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Question: Money seems to always be an issue for me. It doesn't matter if I have a little or a lot - there never seems to be enough for what I want to feel happy and secure. Money matters have been central to almost every important decision I've made in life. If I knew I'd have enough to provide for my family's needs, I wouldn't have to keep a job that I hate, I could get out of debt, and start thinking about something other than just surviving. How can I stop feeling like a slave to this never-ending concern? I know that money should not play such an important part in life!

Answer: It doesn't matter who you are, money is a problem for everyone. If you've got millions, money is a problem for you. If you've got nothing, money is a problem for you. How can something that is supposed to be a blessing be something that beats us up on a daily basis, and that steals from us everything that's vital and viable in life? This is a question we must ask ourselves, because everything about our lives is not only acquisition but ways to then show what we've acquired.

Money is only a problem for people because men and women today have falsely identified money as being the solution.

To what is money a solution for the mind? "I'm suffering, I'm in pain! Somebody treated me like this, I look out and I just know things aren't right. It's evident to me. I'm just not worthwhile enough somehow. I'm not valuable enough; I know I'm not." We live with someone that talks to us all the time, not just inside our heads -- turn on the television, pick up a newspaper, or look through a magazine, and you've got something chatting away, day in and day out inside of you, and it's telling you that you are only something as long as you possess something, that you are only something as long as someone else agrees that you're something. For all of your attempts to become something, you're a big nothing, because you're a slave to the idea that if you could get your hands on whatever it is that you're imagining will make you whole and happy, your pain will go away, and when your pain goes away, at last you'll be a human being who can do what's valuable, necessary, and righteous.

Money is a problem because we imagine it to be a solution, and then when we're incapable of acquiring what we have imagined as being the solution, and see ourselves incapable of achieving that, then we decide that there is no point in trying to do anything, because "I'll never be anything." Our whole premise is predicated upon the idea that we are only as valuable as the conditions that we walk around expressing.

There's a moment that comes in our life (if we're among the fortunate) when it begins to dawn on us that we have been carrying around with us a basket that was given to us at birth. At every moment as we mature, we gaze first into this basket and determine from what we see there what we must put in the basket to make up for what isn't there. From that mindset, a man or woman can spend an entire lifetime trying to do the impossible.

The basket represents social convention, the cultural conditioning that we are not just born into, but whose very thought structure sits at the foundation of part of the mind itself, so that we have almost no choice when we're born. Just as the cub of a wolf learns what wolf behavior is like by being around other wolves, we learn what we take to be proper human behavior by weighing ourselves against the world that is the source of our sustenance.

Out of this culturally conditioned life, we literally live our lives, day in and day out, punished -- without evening knowing it -- by a string of false purposes. The purposes that we are punished by are supported within us by a certain kind of pain that we believe is the conclusive evidence of the validity of these purposes. And don't believe for a second that because a person has possessions, or power, or authority that he or she does not suffer. From the man that drives the beaten-up Volvo to the man who owns the corporation that builds those cars... each and every one of them suffers. These false purposes are to be seen as "a man of means," "a woman of substance," a person who has their life "together," because the evidence of my physical existence speaks louder than my own ability. I won't go around and tell you what I am, but I'll show you what I am with all of the people and possessions that I command.

Coming into this world in a foot race as it were, the false purposes that we are possessed by give rise to false desires, because the belief is that somehow I haven't answered sufficiently these purposes that I am peppered with, and if I could just get this one last part together, then I would stop feeling this pain that I feel, and my life would go on the way I believe it's supposed to.

Out of those false desires then come false fears, because the more I acquire according to the desires that these purposes gave rise to, the more I recognize that I'm not getting any closer, and the more I have to compromise myself in order to obtain the things that have failed so far to give me the fulfillment that I'm looking for.

Out of that constant sense of fear comes greater dependency and greater attachments, and the more suffering rises in me because now the answer is part of the very aching I have, and I don't know how to mitigate it, how to make it all work out for me.

So we begin this viscious circle, because as the pain reaches a certain point, lo and behold new purposes appear inside of our mind that we believed were original impulses inside of us. They are not original impulses; they are impulses that belong to a culture that we're a part of, that we give wings to every time we go out and serve it the way we do.

We are pounded by false purposes. If we had the correct purpose in mind, if our hearts somehow got tired of being pushed around, we would recognize what the purpose of our lives is. For one thing, it's to no longer be dominated by desires. My desires have destroyed my relationships, they've destroyed my body, they've destroyed the world that I live in, and that's all they've ever done. They have brought me momentary pleasures for which I then end up the slave of in order to serve the conditions that I set out to find in order to free myself.

The circle becomes quite evident when the mind is clear, but our minds are not clear. Our minds are nothing but cloud after cloud after cloud, based on reactions to moments in which we feel a certain pain, and in that moment we run to the only solution we've ever known: comforting ourselves. How do we comfort ourselves? I have to have means. I have to be able to afford certain things, because if I can't afford those things, I won't know comfort, and God knows this world is full of pain so I have to be prepared for these moments so I have enough to comfort myself. Then we're owned by an idea that somehow we're going to serve a culture, a system that we believe we're an individual in, that if we could only get enough from it, then we would be freed from it. Everything that we have that gives us that sense of self is dependent upon the very system that we're trying to escape, and that's why we suffer.

It doesn't have to be that way. We can begin to wake up from this dream that we're in, this alternating series of losses and gains. Again, money is not a problem. Our idea about what money is and what it can do for us is the problem, because we've named it as a solution to our suffering. Money is not a solution to suffering. Money is something that you buy a little food with, but if you don't have enough money, you buy the food you need. If you don't have enough money, you don't drive a fine car; you drive a car that allows you to get to where you have to go in order to be able to do the work you need to do to be a different kind of human being.

Our egos, our runaway wish to see ourselves as someone special is our god, and that's why so many people don't have any money. A person will say, "I can't do this. I can't find a job." No. Here's what the person is saying: "I won't do that job. I only will do the job that will give me what I believe will satisfy the need I have to get rid of my pain through imagining myself to be someone because of my possessions." People are lazy liars, all the time saying: "I can only do the things that I want to do, because if I don't do what I want to do, then what am I?"

This is the point we discover that our wants are not our wants and they never have been. Is there anything wrong with wanting to be happy and whole? No, but there's a road that leads to those things and then there's a road that leads right to hell. Here's hell: Believing that I can do all that I have done to make myself happy -- that has yet to bring it to me -- and then accelerating that process. What's heaven? The beginning of understanding that God made me an individual within whom the Light posited a nature that needs nothing save the company of the very presence that created it. That nature can be happy and whole wherever it is and under whatever conditions are asked of it.

Tell me, what is the fear in making a simple living if that's what we have to do? There is nothing to fear with a simple life, because the only thing we fear now is the pain, pressure, emptiness, and the sense that we have that if we don't provide ourselves with something sensational, we won't have anything. If we look closely, we can see that what we have now is nothing other than the tail of a lion in our hand that alternatingly pulls us through the jungle and then turns on us and mauls us.

On the flip side, if we have enough money, why do we waste it? Just because we have money doesn't mean that we have to give ourselves everything. We could "save it for a rainy day," but we can't stop giving ourselves every last thing that we want (and hating life for not giving us enough to get more) because we want to have something by which we know ourselves.

So, the person who won't take a job because of an image they have that it's beneath them, and the person who never needs to work again because they have all that they ever will wish to have, are identical; they are not different at all. They are both pounded and punished by the same illusion, the same imagined life that believes that it's possible to use something that was intended to be nothing but a simple instrument of exchange for the purpose of allowing a person to give themselves a kind of life in which they use it for the purpose of discovering the truth of themselves. There is nothing wrong with a pleasure here and there, but when the pleasure becomes the purpose, when the fear of not being able to pleasure ourselves becomes the driving force, we're lost.

This is why so few people want the spiritual life: It isn't until a person starts to recognize that "I have sacrificed everything to get everything, and I look clearly and I see there is nothing there," then that man or woman has a chance to no longer be the slave of the idea of money. No one is a slave to money; they're a slave to the idea of what money can do for them. The idea is a cultural idea that has been ingrained, woven through us to the point where we believe that those images and ideas are one and the same with our own individuality. They are not.

Ask Truth to set you free. Ask Truth to show you where you have been wandering along, hoping that somehow through a stroke of good fortune or by selling your soul, that you will be able to give yourself a satisfaction that nothing can take away. You will never find it in the world. Never. You can find it in one place, and that begins by walking away from those parts of you that believe you can fulfill the purpose of yourself by answering what the world says is a plan for your happiness. See through this and be free.

(Classroom talk, 10/19/03.)

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