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I’ve devoted much of my life to exploring how to become a better person and how to live a full and beautiful life, but I never gave much thought to death. Not my own and not anyone else’s.
But when grief arrives in your life, it serves as both a powerful source of deep sorrow and a wise, patient teacher who invites you to explore why we’re here and what happens when we leave this place.
In my quest for understanding, I came across this exquisite passage in Pema Chodron’s book, When Things Fall Apart:
“We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off-limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.”
Each pillar and section of the sand castle represents different aspects of our lives. Sometimes we spend more time working on the career pillar… then move on to the relationship pillar… then build up our pillar of physical health.
The financial pillar of our “life sand castle” is of particular importance because it often provides us with the opportunity to step away from the work… to take a break from digging in the sand so we can run along the beach, soak up the sun, or laugh and splash in the ocean with friends.
Sometimes the financial part of our lives is the one we most often forget to tend to because it feels like a daunting task to build a tower of wealth big enough to support the rest of our sand castle (life).
In the back of our minds, we know that a storm could come along at any minute and tear apart the hard work we’ve done to grow our financial life.
A devastating diagnosis with astronomical medical bills. A fire that ravages your home and destroys all your belongings. A pandemic that wrecks your business.
The deep inner knowing of impermanence is always in the back of our minds somewhere. We all know we’re going to die someday and that at any given moment, the tide could come in and carry our life back into the sea.
Letting go of things (money, possessions, a business, and even people you love) is practicing non-attachment… which is simply a desire to know your pain so you can stop endlessly running away from it… and to know your pleasure so you can stop endlessly grasping for it.
Facing the fear and pain of losing money helps you gain the courage and confidence to tend to your finances regularly… to know your financial life intimately… and to recover from losses quickly.
It means showing up everyday to work on your life sand castle in hard times and happy times, for better or worse, knowing nothing lasts forever.
Letting go means enjoying the process of building a financial life you feel proud of and allowing the work to give your existence meaning and purpose.
What you do to earn money is far more important than how much you have or even what you do with it. Building up your financial life by being in service to others is like inviting everyone on the beach to help you build your life sand castle in exchange for helping them with theirs.
To be non-attached means facing the pain and discomfort when a storm comes in and tears down part of your sand castle or when someone walks by and crushes your financial pillar by stealing from you, suing you, or tricking you into something that costs you a ton of money (like credit card interest!).
And then doing the work to rebuild it all with a sense of joy and gratitude because you woke up another day, on the beach, with most of your life sand castle still in tact.
And when you start making time to really dig into your finances and piece it all together, you’ll find it really isn’t that scary after all. In fact, it’s a wonderfully empowering experience to build your financial life in your own way, at your own pace.
Seeing your finances come together and grow bigger and more spectacular is rewarding and fulfilling, and the process delivers precious gifts along the way.
Your money can treat you to a once-in-a-lifetime adventure through South America… or fund a charity that delivers fresh, clean water to people living in deplorable conditions… or pay all your bills while you take a leave of absence from work to sit beside your mother as she dies.
But it’s worth embarking on. It’s worth taking the time to get your hands in there and create a financial life you love.
What’s one thing you’ll do today to build up your financial life? Leave a comment.