One essential evolutionary step in Americans’ money consciousness will be to stop checking out, falling asleep, tuning out and turning off when it comes to everything from financial, retirement and estate planning; to monitoring and managing our income and — especially — our expenses.

Step one of this awakening is to rethink or totally eliminate some of the latent money beliefs we have that cause us to check all the way out.

In previous columns we’ve discussed how many of these beliefs, like "My kids are spending me into the poorhouse," or "My creditors are hateful vultures" simply fall apart under scrutiny, using a series of questions and belief "turnarounds" that are detailed by self-help author Byron Katie.

What still remains, though, is to understand what it would be — what it would look like, if you will, to take a conscious approach to our personal finances. Fortunately, someone has already done this.

Financial therapist Bari Tessler-Linden has created an entire method of approaching money with consciousness, clarity and intention that she calls, well, "Conscious Bookkeeping." Don’t let the word "Bookkeeping" fool you — Tessler-Linden offers guidance on how to live in a way that is awake when it comes to money, not just how to enter numbers in the right credit or debit column.

Foundational to Tessler-Linden’s philosophy are three "gateways" to living consciously with respect to money — these are three experiences that initiate those who have been living in murky money waters to a life of clear, intentional financial management.

The first of these is financial therapy, which she describes as "exploring your relationship to money on a practical, emotional, psychological and spiritual level" — while this can (and sometimes should) be done with a therapist, it’s not necessary to spend a Freudian decade on the couch reconstructing every cent your parents spent.

Rather, Tessler-Linden focuses on key money memories and influences that may be contributing to financial dysfunction or simply coloring how we relate to money now.

Next comes "bookkeeping training," proactively obtaining the education and developing the habits of a sound money-planning and tracking practice — with emphasis on the practice.

The third gateway, "life visioning," is compiling a clear vision of how you want your life to look, then using that information to generate and "live into" what she calls a "values-based Map of Intention (aka budget)." What your bookkeeping software might label "housing," your map of intention might call "sanctuary."

One of the most common complaints about bookkeeping and money management is that it is so dry and boring. When you use your own life, your own vision and your own dreams to populate the fields of your financial books, they suddenly become much more juicy and even — dare I say — fun to cultivate and work on, on an ongoing basis.

Tessler-Linden takes her study of money "consciousness" beyond these three gateways, articulating 11 core elements of a conscious approach to money. These offer, collectively, a cure to the money consciousness dilemma so many of us face.

You can explore all 11 on your own for free, here, but the elements that most of us seem to need to spend the most time with include:

  • Looking back and completing incompletes: Tessler-Linden says that taking an honest look at our money histories, without guilting ourselves, and forgiving or completing open money wounds, including debt, is essential to our money awakening.
  • Getting current: This is where practitioners "gather the data to see, truly, what their current assets and your current liabilities are at this time," according to Tessler-Linden.
  • "Also," she explains, this step is about "gathering the data to see where your current bottom line, basic needs and monthly numbers are so you know your current reality."
  • Values: In Conscious Bookkeeping, the way we manage our money is "potentially a political and spiritual practice," consistent with the post-bubble trend of voting with your dollars.
  • This is where Tessler-Linden advises us to "actually name your income and expense categories based on what is of true meaning to you so that you can begin integrating your money and the rest of your life."
  • Intention: Tessler-Linden encourages us to use our bookkeeping as a medium for declaring whole-life goals and intentions, not just dollar-amount savings and earning goals.
  • Practice and stay in the body: the practice piece is a reminder that maintaining a conscious approach to money is an ongoing, every day/week/month exercise, and by "staying in the body" Tessler-Linden teaches readers about how to detect physical signs of checking out or resisting your efforts to stay conscious. For the physical pain many feel when they tackle bookkeeping, tough money conversations and the like, Tessler-Linden prescribes chocolate — the darker and the "organic-er," the better.

And that simply reinforces her overall message: that living with true consciousness in the many places where your money touches your life is not only possible, it’s the best way to live.

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