Q. I worry about money a lot—about not being able to pay my bills, not having enough at the end of the month. I want you to say more about money, especially about how someone who is awake relates to money. For the awakened person, money becomes just another condition in life, albeit an important one. The awakened person manages his or her capital wisely, and would not spend more than he or she had coming in. Certainly, with awakening you don’t worry about money—or, if you do, it is only a residual kind of worry and has no real bite to it.Money has a vital place in our lives. We all need it to survive, to feed, clothe, house, and educate ourselves and our children. We might need it to care for our elderly parents. We can also enjoy everything else it does for us, like the things it buys us, and the freedom it gives to spend time on purely creative, non money-making pursuits. But when we are in the grip of excessive addiction to it, believing it will save us, or bring us the happiness we seek, we are making a mistake.

The more you face your fears and stories around money, and your real or imagined needs, and realize you are not your stories, but rather you are the awareness which looks at the stories, the freer you will become of anything binding you.

When I was in my thirties, my own fear was of being out of work, out of money, and ending up homeless under a bridge. During my meditations, I faced this worst-case scenario over and over again in my mind, until eventually it no longer held any emotional charge.

I wasn’t fully awake yet. I hadn’t completely perceived my true nature as consciousness, as the ultimate perceiver, but I came to realize my connection to spirit, the energy behind creation, was strong. I knew how to be at peace in the present and this allowed me to be much freer of my fears around money.

Whether or not I lived under a bridge was certainly not going to take away my inner peace. Besides, there was a whole tradition of Zen masters who lived under bridges, basking in freedom, enjoying the ever-present delights of nature, dharma-jousting with fellow travelers, writing haiku. I would have been in good company!

Once I knew this for sure, I then had a clear choice. One option was to sit on my butt meditating in bliss all the time, but with the knowledge I might end up not being able to afford a decent roof over my head. The other was to get to work doing what I enjoyed doing—or at least found tolerable doing—so I could generate the income needed to keep body and soul together in a comfortable way. Preferring middle-class comforts to the deprivation of poverty, I chose the work option.

Remember, the beliefs, images, and pictures in your mind drive the sensations and feelings of anxiety and fear, and keep them alive. As you learn to live in the present, letting go of attachment to the story inside your head, you’ll come to the realization that inner freedom is, and always has been, your true nature.