For more than 40 years, 1440 Multiversity faculty member and Soul of Money founder Lynne Twist has been a recognized global visionary committed to alleviating poverty, ending world hunger and supporting social justice and environmental sustainability. From working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta to the refugee camps in Ethiopia and the threatened rainforests of the Amazon, as well as guiding the philanthropy of some of the world's wealthiest families, Lynne's on-the-ground work has brought her a deep understanding of people's relationship with money.
Lynne's breadth of knowledge and experience has led her to profound insights about the social tapestry of the world and the historical landscape of the times we are living in. In this interview with 1440, Lynne discusses the concept of giving money soul, and how when we let go of trying to get more of what we don't really need, it frees up energy to turn and pay attention to what we already have.
Lynne: I see money as a carrier or a current that flows through every life. It's very much like water. Water can carry disease and pollution and infection. Water can also purify, cleanse, make things grow, and carry medicine. Water is innocent. It's how we use it and what we ask it to carry that makes it either purify, cleanse, poison, or toxify.
It's really important on this planet to keep water moving. When water is held and hoarded, or stuck, it becomes stagnant and actually becomes poisonous. Same thing with money. When we hoard and hold on to money as if we've got to have it or it belongs to us, it starts to toxify. It starts to stagnate. It starts to make us the slave of it.
My understanding of money is that it needs to keep moving and that we can give money not only the capacity to move towards the highest good, but we can give it our wishes for the world, our intentionality, our clarity. And we can literally launder money for good. We can take money that is actually earned in ways that we're ashamed of and transform it by making it something that we use to make the world a better place.
I think about Alfred Nobel, who started the Nobel Prize. His great fortune came from gunpowder and dynamite. It came from uses that have become horribly destructive on this planet. Yet he knew that, ultimately, that fortune came to him so that he could create peace. The Peace Prize is an example of the transformation of money. I call it laundering money in the best possible way—cleansing it.
Money doesn't have soul. It is innocent, just like water. But we can imbue it with soul, with commitment, with vision, and send it into the world in a way that does good and makes a difference.
Lynne: I believe that we're all caught in an unconscious, unexamined system of beliefs that we don't even know we have. It's almost like you have on glasses that you've worn so long that you don't realize they're not part of your body. And when you take them off, you see things very differently.
We as a society, and this is particularly true for affluent societies, look through a lens of an unconscious, unexamined assumption that there's not enough to go around. It is a lens of scarcity that tells us we've got to get more of this or more of that and that someone, somewhere, is going to be left out.
And so, if you unconsciously believe that, then you accumulate more than you need to make sure that you and yours are not left out. And you consider that responsible. You don't want to be among those who are left out or have people you love or care about among those who are left out.
This lens creates an "us and them" mentality. It's a deficit way of thinking about life. When we think there's not enough, we start thinking we're not enough, and we start having a deficit relationship with ourselves, particularly in this consumer culture that believes very deeply in scarcity thinking.
That actually proliferates what I call the second toxic myth, which is that more is better: more of anything, more of everything, more square feet in your house, more market share, more this, more that, more Mondays, more Tuesdays, more hours in the day, more hours in the night, more weekends, more everything. This "more is better" mentality has us accumulating way more than we need and living a life that is cluttered with stuff—which leads us to the third toxic myth, which is "that's just the way it is."
These three toxic myths really govern our relationship with money and, in many ways, our relationship with life and with time. Together, they make up what I call the lie of scarcity—an unconscious, unexamined belief system that has us behaving in ways that are inconsistent with our humanity.
Lynne: I have a principle that I would love to share because I think it sort of says it all. It is called the principle of sufficiency. Sufficiency is distinct from abundance. Sufficiency is the exquisite experience of enough, the exquisite experience of being met by the universe with exactly what you need over and over and over again. And I assert that is already the case in every single person's life.
The principle of sufficiency is this: if you let go of trying to get more of what you don't really need, which is what our society and our material consumer culture kind of drives us to want more of, it frees up oceans of energy that are all tied up in that chase, that frantic chase, to turn and pay attention to what you already have. When you pay attention to what you already have, when you nourish it, when you're grateful for it, and when you share it, it expands.
Let me say that again.
When you let go of trying to get more of what you don't really need, it frees up oceans of energy to turn and pay attention to what you already have. When you pay attention to what you already have, when you nourish it, when you're grateful for it, and when you share it, it expands. A shorter way of saying that is: what you appreciate appreciates.