But for the sake of this spiritual awakening blog post, I am interested in how we can all learn to consciously use money. By "consciously use," I mean to understand what you are buying/supporting and why you are choosing to buy/support something. Even for something as simple as buying oatmeal raisin cookies, you are making a very important decision that influences hundreds of people in a myriad of ways. Where you buy the cookies is a vote of confidence for that store or baker. But you are also buying some kind of packaging and supporting the package-making company. You are supporting the farmers and growers who produced the oats, raisins, cinnamon, sugar, and so forth. You are supporting whatever means of transportation that shipped the cookies from where they were made to where you are now buying them. There's probably dozens of other influences going on here, but it should be clear that your money impacts a lot of people. And this is just talking about a batch of cookies!
There are many other things we can look at, but as always, our first step to making any kind of conscious decision is to go inwards. As we find ourselves clearer about what our motivations actually are, then we can take steps to make to be conscious in our decisions regarding money.
I write a lot about inner work. It's basically the topic of most of my blog posts. But if you are new to this concept and early in your inner work, here are two blog posts to help you out. The second is particularly important for my young adult friends.
How to Start Your Spiritual Journey
How to Grow up Smart and Live Your Dreams
Making Changes to Buying PatternsAs most people release old issues and discover the truth about themselves, they then can more easily see the truth about what is going on in the world. While more than a few people get stuck blaming the world--and primarily human beings--for being wrong, bad, stupid, or evil, we do this less the more at peace we are. Blaming and judging is, of course, the voice of unconsciousness, itself. Collective human pain is created by billions of humans living in pain and making unconscious choices. That tends to create more suffering, and people won't change until they start seeing examples of healing and making conscious decisions. Thus, the way we help break down communal suffering is by doing our part, such as spending our money more consciously.
As you notice things that don't align with spiritual truth, you become responsible and obligated to change your behavior patterns. This noticing is simply discernment, not judgment. It's not a judgment to notice that a car is on fire. It's on fire. That's the state of things. It's a judgment to say that the car shouldn't be on fire or the driver was stupid for letting the car catch on fire. The more you do your inner work, the more obvious the distinction between discernment and judgment becomes.
The Difference Between Discernment and Judgment
If you discern a problem with how palm oil is being harvest and are aware of the socio-economic impacts, then you have to change. You can't keep buying products with palm oil in it. There are many examples of things that do not align with the truth and are otherwise bad for people, animals, and the environment. The more you look into these issues, the more responsible you become. When we're ignorant, we're still responsible. We just also get to be ignorant to the pain and suffering our ignorance is causing us. But when we are aware of things, we can make conscious choices because most of us don't want to continue suffering.
However, to really make a conscious choice and use our discernment also require us to make an informed choice. To do that, we need to educate ourselves on issues to more deeply understand the choices we may make.
When I say, "education," I don't mean going back to school for a degree, but that is not excluded. I mean that you learn about things that you care about. It's important to understand issues from multiple sides and not just the side you immediately prefer. It's easy for some people to say that killing animals for their meat is wrong without trying to understand the farmers, organizations, meat-consumers, and all the other aspects involved in that industry. There are a lot of forces at work, and you want to really understand them. You also want to really understand a belief around "killing animals for consumption." Leave no belief within you unexamined. It's very easy for some of these beliefs to hide out and escape our scrutiny because there are plenty of aspects of our unconscious ego that doesn't like the heat and intensity of our own awareness.
Education, Education, Education
Additionally, false information is everywhere on the Internet. I feel like everyone who uses the Internet now needs a course in evaluating sources. There are so many places with misinformation and outright lies on every side of an issue that it makes it hard to discern the truth. You can't know about everything, but do the best you can. Start by looking at who the publisher of a site is and if any studies are being cited in any claims. You may also want to look into the studies that are getting cited. Scientific studies are not all created equal, and unfortunately, certain organizations are created by different industries to produce false science.
I know. It sucks. It's gotten so muddied up out there that it's difficult to know who and what to trust. This tends to drive people back towards their old preferences, believing whatever it is they want to believe. You mustn't give in to that tendency. While you can't be educated about everything, take the time to learn about a couple things that matter most to you--even if it is just the oatmeal cookie industry.
Drawing Your Money Out of Wasteful ActivitiesWith all that said, some things are not difficult to realize. For instance, alcohol is a way people avoid their issues. The less you drink, the more you feel. The clearer you are, the less inclination you have to drink because you feel good being you when you have healed a lot of issues. So it becomes natural to stop buying alcohol and wasting money on something to cover up and repress your feelings. Because alcohol is expensive, you are going to get back quite a bit of money to repurpose, pay off debts, or to save. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study found that on average $1 out of $100 is spent on alcohol by Americans. You can imagine that this can add up to hundreds of dollars very quickly. Undoubtedly, some people spend more on alcohol than others, and that's a lot of energy being expended to numb one's self.
Numbing Yourself to Life and Over-stimulation
There are plenty of other ways we waste tons of money to hide how we feel or who we are. This supports huge industries that are dedicated to reminding you that you are not good enough without their particular product, item, service, or something else. Truly, most of marketing is about telling you that you are not okay in a bazillion different ways, and if we want industries to sing a different tune, then we have to redirect our money-energy away from the ones that are part of this system of not being okay to those who generally support us (and they are out there; that's part of educating yourself).
While life is an imperfect place full of compromises and trade-offs (like buying your electricity from the local energy company that is producing electricity primarily from coal), there are plenty of parts of society you do not have to support. You will be better off for not wasting your money, and you'll have a little more money in your pocket for things that do matter.
No Longer Fooled by BrandsPart of being clear in yourself makes it easier to be clear what marketing and other social messages are really saying to you. The more you can see how they are attempting to manipulate you, the more you can make different choices. For instance, branding is essentially creating a perception--an ego identity--around a product. I am sure you can think of countless brands for food and other products. It's probably easy for you to think of brand names because they've spent so much money raising awareness about their stuff. But when a brand is making a t-shirt look all hip and glamorous, you may now realize the truth; that they're actually selling you a feeling to make you feel better about yourself.
That's really what a lot of successful brands do. They're sell feelings, not products. That's predicated on you not liking yourself. So you'll pay for the $100 t-shirt made in a sweat-shop because you want the feeling, not the shirt. And how long does that good feeling last? How quickly does that good feeling in you get destroyed if someone doesn't like your shirt? When we are unconscious to our pain and issues, we can be manipulated in so many ways, and that drains of our money.
But the more aware you are, the more you are going to pay attention to how a company is talking to you and what they are actually selling. Then you can make a choice whether or not you really want that t-shirt made for 50 cents in a cruel sweat-shop or not and that will probably just end up getting lost in your closet in a couple of months.
Donating to CausesSome of you may find that not wasting your money on things to give you feelings will suddenly give you quite a bit of extra cash hanging around. Or maybe you'll finally be able to dig out from under a whole load of debt. A PEW Charitable Trusts study released in July 2015 found that "8 in 10 Americans are in debt." While not all debt is considered bad (such as paying off a mortgage), this is quite an interesting statistic in terms of buying more than we can pay for--a sign of unconscious behavior. Credit card debt is more concerning. U.S. citizens hold an average of $5700 in debt, according to an article at Motley Fool. Putting aside a lot of factors, this indebtedness strikes me as a lot of people in the U.S. trying to buy things to feel good about themselves and mask issues. There is so much stuff we don't need, and when we don't buy it, we can put ourselves in places where we can better support not just ourselves, but others too.
Sometimes no longer wasting money puts people back in the black, and you may want to use your money-energy for something different. That can lead many people to donating to causes. There are all kinds of real issues that go on such as hunger (which I posted about in Dec 2016), homelessness, and so forth. There are more than a few charities and non-profits that attempt to help, but really, how much financial support do they have compared to these big businesses? As you begin to understand what really matters to you and your community, donating to causes becomes a obvious choice as a means of consciously using money. It's conscious because you are addressing a real problem that needs money and not supporting a system that requires you to be wounded. It's a way to help heal wounds, not medicate and hide them.
Sure, non-profits and other organizations have their issues. They are run by human beings. We carry our issues everywhere. So education is key once again so that you can be clear about he quality of organization to which you are donating. I recommend Charity Navigator's website; they are a rating agency that seems to be legitimate. And if you need a specific charity, I'm a fan of The Center for Victims of Torture and the work they do to stop torture in the U.S. and other places as well as to help victims heals. Here's their website:
The Center for Victims of Torture
Spending Consciously the Best You CanYou can't know everything about everything, and heck, we're all still learning about ourselves, right? The more you know, the more consciously you can use your money. You can spend it on things that truly support you and your loved ones (like saving for college for your kids). You can spend your money on items that are produced and transported by ethical organizations. You can buy things you actually need, and you will stop buying things just to achieve feelings. If money is tight in your household, then consciously using money is particularly important to conserve what you need.
As I said earlier, it is an imperfect world. Sometimes things being "cheap" is more important to people than being ethical, but for those of you who have discretionary buying power, use it! Encouraging businesses to be more ethical needs to be driven by those with money to help benefit those without and who are in more vulnerable economic situations. Lots of people want to buy organic, but they can't if organic is more expensive than the standardized food that's being produced. The more people who buy organic (aka the way food has basically always been until the 20th century), the more businesses can build up their organizations and scale around that, which can potentially lower prices (Yes, I know it is more complicated than that). That can make organic food more accessible to everyone and give lower-income people the realistic choice to buy organic.
This is one example of many of how we collectively can change systems by consciously using money, but it all starts with each one of us. We can change a lot of the world, and we can do it one consciously spent dollar/pound/franc/etc. at time.