Mindfulness and money

Once the domain of Buddhists and yoga studios, the mindfulness movement has gone mainstream. Today, it dominates psychology and self-help books, substitutes for medication in some cases, and has even penetrated the workplace. Amanda Morrall reports on the intersection between money, mindfulness, and parenting.

Asked what puzzles him most about humanity, the Dalai Lama offered a rather unnerving reply. “Man,” he said, “because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices his money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present, the result being that he does not live in the present or the future. He lives as if he never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” This perfectly summarises our perverse relationship with money. Like a dog forever chasing its tail, too many humans are caught in a cycle of chasing the mighty dollar without truly understanding why, or the cost to them and their families. We’ve all seen examples of this. The most familiar stereotype is the work-obsessed parent who seldom sees their spouse or kids, but enjoys ever-growing prosperity that ends up being decimated by lawyers during a messy, expensive divorce. Mindfulness is almost at risk of becoming a cliché these days. But for those who grasp it, not just intellectually but experientially, it can be circuit breaker.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness refers to a quality of the mind being awake to thought, action, and attitude. In yoga philosophy, it’s described as being spectator or witness to oneself. The theory is that when you aren’t just going through the motions but are consciously involved; you’re living in the moment. The drudgery of mundane tasks we’d rather not perform, like emptying the dishwasher or doing laundry, is an invitation for the mind to wander. Humans can hardly be blamed for escapism, and there any many good examples where the mind’s tendency to wander is a blessing more than a curse. However, an undisciplined, wild mind, habituated more to wandering than actually paying attention, is at risk of missing out on some special moments and causing some collateral damage too.

Teaching children healthy financial habits

As descendants of a common ape ancestor, humans from a young age learn by ape-like behaviour. Monkey see, monkey do! If you want to teach your little ones healthy financial habits, start with yourself. Study your own behaviours, understand your own psychology and relationship with money, and be mindful that what you do and say are being closely watched. Kids are such good studies of their parents that as they become adults, they’ll sometimes adopt opposite behaviours because they were more “awake and aware” than their folks. And that’s a great thing if they end up avoiding the usual pitfalls of money mismanagement, like overspending, not planning, taking on too much debt, or subscribing to “retail therapy.” Mindfulness is effectively a habit, and the habit of an unconditioned modern mind is more attuned to a wild monkey in the jungle. The jungle, as we know, is full of inherent dangers. Inadvertently teaching kids that money grows on trees because we’ve overindulged them, mismanaged our own affairs, or been blind to glaringly obvious mistakes are all good reasons to check out that next mindfulness course.

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