“I Just Want To Give My Gift!”
BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM…
Wild African drum beats echoed up from the valley, bouncing off the mountain walls and through the open balcony doors. It was Carnival, high in the mountain town of Ouro Preto, Brazil, February 2012–middle of the night.
Everyone else was celebrating for the fifth day and night in a row. I was in my room, tears streaming down my face, my heart beating fast.
The work I’d been sharing with people around the world through VisionForce had touched many people’s lives, but I had mostly stopped doing my work. I was going through a time of questioning so much about my culture, my life and myself.
And I was ready for change. I was no longer content to limit my work to those who could afford to pay me. And I was no longer content to spend so much time marketing and selling my work, when I really wanted to just do my work with people.
This time off transition was asking me to let go. I didn’t know what life would ask of me next.
Then suddenly came the tears. And the words that evoked the tears were, “I just want to give my gift!”
These tears were my heart’s deepest longing. My longing to be in service, to be giving the gift of my heart–to be giving big, holding nothing back, and trusting I’d be provided for.
I’d been experimenting with gifting, traveling the world gifting retreats and counseling to facilitate sacred reunion with people and families who’d grown apart and were in fear and judgment, and I’d experienced many miracles. But I wanted to go further.
I’d been listening to a few interviews and watching a few videos of Charles Eisenstein talking about money, “gift economy” and “sacred economics.” His ideas challenged my worldview while simultaneously resonating with my life experience.
But mostly I recognized him as a teacher I wanted to learn from because he spoke to my heart. I sensed that connecting with him more could help usher me further into this miraculous world of gifting and connection.
What felt best was to come into relation to Charles through gifting to him. I’d already been blessed with what he’d shared online as a gift in the form of audios, videos and writing, and so I wrote to him offering to help him in whatever way he needed help.
Volunteering is not something I’d done much of in my life. I came from a background of idolizing heroic entrepreneurship, rugged individualism and Ayn Rand. So, it felt a bit vulnerable to offer to give to him and support him in whatever way he needed support. My critical thinking mind would have told me to focus on my own work and my own initiatives instead, but I knew that this world of giving was a key to me feeling fully alive, connected and joyful.
I was pleased when Charles accepted my offer, and I teamed up with a woman who’d already been supporting him in various ways. Together we started a volunteer group of folks to support Charles and advance his work. We started gathering on conference calls to discuss what we could do to support Charles and his work, and I was eager to draw on my strengths in marketing, strategizing and “making things happen.”
Charles voice on the phone was like a hand on my shoulder, an assurance that there was nothing to hurry up about, nothing to “make happen.” His voice was just as I’d always heard it online—gentle, sensitive and acutely attuned to articulating the truth of his heart. In the way that is uniquely Charles, he suggested that maybe we don’t need to be so strategic, maybe we don’t need to drive forward full speed ahead, maybe none of us needs to do any work that we don’t fully enjoy doing.
These weren’t his exact words, and I can’t remember everything he said, but I remember feeling a sense of relief and appreciation—this is why I was here, this is the gift he is for me: a living example of how I can walk the earth with a sacred connection to and trust in my own heart.
It’s hard for me to put into words, but my heart responds when Charles speaks. I liked that, and I liked that I was being challenged by the nature of the vulnerable role as volunteer to let go, to trust and to be of service.
Later that summer I returned to the states, in part because I wanted to attend a gathering with our volunteer group. I was longing for deeper connection with like minded people who were standing for “the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible,” a phrase Charles often uses.
Money for me was limited, because I’d not been “working for money” the last few years. Instead I was following heart-felt invitations from people to come and stay with them and share my work and my gifts, and connect in the activities of everyday life. Once I was back in the states, I noticed that I didn’t feel right about buying a roundtrip plane ticket to Washington DC, renting and staying hotel rooms, because I knew I’d be coming with hopes and expectations to “get” enough value from this meeting with Charles and the group to justify the financial expense.
Then I received a very warm and generous invitation from Charles’ new personal assistant Marie.
Marie opened her home to me and told me I was welcome with her and her family. My heart said YES, and I knew I could now go fully in a spirit of giving and receiving; so, I bought a roundtrip ticket. We had a beautiful evening as a group; it was the first time we’d all met together in person. It was the kind of deep feeling of connection I’d been longing for. We parted ways with hopes this would be the first of many such gatherings and the beginning of exciting new adventures co-creating a more beautiful world.
Marie had planned to drive home to Pennsylvania from the meeting in DC, but it was too late and we’d need to stop for the night. I was concerned that I did not have money to spend on a hotel room, but that concern was put to rest instantly. Marie gifted me a room without me saying anything.
The following day Marie and I stopped by Charles’ home to see how we could help for an evening workshop he was giving to a nearby community. Charles gifted us lunch (if I remember correctly, he made us lunch). We asked how we might help out, and he mentioned he had to mow the lawn that day among other things. In the spirit of giving I offered to mow the lawn but Charles declined, saying that he liked doing it and it was something he wanted to do. My sense was that he doesn’t want to be treated like any kind of celebrity or be put on a pedestal—but rather desires to be connected to the simple tasks of everyday life such as cooking and mowing the lawn.
Back at Charle’s place after his presentation, he asked me what my flight had cost me to come there. I told him it was $444 round trip, and he thought for a moment then told me he wanted to gift me half of that.
Part of my path right now is learning to give and receive when I feel an authentic desire to give and receive, regardless of the social norms that might tell us that openly giving and receiving is not always appropriate. That means I don’t protest when someone offers me something, if I feel the offer is genuine. I allow myself to fully receive. One beautiful thing I’ve learned on this path is that allowing someone to give what they desire to give is itself a gift: receiving is a gift. Many people don’t allow others to give for a number of reasons.
Charles left for a moment and came back with $222 in cash. “This feels right,” he said, handing it to me. “Thank you for coming Michael.” I never expected this and felt very grateful. And I felt excitement. We were practicing “living in the gift” as Charles put it. Maybe, just maybe, the whole world can begin to live from this place of gratitude and giving.
I spent the next few days in Marie’s home, and shared some really beautiful moments with Marie and her husband Chris, who I remember gifted me with an awesome breakfast my first morning there. We shared great conversations about world travels—the kind of conversations where you get to relive amazing memories and share them with others, as well as live vicariously through the adventures of another (and Marie and Chris had some wild adventures in Asia that still have me thinking twice about visiting China and India!).
A while after this trip to DC, I noticed my desire to give and connect with folks within the context and structure of the volunteer group was greater or different from what the group seemed to desire, so rather than try to change myself or change the group (which I might have been inclined to do in the past), I recognized this as an inner calling to find or create ways to more fully express my huge desire to give.
I’ve now decided to gift my life’s work which supports all who are standing for sacred reunion with our hearts and with each other. I’m putting my work in the hands of visionary artists, activists and other inspired co-creators of the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible.
I’m putting my work in your hands, if you let me, and I do hope you’ll give me the gift of letting me give my work to you one day.
I’m currently experimenting with using this crowd funding campaign at Indiegogo to raise money to finish and publish on a book about my story and life’s work, which will be gifted online as well as link to tools and online trainings I’m gifting, and live events I’m also gifting. This campaign opens up a channel for people to join me in gifting my work in the world (I’d love to hear feedback, ideas and suggestions–this is an experiment).
I’m still learning from Charles and those discussing this beautiful world of gifting, and am enjoying this group on facebook hosted by Marie. I invite anyone who’s interested to join us there. I don’t believe the volunteer group exists at this moment, but I’m looking forward to new ways of connecting with like-minded folks. Much gratitude to you all. May we meet “in the real world” and share sacred time and space together soon.