RECULTURING: What is a "Gift Circle"? Here's our first impressions . . .

Gift Circle meets, March 25th, for the fourth time. Here we are, in my home, revving up after our potluck meal.

Yesterday, I received an email from a woman in Ohio who is on the Bloomington permaculture guild list-serve. Since she is not the only one who has asked, and since we are still getting rolling here, it might help if I post my immediate, off-the-top-of-my-head response to her request here.

In response, she replied “Thank you, Ann. This makes me think of a wonderful book, “The Gift,” by Lewis Hyde. Check that out. I can see how you are reculturing through your circle. I am going to share your description with the Athens permie list and Friends Meeting.”

“Reculturing.” What a great word! Thanks, Michelle! And yes, I did read Lewis Hyde’s wonderful little book back sometime in early ’80s when it was first published and I was living in a yurt community in the mountains of Wyoming. I remember loving the book, but don’t remember what it said. At least consciously. Perhaps its message has been germinating inside me all along, and, when the time was right, instantly manifested in the subtle, humble form of a neighborhood “Gift Circle.”

I find it fascinating that during the this fundamentally chaotic Uranus/Pluto period (2011-2015) that is de- and re-structuring the status quo, during two short, welcome periods when the planets Mars, Jupiter, and Pluto all stabilized into a magnificent earth grand trine, these kinds of grounded experiments emerged —quickly, easily, and with seemingly no forethought and great inner power and stamina. This dynamic geometry, which briefly clicked in during November 2011, re-formed for this month of March 2012. Now its waning. Poof! So treasure what came through for you, and nurture its development, for it will help seed the new world as the old world continues to implode.

I have a feeling that when we look back on this fabled 2012 year, we will sense the month of March as the pivot point, hurtling us into an extraordinarily creative and fruitful regenerative energetic field that bathes our tiny planet in beauty and bounty.

So: back to Michelle’s question:

“I’d like to know more about this idea. I wonder if you would be willing to describe what the gift circle is for me?”

And my off-the-cuff response:

I first found out about the gift circle idea from reading Charles Eisenstein articles on He’s very articulate about the whole idea of the gift economy, and has written a book on the subject, “Sacred Economics,” which I have not yet read.

Think of three types of economies. The first is the one we’re in, the money economy; the second is the trading/bartering economy that springs up when money gets scarce, but it still depends on the negotiated exchange between two or more people, to the point where
what is exchanged feels equal or fair to both sides. At least that’s the ideal.

The gift economy is very different. Now I’m not talking from Eisenstein, but just from the experience we’ve been having in the gift circle we started here.

We come together as a group, committed to the idea that we are here to both give what we can offer to the group, and to state what our needs are to the group — both for that period of time. So we set up a relationship between ourselves as individuals and the group itself, rather than between two individuals within the group.

The group meets for about two hours (after a potluck supper). Sitting in a circle, we talk a bit first about how we are feeling in general, whoever wants to talk in this way. Then we begin the process of gifting and receiving, going around the circle, one by one, either in
order, or whoever wants to go next does, stating what we have to offer and what we need. We do not expect anything from anyone in particular, plus, it may be that no one in the group can meet our particular need for that week. Some people may have no stated needs that week, or feel unable to offer anything. Everything is okay. But more often than not,
when somebody mentions a particular offering, at least one person will speak up immediately. “Oh, I can help you with that.” Or, “my sister can do that for you!” (yes, we find ourselves offering other people who are not even in the group, and obviously will have to get their okay for it). Or, a need might just be for the group to look out for
someone that might be able to sublet their house for a month, or to care for their pet while they are gone.

So this is the process. The most important thing, and the hardest for any of us to “get,” was that there is no negotiation involved. It’s not, “I do this for you, and you do this for me in exchange.” There is no one-to-one exchange, though it may turn out that I give to you and you give to me, both are seen as part of the group process, rather than a negotiation between two people.

We had no idea what it would feel like when we started, but now that we are up and running, after four meetings we are really astonished to recognize that what this process is doing is encouraging everyone to shine with their full unique selves inside the group, which feels like a sort of hot-house of energy, building week by week (or, I should
say, session by session, we meet every two weeks). We allow ourselves to be vulnerable by stating our needs without expectation that anyone will be able to fulfill them. We recognize what we have to give, more and more as time goes on. It’s not just stuff; that’s the least of it. And not just the talents and skills that we are known for in the
regular marketplace. For example, last time I said that I just realized that one thing I could give to the group would be the capacity to help people go through transformational processes, especially those involving loss. I had never said that before. But it’s true! And I also gift to the group astrological readings should anyone want one. (In the regular marketplace I charge big money for these). Others have offered to give amazing things like handmade moccasins, hand-hewn flutes.

What it begins to feel like is a circle of blessings, that we are each blessing each other through this group process, and insodoing we are discovering the endless bounty of the universe that just keeps on gifting to and through us to the world. People have already gone through amazing transformations out of habitual attitudes of “scarcity
consciousness” into trusting the universe.

One other thing. After the second week, since so much had happened in terms of gifts and needs already, we started to add one more part to our process. And this is for each person, when it’s their turn, to begin by stating what they are grateful for. This attitude of
gratitude has already permeated our energetic field.

Each time we have met, there have been about a dozen people, not always the same. One third to one half of the people are different each time. We plan to keep the group open in this way, and expect that many of the people who come, when they experience the gift circle with us, will then go out and begin their own gifting circles. One man who
came from Brown County last time says he wants to come to ours a few more times before he starts one of his own there. An 88-year-old man who lives down the street from me came for the first time this past Sunday with his 90-year-old wife, and he wrote me a hand-written note the next day which he delivered personally, to tell me that God had
sent him to this group. Well I don’t know about that, but it does feel kind of magical. People of many ages and persuasions and talents and gifts present, and finding out about ourselves and each other in much deeper ways than usual, almost automatically, simply through utilizing this process of gifting both our needs and our offerings to each other
in what I’m coming to think of as a sacred circle. So yes, Eisenstein is right. This third type of economics is indeed sacred.

Just imagine what the world would turn into if each of us simply expressed ourselves fully into the world, with no expectations from any particular person and with a sense of security and trust that all our needs will be met and all our offerings will be welcomed.

I’d love to see gift circles start up in every neighborhood of this town. I think it would be a way to revitalize neighborhood associations which get caught up in zoning issues and complaints. Instead, what comes into being is the enormous generosity of
expressive being that powers the universe.

Does this help?


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2 Responses to RECULTURING: What is a "Gift Circle"? Here's our first impressions . . .

  1. Jay Pace says:

    Thank you for the posting Ann. We are having a similar experience here, to your gifting, or blessing circle. Perhaps not as organized? We don’t have any scheduled meetings. Or any agenda but we do seem to be meeting new people who want to share in something undefined but quite palpable. A number of random events have turned into something which seems to be defining itself according to gravity or entropy. As I have mentioned in the past my life is informed by dreams and for sometime now people from my life who I haven’t seen in years are making appearance in my dreams and in my life. People who have been former apprentices at Talliesin, are suddenly forming themselves into a kind of “BLESSING CIRCLE”. One man in India started a group called Organic Architecture, and invited me to be an administrator. I have been adding friend, and the group is slowly growing and defining itself as it evolves. Including all these people in various parts of the world in a discussion, the general context of which is living in harmony with a very generalized focus on architecture and life-style based in an Ogranic Ideal. The only difference between this organization and others is its total lack of structure or discipline. We only call for members of the discussion to contribute or not, to the thought process and we dissolve all carries which have existed between different groups of architects, clients, builders, etc. Last night, as a result of this activity, Suzi and I were invited to a Concert sponsored by David Dodge, one of our oldest friends from Taliesin. He has written a symphony and built a house which is a concert hall, and the story of his life is entwined in this process. Seeing and hearing it all come together last night as it was performed by the Phoenix Symphony, was a transformative experience for Suzi and I and we met new people and old people who all seem to have the idea of being part of a circle of “something” that is defined by what I can only describe as “Fuzzy Logic” a sense of accomplishment, realization, transformation, is palpable, yet undiscussed. Yes, it’s in the stars alright! It being a reality which seems to be damaged by definition. I guess it is the OCCUPY movement, which I have never understood, as it was so undefined, now I see there is a way, something like “There is a River”, the Edgar Cayce/new guy’s name, all coming together.
    I just have to say, We’re glad to know you old friend and to feel a communion with something bigger than creeds, doctrines, disciplines, specialties of all types. BLESSING SPHERE, that what I think of!

  2. Cindy Wineburgh says:

    Thank you for this! I’ve known about the “gift economy” for a while, and have believed in it alone (I thought) for much longer – wonderful idea for it to spread, but I understand the man from Nashville – you sort of have to experience it somewhere in order to carry it out. I experienced some of it in Ithaca NY 5 years ago (was it?) at their summer music festival – GreenFest? I think – people just were giving to each other – sometimes music or art; massage therapists were offering free massage/healing treatments to people – you had to line up and wait your turn, but they gave them; the trash truck drove around cleaning up with flowers and laughing people on it – and my first experience of a true gift economy was at Patch Adams’ Gesundheit Farm. Patch intuitively understood this kind of spontaneity, as did many of the healers there for a retreat the week I went in 1996.

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