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A Commercial, Cultural, and Individual Reflection on Paying for Spiritual Guidance
Spiritual Guidance Series (PART II)
Those of you who read Part I of this series on “How to Find and Work with a Spiritual Healer or Mentor”, will recall the woman who e-mailed me with an interest in a 2 month phone counsel followed by a 3 ½ day private soulquest retreat intensive at my OjaiSoulArts artisan home. Quickly and as a refresher, the woman, after a couple of free introductory dialogues where we addressed her specific interests, unique needs, and alternative options for working together – and right at that critical moment of commitment – had a freeze-brain. She just sort of had an e-meltdown, where she blasted out a most amazing tidal wave of fear, distrust and frustration with what she called an overly commercialized spiritual community. It was quite the e-mail. And it led me to consider what has become this 3-part series of articles about seeking, working with, and paying for spiritual guidance in today’s global culture. (Refer back to Part I here.)
So here’s the question that many of us (both as healers and as ones seeking spiritual assistance) have likely asked and grappled with: Should healers and spiritual teachers charge for their healing gift, and if so how much is right and appropriate?
I, myself, have been to healers who charge nothing or take only donation, to ones who charge the equivalent of a new car (the extreme being a Shinto priest who was charging at the time I saw him $8,000 for three 60-minute sessions (you do the math!) to two Ukrainian brothers who refused any money or smallest of gift whatsoever, not so much as an apple or a used pair of shoes …and they put me up in their home besides!
People seem to be fairly opinionated on this subject of charging for spiritual services. Many people seeking spiritual guidance think that one should not charge a fee for these kinds of sacred services. They say that when it comes to matters regarding healing of mind and body, it is the work of God/Spirit. Therefore, no healer, as a conduit or servant in this universal force, should charge a fee for something that comes from and serves Spirit.
Others, and most people I believe, realize that a spiritual mentor’s abilities and gifts are a deeply valuable offering that should be blessed with the honoring of exchange. While money has become our common currency of exchange for the procurement of goods and services of value, this was of course not always the case.
In previous cultures (and still today in some indigenous cultures), the community’s men and women who communed with the Spirits were treated with great reverence and often, too, with awe or fear. Not only were shamans and healers the place to which a family turned with hope when a family member became ill, but these shamans also had the awesome responsibility for mainaining the community’s rapport with Spirit in matters of sustained livelihood, maintaining tribal morals, and assuring the community’s wellbeing.
Just as doctors and psychiatrists are respected and well-commissioned today for their work, shamans, healers and spiritual guides in past cultures were well cared for and supported by their clan. It was recognized in these societies that healers’ gifts came from a tremendous inner devotion, often coinciding very challenging personal wounds, illnesses or accidents.
Healers were well cared for because it was recognized that their depth and power was derived from a certain type of deep inner observation. Many gifted healers, spiritual seers and visionaries seem to require a lifestyle of conventional dys-functionality – i.e., they are often outside the mainstream, in but not wholly of the world. This seems often to be a requirement in order to look into, understand, nurture and mature the language of Spirit so that they can effectively offer the ways of healing to others.
The path of a spiritual teacher and healer (if he/she is an authentic and matured one) is most always fraught with great inner challenges. This only makes sense. For a person to become an initiated spiritual guide, he/she has to go beyond the realm of common place or conventional practice to study and understand the invisible realms of soul, psyche, and creation.
The healer must learn within him/herself to bypass the limits of the conditioned mind and become adept at the imaginal world of symbol; the language of Unity-consciousness (or the non-local quantum field, to describe it closer to today’s scientific terminology). To do so, the spiritual apprentice must undertake the great inner hero’s journey to discover and step beyond his or her own wounds, demons (psychological patterns) and cultural conditioning to seek and to find the path (if one is Graced) of universal wholeness and truth.
Are their healers simply born with the gift? I’m sure there are. Still however, the healer’s own unique upbringing and personality will exist. Interestingly it is letting go of our adherence to identity that is part of the secret to healing. So for one who has a gift of healing to be of useful service to others, he will have to either be a channeled bypass of the personality (perhaps John of God in Brazil today is an example of this type of bypass) or will have to have made the inner journey of self reflection, identity de-construction, and apprenticeship to the creative forces, before he or she can actually understand and apply the universal laws behind the nature of healing. No matter how you look at it, authentic and truly matured spiritual guidance requires tremendous life-devotion and dedication. It is the healer’s primary vocation, calling….job.
So this article is about the currency of spiritual services with an implicit question of: “why pay for spiritual services?” There are several reasons, progressively coming more close to home…
Commerce itself helps to sort out a healer’s core competencies, at least to some extent, by way of popularity and value paid for various services. Obviously many good and true healers remain unnoticed and fall between the cracks and many good showmen rise to the surface of a pop culture. Still and for the most part, currency given is a popularity vote of value, and as such offers some natural guiding selection process.
Does that mean you should simply go out and look for the highest paid, most visible healer or spiritual teacher? No, not necessarily. But at least the most popular and highest paid have gotten where they are by virtue of some criterion of perceived impact and success. The decisive element on this level of appraisal is how much you agree with the values of our pop culture. Where you do not, take your seeking on to a deeper stream…
In the past few hundred years we have become so self-fascinated with the rational linear mind and its amazing powers of systems thinking technologies, that we have literally all but lost and forgotten our deeper (and many would say essential) intelligence.
Interestingly, we still have a few reminders of our lost wisdom: indigenous cultures like the Aboriginal people of New Zealand still exhibit the powers of telepathic communication, as do a handful of social misfits like some people labeled or mislabeled schizophrenic and bipolar in our culture today, as well as the growing numbers of people called to deep inner reflection known as visionaries, poets, clarvoyants, mystics and spiritual healers.
Scientists and philosophers who study cultural anthropology, human evolution, and consciousness, clearly demonstrate that our current perceptions of (and relationships with) reality are terribly limited in the reductionism of a post-industrial society and its mechanistic paradigm. (See the works of Ken Wilber, Thomas Kuhn, Fritjof Capra, to name just a very fiew starting points for more insight in this fascinating area of study.)
With the overpowering attention given to science, technology, and consumerism, we have increasingly abandoned support of the arts in our education. This is being reflected in the loss of connection with Spirit through the portals of symbol, art, and imagination. The language and intelligence of art and metaphor have become superimposed by those of science and realism. What was once our genius in the co-creative realms of visioning insight and revelation, has become brushed aside as mere frill at the least, and considered a superstitious and primitive capacity at the worst.
It’s amazing and interesting that an imaginally-creative intelligence of millions of years in the making can be considered primitive, dismissed as obsolete, and overpowered by a mechanistic fascination in a mere 300 years! By what measure (one must ask) when you stop to really look upon the ecology of various civilizations over the course of history and the rise and falling of what is created; what is destroyed; what achieved, and what is paid as the price.
When we stop looking at the whole historical ecology of mankind and look only from our own current positionality, we lose tremendous perspective on the cyclical and rhythmic nature of reality. Today we look through the eyes of a highly mechanistic consumerism and think that that little box can explain reality! Healings and “miracles” that don’t fit the scientific paradigm are called the “placebo effect” – as if by giving something that “can’t happen” a label, takes care of the demonstrated positive and unexplained effect. We’re just too funny in our dogmatic nearsightedness!
We’ve relegated healing to some mystical wishful thinking. Not so! If we want and desire truth and wholeness, healing and co-creative power in our lives, we must recognize our short memory span and limited worldview and find and remember a deeper intelligence that is our very nature. The healers and spiritual visionaries; the poets, mystics and artists of today are the holders of this reclamation of our natural powers.
Payment for spiritual services declares your sense of import and value in this field of undertaking. Your value given in today’s currency, literally helps protect and assure that a lineage of inner devotional apprenticeships continue to inquire, learn, mature and come back to our culture with their gained wisdom.
Finally, we should actually want to pay without reserve for the spiritual services we seek, because our personal investment is the key to being made whole! You know this intuitively: when you have to pay a significant sum for something that you want, you’re much more likely to use it, take care of it, and make it have lasting value. The more we invest our dollars in something, the more we invest of our selves. The more we invest of ourselves, the more we see lasting change and results. It’s that simple really. This is particularly true of spiritual work.
The very nature of spiritual work, be it mind/body healing or spiritual enlightenment, is coming to see beyond the limiting blinders of the mind and its conditioned and fear-driven story-telling. We have a lot invested in our stories: Our whole identity and self worth! Thing is about identities, they, by definition, keep repeating and regenerating our conditioned and unconscious beliefs.
To manifest a breakthrough healing either of mind or of body, requires a fundamental change in belief; it requires a visionary opening of the perceptual doors of the psyche and a concomitant reorganization of the cells to allow the old repeating illness to naturally recede and dissolve so that which is more whole and true can be re-membered and re-established, be it an actual physical healing “miracle” and/or the deeper, and a priori, reclamation of one’s wholesomeness.
Those who have struggled with wanting to change something in themselves and met up time and time again with its tenacious hold, know (or at least probably suspect) that real and lasting change doesn’t come from mental will alone. The mind with its belief and stories is the condition creating the block. As Albert Einstein said, “You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.” Lasting change comes from the deeper wellspring of knowing that dwells within the imaginal intelligence (God-consciousness) in each of us. Learn to remember and tap into the language of your true self, and you have found the key to healing and self-realization.
One of the reasons there are stories of miraculous healings is because crisis acts to increase ones investment – but fast! When we’re afraid of dying, we will try almost anything – and with real invested and open-hearted seeking. That’s the key: when we open our selves past the blinders of our unconscious and cultural conditioning, the deeper truth and vast untapped wisdom within can slip in and infus, inform and transform our lives – creating what we call “miracles”.
I see this every single day in the people who come to work with me to discover how to seek and find their own inner wisdom. When we remove the mental blinders and constructs, and instead learn to listen from a spacious presence to the deep body awareness, the most remarkable brilliance and knowing shines through. It happens every time, and it is always life freeing! As mystic corporate poet, David Whyte says: “anything or anyone that does not bring you more alive, is too small for you.” Our ego-rational-mind is one of the “too smalls” that David speaks of.
If you want to have your own taste of this inner knowing that surpasses all understanding, I’ve a free and short home exercise for Remembering Who You Really Are (which is also the title of my first book) on my web site called Doorway #1. I encourage you to quiet your mind, open to your heart’s longing – and see what you encounter…
Why support the work of a healer or spiritual guide? Because in so doing, you will come to rediscover that you are that too!
- Come find out for yourself: that there is no greater journey than your own...