A sister coach in my Retreat Coaches Network asked a question on our e-list yesterday: Where is the balance between giving of ourselves and our expertise for FREE with still needing to earn a living while running a business practice? (paraphrased)
It’s a great question and has engendered many good and interesting responses. It’s something I think about often as I walk the tight rope between holding the vision of a gift economy future and the current reality of our mainstream, capitalist economy. I don’t have answers, although Femme Fire Productions is a grassroots gift economy incubator. The conversation is worthwhile.
It’s clear to me that it will take a collaborative, cooperative joining of many minds / hearts / energies and learning to share resources well and with grace to manifest a sustainable, life-serving age. Each contributor holds a key part of the solution; there are many keys… many pieces to the puzzle of how to get from where we are now to where we want to be — from this Great Unraveling, Great Turning that has begun to a Sustainable, Life-Serving Future.
I have given my professional services away as a volunteer and community-builder for much of my adult life. It has become a type of spiritual path — to serve others, to serve intentional community, to serve my Femme Fire vision and a mission. It’s been an activist’s life, and walking that talk has thus far meant embracing a very simple and frugal way of life… one that brings many qualitative rewards that are challenging to quantify, sometimes hard to even see, name, and be fully conscious of within the busy-ness of the day-to-day. What many have called “The Good Life.”
For me, there is a mystical, spiritual, essential and energetic flow in the process of having an idea (or vision) and then bringing that idea into manifestation into the material plane of our reality… so it can be seen, sensed, held in some way. This is the work of the artist within, and we are all made of this creative star-stuff that flows from Source energy.
When I give, it is always best when done from a place of love, abundance, flow… meaning that I’m taking good care of myself and my connection to my Inner Source. I am then able to hear and also trust my intuition and what my gut tells me. When there is confusion and I don’t hear a clear resonance one way or the other within, I breathe… contemplate… seek connection and guidance until clarity is found.
Then when I give from the place of truly wanting to give a gift of time, energy and/or resources of some type, I almost always find that I am giving to myself at the same moment. This is true: something always comes back to me in return! In that way, I grow and flourish… at the same moment the larger community expands and benefits. In the action coming from a centered heart-mind, I become the vision so to speak, and there is a sense of effortlessness, of ease and flow. Sweet timelessness, of eternity and deep connection are wonderful outcomes. This is priceless.
If I am unsure or wondering what and how much I will receive in return for my giving, I am not truly in the flow with Source and with my Heart of Love. Because Source gives without any thought about it… like the flower that exudes its fragrance freely without care. There is a rhythm and purpose behind the effortless, giving magic… the flower wants to be pollinated by the bee, but it doesn’t “know” this consciously.
In the practice, one grows patience, faith and trust. Patience that, despite setbacks, one is on the right track in terms of one’s spiritual-life quest. Faith that there are universal forces at work in the process that cannot be seen or understood, but that everything is nevertheless interconnected and intertwined — that there is pollination happening. Faith that to do good and follow one’s higher light and inner truth will ultimately be the right and best choice. Trust that, no matter what happens, one has the inner strength and resilience to meet the challenges. And that regardless of outcome, one has done one’s best and made the right choice for the situation. There are no regrets in this course.
What is in my future ultimately? Old age, illness and death. I accept this and remind myself regularly of this truth. I could go in any moment. These lessons are all around us every single moment of every single day. Sometimes a hurricane, tsunami or nuclear meltdown takes many of us humans in a flash of an instant.
Taking up my moments in worries about money and whether I am receiving as much as I am giving ultimately takes more energy than I wish to expend. What matters is that my needs are met, and that’s a big subject – needs. And to be a good business woman, one must be fully aware of money, finances, inflows and outflows of energy, time and everything else, too.
As a woman in business as well as someone who naturally wants to nurture, comfort and build empathy and compassion within myself and thus with others, there are personal boundaries to be set and maintained around appropriate giving, in order to run a successful business practice so that my little venture boat is tight and not leaking energy. The word “appropriate” is very important in this instance.
Some important questions to ask in any situation, business or otherwise:
- Is this something I truly wish to give?
- Will the giving help me to grow myself in the ways I want to grow right now?
- Is this giving something that is truly needed and wanted?
- Do I have this to give? Is there a surplus? Can I afford to do it?
- Am I willing to wait for the possible manifestation… say if I am giving a free workshop or free coaching?
- Am I willing to be okay if I can’t see any manifestation because it may be of an unseen, mysterious type of connection that I never know about.
- Am I willing to embrace the fact that the manifestation may not look anything like what I might want or imagine? That it may be something completely unforeseen, unexpected, a possibly challenging growth opportunity coming into my field as a result of my actions?
Suffice to say that if my needs are met well, I have a whole lot more to give. The gift is given wholeheartedly then from a place of surplus and abundance. Yet, sometimes (often?) it is the poorest of the poor who are the most charitable of heart, spirit and material gifts… for it is they who have nothing to lose in the giving. It is a question of perspective. What is your own personal lens or economic filter that you peer at the world through? Is this an area you want to grow in yourself? If so, how will you go about doing that?
With this, we go far beyond money and the material plane of existence. As Professor Ron Howard shared in a recent talk with a CharityFocus meditation group, when we are looking at the questions of giving and economy in this way, we are now venturing into the “red” part of life and far from the “black”… we are venturing into realms of spirit.
Ultimately, it’s all about balance and personal choice … for today, I’ll call balance a pink azalea blooming in springtime ….
While we may simplistically reduce the principle to, “people will value what they pay for,” and there would be some truth in such a reduction, deeper explanations are possible, and may be discovered with questions like, “What is the X-factor that would render pricing irrelevant to customer behavior?” One explanation is that of intention and reciprocity. When we come from a space of scarcity, we are always trying to hold on to and manipulate things. That rubs off on people, regardless of whether our offerings are free or priced. People sense the vibration of desperate need and respond to it in kind, by withholding their own abundance. Tons of low-priced, high-priced and free offerings fail all the time when they come from this space.
When we instead come from a space of abundance, we tend to develop an openness to possibilities and find value in all sorts of ways without having to hold on to things. That also rubs off on people, regardless of whether our offerings are free or priced. People sense the vibration of abundance and respond to it in kind, by opening up their own abundance. Tons of low-priced, high-priced and free offerings work incredibly well when they come from this space. ~Somik Raha