Envisioning a society in which contribution replaces consumption, a group of alternative health care practitioners has opened the Gifting Tree Wellness Center .

Envisioning a society in which contribution replaces consumption, a group of alternative health care practitioners has opened the Gifting Tree Wellness Center — where patients can receive treatments for cash or by "paying it forward," donating goods, services or property elsewhere, down the line.

Operating out of a half-time office donated by Ashland attorney Lloyd Haines, the dozen practitioners are offering acupuncture, reiki, cranial-sacral therapy, flower essence therapy, non-violent communication coaching, nutritional assessment and coaching, Quantum Touch Energy Healing, Restorative Circle for Family, Office and Community, Sufi Healing, Voice Dialogue and Zero Balancing, according to its Web site, www.giftingtree.net.

The clinic is open by appointment on Mondays and Wednesdays and the second and fourth Fridays of the month at 51 Water St., Suite 222. The practitioners provide their services in addition to their own private practices.

The clinic is open to mainstream medicine and expects to have some physicians donating a percentage of their work, said nutritional therapist Jack Leishman of Talent, the clinic's chief organizer.

Treatments can be done in the clinic or in the practitioner's office. The client can pay with the usual cash or gift of labor or goods, or by pledging to pay it forward by giving in some other part of the community, said Leishman.

The new, experimental "gifting economy" is a remedy for the ills of the current economy, he said.

"Everything has become monetized to the point where we've lost our personal connection and exchange money without even seeing each other," he said.

The system is also intended to get another means of exchange in place in the event the economy collapses in a major, global way, he added.

A major proponent of a gifting economy, Charles Eisenstein, author of "The Ascent of Humanity," held a weeklong retreat at Buckhorn Springs last fall. He outlined how, before money was invented 2,600 years ago, humanity freely donated and traded, building ties of community in the process.

"Gifting builds community. You can't have community without gifting flowing among people," said Eisenstein in a YouTube video of his lecture. "If life is the flow of money transactions, you don't really have community. You don't need anyone. You can just pay someone for what you need ... but when you gift to someone that you would like to create a bond with, they feel gratitude, the desire to return the gifting."

Services can also be "paid" for by posting the offer of your own services to the new Time Bank (www.timebanks.org), which allows you to use services of members, paid for by services you offer, said webmaster Bram Larrick.

"I believe it can work, if people come to it in the spirit it is given," said Larrick, who came to the clinic for nutritional counseling. "What we give returns to us. Eventually, someone comes in and drops $10,000 for what they get. The whole world can work that way."

Jenica Faye, a Gifting Tree board member, said she's giving her reiki and flower essence treatments to help people learn alternatives to expensive medical treatments and because "it's a great honor to assist in the healing process."

The clinic, she adds, "is an experimental model, a good jumping off point for all types of services. ... We just have one request, that you check in with yourself, your feelings and guidance and ascertain the worth of what you're receiving and decide how to offer your gift, whether it's financial, services or an object."

Inspired by the gifting workshop, Leishman informed clients he was putting them on a gifting basis and one client "paid me twice my normal fee. Everyone I talked to was very excited, except for my parents when I told them on the phone."

The Gifting Tree is not a "free clinic" in the style of the of the 1960s, where nothing was asked in return, Leishman said; it's modeled on Aumatma Shah's Karma Clinic in Oakland, Calif., where goods, services and cash circulate sufficiently to meet bills every month, though often on the last day.

"She's my muse, my model," Leishman said. "She's not free. She explains to patients they can gift to the community or the clinic any way they choose. I love her vision and selflessness, though she would say it was selfish, because she's doing what she wants to do."

Clients, he explained, "should choose the value of the service and gift it out into the world. I don't want to know what it is, so it can be as pure as possible. However, some (board members) believe the client needs to be given more concrete information about our expenses. We're working that out."

Appointments may be made online at www.giftingtree.net, by phone at 541-324-2561 or by e-mail at info@giftingtree.org.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.