Charles Eisenstein is the author of Sacred Economics, The Yoga of Eating, The Ascent of Humanity, and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.
His work is primarily focused on questioning the established institutions of our society. He believes that most of the problems, if not all, with the economy, the environment, and our lack of community can be traced back to how we view ourselves as separate from nature and the people around us. And sometimes these institutions help to exacerbate this perceived gap.
In this part of the interview, we spoke about uncovering what he calls our default state of gratitude and his journey in finding his gift.
I'm grateful for his time and the opportunity to interview him.
You can find more information about him and his work on his website.
I hope you guys enjoy!
"We are born helpless infants, creatures of pure need with little resource to give, yet we are fed, we are protected, we are clothed and held and soothed, without having done anything to deserve it, without offering anything in exchange. This experience, common to everyone who has made it past childhood, informs our deepest spiritual intuitions. Our default state is gratitude: it is the truth of our existence.
Even if your childhood is horrific, if you are reading this right now, at least you were given enough to sustain you to adulthood. For the first years of life, none of this was anything you earned or produced. It was all a gift. Imagine walking out the door right now and finding yourself plunged into an alien world in which you are completely helpless, unable to feed or clothe yourself, unable to use your limbs, unable even to distinguish where your body ends and the world begins. Then huge beings come and hold you, feed you, take care of you, love you. Wouldn't you feel grateful?" - Charles Eisenstein in Sacred Economics
KB: I was thinking that we could start off by talking about fundamental gratitude as you call it in Sacred Economics. You wrote “Our lives are given to us, therefore our default state is gratitude. It’s the truth of our existence.”
What or who are we grateful to?
CE: There are many kinds of gratitude that we can suppress and deny, but they’re written into us on a deep level. We’re grateful to our parents. We’re grateful to society that has created the matrix of sustenance and well-being that we live in. We’re grateful to the planet. We’re grateful to water. We’re grateful to the cosmos.
I think we have a desire to express this gratitude on each of these levels. For example, one way that we live out our gratitude that we have towards our parents is that we want to make the world a better place for future generations. So we take that gift and we give it to our children.
We’re the same with society. We want to create a better world. We want to contribute to the ongoing and unfolding of beauty in the universe.
KB: You said this is our default state. So it’s just a question of uncovering it. How would someone uncover it?
CE: You could say that gratitude is associated with a desire to give or even a need to give. When you fulfill a need, it feels good. It means that that good feeling is a really important guide to living from that gratitude and discovering it.
Why is gratitude our default state? Because we live in a gift universe. So anything that reminds us of that can reawaken the gratitude. For example, receiving generosity of some sort or even witnessing generosity can awaken something in us.
KB: You can open yourself to that if you’re not in that state already.
CE: We have this habit. I would call it one of the habits of separation to return every question to what do I have to do.
You have to open yourself up to gratitude.
Maybe it’s even easier than that. Maybe connecting to gratitude is a gift, which we sometimes want to take credit for. Maybe the truth is that even gratitude comes as a gift.
And that’s scary, but at the same time it’s kind of a relief.
"Trust that feeling of I don’t want to be doing this."
KB: I was wondering if we could talk about how you found your gift? What was your journey?
CE: After I stopped working in the conventional world, I tried a lot of different things. But whatever I was doing, I always found myself wanting to write books. It’s that thing that you keep coming back to, and it’s usually right under your nose. But it takes awhile to be able to see it.
I think that a totally valid route to finding what your gift is is to find out what it isn’t. Just try a bunch of stuff and eventually you’ll find what has been staring at your face the whole time.
Trust that feeling of I don’t want to be doing this.
KB: What do you think prevents people from finding their gift? From a personal standpoint or a societal standpoint.
CE: It’s both. We have a lot of social structures that dissuade us. Take the money system for example. Where the money is isn’t necessarily where people’s passions and gifts are. And then you have social structures like work ethic and schooling whose ideologies we internalize. We have fears of not fitting in and of economic survival. We have a lot of programming against doing something unconventional.
KB: And what about personally?
CE: The internal barriers originate in the system.
The desire to conform dissuades us, which really comes from disconnection and lacking a strong sense of who you are. This all comes from social disconnection and disconnection from nature. So people who are really in touch with nature probably have a stronger sense of what their gifts are. Same with people who are embedded in a community where their gifts are valued.
With each person it’s unique. It’s about self-inquiry.
KB: What makes you feel fulfilled?
CE: The feeling of connection with a human being: loving, being loved, intimacy. And with nature too. To feel connected to other beings that aren’t human and to the world itself.
It also feels beautiful to have done really good work. Those are the two main things.