Money and Work
as a Spiritual Teacher
By Jonathan Robinson


“Every man’s task is his life preserver.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson


A good spiritual teacher does not let you get away with any lies.  In a similar way, money doesn’t let you get away with any lies. You either have it — or you don’t.  A good teacher presents you with challenges to make you stronger and more capable. Money and work can also present you with challenges to make you stronger and more capable. There are many parallels. So why is it most people don’t fully receive the lessons they could learn by looking at their money and work situation?  In most cases, they blame forces beyond their control and don’t recognize how they are fully responsible for what they create in their life.

Let’s assume that everyone wants plenty of money to do what he or she deems important, and that everyone would also like to create this abundance by working at a truly rewarding job. That’s the ideal. The reality, however, is that most people are making very little money doing a job they don’t even care about. That’s the problem. In order to go from “the problem” to the “ideal,” a person has to be able to learn many lessons and overcome many challenges. It’s just like an initiation process. With each challenge/initiation people face, they move closer to the ideal of creating abundance while doing what they love.

For many years, my partner, Helena, was a legal secretary. Although the money was okay, she didn’t find her job fulfilling. What she really wanted to do was be a massage therapist. Unfortunately, we live in Santa Barbara, California, where it seems that almost everyone is a licensed massage therapist. Nevertheless, I encouraged Helena to do what she loved, and if she were willing to face the challenge of working on her weaknesses, she could make a living doing massage. For years, she resisted. She said there was too much competition. However, I pointed out that if she were willing to work on herself, she could overcome the many challenges she would face while changing her career.

Finally, Helena couldn’t stand her job as a legal secretary anymore. She quit, and decided to do work for a temporary agency as she built up her massage practice. She immediately faced her fears of not having enough money. She also came up against her resistance to promoting herself. Helena, by nature, is a quiet person. Yet, now the need for money was challenging her to face her fears. Fortunately, she was up to the challenge. She began walking into offices and offering people free ten-minute massages. Not only did this act of service make her and others feel good, it also led to acquiring some massage clients.

As Helena received feedback about what worked and what didn’t in her advertising and promotion, she secured more clients.  Now, six months later she has a strong massage practice and does not need to do any part-time work. She’s ecstatic, and I’m very proud of her.  Looking back, she now realizes it was only her fear and a lack of creative marketing that prevented her from doing what she really wanted to do. Once she faced her fears, the universe rewarded her with a job she loves.

The Money Balloon
In my seminars, I tell people that they can move towards abundance and a job they truly love once they “fill the hole in their balloon.”  Even a tiny hole in a balloon makes it impossible to keep a balloon full. Likewise, any weakness, fear, or erroneous belief we have about money will make it impossible to be full of abundance. Our personal “hole” or weakness simply prevents us from moving forward. Our job is to figure out what our biggest hole is, and fix it — so we can become more whole. As we work on our hole or weakness, we become stronger. As we become more capable, we can begin to translate our newfound strength into more abundance and work we love.

Ram Dass, a former Harvard professor turned spiritual teacher, once shared with me the story of a man he met at a meditation retreat. He asked the man what he did for a living, and he said he was “vice-president of industrial loans at a major bank.”  Ram Dass was surprised that such a man would be at a meditation retreat, so he asked him what his story was. It ends up that this man, we’ll call him Fred, was the vice-president of loans at the same bank in the seventies. Yet, during this time he was miserable. So Fred decided to quit his job and spend many years “following his bliss”.  He wrote poetry, did therapy, took workshops, meditated, and basically dropped out of society. Then, one day as he was walking through San Francisco, he stumbled upon his former boss — the president of the bank where he used to work. The bank president said, “It’s quite a coincidence that I would see you today because your old job just became available. You were the best vice president of industrial loans we ever had. Would you consider working for us again?”

Fred decided he would give it a try. After many years of working on the “hole in his soul,” he felt it was time to see if things had changed. He shaved his beard, bought some suits, and sat at the same desk he had used a decade ago. According to Ram Dass, Fred said his “new” position felt completely different. He now loved his job. In fact, it felt like it was a totally different job. Fred described his office as a place where “I simply sit and hang out with divine beings all day long, and the vehicle for our hanging out is to talk about industrial loans.” As Fred’s story indicates, sometimes it is only an internal shift that is needed to feel more abundant or happier about one’s work.

Finding and Filling Your Hole
I’m often asked in my seminars, “How can we know what the hole in our money balloon is?”  First, you can ask people you trust and know well to tell you what they think you need to work on. It can be painful to hear the truth, but if you have someone you think could point out your shortcomings, it could save you a lot of pain in the long run. People are hesitant to share such information, so it might be necessary to convey why you’re asking, and convince them you really want to hear.

About a year ago I asked a good friend of mine about what he thought I needed to work on. He was brutally honest.  He said, “Jonathan, you dress like you’re 14 years old. Almost everything you wear announces that you’re not a professional. You’ll never get to the next level of your career dressed like that.”  Ouch. What made his words sting even more was that I knew they were true. We made a deal that he would go to my house and throw out everything he thought made me look like a young kid. By the time he was done, I was left with a few pieces of underwear. That day, my friend and I went to Nordstroms’ together and I bought a whole new wardrobe. Since buying this new wardrobe a year ago, my income has gone up about 30 percent. Coincidence?  I don’t think so. When we fill the holes in our money balloon, magic happens.

Although brutal self-honesty can be difficult to come by, it is not impossible. If you look at your history at work and your experiences with money, you may be able to guess what your deficiencies are. I have found two questions to be of particular help in getting people to pinpoint the areas they need to work on. The first question is “What have I historically avoided or found difficult in the world of money and/or work?  There is a good chance that what you have avoided has prevented you from experiencing greater freedom with your career and money. In my own case, I had always avoided wearing business clothes. I still don’t like wearing business clothes. Yet, when a situation calls for professional attire, I have learned that wearing a suit helps me make more of an impact with the people I am dealing with. It is natural that, as I have been willing to grow and learn my lessons, I have been rewarded with more money.

There is a second question to help you pinpoint deficiencies that might be limiting your success. You can use this question anytime a situation arises that does not go as well as you would like. Simply ask yourself, “What shortcomings in me might have led to this situation and how can I work on them?”  Questions such as these can indeed be challenging, but they are a quick way to become alerted to the holes in your balloon.

Ultimately, we each can decide to learn from our experience, rather than repeatedly make the same mistakes without taking any responsibility. If we really are receptive, the lessons we can learn from our current money and work situation can greatly accelerate our personal, spiritual, and career growth. Although it may be difficult to discern exactly what we most need to learn, all our attempts at using life’s lessons for spiritual growth are eventually rewarded. I encourage you to ask your friends and yourself about the holes in your balloon. As you learn about and work on your deficiencies, you’ll become stronger, more prosperous, and more capable to give to a world in need of your help.

Excerpted from “Real Wealth:  A Spiritual Approach to Money and Work,” by Jonathan Robinson.  This book can be found at your local bookstore, or ordered through Hay House by calling (800) 654-5126.  Check out Jonathan’s website at: www.how-totools.com 


Return to the September/October Issue Index page