Want To Make Money Doing What You Actually Love? One Healer Has The Secret

portrait of Deborah Henekamp for mbg's well spent

Photo by Deborah Henekamp x mbg Creative

With an estimated 67 percent of Americans at least a little anxious about paying the bills, and 58 percent worried they won’t have enough money for retirement, it’s becoming increasingly clear that being financially well is an integral part of overall wellness. Of course, money management isn’t one-size-fits-all, so we’re talking to people from all walks of life to find out how they achieved a healthy relationship with their finances. We hope it empowers you to live a life Well Spent.

Deborah Hanekamp of Mama Medicine is a sought-after healer in NYC, known for her medicine readings that combine crystals, energy work, and healing tones into a personalized menu of practices to help people heal from within.

It was a pleasure to speak with Hanekamp about finances—a topic that she agrees is often skirted in the spiritual and yoga communities she's called home for the past 17 years. As someone who used to be living paycheck to paycheck on food stamps, she has a fascinating take on taking back control of your time and money, knowing when you have enough, and building a career doing what you love—and having the courage to walk away from it and chase something even better.

What does financial well-being mean to you?

I think it's about being comfortable and not being afraid to look at money.

What has your financial journey looked like?

I really came from nothing. The advice from my dad was always: Work really hard and really, really long hours, and you can maybe get by. I took on his work ethic and relationship with money—which were very intense—and that brought in a lot of scarcity consciousness for me. It held me back and gave me a fear of debt.

When I was younger, I had a yoga studio where I was working like 12 hours days, six days a week. When I was first building up my career, it was very, very slow. It was not a trendy thing to do. I was on food stamps and Medicaid. It was really rough.

I was doing a lot of things on the side, just to get by in this healing and yoga world, that didn't necessarily feel right for me. It felt like an overextension. At the same time, I was trying to build up like 30 different people's careers all at once—healers, yoga teachers, etc.—rather than just focusing on building my own.

Then I started shifting and only working on things that I could give my full energy to, and that started to make me more financially successful. Then I started playing with the mentality of, "OK, well, what happens when I only buy things that give me more energy?" I made sure I was taking full accountability and responsibility for my stability instead of just hoping that the next paycheck would take care of things.

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Did you all of a sudden reach a tipping point—or was it more of a gradual transition?

Oh no, there was nothing gradual about it. When I had that business, I dumped everything that I had into making it better. I would eat peanut butter sandwiches for dinner and skip meals if they felt like too much of an extravagance. I just got to a point after five years of working in that way when all of a sudden my love for my work and my sense of purpose kind of went away. I just couldn't do it anymore. It was also me being honest with myself about my true passion, which was healing work, not really the yoga that I was teaching. I had to close my business, which was one of the hardest things that I've ever experienced. It was a tough blow personally—financially, it was even more difficult. 

It took a while to recover, and during that time the one thing that I still had energy to do was what I now call medicine readings. I just kept on doing this, and I realized, "Oh wow, I can really just do this one thing and that's enough," and my practice sort of birthed itself from that place.

How would you describe the energy of money? 

It's an energy that we really put a lot of focus on and attention on. But if you think about it, it's just an exchange. I give you money, and you give me something you've made. Or I give you money and you share something with me. It's not something that magically appears. It comes in for us when we are more open to receiving things of all kinds and creating positive energy within ourselves and our mindsets.

When I had my yoga studio, I think in a way I was saying "no" to money. I would make all of the classes by donation, and so people would translate that to not having to pay. Or people would come to teach a class and then they wouldn't leave the money for the class that they taught. I was working with a little bit of dishonesty there, but I take full accountability and responsibility for that because it was really me thinking, "How do I deserve to make money from just helping people and doing what I love?"

The thing is, I also have to be able to invest in myself, and this is an earthly, material world we live in. You need a home, food, and to be able to provide for yourself. 

How did you get through that rough patch of closing your business?

It was definitely my Saturn Return time. Not only was I closing a business, I was breaking up with a partner of six years who lived with me. I was supporting him and doing everything for him. Everything was happening all at once.

I had a few months there—like six months—where I was totally alone and really weathering the storm. I didn't know what I was going to do. I just knew that I wanted to help people and help the world. I stayed focused on that intention even though I couldn't see clearly how I would ground it into reality or manifest it. 

And then, six months go by, and into my apartment walks this very handsome man who was dropping off a couch my friends were giving me. He was a very successful model at the time. The first time he took me out to lunch, he turned to me and was like, "I'm gonna marry you one day. You have been working so hard, and you're going through this really hard time in your life—I'll take care of you for now."

Be happy with what you have.

The idea that some guy comes in who wants to support you—for me, that was such a pipe dream. I was so skeptical. So I just kept on going with what is now called medicine readings, even though I was only seeing two or three people a week, and I'd hostess at a restaurant to keep some of my own financial freedom. But he mostly paid for our rent and food or if we wanted to go somewhere. It was the first time in my life when I ever felt really supported by another human. Eight months later I was pregnant with our daughter, and we started building our family together.

Looking back, it's so interesting because when he dropped his modeling career I was ready to support him and tell him the same thing that he told me: "You've been working really hard. Don't worry about it. I've got this."

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Related Class

Do you have a financial mantra that you live by nowadays?

What keeps coming to me is, "Be happy with what you have." At the start of 2018, our family decided we were going to take this year to just be happy with what we have in every way and not be in that place of "I want" and "I need." It's been kind of amazing how much financial abundance that has brought.

How have you seen the energy of money manifest in your clients? What kind of issues do you think it causes for people?

I see people who are so stressed about "making it." I ask, "Well, what does that mean to you?" It always boils down to making a bunch of money. It's like, "Well, no, it's actually how you make that money. It's where your money comes from and where your money goes—that's how you actually make it in the world.”

I also see people with millions of dollars come in for medicine readings. They're not necessarily happy, or happier than anyone else. They're maybe even more stressed out. It can go either way. I think "money doesn't buy happiness" is a really important thing to remember. But at the same time, if you're saying that, you've probably never been broke. I think that those words are so true and so untrue at the same time. I guess being able to actually acknowledge when we have enough and be happy with that is the key. 

What advice do you have for people who want to practice self-care on a budget?

If we want to be well, the most important thing is for us to be outside. If you're not feeling well, if you're feeling off-balance, see if you've been outside enough.

And baths! One of the main reasons I post baths on my Instagram is because they are such powerful tools for self-healing. And you don't need to go out and buy anything to take one‚ you don't need to put crystals in it. A little salt, a little bit of chamomile tea, and you've created a whole healing ceremony.

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What is the best money you've ever spent?

I definitely think it's been investing in space by Mama Medicine. It was really scary to start this business again. I heard somewhere that 90 percent of first businesses fail, but only 10 percent of people start a second business. And of those 10 percent of people who are willing to be brave enough to start a second business, 80 percent of them succeed. I was so terrified to do it—and I am so happy that I did. It gives me this massive container to support my work. When I go to turn the key in the door, I feel excited. 

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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