I’m writing this for the website for 2 reasons. Firstly, because I offer many events by gifting or part gift-based and feel there is a need to explain the approach in more detail and the practicalities of joining a gift-based event with me. Gifts that I would like to receive may change over time so the idea is I’ll update this post to stay current. The second reason is because I am trying to promote the gift economy as the ‘natural economy’ as an alternative to the extraction-encouraging and relationship-fracturing current economic model, and so wanted to lay down some words about it.
Gift-based Weapons of Mass Creation events or services
To offer something in the spirit of the gift means that I want to freely give it to you, i.e. not expect anything in return. It is based on the trust that the receiver will truly feel it as a gift, and want to give in return. That mutual giving may be to me, or may be to pass on the gift. I trust you to do what feels right.
For events with significant set up costs such as retreats, there may be a base fee, which assists in getting the event off the ground, then you may be invited to gifted above the base cost.
Sometimes I may charge a small sign-up fee or other request for investment, because there’s a bit of a fine balance in gifting; the receiver needs to feel like they are really ready to receive the gift or there’s a danger the value of the gift being offered may be seen as reflective of the fact it is offered ‘for free.’
Current gifting considerations
At the moment I’m experimenting with my public events or community offering based on gifting as much as is practical and charging set fees for services provided to clients, with consideration to the fee based on the nature of the hiring organisation.
Right now I do appreciate receiving monetary gifts. If it is for a community event, like the meditations or connection cafes in the Treehouse, contribution via tea or snacks is usually a good one. Other service-based gifts I’m open to right now include:
- web design and maintenance
- graphic design
- SEO assistance
- help with venue research
- help with event promotion
- video production and editing
The philosophy of gifting and gift culture
You can listen to a talk I did comparing gift economics with the current economic system in terms of impacts on our psychology and ability to be fully human here.
Much of the below is a highly-condensed paraphrasing of Charles Eisenstein’s work, so if you want to read more check out his podcasts and book, Sacred Economics. I’ve built on some of his ideas based on what I’ve noticed from my extended periods of time alone in nature. It formed the basis for my TEDx Salon talk in 2018 in response to the question, ‘Are we too selfish for the sharing economy?’
The current economic system
The natural economy – gift economics
1. To invoke the spirit of the gift, practice gratitude.
2. Concept of Self
3. Purpose, power & community
Some of my favourite moments from running retreats in nature have been when participants have realised just how being alive is a gift, that life is constantly bestowing us with little, tiny, beautiful gifts such as sunlight on our face and air to breathe. We didn’t have to earn these things. The full manifestation of feeling life is a gift is to live your life as an expression of gratitude, and that means understanding your purpose and therefore the unique gifts you have to share. I don’t necessarily always talk about this when I’m running a vision quest, but it definitely is part of my motivating understanding of why I’m doing it.
The current economic system is, by design (as I described above), about scarcity and this implies it is also about maintaining a certain power structure. Debt can very directly enslave, of course, and the impacts of this are massive, but there is also a more subtle effect on our psychology I want to mention. If the fundamental definition of what it is to be ’empowered’ is to have the ability to create, then the current economic system is truly disempowering. Only a handful of people can truly create in this system, the ones who say ‘let there be money’ and it is so.
The fact that money is homogenous is also interesting to consider. Money takes away the power of communities too because we don’t directly need each other anymore, we can just buy the same thing off somebody else. In effect, the current system robs us of our creative power.
Conversely, how does it feel when you give a gift? To me, even when it’s a Christmas gift (something that I don’t totally agree with but still do anyway), I try to somehow make the gift an expression of myself. Gift enables us to re-imagine ourselves as creative beings. And, bringing that back to the point about purpose and personal gifts, when do you feel full of your own power? When you are giving your gifts!
Where our current system cannot ultimately be anything but destructive, a gift economy is inherently negentropic i.e. promotes coherence and generativity. In the quests that I run I hear the most beautiful stories of what people want to be able to give to the world (but often are restricted by an economic system that does not support certain expressions of gifts) and I truly feel that if everyone was able to give their gifts in their fullest highest expression then the rest would be taken care of. Just like nature, the system works when everyone is freely offering their gifts.
Coming back to gift economics as the natural economy, an interesting definition of indigeneity that I have heard is, ‘one who feels and understands their connection to their place, to their ecology, so that they understand how they can be of service,’ i.e. give their gifts.
So I hope you are getting the picture that a gift economy is a way of entering into a sacred relationship with ourselves and the rest of life. This is part of our maturing as a global society. We are collectively moving through the ‘taking’ focus we have during childhood (and is appropriate, for children), through an initiatory period of adolescence and out the other side realising our gift to the rest of life on earth as carers of everything.