A Meditation On Money

When it comes to money matters, yoga hasn't provided Neal Pollack with any answers. But it's proven to be a steady lean-to during both good and bad times.
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When it comes to money matters, yoga hasn't provided Neal Pollack with any answers. But it's proven to be a steady lean-to during both good and bad times.
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My life is full of what many people would call "blessings." I'm free of relationship drama, happily married for more than 13 years. My kid drives me nuts sometimes, but no more than average. I get all the support I could ever want from my large extended family. Other than a weird bout with pneumonia a few years ago, I've been healthy for decades. My work is varied and interesting. I have more fun, adventure, and friends than one person deserves. But money continues to vex me. It's my greatest obstacle, my greatest challenge, and the source of almost all my stress.

Money drives me freaking crazy.

Recently I won some money on a game show. It's not a life-changing amount, but it's definitely ridiculous payment for a day's work answering questions about David Hasselhoff, military academies, and the inventor of the Zamboni. 

But as soon as my final total got tabulated, I started to worry. How I going to spend the money? What if my work dried up and I needed to use it to buy groceries? Would people start asking me for some? If I didn't give it to them, was I selfish? What was the government going to take from me? Would I need to hire lawyers and accountants? And how much would they charge?

Somehow, I knew I would waste this amazing opportunity. I didn't feel rich, or even lucky. I just felt anxious.

I can't figure it out. There never seems to be enough, and I never seem to make the right decisions. For a while, I was young and poor, and that was OK and normal. Then in my thirties, I made some money, but not as much as I thought I'd made, and my wife and I blew it all in a series of bad moves. We rented a house in a neighborhood we couldn't afford, and sent our kid to an expensive preschool, and then the financial crisis hit and some other things went wrong for me, and then I was broke. I'm still trying to recover.

Yoga hasn't really helped. My wife and I have read the books and spoken with a yogic financial expert and tried to change our attitude. I've meditated on my financial problems and chanted abundance mantras. In a more practical sense, we've changed our habits. We don't travel for pleasure. All our spare dollars go toward paying down our debt, and we're getting there. Still, it never seems to be enough. We're always on the brink.

But perhaps I'm looking for help in the wrong place. Yoga doesn't promise a life free from suffering, financial or otherwise. When the texts talk about "liberation," they don't mean you're going to be rich, or that you're suddenly going to qualify for a mortgage. Just about everyone has money problems, and most other people on the planet—in the history of the planet—have it so much worse than I do. At least I have time to contemplate the roots of my financial anxiety. At least I have, as the teachers always tell us we need, a blanket, a strap, and two blocks.

Practicing yoga won't necessarily free you from your problems. But it does offer something consistent in the storm, a temporary lean-to, and just maybe the foundation for the house that you someday hope to own. We always have everything we need in the present moment. I try to remember that when I'm laying awake in bed at night, worrying about money.