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Mindfulness, Mirth, and Money

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One of my greatest spiritual teachers has been (and continues to be) money.

It sounds strange, even to my ears.

When I think of spiritual teachers, I think of the Buddha, Jesus,  St. Francis, Rumi. Saints and Sufis, philosophers and monks.  I think of men and women who have demonstrated spiritual law, who have lived godly lives, who have magnified peace and compassion.

I don’t necessarily think of things. Especially not money-type things. After all, love of money is the root of all evil (or all kinds of evil, depending on your biblical version); it doesn’t seem to be an expressly spiritual thing.

And yet money seems to be my first–and longest lasting–teacher in mindfulness.

I first started paying attention to where I spent my money when it seemed I was running out of it.  I had, month after month, mindlessly paid my bills and without ever paying attention to them.  Why? I had enough to pay for them. It was only when my “safety net” dropped below my “acceptable” threshhold that I really started to pay attention.

I noticed how very much I was spending in a nation-wide “big box” store, a store, I might add, who promised to save me lots and lots of money.  I hated going to this store, everything about it was unpleasant, from the struggle to find a parking space to the obviously unhappy cashiers. The chain has a horrible reputation both for poor customer service and for the way it treats its employees.

I knew all of these things.  But yet, I went.

Because it was convenient. It was convenient, I found, to be able to buy light bulbs, socks, and milk all in the same place. It had everything I needed.  And then some.

As I became more aware of my distaste for the store, I began shopping at local stand-alone grocery stores. The prices were higher, I noted, in some cases much higher. So, for a while, I vacillated, torn between the better service and quality of the grocery store and the lower overall prices of the big box store.

And a strange thing happened. Continue reading

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