In doing what I love I am privileged to speak to some of the most inspiring thought-leaders on the planet — people like money mentor and mama-preneur Bari Tessler.
Founder of The Art of Money: a global, year-long money school, and author of The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness, Bari shows people how to build their own bridges between money, body, mind and spirit. Her approach is gentle and weaves together personal, couple, and creative entrepreneurial financial teachings into one complete tapestry to people better understand their Money Story and empower them to bring about real, lasting transformation. Bari is wonderful example of someone who is pursuing doing what she loves and making a living on her own terms by sharing her gift to help others. We hope you enjoy the interview. ~ Rachel
1. How are you doing what you love?
After many, many years of experimenting with business models, paring my business down and expanding it and simplifying again, I finally have a business that supports me and my family and allows me to focus on sharing what I’m really good at and gives me the time for family, rest, health, hiking, and dancing.
I have an amazing husband and am mama to our bright, wonderful boy, Noah.
I live in Boulder, Colorado, and I couldn’t imagine leaving our magical little mountain town (and all of our friends here).
Every day, I get messages from people in my year-long money school or from readers of my new book telling me how my work is helping them to change their lives. To save their marriages. To reconnect mothers and daughters. To spur creative entrepreneurs to claim their worth. To shift old, unhelpful patterns deep within and replacing them with new, refreshingly honest, and empowered ones.
For this and so much more, I am wildly in love with my life. And deeply grateful.
2. How did you get here?
In a way, it all started the day I got my first student loan bill. I stared at those numbers, terrified. It hit me: I had no idea how do “do” this money thing. Worse, I had no idea how to earn money while sharing my gifts and doing what I love. I panicked. I was so scared. But then I decided: I wasn’t going to run away. I was going to look money right in the eye. I was going to figure it out. And I was going to do it my way: bringing deep meaning, playfulness, and loads of dark chocolate.
I had just graduated from a Master’s program in somatic psychology from Naropa University. I’d always thought I would support people with the juicy, fun stuff: sexuality, relationships, food, body image, etc. But I began looking around and noticing: I wasn’t the only one suffering about money. Everyone I saw, regardless of their socioeconomic background, how much money they had in the bank, or what their personality type was — everyone was suffering around money.
So I began learning everything I could about money. I stayed up late reading QuickBooks tutorials. I started tracking my finances. I worked with my first money mentor, who showed me that money wasn’t “the root of all evil,” but could be spiritual and creative. How we “do” money reveals volumes about our relationship with ourselves. Money became my portal, the doorway through which I guided people into more mindfulness, honesty, intimacy, forgiveness, self-care, and body-based wisdom.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve shifted my business model numerous times, trying to find the best way to share this work: in the most generous way while also supporting myself and my little family. I’m now in the fourth year of leading a year-long, online program, The Art of Money. And my book, The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness, was just published by Parallax Press this June. This work is reaching more and more people, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
3. You’re a sensitive person. How has this aspect of your character helped you to find your way in the world and create a life you dreamed of?
Age is really on our side with this one! The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve learned: sensitivity is a strength, my body’s wisdom is always right, I don’t have to apologize for self-care, and if something doesn’t feel right, I don’t do it.
Money was one of the training grounds where I learned all of this. I’ve always been on the more sensitive, intuitive, creative end of the spectrum, and wasn’t so great at math, and I thought this meant I couldn’t understand money. But when I began taking myself on Money Dates in my twenties, I vowed to bring all of my sensitivity and sensuality to them — and I soon learned, this wasn’t only OK, it was essential. And a great gift. I needed to bring my sensitivity and emotional intelligence to this area of my life, too.
Draining my money relationship of all this sensitivity, femininity, deep meaning and creativity and playfulness — or assuming none of those things belonged there — was a big reason I had so much suffering in my money relationship.
And, of course, this has rippled out into every area of my life: my business decisions (which must feel right), my marriage, my parenting, and more.
4. In your opinion, what are the biggest issues that affect people’s relationship with money, and why would we all benefit from paying more attention to the financial ebbs and flows that come throughout various transitions in our lives?
There’s so much here! But I will say this: money is never just about the money.
First: money is about the money because most of us were never given a financial education, from grade school on up, in age-appropriate increments. So we need to learn the practical parts of money as adults for the first time. There is so much to learn, and it can feel like a huge, even shameful, learning curve. Lack of financial literacy really affects our relationship to money — but this is something we can address, at any age.
Yet, secondly, money is never just about the money. Our relationship with money includes much deeper currents: our sense of power, our sense of our own value, our relationship with responsibility and enoughness. Working with money can be daunting because it brings us face-to-face with these challenging themes so rapidly.
The only way to deal with these themes — and to deal with money — is to face them, head-on. Gently! Slowly and with deep breaths and all the dance breaks you need… but to truly, courageously, baby step by baby step, face them.
This is a real challenge. The vast majority of us were never taught how to deal with money, let alone navigate our emotions around it. We feel ashamed that we don’t already, somehow, simply know all of this. So we need to be gentle with ourselves and unravel this Money Shame. We need to get support — which isn’t weakness, but is actually one of the bravest things we can do.
Working with money is an opportunity to examine, honor, and heal all of these deeper themes within ourselves. We can ask: what does enoughness feel like, to me? And how can I get creative and experience it? Where am I disowning my power in my money relationship, and what is truly being asked of me, here? How can I un-shame myself and then un-shame myself a little more? Over time, our ability to remain conscious and loving with these questions deepens, and we can bring this capacity to every area of our lives.
5. Your amazing book, The Art of Money, is out now – congratulations! How did you develop the methodology behind it and how will it help us all to transform our relationship with money?
The methodology I teach has three phases:
‘Money Healing’ deals with all the emotional, internal aspects of our money relationship. Here, we deal with those deeper themes like peace and value and enoughness. We learn to forgive. We drop into our bodies and create safe spaces. We begin here, because even the savviest spreadsheet or slickest tracking system won’t stick when we have deep, unspoken emotional resistance.
In ‘Money Practices’, we learn to transform all those money tasks and drudgery into a nourishing self-care practice. We learn the language of money (which is crazy-empowering). We take ourselves on Money Dates. We learn how bookkeeping can be a sacred vessel for our values.
Finally, in ‘Money Maps’, we zoom out to the biggest view of our precious lives and see where money (and all of the practices we’ve been learning) fits in. We recognize that life isn’t linear or static: it has ups and downs, rhythms and cycles, big life transitions and crises and triumphs and transitions. We learn how to make good money decisions based on our phase of life and what matters most to us: for now and for where we’re heading.
In my experience, this threefold methodology works because it’s the only one I know of that honors all of these aspects of our money relationship. We can’t just implement a strict budget without looking within and forgiving, first. We can’t only work with our emotions about money without learning how to get smart about the nuts ’n bolts, practical side of it, too. And just when we think we’ve got this money thing all figured out, life will take an unexpected twist, changing everything — we must learn to surf those waves and let money support us through our life as we unfold and evolve.
6. Why is it important to address the right-brain emotional and spiritual aspects of money along with the left-brain details and practicalities?
Because our emotions will always be there, motivating and moving us, whether we face them consciously or not. When we take an honest look at our emotions about money, we create an opportunity to know ourselves better and to deepen our relationships with those around us, too.
When we try to ignore our emotions and spirituality, we feel fractured, conflicted, or simply “off.” But when we consciously incorporate all of these crucial elements of ourselves into money (or anything we do), we can feel more whole, aligned, peaceful, and happy. And I think that’s kind of a big deal.
7. Many creatives are discouraged from pursuing their dream because they fear they’ll never make any money. What kind of things do you help people discover about their relationship with money, and why should creative entrepreneurs especially make time for ‘Money Dates’?
It’s rather shocking how many entrepreneurs have no idea how much money is coming in or going out of their business. So if you’re reading this and fall into this category, please know: you’re not alone, and you can learn this! It’s never, ever too late.
When I was training to be a therapist, I had the (very common) belief that I wasn’t supposed to think about money. That was greedy or un-spiritual or too materialistic. I was just supposed to do my work, share my gifts, and somehow trust that the money would come in.
This is bonkers. By which I mean: it simply doesn’t work. Not usually, at least.
In order for you to do your best work in the world — and share your gifts the most generously — you must be taken care of, financially. It’s not greedy to want to thrive; it’s essential.
Don’t let the fear of not making money hold you back from pursuing your dream career — there are so many ways to earn money creatively and sustainably, especially with the growing online commerce.
But also — and this is very important — don’t ignore the fear of not making money. It’s pointing to something important: money is something to consider, to think about, and to get smart about. When you’re an entrepreneur, you must educate yourself about money. This becomes part of your job description. But anyone can do it (yes, even the creative, right-brained folks amongst us!).
Get the support you need, be it from an accountant or bookkeeper or financial planner or financial therapist. Work a “bridge job” if you need to. Take the leap when you’re ready. Be brave — but also be smart.
8. What are Money Maps and how can they help us align our decisions with the things that are most important in our life?
I teach people to, instead of creating one Master Plan Budget, create three different versions of a budget — three “lifestyle tiers”: Basic Needs, Comfortable, and Ultimate.
First, free write about those three words. What would it feel like, in your heart and body, to be at those lifestyle levels? What values do you want to embody, at each tier? For some of us, each level includes more adventure and travel. For others, it includes more generosity and charitable donations. Let this exercise be an opportunity for self-discovery.
Next, list out what expenses you would cover at each level. Is a weekly massage an Ultimate expense, or a Basic Need? Only you decide (not your father, not your pastor, not me). Make sure to include debt repayment, savings, investments, gifts, and irregular expenses (like birthday gifts, insurance premiums, and vet visits).
Finally, assign numbers and add everything up. Take a deep breath. Look. Look at your current income: where are you, in your Money Map, right now? Does that feel right and true? Does something in your Map need adjusting? Are you yearning to make more money and jump to the next tier? Do you have a Big Life Transition (like a baby on the way or career shift) coming up, and need to adjust something? Do you have some “money leaks” you want to plug, so you can simplify your life?
Money Mapping is a simple, powerful tool (all of my tools are simple and accessible) to help you zoom out and look at where you are in your life and where you’re headed… and how money can support you along the way.
9. You’re one busy lady. How do you successfully manage to balance your work and family life? What are your top tips for other mamas with big dreams?
I get a little crazy if I’m not getting exercise, so I make this a priority — whether it’s my daily hike or African dance classes. I also get support from healers on a regular basis: acupuncture, massage, etc.
I also have an incredible team: a VA, an online business manager, and a co-writer. For me, growing a business has meant getting savvy about support and getting honest about what I’m great at and what I suck at — and finding good, sustainable ways to delegate what I can so that I can focus on doing what I do best
10. What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned to date as a creative entrepreneur?
The biggest one is what I call the Art of the Elegant No. I’ve had to learn to stop over-giving, over-yesing, under-no-ing. I’ve learned to set firm but compassionate boundaries to safeguard my time, energy, health, and money. Instead of saying “yes” when I don’t really feel it, and instead of saying “no” in an ugly way, to say, with love and grace, “thank you, but no.” This has been essential for me — and it’s an ongoing practice.
11. What financial and career advice will you give your son as he grows up?
My husband and I have already begun teaching our son money lessons, and I’m grateful this will continue and evolve and deepen, over time. I’m glad our son sees us modelling honesty and intimacy with money: we talk about it regularly and openly, not behind locked doors. So I hope he learns to be honest and open about money, especially with himself.
I also hope our son sees how we earn money (we’re a dual-entrepreneur household) and gets the lesson that he truly can earn a great living while sharing his gifts with the world. This might look like creative entrepreneurship, or it might look like a corporate job, or it might be something totally different, but I hope he has a sense of freedom and empowerment around this.
Maybe the biggest money teaching I hope to share with our son as he grows is to stay in touch with his body and emotions. Whether we feel shame, are angry, grieving, scared, or numb, the first step is being aware of what we’re feeling. Then we can understand. Then we can transform. In money… and in life. I’m so happy that Noah is already telling us how he’s feeling and what that feels like, in his body. I know this will serve him for his whole life, in money and far beyond.
12. How do you define gratitude and what are you most grateful for? What daily practices do you do to invoke gratitude?
For me, gratitude means being fully present to my life. When I’m fully, fully present, I can’t help but see everything I have to be grateful for — even during tough moments.
Almost every day, I go on a hike up “my” mountain, here in Boulder. It’s on these walks that I reconnect to myself, to nature, and to my sense of spirituality. These are the moments when I come home to myself — and when I access clarity and creativity. And I always feel grateful in these moments.
I am grateful for so much! For this life. For this work. For my family. For the hard stuff and the easy stuff. For where I’ve been, where I’m heading, and for this precious moment. Right here.
13. What’s your biggest, wildest, craziest dream for the future?
I’m actually in a moment in life where I’m celebrating the realization of two huge dreams: birthing my book (she’s a girl, by the way) and buying a beautiful home in Boulder (it’s the first house my husband and I have ever bought).
I’m taking some time to celebrate these huge milestones right now: with friends and family and my greater community, solo on my hikes and in mini-rituals. It feels important to me to pause and let everything sink in — and just truly be grateful — before leaping into the next big dream. But a new dream is always on the horizon…
14. What would you say to anyone who believes that their financial situation is preventing them from doing what they love?
Please recognize: this is a practical matter, but it’s also an emotional one. Some money questions are like Zen koans: they’re riddles to be sat with, meditated upon, for many days or months or even years. Sit with your money questions. Feel them, in your body. Talk about them with trusted friends and advisors. Be patient with them, but do not turn away. There are always options, solutions, and possibilities that you could never have imagined. Keep open, keep asking the questions, and be patient as the answers come to you. Do your internal, emotional work. Understand your value. And keep fine-tuning your life, your practices, and your business model (if you have one) in savvier and savvier ways as you keep taking steps closer to doing what you love. Let the questions, themselves, transform you. And always, always: have hope.
For more information about Bari visit her website.