Getting paid for "Spiritual" Work

Getting paid for Spiritual work
Getting paid for Spiritual work

Is this familiar?

"It's this being paid for work you feel called to. I call it the "Bodhisattva Belief", though you can substitute any tradition - Mother Teresa, monks, etc. A deeply held sense that you are here to serve, and therefore - this depends - do not need/deserve/cannot allow yourself to be paid."

This is not at all unusual.

This is a fairly common legacy belief among healers, coaches, and other holistic practitioners that can wreak havoc, effectively shutting down financial success. I know this intimately.

When I left corporate accounting to become a yoga teacher, I ran smack into this -- at the time I couldn't articulate it, but I watched myself apologize for charging.  I shrank from asking for money. I stumbled over my intentions and found myself giving things away for free.

Then, I became resentful. I resisted even showing up. Eventually, I threw up my hands and walked away.

My husband called yoga my expensive hobby.

Which infuriated me, but he was right.

When I began coaching, this very heated internal argument was the first thing I brought to my first coach. "How can I possibly ask for money to do this work that feels so sacred to me? That is SO much fun and feeds me??"

I was bound and determined that coaching was NOT going to be an expensive hobby, but a financially successful business. That first coaching session where I brought my money issues to the table was prophetic. I have spent a great deal of time and energy unwinding and articulating the beliefs and patterns that created such dissonance for me in my work and in my bank account.

Back in the day (and still in many places), monks and nuns were in agreement with their larger communities. Though they weren't necessarily paid directly for their work, they DID receive sustenance in exchange for their teachings and ministrations. They were cared for and did not want for any of their basic necessities.

I'm guessing you haven't taken vows.

I'm guessing you live in a house, with rent or a mortgage payment. You may have children in school that require clothing. Hell, you require clothing. You feed yourself and pay your bills. You give charitably and you likely drive a car. In other words, you live in a world where you have financial obligations that you want to meet through the income you generate.

Enter a tangle of weird vibes around charging.

So let's just say you don't charge enough (or you keep giving away your work for free) for this work that you feel called to. Then what? What happens as a result of that?

If you have someone who supports you, perhaps it doesn't really matter. But if you DO want to generate income and be financially independent through the vehicle of your work, there are a number of things that can result from this undercharging/apologizing/giving it away thing.

Resentment. I was in a near constant state of resentment when I wasn't charging appropriately. I was so PISSED at the people who I was working with, wondering why THEY weren't valuing my work.

Fact: an undercurrent of resentment is really not at all conducive to your people getting the most out of what you are doing together.

Anxiety and feeling unsafe. Oh yes, bills.  Feeling resentful while teaching, and then anxious about paying my bills when I wasn't teaching, I felt like I couldn't create solid ground for myself.

Fact: It is impossible to do your best work when you are in a constant state of fight or flight and wondering how you are going to feed yourself or pay your bills.

Burnout. Eventually I walked away. I was SO sick of feeling resentful and anxious and I knew that I wasn't actually engaged in my work in a way that was helpful anymore. I felt like my work was a one way street and I wasn't receiving what I needed - financially or otherwise.

Fact: If you burn out, then you aren't doing your work to do. And that sucks for everyone.

So who are you to NOT to charge for what you do?

Let's go back to the beginning.

If you have, "a deeply held sense that you are here to serve, and do not need/deserve/cannot allow yourself to be paid." I would invite you to compassionately call bullshit on this massively unhelpful legacy belief.

The better statement, the one that rings with deep truth for most of my clients is, "if you have a deeply held sense that you are here to serve, you absolutely must allow yourself to receive payment. You simply must honor the exchange of your energy and your gifts for income."

No matter how spiritual your work is, if you have chosen to go into business, you are in it to generate income. Yes, you are also in it to change lives, but you will change no one's life if you have to stop doing what you are called to do because you can't pay your bills.

Change lives and charge money.

This is the challenge and the invitation. May you follow your calling, charge appropriately, and change many, many lives.


Nona Jordan

I'm Nona Jordan: master certified coach, energy worker and former CPA. I support coaches, healing practitioners, and creative entrepreneurs who are ready to discover the wealth within themselves. I match your fierce commitment with loving support and visionary inspiration to help you chart a course for financial and business success through clear vision, inspired action and play (yes, play). When you embody the power of your true nature you lay claim to a way of living that is incredibly meaningful and aligned with the truth of who you are and the life you are here to live.