The Abounding River

This weekend I attended The Abounding River, a workshop taught in a
pay-it-forward style by the creators of Cafe Gratitude: Matthew and
Terces Engelhart. I had flipped through and purchased the Logbook (which
the work shop is based off of) so I kind of had a sense of what I was
in for. I was excited that I would be exploring my self-worth, my
relationship to money, and saying positive “I Am” mantras in the Cafe
Gratitude style. What I did not expect was that I would leave with a
much stronger sense of courageousness in my heart, a beautiful new ring
(I will explain more about that later), and the option to take on a
whole new view of my life.

The workshop started
Saturday morning. I snuck in quietly though the back door as a room of
friendly people turned their heads to gaze at the sound of the creaking
hinge. I managed to find a seat and the workshop began with us all
introducing ourselves. Matthew and Terces sat up front and shared “Ok,
so to start with this morning, We’d like for you to all share your name
and one thing you are uncomfortable with sharing about your relationship
to money”. Wow, I thought, as the source of my most embarrassing money
secret instantly came careening to the front of my mind. I tried to
think of anything else to share that wasn’t so embarrassing. As I
thought, I listened. In the moments prior to my arrival, Matthew and
Terces had created an environment of trust.

Many people around me were openly sharing their versions of their own
money nightmares: some people couldn’t stop worrying about saving enough
money or paying their bills on time while others couldn’t stop spending
and were deeply indebted to friends, family, and banks. Finally it was
my turn and the atmosphere of integrity couldn’t stop the words from
coming out of my mouth: “What I’m most embarrassed by is that I am still
supported by my parents and I’m terrified of the notion that I will
have to support myself one day”. Silence met my ears and it was over. I
felt a sense of relief. My fears were on par with everyone else’s, even
if the ideas that led to them were different: Now I know I’m not the
only one with major fears around money.

The
major perspective that is shared in this workshop is that money is
inherently neutral: it is our own personal blocks that create our
relationship troubles with it. We worked with partners to look at money
from multiple perspectives and unveil what our subconscious ideas around
money really look like. One example of this was thinking of our
relationship to money as a friendship or romantic relationship and then
answering questions like “Do you expect me to make you happy?” and “Is
our relationship security to you?” The implications of our responses
were profound. Most of us had terrible relationships. We worked to come
to see how our perspectives could be different, Matthew and Terces were
empowering us to take responsibility for our relationships.

Around lunch time we got an invitation to do a homework assignment:
“During lunch we would like you to give something away- whether it is
money- like a higher tip than usual to your waitress- or an item. We’d
like you to give it to someone who is not in the workshop, to someone
who has no idea why they are receiving from you then come back and
report your findings to us after lunch”. I left having no idea what I
was going to give- or how. I had no cash on me but I left it open.

I went to lunch with some of the participants at Gracias Madre- Cafe
Gratitude’s sister vegan Mexican restaurant. I was sitting, happy to be
out and exited to connect with some of the other participants on a more
casual level. As I sat down at the family style dining table, there was a
beautiful woman across from me wearing a lovely rose quartz and silver
ring. I could tell it was a beloved belonging so I complimented her on
it. I was looking for a connection to her and I had no idea how deep it
was going to get. She looked at me and she said “you like this ring?”
and I replied “yes its beautiful” she then preceded to take it off her
finger and hand it to me, “its yours now”. Yes, she wasn’t following the
protocol of the assignment, she knew clearly that I was in the workshop
with her, but she said she felt particularly attached to the ring and
had been inspired to give it up, make it into an offering.

I
felt honored and had some trouble receiving it. I had only wanted to
connect with her and being gifted was a challenge to me.  I called my
own self worth into question. I was encouraged to accept and receive the
gift. The ring is still on my finger now as I write this, its a
beautiful reminder that life goes on, with or without our most prized
possessions and that sometimes life really does deliver unexpected
gifts.

On my way back to the workshop I realized I had
nearly forgotten to give my gift. I reached into my bag and found my
BART (bay area rapid transit) ticket. It had enough on there to get
someone somewhere. I wanted to give to someone who clearly wasn’t in
need- I wanted to prank someone with my gift: sometimes giving without
reason is joyous and hilarious. I ran up to a girl my age putting gas in
her tank and handed her the public transport card. “I want you to have
this” I said. Surprisingly, without any skepticism, she said “thank you”
and accepted it. I could learn a thing or two from her.

When
we arrived back Matthew and Terces encouraged people to share their
stories. I learned so much from hearing the people around me speak about
their experiences. There were a few hilarious stories.  I heard one
participant in the workshop who had given his money to someone on the
street and said to him “spend it well”.  Apparently the person didn’t
take kindly to the statement and replied “excuse me sir but do I tell
you what to do with your money?”. It was a sweet anecdote that I felt
pointed to a much larger relationship that the man had with money:
needing to feel in control of where it went. We all laughed and took in
the lessons everyone had to share.

We moved on to more exercises and talked about reconstructing our
perception of debt. One woman shared her fear around debt from
investments in music equipment. Terces shared “try to consider that you
have been blessed with the gifts of what you were asking for and now the
world is asking you to step into your gifts by creating wealth from the
instruments you have received”. This was a revolutionary way of looking
at the concept to me: Having debt comes from a place of having been
abundant enough in the first place to have received what you were asking
for AND you can choose to see it as a calling to create more abundance.
How empowering.

We closed out the day
with a final homework assignment: “Notice how abundant you already are
and come back tomorrow to share your findings with us”. My mind was
already calculating millions of anwsers: clean water, social services,
friendship, health… We walked around the room sharing information and
hugs and finally the day ended and  I was offered a ride back to my
home.

I would love to share with you about my second
day and beyond, but if I do this blog post might turn into a novel. This
workshop has been a blessing and has left me feeling more capable and
abundant than ever before. What is even more amazing is that this is
just one of several workshops offered throughout the year  by Matthew
and Terces at a Pay it Forward rate. People who are interested in
supporting the benefits of workshops like these are encouraged to donate
a limitless amount while people who are experiencing a financial
challenge are encouraged to pay what they can: even if that doesn’t come
in the form of cash. I am so grateful for all of the gifts I have
received this weekend and I am paying my abundant feeling forward by
trying on this new view of life and passing it on to others: A view of
being provided for.