Value For Money

A few years ago I was playing with my relationship to money. My Intention was to find ways to experience more joy whenever I paid cash for something. I wanted to find a different way than my habit of paying for something with a heavy energy or at the very least as an automatic act.

I tried for several weeks to focus. Each time money left my hand I wanted to connect with gratitude, to give money as feedback for my appreciation for what I was receiving. I tried several approaches, all of them unsuccessful. I wrote daily in my journal, I scribbled myself reminders on post-it notes, I put a slip of paper in my wallet so every time I opened it, out it fell. I even considered adding a tattoo to the back of my hand.

Nothing worked. Each transaction continued to flash by unconsciously, irrespective of what it was. A taxi ride, a coffee in a café, a carton of milk, not even a bar of chocolate (something I’m especially grateful for). Every time I bought something pretty much same sequence happened over and over again:

1. enter store with intention to buy some small thing

2. remind myself (using one of my highly inventive methods) to connect with my gratitude when it came to pay

3. spot desired item, pick it up and head to cash desk

4. completely forget to connect with my gratitude

5. take out money, hand it over, leave shop

6. remember that I had (yet again) completely failed and feel like a complete idiot

It really was uncanny. The more I focused, the further away I was and the more determined I became to do it. For a few weeks it became something of an obsession. I wondered if I was attempting some impossible feat … but I just couldn’t see what could possibly be so complicated. Clearly I was missing something important.

Breakthrough!

As the saying goes .. ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.’ After 2 or 3 weeks of struggling, it dawned on me that I needed to do something different. I even remember the place where this revelation came to me. I was in Budapest (I forget why) on my own and I had just sat down at the first restaurant that looked empty.

Usually I avoid empty restaurants on the basis that good ones are full, bad ones are empty. On the rare occasions I eat out on my own I choose the opposite strategy as I prefer privacy over quality. This particular restaurant did nothing to change my general rule as the food was less than outstanding.

But I decided to try an experiment. I was reading Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Pilgrimage’ at the time and in one of the chapters he describes slowing down and concentrating attention completely on the smallest details around. Sitting in this sub-par tourist restaurant I decided to give it a go and see what happened. The food was taking an age to come so I had nothing better to do.

I imagined all the minute details that went into preparing the food I was hoping to be eating soon. I pictured the farm, the seeds, the fields, the animals. I saw the people caring for the food as it grew, harvesting it when ready. I added in the tools they used and the long, long history behind them. Where the materials came from and the countless generations of invention and refinement. I imagined the transport needed to get the food from farm to storage to restaurant. I could see the kitchen staff from time to time bobbing past the serving door, preparing the food. I visualised all the cleaning and peeling and cutting and cooking and mixing. I even noticed the care and attention of the waitress despite all the troubles she must face (judging from the complete lack of smile in her eyes).

And as imagined all these things I was filled with a huge admiration and awe. I felt quite small and large at the same time. Small in that all these things were about to culminate in the plate of food about to arrive in front of me. Large in that all these things were about to culminate in the plate of food about to arrive in front of me.

Guess what? That food tasted delicious! I’m not saying that it was great food. But in that moment, connected with all the love, care and human ingenuity in front of me, I felt truly privileged. When the check came, the money that left my hand contained all my gratefulness and love. I’m sure those particular Forints still circulate somewhere and bring a smile to whoever holds them.

The piece I had been missing was crystal clear. I had not been appreciating the other side of the buy/sell transaction. Every purchase now has the opportunity to bring so much pleasure and joy. When I connect to what is captured in a product or service then I get double joy. First from the product itself and second from giving money. It is no longer a ‘cost’ or a ‘payment’. There is no longer any loss or sacrifice.

I still slip into old habits, of course, but I have finally seen the light in getting value for money.

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