Finances and Transformation
When we launched the San Francisco issue earlier this month, I shared some really big dreams I have for my life and business. Dreams that are far beyond what I could have possibly imagined for myself when I first picked up Lynne Twist’s best-selling book, The Soul of Money.
Lynne’s message initiated my journey to healing my relationship with money, and opening up to both financial abundance and greater impact. The book taught me to see the world in a whole different way and drop the belief that making money was wrong, or unspiritual.
So to close out this issue, I couldn’t be more excited to interview the woman whose work has so inspired my ability to think big. Beyond Lynne’s groundbreaking book, her career as a philanthropist has taken her around the world working to end hunger, while her soulful approach to fundraising has helped many organizations secure what they need to make a difference. Read our full conversation below for the fascinating story of how Lynne discovered the truth about money.
I’d love to kick this off, if you don’t mind, by talking a little bit about the journey that brought you to writing The Soul of Money.
Well, I’ve been a fundraiser and a philanthropist really all my life. I was the head of global fundraising for The Hunger Project for more than 20 years, working on ending world hunger and managing fundraising operations in 47 countries. I raised hundreds of millions of dollars and trained thousands and thousands and thousands of fundraisers, about 50,000.
It was through fundraising that I became very engaged in the world of money. For me, fundraising is kind of a sacred holy thing. I really believe that it’s the courage to facilitate the reallocation of the world’s financial resources away from fear and overconsumption.
Instead of being in service of fear, money can be in service of love, life, and the health and wellbeing of our children, our planet, our communities, and all species for all time. I believe that whether you’re raising money for, or giving money to your local Montessori school, or ending world hunger, or to the Red Cross—what you’re doing as a philanthropist is really an expression of love. Philanthropy actually means love of humankind.
So in service of that work, I learned a whole lot about people’s fears and anxieties around money. I started looking into the money culture that has created so much suffering for people. We’ve given money almost more meaning than God, and so we’re so confused in our relationship with money—even extremely wealthy people.
Out of all of that, I realized that with all this work I’ve done with money and people and all of this important information that I’ve discovered, that I could help people get free from the anxiety and suffering around money. Many people urged me to write a book and finally I did. That was the beginning of The Soul of Money journey.
I really recognized that the world of money has become far from our soul and our spiritual lives, and from the deep longings we have for the world. When you put those two worlds back together, freedom, peace, and extraordinary integrity is possible in people’s lives. The Soul of Money came out of that revelation, that recognition, and that history.
When I first started my business, I was struggling to make money and to reconcile my spiritual path with my more materialistic desires. Your book was so influential in healing my own relationship with money. So, I’d love for you to share your insight with the women out there who might be struggling to bring in money for the same reasons.
Well, my advice would be to read the book, or take one of the many courses that we provide from The Soul of Money Institute. The most powerful one being offered right now is called The Money Course. It’s really about how to transform your relationship with money so that you live in peace and freedom, recognizing that you have enough and you are enough.
That recognition is what overflows into natural prosperity. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s out of recognizing that we have enough and that we are enough, that our wealth and our worth and our value starts to grow, rather than trying to acquire more.
What, in your opinion, causes women to be led astray from their chosen path when it comes to money?
I think people have really bifurcated their spiritual life and money because society has turned us into consumers rather than spiritual beings. We do things that sell our soul for money in many ways that are inconsistent with our true values.
When we put those two pieces of our life back together, really incredible things happen. You actually discover your own wealth. The etymology of the word wealth is wellbeing or the well of being, which I say is the source of true wealth. When you’re back in touch with the well of your own being, then you generate financial resources in a way that has integrity and is consistent with your spiritual path.
Now spiritual people often think, “Well, I can’t make money. I can’t use my spiritual gifts to make money. That’s illegal or it’s kind of out of integrity,” but I say the opposite. I say that if you’re truly in tune with what your spirit is calling for you to do and be, and you actually see that as a contribution you want to make to the world, the difference you want to make, it’s totally healthy and legitimate to be compensated for that. Often people don’t feel comfortable being compensated because we’ve made this false separation.
But undercompensation is a lack of integrity just as overcompensation is a lack of integrity. I say that people either make a dying or they make a killing rather than a living. Think of dying as doing something you hate that just kind of squelches your spirit, but you have to do it to bring home a paycheck. Meanwhile making a killing is doing something that you know is harming someone, or the environment, or marginalizing someone. Many people make a killing rather than a living.
Very few people have the courage and the integrity to what I call “make a living,” and that is really staying true to yourself, really finding what is your true calling, what difference are you here to make, what do you really stand for? Then inviting and requesting that the world compensate you for that gift, and finding the place where that gift is wanted and needed and matching that up.
It takes some real soul searching to do that, but when we do, we make a true living. We’re sufficiently compensated, and the kind of anxiousness and anxiety around our relationship with money not only subsides, but it totally disappears.
It’s very different from the kind of driving economic model that most people are brainwashed to want to be part of, but you can have a lot of drive and intention and spiritual power and make a living. You can actually do that. That’s one of the things that I’m eager to free people into.
I always love hearing you talk about are the three toxic myths about money. Would you indulge us in those myths? I know I’d personally love a refresher and I think they are so useful!
Well, I assert that the money culture promotes the condition or mindset of scarcity. We get totally caught in that mindset. When I say a mindset, I mean an unconscious, unexamined set of assumptions that we don’t even know we have. It’s not that we look at the world and see scarcity. We look through the lens of scarcity, and then all we see is that there’s not enough to go around. More is better and I’ve got to produce more.
That is like a manic, almost pathological part of the money system. I call it the “lie of scarcity,” and there are three toxic myths that make up that lie.
The first is the unconscious, unexamined belief that there’s not enough to go around, and that somewhere somehow some people are going to be left out. That first toxic myth legitimizes you accumulating way more than you need to make sure that you and the people you love and care about are not among those who are left out.
That creates an “us and a them” economy and mentality, and a way of living in the world that’s damaging to the very spirit of who we are. This “there’s not enough” mentality is so prevalent in the money system that it dribbles over into everything else in our lives. There’s not enough time. There’s not enough energy. There’s not enough love. There’s not enough sex. There’s not enough market share. There are not enough volunteers, whatever it is you’re doing in life. Most meetings, most conference calls are about what there’s not enough of. That mentality is so pervasive. We don’t even know we’re swimming in it.
And it’s so deep that it becomes, “I’m not enough.” So we live in a deficit relation with ourselves. It’s reflected in our country. We’re the richest country in the history of the world, and yet we have the largest deficit or debt in the history of the world. It’s an accurate reflection of a culture that actually only has attention on outer resources and gives no attention or value to inner resources.
The second toxic myth is more is better. More of anything is better. It’s brainwashed us into having this over-consumptive, frantic accumulation where all of us—even those of us who have very few resources—have way more stuff than we need. Then we think we still need more stuff.
The advertising and marketing messaging is so effective that we’re completely convinced that we have to have more. One of the fastest growing industries in the United States is storage. We’re living in cities and on the outskirts are these huge facilities for storing the stuff that we can’t fit in the home we already have. And it’s a huge industry. I mean it’s gargantuan. It’s kind of a symbol of a culture that’s lost its way.
We used to be citizens, and now we’ve even labeled ourselves consumers. A citizen is he or she who’s responsible for the wellbeing of the community, the state, the country, the world. The definition of consumer is he or she who takes, depletes, diminishes or destroys. That is the label we use for human beings, which is a very unfortunate labeling. Those words have enormous power over us, so we think we’re supposed to constantly accumulate more.
The third toxic myth is that’s just the way that it is. That’s the one that holds it all in place. It’s the source of our resignation, our discouragement, making us think we can’t make any difference, and having us buy in or give up and succumb to a consumer culture that zaps us of our spiritual energy, our vision, our sense of beauty and integrity, and has us struggling and grasping for more all the time thinking we don’t have enough.
Thank you! Okay. So those are the myths. Now, give us the truth!
So the radical, surprising truth about life is that there is enough. The distinction “enough” is almost impossible to find in a consumer culture, because we race right past enough towards more, and we don’t even know that enough happened. We don’t know when we’ve had enough to eat, when we’ve worked enough, when we have enough.
If you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it frees up oceans of energy to turn and pay attention to what you already have.
When you pay attention to what you already have and you make a difference with it, it expands before your very eyes. Another way to say that is what you appreciate, appreciates.
So beautifully put! I know your work with indigenous people has been so influential in what you teach. How did it inspire your penning The Soul of Money?
I was deeply inspired by my experiences of people that most would call poor, but I have found to be enormously resourceful and resilient, with almost endless capacities to make things happen with what’s already there.
I never call them “poor people” because they’re not poor. It’s their resources that are poor. They’re whole and complete people living in the ebb and flow of really difficult poverty and a lack of resources, but they’re not poor. And in fact, those very difficult circumstances almost drive accessing your own inner strength and inner resources.
In working with people living in conditions of hunger and poverty, I realized that the human spirit is so infinite, so fully prosperous, and when we tap into it, trust it, and recognize that what we already have is not only sufficient—but that if we actually access it, we have the capacity to do anything. I learned that from people living in situations of war and famine. That’s where I saw the power of the human spirit. That’s really where The Soul of Money message comes from. We are so unlimited in our capacity to generate, to collaborate with each other, to make the world the place we want it to be.
Meanwhile as a fundraiser, I discovered that people I used to call rich are often impoverished in their understanding of their inner resources. So having them partner with people that I used to call poor, is about realizing that they’re co-equal partners in resolving huge global issues—not that rich people need to give money to poor people.
When you put whole and complete people together at both ends of the spectrum and they realize that they have co-equal power in resolving things together, and that they have the same vision for the world, miracles occur. That really inspired The Soul of Money message.
I often think about one incredible story I heard you tell about women in an African village discovering an aquifer—I’d love for my readers to hear it! Will you share?
Yes! I was in Senegal in the Thiès region with the Wolof people, in service of my work with The Hunger Project. There was a very, very devastating drought in the Sahel Desert at that time. It hadn’t rained in seven years, so it was very, very serious. Babies were dying. Old people were dying. A very serious situation.
There was a group of leaders, primarily mullahs, all men, sitting under the shade of a very sparse Baobab tree looking at what to do about the drought. This was a Muslim village, and women weren’t permitted in the leadership circle. However as a white woman and being there with The Hunger Project, I was permitted to sit in the circle with the mullahs and the elders of the village to discuss what to do.
I felt a whole group of women sitting in the sand behind me. At a certain point, I inched over to my left, made a space, and motioned to one of the women who was sitting right behind me to join the circle. Suddenly there was a woman in that leadership circle for the first time in the history of this village.
The conversation continued. She didn’t speak. Then I moved over a little bit more, and another woman joined the circle. Now there were two women in the circle. At a certain point, our conversation was over. The women hadn’t spoken at all, but the men didn’t say anything about these two women sitting next to me in the circle, and it was somehow permitted because I had asked for it, or I had silently motioned them into the circle.
Afterwards, the women asked for a meeting with me. They told me that they had dreams and visions of an underground lake right beneath the village, but because of the traditions of the Muslim community, women weren’t listened to. They didn’t have any leadership opportunities, but they were certain they could feel that there was an underground lake underneath their village, and they wanted to dig a well to see if it was there.
The men said, “Women don’t dig. They don’t use shovels. This is men’s work and we don’t believe there’s any water there—it would be a waste of time.” They asked me if I would get permission from the mullahs for them to dig a well. So I did. I believed them. I could feel that they were on to something.
So I got permission from the mullahs for the women to break tradition and start digging. The Hunger Project brought them tools and buckets and ropes and shovels. They dug and they dug and they dug and they dug. After about three months, they hit this huge underground aquifer. It was just this miracle. There were 75,000 people in about 17 villages stretching along the Sahel that were literally starving to death.
After the women hit the aquifer and started bringing water up, it changed everything for all 17 villages. The 75,000 people were ultimately saved. Now there’s food storage. The women have a place in the leadership. It changed the dynamic of everything, and it was really the women knowing that the water was there, that they had sufficient resources right there.
That is the definition of an inspiring story! Talk to us about your organization, the Pachamama Alliance. What is the work that you do, and what’s going on in the Amazon right now that we need to know about?
The word Pachamama means “Mother Earth,” and it’s an alliance between indigenous people from the Amazon rainforest and conscious, committed people in the modern world for the sustainability of life itself.
We work in the Sacred Headwaters in northern Peru and southern Ecuador, and it’s completely roadless and pristine. The indigenous people who live there, the Achuar, the Shuar, the Shiwiar, the Zápara, the Kichwas, know they are the custodians of the largest freshwater source in the world, the most biodiverse rainforest on Earth with the most millions of species, and that it’s an ecosystem that absolutely must not be touched. They are fierce defenders of the Sacred Headwaters of the Amazon and the Pachamama Alliance is their ally in doing that, in ensuring that it’s protected.
At the same time, there’s oil under those forests. Now the world does not need more oil. I want to make sure I say that. We’re not running out of oil. We’re running out of atmosphere to burn the oil that’s already in production. That atmosphere comes from the rainforest, so to go into the rainforest to get more oil is completely insane, but the economic system that we’re caught in has been addicted to oil now for a hundred years, and it’s very, very difficult for us to realize that we don’t need more oil. Most of the oil is going to be left in the ground and it’ll be called “stranded assets.”
People living in the Amazon don’t even use money. They don’t even understand it. They say you can’t hunt for it. You can’t eat it. Why would anybody want it? They’re so confused by this complete obsession and addiction we have to money when in the Amazon they have everything they need. They’re totally prosperous. They’re totally healthy. But in interacting with the outside world to preserve their territory, they run into oil companies and rubber tappers and lumber people who are just crazed to get in there and try to turn this extraordinary, beautiful jewel on which all life depends into money, which you can’t eat and really means nothing to them.
Then the other part of the Pachamama Alliance is our educational, transformational programs that awaken people to this time in history, and give them the opportunity to be engaged in bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just human presence on this planet. That’s really the mission of the Pachamama Alliance.
Beautiful Lynne, thank you so much for taking the time. Before you go, how can Divine Living readers get involved and support your efforts?
They can go to our website, Pachamama.org and find out about our educational programs and how they can join in. They can go to The Soul of Money Institute website, Soulofmoney.org, to find out about our courses, especially The Money Course, which I highly recommend. It’s a nine-month course that totally transforms your relationship with money. Everybody who takes it ends up with more money and less debt at the end of it. In fact, they usually wipe out their debt and have an experience of peace and freedom around money.
They can also just do whatever calls to them in their heart! Contribute money, invest money in things that they believe in, and let go of this fierce anxiety and recognize the deep gratitude for what they already have. What we give gratitude for expands in our own experience, expands in the world, and makes us want to share it. That’s kind of my primary message now.