holistic healing

Surface Understandings and Bodywork, Acupuncture, and CranioSacral Therapy

As many of you may know, I have a bunch of professional licenses/certifications, amongst them Acupuncture and CranioSacral Therapy.

Due to the popularity of Acupuncture combined with the length of most Chinese Medicine schools (3-4 year full time degree), many professions have begun to include Acupuncture in their scope, or have attempted to. The most recent attempt of this is by Physical Therapists, who call Acupuncture “dry needling” and say that their Acupuncture and usage of Acupuncture needles is “scientific” while Acupuncture is a bunch of hogwash. Nowadays Chiropractors, Medical Doctors, Naturopaths, and even Massage Therapists (in Canada) have begun doing Acupuncture with very little training and zero clinical training (most of the time).

The effect of this is either nothing (as in the client gets no benefit), the client actually does get benefit of some sort, or that something awful happens, such as the increased incidents of pneumothorax by physical therapists who have begun doing “dry needling”. But most of the time the effect of this is nothing. This basically means that someone goes to a chiropractor who only has a very surface understanding of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, the chiropractor does the same 6, or 12, or 15 points he/she does on everyone (or the only 6 points he/she knows), and the client gets little to no benefit.

And just to show that I am not biased, I will say that this happens a great deal with Acupuncturists as well. Acupuncture has become popular enough that a lot of students are flooding schools. These students may or may not cultivate themselves properly, be able to understand Chinese Medical theory, or ever get to the point that they are actually decent at Acupuncture before they leave the profession (the attrition rate of acupuncturists is pretty awful).

The same thing happens with CranioSacral therapy. Someone takes a weekend course and all of a sudden they say they do CranioSacral therapy, or are a CranioSacral therapist. The most ironic part of this is that I have seen many Acupuncturists (the same ones who may claim that chiropractors and the like are ignorant of Acupuncture and do not have adequate training to practice) have no problem with saying that they are CranioSacral Therapists, Energy Workers, Shamans, Spiritual Guides, or do other forms of bodywork after a weekend course. Ah, life ironies…

Any form of bodywork/massage, CranioSacral Therapy, Acupuncture (and Chinese Medicine) is a lifelong learning process. There is a quote by Ida Rolf, the creator of Rolfing, (I forget the exact quote) saying that she would not consider someone a Rolfer until they had a five year full time practice because before that time they are not doing Rolfing. This sentiment of course extends to any sort of modality including Energy Work, Spiritual Work, and even Psychotherapy.

Bodywork of any sort is an art. It takes time to be become an artist of any modality. Each modality I practice I recognize is a life-long pursuit. I have great admiration for an Acupuncturist I studied under who has been an Acupuncturist for close to forty years, and who comes from a lineage of Acupuncturists and great spiritual men. He is confident yet humble and once said in one of his talks that however much he knows he cannot know everything, and that he has so much more to learn. Each great bodyworker I have met is an artist. His/her work with clients is an artistic expression– as lovely as a painting, a poem, or a piece of music.

It also takes an immense amount of time to be skilled at any form of bodywork (I will use this as a general term meaning Acupuncture, CranioSacral Therapy, Massage, Energy Work, Herbal and Spiritual Work). It is a continual learning process that is never over. Many beginners focus on amassing a great amount of skills and workshops (I sure did at one point in time) and ultimately being skilled means doing one technique, one modality, one expression of that modality correctly. The real skill is the clinician being able to hold space, to hold stillness, so that the client can release their imbalances, traumas, and chaos… and return to a state of greater balance.

It also takes a great amount of knowledge to finally begin to understand any form of bodywork. Study of the history, understanding the innovators, how and why things came about, what it can help or not help with, and understanding the modality itself takes years, decades, and even a lifetime (or several) to understand on a significant level.

Any form of bodywork requires a great deal of cultivation of the Self. It will bring up your own issues, it will be tiring and trying if you do not have the personal cultivation practices to back it up. This means dealing with your own issues on your own time, doing yoga and meditating and building your own personal power so that you do not get burned out or suffer from compassion fatigue.

Finally, any bodyworker that has done significant work has a connection to something greater than themselves. Most are very aware of this. There is only so much one human, one person, one clinician can do. Having a divine connection and understanding of the flows of the universe and how to work with them is something every great bodyworker I know has.

Unfortunately most clinicians are operating with very surface understandings of their modality. Ideally each clinician would take a personal inventory of themselves and realize that there are certain conditions that they are unable to treat, that there are certain people they do not resonate with, and that there are certain modalities they are a beginner at and refer out. This does not happen. So what happens is that we have many people going to see Acupuncturists, CranioSacral Therapists, and Bodyworkers of all sorts who are not very good. Instead of saying that the clinician cannot help them, the client often says that Acupuncture didn’t help them. This is unfortunate, because Acupuncture with an artist, one who has cultivated themselves and studied and knows Acupuncture on a deep level could likely transform their life with a few needles.

This pattern of operating in the clinical world used to upset me. I would hear Acupuncturists (even fully licensed ones who have gone through four years of school with a clinical practice) tell me that they didn’t believe in qi and Craniosacral Therapists ask how they should treat an MS patient (when anyone who has even taken the first course in CranioSacral therapy knows that it is intended to be deeply individualized and that is why it works so well). I have had patients tell me Acupuncture doesn’t work when it is obvious they just went to a crappy Acupuncturist and patients tell me that they are learning CranioSacral therapy and when I look at their teacher they have only had a minimal amount of training.

But I have made my peace with this (although I have been talking about it a bit lately). Most of the world is at surface level understandings, and this includes clinicians. People who find me for CranioSacral therapy are ready for deep work. If they wanted more surface work they would find the practitioner who had one weekend of training. People who find me as a spiritual teacher are ready to move beyond the illusions of the New-Agers or the surface understandings of most spiritual communities, books, etc. And just to prove that I have humility, I will say that people find me for Acupuncture when they are ready for an intermediate-level clinician for that. It is such a rare, beautiful thing when you find a bodyworker who is a true artist. They can truly be life-changing. Be ready for one. Be open to one. Know that any of these modalities have their charlatans, their weekend warriors, the people who have taken one workshop and list themselves as an expert, the people who teach after taking a few classes. But there are true artists out there, people who can help you move beyond this surface clinical reality and hold space for you, be a catalyst for you to have tremendous healing, to find true balance and peace in your life.

The Money Thing: Money and the Spiritual Path

When I go on Facebook (which is less and less these days) and go into the groups I am part of, there invariably is some sort of argument going on about money. Mostly the argument is that if you are “spiritual” or offer spiritual or shamanic services you should not accept money for said services. In fact, you are an asshole if you do, and stomping on tradition… you are a fake, a fraud, and karma will come back to you. The follow-up is usually an idealized whitewashed idea about how indigenous shamans did business, which invariably incites an argument about what constitutes a shaman, and how many of them are fakes and phonies and terrible, awful people.

This idea is evidenced by some of the people that contact me as well. Invariably someone will contact me with a situation that is quite complex- involving anything from possession to ancestral issues who expects me to spend my time reading their emails, doing healing work for them, and replying to them for free. Usually this is the same person who will get quite mad that I charge for my services and will repeat the arguments above, along with the sentiment that if I know how to help them, why don’t I?

A few facts for you about this scenario…

Shamans were typically considered very well off by indigenous standards. They were gifted food, items, livestock, and typically lived on a large compound with their family and extended family. They were cared for well, because their jobs were extremely hard and being a shaman was, and still is, extremely dangerous.

It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that we no longer live in communities such as indigenous shaman did. Modern-day spiritual providers need to go to the grocery store, feed their kids, pay their rent… just like everyone else.

People who are spiritual healers, shaman, etc. cannot do anything else with their lives. They can no longer be accountants, or work a 9-5 job. The pull for those who are called to this work is so strong and the time and energy it takes to become competent at this work is much more than what people would imagine.

Now that we have gone beyond the cultural ideas surrounding this, let us talk about the individual reasons why I accept money for my services…

Beyond needing to feed, clothe, and pay the rent reasoning (which is a surface reason, but still a reality) money is an energetic exchange. It is not evil (or good), but it is how we value things in our society. The type of patient who comes to me, pays the fees I charge, does the homework I provide, and is open to change is the one that has a huge healing session and gets the most out of the work. The patient who feels entitled to ask me for healing sessions for free has no reason to show up for the work. And they do not. I used to offer pro bono work- it never went well. These were the patients who were late for appointments, tried to control the work, and were ungrateful overall… and the work simply was not as powerful. They put nothing into the appointment- so they got nothing out.

The other type of patient that asks providers such as myself for free work is typically complex and has mental illness issues. I am certainly comfortable working with mental illness, but spiritual work tends to attract psychopaths, schizophrenics, and borderline personality types who most ethical practitioner would not choose to work with due to the state of their imbalances.

One of the simplest explanations about why I, and other healers, accept money is that we offer a service. Dentists, doctors, plumbers, librarians, artists, writers… are all professions who offer services. Spiritual healers do as well. By suggesting that they do not accept money, or it is wrong for them to do so, is suggesting that either their job is not important or that the spiritual level of existence is not. Many spiritual healers get the last-ditch effort patients- the people who have spent thousands if not millions on psychotherapy, medication, and all sorts of tapes, books and personal efforts to solve their issues. Someone does not show up to someone like me unless they have tried countless other healers. By paying money, you are showing respect to your own healing process and acknowledging that the spiritual aspect of yourself is important.

Beyond this, a single appointment (or a few) with a Spiritual Healer can change your life. I frequently work with people who have been in therapy for years, if not decades. People who have been through the Mayo clinic for experiences they can’t explain, who have been through acupuncturists, chiropractors, medical intuitives, allopathic physicans, medications, ER’s/hospitals, (you catch my drift) and they come to a Shaman or Spiritual Healer. Because they work with a level (or levels) of reality and a depth that few modalities or healers can touch, Spiritual Healing can heal things that nobody else can. I once had someone joke that an appointment with me was like a year of psychotherapy. The same is true for most effective spiritual healers- it is intensive, life-altering work. It is intense for the giver and the receiver and should be respected. In modern culture, this is through money- ensuring that the provider is taken care of in the outer, external world of car insurance, groceries, and rent.

One of the arguments that I hear often is that if you don’t charge, and are “spiritual” the money will just come. Divine flow, the universe, God/dess will bring it to you. This is certainly true if you follow the path you are intended to. However, there is a joke one of my patients told me- hopefully I don’t screw it up… A man was lost at sea. He repeatedly called for God to come help him. A floating raft appeared- the man did not take it because he was waiting for God. A ship appeared and offered to bring him on board. The man said he was waiting for God to help him. Finally, the man drowned. When he appeared before God, he asked why God did not help him. God said “I sent you a raft and those people!” This is true about money and being a spiritual healer as well. The right patients at the right times will appear to you. And they will provide you with money. And you will pay your rent.

A few thoughts about how a Spiritual Healer actually works

Many people make the argument that if you are a spiritual healer that you will be doing work like this anyway. Why not help someone? The truth is, most single appointments that I do with people take around a week. They take supplies- such as candles, herbs, etc that cost money. But mostly they take time and energy. A single appointment may take anywhere from two hours to fifteen, depending on the prepatory work and after-work that I need to do. I have spent years cultivating spiritual relationships with my helpers. Appointments require energy and considerable energetic exchange between myself, my helpers, and the patient. This is for one patient and one single appointment.

I, as well as many other ethical Spiritual Healers, do not accept all patients. This is certainly true. Even if someone wants to pay me more than my full fee, or begs for me to work with them. Why is this? Some people my spirit helpers tell me not to work with, some people are simply too mentally ill to work with, and some are out of my area of expertise (I refer this last category typically). Most patients are simply not ready- they are not ready to heal, to let go of control, to go through a period of healing, to change.

So, let us break this down…In a week, I might get one hundred emails. Sixty of them want me to help them without paying me anything, or to answer questions about their issues, or are submitting questions for my blog. Thirty of them are not a good fit for me- either due to mental illness or not being ready for the type of work I do. This leaves ten people who might realistically want and be ready to work, some of whom understandably need to think about the considerable commitment energetically and financially that an appointment will require. While I am thankful for my busy practice, sorting through everything to find the people I can actually help, who actually want help, and who are ready to change is fewer than you think and takes longer than one might think. While I certainly appreciate every email that I get, the reality of the situation is that since I only work with people who are ready and willing to receive help, much of my time is spent with people who are not ready for my help. This is true of every single spiritual healer I have talked to (as well as every acupuncturist, psychiatrist, etc).

So, what is the point here?

The point of this blog post is not to participate in the endless argument about spiritual healers and money. Money is simply an energy. It should not inspire anger, or fear. The idea that “spiritual people should not need or accept money” is really saying money is wrong and bad, and that money is something that someone who is truly spiritual doesn’t need or will magically appear. The truth is, if you are a spiritual healer, money does magically appear. In the form of patients you can help, in the form of a service for payment. This sentiment, that spiritual healers should not accept or need money, and are terrible people if they do, is simply a thoughtform. A thoughtform is a communal thought. In this case, it is like a bad game of telephone- people with a misunderstanding of how things worked with indigenous healer plus pop culture New-age Shamanism plus anger and fear equals this thought. And this thought doesn’t really make sense.

This thought is also a projection. If you are getting angry over money, or fear it, or are judging others for receiving it, having it, not having it… whatever the case may be… ultimately it points to your own unhealed wounds about money, not whoever you are projecting this on. What you see in others is your own unhealed wounds– and in this case it points to your own spiritual issues and money. Heal your own relationship with money, and you will realize that money is a current of energy- it either flows or it does not. And nobody is entitled to healing from anyone. If you cannot heal yourself, it is time to pay someone for their time, energy, and abilities.


Ethics in Spiritual Healing, Reiki & Energy Work

When I attended a workshop a few months ago, I sat next to a woman who took one look at me and told me rather rudely that my crystal was “dirty” and it needed cleaning, and how and with what I should do this. She then said “Sorry” without meaning it, and sat back in her seat. At first I was angry at her- this was before we had established any sort of rapport and we hadn’t done much besides for exchange names.

When I took a step back from the situation, I realized that she was simply angry and rude with the world- she was going through some difficult life experiences and since I was a relatively calm person she wanted to entrain me into her world of anger and hurt. Reflecting even more, I realized that she was someone who was feeling out of place at the workshop, and that she was attempting to establish some credibility amongst professionals who had much more experience than her.

And when I stepped back even further from the situation, it got me thinking about ethics in the field of Energy Work. This simply isn’t talked about much- it is left to courtesy and manners that people who are sensitive or trained in energy work don’t go around telling people what their issues are or how to fix them. As Energy Workers, we see so much, but as ethical energy workers, we are not supposed to work without permission or tell people what we see because they may not be ready to hear it, or may not want for others to notice.

I work with and have trained many Reiki practitioners. When a natural disaster happens, plenty of Reiki practitioners “send Reiki” to the site because they believe it to be helpful. Sometimes they do so to specific people they have seen on the news or to the entire area. But is sending Reiki to an individual that has not given permission ethical? If you are a powerful energy worker who can work with the concept of the higher self and ask their higher self, the answer is maybe. But since most of us have egos, sending energy to someone who has no knowledge of it and did not request it is not typically ethical.

And what of sending energy to that whole disaster site? Plenty of us were doing this for the tornadoes in Oklahoma, or the Boston bombings. Sending energy to those sites is a lovely concept, but what sort of energy are you sending? Are you sending in your fears? Your obsessive energy? Energy that is unstable or based off a sense of ego- you feel unsafe and want to do something about a situation that you have no control over? Sending Reiki or energy to these sites can be a good thing, if your energy is stable, clear, and you are able to understand when not to intervene if something larger and more spiritual is going on. During these situations though, I have seen time and again that many energy workers are cording themselves to the situation and become tethered to it- becoming obsessive, fearful, constantly feeling in their own body what is going on with the situation. They are then reflecting this energy back through the cord to a situation that does not need any more fear, chaos, or heightened energy.

The next time you “send Reiki” to a person or site, question your ethics, the energy you are sending, and whether you are doing so out of a sense of help or ego. Sending Reiki, reading someone, or working energetically can be a beautiful thing when it is done with permission (ideally in person, or if necessary through the higher self), and with a sense of calm, clear, powerful energy. But often this energy is sent out of feelings of loss- loss of control, uncertainty on a personal level, and is not helpful to the situation. Consider the next time you work energetically if your ethics are impeccable. If they are, proceed. If not, reconsider how you can help the situation or take some time to reflect.