Nurturing a Gift Economy

Transition Sebastopol's Julia Bystrova shares this story about the positive power of giving that the Heart & Soul is nurturing through their new Gift Circle gatherings.

Last December 2011, Transition Sebastopol’s Heart and Soul group hosted Charles Eisenstein, author of “Sacred Economics” for a talk, along with Alpha Lo, the progenitor of the “gift circle”. It was a deeply enriching evening and fanned the flame in many of us to see our community blossom with more opportunities and alternatives to the mainstream form of commerce—formats for people to give more freely to each other.

We followed up with a wonderful event we called “Love in Action” to initiate the Gift Circle. Gift Circles are a simple format for people to bring what they have to freely offer and to ask for what they need without direct barter or obligation. We also had a discussion about what a “need” really is and what a “gift” really is, as well as what giving and receiving is really about. These conversations shift our consciousness of how we meet each other’s needs by expanding our ideas of trusting and allowing ourselves to receive. It's a simple age-old idea with profound impact because it bypasses our usual ego-related agendas. It has the power to raise the collective consciousness to a new level of perspective on how we want to run our economy. No doubt, we will still use some form of currency, but imagine it being used alongside and along with this gifting economy! Imagine how it would affect how corporations or businesses or politicians operate if they knew that we are here to help each other and meet each other’s needs, and that there really is no scarcity. Belief in scarcity is what leads to greed. When we operate from the heart, we have an abundance to give each other, in different ways. Think of it this way: when you give a smile or hug and someone smiles or hugs back, neither of you has less but actually more of that smile or hug. Gifting economy works the same way.

Sacred Economics ook

I personally feel that this is big stuff and really gets to the heart of the change we are wanting to see happen in our society on many levels. This is truly sacred work! Our discussions around this simple, age-old and profound idea of simply giving to each other without agenda or obligation brought up a lot for many folks about their ability to receive as well as to give without a sense of guilt, obligation or expectation. Already since starting the group, we have several heartwarming stories about folks getting their needs met in fulfilling and even amazing ways. For example, one woman had a lot of cleaning and organizing to do because she had to move out—she is older and on her own with no money to hire anyone. Several folks came over to help her and they reported that they had a great time, working together and chatting while cleaning this woman’s shed. She, in turn, felt a huge relief and also a breakthrough because she wasembarrassed about even asking for help. When she saw that helping her was something that others also received from by doing it, she shifted her view about receiving! There are many more stories like this. I will be posting them as we go along.

Open Collaboration book

Now that we have begun the regular group, which has at its core the gift circle format, we are expanding it to include giving and receiving in many other creative ways. We will have a platform for folks to present their skills, share their expertise and talents, a table for useful items to pass on from households no longer needing them and so on. I look forward to seeing all the ways we can support ourselves, each other and the community in this way. We are building the world we want to live in, one gift at a time.

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