Have you ever heard the term Money Koan?

written by Bari Tessler April 9, 2024

Dear Friend,

Have you heard the term Money Koan?

It’s a phrase I’ve used for a while in the community of my year-long Art of Money program. When I see someone in a hard spot around money, I tell them I see their struggles as being their current money koan.

It could be that they’re struggling with a money belief or trying to understand a part of their money relationship that they haven’t been able to work out or maybe they haven’t found a solution to some big problem they’re facing around money.

Any big question they’re holding in their mind around money, trying to crack the nut of it, is a money koan.

If you’re not familiar with the word “koan,” it comes from the Zen Buddhist tradition. In Zen, it’s defined as “a paradox to be meditated upon that is used to train Zen Buddhist practitioners to abandon ultimate dependence on reason and to force them into gaining sudden intuitive enlightenment.”

I’m no Zen Buddhist, but wow, are some of the money challenges we all face paradoxical. Right?

Now, I’m not using “koan” in the traditional Buddhist sense, but I find that it’s a powerful, useful metaphor to use when doing money work. In a sense, when you sit with a money koan long enough (and solve it!), you definitely experience a sudden moment of intuitive, financial enlightenment. And who wouldn’t mind a little more of that?

I think we all have money koans to work on and solve at different points in our life. Money conundrums. Money riddles. Money mysteries that we have yet to solve.

I see them as tension places in our relationship to money. Places that we need to understand, turn inside out, unravel, and find a key to unlock the treasure.

Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

That’s exactly the kind of focus I’m referring to with money koans: sitting with the problem or the mystery long enough that you solve it.

Ultimately, I believe we can always find new solutions, new possibilities, and new ways to do things around money, even when stress is high or things seem impossible in the moment.

In my own life, I certainly have my stuck moments and crying moments and moments where I just can’t find the key to unlock a money koan…until I suddenly do.

When the answer comes, it’s magic, and I’m incredibly grateful that I have finally broken through and found an answer. Suddenly, I’m seeing a whole new way to do something that solves my money koan.

Hard work, intention, and magic all come together in one moment, and the koan is solved.

I believe that you can find new solutions you’ve not thought of before. I believe that you can find your way through the biggest money challenges you’ll face. I believe that magic is possible.

Why? Because in my life, even my most stubborn money koans eventually open up and reveal an answer I couldn’t see at the start. I’ve seen it time and again in my own financial challenges, and in those of the hundreds of people that go through The Art of Money each year.

So, today, I want to share one of my favorite podcast recordings with you (it was originally recorded in 2017 but it’s still so relevant!)

You’ll hear:

  • 3 real-life money koans I faced, myself (and how I solved them)
  • Why money koans are a wonderful sign — knowing this helps dissolve some discomfort
  • 4 ways to work with a money koan

Listen Here:

I’m so happy to share this with you today. If you’re in the thick of a money koan right now, I hope this shines a light at the end of the tunnel … or at the very least makes you more comfortable in the darkness of not-knowing.

Stay present to your money koans. Stay loving. Stay open. You’ve got this — I know it.

With my dearest wishes,

P.S. Ready to go deeper with your relationship to money? Get the practical tools, holistic framework and accountability you need to guide you with the Art of Money year-long program. We’re on a rolling enrollment, so when you sign up, you get instant access to the first of 12 monthly modules plus the live community support. Our community is loving the weekly co-working group and the monthly group office hours. And, YES, you can bring a friend, too (and get a discount). Ready to begin, head on over to start the Art of Money today!

You might also like: