My Thoughts on Money and Spirituality
How can I justify charging for Spirit Work?
Yes this is a BIG issue that comes up around shamanism and other spiritually based healing systems. Actually money is a big issue, for various reasons, in most people's lives.
There are many (but not all) traditions that claim that the shaman should not charge for their work.
To this I respond, as you might expect, "Who dreams this dream?" (This quote comes from my Dream Weaving article.)
My thoughts are as follows:
1. It is common, even in cultures that do not allow the shaman to charge for his/her work, that the shaman will accept a gift -- food, a meal, a blanket, a chicken, eggs, a new roof on his/her house. etc.
The gift is made to Spirit with the shaman being the "keeper" of the gift. Is this or is this not a "payment"?
A case could be made either way.
2. Money and gifts are just forms of energy. The universe is completely based on energy, in various forms, being exchanged in various ways. It is the natural flow of things.
This view of "money and gifts as energy" puts the shaman into the mainstream flow of energy -- and forces him/her to come to grips with the truth of that flow. An argument could be made about the strangeness of shaman refusing payment -- it puts them outside of the real world (the shaman are supposed to be masters of two worlds) in the same way that celibacy puts the priest outside of the real world of relationships.
3. Keeping money out of the picture is an effort, in part, to keep scam artists out of this work. However it does not keep out the scam artists who are into power and control (Look at Jimmy Jones and David Koresch). Of course people will still get stung by scam artists -- perhaps that is a lesson that Spirit has arranged for them to learn from. Besides, this work tends to be self culling -- scam artists eventually are weeded out by the fact that they are not creating any transformations for people. The word gets out and people stop coming to work with them.
4. It is my belief that it is a much harder task, requiring a powerful practitioner, to integrate doing true healing work within the context of needing money to survive -- WITHOUT treating the client as a cash cow. ("Gosh I hope this person doesn't get better in just one session because I could use the $$ when they come back..." -- as you can see this is a daemon that could seriously taint any healing work.)
So, for me, it is an interesting daily battle with this daemon on how to make a living and do this work with complete integrity. It is a battle that I choose and actually enjoy -- sort of like testing my chops against a powerful and worthy opponent. Sherlock Holmes needs his Dr. Moriarity.
On a daily basis I am seeking the solution (which is ever-changing) to the question of, "How can I do true healing work in the face of my personal financial fears around earning my living?"
The two primary paths for solving this conundrum are:
-- The path I have chosen -- charge for my work and keep an ongoing patrol against the daemon of greed and financial fears.
-- The other way is the one suggested by some shamanic cultures -- do not accept payment for the work.
I personally find the second approach, while laudable, less powerful because I would be avoiding the skill-honing battle with the daemon. Also, I cannot imagine that the shaman who do not accept any form of payment are doing shamanic work full time. If they are working full time then someone has to be "paying" their way in the world -- even if it is in the form of a partner who has the day job to make ends meet.
5. Sometimes a shaman is specifically proscribed, by Spirit, from charging for their work. That is a conversation that they have to sort out with Spirit.
There is a belief that Spirit requires enormous sacrifice. Again I ask, "Who dreams that dream?"
I am not, obviously, a huge fan of sacrifice without choice -- I am not convinced that the payoff is good enough (for Spirit or me) and I am definitely not convinced that I have no choice in my involvement just because Spirit asks. (The truth be told, I have always found a way to answer Spirit's requests of me. But I like to keep my options open. I call this having good boundaries.)
It is my opinion that Spirit is a very complex "who knows what?" (structure / energy / geography / being / concept??) and Spirit is ultimately indefinable. One of my images of Spirit is that of a huge flowing river. It will carry/drag you and your little boat along if you just sit back -- Spirit has big work to do and if you are available to assist then Spirit will use you -- EVEN USE YOU UP!
However, adding the "motor" of free will / free choice to your boat allows you to travel all directions along that river of Spirit work and, while using your God/Goddess-granted right of free will and free choice, you can still be doing important work with Spirit.
6. It has also been my experience that people who pay for their sessions tend to have more success with the work. In the Western Culture there is the belief that "you get what you pay for". You gain ownership of the work by exchanging a piece of energy (money from your hard work at your day job) for the energy of the shamanic session.
7. In my opinion, it all comes down to intention.
If my intention is to work full time with Spirit to heal, help, guide, transform, celebrate, then what is wrong with charging for the energy used to do this? After all, shamanic work is not effortless, risk free, pain free, nor sacrifice free. And I do have to make ends meet.
8. Given that I do have to make ends meet, and given that some form of energy gift should be offered to balance the gift of the work, then money is the most universal and useful "gift of energy" in this time and in this culture. I do occasionally accept "trades" for shamanic work, however, there are times that trading is not the appropriate energy exchange. And there are times that I simply need the general usefulness of money as a medium of energy exchange more than I need the trade services offered. (Click here for my rap about trades.)
The bottom line (to pun with a financial concept) is that Spirit work is not really a great way to make lots of money. Making some money allows me to continue offering my piece of the Spiritual path on a full time basis.
If my intention was simply to make money, then I'd go work for the U.S. Mint.