Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Poverty & Abundance

We had a post to the Imps email list this last week from someone expressing fear of exclusion based on their inability to pay for our workshops, implying that workshops should be offered for free. There were several responses about the rewards of volunteering (besides free entrance to events in exchange), what it costs to produce workshops, and how no one in our organization is making a dime off what we do. But I was feeling that there was something deeper that needed to be addressed and wrote the following:

I feel that we have hit upon a deep and emotionally charged issue for most of us in this discussion about poverty and abundance and that we need to approach this subject with as much compassion and lack of judgment as we can muster as a community. Having come from both severe physical and emotional poverty, and lifted myself out of it, I believe I have something of value to share on both sides of the issue.

Transcending poverty takes a lot of work, and not just the kind where you go out and earn a paycheck. When you have only known poverty and have no role models for abundant consciousness, it is not just a matter of trying to get a decent job (which can be a struggle no matter how educated or experienced you are in Humboldt County—I have been laid off from three of the five organizations I’ve worked for the last 10 years and am worth far more than I am paid right now) or having a positive attitude of gratitude (although it is vital to changing our experience). I know that the person who started this discussion is a parent. An attitude of gratitude does not fill your children’s empty bellies nor make you feel any sense of security in meeting their needs. Not only are you struggling with money, you are struggling with your own doubts that you are being a good parent. I have been working on my own self development for 15 years and I have a very positive and grateful attitude about life. I believe the Universe is on my side. But when those days come that circumstances lead to being uncertain that I can pay a bill or buy healthy food for my kids, I struggle with the same fear and sadness that I heard in the original poster’s email. I wonder if and when the day will come that I am doing more than just surviving, especially with all of the work I have been doing to change my experience.

And I remember how it felt when I wanted desperately to improve myself as a person, to transcend these very issues we are discussing, and couldn’t afford to attend workshops to do that personal work with others, nor were there volunteer or scholarship options available. I didn’t feel the community support we have here, I felt excluded and alone, and I believe that is the experience many people know. Few organizations are run on service alone like ours is, without someone getting paid. The kind of community service, support and connection we offer is new to many people and they may not know how to access it, or even believe such loving abundance is possible for them. I feel it is important to remember this when someone reaches out in their fear of exclusion and not-enoughness. We need to remember that these expressions that come across as angry and accusing are actually based in fear of some kind and approach that fear with loving-kindness the same way we would at an event when someone acts fearfully.

Just as it takes a lot of internal work, patience for ourselves, and compassion/support from others to overcome the social conditioning we have about sex and love, it takes the same to overcome the social conditioning we have about money and abundance. It doesn’t just happen over night or the first time someone tells us it can be different. As the Ethical Slut discusses around the subject of polyamory, many of us were raised in and live in starvation economies. We are taught that there is not enough…not enough love, not enough money. We live in a competition culture that tells us a few of us are winners and the rest of us are losers. We are taught that abundance equals lots of money, not that we can experience abundance through community support. We can’t really know any different until we experience something different. I am experiencing true emotional abundance for the first time in my life through this community and even after a year of consistent love and support, I still have my struggles some days where I feel like a loser. I question my lovability, whether the people in my tribe really see me and want me around. My fear still overcomes the love for a little while. Gratefully I always come back to the love and my foundation grows a little stronger every day. But it may be years before I fully overcome the emotional poverty I was raised in and recreated for myself for years before I learned how to experience abundance.

It takes time and serious effort to rewrite our personal stories, to change a poverty story to an abundance story, or an excluded story to an included story, or an unlovable story to a lovable story. What we can do as a community is lovingly remind each other when we stumble that there is another story that we can be telling ourselves. While we must each take responsibility for our own experience, we have the potential of getting further/quicker along in our evolution if we experience love and empowerment from those around us, especially when we are caught up in our fear.

I do want to let the community know that we are very invested in inclusivity and that we wish for people to reach out to us when they are having an exclusion experience so that we can work to help you overcome it. I know that the current volunteer model may not appear to be a viable option for people who can’t afford our events—parents may not have the funds to pay a babysitter for the set up or break down requirement on top of the event itself or a disabled person may not believe they have something to offer due to their limitations. I would hope that those who are having these kinds of experiences would reach out to us to see what other arrangements might be made. For example, perhaps you have a sewing machine at home and could make pillow cases for us without having to pay a babysitter to be out of the house. Or perhaps a parent could commit to arranging a child-care trade co-op for the group. Maybe you have physical limitations but have things you could do on the computer. Please give us a chance to include you no matter what you perceive your limitations to be. The love and desire to have you participate is here, you just have to believe it is so.

Oh, and I hope that scholarhips become an option in the future. This could happen in a few different ways. More abundant members of our community could sponsor a scholarship for someone else. We may find business sponsorship that will provide some scholarship options. Or we may achieve enough financial support from the community as a whole to have the abundance for scholarships. Or all of the above. We will have to explore it, but I want you to know that we are thinking about it.

1 comment:

Crystal said...

This is an excellent message, my friend. It is relevant in so many ways that it supersedes time and topic. Thank you for laying it out so clearly in words, because we all know how it feels to lash out in fear and self-doubt.

I am also glad you brought up the points about how mentally and spiritually difficult it is to consciously move from poverty to abundance. It's heartening to feel that someone out there understands.