Pathways Magazine Book Review: The Art of Money

Originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of Pathways Magazine.

I was recently listening to a podcast by my favorite spiritual teacher. He was very animatedly explaining his frustration toward someone on Facebook who called Caroline Myss out for speaking up about politics. This commenter’s argument was that Myss should stay in her lane because spiritual teachers shouldn’t speak to politics; apparently spirituality isn’t supposed to be politicized. His argument back to her was that of course politics is spiritual because everything is spiritual.

When I sat down to write this review of Bari Tessler’s The Art of Money, this exchange is what I thought of. One, because it’s almost impossible to forget the political climate of our country right now, and two, because like politics, money is also something that’s viewed as something that “should be” separate from spirituality. Bari Tessler will tell you differently however and I’m obviously a fan of her approach.

The Art of Money is a book that bridges the gap between money and spirituality–something that very few books have successfully done. Tessler is a financial therapist who saw a need for a process to help people with their relationship to money. If you’ve tried following the mainstream money moguls of the world to little avail, this book is for you. If you’ve tried approaching money from an energetic, values-based level, but still struggle with the practical, grounded aspects, like how to track it in a way that you can actually stick to, this book is for you. Tessler reasons: “I have reexamined the toxic and unhelpful idea that money isn’t ‘spiritual’ or compatible with a creative life. I have learned instead, that building a healthy relationship with money helps ground all aspects of life.”

In The Art of Money, Tessler explains that money problems aren’t really about money. They’re about deficiencies in one (or more) of eight key areas that she’s identified as: 1) Clarity, or not knowing what your numbers are. 2) Intimacy, or familiarity with your money patterns–how do you behave with money? 3) Knowledge, such as financial literacy and understanding “money talk.” 4) Ease and Peace of Mind, because of course we could all benefit from less stress where money is concerned. 5) Success–something that most people don’t take the time to truly examine and define for themselves. If your definition of success doesn’t include going into debt for a house and a white picket fence, that’s a perfect example of crafting your life around your idea of success vs somebody else’s. 6) Value, on which Tessler comments: “For most people, value is intimately intertwined with money, and many of our struggles with money, are at heart, part of a quest to find, feel, and claim our own self-worth.” Would it be too cliché to stick an amen here, or to put that quote in all caps and bolded font? This is so true it gives me chills. 7) Hope that things can be different. You’re not stuck in the same place because of some old karmic debt. You do have power, even if you need to dig a little deeper than some to unearth it. And 8) Support–learning how to ask for help or seek out the resources you need. As with all of life, how you do anything is how you do everything and healing your relationship with money is directly to tied to one or more of these eight key areas.

As a somatic psychotherapist-turned bookkeeper, Tessler’s healing approach to what she calls Deep Money Work happens over three phases. “Including all three phases in deep money work is crucial,” she says, “because I’ve seen time and time again how painfully ineffectual any fractured approach to money is.” Phase One: Money Healing, helps unkink the deep emotions attached to what we believe about money, such as power, enoughness, and responsibility, and the role it plays in our lives. It’s the necessary first-step of a heart-centered process to create an open, honest, mature relationship with money. Tessler gives you tools, such as a body check-in process and money healing rituals to guide you through your money story with self-love and compassion so you can heal shame, act in accordance with your worth, and identify and eradicate the self-sabotaging patterns no longer serving you.

Phase Two: Money Practices focuses on the practical, down-to-earth aspects of dealing with money. This is where you dig into numbers, systems, habits, data, and the language of money. Now that you’ve done the foundational healing work so you won’t break out in cold sweats when you finally add up exactly how much money you owe in back taxes, you’re ready to set up daily, weekly, monthly, and annual practices to get and keep you on track with where you want to be (and if you do panic, you’ll know what you can do to ease the stress). There’s the Money Date for instance, a sexier name than “Paying the F-ing Bills” Tessler says, for the regular, ongoing practice of sitting down with your money, whatever that could mean for you.

This is also the section where you’ll find the powerful Values-Based Bookkeeping system–Tessler’s creative approach to bringing money together with your values and showing you how to rename boring budgeting categories into soul-affirming, values-based ones like substituting “Nourishment” for “Groceries” and “Stylin’ Wheels,” “Batmobile,” or “Freedom to Ride” for “Car Payment”, and redefining “Income,” as “compensation for how we bring our gifts and ‘superpowers’ to the marketplace.” This chapter is both original and invigorating.

Phase Three introduces Money Maps: the bird’s eye view of your entire financial picture: your goals, dreams, plans, how everything is chugging along, and how healthy money management can smooth out any kinks. Here, Tessler focuses on helping you make better money decisions–ones that don’t come just from your budget, but ones that come from your values, phase of life, and of course, your heart. The big-picture vision of Money Maps take the other two phases and positions them within your evolving money story, infusing it with deeper personal meaning.

I have a plethora of money books. Apparently, money, self-worth, values, and security was something that I signed up to work on in this life big-time because I can’t seem to stop growing, and wanting to grow in this area. Of all the money books I own and read, if I could recommend just one, this would be it. Whether you’re fresh out of college, trying to juggle a job and bills for the first time, or well-into retirement and wanting to live out the rest of your days with comfort and ease, The Art of Money gives you everything you need to “do” money: knowledge, practices, resources, (check the back of the book for a great list of further reading, software, and more) and most importantly, soul.

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