In this interview, you’ll find out how Aparna came about her journey to work in gift, overcame some old conditioning around money and enjoys more freedom and joy in her work and life.
Aparna had too many interesting stories to fit into one post, so I have published her interview in two instalments. Here’s the second half! For part one, click here.
What are the biggest personal challenges you find, working in this manner? Did you notice any patterns of fear or guilt or shame around money within you?
The biggest personal challenge, I think, has to do with deconditioning. My experience is quite new, and there are times when I have felt less positive than I enjoy feeling when I felt someone had not paid me ‘enough’. Working in gift, you meet different kinds of people, with varying levels of generosity and different parameters for how they value your gift. There are times when I received gifts which I felt were very generous, but on other occasions when they failed to match my internal criteria for ‘generous’ or ‘fair’, There was a sense of contraction, thinking that I had been taken advantage of. With time I started realising that this negativity stems from old programming of worrying about not having enough money, and the old professional habit of putting a money value on my services, and feeling cheated when that kind of amount did not turn up.
I want to develop a sense of gratitude and equanimity around whatever is given to me – I want to trust people that whatever they are giving is being given from the heart and that that is to the best of their capacity – not necessarily financial, but in every way, also internal.
The second challenge at this point is the tendency to compare by looking back at the past. The amount of money in my hands has been far less than what I was earning as a professional. Although very happy most of the time, there are these little moments when I realise I can’t splurge the way I did earlier, a faint sense of sadness comes over me.
Some of my family and relatives are not happy with my decision – they will sometimes be taken aback by my request for some small material thing I happen to need – an old shirt, or a pouch to keep my stuff in or something like that. Or being with financially wealthy friends or ex-colleagues, this sense of comparison & sadness comes up. Fortunately, these feelings do not last more than a few minutes because I can see through them. I am also very clear about why I have chosen what I have chosen.
Do you have a favourite book or person that inspired you around money?
The favourite book is Charles Eisenstein’s The More Beautiful World. There are several favourites – apart from Shammi there are several young friends, who are living in gift and doing wonderful things; they are not very well known people.
What would you say money is....?
In my hands, money is a tool to meet needs. When I am given money as a gift, it is an indicative of the other person’s care and love and value for my work. In the larger picture—regarding how money functions in the world and how it creates stories of scarcity and separation and creates pain – because I have both experience and observations in that area – I see that a money economy has created a lot of control, pain, scarcity and fear. Some history books tell me money was created as a means for control. I want to evolve into a person with a more positive relationship with money, and I want the same for others, but I don’t want to push these painful realities into the background and have an oversimplified ‘money is good’ kind of perception.
I want to be acutely aware that money is a very complex thing and has a greater potential for creating pain and violence than positive things. My ultimate dream is a world where all needs are met freely within a human-community-nature matrix without the need for media like money.
When you work in gift, do you notice relationships formed are significantly stronger? In other words, does money disconnect relationships, in your opinion?
Yes. When I used to go to forest areas as a journalist in an expensive car and sporting a business-like manner, people would rarely cook for me, and even if they did, they would try to make it special. They thought their food was not good enough for a swanky city lady like me and that I would prefer hotel food. Now I stay in their houses and bathe with the women at the hand pump; we cook together. The energy is more of joy and fun than of the gear of failing to measure up. And they are more open to sharing the food they eat regularly with me rather than going out of the way to fetch something ‘fit’ for an urban person.
We even have friendly squabbles over what to cook and how to cook. We take long walks in the forest, and I get to hear amazing stories about people’s lives – especially women and get to understand their worldview deeply. In the urban areas too, when I live with people rather than in a hotel, the bonds are stronger. Instead of taking conventional gifts for people, I cook for them, and we enjoy learning different kinds of skills from each other. The bonding is deeper - when working in gift. As a journalist, I was forever chasing deadlines, so I got very little time to connect with people. Now I find that when I approach them without that intimidating façade, they open up and let me in.
What advice would you give to someone aspiring to work entirely in gift?
Hmm…. I am still very new and learning. Too early to give advice I guess. I can only say that it is a joyful and more deeply connected and vulnerable way of living.
To follow Aparna's Mahua Yatra on Facebook, click here