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.