By Lisa Bruno
Yesterday I found a bank card in an automatic teller machine (ATM). Someone walked away with their card activated in the machine, with the question on the screen stating, "Would you like another transaction?" This event reminded me of how mindless the act of taking money out of the ATM can be. The automatic teller helps us get money quickly without having to be fully aware of what is going on. This is called "convenience." Our minds are free to be somewhere else while we make our money transaction. There should be a way of engaging mindfulness at the money machine. We could develop a mindful habit to replace our mindless habit. Thich Nhat Hanh, in Present Moment Wonderful Moment, shows us how to breathe three times before answering the phone. I also breathe three times while standing in front of the ATM. As I breathe in, I return to myself and am aware of the activity in which I am about to become involved. With my feet firmly on the ground, I stand, alive, breathing in front of the wondrous money, and I recite the "Money Machine Gatha":
This money I receive (have/deposit)
will be used to further the path
of wisdom and compassion,
for myself and for all beings.
I breathe as I place the bank card in the machine. While breathing, I stay with my transaction step by step; typing in my secret code, aware of the amount of my transaction and the balance it brings to my account, checking the transaction slip, and placing it in an appropriate place. Breathing, I am aware of the card coming out of the machine, and I place the card in a safe place. I also take a moment to give silent thanks for what I have just received. I pause before moving on to the next activity.
Giving thanks is an important part of my automatic teller transaction. It reminds me not to take the money for granted. Money is a gift that allows me to put my will into action. This money comes out of the machine so easily, that I can quickly forget the power and blessing it is. I may even forget the previous hard work I may have had to do to earn it. Money is a gift, even when I earn it, and in thinking of it as such, I allow myself to be aware that money is a part of a greater Self.
What might I gain from being mindful? I gain awareness of my feelings as they arise around the money in my account. I become aware of the thoughts and mind-games around money. When I do an automated activity, I lose out on being in touch with my internal formations as they arise. I stop learning about who I am. Money is a part of who we are. Having a separation between who we are with money and who we are as people is a mistake. I cannot separate myself from my money issues. Nor can I separate myself from the issues society has with money. Nor can I separate my spiritual self from money. How is this so? When I look deeply at the money coming out of the automatic teller, I see many issues that I have been avoiding by quick, mindless money transactions. As I hold the money in my hand, I see my fear of not having enough. I see my guilt of having too much while others have so little as a way of blaming money for my problems. I see my need to have it and my attachment to what it gives me the power to buy.
As I touch money, I touch these issues in myself and in society, and I see there is much healing I can do. By working with these issues, I work on my spiritual path. I do not need to make a separation between money and spirituality. Separating the two denies issues that are a part of my spiritual self. Let us begin today to unravel our money psyche and transform our conscious thoughts about money, just as we try to be mindful of our speech or our food. We can begin when we take three breaths and say the money machine gatha. Since the ATM and I are in this together, I say it quietly, but loud enough so that the machine can hear it loo!
Lisa Bruno is a dance instructor in San Francisco, California.