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Questions. What are questions? How do we relate to questions?

We might believe that the act of being present, open, loving, receptive and clear is easy. Or, if not easy, we might believe that being with another person is an improvisational skill that can be called upon at a moment’s notice. With authentic heart connections, neither of these beliefs is true. In my experience, we all have debris covering our hearts that prevents the nakedness required to connect deeply, authentically, and without barriers.

What is ripe and alive for me today is questions: the art of asking, receiving, and navigating questions. Recently I assisted in the development of new mentors at a meditation teacher training. The relationship skills being developed are that of support – like a spiritual friend. One of our areas of focus was the practice of fostering connection with another person.

In the training process, we staged simulated conversations (for practice, but naturally drawing on real feelings) for viewing, supporting and critiquing, in service of mentor development. The safe training container allowed for vulnerability to shine, along with a naked presence to strengths and areas of growth. So from where does my curiosity about questions arise?

As we progressed each day with each participant, more often than not the questions posed by the developing “mentor” to their student were self-relevant, meaning the questions attended to something of importance and meaning for the questioner, rather than being of service to the recipient. Time and again, questions arose from the following:

  • a need to know – holding urgency and anxiety.
  • a need to fix – as if given enough information an answer to the problem would arise.
  • a need to understand – the more I resonate with this situation, the more I can be here.
  • a need to connect – the idea that our thoughts are the best connector between people.
  • a need to feel in control – fear of intimacy held at bay by controlling how close I get.

In work, in family life, in everyday regular occurrences, and of course with money, we relate to others with questions. It seems, though, our practice of asking questions is limited. It seems that we are tethered very closely to habitual patterns – see above – that likely arose from our childhood days. I hold the same habits and it looks something like this.

When a question is posed to me, I do not automatically answer the question. Instead, I look underneath the question, resting in the space between the other and me, sensing what else might be going on and what is “really” being asked. While this way of relating to questions requires more energy and bandwidth, it is the result of childhood patterning where just the answer to a question was unsatisfactory. More often than not, something else was being asked and it became beneficial to my health, happiness and well being to answer what was underneath the question versus the “face value” question. On the flip side, my questions to others are very intentional, and somewhat limited. I do not ask a lot of questions. I typically try to figure things out for myself. Again, this is not a suggested or preferred way of being; it is my childhood patterning I carry into adulthood.

In this space of curiosity about questions, in the training environment and beyond, I am seeing the various ways that we relate to questions. I notice that when I receive many questions, particularly pointed questions that desire a specific answer, I tend to freeze. As my mind works, there is rarely one “right” answer. So my mind begins to sort and make connections and figure out the most likely or the best answer. At the same time, I am looking underneath for the clues and context as to what is really being asked.

A superior practice is when I rest in the openness of the situation, with my heart wide and my mind curious. The responses – statements, questions, joy, resonance – arise from something other than a habit. Relating to another with generous questions is a very different experience.

We all have our preferences and this message is an invitation to get curious about your way with questions. How do you relate to questions?

In this training, I asked one mentor in training “who is being served by the questions you ask?” She responded with immediate recognition of serving herself and the desire to “buy time” when she struggled with relating from a different place. This simple question dove straight to her pattern where uncertainty and fear resided.

There are simple questions with direct clear answers. How many stamps do you want? What time does the movie end? Do you want lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise with your burger? A small part of life happens on this level; but maybe we are comfortable staying here?

As an evolving species, we are called to develop a better relationship with questions. In the world of money, elegant beautiful precise questions are imperative. We must hold multiple perspectives in most situations, in order to arrive at an answer that serves what is next. And always, questions are meant to serve the other, our clients.

My body receives a very clear signal when I am being questioned for the benefit of the questioner. Depending on my day and present state of mind, sometimes I manage the questions with skill and finesse. Sometimes, however, I feel the tension in my bones where my jaw tightens and patience thins. Rest assured my response is common. When we pummel others with question after question, it feels like an automatic rifle to the gut.

By now you might be wondering, can questions come from another place other than the head? Yes, I’m glad you wondered. When we connect and relate from the heart – there is a deep somatic reality to heart connection – the questions that arise are very open, spacious, kind, curious. They feel very different than the ways of questioning above. We know by heart that the best way to connect with another is through the heart.

The art of relating with questions through the heart lives in a doctorate program. Seriously. Few of us are well equipped in this area of relating. Let’s wonder and wander as a placeholder for exploration and gain new and valuable muscle for the benefit of connection, and the benefit of others. This is generosity in motion.

Practicing heart questions,

 

A Hot Mess or Just Part of the Ride?

Each month a topic for Somatic Finance arises from current reality. The current state of affairs and my mind present relevant authentic topics and articles to share. Truth be revealed, there is a part of me who would like a clean, structured, annual writing chart that dictates monthly topics. I would write the 3rd day of each month for 1 hour at precisely 9:00 and the flow of publishing would glide to your inbox at the optimum moment you are ready, willing and able to enjoy. Then the alarm goes off….

So what is current reality in this moment?

Last month’s topic of balance, has given way to not much balance at all. I offer ‘hot mess or part of the ride’ as a name for this period in time. Let me paint a picture for you.

I am sitting in my dining room typing on my laptop. Prior to sitting, I spent at least ½ hour clearing stuff off of the table and sorting, just enough, to make the space workable. A few moments ago I turned my head left and spotted a large bolt of black construction protection paper for floors. (We completed a complicated bathroom renovation last fall and surprise frozen/broken water pipes in the winter.) The floor protection paper was for that work. I say to myself, this could be worse; I could have missed this for another year.

My life is jam-packed with concerns, obligations, desires, passions, wants, needs … and so is yours. Some of us are skilled at being on the ride. Some of us tilt – out of balance – and become a hot mess. I am on the verge of a hot mess and offer the aspects of these moments, months, and movements that brought me here.

It isn’t enough to say that my parents are declining and need care. I must share that they are doing their life the way they want and though some of us are reacting with distress, burden and fear, it is what is happening. My three siblings and I hold different experiences and views on the matter. So while we give our time and energy to our parents, we also unearth all of the childhood debris that has been hidden for over 50 years. I am beautifully – yes I claim skill here – seeing the strategies I employed to navigate early childhood and cleaning up that debris, in the face of others who may or may not have such skill. It is a chess game in a house of rotating and moving mirrors.

It isn’t enough to say that I am a managing partner of a financial services business – a profession mired in confusion, fear and uncertainty. I must share that operating an evolving business, within a field of old-school thinking and controlling rules made necessary by unethical leaders, requires supercharged resiliency.  I must share that the demands of running an organization, training individuals in our work, completing tasks to satisfy internal operations and external client services, requires a montage of capacities. I must share that the complexities of the human experience are magnified tenfold when money is part of the equation. Every aspect of life is touched by money.

It isn’t enough to say that I am writing a book for the world, about Somatic Finance, to alleviate money suffering. I must share that writing is a complex, nuanced journey, especially for a person, me, who is learning to claim her authorship. I must share that I already engage a full-time position as a financial planner, a full-time position as a business owner, a full-time position as a master integral coach, a full-time position as a volunteer, mother, daughter, sister, spouse, friend, student, teacher, partner, gardener (oh how I love gardening.)

It isn’t enough to say that I am deeply concerned about life on earth, this planet and the capacity for world leaders to make decisions that include the welfare of all beings. This message is not built to withstand a political debate. But, like all of you, I am steeped in our hurting world – learning new moves and taking fearless steps as best as I am able.

I’ll pause here to take a breath. Please breathe with me as you wonder into your own hot mess or the ride of your life.

And yet here I am so concerned about others’ needs, wants and desires that the fire in my belly has grown from frustration to rage and my back aches. Fortunately I am not frothing at the mouth scurrying like a Tasmanian devil. But I am very close. My body, my best friend, supports this truth, and me, always. I am engaging practices to support my growth. My developmental practices are showing me my current way of being so that I may develop new muscles to abide – heartfully – on the ride … this ride of life.

How are you in this present time, this present moment?
How are the messages to “be here now” and power of positive thinking working for you?
How do the hundreds of online courses to shapeshift your mind, heart and soul meet you when all hell is breaking loose?

No answers are offered. I am wondering with you, and I notice a tiny smile followed by a bubble giggle. Writing, revealing, offering – authentic expression – allows the crack to open further and light to shine in.

Be fully in your hot mess or on the ride.
I’m on mine.

Riding hot and messy,

 

 

Rebalance… portfolios, postures, practices, professions… life!

In the financial profession, rebalancing portfolios is a common practice for managing investments. Portfolio rebalancing is a discipline to align an investment policy with its guiding values (e.g. risk tolerance, asset classes, timelines), in order to meet objectives. From a practical investment management perspective, this action is very important. From the perspective of what gives life meaning and purpose, it may mean very little.

When sitting for a long period of time, for example in meditation, a balanced posture enables one to stay relaxed in the seat. Slightly moving forward, back, and side-to-side, will produce a “sweet-spot” – a centered, balanced, vertical alignment which allows ease, relaxation, and the ability to stay.

For decades we’ve heard adages about attending to work/life balance. How about the proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? (And yes, it is a proverb, not a movie quote, dating from at least 1659…) Or the term workaholic, for someone who spends too much time at the office, neglecting family and friends. Balancing time between two important variables of life is a familiar conundrum.

As we age, or if we have a mobility-hindering accident, balance becomes more prominent for our well-being. Each visit to my parent’s home, as they tenderly and slowly weaken in body and mind, I witness the decline in their ability to stand and walk. Indeed, their physical balance is at risk each time they move. It is both heartbreaking and sobering. And I am paying attention.

Three months ago, I began a new balancing practice for my body (see this month’s 5 Minute Try-It) that I engage in the morning and evening while brushing my teeth. For the two-minute timer on my electric toothbrush, I balance on one foot; mornings, the left, evenings, the right. In my bare feet, focused attention is required. My balance has improved. I feel the tiny muscles in my legs working. These are the muscles that are generally forgotten, but are the ones that keep us upright.

Striking a balance.
Staying in balance.
Returning to balance.
Find a happy balance.
Balance work and play.
Balance everything out.
Out of balance.
Maintain balance.
Balance between…

What do you notice, as you peruse these common phrases?
What thoughts come to mind?
Are any body impulses registering?

These word-polarities demonstrate an outdated view. Our everyday phrases indicate either/or, rather than “both, and.” One, or the other. This, or that. One or the other end of the spectrum.

I seek a common ground, a middle, a landing. In my reality, balance spirals. A continuum moving up and down, left and right, front and back – in every direction.  In the simplest of examples, when my mother falls, where exactly did she lose her balance?

I sense a flow of energy and life, where our bodies move through space, with other bodies, objects, and natural surroundings. We name this flow “balance,” to give our minds something for reference. As Laura Divine, co-founder of Integral Coaching of Canada, quoted below in Be Moved, in this never-ending developmental journey, we find a fresh balance of the whole. The whole is more than two parts.

In this present-day modern world, “either-or” thinking, reacting, planning and sensing is sub-par. Expect inferior results, with one or the other. In all aspects of life, including money of course, we are called to grow our awareness and our actions. What was perfectly agreeable yesterday, given certain circumstances and choices, is not workable today. We stay awake each moment to all of the parts, to gain access to the direction of wholeness. Growing physical balance, like in the simple practice I am engaging, enables us to access this whole.

Where in your life are you called to explore balance in a fresh way?

Spiraling in Balance,

 

 

Even I do not like to go to the bank.

It occurred to me that the prevalence of online banking and electronic money flow could be a result of the prolonged arduous banking experience people want to avoid. Institutions recognize this distasteful experience as they desperately try to change history and tradition to current reality and something disguised as appealing. Can you see the “café” at Capital One?

Today I opened a business checking account for Somatic Finance® and it took almost an hour. Arriving at the empty bank and being told to sit in the reception area was my first twitch. A limp weird attempt at a handshake from the bank personnel about to help me was my second twitch. My third twitch was sitting at the desk and struggling to hear the questions delivered fast clip and without eye contact.

My demeanor became crusty. I could feel niggles, knots and my contracted energy swirling inside with the already suffocating energy of the cubicle. There were several more twitches before I chose to try something different. Rationally, I knew this person was simply doing her job and the best she could. She had nothing to do with the forms, the requirements, the disclosures, the CYA papers, the popping Merrill Edge advertisements, or the second-grade writing for the two choices of checking accounts. She had nothing to do with the lack of integrity I have always felt when I enter into a bank and they try to sell me on the newest deal – if I change something about my present banking situation.

Once when I was with my young son at the bank helping him open an account, I abruptly and blatantly responded to the clerk – “No, I am not interested in your new system. I do not trust that it is beneficial to me or to my son at all. I believe it is designed to make more money for the bank. Therefore, I would like to remain with my current choice.” My son was completely mortified. He asked why I was so upset. I did not have a great answer. I behaved like a jerk.

Presencing the truth that this clerk really was doing her job and trying to help, I connected with her long, perfectly manicured nails. Complimenting their beautiful color and her ability to type skillfully on the keyboard with long nails, play-energy opened up the space, and I was able to breathe a bit easier. (Notice that I practiced this month’s 5 Minute Try-It: Play, from Presence, Connect, Play? So fun and easy!)

In the softer space I saw all that I am offering now, in this writing. Isn’t it remarkable how immediately disdain arises? My body was pissed off before it walked in the heavy glass door. Way too many embodied memories of being in this place, or others like it, brought tension to the surface – the “bottom line” truth that I do not trust large financial institutions. I do not believe, for one nano-moment, that my interests are at the forefront of their policies or the resulting offers to their clientele.

And, I am guessing, that you do not believe they have your interests at heart either.
You may be hoping for some inspiring conclusion, a remedy to in-person banking, or a swift way to avoid the experience altogether. I have none of those. This inspiration is even a surprise to me. What is alive, though, is my curiosity. I wonder…

What is happening here?
How can any money experience be tuned with truth – even if I am the only presence bringing it?
What’s the larger story?
What wants to be revealed for the betterment of all?
How can my energy be generative to the situation?
How can my presence catalyze others for generative output?
What is it within me, closer to home, that is ready to be released, as it relates to banking institutions?

As I ask and feel into the last question, my breath deepens. My back tingles. My belly rounds out and full. My eyes close. My fingers pause. And a single thought appears.

On behalf of humanity, we matter too.

Constructive rest arises. How interesting. I remember I promised more about constructive rest last month. Constructive rest is. My tip for now is to release any specific or general ideas about what rest is, how rest arrives and the way it takes shape. I’m now resting with ease as the words come forth. My spine is lengthened, my chin is slightly down, my eyes are lower as they view the screen, and my breath flows with ease. And you are here with me, resting.

My rest is pulsing between no movement and slight movement, constructively. Energy is rising in my core, a flow from my lower belly to the top of my head. My motivation is writing in the present moment to honor my statement that I would offer more about constructive rest and constructive action. Perhaps, my action is to answer the beliefs that financial people don’t care. When in reality, many, way too many to count, are fiercely stomping on behalf of humanity in response to systems that no longer work, if they ever worked.

To meet whatever is arising, we practice constructive rest, and abide there – embodied – while life takes shape in the money world. Rest then reveals constructive action.

Rest with me now.

Resting and Responding,

Fear. Big fear. Subtle Fear. All Here.

Last week I attended the Financial Planning Association annual retreat. It is an intimate conference of 400-ish thought leaders who have been gathering at this advanced program for more than 30 years. When I reflected on the topic to share in this written conversation with you, fear was what came to mind, surprisingly. Here’s why it came up and why I choose to talk about it.

In each education session I attended, fear – subtle or blatant – was the sustaining factor. The content of the session was meant to address that implicit fear in a practical way. Because of my work in Somatic Finance® and my conviction in the importance of body intelligence, I am hyper-aware of when body wisdom is absent. I am also hyper-aware that when emotions, particularly fear, are present in the experience, the worst answer to meet the fear, is a “practical solution.”

I write about this phenomenon in my forthcoming book explicitly and in detail. As I state frequently, fear is the underbelly of money. Please quote me on that if you like. While I am certain that most of the speakers were not aware of the fear-thread woven in their presentations, the truth is, in our financial world, and even within the most grown-up and conscious places of financial planning, fear continues to hold constant presence that we are called to face skillfully.

Fear of not having enough money to retire.
Fear of not having enough as a retiree to sustain lifestyle.
Fear of rising health care costs while aging.
Fear of economic forces that impact our investment plans.
Fear of confusion in the tax laws.
Fear of losing control.
Fear of technology.
Fear of what money can buy.
Fear of family dynamics and effective estate plans.
Fear of negative fiscal policies.
Fear of decisions. Change. Life.

With each of the above fear matters, nothing new will emerge with the same cognitive right-brain exploration, discovery and action. In other words, as Einstein says, you can’t solve the problem in the same plane it was created. Many of the retreat sessions offered food for thought and deeper conversation, interesting tools to employ, or beautiful questions to ask, related to important topics. Many of the sessions inspired right action for professionals to serve their clients well. But none of the sessions invited anyone into the unique and deepest inquiry of what is this fear? Can we as humans explore the foundations of fear, as instruments for optimal service for human growth, well-being and peace of mind?

Dick Wagner, a beloved recently-deceased pioneer in our profession stated, “Money is the singular most powerful secular force on the planet.” This is a gorgeous statement to sit with for months. As I reflect again on this statement and include the essence of fear, I believe fear is the singular most powerful energetic force on the planet, just behind Love. But when it comes to money, fear is more prevalent.

The way for us to do money well, to relate authentically with the energy of money, to weave our purest values, our precious life aspirations, and our unique genius offerings into a meaningful life tapestry, is for body intelligence to be welcomed.  Fear can only be thoroughly attended to through the physical and subtle body. We attend to the tension, pain and fatigue we hold in the body through practices; myriad practices that allow us to reveal what is hidden, to observe contracted energy, and move toward new possibilities.

Any exterior solution will be momentarily satisfying. But the fear will remain and arise again at another future moment – about this I am certain – beckoning attention for a deeper resolution and experience. As humans we will always experience fear. It is our human nature. How we experience fear is our choice and our invitation.

Yesterday, I was practicing squats in my circuit training. Still fatigued from the workout a couple of days earlier, these four timed exercises – do as many as you can in 24 minutes – were burning my butt, literally. The instructor of the class provided me suggestions on how to dip lower in my squat. Anger surfaced and I was dismissive with a “give me a break” attitude and complaints about tender muscles from her workout two days earlier.

This morning I shared with her my learnings from that exchange. Generally I am not rude to this amazing fitness instructor. In reflecting on what happened, I realized that I hold shear terror in my body when I squat to the floor! My squats have improved significantly since I began weight training, and anxiety has diminished over time along with new ability to squat lower. But, upon deeply asking my body where the anger reaction came from, I realized that I feel quivers, doubt and uncertainty, stemming from the need to be able to move if I am under attack! I am scared for my survival!

My sharing may seem far-fetched. It seems strange to me sometimes too. But when I tune into my body intelligence, there is no doubt. When I integrate my insights from this exploration, with the experiences I am having with my aging parents and their declining mobility, the revelation of this response makes interesting and profound sense to me.

Do you resist fear?
Do you allow fear to inform you?
Do you welcome fear with open arms?

Fear is undeniable energy – arising in the form of fighting, fleeing, fainting or freezing. Two of these forms mobilize the body (fight & flee); two of these forms immobilize the body (freeze & faint.) All four responses are signals from the primitive brain, the beloved amygdala, informing us that survival is in jeopardy.  We are called to utilize fear in constructive action (fight & flee) or constructive rest (freeze & faint.) The body is the vessel for the effective utilization of fear. Stay tuned for more about constructive action and constructive rest, next time.

Until then, connect to your fear. Feel the sensations that course inside your body. Notice pressure, temperature and movement. Give descriptions to those sensations. Relating this way to the fear energy in your body is like giving a glass of cold water to a thirsty, parched-lipped traveler.

Connecting education, knowledge, wisdom, and body… with you,

 

 

Efficiency, Effectiveness, Excuses

Friends, I am on the other side of an experience and I want to share what I learned. Undoubtedly you have had one of these experiences yourself, but perhaps you haven’t had time to delve into the intricacies and refreshing learnings, after the task is finally checked off your list. Let’s explore together using my recent example.

With the popularization of credit cards, mileage rewards, and the plethora of shenanigans to “get a deal,” I recently switched my United Airlines Mileage Visa card for a Southwest Mileage Visa card, with the same banking company (Chase in case you wonder.)  Due to frequent travel visiting my aging parents on a more convenient airline, I found that I have not been traveling on United for quite some time. In my desire to “get a deal,” I called to cancel my United card. The request, consuming an inordinate amount of time to get a real person on the line, was met with a lengthy dissuasion speech. I was told that surrendering the card with its 19 years of credit would eliminate all of my rewards miles and my excellent credit. Eventually I ended up keeping the card. (It is in my file cabinet not being used.) I negotiated a no-annual-fee for this non-using card.

This month, I received my United/Chase billing statement and saw a $60 annual fee. I was annoyed, and in a rare free moment, I got on the phone to remedy the charge. I had been on the phone for over an hour when the situation was finally all said and done. It had taken me several attempts through a crap-shit-frustrating load of select-1, -2, -3, -4 or -5, to link up with a real human being. After answering all of the security questions to prove that I am indeed who I say I am, I was able to recount my issue.

I’ll bypass the final remedy in my sharing with you because it is not of interest. Nor is the scolding I gave to the customer service representative when I said I did not want the new no-annual-fee card which was coming in the mail; she said I had to have the card; I said if it is stolen from my mail or home it is another issue to deal with; she said well fraudulent activities are covered; I said well my time, energy and attention to deal with the potential fraud is NOT covered, just like this call dealing with my current fee charge is not covered. She apologized.

In my frustration, I paused and began to share what was really happening for me. I said I do not want an apology. What I want is presence; intelligent presence. If I had spoken to you within 15 minutes of my trying to reach you, I would not be so angry. But since I had to go through many calls and navigate an impersonal electronic system, being cut off and toggled between the bank and the airline, my demeanor is ugly. I know you do not deserve my reaction. People do not want to be treated this way. But, I do wish you a good day.

In efficiency, we sacrifice effectiveness. Then, the excuses arise. In our monotonous world of finance, we have many obstacles to give attention to rather than address money matters. When we as a society have little interest in dealing with money, we delegate actions to artificial intelligence to complete transactions. It is true that for some routine tasks, these mechanisms work. And we forget about our unpleasant interactions because, you know, the task finally gets handled and life is too short. But when and where does the pendulum swing, or at least inch, the other way?

This year’s Somatic Finance theme of dignity came forward when I said to the customer service representative, “People do not want to be treated this way.”  I would not want my parents, my clients, my friends, my colleagues or anyone, to be treated this way. Punching buttons through limited menu choices that do not address a nuanced situation, or repeating yourself to a robot with no option to reach a live human, does not inspire dignity or presence. It is dehumanizing. Well, of course it is; in those instances we are talking to automated metal and wires. I would rather speak to dirt, leaves and rocks than to a heartless, impenetrable network of technology.

Being able to receive attention for attending to a situation lands us in a place of dignity. Our culture is wrapped up in being efficient, shrugging off a problem with apologies, and losing the essence of effectiveness. Do we recognize that effectiveness is the ultimate objective? Follow me here.

Effectiveness is not perfection. Effectiveness is taking all of the matters into consideration – efficiency, perfection, attention, care, skill – and allowing the outcome to be the optimum result for that UNIQUE situation. The optimum result is being effective for what is happening in that moment. When we are attending to money, finances, handling of “rewards and too good to be true” deals, we must hold in the heart and ground of the situation – what deeply matters – in that moment – to us as humans. All humans want dignity, especially when money is involved.  Holding this torch for all of us and gathered from my internal dignified strength, my dignity inspired me to speak up and share with the customer service representative my point: People do not want to be treated this way.

We don’t. She doesn’t. Her boss doesn’t.

These are the nano moves to nurture a dignified culture. Because as we begin to embody our own dignity, we see where it is missing, and we begin to cultivate the space for it to exist for others.

May we be awake to real connection with real interactions when the situation calls for it.
May we benefit from technology to quickly complete a task when the situation calls for it.
May we be wise to recognize the difference, and apply presence when a human needs attention.

Softening the edges of my dignity meter,

They can’t take that away from me~

George and Ira Gershwin’s 1937 jazz song introduced by Fred Astaire in the film Shall We Dance welcomes us into this month’s exploration. While I am not intimately familiar with the movie, in this context, what can’t they take away from me? My dignity. Your dignity. Their dignity.

Dignity abides in the interiors of our whole body vessel. We access our dignity by paying attention to the spine and the back line of our body from the back of the neck to the lower sacrum. Try it right now.

You might notice that your spine naturally elongates, your chest opens and your lower body roots closer to the ground. Our body – embodies – dignity, a natural truth of our human existence. As we continue to explore and gain practice in our own dignity this year, let’s look at the ways dignity can be falsely stripped from us in times of vulnerability.

In our birth family, it is common for our dignity to be tampered with, as parents and perhaps siblings address situations where their own sense of dignity is being challenged. Often power, force, and unconscious patterns are used to protect a sense of self-respect in desperation, fear or confusion. Most of us have encountered those moments with family members where we were told to “shut-up,” or perhaps physically shoved or spanked, or verbally abused, or even subtle shaming. The possibilities of disrespect in family life are endless, unfortunately. It is in the family situation where we may have our first occurrences of disrespect. As the youngest of four children, I was often on the disrespectful receiving end of slams from my parents and siblings. My parents did the best they could and the lack of care for each other trickled down the line.

Recently, I was in a heated discussion with my sister, five years older than me. The argument was intense and I stayed present in my spine, noticing the tension of the moment as well as the history of being the youngest and doing what she instructed – without regard for my needs or desires as an adolescent. But as an adult, I stood my ground, so to speak. I spoke my truth. I did not waver. My body held me in my dignity. My respect was not “taken away from me” – respect can never be taken away when we abide in our truth. The outcome offered us a new experience of connection and support, which would not have been available had I repeated an old undignified pattern.

In school we have another place where dignity gets taunted, by unskillful teachers and classmates. The scenes look like bullying from our peers and perhaps humiliation from teachers.  If our dignity is trampled in grade school, the probability is high for junior high and high school to be equally as difficult. Like parents, teachers are doing their best and our social groups are navigating the complexities of growing up in a challenging world. School is a breeding ground for competition. In present day, new systems such as group learning have been introduced as superior ways of learning and growing together. I imagine that this shift has supported dignity. But in my day, academics were a race. I never fell in love with learning, despite my longing to be engaged. It was not until my career began that I found stimulating and inviting ways to grow and thrive, holding my dignity. In grade school through my undergrad, I was often scared. At those times I outsourced my dignity to teachers, friends, sorority sisters, and classmates, those to whom I wanted to connect and gain acceptance. When I outsourced dignity, I lost a healthy sense of self and my ground of being.

Money is another breeding ground for humiliation and decreased confidence. Yet, my sense is that our ability to attend to money dignity is different from other devaluing experiences of dignity. As we develop and grow up as adults, we are invited to reflect on and address childhood wounds, and much of what we experience in family and childhood are common areas for exploration and healing in multiple therapeutic settings. However, money morphs into a different twist. Our society doesn’t know how to attend to money dignity. It’s very elusive. Financial professionals have tried to address these issues with money psychology, behavioral finance, money therapy and more, but just tending to the hurt does not build dignity.

Money dignity requires four components that spiral together and build on each other. First, we face the limiting money beliefs and stories that have held us hostage. Second, we gain knowledge about finances to navigate the modern world in which we live. Third, we gain access and tend to the felt sense in our bodies that hold the money stories, financial knowledge and intuitive wisdom. Fourth, as all of those muscles are strengthened, our dignity begins to shape, and eventually soar. We slowly, carefully, and intentionally build the essence of our inherent dignity—abiding along our backline—connecting our belly and heart. Just recognizing the history of how we developed limiting money habits is not enough to build dignity. Just knowing how to make financial decisions is not enough to build dignity.  The way dignity is built and sustained is through gaining insight, understanding and healing, then taking action as a doorway to the true essence of our dignity, which is always held in the body.

Once embodied, they can’t take that way from me, or you, or anyone—and that’s the perfection of body wisdom.

Practicing embodied dignity,