An interview with Tim Malnick on Money Work


In this interview, you’ll learn about Tim Malnick's work, specifically with the viewpoint of 'Money Work'.Tim Malnick is director of Different Space, a consultancy supporting the personal and organisational transformations needed to respond to 21st-century challenges. He is also a faculty member of Ashridge Business School, a Buddhist meditation teacher, and author.

Tim and I first met during a great money workshop he led in London. It was my first experience of ‘reclamation work’, based on the groundbreaking work of Peter Koenig.

The description of the workshop read: 'Explore the deep and usually unconscious dynamics that shape individual and collective (e.g. organisational) relationships to money. This work helps us to see the unconscious projections we make on to money ((The idea of projection is that we unconsciously come to believe that Money represents qualities which in fact are simply aspects of ourselves that we do not consciously recognise. Thus if I see money as ‘the root of all evil’ or as ‘power and status’ then paradoxical or strange as it at first appears, I need to recognise that the qualities of ‘power’ ‘evil’ or ‘status’ do not reside in a piece of paper in my wallet! Rather they are aspects of my full humanity. The more I connect with this the more I can handle these aspects of myself, and money itself, with skill, creativity and freedom rather than a sense of constraint.)) and thus radically and powerfully enables people to make the steps they need in careers or professional decisions.' With those two sentences and a quick glance at Tim's website, I rushed to book the workshop. I am very glad I did!

Tim is a busy man. I managed to pin him down for an interview via e-mail. Here it is!

What got you into money work?

A friend Charlie O’ Malley recommended it. I don’t recall precisely what he said, but he was so impressed by the process and by Peter - so it was his sense of interest rather than any particular money concerns I had that led me to it. Indeed in the first money work workshop I attended, my experience wasn’t that deep - yet I could see that others were having transformational experiences and was fascinated. At subsequent workshops, and in the trainer training, I did go deeper.

What are the repetitive patterns of thinking that you see in your money work with individuals that you would most like to see transformed?

The thing I love about money work is that it is both uniquely individual and completely universal. In other words, everyone seems to have their unique constellation of concepts and emotions that tie them in knots. That is individual, although certainly, one does tend to see patterns. At the same time the process of projection - how we project disconnected or disowned aspects of our psyches onto money - seems to be universal. Exactly what we project is individual, but the process is universal.

Beyond that, perhaps at an intermediate level are the three significant gestures with money.  These consist of pushing away (if our projections onto money are negative), grasping and pulling towards (if our projections onto money are positive) or doing both in a somewhat confused way (if we have both positive and negative projections onto money). As a Buddhist for over 20 years, I can see those three gestures as examples of the basic patterns of greed, hate, and confusion which are traditionally said to be the three thought patterns that take us away from experiencing reality. So I guess the repetitive patterns for me are at that level - unconscious projection which leads to or reinforces tendencies toward, grasping, aversion or confusion.

What is your vision behind doing this work? You have stated you would like to get more involved in running workshops. Why is this important to you?

That’s an excellent question. What I like about this work is it is both deeply personal - some would say spiritual or at least profoundly transformational, and it is also very systemic in that it quickly leads us to consider wider social, economic, organisational systems of which we are a part. That connection appeals to me personally - the relationship between what we might call the micro and the macro, or the intra-personal and the systemic seem important.

I couldn’t honestly say I have a vision behind this work. I think Peter does, and I certainly sign up to that. His view is that without change of consciousness around money we cannot hope to transform the obviously dysfunctional monetary systems we now have. I think that is probably true, and I do have a longstanding interest in new economics. I certainly notice that many activists working for political and economic change seem to lack deeper self-awareness, lack awareness of how they are fighting - to some degree at least - their projections and shadows. I think change work and activism is all the more powerful as one becomes a whole person.

But regarding my personal vision, I think what has always inspired me most deeply is personal transformation. There is something one comes to see in this work about how we all trap ourselves, how we all limit our sense of and experience of freedom. That is inherently tragic and also very human. I love the way that this work can quickly and powerfully free people up. You see it in their faces and bodies when it starts to happen. The wider social and economic change comes from that energetic, embodied freeing up - and I guess it is that intensely personal, unique moment of shift and discovery that is the primary driver for me. (And as I write I hear Peter’s voice and see his smile as he encourage us always to reclaim the opposite - so in my search for freedom and to offer freedom to others, to reclaim ‘I am trapped or in prison’.

What is your relationship with money and how conscious would you say it is now. How unconscious do you think you were…in other words, could you offer us a comparison in terms of some daily habits of spending or earning to see the shift possible?

I find this question hard to answer. Since beginning the money work I have bought a house, married, had children. So very many things in my context with money have changed, and I am a lot older, so it is not easy to say.

I would say that I notice some ingrained habits still very much at play. I am certainly more conscious of my tendencies now, but they are still there. So I guess that consciousness has changed, awareness has changed - but patterns remain. I am more forgiving of my tendencies now, and also certainly much more able and willing to see them as choices or constructs rather than reality. In other words, I can see the truth that we all have our funny ways of playing out our money story - and my way is just one story.

In general terms - I do feel I still have a long way to go in being consciously free of the projections around responsibility that seem to come with parenthood. But again I can see that happening. In some ways I exist currently in a state of tension - I hope a creative tension, between what Peter calls the 'Normal' and 'Natural' ((Peter Koenig’s Money work invites us to consider the differences between ‘Normal’ and ‘Natural’ approaches to life and money. The Normal approach (not particularly healthy, but normal) is based on what some psychotherapists term a ‘survival strategy’. We are driven to secure money/livelihood as a way to survive, feel safe or earn a living – but this may not be connected to what truly brings us alive, to our passion or vocation. The Natural cycle is to follow the path of life’s calling and passion and to develop greater trust that one will be supported to continue to do this, with and without money.)) cycles. I can see how and when I operate from each. And step-by-step as consciousness develops it seems easier and more natural to live from the latter.

An example is how I have changed the way I contract with my consulting clients now. The whole process is very much more fluid, collaborative and relational.

What are your favourite books on money?

I like the Big Short by Michael Lewis. Very readable and human account of the origins of the 2008 crash in the US - made into an excellent film.

More post conventionally I like Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics, which is a great mix of economic analysis and a new consciousness.

If someone did want to have a better relationship with money, where would you suggest they start?

Come on a workshop!

Seriously there still seems to be a lot of stuff out there about changing your relationship to money and get more - there still appears to be subtle, or not so subtle, grabbing projection. So I think many of those books don’t go nearly as deep as Peter’s work. On the other hand, as Peter often points out, many people have done lots of other personal development, and the Money Work still uncovers unconscious material - it seems to be because Money is such a universal, early, and pervasive thing it becomes a recipient for very early projections. So that is why I love the Money work.

What are the shifts possible when people transform this? Could you share a couple of stories to inspire others?

One of my slight frustrations with the work is that because it takes place over a two day period, I don’t tend to stay in close contact in the months and years afterwards. I do get feedback from people saying it is still having a significant effect a year or later - which is good to hear.

I think when we get very deep, money is the channel to recover the projection, but not the issue.

For example, on one workshop there was a woman in her 30s who had no obvious money issues. Her life was good; she had enough, she was in a good relationship and a good job. As we talked, we sensed that somehow things were good and that she wasn’t able to fully enjoy this because she felt she didn’t deserve such good luck!

That went very deep, it led to a deep connection with her, first acknowledging her lack of self-worth, her experience of and belief in her worthlessness, and then, which I experienced as particularly beautiful and touching, her reclamation of her intrinsic value, preciousness, and perfection. My experience with her when she did that was that she physically transformed in a very powerful way. As she reclaimed that aspect of herself, the truth of her perfection, to me at least, she appeared sacred and divine at that moment – which was a gift to me certainly. She seemed to have a very powerful and unexpected experience from her side. I don’t know how the others in the group saw it, but for me, it was quite profound. And as I say, not arising from an apparent money worry, more an exploration of her relationship to money.

What were some of your dis-empowering money stories that you have moved past? Do you still work with some deeply held patterns or would you say you are now somewhat conscious (or whatever the term may be that you prefer?).

As I say above, I feel that I am often conscious or aware -yet, still held by old patterns. Perhaps this is a transitional phase. I notice very clearly my tendencies to relate money to security - which I can now see relates to my insecurity rather than anything externally real.

A big area for me around money has been relating it to masculine ideas of success - so if I have lots of money that make me a proper man and success. The echoes of this idea are something that I can still sense but has freed up a great deal. It is interesting in that intellectually I would have been able to argue with clarity and confidence for years that money is not at all what makes a man a man, or what makes a success a success - my life has not followed those sorts of conventional beliefs. And yet I see that I have still been quite trapped by that view unconsciously. I am a great deal freer these days to experience both my success and my failure graciously, and to locate my sense of achievement and manhood in other ways that do not involve money or status. Consequently, I can do more of the work I want to do and be more of the person I want to be - with and without money.

Read more about Tim and his work here. Tim can occasionally be found tweeting @differentspace1