Hello, friends!

Happy spring to you! The flowers have been busting out of the ground, and it’s impossible not to catch that energy from them. I love it.

So, I realized that I’ve been writing these posts, and have never actually explained my obsession with the gift economy. For the most part, folks have not tried to convince me that it’s too crazy, but I wonder if that’s because they are politely ignoring it, the way one might ignore a bit of spinach stuck in an acquaintance’s teeth. “Eventually they’re bound to look in the mirror and take care of it themselves, no need to make a scene about it just now,” you might think to yourself. But the thing is, I don’t have a little bit of lunch stuck in my teeth, I have a vision, albeit a slightly unconventional one. And I want to tell you about it, because I want your help in making it work.

Here’s what happened: it was the summer of 2010, and I was preparing to begin my studies in Chinese medicine. I was in a car full of friends on our way back to Portland from Eugene. My friend, Mark, now a naturopath, had just met Dr. Aumatma Shah at a Patch Adams conference, and had learned about her gift economy practice. He was all lit up with it, and explained the concept to me. Instead of receiving a bill at the end of a treatment, he said, patients are given a “receipt” notice, explaining that their treatment was paid for by the people who came before them. If the patient is inspired and able to support the clinic in serving future patients, they are invited to do so.

Something about this concept felt profoundly right. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In fact, I woke up the next morning, and for about the next sixty mornings, thinking about the gift economy. At that same time, I had a few experiences that helped me along.

The first was when I turned down a soul-squelching data entry job and decided to split the summer months between a Vipassana retreat, camping, and gardening. I was concerned about money, but knew I had some growing to do and that it wasn’t going to happen in a cinder block office. Just after turning down the job, I was given three huge gifts, in rapid succession: 1) plane tickets that allowed me to be in my best friend’s wedding, 2) a computer, and 3) soaker hoses for the garden–which virtually materialized the minute my sister and I decided to keep an eye out for them. So, yeah, soaker hoses were my burning bush…maybe not as visually striking, but they spoke to me none the less. It seemed clear that the universe was doing its best to send me down this path.

Now, here’s where you come in. I need to know how you think this can work for people. Can you imagine yourself as the patient of a gift-economy practitioner? Why or why not? Are there any feelings, questions, or concerns that arise, specifically around the topic of payment? If it sounds difficult, awkward, or otherwise challenging to you, can you imagine what might be done to make it feel more comfortable?

If you have been the patient of a gift-economy practitioner, I’d love to hear about your experience. What was it like for you? What feelings do you associate with that experience?

I’m all ears, friends, and looking forward to hearing from you. Please send me your thoughts. Even just a few quick words would be so helpful. You can send them to my email address: earthtoturtle@gmail.com, or post them as comments on the blog.

Many thanks to you, for your continued support.

Be well.

Turtle

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What? Is there something in my teeth? (by Turtle Farahat, EcoFaith Recovery Intern)

5 thoughts on “What? Is there something in my teeth? (by Turtle Farahat, EcoFaith Recovery Intern)

  • April 4, 2013 at 1:33 pm
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    Hey Turtle,

    Thanks for inviting us back into the conversation!

    Many years ago, I was invited to receive spiritual direction through a version of the gift economy through the Bread of Life Center for Spiritual Direction in Sacramento. I remember feeling incredibly disoriented by that initial invitation. I wanted to at least do my part to make a life possible for my spiritual director and make spiritual direction possible for others she serves, but I had no idea what it might cost somebody to provide direction to me and others. When I was later provided with a two page educational piece on the alternative economics under which they were operating, a conceptual framework I might use to enter it, and a set of reflection questions I could use in considering any contribution I might like to offer, I felt relieved and better equipped to think about how much I might contribute.

    The way you describe gift economies challenges the very economic basis of the crises we are facing. It seems so needed and important. Yet, I wonder how you not only invite people into such an important and counter-cultural experience, but help us understand it more fully, reflect upon it more deepy, and decide how we might like to respond. It reminds me of being five years old and learning about what money is and how to use it. Is it possible that in some respects, many of us have been so deeply inculturated into the dominant model that we are about five-years old when it comes to recovering our more native language through gift economies? Are there frameworks that can help us “grow up” a bit in this more native language that many of us haven’t learned to use much outside of our families?

  • April 4, 2013 at 1:33 pm
    Permalink

    Hey Turtle,

    Thanks for inviting us back into the conversation!

    Many years ago, I was invited to receive spiritual direction through a version of the gift economy through the Bread of Life Center for Spiritual Direction in Sacramento. I remember feeling incredibly disoriented by that initial invitation. I wanted to at least do my part to make a life possile for my spiritual director and make spiritual direction possible for others she serves, but I had no idea what it might cost somebody to provide direction to me and others. When I was later provided with a two page educational piece on the alternative economics under which they were operating, a conceptual framework I might use to enter it, and a set of refelction questions I could use in considering any contribution I might like to offer, I felt relieved and better equipped to think about how much I might contribute.

    The way you describe gift economies challenges the very economic basis of the crises we are facing. It seems so needed and important. Yet, I wonder how you not only invite people into such an important and counter-cultural experience, but help us understand it more fully, reflect upon it more deepy, and decide how we might like to respond. It reminds me of being five years old and learning about what money is and how to use it. Is it possible that in some respects, many of us have been so deeply inculturated into the dominant model that we are about five-years old when it comes to recovering our more native language through gift economies? Are there frameworks that can help us “grow up” a bit in this more native language that many of us haven’t learned to use much outside of our families?

  • May 4, 2013 at 7:32 pm
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    I’m glad this quest is continuing, Turtle. I have had two experiences that are similar to what you’re proposing: one was at a retreat center where guests are asked to perform the simple task of making the bed for whoever will be there next, and to pray for that person while doing so. No money involved, so maybe less complicated. But what a joyful task!
    The other experience was through the Brethren Way of Christ movement, which is an iteration of the Cursillo movement. This is a three-day retreat weekend. At the end, participants are told that their weekend has been paid for, and then they are invited to pay the cost of a weekend for someone else in the future. Strictly speaking, the economics are not quite that straightforward, but the ideal is there, and I think it is a lovely one. I will confess that I felt a tad manipulated – ok, am i really paying for the next person, or this just paying for myself after being told it was a gift? I can imagine some having that sentiment about your proposed method. That feels cynical, and I don’t want to feel that way. Because I really do think the spirit of the idea is lovely — just a “pay it forward” idea really.
    Enough for now – may the conversation continue!!

  • May 5, 2013 at 7:44 pm
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    Hi Turtle,
    I’m so happy you posted this, as it is a topic on my mind constantly, before even starting school. I would love to make a gift economy work in my future practice as well so I look forward to hearing more about other places where it has worked.
    For me, I have also had that experience with the Vipassana course and their model, for one thing, allowed me to trust the organization, in that they were not just out to make money but wanted to share the experience and knowledge. I was extremely grateful for that opportunity and it is also great that they give the option of offering service as well.
    It is a little different when this model is used in any business where people are used to paying for services, but I think people will welcome and be very grateful that it exists, giving so many people the ability to access healthcare regardless of their economic status.
    Somewhat similar, was an acupuncturist I used to go to in Eugene that gave people an envelope in which they could put whatever they wanted, or nothing at all if necessary, which they placed in a box so no one had to feel ashamed of their inability to pay. I also greatly appreciated this model. For me it was easier to understand than paying it forward, but I do think the gift economy model allows people to encounter a new way of looking at the money system.

  • February 5, 2014 at 5:16 pm
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    I signed up on NextDoor.com and started a community space for my area in Newberg, OR there. It’s kind of like technology helping us figure out how to be a community again. I’m hoping to introduce a gift economy idea to it. Maybe volunteering to help anyone around their house or farm, also offering up my motorcycle for the weekend to anyone that has a license. I’m less than hopeful it will transform our local economy, but I think it can be a good place to start. I’m also wondering if we sell food at the Newberg farmer’s market if a gift economy dynamic would be the way to go. I’d like to do it that way, but hey, I’m not the one in charge of that. Thanks for the inspiration!

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