2015 Update: A revised version of this essay is in my new book, which is titled
A Sacred Marketplace:
Sell without Selling Out or Burning Out.
Mysticism + Marketing = Sales.
An Economy Based in Love and Service
Someone who does work they love in an alternative field—work they feel is needed in the community—should be paid fairly. Herbalist, craftsperson, psychic, shaman, doula, political activist . . . The work of choice might be in a spiritual, creative, political, or other field.
Dentalia shells were currency in ancient California. Malcolm Margolin wrote that shamans there would imagine sweeping up huge piles of dentalia earned in their shamanic “careers.” This visualization was actually part of their training.
But today many people think loving service and money are innately at odds. They scold anyone in alternative careers for not doing all their work for free or at such a low cost that they cannot live on it. However, the logical conclusion of that is frightening! Unless our economy is about doing paid work we love for people we love, we are stuck in a business world where many people do jobs they hate for people they hate. A marketplace based in paid loving service can thrive and save mother earth.
This can work if we know when to work for free, and to otherwise have love and money both honored in appropriate ways. I DO a lot for free and for low cost. I also charge high prices for other work. There is room – – and need – – to give your gift for free. No question about it. And you may have certain things you only do for free. That may be right too. That is part of life.
As to EXCHANGING services or goods, it is wonderful. I do it when I can. But, again, some people insist people with alternative careers should always accept a trade. Fact is, trade is just another form of currency. I have a limited amount of energy. I need money to pay for things like a roof over my head. If I trade for all my services and goods, I will not have energy to earn money to pay for housing and the like. So I accept trade when I can, especially when someone cannot afford otherwise.
It seems that many folks who insist that, in a truly alternative culture, we ALWAYS accept trade, are folks with enough money to afford it. In which case, trade becomes part of a class-based economy!
Trade is not a substitute for money yet. When all the economy is trade, that will be another story. But, as I said, a trade-based marketplace could still be class-based, so trade alone is not a solution. It must go hand in hand with the idea that loving service should merit a respectable fee. The argument that, in a progressive economy, we always accept a trade lacks logic: Currently, the logical result of accepting all trade, for most folks, is to be homeless and hungry. That is not a spiritual outcome. 🙂 Folks who insist on it can often afford high prices for cars, computers, etc., but won’t pay that for spiritual support, hand-crafted goods, or other alternative services. Hmm, what altar do they worship at? Dentalia (aka money) was a form of respect for a shaman’s help. Giving money in some situations = giving respect and love. Uh–huh.
What is a reasonable fee? That question leads to “What is a reasonable net income?,” which leads to “What income amounts to bounty?” Thorough answers are outside the bounds of this essay, but the following points are relevant. Matthew Fox says, there is enough for everyone to live bountifully, as long as no one is greedy. Some standards of living are just plain old greedy, and create an economy in which one person is wealthy while others go poor. A sane standard of living is needed by anyone who wants to earn their livelihood in an alternative service career.
Many steps along my career path, when trying to do what my Gods asked of me, I had to forsake the profitable to be of more service. I never said, “I will be poor,” but I chose to risk it to be of maximum service. I believe this risk is important. If we put money above service, we become trapped by money. And because of my risks, I have gotten to do the work I love and be of service. I can look back at a long life to say I have had an amazing adventure this lifetime.
Mind you, a risk is just that: a risk. But serious fallout can happen no matter what choices you make. Equally important, my commitment to service helped me triumph over any problems that did arise.
Let me be clear, putting service first is not the same as being a doormat or forsaking your reasonable payment because someone uses the idea of service to guilt trip or otherwise manipulate you. Service coming first is also not the same as being free of charge for every person who cannot afford you, if more approach you than you can manage. You only have so many hours in the day, so may have to learn to make difficult and perhaps painful decisions about how much you can do for free without burning out and, hence, being of no use to anyone!
Being paid = I could work full time using a gift that Spirit said I was to use full time. I was given a shamanic gift that has saved lives, made other lives worth living. I’ve helped trauma survivors. Many happy high-functioning leaders do what they do a lot better because of my lessons, and thus they are able to be of greater service, which means my being paid dominoes into yet more service being done.
We can build an economy where things done for free are honored, and where trade is pivotal because it is used appropriately. But we also need to build an economy of paid loving service. Remember the shaman’s dentalia. Money and love can be in union. We can thrive financially and spiritually. Let go of conflict. Be in the union of all things. ALL things.
copyright FDG 2010, 2015. All contents of this site are copyright FDG
Thank you for sharing this. This is something I have been contemplating deeply as I feel called to offer spiritual services as my life work. I stutter when it comes to fees because most of my current clients are low-income. The line between client and friend is something I intentionally blur right now because I don’t know how to ask for an exchange.
Thank you, I am so glad it helped! I really appreciate u letting me know, it helps me, since otherwise I have no idea if my blogs are useful. Hey, I am feeling moved to be sure you know that, as a shamanic counselor, I can help you with what you posted. For example, we can do inner work to open channels for feeling okay about receiving payment, but also i can channel practical strategies, like how to come up with appropriate prices. More info: https://www.outlawbunny.com/pastoral-counseling/ You keep fighting the good fight of being a healer! And thank you again so much for your feedback!
James M. Barrie said, “Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.” Now this doesn’t mean that just because you are doing something you love it should be devalued. Even if it doesn’t feel like what most would consider “work”, you are offering services that enrich and improve lives. A client may hold you in high esteem for it, they may love you for it, but in my experience, a landlord, doctor, grocery store, etc. are not going to accept esteem and love as currency. Services rendered augment client’s lives, I can see no reason not to request the same in return and if that means helping to pay for the basic necessities, it seems to be an equitable and fair exchange. After all, when all is said and done, a hungry or homeless shaman isn’t going to be in a position to help others when their own needs are not met.
Bev, exactly!! Re Barrie’s lovely statement, yes, yes and, to reiterate what I say above, thinking we shld not be paid for doing activities we love implies we continue an economy in which we can only earn our living at jobs we hate. Love and money must go hand in hand. If someone says they love a person, but is unwilling to back that with money if the person they love is in true need, hmm. Thanks!