Category Archives: events

the soul of money

I grew up in an affluent suburb of Chicago, a place of large houses with expansive lawns, and two or more cars in every driveway. I was educated privately, among peers who were the children of doctors and lawyers and financial executives. Leisure took place in tennis clubs and shopping malls. I think of it now as “the belly of the beast.”

But everything is relative. I never felt secure in that setting, and my family didn’t especially fit into the surrounding culture. My parents both worked hard to earn enough for that private education – no stay at home mother, no home help to manage the domestic chores. We belonged to no clubs, took no summer holiday trips, and shopped at Sears. (Unless you grew up there you’ll miss the cultural reference. Suffice to say that the kids in our family wore Toughskins brand denim rather than designer jeans – and it marked us.) To our minds, we weren’t rich: we lived modestly and we got by.

The message drilled into me by this place was simple: achieve, make money, achieve, make money, achieve, make money. Self-worth? Achieve, make money. Relationships with others? Achieve, make money. The meaning of life? Achieve, make money.

It wasn’t until I left for university that I found some relief. Leaving the country was even better. I discovered people with less onerous value systems, places with less privilege and pressure. I made connections and assembled my tribe. And I made choices about how to live that would have terrified my younger self: even now, I own no house or property, I find my clothes in charity shops, I take the bus or walk.

In The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist explores what money means to us, and how to change our perceptions. As a tireless fundraiser for the Hunger Project (an international development organisation which aspires to end world hunger) Lynne has worked with people from myriad economic backgrounds – from wealthy philanthropists to backwater villagers, from bejewelled trophy wives to starving street beggars. In this beautifully written book, she “demonstrates how we can replace feelings of scarcity, guilt and burden with experiences of sufficiency, freedom and purpose.” She calls scarcity “the great lie” and sufficiency “the surprising truth,” and digs into these assertions fully with a rich mix of personal experience, sincere reflection and above all, warm compassion.

Since reading her book, I’ve been able to look back on that high-stakes environment of my upbringing with gentle regard rather than anxiety or resentment. I can recognise the pain behind the habits of spiteful judgment, and the need behind the relentless competition. To have so much, and still feel so driven – to own so much personal wealth and yet feel so little personal wealth – is living in a fairy tale curse for sure.

When my friend and I named our social enterprise Personal Wealth, three years ago now, we received many confused responses. Were we a financial services provider? Were we money advisers? Did we play the stock market? No, no and no – we worked with people and organisations, and tried to open up the conversation about what wealth really is. It usually took a moment for our response to sink in, and then typically our inquirer would say “ah-ha” with a delighted light in their eyes.

I will be revisiting the conversation on Saturday 1st April, when I host the first of four experimental workshops. Participants will be invited to play with the phrase “personal wealth”and we will learn more about the ‘great lie’ and the ‘surprising truth.’ If you are in Edinburgh and fancy coming along, please do add your name to the event list here.

hearth cricket wisdom

So I’ve finally organised a project that has been simmering in the background for some time. This spring I am launching a pilot series of workshops which explore ideas which deserve some space to grow.

All my life I have loved playing with ideas, whether browsing the library and bookshop shelves searching for hidden treasures, or sharing conversations that transcend small talk, or writing blog posts that dig into places that interest me….

I know I’m not alone in this. Sharing ideas is the hallmark of humanity, it is our pride and our joy, and the fuel that feeds our souls. Perhaps the most courageous and astonishing thing a person can do is to venture into a new idea.

If you’re in Edinburgh and fancy coming along for one or more of these Saturday mornings, please add your name to the list and bring your thinking cap with you.

recovering the creative self

An old friend from college days has commented on this blog. “I never imagined, knowing you in your teens/early 20s, that all of this creative genius was inside your head,” she said.

In my teens and early 20s, I didn’t know the creativity inside my head either. It had been scared right out of me. Years and years of school and society and unhelpful people had chipped away any confidence in my own creative abilities. I didn’t think of myself as a creative person – I regarded creativity as a special privilege reserved for others.

My experience was by no means unique. Countless people have their creative selves stomped out of commission for one reason or another, or for many reasons. ‘Creative types’ are assigned their own place in our social order, and we uphold the myth of the artist as either gifted and talented beyond belief or tortured internally beyond relief. Yet what a loss: creativity comes in all shapes and sizes and is a universally-shared human trait. There are myriad ways to express it – not one ‘right’ way.

Julia Cameron’s classic book The Artist’s Way explores this phenomenon through a 12-week programme of reflective practice. She calls it “a course in discovering and recovering your Creative Self.” The book digs into the various ways that we sell ourselves short, and helps to work through the issues that are preventing the creative self from flourishing.

Starting in mid-February, I will be hosting an Artist’s Way check-in group. (“Check-ins” is Cameron’s term for the end-of-chapter review sessions she has included, as a way to observe the internal processes that the course sets in motion.)

The group is free and limited to 8 places; it will take place here in Edinburgh where I live. You can find out more here and register for a place on Eventbrite. If you live too far away to join me, please hold a good thought for the group as we embark on this project. And if you live nearby, or know of anyone who would be interested in coming along, please do let them know.