All service ranks the same with God.
All the Money Belongs
to God: It
Just Gets Recycled
By Cat Saunders
In 1975 when I was 21, a man named Jai
found me dancing on the beach in Santa Monica. For some reason I don't
remember, he drew a symbol in the sand and said, "All the money belongs
to God. It just gets recycled."
When I met Jai, I was manic. That year brought
a crash course in the intense inner exploration called insanity. It was a wild
ride, and I took it again once more a year later.
Some people might think that my past experience
with insanity makes me forever unreliable, but I disagree. I believe that
it actually makes me more credible, because I've walked both sides
of the line, and I have no delusions about how fragile that line can be.
the blink of an eye, your personality can turn inside out, you can lose
your ability to keep your act together, and you can forget how to find
your way homeboth literally and figuratively.
It's the same with money. Because I've lost
everything more than once due to circumstances beyond my control, I know that the line between have and
have not is as fragile with money as it is with sanity. It doesn't
matter how much money you have or how much insurance you carry. You can't
protect yourself against financial loss if your soul thinks it's time for you to lose everything.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying
you should stop taking care of yourself financially, give up hope,
and walk in front of a bus. I'm no fatalist. Quite the contrary!
Instead, I'm suggesting
that each of us comes here to learn unique lessons, and in order to learn
those lessons, everyone's curriculum must be equally unique.
I'll give you a personal example. Since
my life purpose is to liberate my heart, I doubt if it would be
particularly helpful for me to have an easy curriculum this time around. If the
world were a cushy place for me, I'd probably be so busy amusing myself
that I wouldn't be motivated to think about getting free.
On the other hand, it's extremely helpful
to have a challenging life if my soul wants me to learn that there
is no security on the physical planeand that my only security
lies in my relationship with God (by whatever name).
In other words, there's nothing like
chronic pain, trauma, life-threatening illness, insanity, financial loss, and
other assorted earthly delights to help me remember my purpose.
With regard to money, it's been helpful for me to experience periods of great
loss and need, not because I'm a masochist, but because these experiences have furthered my lessons in trust, humility,
Flat on My Back, What
Can I Do?
Although I've been back in private practice for a while now,
counseling and teaching, there was a time when severe health challenges prevented me from working.
In 1997, after several years of cutting back on my hours to see if I could
keep working despite debilitated health, I finally had to call it quits.
At that point, I closed my practice and
spent the next 15 months in a horrendous battle with Social Security,
trying to win disability benefits that I'd paid into for 25 years. The financial benefits were meager, but they would have helped me survive. In the end, I had to give up the fight because
I was getting sicker dealing with the federal government's exhausting and abusive bureaucratic
Ultimately, I realized that the gift of
that battle was all the inner work I did as a result of it. In particular, I healed a lot of childhood shame about "being a burden" to anyone financially. During those 15
months, my humility deepened and my compassion for myself and others increased
That period also brought me countless lessons in trust because
I had no income, I couldn't get Social Security benefits, and my family
was unable to help me. Thus, I had to find some other way to survive.
This was no small task, because although I live like a monk, health problems
make my body quite expensive to maintain. Fortunately, close friends offered loans and occasional monetary gifts, which was a godsend, but we all knew their assistance was
no replacement for regular income.
In daily prayers, I repeatedly asked to
be shown a way to serve, support myself, and still care for my struggling
body. At the time, I usually prayed lying down, due to chronic pain and
One night, flat on my back in deep meditation, I received
the answer to my question: My spiritual teachers asked me to start a prayer
service called "Rent-A-Monk," and they wanted me to request donations in
exchange for my efforts.
Let me tell you, this prayer directive put me in a tizzy.
I knew that many highly evolved people insist that money should never
be mixed with spiritual work, as if this somehow taints the work.
Yet there I was, all other financial options exhausted, being asked to accept money in exchange for prayers.
Rent-A-Monk and My Pesky
I had a sense that the powers-that-be were well aware that
this Rent-A-Monk directive would wreak havoc with my beliefs about money.
That was the plan!
I must confess, when I first got the prayer directive about Rent-A-Monk,
I thought it was a brilliant idea. After all, I'd been doing spiritual
work for thirty years, and I was good at it. Besides, it was very practical:
What else could I do while lying flat on my back, alone at home?
Despite the fact that my deepest self was
peaceful with the idea of Rent-A-Monk, there was still that pesky little
thing called the ego. When I realized I would have
to go public with the most sacred part of my nature in order to advertise the service, I quickly discovered
that I wasn't as liberated as I thought.
After founding Rent-A-Monk in 1998, I still
had to work through numerous layers of emotional "stuff" surrounding the issue of mixing money and spiritual work. It
would take a book to describe all the shifts that have transpired in my
beliefs about this, but I'll give you a couple of examples.
First of all, I've had to let go of
the notion that it's wrong to mix money and spiritual work. The more I
contemplated this idea, the more judgmental, hypocritical, and downright
arrogant it seemed.
In point of fact, cultures from all over the world and
across time have mixed money and spiritual work for eons. In India, holy people
wander the countryside begging for alms, and everyone considers it a privilege to support them. In certain tribal cultures, people gratefully lay their entire riches
at the feet of the shaman as an offering to the spirits in exchange for healing.
People in Western cultures may say that
this kind of monetary exchange is okay as long as it's done as a donation,
and not as a fee for service. However, I think that attitude just sidesteps the
issue. The truth is, work is work, money is money, and exchange of
energy is exchange of energy.
This means that if I perform a service,
it shouldn't matter if I accept money, a bowl of rice, a piece of clothing,
or a thank-you kiss in return. As long as we live in a culture that requires
money to survive, there should be no judgment about my requesting money
in exchange for my time and effort.
There's no question that money is assigned
to services in arbitrary ways. These assignments of value may feel
mutually supportive, neutral, or unfair, depending on the circumstances. However,
I refuse to make money wrong anymore, and it would be arrogant
of me to say that my prayer work is any more holy than any other
kind of work. Work and compensation are complicated issues, and things
aren't always as they seem.
The bottom line is, you can't have it both
ways. Either money is tainted (i.e., not holy) and therefore devalues
every kind of workor money is an innocent form of valuation, which therefore can be used to honor any and all kinds of work.
Spiritual Work and the
I'm not sure it's helpfulor even
possibleto clearly draw a line between what is spiritual and what
is not. For example, one of my colleagues insists that he does not accept
money for his spiritual healing work, yet he does psychotherapy, he conducts
workshops during which people undergo tremendous spiritual transformations,
and he writes books that stimulate personal growth. He enjoys the privilege
of a healthy income from these sources, yet he maintains that he only
does spiritual healing work on a giveaway basis.
Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems
to me that healing of the spirit takes place during every aspect
of my colleague's work. To say that it only happens during specifically designated
healing sessions is a semantic game, at best, and a denial of the truth, at worst.
In the same way I believe that spiritual healing is taking place in all facets of my colleague's work in the world, I believe that spiritual
healing can also happen in the most unlikely situations.
Consider my partner, John Giovine. John
has a master's degree in
Business Psychology, and he's currently pursuing postgraduate
work in Psychology. He's also had his own shop as an import mechanic for the last
Because I've known John since 1983, I've
had the opportunity to watch how he works with people. This may sound
crazy, but I swear that some of his customers have car problems just so
they can come and see John. Why? Because their spirits are uplifted by
being with him for a few minutes. The smart ones even recognize this and
tell him so!
Have you ever read Dan Millman's book, The
Way of the Peaceful Warrior? John is like Socrates, the mechanic in
that book. Does this mean he shouldn't charge for his services, since
healing happens in his presence? Or does this mean it's okay for him to
charge for his mechanical work, as long as everyone pretends like there's
nothing else going on?
If there's nothing else going on, then why
do so many wonderful people allow only John to work on their cars?
Frankly, I don't think it's just because he's a master mechanic.
The question is, what are you actually paying
for when you buy anything from anyone? For all I know, the man who picks
up our garbage is praying for us when he collects the bins from our driveway. Maybe for him, his prayers for people are the real reason he's being paid.
On the other hand, even if I consider garbage collection as garbage collection only, the service is pretty darn spiritual to me. After all, it allows me to keep a clean houseand as everyone knows, cleanliness is next to godliness!
The point is, spiritual healing work comes in many forms, and it deserves
financial compensation as much as anything else. The garbage man does his trade, and I do
mine. That's all. Each task is essential to the wholeand therefore whole-y!
Personally, I may always do the majority of my spiritual
work for free, because truthfully speaking, my whole life is my spiritual work. Even so, this doesn't
mean it's wrong for me to also accept payment for my prayer services.
When I receive financial compensation for
my effortswhether it's for the sale of a book, an hour of personal
consultation, a workshop, or a seven-week cycle of daily prayersI'm simply doing my part to keep the money moving. As Jai said to me on that beach in Santa Monica, "All the money belongs
to God. It just gets recycled!"
This article was originally published
in The New Times.