I don't care too much for money

Is your relationship with cash somewhat lacking? Rose Rouse learns to part with the pound in her pocket
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Money makes the world go round. And people, too, like hamsters in treadmills. William Bloom knows this, so he has organised this workshop for our times. Mr Bloom, author of Money, Heart and Mind ("a holistic approach to money"), is going to help us deal with having too much of it, too little of it ... and everything in between.

This is not about getting filthy rich. The recession and the more "ethical" Nineties demand a different approach to money, according to Mr Bloom. The participants range from Bryan, a former psychotherapist who inherited a fortune, to Kay, an out-of-work dancer. There's a personnel director, a plumber, a psychiatric nurse. And me.

We all confess to having money problems of a sort. Sue, a plumber, has an eye on big business. Sam, a psychiatric nurse, needs to be "more comfortable" with his account. Bella wants to "make money somehow sacred". And me? I can't bear to look at my bank statements. But no one seems to be in debt or in dire financial embarrassment. "That's quite unusual," muses Bloom. "We usually get someone who is in urgent need."

Bloom has had an erratic union with money himself. Now 47, he was once an adolescent thief, ripping off money from his father's wallet. More recently he was asked to "manage pounds 20m ethically for a Swiss company". But even now, he says, he suffers from "the black hole of anxiety" when he sees bills hit the doormat.

One of our first tasks: draw a plant that shows our feelings about money. Steve, who was made redundant last year, produces a cocky cactus. "Someone just pointed out that my tree looked like a penis," says an Irish woman, who sounds as if she's been having therapy and attending workshops all her life. "It must represent the dominant patriarchy in my life." Steve pitches the right pun: "Remember, money is not happenis."

Next, the bartering game. We've brought objects to give away. I'd brought a miniature rose, a CD and a packet of Durex. I want to swap the Durex for a book on sexual ecstasy. Fair exchange is no robbery. Others had brought wine, rings, string, watches (time is money?).

Sue, the plumber, talks someone into parting with a prized glass pyramid. Steve clings desperately to his calculator, waiting for the right offer. Kay, who has brought some beautiful things, finishes with a load of old rubbish. "I get involved with people's stories," she says.

As the day ends, I feel depressed (though I got a very functional address book) because I hadn't had better objects to bargain with. Others fared better: they discovered their insecurities. Sally, seemingly so confident, says: "I was so afraid no one would want my things."

Sunday. One person couldn't take it and stays in bed. Pity. For today is the "money game". We bring along wads that we are prepared to lose. I have pounds 30, my neighbour pounds 80. Bryan flaunts pounds 22.50. Which may explain why he's wealthy and we aren't.

First round: we take money from other people's piles. In silence - as much as we want. But we must not hold on to it. We take it and return it to our pile. Taking money is an experience I can't quite feel comfortable about, but, apparently, it's nothing to do with being a woman because Sue, the plumber with the heart of gold, and the Irish woman are determined to scoop the lot. So is Bryan. The Irish woman gets it.

Next: give it away. Far more fun. As soon as you give some away, someone comes and hands you more. Or not. I end up with nothing - which is oddly liberating. Bryan inherits the whole stack. "I wanted to shame him into giving it all away," Peter confesses. No such luck.

Finally, we give, and ask for, money. I have nothing, so, suddenly, I receive. Women rush over and hand me money. And ... and I find myself sobbing, at their generosity. I do give some away. To gentle Mike, who needs funds for a peace project, and to Patricia, who is broke.

The money weekend earns its interest. Those who participate fully in giving, letting go and asking, are the happiest. Even Bryan. He has pounds 135 of all our money but his real value is as a symbol. Or, as the Irish woman says, ever conscious of the bigger message, "Thank you for being a perfect illustration of what happens in the outside world."

I commit myself to a monthly budget. Sam vows to treat his financial transactions with more humanity. Kay will ask her friends for help. Sally promises to give pound coins to homeless people. Our leader approves: "If you don't release money, you feel a tension. Act like you're part of the flow." The cash flow.

I look at Bryan meaningfully. He, after all, has recouped his pounds 90 outlay and made a profit on this priceless 48 hours. Definitely money well spent.

William Bloom's money workshops, from Alternatives, St James's Church, 197 Piccadilly, London W1V 9LF (0171-287 6711).

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