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Shifting

Anyone who knows me, knows that the past two years have been a roller-coaster ride for my family and me, both financially and personally. We’ve gone from making a very comfortable living, to worrying about foreclosure, from buying anything we wanted, to having to borrow money from friends to put gas in the car. We went from taking at least two airplane-trip vacations a year, to barely being able to afford a two-night camping trip. And it’s been a blessing.

Huh? Sure doesn’t sound like it. Have you ever heard a cancer-survivor or victim of some other terrible tragedy say just that? I always thought that they were just saying that to make themselves, and others, feel better about their situation. But now, I kind of get it. When I look at the profound shifts that I have gone through, and am continuing to go through, since my job loss in 2008, I am actually grateful for all that has happened.

When my career with my former employer ended abruptly in April of 2008, I did not know who I was. I had completely lost myself to the job, and the stress that came with it. I spent a few months just sitting in my office, because I didn’t know what else to do. I had recently gotten my yoga teaching certification, so I started teaching yoga. But, it didn’t feel right. I wasn’t ready emotionally, physically or spiritually. My heart wasn’t into it, I was still carrying around the 30 extra stress-pounds that came on in the last few years of my job, and my relationship with my husband was not good. I didn’t see how I could teach people to live a life of balance, when I was completely unbalanced myself. So, I stopped. And I sat around some more.

Then some changes started to slowly happen. I began to feel joy in the fact that I was able to spend more time with my daughter. Since I wasn’t travelling anymore, my husband and I were forced to look each other in the eye and begin to deal with our problems. (It’s easy to ignore problems at home when you are never home – not so easy when you’re home all the time!) My yoga practice began to deepen, and I met my kula (community) of Anusara yogi friends. I got a job with a start-up company, and although I make very little money, and the success or failure of said company is yet to be determined, I don’t live with the agonizing stress of my former job. I am also not attached to this job, the way I was with my old job. I am not defined by my position with the company. If it doesn’t work out, something else will.

We have learned to live on (much) less. Even when we are back on our financial feet – which I know we will be – we will never go back to our old spending ways. Just last Sunday, Brian and I were watching the Broncos game and reminiscing about how we used to go to a game every year, then go to the Palm for dinner, drop $300, and then spend the night in a nice hotel. It seems completely foreign to me now, to spend so much money on entertainment for one day.

As my yoga practice has deepened, so has my passion for living a healthy life. I started teaching again, and it is now one of my greatest joys. I lead 32 people in a cleanse last month, and they, and I got so much out of it. I am taking a course in Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of life. I feel that with yoga and Ayurveda, I am finding my “it”, my dharma, the true meaning of my life. For more on Ayurveda and the amazing course I’m taking, please visit Cate Stillman’s website, Yogahealer.

None of this would be happening if I hadn’t lost my job.

So while we still struggle, and the future is uncertain, I am grateful for the experiences we’ve been through. I’ll leave you today with a poem, from the blog, Aligning with Grace, by Olga Rasmussen, certified Anusara yoga teacher:

                                                                         See everything as a blessing.
                                                                      Turn everything into a blessing.
                                                                          Send everyone a blessing.
                                                                                    BE a blessing!

Maybe I am an Entrepreneur

It started out small. A few of my yoga students asked me if I’d lead them in a cleanse. They said they would pay. I said I would be happy to. It got me thinking that maybe there are some more people who would be interested. So I made up a flyer, and hung it up at the local rec center, and sent out a few e-mails. I set a price of $20, way lower than the going rate for a guided cleanse. I started getting calls, and e-mails from interested people. Friends started telling friends, and forwarding my emails, and the next thing I knew, I was getting checks from not only my entire neighborhood, and teachers from my daughter’s school, but from four different states! As the cleanse starts this morning, I have 32 participants!

I had a moment of worry as the checks started arriving. If people are paying me for a service, I am going to have to give them a good service! I talked myself down. I’ve cleansed many times, and done a ton of research; I know what I’m doing. And I am leading a very simple, safe, whole-foods cleanse. I am not recommending any fasting or special supplements. I am thrilled with the response. I am getting so many questions, and everyone is really excited about it. (With the possible exception of my husband, who told me he was going to stay in bed all day since he couldn’t have coffee! He was gone when I got home from yoga, so he got himself going somehow! You rock, honey!)

This is all exciting to me on a variety of levels. Number one, as my readers know, making more money is a huge priority for me.  I gave people a service that they wanted, and they paid me for it. How cool is that? On a completely different level, it is great to see so many people excited about taking charge of their health and feeling great.

Because it is all about feeling great….

The Yoga of Money

The blogosphere is buzzing this morning about the New York Times article on John Friend, founder of Anusara yoga. At least, the yoga-related blogosphere is. So, I feel compelled to put in my two cents. Although this is not a yoga blog. per-se, most of my readers know that I am a committed student of Anusara yoga, and a devotee of John Friend’s teachings. And the most controversial part of the article is related to money, so I think it’s appropriate.

I must admit, on first reading the article, I was hesitant to send it to all my friends and family, and say, “This is my gig!” First because the article makes Anusara seem a bit evangelical. And I can’t say that it’s not. I have, on more than one occasion, explained my feelings about Anusara as, “probably similar to how a born-again Christian feels upon finding Jesus.”  But, Yoga is not a religion, Anusara is not a cult, and John Friend is not a guru. While most yoga practitioners are spiritual seekers, to one degree or another, the bond that holds the Anusara kula (Sanskrit for community) together is a desire for life to be healthy and joyful. Call it what you will, but that is a philosophy I can happily follow!

Another contentious subject in the article is the modernization and corporatization of yoga. The fact that John Friend is making money doing what he loves and helping others seems to be a negative to some. Huh? Wouldn’t we all like to be making money doing something we love? The “poverty is noble” idea is not exclusive to yogis, but it is pervasive and if I may be frank, it is just plain dumb. It is what keeps so many from true prosperity. How many people do we know that talk negatively about money, and then wonder why they don’t have any? Money gives us security, comfort, and the ability to enjoy life and pursue our dreams. Think about it this way….if John Friend had little or no money, he would not be able to travel the world and teach. Nobody would practice Anusara yoga, because no one would have heard of it.

Being a spiritual seeker and a financial success are not mutually exclusive. Money gives us the means to make our dreams reality.  John Friend is making money, enjoying life and doing good. Let us all aspire to that.

If you haven’t already, please click on the link to read the full New York Times article.

How Much Happiness Do We Deserve?

Happiness. Joy. Contentment. Ecstasy. Satisfaction. Humans have contemplated the concept of happiness since humans began contemplating. The Judeo-Christian religions, along with Islam, tell us not to be too concerned with happiness in this lifetime; do good, follow the rules, and you will be rewarded in the next life. Many pragmatic people today will tell us that reaching for joy is unrealistic; we should be satisfied with the absence of misery. There seems to be a budding movement towards the belief that true happiness is not only achievable, but a natural state, that is within all of us, and we just need to find our way back to it. In actuality, this is not a new way of thinking. Buddhists, yogis and Tantrics have been saying this for millenia. The first line of the Dalai Lama’s book, The Art of Happiness, states:

I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or not, we are all seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness…

The ancient sage, Patanjali, who codified and wrote down the Yoga Sutras, some time around the second century, BCE, lists, santosha, or contentment, not as an option, but as a requirement, for living a right lifestyle. The Declaration of Independence of the United States even calls the pursuit of happiness an unalienable right, which is, endowed by (our) Creator.  So, happiness has obviously been on the minds of big thinkers for a long time.

How does this tie into a blog about finances? Well, we’ve all heard the line, “money can’t buy happiness,” umpteen times. And, while I agree with this statement completely, I will say that lack of money definitely contributes to unhappiness. Lack of money causes everything from sleepless nights to losing one’s home to the destruction of families. So, how does one maintain or pursue happiness when one is not making ends meet? If there were an easy answer to that question, the self-help section at Border’s Books would not be so huge. My answer…practice. Like yoga, like meditation, like any sport or playing a musical instrument, getting good at anything takes practice and dedication. It’s not easy to stay happy, especially in times of financial crisis, political rediculousness, war, junk food and ecological degradation. So, I keep at it. I practice gratitude, I try to do activities that make me happy (yoga, cooking, reading, spending time with family and friends, and being outside and connecting with Mother Nature). I also try to make others happy. It is amazing how the act of making another happy raises my own happiness!

I’m not happy all the time. Nobody is. But, I’m determined not to let finances, or any other outside influence keep me from happiness. I believe it is our birthright to be happy. And like all good things in life, it take some effort. I am willing to make that effort.

 

Evolving Blog

Just a quick post today, to share some of my latest thoughts. I hope you have been enjoying Riches to Rags to Prosperity, and maybe learning something, or getting inspired to do something with your finances. As I continue on my financial journey, I find that other aspects of my life are changing as well. Just as science is now showing that mind, body and spirit are all connected, I am finding that my financial life cannot be a separate entity from the rest of my life.

So, I find myself wanting to write about other subjects. Health, family, yoga, nature, food & wine (the subject of my other blog, VineJoy), are all subjects I enjoy writing about. So, you may find, in the future, posts relating to any or all of these subjects. The general gist will continue to focus on financial topics, but you may find me wandering off-topic a bit more. Because as finances improve, life improves…so, as I’m motivated to write about the improvement of life in general, I will share those thoughts with you.

Thank you all again for reading! If you haven’t subscribed yet, please do. And please pass me along to anyone you know, who might be interested in improving their finances, and their lives!

Julie Powell

A big inspiration for this blog, was the movie Julie & Julia. You might wonder what dealing with the recession has to do with Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I watched the movie with a mix of inspiration and envy. I had been writing my food & wine blog, VineJoy, for a couple of years. (For those of you who read it, thank you, thank you, thank you! And yes, VineJoy is still alive, though on life-support. Since I started R2R2P, I have been neglecting my first blog, but I will get back to it…promise~!) Besides loving the movie, my first reaction was, why hasn’t anyone discovered me and asked me to write a book?? Well, there are a few reasons for that, one of which is the fact that food and wine blogs are a dime a dozen these days. It seems like anyone who has ever eaten anything, is blogging about it. Not so, in 2002, when Julie Powell started blogging and cooking her way through Julia Child’s tome. It got me thinking that I needed a blog subject that was fresh. It needed to have an edge, and a naked honesty that Julie’s blog had. It had to be something that people could relate to. It had to be something that I was going through at the time, a chronicle, that people would come back to, and want to read about what happened next. And, like Julie’s blog, I wanted it to inspire people. (I don’t know about you, but I pulled out Julia’s book and made coq au vin, the day after seeing the movie!) Thus, the birth of this blog began to form in my head.

I am currently reading Julie Powell’s new book, Cleaving. I am again, struck and humbled by her ability to put it all out there. Here, I am, embarrassed as hell to write that I don’t have the money to pay my mortgage this month. Especially after spending a chunk on a yoga retreat last month. And to tell you how much my marriage has struggled because of our financial situation would be mortifying. And yet, Julie Powell can unflinchingly (well, I don’t know, maybe she flinched), write about her extra-marital affair, for her husband, her parents (!) and all the world to read. I am impressed, and again, inspired.  And though butchering isn’t my gig, I can totally relate to her throwing herself completely into something that seems solid and safe when the rest of her life was falling apart (for me, it’s Anusara yoga). The book has gotten some pretty bad reviews, and since I am yet to finish it, I can’t give my complete opinion. But, whether you like the story or not, I think you have to be impressed by her fearlessness.

Although the economy is recovering, this is still a scary, unpleasant time in my life. Writing this blog, and attempting to be transparent and fearless, is helping me to deal. It’s helping me to face my money and be honest about it, whether the news is good or bad. When I am honest, I am unable to keep my head buried in the sand. Thanks, Julie, for keeping me honest.

Cash is King

I’ve been trying to use cash more often, rather than my debit card. The obvious reason for doing this is that it doesn’t allow me to go over my budget. If I have $75 with which to grocery shop, I will not spend $100. It works well.

I have noticed something more happening with the use of cash. I find that I don’t want to spend more. I don’t want to part with my cash so easily. Cash is something I own, that has value, and I find that I am not so willing to part with it. Giving away my cash is a bigger deal than swiping my card. I am willing to bet that I am not the first person to discover this. Maybe this is a stretch, but I feel somehow, that it’s a throwback feeling from the days of bartering – I am literally trading my item of value (cash) for the grocery store’s item of value (food). Swiping a card does not give me that feeling. Swiping a card almost feels like getting something for nothing. I can literally go to the store and buy something with my card, without even having any idea how much money I actually have! (I must admit, I have done that many times, though much less often as of late.)

I encourage everyone to try this. Let me know how it feels to you. It has been another empowering step for me. Another way in which I am forced to pull my head out of the sand. Another step towards the prosperity that I know is in my future!

In Fits and Starts…

I’ve been at this for a couple of months, and I must admit, getting in control of my money is not a steady, linear progression. There are days that I’m excited and motived about it, and days that it feels like a huge burden. Some days I feel like this blog is helping me, and perhaps others, and some days I just feel like I’m whining to the universe. There are weeks when I forecast and plan brilliantly, and weeks that I don’t do it at all (Sorry, Whitney!). Sometimes, after I post on the blog, I go right to Twitter, and tell everyone to read it. Other times, I wonder why anyone would want to.

Is this just me? Am I a flake that can never finish anything I start? (For one man’s opinion, ask my husband about the womens’ hockey team…) Or, maybe, this is just really hard. Period. There are things that are completely out of my control that thwart my plans. The big tax bill was one. The fact that neither my, nor my husband’s incomes are steady. (He owns his own business, I’m on commission.)

Well, you’ll be glad to know, that I’m once again feeling motivated. I am taking a stay-cation this week, to do some house projects and get re-focused. I just went through our financial files and got rid of a TON of stuff. Stacks of papers from insurance policies we no longer hold, retirement plans we long ago cashed out, warranties for appliances we no longer own, veterinary records for our dogs that died over four years ago! And, man, does that feel good. I literally got rid of 90% of the paperwork that we had filed away. Then, I reorganized what we need to keep.

I feel much more ready to welcome in my new financial life. I have now cleared out the old, and am ready to receive the new. Whatever that new may bring.

Tomorrow, the kitchen….

Biting Off More Than I Can Chew?

If I were to ask my husband if I am biting off more than I can chew, his answer would be, “Of course you are; that’s what you do.” I am wondering if I’m doing that now. I started this financial journey, all fired up to do all sorts of things. Besides my two jobs, selling wine and teaching yoga, I was planning on starting a copy-writing service, trying to get published by magazines, starting this blog, writing more in my other blog, forecasting weekly, reading Money magazine, writing my novel more regularly…phew! I’m tired just from writing all that. I think I have overwhelmed myself. Maybe that’s why I haven’t felt like doing any of those things for the past few weeks.

Perhaps it’s time to prioritize. Of course, my two main jobs are priority. I am making a firm plan to increase my wine sales, setting weekly and monthly goals for myself. I am hoping to add a few more yoga classes to my weekly teaching. I definitely need to stick with the financial forecasting and education. Maybe I should look at my writing career (or lack thereof) and ask myself what is most important. Getting my blogs out there? Writing my novel? Copy-writing business? Maybe one, or two, of those endeavors need to go on the back-burner.

We are all works in progress. We learn as we go. We learn that we cannot do it all, and that’s OK. Years ago, I decided that I’d rather be a mother, than a Master of Wine. While I still passionately learn new things about wine every day, my time is much more happily spent raising my daughter, than studying to be one of the 100 most wine-knowledgeable people in the world.

When have you had to prioritize, and how has it worked out?

Are You Waiting for a Prince?

I just finished a great book about money, written specifically for women. I have two criteria for calling a non-fiction book great. It has to have great information, and it has to be an enjoyable read. Barbara Stanny’s Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart About Money, delivers on both counts.

She starts out talking about the fact that most women just don’t think about or deal with their money. Many were raised to believe that a man would do it, others are waiting for a better job, or think that they can’t start managing their money until they have more. I definitely come from the third camp. My father was never a great money manager (sorry, Dad, I know you’re reading this), so I never felt it was a man’s job. But I had this completely illogical logic, in which I kept telling myself that I’d get my finances in order, once my finances were in order! I always planned on starting to manage my money, once I had enough. Barbara tells us to stop waiting. Get on top of your finances now, or you will never have enough. She emphasizes that we should not wait for a crisis, to start looking at our money. If you’re a reader of this blog, you know I’m in financial crisis, but I’m dedicated to getting out of it. If you’re not in crisis, but you don’t pay much attention to your money, read this book! Don’t Wait.

Stanny shares her own financial journey, and discusses the different mental blocks that women have towards money. She tells us how to get started in the financial learning process, and how learning follows a very specific curve. She discusses investing in-depth, and gives specific, understandable instructions for those who literally have no idea where to start. I am not ready to start investing, but as soon as I am able to pay my bills and have a little extra, you can bet, I’ll be referring back to this book.

Really, though, the best thing about this book, is how enjoyable it is to read. I’ve got three or four good non-fiction books going right now, that I keep putting down and coming back to. They’ve all got great information, but the writing is a bit dry. I read Stanny’s book in three days. I looked forward to getting back to it. That’s the sign of a good book. Because, no matter how good the content, a book is only useful if you read it.