oakland’s pay what you want holistic clinic

aumatma 262x300 oaklands pay what you want holistic clinicImagine a holistic health clinic where you didn’t have to pay.

Last August, I was emailed a link to a video about just such a clinic in Oakland, California. Since people know I do most of my workshops on a Pay What You Can basis – they tend to send me lots of stories and examples. I watched the video and was so moved and posted it onto my blog.

And then, just a month ago I was in Oakland leading a marketing workshop with my pal Alex Baisley called, ‘Marketing for Hippies and Gyspies’ (myself being the hippie and alex being the gyspie). As we did the introduction circle at the start of the day – a woman, Aumatma Binal Shah (pictured right), introduced herself and the amazing, gift economy holistic health clinic she ran.

Levers and gears clicked in my head. I burst out in the biggest smile and blurted out, ‘You’re on my blog!!!’. I was so excited. I think you will be too when you read about it and watch the video below.

Aumatma’s project – The Karma Clinic – is special, brave and generous. I want to see it get every scrap of support it can. Spread the word.

Below is my interview with her.

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What is the name of your project?

Karma Clinic

What’s the story of how this came about? What was the need you saw in the community that it emerged from?

I had a vision when I was 18 that I would be doctor running a ‘free’ clinic.

At the time, I wanted nothing to do with either- medicine or free! Fast forward 4 years of pre-med undergrad and at the end not having a clue what to do with my life since I really did not want to go to medical school, I was discouraged and confused.

At that time, I got a piece of “junk mail” at my parents’ home from a Naturopathic College. I took one look at the curriculum and knew that I was meant to become a Naturopathic Doctor and that I was being called to be of service. Through school, I volunteered at numerous free clinics and noticed that something was missing- people mostly took us for granted, and did not follow the suggestions/ recommendations given to them.

After graduation from Naturopathic school with a Doctorate in Naturopathy and Master’s in Nutrition, I felt the need for an inward journey for discovery and deepening of understanding the world from a wholistic perspective.

That desire led me to a monastery where I spent a year, living mostly in silence, without any contact with money, and lots of time to connect with myself and nature while living harmoniously & sustainably with community and the earth. After a year, I felt called to re-start my service to the world on a broader scale so I left the monastery to join a naturopathic office, with my mentor.

Within a few months, I started to notice a repeated uneasiness in the pit of my stomach after each session, upon walking out of the office and telling the client they now owed us a large sum of money (usually between $300-500). I did not like the equation of this connection and relationship with another person with cash or transaction.

In complete synchro-destiny, I received an email from a dear friend who runs an organization/ hub for gift-economy projects, saying that there was some talk of a ‘karma hospital’- similar to Karma Kitchen, but instead of serving food, the intention was to serve health. Very excited by the possibility, I moved across the country 3 months later, to converse and create with others that were inspired by the same vision.

This closed a loop for me of the vision I had in meditation 10 years prior, and I knew that I was following my path, my truth.

Can you share a few examples of how your project works?

The way it works is: a client contacts me (or some other practitioner within the network) for an appointment. They get sent an extensive questionnaire which they fill out and send back. Then, they make an appointment to come into the office. We have our first session, generally about 2 hours.

At the end of our time together, I say something like (it changes to what’s most authentic in the moment): “Thank you for this opportunity to be of service, and a small conduit for your healing process. I offer this to you as a gift, because there’s no price tag that is enough- and any price is too much! Your session was made possible by someone that came before you and if you wish to pay it forward, so that someone else may have this experience, you can do so- now or at any point in the future.” At that point, the client may have questions, or an offering, or a ‘thank you’ and a hug! All are received with trust and generous heart.

Who do you find it’s working best for?

In terms of the gift-economy component, it works best for those that are wishing to grow in their generosity, don’t have access to medical care and are in need of it, and are willing to make a shift in their life for the better.

In terms of my own specialties, I work with a variety of issues but focus on: anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and stress-induced chronic illness. The reason that I focus on these is that they often get ignored and eventually result in greater imbalances and diseases in the body. So, its the way I feel I can be of the most service to those that need it the most!

how do you deal with the ‘guilt’ that can come up when people are afraid they won’t pay enough – i get this all the time.

The ‘guilt’ is a feeling that’s an internal measure that can actually be used as an indicator light for internal truth, rather than intellectualized truth. However, that feeling of guilt is internal- understanding that it is not coming from the gift-economy practitioner because there’s no pressure to give back in the gift-economy. The “right” amount should feel light and joyous. So, when giving a gift, one should give the amount that feels good- its a different place for everyone, but each individual has that place that feels “light and right” to them! It’s not too much, not too little.

 

What are the top three most effective ways you’ve found to market this?

I haven’t marketed at all! My clients spread the word all on their own. So, the best thing I have found to do is to be present with the person immediately in front of me.

do you have any fancy marketing and promotion ideas coming up?

No. Just moving with the flow of what the universe brings in.

what advice would you give to someone wanting to try a gift economy approach?
Put on your gear (of compassion and trust) and dive in! It does help to have a mentor though- because inevitably, things arise which need to be talked through.  In the beginning, it’s also helpful to have some period of time that your basic needs are met to start out (I say 6 months is a good period of time), to allow yourself to really dive into the gift-economy, without expecting anything in return. Last but not least, connect with community that inspires you and connect with your own gratitude regularly.

What are the three biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?

TRUST. TRUST. TRUST. I have deepened (and continue to deepen) my trust in the universe- that all my needs will be met if I just allow my gifts to flow through me.

What’s the next level for your project? What are you most excited about that’s coming up?

Excited about the growing network of gift-based healers across the country! I am going to be on tour June 5th-July 15th, doing funshops on “Money & Media for healers”. These workshops are also offered on a gift basis and am looking forward to having conversations with other healers around money, sharing gift-economy model for healthcare with them, and inspiring them to try new ways of practicing their art/ service/ gift.

Go watch this little video about the Karma Clinic:

 

 

If people want to find out more about your project, support it or get involved – what should they do?

Come visit our site at:

http://www.karmaclinic.org

 

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