This seems like a good place for me to throw out some disclaimers. I realize that most or all of the factors that have led to these stats are largely beyond our control. They are consequences of inequitable wealth distribution, a health care system that favors business over individuals, and outright corruption, for starters. Furthermore, it’s easy for me to talk about debt and personal finances, because I was born into the world from a place of privilege. I’m from a middle-class white family, I’ve never been laid off or unemployed, and I don’t have a disability nor any dependents. The odds are stacked in my favor.
Nevertheless, seeing the relationship between stress and money is hard for me to ignore as someone who writes a newsletter like this, even though I know talking about it may turn some people off. It makes me wonder, why the disconnect? Why’s it such a stretch to confront money stress or conversations within the context of yoga and mindfulness?
In yoga, ignorance is referred to as Avidya
. One form of Avidya that I see is this false correlation between financial identity and inner identity. Just as success in wealth can delight the ego, struggles with money creates shame. Bringing issues like debt and personal finances out of the shadows and into open conversation can help us to understand that these realities of life are not
a part of us
. Your bank account doesn’t make you a good or a bad person. Fundamentally, we are all the same—rich, poor and otherwise. When we can believe that truth, we don’t have to hide from the challenges, and perhaps we can find ways that they connect us rather than create competition.
My thesis is that the teachings of yoga could help us ease some of the suffering that money issues bring. And no, the answers are not just “meditate and do yoga” (but you should still do both of those things). Nor will this turn into a personal finance tip sheet (there's plenty of that on the Internet already).
You could think of yoga's role in terms of the sthira (steadiness)
and the sukha (ease)
of financial wellness. Sthira is about fortitude—using your alertness and care to build a balanced financial life that allows you to do what brings you joy. And sukha is about actually experiencing that joy along the way, regardless of where you are at, including all the curveballs and windfalls.