Image: The Song, painting by Stephanie Kellett, StephKellett.com
In my previous article, Trusting Your Pace - Rest, Rhythm and the Creative Process, I discussed balancing the restorative and active energies in one's life as a means of supporting a sustainable creative practice. In this article I will be taking the same approach to the topic of money, resource, and the restorative arts.
The global economy rests its foundation on stories that lead people in their search for sustenance to destroy the very things that they depend upon for sustenance. These stories have embedded themselves deep within the survival instincts of humans. Whether the perceived survival threat is real or imagined, it creates a fear-response in our bodies. These stories boil down to various permutations of "I must close my heart and compete with others for scarce resources" or "I must be someone that I am not in order to survive" or "I can't afford to (wait, stop, rest, help, learn, grow, change, quit, etc)". The story that is believed becomes the dominant reality, both individually and collectively. The result is an imbalance in economic privilege, and in the degradation of the resources that sustain life.
Under the influence of this mythology, closing one's heart to nature, beauty, the invisible world, and each other becomes normalized and widely promoted as strategy for success. It leads to oppression and exploitation of the nurturing force, both internally and externally. It embeds itself within the culture until there is no actual nourishment left.
Active or yang or what is sometimes referred to as "masculine" energy in its excessive form extinguishes itself. In excess it is the fire that runs out of wood to cling to. It is the false story, internalized and compulsively acted on until every actual resource has been tapped and converted into money.
There's nothing wrong with money per se but there is something very dangerous about forgetting that money is an abstract representation of real resource. It is not the sun's rays, clean water, vibrant culture, or vitality. Its worth is derived from the life essence that it represents and has drawn from. It alone cannot guarantee health, security, love, or wellbeing. The only way that money can guarantee those things is if it is invested back into the restoration of actual resources - nourishing our bodies, nourishing the earth body, feeding reciprocal relationships, etc. Picture it as a balanced flow between yang and yin (active and nurturing) energies. For centuries, under the influence of the old story, the dominant flow has drawn exclusively from yin and deposited in the bank of yang to the point of excess and depletion of the world body. Under the influence of a new story, the tides can turn and are turning towards a restoration of the nurturing force.
It is important to remember that yang or active energy is not by its nature a destructive force. In its healthy form yang energy is extremely generous. The excess of global yang energy can be shifted, through a new story, into a generous ally.
I consider this to be the time of the restorers of the great beauty of the nurturing force. A society based mainly on industrial growth is giving way to a culture structured around a reverence for life-giving resource. Everywhere I look I encounter people living in creative, mindful ways that renew and revere, rather than deplete and dismiss the foundations of life. I see them walking their paths with courage, casting their votes of confidence not in outworn systems of oppression and exploitation, but in their heart-felt visions of what is possible.
Restorative investing refers to any investment of accumulated resource into the restoration and renewal of the world. It does not necessarily create more money, but it restores the actual resources that have been depleted by centuries of the unbridled creation of money. Just as our bodies become depleted through an excess of activity and a lack of rest, the world body can become taxed as well. Restorative investing serves to correct this imbalance.
Restorative investing can take many forms - both large and small. Many of my projects are grant funded, and not 'profitable' at all. Through the generous support of various trusts and foundations, I am able to focus on creating beauty for beauty's sake. I have a friend that used her inheritance to study holistic healing and to open a clinic. Others are restoring through their approach to parenting, investing their resource in healthy families. I consider us all to be working in the restorative arts, investing the resources that we have access to and using our gifts in order to create a more beautiful world.
This work is nuanced, not black and white. Telling a new story doesn't mean that we are immune to the old story. It doesn't mean that we don't feel survival-based fears, both real and imagined. It means that we react mindfully to these fears instead of blindly. Telling a new story doesn't mean we are perfect or have all the answers. I am no expert with money. That's why I study this stuff - because I have blocks and because I have much to learn.
Let's take steps towards sourcing our value not from the validation of systems of oppression but from our own souls. Telling a new story doesn't mean that money is the enemy and art is the saviour. It means that we do the work we are called to do, with the gifts, skills, and resources that we have available to us... Sometimes after we get home from our day jobs. It means that we choose the brave choices that our hearts yearn for, in ways that are mature, grounded, functional and sustainable.
As spring breaks and the germinating seeds of the winter reach their tendrils towards the sun, we work with the resources available in order to nurture our growing dreams.
Suggested questioning - if you find yourself saying "I can't afford it", reframe the statement to ask instead "how can I afford it?" or to state "I am choosing to focus my resources elsewhere." The first statement evokes helplessness, while the other two evoke a sense of power and creativity. This reframing of perception can also underscore how important the "it" really is. Is it worth working for? Sacrificing? Changing? Being patient and long-gaming it? This line of questioning can clarify priorities and the amount of energy/resource one is willing to channel towards certain priorities.
towards the turning tides,
Special thanks to Nwamaka Agbo, Christina Pratt, Charles Eisenstein, Traditional Chinese Medicine and my tertiary understanding of it, Adrienne Mak and her TCM books, Paul Pitchford (Healing with Whole Foods).. their ideas inspired much of this article.