Life & Culture

Zen and the art of financial security


Many thousands of people around the country are facing redundancy and the loss of their homes. Understandably, most of them will be trying everything they possibly can to stave off disaster.

However, according to meditation expert Mark Forstater, what they should be doing is… nothing at all.

Forstater, who is also a film producer — Monty Python and The Holy Grail is one of his movies — has released a CD entitled The Age of Anxiety, which is described as a guided meditation for the financially stressed in which he aims to help people with money fears and insecurity. Taking a little time out to lie down and relax could ultimately provide some of the answers.

“When people are stressed about their finances, their minds become like tumble dryers. One of the great things about meditation is that is quietens the mind down,” he says.

“Meditation takes all those unwelcome thoughts and allows them to dissolve and melt away. We all tend to be very goal-orientated — concentrating hard on trying to solve problems, But actually concentrating is not required. By putting yourself in an extremely relaxed state of being, you will be able to liberate certain aspects of your unconscious — you might think of it as an insight. All you need is one insight and you can be on the way to sorting yourself out.”

Sixty-five-year-old Forstater, who has been meditating “on and off” for more than 20 years, feels that, as someone who has worked in the movie world, he knows all about financial stress and feels there is a need for this kind of CD. “I’ve listened to some meditation CDs and tapes and they all seemed very generic, so I thought I could come up with something targeted specifically at people who are going through financial problems. I thought I could help people.”

In the CD, Forstater speaks not directly about finance but addresses the kind of issues that financial stress can bring about. “I can’t relieve money problems, but meditation can help to enlarge people’s confidence,” he says.

The secret, he says, is to relax yourself into a state in which you are receptive to positive suggestion. And breathing is key to this.

“I tell people to adopt what is known as the corpse position — lying flat on their backs,” he says. “This is a very open, yielding position. When you stay like that and breathe correctly for 20 to 30 minutes, your body gets into an extremely relaxed state. At this point you may be able to tap into your unconscious. Plus, in this kind of receptive state we can do a little bit of positive brainwashing. There are a number of things on the CD which people might think of as strange — about floating off into the stars, feeling at one with the Earth. These are all very elemental things — all part of viewing your body and mind in a very different way.”

He also throws in affirmations — for example that the universe is abundant. “The Earth can provide for everyone’s needs but the world we live in is based on scarcity and debt. That’s how people are taught to think. You have to find the right perspective from which to view things.”

Forstater was born in Philadelphia and brought up in a Jewish, though not particularly religious, household before attending film school and eventually coming to Britain.

Although he is interested in Judaism he feels that the access to the more esoteric areas of the unconscious are not to be found in the religion, although Orthodox Jews do meditate, even thought they might not realise it.

“Davening is a form of meditation,” he says. “You can see when religious people are involved in prayer that they are not in this world, but in a different place. Our culture is a materialistic one — a results-orientated place, where we feel guilty if we are not busy doing something all the time. But there are times when you need to get into a different state.”

Although he says he is no materialist, Forstater does not think that the answer to financial stress is to take a vow of poverty. “What’s bad is excess. There is always someone who has a bigger house or more money than you, but there’s nothing wrong with having nice clothes, a car that runs and a little money so you can go out to eat once in while.”

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