Money Mocha #1: Why most mainstream money methods just don’t work.
(And my 3-phase remedy.)

written by Bari Tessler October 16, 2018

For years now, I’ve watched people throw themselves into the same 3 mainstream approaches to money. And they almost never stick.

I first started noticing it when I was a graduate student at Naropa University. I was studying somatic psychotherapy and authentic movement and was surrounded by dancers and tons of creative, spiritual types. And there was SO much suffering around money. Mostly because people simply never looked money in the eye.

I saw this suffering around money even more clearly a few years later, when I hung my shingle as a bookkeeper out in California. My clients were therapists, coaches, and artists — and they had so much suffering and shame, around money.

I was just beginning my own journey with money at the time, and certainly shared much of their suffering. But I was committed to figuring out why smart, compassionate people like us kept getting stuck with money … and how I could help us all experience more peace and empowerment in this crucial area of life.

Money is a practical, emotional, and ever-changing endeavor. That’s why we need an integrated, multi-faceted framework if we want to mature our relationship with it.

Sit back and relax as I tell you the tale of how I created the 3-phase Art of Money methodology … and how this multi-pronged view of money can help get you unstuck … and create real, lasting transformation.

You’ll hear:

  • Why the “just do it!” approach to money never sticks for long (it’s not a lack of willpower)
  • The ingredient missing from Law of Attraction and other spiritual and emotional money work (they can be helpful as long as you add this)
  • The strange-but-true “origin story” of my Art of Money methodology (including a prayer, an apple orchard, and flip charts galore)
  • An overview of my 3 phase methodology and how it solves the problem of fractured money approaches.



Why most mainstream money methods just don’t work. (And my 3-phase remedy.)

On a sunny August afternoon in 2001, I found myself stuck in an apple orchard outside of Sebastopol, California, running late to my first-ever meeting as a freelance bookkeeper. I had almost arrived at my new client’s house when I encountered a gleaming white pickup truck blocking my path, parked cattywampus across the backwoods gravel road.

This is the last thing I need today, I thought as I sat fuming in my beat-up old Subaru. I stepped out of my car, smoothing my maroon velvet skirt with sweaty palms, and cleared my throat to have words with Mr. White Truck. The man who emerged from behind the truck had a full silver mustache, a halo of grey hair, and, as he saw me, a huge smile.

“Bari? What are you doing out in California?”

Mr. White Truck turned out to be Warren, an old friend and acupuncturist I’d known years before, when I lived in Colorado. That day in Sebastopol, he would change my work-life journey forever.

When I told Warren that I was on my way to my first client meeting as a freelance bookkeeper, he laughed, thinking I was joking. I was used to that reaction. Most of my friends, family, and community thought I was taking a seriously bizarre detour into all of this bookkeeping and “money stuff.” I had just earned my graduate degree in somatic psychology, spent all my free time dancing, and considered myself too creative to talk to friends or family about money. It wasn’t that I had a bad relationship with money, back then. I had no relationship with it. I pooh-poohed the whole “money thing” as far too boring. Bank statements would arrive in the mail . . . and I’d toss them directly into the trash. If I thought about them at all, it would be to wonder, What do people DO with these? before closing the trash lid.

For most of my life, I harbored the belief that, since I wasn’t good at math, I couldn’t possibly be smart about money. Like so many people, I was never taught how to manage money, let alone my emotions around it. Though my family rarely talked about money, it loomed like an otherworldly elephant in the room during most fights, sticky conversations, and big decisions. No wonder, as an adult, I didn’t want to think about it, much less talk about it.

My path to becoming a bookkeeper was a bit peculiar. I was work- ing long hours and frequent overnight shifts in the mental health and hospice fields when the mental health clinic I worked at asked if I would like to spend five hours a week taking care of their bookkeep- ing. I leapt at the opportunity, thinking it might provide a little respite from the graveyard hours and emotionally challenging work I had been doing.

A dear friend taught me Quicken and QuickBooks (the gold standard for accounting software), and, to my shock and delight, I under- stood it. It was as if the clouds parted, the angels sang hallelujah, and I realized that the half of my brain associated with math and money and other strange, esoteric arts actually worked! Not only that, I loved it.

Soon, I took on a second job as a bookkeeper at a local bakery. I began tracking and reconciling my own personal expenses for the first time in my life. I devoured every financial and accounting book I could get my hands on, wondering: Who am I turning into? By the time I moved out to California, I was hanging dinky blue flyers at local yoga studios and grocery stores, promoting myself as a bookkeeper for healers and other artsy folk.

When I shared what I was up to with Warren, he insisted I meet his friend Tamara Slayton, who lived close by. Tamara had spent most of her life teaching women’s work and rites of passage, but had recently become fascinated with money. “She sees money as something that goes way deeper than numbers and cents,” he told me. “I think you two would have a lot to talk about.”

Hearing Tamara’s name was the second serendipitous twist that day. Six years earlier, a thesis advisor had given me one of Tamara’s newsletters, a gorgeous and artistic pamphlet called Cycles. It had such a profound effect on me that I’d kept it all those years and even brought it with me on my big move from Colorado to California. Clearly, that truck was in my path for a reason: Tamara was about to become my first money mentor.

A few days later, Tamara and I finally met. She was a fiery red- head, artist, teacher, philosopher, and mama of five. I told her about my longing to merge healing, creative bodywork with my new fascination with money—including all of the external tools and practices of bookkeeping.

She got it.

Over the next two years, Tamara and I worked closely together. We visioned. We philosophized about money and life and wisdom. We went on walks through apple orchards. We talked about economics, rites of passage, and money as a rite of passage. We talked about book- keeping and numbers, creativity and purpose, financial institutions and right livelihood.

Gradually, over those two years, Tamara helped me bridge my two worlds. She urged me to integrate my bookkeeping work with my deep healing work, years before the term “financial therapy” broke into the mainstream. That day I encountered Warren on that gravel road, he literally stopped me in my tracks. Bookkeeping and all this “money stuff,” I soon learned, weren’t a temporary detour from my therapeutic career; my life’s work would be integrating these two worlds, helping people create mindfulness, joy, and peace through their money relation- ship. Tamara’s vision sparked my initiation into my money work: within my own relationship with money and, simultaneously, as a mentor for others through theirs.

I applied the same subjective rigor to my money work as I had in my psychotherapy training before: I knew that I would need to become my own, vulnerable-as-heck case study, and shine lights into the deepest, darkest crevices of my relationship with money if I wanted to guide others through their own tender places healing journeys. So I began applying all of the body-based mindfulness and therapeutic practices I’d learned in my psychotherapy training to my Money Story.

I examined my early money memories, my relationship with my parents, grandparents, and money, and how I had hooked money to power and safety. I recalled the shame I felt when I couldn’t afford to bring anything to a friend’s potluck, the abject terror I felt when my first student loan bill arrived, and how painful it was to have no idea how I could create a comfortable, sustainable living and do deeply meaningful and creative work. I taught myself all those things we really should be taught about money from grade school on up. I learned the language of money. I educated myself about bookkeeping and account- ing, tracking systems and budgeting. I zoomed out to the grandest possible view of money and life: how money can either make us miserable or help support the realization of our deepest dreams.

I named my business “Conscious Bookkeeping” and began teach- ing six-week classes to small groups. I assembled a team of financial coaches and bookkeeping trainers under the Conscious Bookkeeping umbrella, and referred clients to outside accountants and financial planners.

Since those early days, I’ve transformed my business model a number of times. I expanded into a whole team of bookkeeping trainers and financial coaches. I pared down to a one-woman-show when I had my son in 2008. I moved my business online and slowly grew into a passion-driven team leading an international conscious money movement.

It’s hard for me to believe, but it was over 16 years ago that I led my first money workshop. I didn’t feel ready, in the slightest — I had only been consciously working on my own money relationship for several years. But my first money mentor, Tamara, lovingly pushed me out of the nest. “Bari,” she announced, “it’s time for you to lead your first workshop. I’ll host it. Get ready.”

I panicked. While I could feel, deep in my bones, that this money work was what I was here to do, I had no idea how to structure and articulate the insights I was just beginning to understand, myself.

I thought about my community: wise, creative, generous people, all of them. I was surrounded by therapists, artists and creative entrepreneurs, dancers, mamas and students. And most of them were berating themselves for not “being grown up” yet, with money. (Sound familiar?)

Some of them had never tried to work on their “money stuff,” and opted to shove it as far under the rug as humanly possible. But most of them had tried one or two approaches to money work over the years, only to “fall off the wagon” or hit a wall of resistance — and then beat themselves up about it, even harder.

The approaches my community members tried back then are the same ones I see people trying, today. Even though they’re well-intentioned and contain some smart elements, each of them misses at least one crucial piece of the money puzzle — so they ultimately fail. Do you recognize yourself in any of these approaches?

Fractured Approach #1: Nuts ‘n bolts ‘n nothing else
You read a no-nonsense article or book, which treats money as just the facts, Jack. It instructs you to check your credit score, hire an accountant, open an IRA, make a budget, pay down your debt, and on and on.

There’s probably a “tough love” or “just do it!” edge, and it might even subtly shame you for not having already done all these things.

You start working your way through the gargantuan checklist of financial tasks, driven by shame and urgency (and, yes, maybe a little hope). You force yourself to check your credit report (like ripping off a Band-Aid, you tell yourself), make a budget, and start calling your credit card companies to lower your rates.

But before you know it, you start shutting down. Maybe you find yourself crying, and you don’t even know why. Maybe you get so overwhelmed, you have to physically leave. Or maybe you start swirling deeper and deeper in a shame spiral, upset with yourself for being so far “behind” with your money stuff, and not being able to just get this done, already.

This is what happens when we focus on the external practices in our financial life and while neglecting the inner, emotional work.

Fractured Approach #2: Heart in the clouds
In a flash of insight, you realize something about your emotional patterns with money. Maybe you realize you’ve been playing out the same, overworked martyr pattern you inherited from your mother, or realize you’re still smarting from the scarcity you experienced in childhood, despite a comfortable cashflow.

Or maybe all of your “money work” is spiritual, in nature: you’re working on the Law of Attraction, reciting abundance mantras, and trying to think your way into wealth.

But you might soon notice: nothing has really changed. You don’t have a vehicle to express and embody these insights and aspirations. Not only do you fail to get much traction, you might even fall right back into old habits and emotions.

This is what happens when we only do the introspective, inner work around money and neglect the ongoing, nitty-gritty, practical component of our money life. We all need frameworks, systems, and rubber-meets-the-road practices to translate our insights into reality.

Fractured Approach #3: Pretending life is a never-changing plateau
Just when you think you’ve got your “money stuff” handled, a Big Life Transition sweeps through: career change, a divorce, the birth of a baby, or a health crisis. Suddenly, you’re back to square one in your money relationship.

Budgets fly out the window, old ways of earning, spending, and saving become obsolete, and you scramble to find utterly new footing in your relationship to money.

Money isn’t something you figure out, once and for all, and then comfortably coast for the rest of your life: it evolves, deepens, and changes over time, right along with you and your shifting life.

Money is a practical, emotional, and ever-changing endeavor. That’s why we need an integrated, multi-faceted framework if we want to mature our relationship with it.
16 years ago, with my first workshop looming, my head was spinning with all of these different money approaches: wondering why they weren’t working, wondering how to articulate what I felt was missing, but couldn’t quite put words to, yet.

So I did what I always do with huge, seemingly unsolvable questions: I took them to the woods. I went on a hike in the apple orchard behind my home, determined not to return without some answers.

I walked. I prayed. I implored the trees and the sky for answers. “Everyone in my life is in so much pain and confusion around money,” I said silently, “how can I help them? What am I supposed to bring back to them? Please give me a framework, some concepts, something to ease their suffering.”

I walked and breathed and listened some more. After many hours I returned to our ridiculously tiny log cabin with … something.

With the help of my then boyfriend (now husband), Forest, I mapped everything out. Flip chart paper everywhere. Colored markers. Four hundred square feet of wild excitement. Somehow, an elegant solution appeared seemingly out of nowhere. I believe there was an audible zap. We had mapped out a complete, three-phase methodology:

Phase One: Money Healing
Phase Two: Money Practices
Phase Three: Money Maps

Since that day in that tiny log cabin, these three phases have deepened, changed names, and evolved—but the core of what they represent has remained the backbone of my methodology.

These are the three different kinds of work we must engage with to create healthy, sustainable changes in our money relationships. Because most other approaches to money only incorporate one (or maybe two) of these phases, it’s no wonder they don’t stick. Here are the three phases in a bit more detail:

Phase One: Money Healing

This is the emotional work of creating an honest, mature relationship with money. Here, we dissolve shame. We get clear on the “Money Story” we’ve accumulated over the course of a lifetime (and all the patterns we’ve inherited from our family of origin, lineage, and culture). We identify and unwind patterns that no longer serve us. We claim our value. We learn mind and body-based practices to support our journey, and ensure we are working with self-care, acceptance, and love along the way.

Phase Two: Money Practices

This is the practical, nuts ’n bolts, number crunching, systems and habits of an ongoing and clear-eyed relationship with money. Here, we gather data. We learn the language of money. We set up daily/weekly/monthly/yearly practices to engage with our numbers. And we do it all in ways that are personally meaningful, aligned with our deepest values, and feel creative, playful, and life-affirming. (Bye bye, dry dusty budgeting. Hello, values-based bookkeeping!)

Phase Three: Money Maps

This is the Big Picture of your goals, dreams, and plans, how they’re unfolding, and how money can fuel them. Here, we learn to make great money decisions, based not only on the numbers but also on your values, phase of life, and more. We look at where you’ve been in your life, what’s on the horizon, and how this moment fits into the grand scheme of your money relationship—and your precious human journey.

Putting it all together
The Money Healing phase gives us the emotional support and foundational tools to dissolve the resistance, shame, or other emotional patterns we all have around money. The Money Practices phase translates these deep insights into real-world actions, breathing them to life. Finally, the big picture visioning of the Money Maps phase situates all of this within the unfolding narrative of our unique lives—and infuses it with personal meaning.

In my year-long Art of Money program and in my book, I recommend going through each of the Three Phases in order: Money Healing, then Money Practices, and finally Money Maps. Each phase provides foundational tools and practices that lead into the next phase.

However, you certainly don’t need to completely finish one phase before moving onto the next — and in fact, that’s not even possible! That’s because, ultimately, all three phases are always happening in your life; they’re fluid, interwoven, and evolve right along with you.

Now that you know a bit about the Three Phases, I hope you can see a little more clearly what’s “up” for you and needing loving attention, in your money life, now and in the future. Sometimes, simply naming what’s happening in the moment can provide relief and actionable clarity: is this moment in your life calling for a ton of Money Healing, for example? Or is it perhaps time to widen your lens and engage with longer-term Money Maps?

However you choose to engage with these Three Phases, please go easy on yourself. This isn’t a quick fix framework, but a large set of tools and practice to learn, integrate, and fine-tune for years to come. (Really, we should all be learning practices from these three phases in small increments, from grade school on up!)

Remember: this money journey is yours to enjoy. Make it as luxurious or playful or creative or lighthearted as you like. And think of the Three Phases as your constant and resourceful companions along your money journey — wherever it takes you.


Deep money work doesn’t have to be overwhelming (or lonely, my friend).

I know: facing your “money stuff” is intimidating enough. And here I am, telling you there are 3 whole phases you need to include, to make deep, lasting change.

But hang on! You don’t have to get more overwhelmed. In fact, my 3-phase methodology actually makes deep money work easier and gentler by letting you focus on one phase, one area, one little baby step, at a time.

Especially when you’ve got some loving support along the way. *Ahem, announcing….*

The Art of Money | Bari Tessler

What if you had a whole, luxurious year + oodles of support to devote to this 3-phase approach?

That’s what we do in my year-long money school, The Art of Money. And it’s open now for a short earlybird registration window!

—Explore The Art of Money {and snag your earlybird goodies!} —

The Art of Money is my fave teaching model, ever — and THE way to work with me in 2019.

I’ve poured my entire 3-phase methodology into a gentle, step-by-step curriculum. With monthly community calls with me, a team of TA’s, and a global community (holy shmoly, I LOVE my community). Um, plus my entire teaching library and Guest Teachers galore.

We kick off our seventh year of The Art of Money in January … but for a limited time, you can sign up now and start your journey right away.

More peace of mind and clarity and joy and sexy money dates and dark chocolate and dance breaks and potent transformation?

Oooh, tell me more!

P.S. What’s a Money Mocha? It’s a mini-jolt of financial clarity. A drop of money wisdom. A morsel of financial peace and joy.

And it’s a sneak peek of the kinds of teachings you’ll find in my year-long money school: The Art of Money, now open for early registration (for a very short time).

We kick off a fresh year in January, but if you sign up now during our earlybird shindig, you’ll get a boatload of e-prezzies from me, so you can start tasting the money joy right away.

Discover why people love The Art of Money.


You might also like: