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Please visit my website at Jacki Dilley, LMSW. Here you will find a current blog and information about my therapy practice.

Mindfulness and Money: Part 1

Anything as important to our lives as money deserves our careful and compassionate attention. Which brings us to the subject of mindfulness, something that can enhance and enlighten not just our relationships with money, but every other area as well.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the pioneer of mind-body medicine, defines mindfulness in his classic book Full Catastrophe Living this way:

“Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness. It is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment’s thought to. It is a systematic approach to developing new kinds of control and wisdom in our lives, based on our inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness, and insight.”

There’s probably no better way to learn to live more mindfully than through meditation. Here are some simple instructions. You may also want to watch a beautiful video by meditation master Thich Nhat Hanh on practicing mindfulness.

A good place to start is with observing your breath. Sit up as straight as you comfortably can and close your eyes, or look at one spot on the floor about three feet in front of you. Find a place in your body where you can distinctly feel yourself breathing. This might be in your diaphragm area, your chest, or your nostrils.

Now, just pay attention to your breath naturally coming in and out of your body. Don’t try to breathe deeply; some of your breaths will be short and light, others will be longer and deep. Try this for 10 to 20 minutes, or even for 5 minutes.

Your mind will wander. If you’re like most people, you’ll get upset with yourself for this, or feel that you aren’t doing it “right.” This happens, however, to everyone. In fact, the moment you realize that your mind has strayed from your breath is perhaps your moment of greatest mindfulness. When you notice it, just gently bring your attention back to your breath.

You’ll probably find counting your breaths to be helpful with concentration. As you breathe in, silently say “one” to yourself. On the outbreath, “two.” Do this up to ten then count backwards to one. Continue this throughout your meditation period.

You’ll get the greatest benefit from a regular meditation practice. Try to start out with 3 to 5 days a week for 5 to 15 minutes, and gradually work up to 5 days a week for 3o minutes. Since you will no doubt come up with questions, look for a group of people in your area who meditate, and join them. It is much easier to keep your meditation going with the support of other people. If you live in or near Washtenaw County in Michigan, visit the website of the Ann Arbor Center for Mindfulness to find out about mindfulness classes. If you live elsewhere and can’t find a local group, do an internet search for online support.

Questions for my readers — please comment!

1.  Do you meditate or practice any other form of mindfulness? Please tell us about your experiences with it.

2. Do you have any mindfulness practices you use with money?

Mindfulness and Money, Part 2

The ways we spend and don’t spend money have such rich information about the real issue: our internal landscapes, and the places where they intersect with the outer world.

You’re standing in a store. You see something you want. Here is an opportunity to mindfully tend and water your internal landscape.

Move out of the aisle into a quiet spot, so you can consciously breathe a few times. Go into the rest room if you feel self-conscious. Now, find where it is in your body that you want. It may be a watering in your mouth, a warmth rising up your neck to your face.

This sensation is not good or bad. There is no need to figure out if the sensation is telling you “buy” or “don’t buy.” Your only job is to notice that this is what your body is creating in response to this desire, today, in this store.

Now see if any statements come into your mind:

The kids need this.

The kids would like this.

“You spend too much!”

I never get to have anything!

I should get this.

“You don’t need this!”

Check in again with your body. What are you feeling now, in your chest, your gut, your arms, your face?

There is no hidden agenda here of “spend less money, you over-consumer!” You may, in fact, do well to spend more, especially on certain things. How can you know how much to spend if you don’t know your internal landscape? Right now, we just want to see what’s there. You’ll learn how to access your own internal wisdom to guide you in spending decisions. If there is any “agenda,” it would be to learn to give yourself what truly satisfies you.

Readers, please comment:

  • What was your immediate reaction, physical, emotional, or mental, to this meditation?
  • Did you try it? If so, what happened for you?

Work: Right Livelihood in Action

Doctors Without Borders is an incredible organization that brings medical care to impoverished victims of war and disasters. In one of their newsletters, they featured an excerpt from the book Writing on the Edge, a collection of accounts by 14 highly respected writers who traveled with Doctors Without Borders teams to crisis areas. I’d like to share part of the story Booker Prize-winning novelist DBC Pierre wrote about his journey to Armenia.

“(In the Southern Caucasus) there’s a great stigma placed on mental disability. Sufferers are alone with their problems. Lesser conditions like depression and anxiety are ignored altogether, just taken as another fact of hard life. This dynamic forms the heart of Belgian psychologist Dr. Luk Van Baelen’s project. He has made a start on the task of destigmatization.

“Chambarak opened its first DWB day center in 2003. There is one in each of the towns I’ve visited, staffed with psychologists, social workers, and assistants. They are a hub not just for the disabled, but for the wider community, if only for warmth, coffee, and conversation. Every weekday the center is open for counseling, crafts, music, fitness, anything that brings the twain together in a relaxed and constructive way. Picnics and open days are mounted whenever possible. The able and disabled are mingling. ‘We use any excuse for a party,’ says Chambarak’s psychologist, Loussine Mkrttchian. Subscription is steadily growing at her center.

“It’s also at the day center I see a remembered face. I meet him. His name is Petros, a handsome,weather-beaten, profoundly retarded 35-year-old with airs of great musing and reflection and a fixation with the buttons on his coat. A familiar sight around the district, he simply wanders from morning to night, often in the mountains, often around the prohibited border zone. His family feeds him, but that’s as far as his care goes. He’s been left all his life to wander. He has never spoken a word.”

The people who work with Doctors Without Borders amaze me. Right livelihood in action.

Donate to Charity With Capital One Credit Cards

RSF Social Finance reports that “Capital One credit cards provide an innovative rewards system where you can donate to any charity of your choice that uses Network for Good. Capital One will pay the fees, you get the tax benefit, and your favorite charity has more funding!”

Give cash or donate No Hassle Rewards with a Capital One credit card and 100% of your donation reaches your charity.

What a great collaboration. Instead of vilifying credit card companies, as many of us do, you can partner with one to do good.

It’s too easy and convenient to blame our economic problems on the “bad guys” and avoid asking ourselves how our own choices contribute to the current financial crisis. It’s not us against them, whoever “they” happen to be. When we look for common ground, and let go of labeling some people as good and others as bad, we create changes that everyone can buy into.