A long time ago, in the time between when I was studying energy medicine and formally studying traditional Chinese medicine, I met a woman in a park in Berkeley. She appeared to be a very spiritual person and was talking to me about some Hindu practices and encouraged me to come visit her community. When I told her about my plans to study medicine and healing in order to make a living from it, she admonished me. She said that healing is not something that can be sold. She implied, if not saying directly, that charging people for healing was immoral.
Something inside of me agreed with her. I think everyone in the business of healing – at least those who have studied medicine or healing in order to truly help their communities – feels this agreement deep within their being.
Nevertheless, I carried on with my plan. The truth is, I mused, that our society and economic system requires that we sell just about everything. That’s how we make a living, so that we can feed our families and participate in “system.”
Along the way, I bump into the same truism in different ways. The extremely high rate of failure for acupuncture graduates in creating and maintaining a practice (a business). It’s said over and over again that in order to succeed we have to be business people as well as healers. But one smart person said to me once that you can’t be both. You are either running the business or you are practicing medicine. You can’t do both well.
Some people do quite well in both, no doubt. But I think for most people, it’s difficult. The establishing, growing, and maintaining a business is not only a different set of skills than that of helping people heal, it’s a different state of being. Creating a business model and pricing out healing creates a dissonance with the healing itself.
This dissonance, I have come to believe, exists more broadly within our culture. It’s very similar, if not the same, to the dissonance between the ego-based notion of self and the true Self within. One is operating from a place of fear to protect a self that is imagined to be separate from the people, earth, and universe around it. The other recognizes the inherent whole, interdependence, and fundamental unity of these ideas.
As we begin to awaken out of the dream of separation, it’s natural to take a look at our societal relationships from a deeper realization of unity. We are fundamentally and inextricably intertwined. Perhaps we can begin to embody this realization together in our world.
My embodiment of this realization wants to give my gift to my community and the world freely. As such, I intend to challenge our norms of economic relationship and provide my services as a gift.
What does this mean?
Providing my services as a gift means that I gift you my services. I will no longer trade my time for your money. I will allot an amount of time that I can work and provide my services as a gift. This comes from a most sincere place of trust in you, my community, that through my freely giving of my gifts, I will undoubtedly receive appreciation in return. I do not *expect* anything in return. But, I imagine that my services will provide value in the lives of my community and so members of this community and supporters of this community will give back in ways that will make this all possible.
What this does NOT mean.
While I am giving my gifts to you, I am not providing my services for free. Nothing is free as there is always an exchange of thoughts, emotions, and things of material value. In order to make this possible, I will need to receive income so as to pay for rent, supplies, etc., and generate more income to provide for my family, send my daughter to college and have money to participate within the dominant system.
So, I will play around with different ways to get you to think about how you can help. If you receive a gift from me that feels valuable to you, you can appreciate that gift in different ways. You will have the opportunity to gift me money, your time, your wisdom, skills, or other gifts that you can give directly into the community. Perhaps you’re good at raising money for wonderful ideas like this one. Maybe you have skills at writing grants or setting up a non-profit business structure. Maybe you grow food and would like to share it. Perhaps you have endless amount of airline miles and could give those.
I actually don’t know how this is going to work. This is a new paradigm and will be fraught with challenges. But in order for me to fully be present, available, and alive for you to the degree of realization that has been gifted to me, I am clear that the direct exchange of money for time and money for healing is no longer viable.