The Unshielded Flame

Ok, so this is a long one. Maybe only for those who are REALLY interested in what is going on with my GFRF… You may have noticed that I like to explain things in detail. Hopefully this is helpful a lot of the time, and perhaps even endearing some of the time.  But it does also mean you sometimes need to read through a lot of material to get that detail.

TL;DR

So here is the TL;DR: I need to balance the energy I put in to my qigong teaching, and the energy I receive back in return. To try to accomplish this I am going to password restrict access to some of my online training materials. This will create a barrier of sorts to protect the ‘flame’ of my personal energy from the winds of a harsh economic environment. I will have greater control over the use of my time and energy and who has access to it to reduce the drain on me. It will also create a much stronger decision point for people to decide to donate or not and how much. I will keep it GFRF for now and see how it goes.

If you do want to read the rest of the post though, I would recommend it. I have even included some pictures and videos to keep it interesting for you!

Difficulties

I am finding these recent posts difficult to write, but when I first started out on my ‘Give Freely, Receive Freely’ experiment I committed to documenting my experiences and the results, good or bad, or otherwise it would not be a very honest representation of the experiment.

If anything I have held back on writing about just how difficult it has been for me to continue to do things by ‘Give Freely, Receive Freely’, because who wants to be complaining all the time? I would much rather focus on the positive, and also I committed to gladly accept whatever I received without complaint – otherwise I would not truly be giving freely or receiving freely. But now that it has become necessary for me to make changes to how I am doing things, I think I also need to write a little more about the challenges I have had while using GFRF.

Protecting the flame

An analogy that occurred to me that would describe some aspects of the challenges pretty accurately is that of a flame.  I often refer to a flame when teaching about breathing and qigong. How for a flame to be healthy and strong it needs enough air, but also not too much. Think of a candle, without enough air the flame will be smothered. With too much air, in a breeze or wind, the flame will splutter, and maybe even be blown out.

Having tried using GFRF for over five years now, I have often considered other types of arrangement that have similarities to see what makes them work or not work, and using the analogy of a flame, from what I have seen there is a feature that seems to be almost universal in examples of successful use off GFRF principles or similar. There is always, or almost always some kind of barrier or buffer of protection for the people using GFRF that allows them to do it successfully. Something that protects their flame from the winds of this

I will mention several examples and explain:

The Monastery

Being in Thailand recently and seeing the monks going around and collecting food from devotees each morning brought this one strongly to mind again. The monks do not work for money, relying on donations for their support so would seem to be using GFRF pretty well. BUT, they are also supported by the infrastructure in place at the monastery, they don’t have to worry about things like paying rent, and the monastery often has financial reserves from previous bequests and donations.

They also benefit from a cultural understanding and tradition of supporting them in this way.  All of these things contribute to them being able to function in this way, and in the end they don’t fully engage with the world, they retreat from it. They don’t need to pay taxes, they don’t need to provide for a family etc etc.

The Commune

This is another example of a group of people together trying their best to live by GFRF principles or similar. A larger flame is harder to blow out than a small one, so by working together and sharing freely with each other they are able to benefit from their collective strength and provide for their needs together in ways that they could not individually. These communes usually start out with property purchased from the collective finances of the founding members, so again they don’t need to worry about that very basic need of at least having somewhere to live, their daily efforts are usually more about taking care of their daily needs and possibly developing their property further. But they do this within the sheltered environment of their communal society.

They share freely with each other, but are usually isolated to a large extent from the rest of the world. If they have to interact with the rest of the world, they usually do so on normal commercial terms, buying and selling. They attempt to create a protected oasis from the outside world in their commune where they can live the way they truly want to. BUT, this isolation and strong reliance on each other also creates challenges. If you are familiar with the history of various communes you will know that scandals are common, and often members end up being taken advantage of in different ways by the unscrupulous and power hungry among them. Because of their reliance on the group and lack of personal property it makes it difficult for them to leave, and unfortunately there are very very few examples of communes that have managed to be successful and healthy environments for their members to live in for the long run, and so so many examples of communes that have broken up and fallen apart because of abuse within them.  I have actually wanted to write an in depth blog post about communes and the challenges involved in them and possible other ways of looking at achieving the same purposes for quite awhile, but just haven’t  had the time as I have been working so hard on other things. Perhaps I will get to do that in the future.

The Foundation or Charity

I don’t actually think these are a very good example of GFRF because they are not usually about exchange and mutual support. They do however represent people’s desire to give to help other’s and to create a better world. BUT, usually the money that flows through these organizations has been obtained by usual commercial means – work, business, investment, and so on.

And those working in the charities are a combination of volunteers who do the work for no compensation – they do not rely on it to support themselves, and employees – who are working on a normal commercial basis as they would with any other job. Some employees in charities are even paid hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars annually, and for them their working situation is really not too different from working in any other industry sector. I will comment more on how this relates to GFRF a little later in this post.

The Academic Institution

This is an interesting one. Sometimes academics once they have been granted tenure then find themselves free to put their efforts into researching and teaching whatever they think is most valuable.

They are able to freely give their intellectual efforts to the world, but they are clearly very protected from the economic realities due to the backing of the institution they are part of which may be funded by the government – indirectly through taxes, or by private donors. They may indeed be giving freely, but they do so from an extraordinarily protected financial position, which leads to the sometimes criticisms of academics in their ivory towers being out of touch with the realities of the world.

The Independently Wealthy – or Significant Asset Base

Another group who sometimes seem to manage to do something like GFRF is those who are already wealthy, or at least have a significant asset base to start with. These people are sometimes able to give their services freely and support themselves by doing this, but they are not truly meeting the full cost of their living because they are doing so supported by the asset base they have already accumulated through more normal means whether it be work, investment, inheritance or so on. This then gives them the security and freedom to operate in this way.

The people who do this are few and far between, and I think those that do are wonderful and embracing the spirit of what I have referred to as GFRF (sometimes other people use other terms to describe their philosophy), but in a practical analysis it can’t be ignored that their base of assets is a big part of what allows them to do this successfully. One of the best examples of GFRF that I know of is not wealthy as such, but does benefit from owning a substantial piece of property that allows them to do what they do in the way that they do it, and they are an inspiration.

The Supported Partner

Another type of person that may be using GFRF is the person who works at something that is their passion and chooses to do it in a GFRF way because they want to share what they have with others, and it feels good and right and freeing to do it GFRF (I feel this way too J). They are able to get some return in this way so it seems like it is working for them, but if you dig deeper into their financial situation they are not actually supporting themselves fully in this way.

They have a partner, or someone else who has a significant income from a more normal job or a significant asset base etc which is paying for a significant part of their living costs. The GFRF work is either just a hobby, or a part-time supplemental income, not an income that would actually meet their financial needs fully. To do that they need the support of another. This support protects and shields them to some extent from the harsh economic realities of their environment.

The Side Project

Another example of someone using GFRF for their work is someone who uses it just for a portion of their work. This allows them to use GFRF because they want to, but the bulk of their income and financial support comes from a more regular job or business. Again shielding their side project from the economic winds around them.

How do these examples compare to my GFRF

I applaud any and everyone’s efforts to use the principles of GFRF, or to otherwise act charitably. I think any effort in this direction is wonderful and my intent is certainly not to be critical of peoples efforts in any way, but simply to examine closely and rationally how things are working to learn from them, and some kind of ‘shielding’ or protection seems common in I think pretty much every example of successful GFRF like situations that I have come to be aware of. There may be exceptions of course, and that is great. But this seems to be the general pattern.

So how do these examples compare to what I have been doing with GFRF?

First the monastery. I am not working as part of a religious order. My intention is not to retreat from the world but to engage fully with it. I think when we retreat from the world we reduce our influence on it. We are most influential when we are in it and part of it, as such I have the same economic needs as other people in society, which are quite different from the monk in retreat.  Because I am not part of an established tradition I so often encounter confusion and misunderstanding of how to interact with GFRF, and if I want to have any success with it have to put a lot of effort simply into communicating this rather than getting on with giving the other things I have to give. Also because of the perceived similarity to how monks live, I from time to time encounter people assuming that I am just like a monk of some sort… I may be choosing to use some of the same underlying principles of how I want to interact with people compassionately, but I am definitely not a monk. I am also not supported in my travels and efforts by a large established organization with financial resources, which is sometimes assumed as well. I am doing everything off my own back, and out of my own pocket. When my pocket empties out, there is not another reserve for me to draw on.

Next the commune. Well… I am not secluding myself from the world. I am not only giving to those within my select community who have agreed to common principles and also give freely back to me in the same way. I have no such community to support and strengthen me. I guess in a small way I have wanted to encourage development of a community like this of sorts by having the GFRF website and sharing my experiences on it. Also listing the details of other people who are using GFRF or similar as I have come across them. But we are few and dispersed and unable to meet each other’s needs in this way. I have also specifically wanted to keep my giving and my interaction open to the world at large to influence, share, and spread the ideals of GFRF by letting people come into contact with it, and also to avoid some of the potential pitfalls of a closed commune type environment. I guess my hope – and I realised that it was an idealistic and perhaps unrealistic hope this could spark wider change. In the least people would become more comfortable interacting with GFRF, and perhaps it might inspire a more giving and compassionate environment for all of us as more people tried GFRF or similar in their lives. But overall my efforts have been very much exposed to the regular everyday economic environment, and that was always my intention.

The Foundation or Charity. I think you can definitely consider what I have been doing as charity in the sense that it is giving inspired by love and compassion. But it is not charity in the sense of the word in the way that most people commonly use it, in that I do not benefit from some people giving to me financially so that I can then give my services to others. My idea has always been that if at all possible there needs to be reciprocity. Those receiving need to give in return. Charity in the sense it is commonly used implies giving in one direction. This implies that there are those that can give, and those that can receive. This creates a kind of inequality and often on a deep level is not beneficial to the receivers as it creates a mindset of dependency and that they are unable to give that is hard for them to break out of. When there is reciprocity it recognises the fundamental worth and equality of us all, and our mutual dependence on each other. We all become both givers AND receivers. Some may be able to give more, and others less, but that all balances out in the end and everyone’s contribution is valuable and necessary to our overall wellbeing and success.

I have thought about the possibility of seeking charitable status which would make my activities tax exempt, and I think there would be a very good case for that being granted. This would also encourage people or organizations to make larger tax deductible donations to help support my work in sharing with others, and maybe this is something I could still explore in the future, but overall my activities have been too small for me to be able to afford the time and expense of jumping through all the necessary hoops to achieve this at this stage, and also it is not truly in line with the highest ideal of GFRF which should ideally include reciprocity.

The academic institution. I actually think that one of the areas where I could potentially give the most value to the world is through academia. I think I have an unusual level of insight into some of the things that I teach about, and good academic research would be a valuable tool for gaining further understanding of these things and also spreading this knowledge so that it can most effectively reach those who need it most. I am currently not in the position of having support from an academic institution though. This may be something for the future.

The independently wealthy or significant asset base. I wish… I entered into GFRF without significant assets, and I still do not have them. I don’t even have and cannot at this stage afford a home to live in. So many conversations I have with people as I have travelled sharing qigong at some point go back to what about your home in New Zealand, or what about your studio etc. There is just an assumption that I must have these things, and I don’t. I never owned a home, much as I would like to, and I gave up my studio so that I could travel to teach because there was no way that I could afford to keep it and do both. When I get back to New Zealand I will be essentially homeless and relying on the kindness of friends and family when I first arrive and scramble to figure out where I am going to be able to live.

I started doing GFRF, not because it was easy, not because I was financially comfortable and could afford to do it without worries, but because it felt right and I wanted to do it. Perhaps I could have waited until I had accumulated an asset base and then began my experiment, but again that would not have been in keeping with what I consider the highest ideals of GFRF. If we wait for the perfect conditions to try to do things, we tend to keep on waiting… Even the very wealthy often tend to think of themselves as not having enough and so they constantly seek to obtain more, (and there are very good reasons for that stemming from the way our financial systems operate – another topic I have wanted to write something in depth about but haven’t been able to yet). So surely if we really want to create change in ourselves or the world around us we need to just start now with what we have rather than wait for some future time or circumstances that may never eventuate.

The supported partner. I mentioned already that when I get back to New Zealand I will be relying on friends and family for places to stay as I try to get re-established and move forwards there. So I have people who have been supportive of me, and I am grateful to them for that. But I don’t have a partner earning a good salary to support me while I work on my hobby project. While I may have supportive people who will help me in the short term, in the long term I need to be able to support myself. I would even like to be able to support a family of my own when the time is right, so I need an income that will allow me to do this and provide some security for them, not to merely allow me to continue to exist.

The side project. To begin with this would have described my start with GFRF. I did it with only a portion of my work. A very substantial portion, but still not all of my work. However overtime I have gradually shifted more and more of my efforts to being on a GFRF basis, giving up different business interests so that I could put more of my time and energy into the work that I do on a GFRF basis. I still haven’t managed to get to 100% GFRF, mainly only to 90%. I still have some very minor income stream from my previous efforts, and to be fair, these have actually been part of what has propped up my ongoing GFRF work. If I didn’t have those I would have reached this point of crunch time a lot sooner. But certainly the vast bulk of my work in recent times has all been GFRF, the other outstanding financial interests have become the minor side project and certainly not the focus of my time or efforts.

The Unshielded Flame

So overall, my GFRF efforts have largely been an unshielded flame, not protected by the buffers that are common in situations where GFRF type situations manage to persist. There are some potential benefits to not having a shield around your flame – if you want it to spread. Being unshielded allows the flame to come into contact with flammable materials to allow the flame to grow. When the flame is big enough it is then very difficult to put out, and any wind just causes it to burn brighter and hotter and spread further. I think GFRF could be such a flame. If the environment was dry enough it could spread and grow, and in doing so it would burn down many of the assumptions we have about how society and economics should work, clearing the way for a more peaceful and utopic future.

I think on some level this is part of what makes some people reluctant and even suspicious of interacting with GFRF. It undermines their ideas of how society should work, and even if they recognize the issues and problems with society, the implication of a society without some of the existing restrictions is scary and unsettling to them, even if they are not consciously aware of it. It feels much safer to stick with the imperfect situation that you know, than to venture into the unknown.

But anyway… my experience has been that in most situations I have found the environment to be rather damp and windy. I have found the odd dry twig along the way that has caught the vision and also caught alight with the spirit of GFRF. Some of those have since blown out, finding their environment to also be too damp and windy. Perhaps some are still burning. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they found some dry and sheltered territory where they are successful in growing their GFRF flame?

Even for those who I have encountered who have LOVED the idea of GFRF, and LOVED my work, what I offer and what I teach, all too often when it comes to it when it comes to giving in return I have found them to be very reluctant to part with their resources. Even as they tell me how well my teaching compares to other courses and classes they have attended, both online and in person, and how much they have had to pay for other courses, they have then ended up giving me a tiny fraction of this, or even nothing at all in return for the teaching they have received. Their deep instinct to retain their resources unless they absolutely have to give them up has obviously kicked in when it comes to actually opening their wallets. Even if you LOVE the idea of GFRF, it can’t thrive unless you put this into practical action and support it not just with your words but with your finances as well. And this has been what I have attempted to do. Not just explore GFRF as an idea, as a philosophy, but to put it into action, to put everything on the line to make it work.

I have also had those that again have loved GFRF, and love what I offer and teach, and then come up with suggestions of how I could make more money. And basically the ideas are usually to just make something new, or repurpose something I have already created and sell it in a normal way???? They deeply agree with GFRF and want me to keep doing it, but in the end their idea is to do something just completely in an ordinary way using an ordinary pricing mechanism???? Not to use GFRF at all… It’s like it just doesn’t quite compute and they are so entrenched in the ordinary economic system that they can’t tell that that is exactly what they are recommending. I could just put a price on what I already do!

And then there are those people who make suggestions of ‘why don’t you just do this: …..’ I won’t go into specific details, but they then suggest something that would require a huge amount of capital input. And where would that money come from? I don’t have it. If they were offering to give the money to me for it, maybe it would be a good suggestion, but overall there is a certain unreality to their thinking. And it is never something they themselves have done, just a fantastical idea with no consideration of the resources required to implement it.

And then there are those who whenever I talk to them about what I am doing ask “you’re not still doing it for free are you? (or GFRF if they remember the term)”. They are concerned from me because they are worried that people will not respect what I do and give me enough for it if I don’t put a price on it. There are also those that when they have organised workshops and things like that for me to teach at have insisted on putting prices on them, because they have not had confidence that I would get sufficient, or even any return doing it GFRF. I have found it frustrating at times because I have wanted to use GFRF as much as possible, but I have respected their concern for me and the practicality of organising workshops, and in the end the financial returns from these have usually been much better than those that have been GFRF.

And then, there have been so many who just never get around to giving in return, or who actually don’t end up participating in training because they can’t get their heads around the GFRF, even if they really like the idea.

Now has this been everybody? No… I did mention that there have been some dry twigs along the way. There have been those that have ‘got’ GFRF and been respectful and even generous in return, but these have been in the minority. Overall I have found my environment to be very damp and windy, and my flame has been blown about, spluttered, and is now very weak. Maybe it has even gone out?

I have done this all calmly, persisting with GFRF because I have wanted to and it has still felt like the right thing for me to do. Some who are very perceptive have known that it has been very difficult. Others have just assumed that because I am doing wonderful things, everything must be just wonderful and somehow I am able to survive on rainbows and fairy dust. Others have just been unaware and it is not like I have particularly wanted them to know what a struggle it has been, and because of my calm they have had no reason to notice. The reality is that the financial pressure and stress has been huge. But I am very good at remaining calm, determined and resolute in difficult situations. I can do all sorts of things calmly and without fear like this:

But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are without danger, or even a good idea.

In many ways I have felt a lot like this:

Just somehow hanging on. Continuing despite all odds for the sake of my principles and a distant hope. But eventually it has to come to an end… (Did you like the videos? Even with all this I still think I have managed to keep a sense of humour).

Peoples responses I think are largely a result of their reaction to this same environment they find themselves in, and I can’t fault them for that. I have pushed ahead with GFRF by myself wanting to make a change for myself and for the world around me, but in the end my small flame has not been strong enough to cope with the economic environment as I find it.

If I want to have a future, to be able to have some security for myself, and possibly be able to support a family as well, then I now need to take care of and protect my flame. I need to put in place some barriers, some protection for it. I find myself needing to pursue ordinary work on ordinary terms to take care of my financial wellbeing. This is a start towards giving myself the economic support and security that I need, but what about my qigong then?

There is so much more that I want to teach, more courses on different aspects of qigong practices that I would like to make available for people. Things that can REALLY help them. I also want to go through and improve the quality of the existing learning resources I have made available so people can understand even better and more clearly what I already teach. I want to be able to offer retreats and intensive live training to enrich and deepen peoples practice and knowledge. But as I look at it… just maintaining what I already offer takes a lot of work. With a lot of my time needing to go into the new business I will be working in, how will I be able to find the MASSIVE amounts of time I need to put into producing new course materials and organizing further training opportunities? Just maintaining what I already offer may prove to be too much and I may have to pull back on some of that, let alone moving ahead with further development.

I could get other people to do some of the teaching and take care of other aspects of things. I have some students who are showing potential to take on some of that. That could free me up to put some of my time into the things only I can do. But it also still raises some of the same issues around there being enough coming back in to support all of the effort going out. I need to be able to compensate fairly whoever takes on some of the teaching work, or they will end up drained and exhausted like myself. I need to create a balance between the work that goes in and the financial return that comes from that, both in the short term, and also in the longer term if I want to ever be able to return my fulltime efforts to the teaching of qigong, which will be necessary if I want to teach and share all that I would like to.

One last ditch effort at GFRF

So how do I accomplish that?

Well what I am considering is to put up some boundaries, some protection in a way around the online training that I offer. (There is something a little poetic about that as well for those who know the nature of the business I am starting in New Zealand).  Up until now it has all been open access. Anyone can look at and use the training material at any time. It has been very ‘free’. As I have mentioned one of the biggest challenges has been people just not getting around to donating (or paying, depending on how you want to term it). The fact of the matter is that so many people just don’t engage with the GFRF concept at all. I don’t expect many people will read this blog post, I guess I am writing it for the few that will, and for myself. Without a very clear prompt of when to pay, they just aren’t even going to think about it. By restricting access to the material it will create a very strong decision point where they will need to decide to donate, and how much, or not to donate if they want to use the material.  There will still be lots of free information and videos available, but access to the more in depth courses will be restricted by password.

I am thinking along the lines of that the first two weeks of each course and the introductory material will all be open access but beyond the first two weeks will be restricted. It is not going to be particularly strong protection, and those with the will and some know how will probably find a way around it, but it will create that clear decision point.

If you have been following this blog at all, you will recall me talking about another change earlier in the year, again to create a strong decision point. That change was starting to require registration for the instructor certification courses. As people register they are told they need to consider their GFRF contribution in return for the training the receive. I did this for other reasons as well, to formalise the registration process so I could better track and support students, but I expected that this would lead to a significant increase in total donations received – and it did. Not significant enough to balance the work vs return equation unfortunately, but encouraging none the less. Even with this there are quite a few people who still just never get around to donating. It is quite frustrating really. I don’t actually feel like this change restricting the access will necessarily have the same positive effect on the level of donations, but I figure I might as well try it anyway and see. At the least it will reduce the drain on my energy of dealing with people who don’t want to engage properly with the exchange, and it will also pave the way for if later on I need to put in place stronger barriers, and even simply put a price on my work.

A Lantern Instead of a Candle

If I can possibly continue to do this in a GFRF way, then I want to do it. And this is one more refinement that I can try to achieve that. If I can’t do it GFRF, then if I want to continue to do it at all I will need to find a way to balance the energy put in with the energy that comes back to me from my work, or I simply won’t have any more energy to give – and that may mean prices.

In the end I may have to decide, do I continue with my qigong teaching and put prices on it, or do I stop. Or do I cut right back to a much lower level that I can sustain without charging prices so that I can have enough time and energy to put into things that do earn me sufficient money. I think there is a lot of value in the qigong that I teach. I do think that there is sufficient interest and demand for it to earn the income that I need from it, but I may need to separate my teaching of it from my ideas about GFRF in order to achieve this. As one of my talented qigong students who has helped me to organize some workshops said, he thinks I will have more success in changing and improving the world and people’s lives through teaching them qigong than from trying to use GFRF – because they are just not ready for it.

I have been very committed to sharing qigong as openly as I possibly can, but I need to put some protection in place now. It could be tempting to just hide my qigong away and continue with my own practice and not try to continue to share with others because I cannot do so on the terms that I would like. There is so much for me to explore and enjoy for myself, and I know others who have followed this path. But I want to continue to share. I don’t want to put my candle under a bushel to hide my light (I’m paraphrasing the Bible now), I want to share it with the world around me. To do this I may need to accept that I can’t simply hold my flame out there in the wind and the damp either though. I need to protect it… But I can do this in a way that it can still be seen and give light to those around me. If I put a clear barrier around my flame, it becomes a lantern instead of a candle. My flame can be nurtured or rekindled into life from its current level of depletion and weakness, it may not be able to spread and light other flames with the same ease, but it can continue to glow bright for all around to see and benefit from. I think this is better than simply letting the flame go out.

We’ll see what happens with this next incremental change to my implementation of GFRF. I don’t think I am ready to do it just yet, but probably over the next few weeks or months.

Note* Yes I am aware that I have mixed my use of the flame analogy. Sometimes I use it to refer to my own energy and wellbeing, sometimes to refer to my sharing of GFRF, and other times to refer to my qigong teaching. If you got all the way to here you are probably smart enough to figure all that out though.

Note** If you are reading this blog post by itself, you might need to read some of the others for context of what is going on. Definitely the one just before this, and if you’re really keen why not all of them from the beginning? That might take you awhile though…

 

 

 

Chop Wood, Carry Water

There is an old Chinese saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water”. It refers to the idea that what must be accomplished and done day to day is much the same before enlightenment and afterwards. Sometimes people have romantic ideas about what enlightenment means, and that somehow afterwards things will just happen magically by themselves. That by being enlightened somehow all of the mundane things will no longer be necessary – they will just happen, or at the most maybe you will have to wave your hands to make them happen. But the reality is that even after enlightenment all of the mundane things must still be taken care of and life may not actually look too different from before enlightenment at all, the only difference is that you understand better.

Focus On The Giving

Some time ago I wrote a blog post titled “Focus On The Giving” (I just checked, and that was over 3 and ½ years ago… wow) and that is certainly what I have done since then. I have done all I can to give without price. There are now 9 comprehensive online qigong courses available freely. There are 52 certified qigong instructors around the world who have been certified on a ‘Give Freely, Receive Freely’ basis. On my most recent tour I have visited 28 cities in 12 countries teaching 78 workshops many of which were offered on a Give Freely Receive Freely basis unless the local organizer wanted to do things in another way, either way my offer was always to give my teaching freely without regard for the potential financial remuneration. And many more workshops in different countries the year before. And my clinical work has continued to be GFRF for over 5 years now, again with minor exceptions when travelling when an organizer has wanted to do things in another way. I have gradually given up various normal business interests so that I can do this.

The Results

So what has been the overall result of this? Well, I have learned a lot. I have had many rich experiences, and met many wonderful people. In some ways I think I have accomplished far more than I otherwise would have, in terms of developing courses and taking interesting opportunities, because I was not concerned about the return I might receive for these, I went ahead and did the things that I felt were most worthwhile and valuable. And… I have felt good doing it. There is a deep feeling of rightness about doing things in a Give Freely, Receive Freely way. I also feel that on a deep level it has given me insights into the functioning of things that I would not have otherwise been able to perceive. But, in the end, at this stage it is simply not financially sustainable for me to continue in this way…

I really have focused on the giving, and not just in a small way, I have done all I can to give value to people around me. Sometimes people hearing about my recent travels think that I am just having a great long relaxing holiday. And while it is true that I have been going to cool and interesting places and meeting wonderful interesting people, I have actually been working extraordinarily hard.  Many have been the nights when I have pulled into a town, searched for the nearest starbucks so that I can get on my computer for a few hours to get some writing done, respond to emails, or organize some logistics for onward travel (made more challenging by always trying to do things in the very cheapest way possible to allow me the possibility of doing it at all) and upcoming workshops, before then going and finding somewhere to  park my car so I can sleep in it before getting up and driving all day the next day. Many nights have been spent in airports because the cheapest flights have included long and inconvenient layovers. Many times I have turned up in a country having barely slept for several days, or a city after having driven for 13 hours to immediately go and teach a workshop, because that was the way I could fit in visiting the most locations and people. Many times I have been somewhere amazing, and ended up spending hour upon hour on my computer instead of going out and exploring and experiencing because there was work that needed to be done.

Now, I don’t want this to sound like I am complaining. I have no-one to blame for any of this by myself. I chose to do all this, because I wanted to. I am just explaining when I talk about focusing on the giving, I have not just been giving a little when it is convenient, but truly giving my ALL, and still it has not been enough in financial terms. There have been some workshops where the return has been ok, but many many others where it has just not been close to the level of financial viability. Some of the workshops where the financial return has been negligible to non-existent I am sure could actually have been quite lucrative had there simply been a price put on it. In my experience there are some people who really get the idea of GFRF, but also so so many who don’t.  I have taken all of these experiences without judgement, but in the end as I look at my situation I have to face the reality that I simply cannot continue the way things are.

Update On ‘The Missing Link’

Out of interest, if you are curious about what the result has been from the changes to the way I run the online courses that I referred to in a recent post “The Missing Link”. Having more structure to the running of the courses and more personal contact with participants as part of that has led to a significant increase in donations as expected, which is encouraging. Unfortunately still not enough to bring it to the level of financial viability for me though.

So what now?

Well I have to face the facts of life that I need a way to receive an income that will allow me financial stability. Actually I also need a way to back off from doing the amount of work I have been doing. Finances aside, the amount of work I have been putting in is also simply not sustainable. So when I finally make it back from this most recent tour teaching qigong I will be starting a regular business charging regular prices with a friend. It is a simple business that I have confidence will bring the financial income that I need at this time. Somewhat appropriately, and perhaps a little poetically, it also happens to involve chopping wood and carrying water.

So, some of you reading this might be wondering, what then is the future of Long White Cloud Qigong? And what is the future of Give Freely Receive Freely? I’ll start with the future of Long White Cloud Qigong first.

The Future Of Long White Cloud Qigong

For now this won’t mean any big changes with Long White Cloud Qigong. The courses will continue to be offered on a Give Freely Receive Freely basis for now. I recently hired someone to help me out with administration for Long White Cloud Qigong part time. Partly this was just because I needed the help already anyway, partly it was also to prepare for when I start this business, so that Long White Cloud Qigong can continue to run, even when I don’t have as much time available to put into it. By having someone helping with the admin I can focus more of what time I have available on the teaching part of things. Somehow I will juggle the commitments of the new business and the time and energy that goes into the teaching.

It will be a challenge because the teaching and testing for the certifications, particularly with the new way I have been running the courses, really does take up quite a bit of time and mental focus. One option could be for me to pull back on things a bit and revert to running the courses the old way which did not require so much of my input, but I actually think I would prefer to go in the other direction and support the courses even more fully if I possibly can.

I think more to the point is what happens to the ongoing development of Long White Cloud Qigong. There is so much more I want to teach. Many fascinating and useful aspects of qigong practice that can improve people’s health and wellbeing and enrich their lives. But how will I be able to find the time for that? To prepare the materials, write the books, record the videos, create the online courses? I don’t know, it will be very difficult.  How will I be able to make the time to teach workshops, and intensive live training courses. Again it will be challenging, and I may just have to put that on hold for awhile.

Much as I would like to continue to offer the Long White Cloud Qigong training on a GFRF basis, if I am to ever be able to return to putting my fulltime effort into it, that may simply not be possible. I may at some point have to accept that if I want to do it I have to put a price on it to ensure that I can receive what I need to in order to balance the work required.

For any of the Long White Cloud Qigong students who happen to be reading this. I don’t want you to think that as I write this I am pointing the finger at you to say that you haven’t given enough to support this work. There are those who have given generously and respectfully of the work, this definitely does not apply to you, do not in anyway feel that you should give more because of this predicament. There are also those who may not have given much, but have given what they could afford. Again, don’t in any way feel bad about what you could afford to give, it has been greatly appreciated and respectfully received. That is the point of GFRF to be able to share things of value with all who need them regardless of their financial means. One of the things I am most proud of is that I have been able to share qigong with people and in places where they never would have been able to afford this kind of training had I put a market price on it. Somehow I would like to be able to always continue to do that. For those of you who meant to give, but then never got around to doing it, or who gave a token payment without truly thinking about the value you were receiving and the work and resources that go into it. If you are someone who has given well wishes and good intentions but never got around to turning that into something tangible, then yes – if you happen to be reading this perhaps this is an opportunity for you to reflect on the effect of your actions or lack of action.

This has been a very difficult decision for me to make. To divert my energy from an area where I have a highly specialised and I think valuable skillset where I can make a unique contribution to the world, to put it into something much more mundane but with the opportunity of giving myself some financial security and stability. But at this stage I really need that financial stability. In a way I think my practice and teaching of qigong have become conflated with GFRF, and maybe it is time to separate the two. The qigong has value by itself, whether there is a price on it or not, and GFRF also has value by itself without attachment to qigong. I do think I could earn a suitable income from my qigong teaching and practice, but it seems not with the way I have been doing it GFRF. And, even if I were to put prices on it right now, it would take some time realign things to earn the income that I need, and in the meantime I need something to bridge that gap.

Putting my energy into a regular business will give me the chance to have some financial stability, and buy me the time to consider what I need to do in the future to allow Long White Cloud Qigong to continue to grow and develop. Some of that development may have to wait a little while as I figure this out. It is possible that I may make some incremental changes to the way the courses and other training is offered to see if by restructuring a few things I can somehow make it viable to keep it purely GFRF. Or otherwise I will try to find a way that I can offer the training in some other way that I feel good about that while it may involve putting prices on it preserves the ability for those who can benefit from the training but not afford it, to still access it. There are a few possibilities of how that might work.

The Future Of GFRF

So what about the future of GFRF? Well, I hope in some way it will continue. At this point I cannot say it has been successful for me. But… it has given me glimpses into the operation of our universe that I would otherwise not have had. I do believe that this way of thinking, this way of acting, is or could be the solution to so many of our problems in this world, and a recipe for utopia. So much of the world is simply not ready for that though.

I do know that my efforts with GFRF have inspired others to also try it as well, some more successfully than others. Even if I am not able to continue purely with GFRF at this time, I think I will continue to try to experiment with it, even if only with a portion of my work. I will also try to keep this website available for people so they can read about my experiences with it, the good, the bad and the ugly. Perhaps they will learn from my mistakes, or still be inspired by some of my experiences and thoughts. Somewhat ironically, if I am successful in achieving some financial stability and reducing my overall workload I might even be able to write a bit more often on this blog about some of the aspects of GFRF that I really never had the time to explore and express in writing while I have been giving so extensively in other areas.

I also don’t think that GFRF needs to just be about me. Perhaps others who have tried or will in the future try using GFRF can write about their experiences here on this website as well. I still think GFRF is an idea worth spreading, even if I need to take a step back from it for now.

Maybe I need to take a break from GFRF for awhile, and come back to it later. Maybe in the meantime others can carry the torch for awhile.

 

 

New Directory Listings

There are two new listings in the directory of people using GFRF. Helene Fleming in Inverness, Scotland and David Somers in Brooksville, Florida. David offers martial arts training and healing, Helene offers tai chi, meditation and reiki.

Check them out if you are in those parts of the world.

The Missing Link…

If you have been following this blog, you will know that lately I have been wrestling with the possibility of returning to putting prices on more of my work again… Not an easy decision… But as I have kept thinking about it I have come up with something else I would like to try.

You see, as I have experimented with Give Freely Receive Freely I have come in contact with other people who have tried similar things. Many have told me that it was disastrous and almost ruined their business and things like that, but there have been a few… a very few who have told me that it worked for them. Maybe it was hard to begin with, but over time they figured out how to do things in a way that it worked!

One of the common features of the approaches that have worked is that there is a direct personal interaction between the giver and receiver, and a clear time to pay.

One person I talked to even went so far as to make it mandatory that the person come directly to him, shake his hand and look him in the eye as they made their payment… In this way the person is engaging with a real person, understanding the effort of that person that goes into what they have received and that they are dependent on their support for their very real human needs (food, transport, shelter etc). So the person has to really evaluate their side of the interaction and give in return in a way that they feel good about and maintains or builds their respect for themselves.

One challenge that there has been with my work is that a lot of it is online. I have put a huge amount of effort into developing online courses, which currently have completely open access. Because of this people can view the material whenever they wish, and completely anonymously. Even for those that do get in contact with me, many of them say that they will donate in the future, or soon, or… and then never get around to it.

The reality is that they are interacting directly with the fruits of my labour – and it does take a LOT of work to plan and put together each course. But, because it is through the medium of the internet I suppose it feels more disconnected for them, and it is easy to forget to pay, because there isn’t actually a set time where they have to. I know that for myself I often would forget about bills or things that need doing as well if I wasn’t reminded and given a set deadline that I needed to do it by, so it is quite understandable.

Well… I am planning on changing the way I run those online courses. I am planning on scheduling the courses so there is a set start and finish date, and also having a lot more personal interaction during the course. I want to do these things to help students stay focused and gain more from their practice and study anyway, but it occurred to me that this could also be an opportunity for that more direct interaction and for a set time to pay which could make using GFRF more successful.

I think if people pay at the beginning of the course they are more likely to be successful in that course. It seems that if people are not invested, and I mean financially invested in what they are doing, it is very easy for them to become distracted and not follow through. So by requiring payment at the beginning, that is their investment in themselves to actually stay committed to the course, and that amount can still be up to them.

I suspect some people will still have difficulty with this and may have a tendency to just make a token payment rather than a realistic payment of an amount that reflects the value they expect to obtain from the course. But I also hope that many more other people will be able to engage with this more easily and understand the importance of making the investment in their commitment to the course and that it is an interaction with a real living person who needs their financial support as much as they need the guidance in their learning.

At this stage the other course materials will still be available open access, but I could in the future also restrict access to these to only those who have enrolled and donated to support the courses if I need to, while still making them GFRF.  This overcomes the ‘forgetfulness’ aspect of people not getting around to paying.

I think it is worth a try! Trying to work based on GFRF has been really hard, but I believe in the principle of it enough to keep trying. In the end if I have to I can go back to charging prices for things, as I have in the past, but… I would rather continue to try to make it work if I possibly can.

The Value Of Prices

So… to set prices or not to set prices… I haven’t decided yet actually… still thinking… but while I do thought I might look at some of the benefits of having a price on things.

  1. The first benefit is that price helps to create efficient utilization of resources. Basically it balances supply and demand. If there is a lot of something and not many people that want it, then the law of supply and demand operating through pricing would mean that the price would be low. It wouldn’t be a good idea for additional resources to be put into making more of whatever this good or service is because there isn’t really a need for it, it would be better to put those additional resources into something else – which people would do because the low price will not allow them to cover their costs or to be profitable while making more of these goods or services.

If on the other hand there is only a little of a good or service available and lots of people want it, this would suggest that the price of this thing will be high, because buyers will compete to have some of this limited supply. So it would be good to put additional resources into this thing as there is not enough of it to meet the demand, and because the price is high producing more of it will cover the costs required and be profitable.

So overall – prices can help to direct people to put their efforts and resources into things that people want and to not put those efforts and resources into things that people don’t want.

  1. On a psychological level price acts as an indicator of value, so things with a high price are perceived as valuable and of high quality (because of the scarcity that must be associated with something of high price), and things with a low price are perceived as of low value and low quality (because of the excess there must be of something with a low price).

The combination of these two factors leads to more complex interactions though… which are prone to manipulation.

One excellent example is diamonds… diamonds are not that rare. But because of the strong market dominance of a few key players, the supply for sale is controlled and only a very small quantity is available for purchase at any one time. Combined with clever marketing which has spanned across generations, this leads to a perception of high value, and people are willing to pay extraordinary amounts of money for what essentially a small hunk of carbon with mainly ornamental value and little intrinsic worth.  Interestingly in the market of industrial tools, where diamonds have a more true intrinsic value because of their hardness and usefulness in producing cutting and polishing products – small diamond pieces are not so valuable, because if their price got too high the market would switch to other cheaper alternatives. The market is not concerned about the image and marketing of the tools, just whether they do the job efficiently or not.

Another example would be clean air and water. Clean air and water is free. Isn’t that wonderful. You don’t have to pay anything for it… But because of this unfortunately a lot of the air and the water on this planet has been allowed to be polluted. Because there has been such an abundance of clean air and water in the past, we haven’t valued it enough to put the necessary controls in place to protect it, and we are gradually losing it. Slowing it is becoming more scarce… at the point where we start to HAVE to pay significant prices for it I think we will suddenly start to value it more highly and to put the resources necessary into cleaning up our waterways and atmosphere. Ok… so that example is a bit simplistic, because some people DO value clean air and clean water highly, but the actions of others have been outside of their control, but the example is largely accurate if we look at it as a society wide thing. And on an individual level, how many people take full advantage of the clean air and water available to them, breathe deeply and freely in a natural environment? explore and swim in rivers, lakes and oceans regularly? Or do they not get around to it because it is ‘free’?

Application to Give Freely Receive Freely

So how does this apply to my work and GFRF? Well Qigong (moving, breathing, becoming aware of your energy) is essentially free. Anyone can do it anytime without any special equipment, and yet it is intrinsically valuable – it can make a huge difference to people’s health and wellbeing, physically, psychologically, and energetically.  In that way it is a bit like clean air and water.  So my aim has been to give this free gift to people, so they can discover qigong for themselves. But producing and maintaining the instructional materials, whether they be online or in person, is not free. It requires a great deal of time and effort and direct financial cost, and I have basic needs like eating and transportation and having somewhere to live that need to met in order for me to provide this instruction.  There is only so much of me to go around, as such I am a bit like diamonds – a restricted, limited resource, which I find stretched a bit thin as I want to spread qigong so widely.

There are some people that discover this wonderful precious gift of qigong, and truly appreciate it and make the most of it. They have wonderful experiences and it transforms their health and their lives. They recognize that while it is free, there is cost in making it available and a limited resource behind it (me) that needs to be supported for it to continue to be available. So they do their bit to contribute to the upkeep of this by making donations etc.

There are other people who discover this gift of qigong, and the start with enthusiasm… but they have a hard time continuing. They fail to make it a priority – because it is free. It is easy for them to put it aside, because they have other things to do, maybe things that cost them money, so they do those things instead because even if they are not consciously aware of it they put a higher value on those other things because they have paid for them. So they end up not gaining the true value of this wonderful free thing – because they fail to value it themselves by not supporting it financially or with other resources.

And the last group of people. People who see this thing of value, and are intrigued, but can’t quite figure it out, because how can something so valuable be free. They look at it with suspicion because surely if this was truly valuable it would have a high price on it… so therefore it must not be valuable because it has no price on it. Much like clean air and water, or some little chunks of carbon. Not really valuable at all….

So there is intrinsic value… but the perceived value is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

I think that the best outcomes come from people judging value for themselves. Learning to identify and seek out intrinsic value, regardless of price set on it. In this way they become immune to the manipulations of marketing and control. But for so, so many people in this situation they simply fail to identify the intrinsic value. They let a large part of their perception of value be shaped by the pricing mechanism which is all too often used manipulatively.

In so many ways setting a price is manipulative – to do it well means to both control supply to create suitable scarcity, and to manipulate perception by ‘telling’ people what something is worth through the price level set. It is less than ideal…

So what should I do?

There are two aspects of why I would want to set a price. One is that I simply need to be able to cover my costs and meet my own basic needs. I could set prices in such a way that I only provide my services if my costs are met in doing so – which makes a lot of sense in many ways. The challenge is if you want to be able to provide to those who cannot afford the cost… people who may need the service even more than those who can afford to pay a suitable price.

The other is to set perceptions of value, to help people understand the value inside qigong by ‘making’ them pay a suitable price to access it. This can help people to be attracted to it in the first place, and help them to stay committed to it as they have ‘invested’ in it, and by staying committed they are more likely to receive its value. The issue of perception also applies to those who can’t afford a high price actually. They are more likely to seek something out that they perceive to be of high value, than something that is given to them freely.

It is a bit like the old saying. ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’, however put a high enough price tag on the water and you can help the horse to want to drink, because if it has a high price then it must be worthwhile…, the horse won’t want to miss out on this expensive treat…

Or clean water… leave it in a stream in the wilderness and not that many people are interested. Put it in a bottle with a fancy label and sell it at a high price and everyone has to have it… (and you can bet the company making money from selling that water puts the required resources in to keep that stream clean too).

So to set a price is manipulation of a sort. Its not living to my highest ideals to put a price on my qigong in this way. But is it possibly ‘good’ manipulation? Is there such a thing? Is it a bit like telling a child that those veges on their spoon are actually an aeroplane to help them to eat them? :D. Does helping more people to discover and receive the benefits of qigong through price setting in this way make it a good thing to manipulate in this way?

I think possibly it does.

I still haven’t decided……….

 

Postscript…

I realise that if you haven’t followed this blog much you might be thinking, what is all the fuss about? Why not just go ahead and set prices on what I offer? Well it has been a long journey. 4 ½ years experimenting with and working on GFRF. It really feels good to me to work in this way. I think the potential benefits from operating in this way are massive for everyone… I have written a bit about some of the potential societal benefits elsewhere in this blog. Unfortunately I haven’t written nearly as much as I would like to, but the potential improvements in efficiency, innovation and overall wellbeing are huge. So it is very appealing to keep trying, even if I’m not very successful at it, as how do you make progress towards something if you don’t at least try? But I also need to be a bit practical – I still need to live.  I guess at heart I am an idealist… but I recognize the need for realism sometimes.

Accepting The World As It Is – Tough Choices, Leadership, and Realism

So… my Give Freely Receive Freely experiment has been going for 4 ½ years now.  4 ½ years… that is quite a long time!  You can read what I first wrote about it here: http://developyourqi.com/?p=468 actually looking up this post is how I know how long the experiment has gone on for.

Over that time I have had many ups and downs, as I have gradually moved towards doing more and more of my work on a GFRF basis.  I have documented a lot of this, writing and publishing 77 blog posts over that time.  Of course there has been a lot that has been left out. A lot about experiences, and theory and philosophy that I would have loved to write, but my focus has been on DOING it and not just writing about it. And the reality is that DOING it has been quite hard… so often I haven’t had a lot of time and energy left over to spend writing about it.

It is now time for another review, maybe with a bit of theory and philosophy mixed in 😉

Tough Choices

Over the last little while I have had to face up to some tough choices. You see working on a GFRF basis has really not been covering my costs.  Actually, it hasn’t been for a long time… but I have persisted, because I feel so good about it. It makes ME feel so good, and I feel so RIGHT about working in this way. It has become the natural thing for me to do, and I have a hard time contemplating putting a strict price on things now. But in the end I can’t go on forever not receiving enough to meet my needs.

So the choice I have been faced with is… to either change the way I am doing my work and start to charge for it, or to do something else that will bring me sufficient money so that I can continue to do what I currently do in a GFRF way.

At the moment my main work is teaching qigong both online and in person, or giving treatments using qigong and sometimes other aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Almost all of this I have been doing on a GFRF basis for quite some time now. It is what I really enjoy doing, and the area where I feel I have the most unique expertise, and therefore the most to contribute to the world. It would not be overstating things to say that some of what I do, I am the only person that can do it. That is not to say that I am better than anyone else, but that some of what I contribute to the world in this area is uniquely my own. At the moment though… doing this GFRF does not bring me close to the amount of resources (mainly money as that is the medium of exchange used most of the time) that I need to survive and to thrive.

On the other hand I have a number of opportunities available to me that are quite lucrative, that could earn me a significant income (I am qualified in several areas, and some of the opportunities do not even require any particular qualifications), but they are not in the area of my unique expertise. Some of them are quite mundane really, just about anyone could do them if they chose to – but still quite lucrative.

It has been a bit of a dilemma for me struggling for lack of money and needing to change this… to start to charge for doing what I love, and have the most unique skills in. Or to change my focus to something else that I can earn a LOT more money from – but would take a huge amount of my time and focus, so that I can continue to do what I love on the side… and not have to charge for it.

I have struggled with the decision, as I love qigong and think it has great value for people, but I also believe there is great value in the GFRF concept, and would ideally like to be able to do both. And it would be tempting to shift my efforts and the bulk of my time into something else so that I can continue to do the qigong on a GFRF basis, but by doing that I inevitably would only be able to give far less in the area of qigong as I simply wouldn’t have the amount of time I would like to put into it.

How Effective Is GFRF At The Moment?

There are other factors to consider as well… like how effective the GFRF is for other people.

If I’m honest, at the moment GFRF is mainly good for ME. It makes me feel good and opens my mind and energy in ways beyond the limits of the confined thinking of being constrained by money. BUT… for many of the people I interact with, it is doing them no favours at all. Because in order for them to receive fully… THEY need to give in equal measure. And this has not been happening.  I have had an intellectual understanding of this for a long time, but some relatively recent experiences have really made this principle stand out to me.  When people give a lot – they are capable of receiving a lot. When they do not give, they prevent themselves from receiving. I made reference to some of these experiences in a blog post here: http://www.givefreelyreceivefreely.com/new-project-encouraging-giving/ , and here: http://www.givefreelyreceivefreely.com/universal-law-learning-from-bad-experiences/ and I have had several other such experiences on both the positive and negative side since then.

So to REALLY help people – I need to help them to also give suitably so that they can receive…

Four Groups Of Interactions

In my experience with my GFRF experiment I can classify people’s interactions with GFRF into four groups:

 

circle-1

The first group is those that maliciously use GFRF to get ‘something for nothing’ they abuse it and think they are getting away with something by not giving anything in return. Some people seem to think that there would be a lot of this. And if you chose to focus on this group, it would certainly seem like a large group.

But if you zoom out a little, you can see that there are other groups as well.

circles-2

The group of abusers is actually rather small compared with the group of people who do truly understand GFRF. They appreciate what they receive and they give what they can in return. Sometimes that’s a lot, sometimes that’s a little, but it reflects their respect for what they have received and their personal circumstances.

Zooming out further we see another group…

 

circles-3

These people kind of think they understand GFRF, or at least they like the idea of it, but in the end they don’t really act on it. They are the group of people who say that for sure they are going to make a donation for some of their training later on… but they just never quite get around it. Or they do make some kind of donation, but it is a token payment, nowhere near the value of what they receive  relative to their circumstances, and this is clear… because they will happily pay much larger amounts of money for similar things, even things of lower quality, but the moment the payment becomes voluntary it becomes a very small fraction of what they otherwise would have paid… and in doing this they do get some benefit, but they actually prevent themselves from receiving most of the benefit that they could have from what they received.

Zooming out further…

circles-4

The last group of people is the biggest group by far. These are the people who just don’t understand GFRF, or if they do they are suspicious of it, or are just too uncomfortable with it … scared they might pay ‘too much’ or ‘too little’. So they just do not engage with it.  This includes the poor that are worried that they cannot pay enough so they just choose not to do it instead, not understanding that that is the point of GFRF, so that they can access things according to their financial means. It also includes the wealthy who are worried that they might overpay and not get as good a deal as they could – even though they have plenty of resources to spare. It cuts both ways, but either way prevents them from receiving any of the benefit that they could have. Probably the only benefit this group receives from the GFRF, is being confronted by the concept and having to think about it at least for a moment, but then they easily shut it out again.

Overall Effects Of GFRF On The Different Groups

So by operating in a GFRF way…

  1. The first group, the malicious abusers, I am not helping them at all. In fact I am allowing them to harm themselves by abusing others in this way.
  2. The second group, the exchangers – these people are wonderful. GFRF gives them the opportunity to exchange in a more honest and authentic way. It allows them to receive more fully and joyfully. These people are treasures and the world would be amazing if there were more of them. I guess this is a big part of what I have hoped to do by operating using GFRF. By exposing more people to this kind of thinking, help more people to become this way (and I include helping myself to become more like that too).
  3. The third group, the apathetic, the forgetful, the take for granteds. This group fails to receive the benefits and in a way harms me by draining my time and energy while not giving sufficiently in return for it. There is no ill intent, but I am not really helping them effectively by using GFRF, and they surely are not helping me.
  4. The last group, the masses who just don’t get it. By using GFRF I am preventing them from gaining any of the benefits of what I offer… and that’s a shame.

In the end I would love for there to be more of the second group to help make the world a more amazing place. But there simply don’t seem to be enough of them for me to be able to survive on GFRF right now, let alone thrive. To thrive I think I really need to be able to effectively reach a much larger portion of groups two, three AND four, and by doing so help far more people effectively.

Much as it saddens me, I might need to charge set prices in order to do this.

Group one will probably still try to take advantage under any system, so it doesn’t really make much difference to them, although having prices might make it harder for them to do this.

Principle of Leadership – Only One Step Ahead

There is a principle of leadership that I think possibly applies here.  It is the idea that to effectively lead you need to be just one step ahead of those you are trying to help. If you are ten steps ahead, or even three, or even really two steps, it is just too far of a gap for them to follow. It seems to hard or is too difficult to ‘see’ or understand.  For so many people GFRF is just too many steps ahead of where they are currently in their thinking and experience. They have compassion and love for their fellow beings – but they understand and are comfortable with this in limited ways like giving to charities, or maybe having access to a sliding scale for payments or most things being charged for with set prices with only a small amount being made available ‘pro-bono’ or maybe some special scholarships being available for those in need.  But outside of this they much prefer the existing social structures, where some people get paid more and others less, where some people have more comfortable lives and others more difficult. GFRF blows that whole structure wide open and makes EVERYONE equal in financial matters. And for most people that is just too uncomfortable and even scary. They are actually better off exploring charitable giving and receiving in smaller more controlled ways and perhaps in that way edging small step by small step closer towards GFRF or something even better. To make the leap all at once is just too much for them.

So for me to lead effectively in this area as well… I may need to scale back my GFRF efforts in favour of something gentler and closer to what people are familiar and comfortable with.

Is This The End Of Give Freely Receive Freely?

Sooo…. does this mean that the GFRF experiment is over?

I don’t think so. It may mean that it has to take a bit of a hiatus. But having experienced this way of being, even if I never truly fully achieved it, I can’t help but want to go back to it. So I think I will continue to experiment with it. I may just need to do it in smaller more controlled ways for awhile. And as much as possible I want to keep the spirit of GFRF alive within me. To do what I do for the right intrinsic reasons rather than being distracted and doing things in a way that is intrinsically less beneficial but may bring more money. I also want as much as possible to make what I have available to everyone regardless of their financial means – but in a way that allows them to get as full benefit as possible by having them give/pay in return in a way and amount that is meaningful for them.

This could be a bit tricky for setting prices… If my concern was simply to make money, I would price things just for the wealthy as they can afford to pay me more for my effort… But how can I compare pricing for someone in a wealthy country in North America or Europe, with someone living in some of the countries in Africa or small islands of the sea (and yes I do have students in all of these areas, and I want to still be able to reach and give to them).

I suspect in the end I will be able to make it work through the magic of discount codes 😉

To be honest, at this stage I am not completely sure that I will make the change. I still have an inclination to just go a little bit longer with GFRF, just try for awhile more, give it a bit more of a chance to start working better, or try something slightly but not majorly different… but I also think perhaps it is inevitable that I must make this change now. Afterall 4 ½ years is quite a long time. If I was looking at someone else’s situation and they described this to me, I know the advice I would give. I would say in the end you have to follow your heart, but you also have to be practical. You help no-one by not taking care of yourself. So maybe don’t give up on the idea, but perhaps take a break, you can always come back to it in the future…. and perhaps I should take some of my own device.

Postscript…

And… I know that there are others who are now using GFRF thanks to inspiration from this website. So… perhaps the experiment will continue to inspire others to give it a try. And little by little as more people try, we will edge our communities closer and closer to an ideal exchange and interaction. To those still using GFRF – I salute you and wish you the best. If I do make this change, I hope it is temporary and I am able to come back to GFRF more fully again in the future.

My Travels and GFRF – Report

So I have completed my travels for the year that I have mentioned previously on this blog. I travelled and taught qigong workshops on five different continents during the year.  Also as I have mentioned previously in the blog, in a sense the whole trip was done GFRF, in another sense only part of it was.

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Where ever I went I left it up to the local people organizing the workshops to decide how payments would be made and how much and so on, with GFRF being one of the options they could choose to use. From this there were a few places where the workshops were run purely on a GFRF basis, which was great. Many other places there was a set charge, or a price with the option of GFRF as well. So in that sense – only part of the tour was GFRF.

The other way in which the tour was entirely GFRF was that I committed myself to going wherever I reasonably could, without any expectation of a certain level of financial return, but to just show up and teach whoever came to the best of my ability. So my focus was totally on the giving… while being open to receiving what may come.

So how did it turn out?

Well I did the travel in three ‘legs’. The first was to Australia. The second to North and South America. The third was to Europe, Egypt and South Africa. My expenses were kept to the absolute minimum at all times, relying on hospitality of people who hosted me for places to stay and also many meals and at other times sleeping in the back of a car to minimize costs.  Taking the cheapest flights – even when it meant significantly longer travel times and so on.  And financially when everything was totalled up, in the end each leg of the tour still cost me more in direct expenses than I received from the workshops, and that in no way takes into account the indirect expenses during the time preparing for the travel, or all the time involved etc…

So what can I take from this?

Well I had some amazing experiences along the way, seeing different places, experiencing interesting energy, meeting cool people and making connections. So there was definitely value beyond the financial, but in the end the finances have to balance or by definition it is unsustainable as there will not be enough resources to continue with it.

So… what for the future?

  1. Well, it is possible to look at this first tour as just development for future tours and assume that more people will come to workshops in the future making it more economically viable. And I think that is true. I think that at many of the places I taught workshops more people would come to workshops in the future now that the ice has been broken.  Other places I am not so sure… One way or another it would need to bring in a LOT more to be truly viable though.
  2. I could look to reduce costs. Well… as I mentioned costs have already been kept to the bare minimum. The only way to reduce costs would be to simplify the travel arrangements and not go to the places that did not yield as great a financial return as others. There were quite a few places that definitely did at least cover their portion of the travel costs even if they were not outright ‘profitable’ as such, and other places where the return was very low or non-existent. By eliminating the low return locations and focusing on just going to the places with a higher return there would be a greater chance of financial viability.
  3. I could look at the tour as a way to generate interest in other money generating activities, and balance the finances in that way by bringing in more money in those other areas. But there are a few wrinkles with that as well, as I am doing basically everything else on a GFRF basis as well, which may also need to change…  I will write about that more in the next blog post.
  4. I could completely give up on the idea and put my efforts into something else that will bring in enough money to pay my costs and support me… more on that one in the next blog post as well…

In the end, I think the answer is probably a combination of numbers one, two, and three. I think the workshops in different countries will grow as I return again to the same places. I may also need to look more closely at the economic viability of going to different locations as part of this. Not that I want to stop going to places just because they may not cover the costs of getting there… my passion and desire is to share the benefits of qigong with people no matter what their financial circumstances, and some of my coolest experiences have been in places and with people that have very little money. But… I may need to weigh things up a little, and not go to every place, but be a bit selective in trying to balance out the finances overall. And… even give both of those things, I may need to still create tie-ins that will bring in further money if I want to make this viable and to be able to continue to do it.

I am not inclined to go with option 4 at this stage, much as it is very tempting at times… again more on that in the next blog post.

Til next time,

John Munro

Universal Law – Learning From Bad Experiences

I am on my way back from my North and South America qigong teaching tour.  The workshops have been offered on a GFRF basis wherever possible, but I have also left it up to the local organizer to make arrangements as they see fit. This has led to a range of different systems including some where they have had a ‘minimum’ donation and encouragement to GFRF as well, some with a set price and others with a price or option to GFRF instead.

Good Experiences

I have had many wonderful experiences meeting generous, thoughtful and conscientious people of high personal integrity. For these people GFRF works well and is a wonderful way to interact. The exchange may be great or small, but the freedom of it has a certain beauty and authenticity which I think benefits all parties involved. Freedom is to be highly valued and I think helps those participating to truly engage with what they are doing on a deeper level and thus derive greater value from it.

Bad Experiences

Unfortunately have I also had many experiences which were not so good, with people who just decided that GFRF meant something for nothing, or for very little or far less than what they would pay for other things.  I find this attitude a little puzzling as if it is really of low value – why would they waste their time on it?  I would go further to say that there were several instances where I was used, abused and seriously taken advantage of.  There seem to be a lot of people that simply cannot (or choose not to) engage with the concept of GFRF with integrity.

Over the years I have been experimenting with GFRF I have encountered this with increasing frequency.  When I began to offer my clinical services on a GFRF basis, for the most part people gave about what they would have previously, with some giving a bit more, others a bit less, or even a lot less due to their circumstances – which is kind of the whole idea of GFRF, with only the occasional person ‘taking advantage’ of the system by giving very little when they could clearly afford much more.  And that was to accept a little of the bad with the good, as it enabled me to engage with people in this more authentic and beautiful way.  But over time the frequency of these more ‘negative’ experiences increased until they actually started to outnumber the good ones!?!~?!/!?!

The same goes for the online training that I offer. I get so many emails from people saying how they love what I am doing and they are planning on donating soon… … … … … and then they never do.  I wonder why they bother sending me the email of their plan to donate if they are not going to follow through? Almost all of those who are going to donate, just go ahead and do it! I then hear from the AFTER they have donated, or maybe not at all.

I have had so many conversations with people in various contexts saying how much they love what I am doing, how high the quality of my services are (whether it be clinical treatment, online instruction, or after a workshop) and even how much better they are than other services that they also use, while in the same conversation they also tell me of the quite large sums of money they are paying for these other services or other things, when they give me a very small fraction of this… Where is the disconnect???

My commitment as part of my working with the GFRF concept has been to accept whatever comes in the form of payment/donation without judgement. This has been very difficult at times to converse with someone calmly without judgement who is blatantly taking advantage of me. Emotionally the ego wants to respond, as the other person is in a very real way undermining my wellbeing. Sometimes it feels like an actual attack on myself and even physically and psychologically painful, which it is in away.  They have taken what I have to offer – which is usually my time, skills and knowledge, but really this is no different from taking my physical possessions, and by not giving in return for what they have received they are taking away my ability to provide and care for myself. They are also taking away my ability to continue to provide my services to both themselves and others.  What is not cared for and treated with love and respect withers and dies – if not immediately, then eventually.  We see this all the time in the world around us – one example being the natural environment… Yet I have been committed to persisting and accepting without judgement.

Learning from bad and sometimes painful experiences

I was having one of these types of conversations with someone after a workshop (for which they gave nothing), staying calm and neutral and trying not to pass judgement, when I felt something ‘click’ in my head. It almost felt like an actual click. There was a specific moment when suddenly something felt different inside. I didn’t immediately understand what it was, but I continued to ponder on it and realized that I had finally opened a new perspective and a new understanding on Giving and Receiving freely.

I realized that this person would not, and in fact COULD NOT receive the benefit from the workshop that they had just attended, because they had not given in return for it.

Universal Law

In my qigong workshops I often talk the laws of physics and that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, for every force an equal and opposite force, as I explain how the exercises work and how we channel and direct these forces within our bodies for our benefit. I am now convinced that there is a Universal law that on a what could be termed ‘spiritual’ level we can not receive what we do not give in equal measure for. If it were not so, the universe would be out of balance and come apart.

The amount given has nothing to do with it, it is the value of what is given to the giver that determines the value what they are capable of receiving in turn. The classic example in the Christian Bible is of the widow’s mite where a poor widow donated two mites (the smallest of coins) to the treasury of the church and Jesus pointed out that relative to here means she had given more than the wealthy who had given large sums of money.  This in turn meant that she could receive more. The giving needs to be relative to the means of the giver because it then reflects the value that they are investing on a deep level into the giving.  Without sufficient investment they cannot truly receive on a deep level.

Sometimes people seem to think they are ‘giving’ by thinking nice thoughts about something, or by talking about it. But most of the time they are fooling themselves when they do this. They are creating an illusion within themselves that they have given, and so the nature of their receiving will be illusory as well. If they want to receive tangibly, they need to give tangibly according to their means as well.

Focus on the Receiving?

This has given me a new perspective on GFRF. I am currently giving my all, and have very much wanted to focus on this giving without focusing too much on the receiving.  But I now realize that for my giving not be in vain I need to also focus on how to have others give sufficiently so that they can fully receive the benefits of what I am offering. I have struggled a bit with this in the past as I have been very aware that by working in a GFRF way, I am reducing the number of people that I reach with my skills and knowledge as so many people are too uncomfortable with the idea of GFRF to engage with it – so they don’t take up my services. And yet I have still wanted to work in a GFRF way to find those who do ‘get it’, and also for what it does for me. It helps me to purify my intent and motives. It means I focus on the underlying real intrinsic value of what I am doing instead of focusing on the sometimes false or distorted financial value. I can do things for the right reasons based on love, instead of for the sometimes wrong reasons based on fear and insecurity.

It has also given me a new perspective on setting prices. I believe that those people who choose not to engage with my services due to discomfort with GFRF are usually people with personal integrity, but with fear of interacting outside of the normal price based system. They don’t trust themselves to get it ‘right’. They want to respect and value what I do and pay me fairly, but they also don’t want to give more than they should/can, and considering this becomes too difficult, so they just opt out of it all together.  I would like to encourage these people to trust themselves more and fear less and give GFRF a try. I think the world would be better for it.  But if they will not engage on these terms, then having a price gives them a way to receive value in a way that they are comfortable, but it also perhaps puts a cap on how much value they will receive as they then will usually only give the price set and not more, which in turn stops them from receiving more.

For others having a price can even perhaps work as a kind of Karmic/Cosmic protection. If the upside benefit of receiving is limited by how much you in turn give, then surely there are also negative consequences for those who do not give as they should. Whether this be through carelessness or outright using and abusing, I am sure there are consequences in order for the universe to remain in balance. By having a price and using this to prevent people from using and abusing, in a way you are protecting them from these negative consequences.

These insights are valuable to me as I now feel much more comfortable about putting a price on things if I need to, because with this perspective I can now do this out of love for the other person and with their wellbeing in mind, rather than out of fear and thinking about myself getting enough.

But what then about those beautiful, magical free interactions with people who do understand and ‘get’ GFRF? What about those who only have ‘two mites’ but for them this is a lot? What about those who have a lot and can receive more by giving more?

I wonder if there is a way to have essentially a two tier system. A price for most people, but a way for those that ‘get it’ to interact using GFRF. This might not be so far different from how kung fu and qigong teachers operated in the past, where most students had to pay a set price, but those with a particularly close relationship instead just gave ‘gifts’ reflecting the value of what they learned and their relationship. Over time students could move from one group to the other.  Something for me to think about…

It isn’t over

I haven’t given up on experimenting and trying work with GFRF. I am committed to continuing to do as much GFRF as I can through the rest of this year, and particularly as I travel teaching qigong in Europe and other parts of the world. I feel I have more to learn and experience yet.  I am greatful for the insights I have received though, because as it stands each leg of my travels so far have cost me more than I have received in return (and I have kept my expenses to the ABSOLUTE minimum), so it is likely that I will need to change how I do things in the future, as by definition something that costs more than it returns is unsustainable in the long run – I simply won’t be able to continue it in this way as I won’t have funds to pay my expenses. I have kept living in hope that I will find enough people who ‘get it’ so that I can continue to work in as pure a GFRF way as I can, but given my experiences to date this seems unlikely. Those who ‘get it’ seem to be outnumbered by those who don’t by… I’d say about 100:1.  If any of you reading this are the ones that ‘get it’ I would like to thank you for being you and the GFRF interactions we have had, you are truly a rare and precious individual. There is still time to learn more and find different options of how to do things… I will see what the rest of the year brings.

Writing about negative things

As you can probably tell, the negative experiences I have had using GFRF have built up over the years. I have been hesitant to write too much about these as like most people I prefer to focus on the positive. And I think that is the right thing to do. We draw towards us what we focus on. This sometimes leads people to take a fanciful view of things though. There are many people who just assume that everything is going wonderfully and must be great because I am using GFRF – these are usually also the type of people who say they are going to donate ‘soon’…

But part of my commitment to GFRF is to right about it honestly, so that others can learn from my experience. Even if I don’t succeed, others can gain inspiration from my efforts, or even just lessons on what to do differently. So I feel good about letting people know that it isn’t all moonbeams and stardust, and rainbows and unicorns (the more practical minded already know this, those that do donate tend to assume that the whole GFRF is bloody hard but they at least respect me for giving it a go), particularly now that I can in a sense turn these bad experiences into a ‘good’ through the insights I have had about Universal Law.

Is the universe out of balance, or have I received?

So if this giving and receiving thing is truly a Universal Law, is the universe still in balance? Financially I have not received anywhere near what I need to survive for my efforts in my clinical work, online training, and many of my workshops and travel, but have I perhaps received in other ways? I think I certainly have. I have met wonderful people who I otherwise would not have. I have had many insights about my own qigong practice that I also think I would not have otherwise had. And as I have traveled I have had marvelous experiences interacting with and working with the earth’s energy in different geographies. Some of these experiences I think have come as a direct result of my commitment to giving freely. If this were not the case I think I may have been able to experience the earths energy but not interact with it in the way that I have. This has led to further enhancement of my abilities which I don’t know if I could have achieved in another way. In a way I think this is a gift back from the universe, keeping things in balance. I just hope that somehow financially things are able to come into balance in the future as well.

A bit long and rambly, but this is where things are at with my experimentation with GFRF 🙂 I’m sure I will have further updates in the future.

 

The Four Horsemen – Really good documentary about the financial crisis and the big picture of our economic system

I think this documentary is really worth a watch.  It points to a need for a rethink of how we operate economically as a society.

Some great quotes in there:

“One person may not be able to change the system, but they can change themselves”.
“Debt is now thought of as normal, its not. It is a form of slavery”.

I’m not sure I agree with all the conclusions, but there is some really good information in there.

 

What happens when we give to much?

Sometimes people who are naturally giving by nature, or people who are opening themselves up to being giving, fall into situations where they give to much.  What do I mean by giving to much?  They give to the extent that they become tired, drained and worn out, to the extent that their own wellbeing suffers and their ability to continue to give is reduced.  Giving starts to feel like a chore or a burden, maybe an obligation or even resented, instead of the joy that it can ideally be.

I have seen this, and experienced this myself many times in different situations.  One such situation is serving in non-profit organizations – I’m going to save discussing that one for another blog post though, as there are some other issues to do with that dynamic that I would like to bring out.  Another more recent situation has been in hosting couchsurfers.

Couchsurfing

If you haven’t heard of couchsurfing I suggest you check it out – there is a website at www.couchsurfing.org  Basically it is a network for travellers where people can meet locals and request to stay with them short term during their travels.  There is no cost, and requiring payment is explicitly prohibited.  I think the underlying spirit of couchsurfing fits really well with the principles of Give Freely Receive Freely.

I have been hosting couchsurfers for the last year or so.  At some times during the year I get TONS of requests, and there have been times when I have taken the attitude that if I have space to fit someone in I would take them.  That has been fun at times, but then there have also been times when I have taken people in, and I have had too many people in a row, and some of them haven’t been entirely considerate as guests and it has taken up too much of my time and started to get in the way of my day to day activities and things that I need to get done.  These times have left me feeling a bit jaded with couchsurfing, and it has even been a bit stressful at times.  So I stopped hosting people.

End of the story?

The story could end there.  That could be the end of my couchsurfing story.  “I tried hosting people for awhile, then I had some bad experiences and it became a bit stressful so I stopped”.  Too often that can be what happens when we give too much.  We get drained and have bad experiences, so we get put off and think maybe its not such a good idea after all and stop doing it.  Fortunately with couchsurfing I didn’t take this approach.  Instead of stopping completely, I just stopped hosting for awhile.  I took a break so I could have time to myself and then came back to it refreshed and better able to manage my hosting so that it doesn’t become overwhelming and wear me down too much.  I now say ‘no’ to far more requests than I previously did and am much more careful to not host people at times when it may cause problems with my other activities, and also to just allow myself more down time when I need it.

I’m glad that I did this and didn’t just give up on couchsurfing, because I have met some really cool people since then through doing this.  And from time to time in the future I will continue to take breaks from hosting when I need it so that I can come back to it fresh each time and continue to enjoy the experience.

A bit like Italian parsley?

This reminds me a bit of an Italian parsley plant we had in my mothers garden.  Often parsley plants are quite small, and after picking from them a few times, there isn’t much of the plant left, but this plant was amazing.  It was allowed to grow until it was quite large and then when we picked from it, a few days later it seemed that it had regrown to the same size again.  We picked parsley from that plant again and again for several years.  In fact if we didn’t pick from the plant the leaves would start to get too long and the quality would deteriorate, so picking from the plant actually made it healthier.  There were times when we picked maybe a bit too much from the plant and then it would be left a bit bare and take awhile to regrow, but if we took care of it and gave it the time it needed without taking mare from it, regrow it did back to its former health and lushness.

I think each of us is a bit like the Italian parsley plant.  Giving makes us healthier and more lush, but we sometimes need to make sure that we manage the level of our giving so that it doesn’t make us weak.  If we do find that we have been giving too much, sometimes we need to take a break and take care of ourselves to let ourselves recuperate so that we can get back to giving joyfully.  When we do this we help not only ourselves, but also those we give to, as we are better able to give when we are healthy, strong and happy ourselves.