I have just opened up a new offering of Somatic Self-Compassion Online (SSCON) that uses a Gift Economy model of pricing. Many thanks to the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism and to the original Buddha and a lineage of Buddhist monastics who have modeled wise exchange and living in a Gift Economy for thousands of years. Thanks to one of my teachers, Andrew Olendzki, for teaching extensively on the subject of dana (generosity) within a Buddhist context. Thanks also to Charles Eisenstein for his modern take on teachings on the Gift Economy and for his guidance on how to talk about it in the context of running a heart-centered business (I have borrowed some of his wording to describe Gift Economy below).
What is the Gift Economy?
What the Gift Economy means is that I am offering this course to the community and folks who are interested in joining us can decide for themselves what registration amount feels right, clear, and fair, reflecting their financial condition as well as their feeling of value and gratitude.
Folks might choose to pay what a normal online program of this quality and length costs, or they might choose a different amount. Paying zero is fine. This is not because I don’t think this course is valuable – the material and practices in SSCON have been instrumental in changing my relationship with myself for the better, and others have told me that they feel less stressed, better able to cope, less self-critical and less affected by shame after doing this course. Participants also tell me that they feel seen and heard. It’s partly because I don’t know what the value of these experiences will be for each community member, especially given the diversity of financial means in the HeartWorks community, that I offer this as a gift.
Why am I offering a Gift Economy course? It’s part of my own practice and healing. Money and love have often been equated with each other in my story: if you love me you will give me money. Money has been a tangible mark of my worth as a human being and teacher. And I have relied on it to determine whether or not I was – and felt – valued.
I feel that I am moving into a new chapter where I no longer need to be externally validated in this way all of the time. I’m not all the way there, but I want to practice taking a step into the Gift Economy to hang out at my practice edge around this material. I want to see how it is to stand fully in my own power and to not feel swayed by old messages of money and worth. I want to see what it is like to stay connected to my center, to my wise woman.
I am also curious to discover what happens at that place of exchange where there’s the potential to feel that what I am offering and what I am receiving feels unbalanced, and to respond to that boundary place with more skill and goodwill. Setting boundaries has been a tricky practice for me, and I’m keen to dive deeper into that work. How is it to notice body sensations that tell me that I’m approaching a boundary, or that I’m stepping over a boundary? How is it to notice when I don’t honor my own needs, and to course correct? How is it to bring affectionate awareness to my experience, courageous connection with my values and needs, and radical response to my communication and actions? How much self-sustainability can I find in my willingness to hang out in this dangerous ground and find creative ways to take care of myself while also taking care of others? Where is that place where self-sovereignty, generosity and grace co-exist?
And I wonder about expansion of boundaries. How is it to allow some boundaries, especially those borne from fear, to dissolve? What are the boundaries protecting and can I give the need for them away as well?
Practice in Community
I also want to see what it is like to align myself more exquisitely with my values around accessibility. How is it to truly be in a place where accessibility to community support for healing is available to all? I feel strongly that we all deserve to heal in community, we all deserve to have access to teachings and research and practices of self-compassion, and I’m looking forward to feeling that in a more embodied way through knowing that what I offer is as accessible as I can make it.
I also know that shame and money can go hand in hand:
- We feel shame when we don’t have the money we think we should have to pay for something: we might link our sense of self-worth to our level of ability to have a certain kind of paycheck.
- We feel shame when we do have the money, but something in us doesn’t feel safe giving it away: part of our story might have included not being in choice around our gifts and contributions, so we protect ourselves against any similar-looking present or future boundary encroachment.
- We feel shame when we have a lot of money and our privilege leads us to compare ourselves to others and to feel undeserving: we can feel frozen in place as we judge our worthiness to even be in a conversation about money if we think we have more than we deserve.
Money is one of the things we are most likely to feel shame over, according to Brené Brown. I want us, as a community, to experiment with taking that off the table. How is it to not have to compare, to not have to worry if we’ve given enough, and to not feel as if we’ve lost a part of ourselves in giving too much? How is it to enter into a practice of uncoupling money from shame?
While I have been flexible in my pricing for courses, offering scholarships at any rate for anyone who needs them, I realize it takes courage to asked for a different rate than what is posted on my website. I have come to realize that expecting folks to ask for a different rate is not aligned with the HeartWorks value (and my value) of making the policies and practices of offerings trauma-informed. Being trauma-informed means offering choice and true choice comes when we don’t feel we have to ask for special treatment that addresses our individual need. So, rather than expecting folks to seek special treatment, I want to offer special treatment to everyone who is interested in being a part off the community (because we are all special). I don’t want anyone to feel like an exception or to feel that they need to ask for something different. We have enough experiences of having to fit into existing policies, procedures and practices in our daily lives – I want us to have the opportunity for a different experience for this next SSCON.
Based on my experience of the HeartWorks community, I trust community members’ generosity to support me in developing and sustaining in-depth study and practice journeys like this one. I know that folks want to give. I trust each of our judgement about what represents a commitment on our part and respects our individual financial situation.
In truth, I don’t know how it will be to exist in the Gift Economy, but I know I have tools and values that will help me to navigate the terrain. Even failure of a venture like this is a teaching. What edges were I surfing or flailing in? What can I learn about myself? What can I learn about what it means to be in community? What can I learn about compassion and self-compassion?
If you’re interested in taking the Somatic Self-Compassion Online journey with me, I’d love to see you there. The community journey and my personal journey, as always, will happen in parallel. See you on the path!