The Million Kisses
Interview with Emily Potter
Written by Michael Stegner
What is a gift to you? A gift should be something thoughtful, personal, and without expectation of anything in return. But what if you took that definition much further? What if the best gift you could give to somebody was simply a relationship? A truly meaningful and personal friendship without any expectation or limitations. That is what Emily Potter has been teaching everybody that she meets since 2015 when she commited her life to a “Gift Giving Economy”.
What that means is that Emily has surrendered herself to the idea that people will take care of her, wherever she goes, so long as she lives a true, whole, honest lifestyle, giving herself and her talents completely to everyone she comes in contact with. We could all learn a lot from Emily’s mindset about the world. From her basic trust in humanity that many of us have come to lack, to the mindset that who you are and what you have to offer the world is more than enough, my interview with Emily left me inspired and feeling positive about the world.
In between her world travels and performing life-changing concerts FOR FREE everywhere that she goes, Emily took the time to explain to us her journey of self discovery, which lead to a career as a musician and countless one-of-a-kind moments that she would not have had without surrendering to the gift model economy. This is the story of the million kisses.
What gave you the idea to start this life journey?
In 2007, I met a man at a party whose eyes lit up when he talked about his dream of traveling to India and working with orphan children. I was so excited for him! When I asked him when he was going, he looked at me and laughed. “Oh it’s only a dream. Maybe I’ll go someday. For now, I gotta pay the bills.” I nodded in agreement at the time. But weeks later, that conversation really bothered me. Something in me woke up during that interaction, and almost overnight I started noticing similarities in every conversation after him. The phrase “gotta pay the bills” felt rampant, like a symptom of a societal virus. This man will still have bills to pay in a year. I believe in paying my bills, but I just didn’t want the conversation, and his dream, to die there in a pile of bills. During this beginning era of contemplating my journey, I began to realize that my true passion in life was the pursuit of life dreams that contribute to humanity. Supreme joy felt like it was the ability to live my soul’s purpose, and surround myself with people who are also living their soul’s purpose. Together we live fulfilling, meaningful lives as a human family.
That feels blissful to me.
But I can’t just go around telling people to live dreams that serve the world. I had to do the work myself, and what better way than to pursue my most vulnerable dream, the one that scared me to bits: becoming a full time musician. On April 17, 2015, I quit my job and began a personal experiment living as a full time musician within a gift economy model. Using my expertise and training in energy work, I started singing to the intelligence of the sleepy dreams burrowed deep within the core of my audience members. I provided donation-based concerts so that money was never an excuse. The “Dream Walk” Concert acted as a meditative ceremony for my audiences, igniting feelings of courage and taking action in waking up their dreams. Most importantly for my own inner journey, I trusted that my dream was more powerful than my fears of how I would pay the bills as I took this concert on the road. Almost four years and 14 countries later, this experiment has been one of the most wild rides of my life! The feedback I receive from those who have experienced a Dream Walk Concert are what keeps me going. Years later, audience members send letters and photos of themselves living a specific dream they committed to pursuing the night of my concert. I receive waves of gratitude from them for being a significant catalyst for change in their lives. I can honestly say, I have never been happier.
Where do you draw the line at this kind of lifestyle? Do you require other people to gift you food and a place to stay?
About a year ago, I committed to release 2-4 songs a month online that I announced as my 12 month music challenge. I set a price, and those who desired to receive the songs would give $5 a month in return. I valued my songs the way I had seen “value” modeled…with money. It felt right at the time, possibly because so much of life is for learning what we don’t want! About three months into the campaign, something didn’t feel quite right.
I didn’t want to charge money for my music anymore.
The gift economy model I embody only works when I trust that humanity knows how to give freely to one another when they feel inspired to. If I kept the $5 model any longer, I might as well have embraced a fully normal life. Why not also charge for my live concerts? There would have been no point to giving up my well-paying job, my financial security, and my comfortable life for this gift economy experiment. But I gave it all up to pursue the dream I believe in, taking a stand for those who feel imprisoned by fear and scarcity, and to embody the message that money is not a reason to walk away from a dream.
That tiny $5 felt like a raspberry seed in my tooth. Looking back, I realize more than ever how I set many similar situations up like this so that I can decide if I really mean the message that I claim to embody. I felt scared of not having enough. When I was ready to get honest about that, I could actually offer my music as a true gift to my beloved humanity, without expectation of return. So I announced the change to my online community.
To answer your question, in this lifestyle I draw the line with what feels genuine, and what does not. In a gift economy lifestyle, I cannot hide. I cannot pretend that I am giving a free concert, for example, and then guilt my audience to put money in my vessel by sliding in an innocuous comment about if I don’t get enough cash, I won’t have food or a place to stay. I have learned that the line I draw is true, gritty, genuine trust that I always have enough, and I am always taken care of. This means that if I sing for Susie, Joe may be the one who offers me his guest room. I am leaning away from the system that one unit of time equals one unit of monetary value, and into a space where humanity is seen in its divine oneness, a connected web who gives and receives in the spirit of joy. This level of committing to trust, joy, and gratitude is what has effortlessly opens hearts along my journey. People feel my authenticity. The result is they open their doors to me, offering gifts of money, their guest rooms, meals with their family, free plane tickets, filling up my tank with gas, nights in their vacation resort homes, and so much more. The relationships and the connections I create are genuine. That is the line I have drawn.
Could you tell me a little about your music? What is your musical history? How long have you been performing live, and what type of music is it?
I have chosen my music vehicle to be mostly folk/blues, but not limited there. I have much more to learn and to explore musically! In 2004, I picked up a guitar and taught myself A, D, And E, the basic chords to play “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and a myriad of other folk songs. My first memory of folk music was when my best friend at 16 years old played Joni Mitchell for me. Joni continues to be a constant companion, and I have even written her a song that I dream she gets to hear someday. Folk music has been with me ever since then.
When I was first learning to play music, I was excessively nervous to perform. I had a massive insecurity complex about playing solo for the first year or so. I started to recognize that there will always be good reasons to get out of performing. I decided to give myself a rule. If anyone ever asks me to sing, I will not give myself the luxury of saying no. No matter how I feel in that moment, whether I just out over a cold, I’m running late, I don’t have a guitar…my answer will always be YES. That did the trick. I have said YES ever since.
Is this lifestyle for everybody? Can it be? What would it take?
Everyone who lives in a community is living within a gift economy at some level. Babysitting for your sister’s kids, inviting a friend over for dinner, or singing a song around a campfire.
I am not anti-system, nor am I a promoter of quitting jobs. And I never promote living in a gift economy full time. If it’s right, it calls you. What I stand for are people showing up in their relationships with respect and trust. Relationships are the core currency within a gift economy. Heartfelt relationships with one another are a treasure trove, immeasurable and invaluable. The time we set apart in our businesses, in our families, and in our communities to generously send the message of trust and respect to each other is worth its weight in gold.
As I grew stronger as a creator, I found myself continually and effortlessly drawn to choose life in a gift economy. I felt tapped into something bigger than me. I felt part of a wave that is sweeping across the planet. People who feel trapped by the limits of current economic models may choose to lean in just a bit more to living within the gift because it just feels good. People are seeking wholesome, authentic connection. For me, it took deciding to believe in my music, my message, and myself so BIG that whether I was charging the market value or giving everything for free, I was committed to sending the message that I am trustworthy as a creator, and as a human being. It also took deciding to vulnerably connect with others like me who felt the wave sweeping the globe. I believe the wave is made up of millions of people who are tired of chasing the dollar, and who are ready to delve into greater depths of generosity, abundance, and the power of gift-giving for the sake of humanity’s health and well-being.
Within these two elements of believing in myself and believing in people, magic can sparkle when one leans into it. My own experience is that I feel immersed into a worldwide thriving LOVE revolution where the concept of giving something for “free” isn’t only trusted and respected, free is also connective, mutually-beneficial, and awe-inspiring for both parties to experience. It works because generous hearts connect with other generous hearts. We all find each other, no matter where we are in the world.
Where have you been able to go/what have you been able to do that you would not have gotten the chance to experience without surrendering to this gift giving lifestyle?
Since beginning this gift-based experiment in 2015, I have performed over 80 concerts for audiences in 14 countries including the United States, Canada, Russia, Israel, Thailand, Romania, Italy, Portugal, France, Spain, Germany, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Greece.
Going deeper than offering simple entertainment, I get to ignite my musical performance with my experiences in shamanic healing, Matrix Energetics, and connections with angelic guides. This creates a powerful vibration that attracts like-minded people around the world. I was invited to perform in gorgeous places such as on a rooftop in Athens, Greece, at a tea house in Bucharest, Romania, and on a hilltop in Almargens, Portugal. The message I embody calls out to hosts who are, on some level, asking to receive my gift.
The overall experience I get to have is that I am in actuality living the reality that the whole world is truly my global family. When I performed in New York City, one audience member shared with me that my concert was a priceless experience the same way a very meaningful moment with your grandparent is priceless. If you had to pay for that, he said, it would mean something less. He then said that he was giving me some money that night, but that he didn’t see that money as payment for the experience. It was because he wanted to help support me to keep going in giving this message to other people. This is what a true gift economy lifestyle means to me. I have the opportunity to create connections that are palatable through the universal power of music.
What has your journey taught you about others in the world?
Almost everyone is on a quest to trust their heart. We want to release ourselves from the rigidity of our limiting beliefs in order to experience the rich joy life has to offer. We hold an innate knowingness that our birthright is freedom.
Where I see most people get stuck, however, is when we ask the question “how”. How am I going to afford this? How is my dream possible? And because our questions don’t have clear answers, we adapt to our present circumstances. Why not just stay home instead of doing all the work it would take to live the dream? Life is really fine the way it was. And they are right. Life really is fine. No matter what people choose to do, the most inspiring dreamers I have met along my journey are those who followed the call of their heart, even if it meant watching their home garden turn to weeds as they sail to distant islands across the sea. Who I find most inspiring are those who don’t have the accurate skill sets, who definitely don’t have the money, or the health, and they are completely petrified of the great unknown…and they do it anyway. They are the heart warriors who sell their car, take a stand, pack a backpack, and do whatever it takes to follow the call of their heart and make their live a fulfilling adventure.
What has your journey taught you about yourself?
- Keeping my word to myself is sovereign above all.
No one can hold me accountable to keep my word, except me. I am beaming with pride at what limiting beliefs I have overcome because I consistently choose to keep my word as my daily habit behind everything I do. On this journey in particular, I have kept my word to go the distance, and I absolutely love the results. I cannot describe how good that feels.
- Any judgments of good or bad completely lose power.
A quick online search will provide evidence that there are dozens of people living fully within a gift economy model. I am specifically grateful that Charles Eisenstein, Amanda Palmer, Lily Cole and others who have articulated this lifestyle choice for the masses to learn about. I also have a supportive community back home in Salt Lake City, Utah where I personally know three people who have embraced this model. Even though we all subscribe to living in the gift, each of us are living our interpretation completely differently. One man I know, for example, chooses not to even touch money. He gives and receives time, energy, and sustenance only. I, on the other hand, adore giving and receiving massive amounts of money! Money is my friend, my teacher and a loving companion I enjoy learning from on my journey. At the core of anyone who embraces this lifestyle, a gift economy model is rooted in joy. What provides the greatest amount of joy in a gift being given and received? This question is always paramount. In the world I am creating for myself, everything else, including judgments of what is a good and bad way to live, completely crumbles.
- I have become healthier as a musician.
As a musician, I think I used to need or at least desire feedback from my audience. I have stopped caring if anyone likes my music. When I first started to perform, I definitely cared. I would specifically talk with people after the performance in the hopes that they would tell me something nice to feed my ego. If they did, I would feel happy. If no one did, I would feel sad. But as I became more courageous and vulnerable, I was astonished to really grasp that when my whole soul was in alignment with the musical gift I was offering, I could sleep that night feeling grateful and complete. A gift is a gift, without any obligation or expectation of return. May it be received by those who choose to receive it. Otherwise, may we part ways in peace. It felt liberating.
- This is the moment of creative fulfillment, not later.
As creators of our reality, we naturally jump ahead and imagine the potential of a better life sometime in the future. We might visualize our song played on big stages, or our painting hanging in the biggest art galleries. I’m all about that. But not to the detriment of missing what is. I am learning the power of loving what is right here, right now.
- Jealousy is my weakness.
Anyone who also struggles with jealousy and is doing the work to transmute it into the spirit of celebration knows this work is very important to do. On my low days, I have found myself scrolling through Facebook depressed in bed as I see my smiling friends on top of the world. It’s become easy to admit the limp I experience in life is caused by jealousy because I know I am not the only one. I’ve waded through the embarrassment of it, and I’ve already tried to cover it up so people can’t see it. But it’s worth it to me to get ridiculously honest about it, because it really would be a shame to miss what I came to earth to do because of a few mists of jealousy. I have learned that the reason why jealousy feels so gross and so uncomfortable is because it’s not my natural state. It isn’t actually even mine. It is not my true nature at my core. I am a celebrator. I am a cheerleader with sparkly gold pom poms. So I am learning to thank jealousy, because it truly has been one of my greatest mentors. I say, Jealousy, thank you for everything you teach me. Thank you for showing me what I am not. I am committed to the work of sincere, genuine celebration. A friend recently shared with me that when I see someone have what I want, it is the Universe’s way of showing me where I am going. I loved that. I am choosing this as a place I focus upon so I celebrate others and myself more than ever.
- I refuse to sit back and spew resentments about the way the world is.
Instead, I have chosen to channel every drop of my energy into not ignoring the call of my heart. That is the picket sign I hold up! What feels better than anything to me is to get neck deep in my own personal work in order to eliminate my own limitations. I want to sift between lies and enslaving delusions to see my truth…how absolutely limitless I truly am. And I don’t believe in preaching a word of any of this to anyone. Instead, I choose to trust everyone’s perfect path, and to dedicate every step of my personalized experiment to the whole of humanity’s collective consciousness in ways it might be most useful for the highest good. Everything I do is dedicated to the whole, in the name of you and me being courageous to live our dreams within infinite possibilities.
What does your future look like?
I’m going back on tour in 2019! I intend to continue to offer both my Dream Walk concert, and a download of my Dream Walk album, as sincere gifts of my heart to my audiences in the coming year. I am starting to take applications for potential hosts starting this month. email@example.com
I’m creating ways to give back to my patrons. I have patrons who offer me gifts of monthly patronage. They trust me and the change I am committed to create in the world. There are times when they might wonder where I go when I sink into deep inner reflection, and still my patrons stick with me. They trust the big picture of what I am creating, and they just want me to keep doing it. You can only imagine how touched I am by this high level of love and trust. Patrons keep me going. www.patreon.com/themillionkisses
I just started a project that is already bringing me truly blissful hours. I empower musicians like me to live their soul’s purpose. I am leading a proactive group on Facebook called the Lightworker Musicians Tribe. The group is for musicians (of any level) who are taking huge leaps of faith into their soul’s calling in anchoring light to the planet through their music in their service to humanity. One of our tribe brothers, for example, admitted that he hasn’t played outside the chambers of his closed doors for years. Within a couple weeks of joining the group, he posted a vulnerable video of himself singing and playing the piano. When he told us how liberating it felt, I completely freaked out with delight. Then he sent me this beautiful message: “Thank you Emily. It’s because of you and this group that I’m able to [share]. I’ve always hidden my talents because I was afraid of what people would think or say. But I love the support here and I want to grow. Keep being a blessing.” Stories like that are the core of this project. I love imagining a world of inspiring musicians singing and playing without any self-limiting belief holding them back. I’m honored to hold space for that vision.