Thank you, thank you, thank you for your thoughtful, honest, and supportive responses to my last post. I asked you to imagine what it would be like for you to receive a treatment from a gift-economy practitioner. For the most part, you seem to appreciate the possibility of paying what you can, though there are some curiosities around logistics. It seems only fair to confess that I share your curiosity, and am still unsure exactly how my gift-based practice will look.
Some of the practitioners I’ve interviewed have experienced the need to shift back to a conventional, or to a more conventional, model. It turns out that there are some complications to the gift system. Though it’s incredibly intuitive in most ways, it can become complicated in practice. Ironically, I’ve experienced this first-hand.
Last spring, a man came to our door offering to wash the windows. By donation. No set price. Although this is the way I’ve hoped to practice–offer what you will, no strings attached, gift, etc…I found myself balking. I’d never hired someone to do any kind of labor for me. What’s the going rate? How much effort does the job require? Time? Discomfort? I had no idea what to give him, and it forced me to think about my own motives, time, and financial situation.
It wasn’t a very comfortable process for me. I didn’t want him to feel his work was undervalued. And I was also watching my bank account run thin, running out of work study hours, and looking toward summer. I ended up paying him, and feeling alright about it, but was left with a lingering question about whether I’d met his expectations, or not. Was he judging me? Resenting me? And what part of myself was triggered in that process? How do I judge myself? How do I feel about the privilege of living in a house? All the existential questions came up. (Well, a bunch of them, anyhow.)
So: when I’m a Chinese medicine practitioner, do I want to put people in this position? Do I want them to wonder if they’ve given enough? Will this add stress, instead of helping relieve stress? How can I frame my economic model in such a way that people will feel good about what they are giving? encourage them to practice generosity?
Most of our learning happens when we’re slightly outside ouf our comfort zones, so I’m okay with going there. But I want my future patients to be able to relax. And I also want to be sustained by my practice, financially and vocationally.
Needless to say, I’m still sorting things out. And, I’ve learned So Much this year. I’ll be sharing my process on Tuesday, June 4th at Central Lutheran Church (NE 21st and Tillamook) from 7-9pm. If you think you can make it, please register so we have a sense of who’s coming.
Oh yeah! The second invitation is to increase your happiness advantage***. I invite you to join me this week, in recording what you have given and what you have received each day. As I explained in an earlier post, this only takes a few minutes and has had a profound effect on my life. I will be returning to this practice, in preparation for our conversation on the 4th, and would love to have this shared experience with you.
Be well, friends.
p.s. Thanks to Sara for sharing this awesome TED Talk. It turns out that keeping a record of our gratitude has been formally studied and can train our brains to be more positive, giving us a happiness advantage***. Not surprising to me, but pretty cool nonetheless, how plastic our brains are.
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