Breathing Love into Money

Posted by Siddharth Sthalekar on Feb 23, 2014

As part of the 30 Day In-turnship that Pratyush had been anchoring, we thought of including an experiment that explored their relationship with money. As part of the experiment, we secretly tagged them with an anonymous note that read as follows:

"​Good Morning, and Happy Monday.
Today, I have decided to gift the circle a sum of money. Each person in the circle has been burdened with different sums of money based on my laws that you cannot entirely comprehend right now. As trustees of this money, I am asking you to utilize it as wisely as possible. You could choose to circulate this money within the circle, or you could choose to invest it yourself. You could buy something material with it, or something you can consume.
You could also choose to pay it forward as gifts that strengthen ties within people. You could also use it to strengthen your inner self. Whatever you decide, treat this as an experiment to understand your relationship with money and how you flow it. 
There is however, a twist in the rules. These notes of currency self-destruct in exactly 72 hours i.e. 3 days. On Thursday morning, these notes will turn to ash, and will return to the soil from which they sprung. Your role, is to question if you can spark some magic before it disappears. I suspect that you might have to make a shift from Transaction to Trust and from Consumption to Contribution. I'd love to hear what insights you develop through this experiment.
Your noble friend,
Nature :)"

As is the case with most experiments, it's not always easy to predict which way things will flow. It so happened, the In-turns were tagged with the money on the day that the news of Raghu's passing reached us all. Suresh and a few others were to visit Raghu's family in the village, and the In-turns generously decided to offer the money to Raghu's family, without even a hesitation. 

Almost a week later though, I was sharing a circle with the in-turns, and the topic of money, and our relationship with it came up. Very naturally, I happened to share some of my complexes with it - how I spent my first 29 years chasing it, and the last couple saw the pendulum swinging in the other direction. In the end of course, we all agreed that money is neither good nor evil.  Through the course of our conversation, I shared some of my personal experiments with money, and how I've been hoping to honour the different kinds of capital that a lot of us have been speaking about. For a recent talk, I'd even plotted out how my personal capital had changed over the last three years, and it was only when we began to include the subtle and the intangible, that I realized I'd actually gotten richer over the last few years! 

Of course, this could very easily stay in the intellectual realm, so I was talking about one of my personal practices to start honouring the subtle. ​Every time I felt like I had less money, I would create value from something very intangible. I would write a letter to someone. I would go out and do an act with smile card. Because over time, I realized that these small acts were creating so much value. And if I actually spent the whole day doing 15 acts like this, I would feel tremendously abundant! When we feel scarce, we feel like, “We have nothing.” But it’s actually a frame of mind. So how could we think about money not as notes, but as our ability to tap into that flow? And yes, material money does have value. I think we have to all understand where we are at— that we are not all Jesuses and Buddhas. So it’s important to embrace money, but to understand that the root cause is scarcity, and how we can work on that more and more.

Immediately, Pratyush was moved to share, and he spoke about how he was recently offered a small sum of money, and he was unsure of what to do with it. The question that burned him was how he could create the maximum value through these notes of currency, but also incorporating the subtle. He decided to take the money, and offer it to Nidhi, a girl in Delhi who was so passionate about baking, that she had decided to bake cakes and offer it anonymously to people in the Delhi community. Pratyush didn't want to tag her direcrtly, so went through a messenger, who was deeply moved himself, by the gesture. Nidhi in turn, went on a baking rampage, and instantly offered cakes to people in the community. It turns out, even Pratyush's mom recevied one (that's the way Karma works!). Gitanjali also spoke up and shared how she happened to receive a cake on her birthday as well! 

As Swara reflected, she realized the money they had earlier received was almost given away in a haste. Partly because they felt responsible for holding the money! As trustees of the money, she thought, how would she have flowed the money to create maximum value?

Instantly, I felt like genius flowed through, and I was moved to offer whatever money was in my wallet to the circle. A few others who also had some notes did the same. All of a sudden, we had a few notes in the circle, adding up to
Rs. 11,261 and decided that we'd keep the money in the circle until Tuesday night, and each one of us would use the money to breathe life into these notes of currency! We were all eager to see what magic would emerge from these seemingly lifeless sheets of paper!

The very next day, three of the In-Turns, Gitanjali, Meet and Swara had decided to walk the 15 kilometres from the ESI campus in Sughad to the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad city. Along the way, they had decided to lead with their hearts, and engage with some of the money if it felt right. As they reached the slums close to the Gandhi Ashram, Meet recalled an elderly gentleman he had encountered a few days earlier while volunteering in the slums. He lived all by himself in a 10 foot by 5 foot room and could barely look after himself. For some reason, Meet felt connected to him when they met and referred to him as 'Kaka', or uncle. His heart was pained to see his condition - a hopelessness of sorts had prevailed in his life, and he lived all by himself, disheveled, unshaved and in clothes that had been worn down to rags. Meet lead the other In-turns to kaka's home and after speaking with him for a few minutes, Meet asked him to join the group on their mini-pilgrimage. Magically, Kaka agreed and the four of them headed over to the Gandhi Ashram, where they then stopped to buy Kaka a brand new Kurta made of home-spun cotton (Khadi) :) With some natural, herbal oils that they purchased, they were able to massage his dry scalp, and comb his hair.  They then walked over to the restaurant nearby to share a meal. As they walked in - the staff knew these were not ordinary guests. The waiters inquired, and were moved to hear of Kaka's story of transformation. Kaka had brought along some sweets from his home, and decided to offer it to the entire team in the restaurant! Finally, it was time to leave, and as Meet paid the bill for lunch, he couldn't help but think of how those notes of money had transformed the restaurant for 45 minutes.

Later that day, Swara realized that the money could also be used to engage with the staff of the ESI campus in beautiful ways. She had thought of taking a few of the members like Mamu and Pankaj out to have a cup of tea to hear their life stories. Soon, the others built on her intention, and the In-Turns decided to go out to buy some groceries. They had decided to cook parathas for the entire team on Campus, and serve it to them in silence, with candles creating an ambience in the amphitheatre! Each and every member of the ESI team was taken aback. In all their years of service, having served thousands of pilgrims at the retreat centre, this was the first time they experienced such an incredible gift!

The stories were coming in by the hour - from small acts of service, to gifts to unknown friends. Pratyush, decided to experiment with micro-acts of generosity, and only collected the loose change in the pool! A few days later, we were all at a massive Craft exhibition in the city, and Pratyush was at work, offering candies to people he did not know - in fact, he decided to tag each one of us with 2 pieces of candy, to engage with and offer unknown people in the large gathering! 

It's hard to even capture all the stories that emerged. The money had gone into gifts to unknown friends as well as people we took for granted. It had been used to purchase material items, but ended up carrying the subtlest of gifts embedded in it. Those same notes of paper that we blamed for our suffering had taken on a new form in the last few days. When we simply breathed love into it, it had transformed into a flow that actually went around the community tapping into pools of capital that we did not even know existed. When we embraced it in a way that allowed us to offer it as a gift, it began to bring people together instead of isolating them. Sure, money today is designed for very different objectives, but as we deepen our roots and choose to not be controlled by it, perhaps we could use it to bring about the revolutions of love that transform the world.  One small step at a time :)



Posted by Siddharth Sthalekar on Feb 23, 2014 | permalink

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