknown

When I was growing up, financial troubles abounded. It wasn't just that my parents didn't have money to buy me designer jeans, it was that at one point, my elder cousins were helping to foot the bill for our groceries, because my parents were struggling to deeply with their businesses. By the time I was 15 1/2, I had two jobs — it was my junior year of high school and I could not wait to start making my own money, so that I would not have to rely on my parents for anything. 

I'd go to school during the day, take the bus to one job, then take the bus to another, before I finally took the bus home and then passed out, after which I would wake up at 1am to finish my homework. My parents would yell at me, mostly out of guilt that they did not have the means to pay my way through anything. "Why do you even care about buying stupid clothes?" they would point at me and shout disapprovingly. 

But, the money I earned didn't go towards just a new shirt or a lunch out with friends. It went to my SAT prep course, my college applications, my electrolysis and waxing so that I would finally feel pretty in comparison to all of my fellow Beverly Hills High School teenage girls. From the moment I was legally allowed to work, I did. And, I haven't stopped. There's nothing that my parents have paid for other than the home, utilities, and meals that I resided in while growing up. By the time I got to college, I still had two jobs (sometimes three) and financial aid. Every so often, I would send what money I could back home, because they were still struggling. Rather than my parents paying for my health insurance, I was paying for my father's dentures so he could eat a decent meal and be nourished. 

Meanwhile, my fellow freshmen and sophomore Berkeley buddies were complaining about asking their parents for extra money to buy this or that, and I quietly knew that would never be an option. I hated the idea of debt and never became accustomed to it that within a few years of my graduating from college, I completely paid off my loans. I did not want to owe anyone anything, so if ever I borrowed an item of anything or was given a gift, I made sure to return the favor though I also do genuinely like giving others gifts. 

All of this made for a feeling that I had no security blanket upon which to wrap me should anything happen, so I made it a point to stock as much safety away as I could. Thankfully, the Universe has been very good to me. I've always landed on my feet with great opportunities that I make sure to appreciate to the fullest. And, since moving to San Diego from Los Angeles, I crave so much less than I used to have. The simplest things here make me happy, from the gorgeous sunny weather to the amazing outdoor activities to simple evenings and attire.

But, this doesn't mean that money still doesn't haunt me. I worry all the time about my nest egg. Simply having one has enabled me to take risks and pursue my dreams. And, no matter how much my financial advisor reassures me that I'm doing great for someone my age, for the past few years I've been withdrawing more than depositing, which although not problematic is troublesome to me. 

Chinese people like to talk about money. American people find it taboo. Chinese people like to talk about getting the most value for their dollar. Just watch any Russell Peters comedy routine for what I'm referring to. American people may like to clip coupons, but don't necessarily like to use them in public display. Chinese people get in your business about how much something cost and why you spent that much. American people look the other way and think it's none of their business. Perhaps it is because my parents' generation come from an era when money, food, and everything except fear was scarce. And, since emotional baggage tends to travel from generation to generation, I picked it up too. 

Here's the thing I've learned from yoga: money is an energetic exchange that demonstrates how much we value and honor things, people, experiences. I wish I could say that looking at it from that point of view takes all the shadowy effects of currency away. But, it only slightly alleviates the stress I feel around finances. Similar to eating disordered thinking, I often find myself thinking, "Is my savings ever going to be good enough?" 

Over the past two years, I began to delve into travel writing. In this way, I was able to experience things that most people on this planet will not ever do — not just for free, but getting paid on top of it. I visited a private island in Fiji, stayed at the Four Seasons twice in Maui, have been treated to multi-course meals with private chefs, and received massages and pampering on top of it. There are absolutely ways to live like the rich and famous without being either of those things. My beau calls it smart. I call it lucky. Again, I feel blessed to have been grated opportunities that I am humbled by. It's just one of the many ways in which I am wealthy.

I repeat lots of mantras when it comes to money. And, it helps. Every time I've asked for assistance, the Universe has delivered almost immediately. For example, I backed my car into a cement pole [please do not insert Asian female driver stereotype here — I swear I'm a great driver] and the deductible was $500. A few weeks later, my uncle (who I've only seen three times in my life) visits from Taiwan. At the end of his trip and as a generous Christmas present, he hands each of my siblings and I a red envelope. I put it away and open it a few days later, only to be shocked yet not surprised that there were five crisp $100 bills. The Universe supported me in just the way I needed. Thank you Uncle and Universe!

At the beautiful Self-Realization Fellowship store in Encinitas, they have a free little do-it-yourself paper bank you can put together to welcome abundance into your life. You deposit a coin in it daily as you meditate on fruitfulness, practice faith, and trust that you will be provided with all that you need... then watch watch happens over the span of 42 days.

Slowly, I'm redefining my relationship with money. Rather than seeing it as an amorphous and intangible cloud which might rain upon me at any time, I am envisioning good weather for all my days. As my good friend Gary always reminds me, "We live in this world, where we do need to survive. I always ask the Universe to help me take care of my needs so that I won't have anything to worry about. That way, I can focus on giving the best care to my clients. If I were constantly worried about finances and paying the bills, then I'd be distracted and would not be able to provide any healing that would be worthwhile for anyone, least of all me."

There are so many things in life that we never get coached on, never get any guidelines for, never get taught. Usually, these are also the big things that we need the most help with. Some of us are lucky in that we do have guardians and resources that help us navigate life a little more smoothly. Some of us learn on our own. I have made my life with my own two hands, my own brain, my own heart. It's defined who I am and who I'd like to be. And, it has created a tale worth telling. 

My mantra for money is, "Abundance comes to me freely and easily." And I believe, like everything else, if we're open to it and we're doing the best we can in every moment, then the Universe is listening... and responding. 

What are your approaches to financial independence and success? How do patterns in one area of your life carry over to others? What mantras do you repeat to help you meet life with a heartier approach? 

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