All aspects of our financial life evolve from cash flow. It is the daily movement of money in and money out. Every single decision we make at the cash flow level eventually leads to our current net worth.

Cash flows forever.

It is not an area of life that gets “solved”. We don’t “fix” it. It is an ongoing, ever-present part of living in our world. Money allows us to purchase the things we need and want, to survive and prosper.

For some people, cash flow is a powerful metaphor. It shows them how they respond to stress. Or criticism. Or a sense of inadequacy. Or for some, success or happiness. For others, it is about never being good enough. For some, it is about status and achievement-or pretending to have those things. It can be tracked back to some elemental stories that are told in our families and in our culture. And although these stories can be fascinating, they can also be a distraction. I am more interested in looking at…

What can I learn about myself from my cash flow?

We can spend to fill gaps. We can spend to avoid. We can spend because we are exhausted. We can spend to soothe loneliness. Spending can temporarily do a great job of assuaging the savageness of our own experience.

But we all know what happens after this. The reckoning. The binge is over. We are in debt again. Or late for the mortgage payment. Or still loaning money to our wayward brother…

So how do we move through this? How do we break the pattern?

We slow down. We pause. We breathe. We reflect on our thoughts and behaviour so we can start to unravel the pattern. Some of these habits have cords that are very long. And some are very tricky. Most will take patience as we discover, disentangle and resolve.

I am not a big proponent of talking about our parents and what happened in the past. We are all messed up by our families. And then we have children and mess them up in some variation of the way we were screwed up.

 All of the information for healing is available, in the present moment. Just not effortlessly. We manage to cover up the really good stuff with layers and layers of defenses. Those defenses served us well. They were adaptive and functional. Your psyche thought it was doing a good job of keeping you safe by having you overspend instead of murdering someone. That is good. But now you are ready to get to the bottom of this. Because the behaviours around money and the patterns that preceded them are now disconnected from what serves you. They really don’t work anymore.

When something is dysfunctional a sane person stops that behaviour. I don’t know how you are going to stop it if you don’t slow the bus down. And many of us are strongly committed to our patterns. And this includes busyness. Being perpetually busy can itself be a coping mechanism for dealing with our fear about what meaning lies beneath our daily life. Unfortunately, our coping mechanism can now cause us more pain than the revelation of the issue or screwed-up-ness that caused it.

The first, most important step out of a cash flow problem is to slow down. The next is to reflect on what it is like to be you. I think writing some of this stuff down is helpful. At some point, it becomes essential that we be quiet enough for long enough to let our inner wisdom emerge. This can be done through meditation, silence, chanting, walking, breathing exercises or a form of prayer. Let your wisdom emerge. If you can create the space for reflection, you are creating space for change. If we can slow down enough to watch and listen to ourselves we become empowered decision makers.

It is impossible to be mindful and over-spend at the same time.

The challenge and the promise: If you can set aside 20 minutes once a day for even just one week to be in your own version of contemplation, your cash flow pattern will change. And as soon as the pattern is disrupted, opportunities will emerge that will not just change your money situation but your whole life.