Contributor Jen Patterson is back this month to welcome the Pisces new moon (which also happens to coincide with her grandmother's birthday), and to share a message that is rooted in using our feminine energy to navigate our relationship to money.
One of my clients recently said with an ugh, “Why do I feel like I’m still working on my relationship with money?”
There is a long, deep story behind this ugh. In our modern world, the connection between wealth and feminine energy has been mostly forgotten. We now focus almost exclusively on masculine energy as a way to connect to source. Think of any big corporate meeting you’ve ever been to and the traits exhibited there, by both men and women. On full display is a domineering masculine energy: reverence for hierarchy, a quest for visibility and credit, a singular focus on objective, a narrative about the hours logged, a sense that we must “power through.” Feeling, inspiration, spaciousness…even stepping outside for fresh air, all feminine qualities, have been ignored. These are corporate culture’s teachings about how we need to act to make money.
This is why we still have that ugh about money. Because many of us feel there is something we must betray in ourselves, our feminine energy, in order to attract financial success.
But once upon a time, before there was money, women “owned” the land. In pre-Christian times, we were the land, the living expression of Gaia, the Earth Mother Goddess. This is why in fairy tales the itinerant Prince seeks the Princess at the castle – it is a hangover from pagan belief systems. (Maybe this is why little girls love princess stories – it’s not actually the dresses; it is a connection to a truth – our own financial assuredness - that we once knew about ourselves.) Even the word money comes from the feminine, the surname of the Roman goddess Juno, whose temple on Capitoline Hill was near the mint. Indigenous people continue live according to this belief system, receiving the gifts of the land they are part of.
From the masculine principle, we “make” money. It is effort. It is hustle. It is doing.
From the feminine principle, we “are” money. It is being. It is receiving.
After 20+ years in advertising I couldn’t go to those big corporate meetings any longer. My dad, a corporate soldier his entire career, read me the riot act. “You don’t leave a good corporate job,” he told me exasperatedly. I told him I was nervous too. I was awaiting an adoption, I had a mortgage to pay. But I was more nervous of working myself towards a soul death.
Within months of quitting my job I got a call that a birth mom had at long last chosen me to parent her baby. That first year, I spent relaxed time getting to know my son, working on writing and doing some coaching. I had plenty of cushion in my savings and was padded by a $40K tax refund thanks to the adoption. By year two, I was trying in earnest to grow my coaching business and doing some strategy freelance. The year started out positively, but then, after six months, the work dried up. By October that year, I had started to sweat. Each month, that funds transfer from my once buoyant savings became increasingly anxiety-ridden. I started to wonder if I needed to get a job again, but every posting I read filled me with dread. I had finally found something meaningful and fulfilling. I couldn’t go back into a parking garage again on a daily basis. So when my client had her ugh about money, I knew exactly what she was feeling.
How did I go from being a high corporate earner to teetering on broke?
I had moved out of the overbearing masculine energy (where I knew I was connected to wealth) and into feminine. What I hadn’t done is uproot my belief system, the product of from years (generations!) of miseducation, that feminine energy is not lucrative. And my bank account was the cracked mirror showing me back my own values.
Early in his tenure, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, made a major gaff at a women’s conference when he suggested women shouldn’t ask for a raise, they should just do their work and the company would reward them. This set the conference and social media on fire with comments about how money flows in the workplace (e.g. way less to women). When I read about it, I saw something additional: that women have the opportunity to free ourselves from the idea that it is because of our masculine qualities – the hard work we do, all the hours we put in, the authority we show – that we are due.
What if, instead of constantly fighting to take back the castle, we remembered we are the land?
Yes, it is important to ask for a raise. We live in a patriarchal culture that values women as less. And yet, we are not asking from our power source. When we ask from a place of empowered feminine energy, we ask from a worth of full self. Of our work and skills; but also of our own knowing, experience, energy, how we treat people and the planet. When we know these traits to be of value – monetary value - they are, the outer world will reflect our inner convictions.
What does this look like? One way it might show up is in the choices we make about how to be at work. One of my former team members, a young man, told me about a time when he knew his boss had a family emergency unfolding. My friend opened the meeting by asking, “I know you have a lot going on right now. Do you feel this is the best use of your time?” Giving empathy and visibility is allowing the feminine.
In a similar scenario, a female friend recounted a meeting gone wrong by the opposite approach. When the senior leader came into the meeting it was clear she was in a bad mood. My friend’s team stayed in the masculine and “powered through,” focused on the objective. The senior leader erupted in criticism and frustration. The meeting dissolved badly. The team was left shell shocked from the outburst.
Another friend, an executive at a big company, suffered from a lackluster review. She decided, “OK, I’m going to play the game,” and stepped into the overbearing masculine energy of the culture. Her next review was positive – about her work. But people didn’t enjoy working with her as much. She decided she didn’t want to be that person. At the time, she was taking a class in stand-up comedy. She made it her secret cause to bring levity to her meetings. Her next review positively reflected this, along with her work. She shifted into an empowered feminine, an expansive space where she could effortlessly go “above and beyond” without extra hours or undue effort and saw money reflected.
But it’s not just at work that we can reset our feminine connection to money. If you are spending time with your child, have a conscious moment where you say, “Money is finding me” or “I am wealthy.” Make the connection in your brain between childrearing, gardening, cooking, cleaning, reading, creating, napping (yes!) – any pursuit of the heart – and money. This is how I am working to be in the world. I am a single parent to a toddler. I don’t want to work twice as hard. I don’t want to politic, jockey for status, power through or any of the other things I felt I had to do (and was never very good at) in the corporate world. I am choosing not to see the world as a place where there is a trade off, that I have to be less fully myself, in order to be prosperous. Think of every moment you or a friend has mused on doing what they felt truly called to do – and then backed away because of money. Who would we be as people, as a culture, if we just embodied that money was our due, simply for being? Who would we be if we simply received?
There is no female equivalent for “emasculate.” We can read this two ways: one is that our patriarchal language structure didn’t deem women authoritative enough to merit such a concept. The other is that it is simply not possible for feminine energy to be cut off. It is after all an internal energy versus an external one. When we connect to source through the feminine, wealth and abundance, is not diminishable.
As I worked through my discomfort, my grandmother was dying. Kismet, my son had presaged this moment when he pulled out a forgotten box of Native dolls my grandmother had given me when I was a child. Two were Navajo dolls with braided black yarn hair and tiny turquoise and silver jewelry. Another was in full Alaskan Native regalia – fur parka and deer skin mukluks – that I’d seen on my grandmother in childhood photos. I recognized a message for me in this seemingly innocuous moment, one about my Native heritage and the connection to feminine energy: women wearing their wealth from the land.
In the end, my big shift in consciousness showed up as garbage. That is, an offer to take out the trash. Heading into Christmas, I bought a rack of prime rib, a $250 hunk of meat. In years past, flush with my payroll check, this expense was nothing. But at the time, coming off of my dry spell of work and hearing my bank account echo cavernously, the expense felt as heavy as the roast. My brother kindly offered to pay for part of it. I thanked him but declined, reasoning that my troubles were located in bigger dollar amounts.
“You should absolutely say yes to your brother,” my coach chastened me.
Her point was that the amount was immaterial. The objective was to receive.
A few nights later, cleaning up after dinner, my dad offered to take out the trash for me. It was like everything slowed down, and I could see this moment for what it was: A turning point in my own ability to receive. I accepted.
I knew when that garbage went out the door, my fortunes would change. But the first money of the year didn’t come from a project. When my grandmother died, my brother and I inherited her shares in Doyon, the company that manages the Alaskan territory – the land - of our family’s Native tribe, the Athabascan people. When I opened the transfer confirmation and small distribution from the tribe, I recognized it as a beautiful and symbolic gift underscoring my own journey to the prosperous feminine. I held the check and cried.