As one of the perks for the crowd funding campaigns to raise money to finish and publish the book I’m writing, I’m offering audio commentary to supplement the stories in the book. Tonight I felt a desire to share Derek’s Story, a sample of the kind of audio commentary I’m creating.
Derek was a troubled young man I took under my wing, gave him a job in my landscaping business and helped him become an entrepreneur… before losing him to crack cocaine and then police brutality. The 13-minute story is pretty emotional for me. I’m telling these stories in my book to share where my passion to help men (especially men raised with no father, no tribe, no trust in external authority) reclaim their honor and find authentic inner guidance, freedom and power as a man.
My life and my work is an effort to defend, protect and give to men (especially those who’ve been cast out, shamed or left behind), so they can live with the honor of being a man who has people they desire to defend, protect and give to.
Please consider a contribution to my new campaign. You can preorder a signed copy of the book: Visionary Heart: Bringing Down My Walls, Standing For My People. You can also get the audio commentary, a backstage pass and more.
Thank you for your consideration.
My upcoming book, VISIONARY HEART: Bringing Down My Walls, Standing For My People, shares many of the stories of my life as they relate to the work offered here at VisionForce.
This chapter tells a story of my walls of judgment beginning to form towards one of my younger brothers. I wanted to walk away in judgment, but then I finding a place to stand where my heart could see him again.
Finding a place to stand is a part of the Honor Window work.
I welcome you to Download the Chapter: Finding A Place to Stand.
If you’d like to order an advanced copy, or become a patron of this work, please visit our Visionary Heart campaign.
My path of gifting, trusting and opening to receive is stretching me in beautiful ways, and asking me to open ever more. In the video I share about some very beautiful surprises, ways people have stepped forward to join me in this campaign and the spirit of gifting.
Thanks to everyone for your support, and please continue to support the campaign home page in any way that feels right to you (share this video with friends, make a contribution, send me your ideas, etc.).
Every dollar helps to buy me more time to finish and self-publish the book and continue supporting people with the Honor Work. Thanks!
To support the Visionary Heart Campaign on Indiegogo: http://igg.me/at/visionary-heart/x/44…
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.
I’m having a blast recording these videos using nothing but my laptop. Check out my life here in Thailand in the three videos below, and then check out my Visionary Heart Campaign.
Campaign Update #1
Campaign Update #2
Campaign Update #3
A week and a half ago, I began a crowd funding campaign on Indiegogo to support the finishing and publishing of my upcoming book on my life’s work: VISIONARY HEART: Bringing Down My Walls, Standing For My People.
You can find the campaign here.
There you can download a sample chapter from my book, which tells the story of the origin of the Honor Window, a fundamental part of our work here at VisionForce. You can also become a patron, pre-order the book, join me in conversations and collaborations with the book, and join me on adventures around the world.
Hey it’s Michael Skye, writing from Thailand.
In 2006 at the height of the Iraq War, I was no longer content to sit on the sidelines.
I knew that I could make a bigger difference, if I turned the focus of my work and my life to supporting revolutionaries, social entrepreneurs, visionary artists and activists…
That’s when VisionForce was born.
If I take away all the grand visions and notions of what VisionForce is or could be what remains is this:
One guy (me) choosing to take risks and experiment with “being the change” and supporting others who are also standing for a more beautiful world.
Over the past several years I’ve been experimenting with GIFTING my life’s work.
My hunch is that what I’ve been learning about “gifting” could be a great help to many fellow visionaries (and I say you are a visionary if you are following an inspired vision of your heart).
What GIFTING is NOT:
– NOT for profit
– NOT non-profit
– NOT charity
– NOT “free”
For me, authentic gifting comes from my heart, and what I am gifting is sacred. I am careful how I give.
HERE’s how I’ve been gifting my life’s work:
– I share my work whenever and wherever I feel the desire to share, provided that another authentically desires to receive.
– The receiver does *not* need to pay me anything.
So how do I survive?
– I’ve reduced my “cost of living” to a bare minimum (I’m not buying expensive things, I’m not engaging in debt, I don’t have costly habits, etc.)
– I show up generously everywhere I go, connecting to people with my heart, seeing where I can serve, and serving.
– I give whenever I feel a desire, without fear for my own survival.
– I simply TRUST I’ll be provided for without knowing where the support will come from, and without borrowing money or asking for handouts.
What I’ve stopped doing:
– I’ve stopped selling my work and self-promoting
– I’ve stopped “networking” – filtering people by how I can profit from a relationship
– I’ve stopped borrowing money and loaning money
– I’ve stopped taking on “world-changing” projects, and stopped promoting grand visions
– I’ve stopped trying to “motivate” people to get involved in what I am up to
– And lots more
And, I’ve been THRIVING!
There’s so much I could say about all this…
– How I’ve been asking without asking,
– How I’ve been moving/traveling in the world,
– How I give and receive without entangling relationships
– How I’ve navigated different cultures’ values around money
– How I hold what I gift sacred
– How I give without “self-sacrifice”
WHAT I’M GIFTING NOW:
I’m here in Thailand finishing a book on my life’s work.
The online version of the book will be gifted, as well as the online tools and trainings it links to, as well as LIVE in-person events and trainings that it invites people to attend around the world.
How can I afford to gift this much?
It’s simple: I have PATRONS.
A patron is not a customer looking to get a product or service in exchange for their money.
A patron is not an investor looking to get a financial return on their money.
A patron is simply someone who wants to see something exist in the world, and gifts money to support an artist, scientist or other benefactor of humanity.
Patrons make it possible for the visionary to stay true to their vision or gift for humanity without worrying about “making a profit” or “earning a living.”
Every visionary who is following their heart and their art and giving BIG in the world should have patrons!
In the near future I’ll be helping to connect visionaries with patrons…
But first I’ve got a few more experiments of my own.
The first is an Indiegogo crowd funding campaign to raise funds to finish and self-publish my book.
If you already know you’d like to share my campaign with your people (on facebook, twitter, or elsewhere), please join our informal facebook group of friends who helping me to share the campaign: https://www.facebook.com/groups/GiftingVisionForce/
I’m sitting here all by my lonesome in Chiang Rai, Thailand, one of my favorite spots to get away and write. I’ve got routines and rituals here that make it easy for me to just drop into a groove and be very focused and productive. The spicy Thai food, extraordinary Thai massages and very low cost of living makes it all so perfect. Well almost.
There’s only one thing missing. YOU.
Just as I’m done doing my work from one spot in the world, trudging into the same office every day, I’m also done with the “solo” journey. I love being around like-minded and like-hearted people who get me, get what I’m up to and inspire me with who they are and what they’re up to. Part of the reason I’ve dissolved the old business model of selling my work is because I desire to eliminate the barriers to deeper and more authentic connection with everyone.
I don’t want to be the “service provider,” and you, the “customer.” That’s so limited. So last decade.
So, I’m introducing Writing Retreats through a gifting model here to my VisionForce tribe. For similar kinds of inspiring retreats that organizations sell, you might pay an arm and a leg. I say, let’s keep it simple. You come in the spirit of gifting, and I will as well. Want to know more?
VisionForce Writing Retreats (under the Adventure tab above).
VisionForce is an experiment in Giftivism: Radically generous acts that change the world. Nipun Mehta’s TED talk, “Designing For Generosity,” is a beautiful introduction to what we’re up to here:
VisionForce is designed to empower visionaries. Consider yourself a visionary, if your heart holds a vision of a more beautiful world that will exist if you follow your heart, give your gifts generously and trust. VisionForce gifts tools, skills, paradigm shifts, allies, patrons and more to rising visionaries (like you). Our events, trainings and adventures are sourced and supported by volunteers and our patrons.
I’m laying here in Chiang Rai, Thailand. It’s nearly 1am and I’m looking for mixed martial arts fight videos online. I love the martial arts, I love competition, I love challenge… and I love the mixed martial arts bouts in which two individuals who have been training usually all of their lives and mastered a few different martial art forms step into a cage of their own free will to test themselves against each other.
I know something about that level of challenge. The closest thing I can relate it to, however are my iStands, which were originally called boot camps. Back in the early days starting in 2002, boot camps were incredibly confronting. Not just for participants, but for me, because it was generally me doing the confronting. I confronted people while grounded in my stand for them, just as I as an older brother have stood for my brothers and sisters over the years through conflict and crisis. There are a lot of stories to tell about my years of “training,” if you will, for being an iStand facilitator or “boot camp leader” in which I stand for people with all my heart. No matter what thoughts of feelings come up inside of me throughout the event, I stand for every single one of the people who are there. Not so different from a mixed martial arts bout.
What’s different of course is that two MMA fighters are trying to submit their opponent or knock them unconscious. Some people view this as violence and can’t understand my love for it considering the profound levels of compassion and honoring inherent in my work. But for me those two fighters are simply challenging themselves and each other, and the physical pain is but part of what there is to face. It’s a question of who can remain the most focused, who has prepared the hardest, who can stand the strongest, who can endure the longest, who can remain the humblest and most present, who has more heart, who has more at stake, who can stay the most relaxed and adaptable, who has a higher level of mastery? For me it all translates to my iStands. It’s my fight. I step onto the mat for five days facilitating what I think of as a martial art for the human mind and spirit. It’s not one person against another, it’s just accessing the full power of one’s heart in any situation. The room is full of people who’ve come to stand for their families, for their communities, for world peace–or whatever their heart is calling them to stand for. And I’ve got their back.
It was nearly eleven years ago that I facilitated my first iStand, which at the time I called a boot camp. I knew the body of work I’d been developing for so many years was effective for myself and those I’d shared it with. But would it translate to a group of people all at once? Could I effectively deliver it–me, the kid who grew up so shy during my teen years? Every morning I awoke in the months leading up to it knowing this would be the greatest challenge of my life.
It required every bit of focus and energy I had, and when I finished I was completely exhausted and completely exhilarated. It was the biggest test of my life, and people were so deeply affected that they were calling it the most powerful experience of their lives.
It’s been three and a half years since I’ve facilitated an iStand. I can’t believe it’s been that long. But I chose to go on a long sabbatical, to rest, to let go of the grand vision and to give myself incredible space to choose my next path in life. And I did. I let go emotionally of a lot of things, and stopped fighting for the things I’d been fighting for. I chose to learn about the magic of allowing, of receiving, of grace, of letting go, etc. And it’s been incredibly healing and revealing. I’ve let go of a lot of attachments and hidden drives to prove myself. It’s been incredibly freeing.
However, something hit me just the other day. And that is that if I don’t have people I’m standing for and giving everything to with all of my heart, then I’m like I fish out of water. Or a martial artist who’s trained all his life and then walks away. Not that it’s wrong, I just don’t get to feel myself fully tested, fully used up by life, fully in service. I don’t have a wife and children; if I did I’d be giving them everything I’ve got. My family over the last few decades has been my family of birth. I’ve been standing for them. And standing for the people who’ve come into my life and participated in my work.
I am a warrior. The energy, an essence, that’s deep in my body and soul. I grew up in a religion and family that told me I was one of God’s warriors saved for the last days of the world with a special mission to win the battle raging in the hearts of men. I grew up in the 1980’s watching Star Wars and Rocky. It was the Cold War. Everything was on the line–not just eternal life, but also human life on planet earth which was being threatened by the nuclear arms race–oh, and the fate of the Galactic Republic! Not to mention the battle of my parents’ divorce which lasted from the time I was 14 to 21.
I need to have a great fight coming up, a great challenge. I need people to be standing for, people to whom I can give all of my heart. I don’t need it to survive, I just need it like the stallion needs to run, like the eagle needs to fly.
What was insightful to me about this realization that I need this, is that in one way it’s impersonal. It doesn’t need to be for some specific cause or for some specific group of people. I’m just at my best when I’ve got a great challenge on the horizon that requires me to prepare myself with every bit of focus and energy that I can, and I know what inspires me right now is to stand for those who are also facing great challenge in standing for their families, their loved ones, their people–or whatever their heart is calling them to give all of themselves to.
And my iStands are a perfect forum for me to do this. I get to challenge myself to take access next-levels of strength, courage and mastery, and I get to pass on what I’ve learned and make a difference. I get to do what I’m here to do–not in the sense of a mission to fulfill necessarily, but simply like the bee is a bee, the mountain is a mountain, and I express fully through action and essence my nature in service of my people, my world. Without excuse, without apology, without bridle, without clipped wings.