(Editor’s Note: How do committed healers and teachers keep their intentions pure? Betsy Robinson, managing editor of Spirituality & Health magazine went in search of an answer. She shares her findings here.)
We asked: “Are you conflicted about marketing and charging fees for your healing services? If so, how? If not, how did you come to a peaceful decision about marketing, charging, and how much to charge?”
And . . .
“How do you keep your healing intention pure in a culture where you are dependent on income from these services for your livelihood, or in some cases, where you have become a famous commodity yourself? “
I admit it: I’m not enlightened and, despite my good intentions, I’m often trying to get something. How can I stop? How do people who have actually committed their lives to service deal with the impulse "to get?"
I ask these questions from deep in the belly of the spiritual marketing beast. As managing editor of Spirituality & Health magazine, I am keenly aware of our need to attract readers, to sell enough magazines to stay in business. As a gatekeeper to writers, many of whom are hungry to sell their stories, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer weight of the offerings, and on really bad days, I want to throw up my hands and commit to a life of decadence.
But I also want help with this struggle. And I want to produce something from my struggle that will help others with theirs. And there I go again -- wanting to get something!
To find help, I posed the questions above this article to about two dozen well-known teacher–healers. Most of them didn’t answer, and one of the first responses -- from an administrator -- was discouraging: "Dr. X has had to give up her healing practice because of time constraints. She is administering two schools, teaching, traveling, and writing. Therefore, she is probably not going to be able to respond to your questions in a timely manner. Blessings in healing."
But then there were the others.
I don’t charge for my healing services, I charge for my time. The healing part is a gift that is not mine to hoard, only to manage wisely, which is why I have to set boundaries, support my own body, mind, and spirit, and, yes, engage in a remunerative profession. I think the logistics are the same for everyone; the difference is in one’s consciousness about it.
I have never turned people away because they had no money. Doing the business side properly gives you room at least for some pro bono work. Beyond that, my career has taken the direction of teaching people how to heal themselves. They then can do that for free.
My treatment room is sacred. It carries an energy field that is pure. My job is to sustain that, which includes not entering it so frequently that I can’t fully be there in body and spirit. So taking care of myself and my business well are part of a larger scheme for keeping my healing services at their highest.
Founder of the IM School of Healing Arts in New York City ( www.imschool.com )
In the context of the school, (conflict around commerce) can aid the learning process. Money issues also need to be healed.
I am a healer no matter what the financial issues are. My position has always been that if someone comes to me for healing and cannot pay, then I don’t charge.
Lama Surya Das
Buddhist teacher, author of Awakening the Buddha Within (www.zogchen.org)
Buddhism has been taught mainly on a dana (donation) basis rather than as a fee-based service or commodity. I offer options including dana, charging on a sliding scale, bartering, and offering scholarships, work-study, and so forth -- all adhering to the Buddhist idea that no one should miss the opportunity of meeting and benefiting from the liberating Dharma due to financial limitations.
Amazingly, I have found that if I want people to read my works, many more will find them if I give them to major mainstream publishers rather than having my nonprofit Dzogchen Center publish them for free distribution. And I’m talking about several hundreds of thousands of books, in a dozen languages.
A wise Buddhist teacher once told me that we should try to offer teachings for free, but if we worry or are too concerned with donations and fundraising, we might as well determine a reasonable, moderate, and appropriate charge and be flexible and generous to those in need.
One of my friends, a senior therapist supervisor, says research has shown that people get more out of therapy when they pay for it than when it is free, for numerous reasons, including valuing it more highly, feeling more invested in it, missing fewer sessions, and arriving more punctually. For this reason, we are continually reevaluating how well the dana system works.
The main thing is not to let the tail wag the dog. Spiritually speaking, one needs to remember why one is engaged in this work.
Flora Slosson Wuellner, M.A., M.Div. (Rev.)
Ordained minister of the United Church of Christ, retreat leader, spiritual director, author of Forgiveness, the Passionate Journey
“Here’s your fee," the retreat organizer said matter-of-factly as she handed me a sealed envelope. It had been a wonderful week of shared thought, worship, and meditation, with a responsive group, hungry for spiritual nurture.
"Oh, dear," I said awkwardly, feeling my face flush. There it was again, even after so many years in my specialized ministry in spiritual renewal -- that deep, instinctive unease when receiving money for a prayer retreat.
I went home and did some hard thinking. Why had I felt no guilt about my salary check during my years as a parish pastor? Why did I have no qualms about receiving royalties for my books? Was I was selling my witness to God’s grace rather than offering spiritual guidance free of charge? Should I take earnings from some secular work and give my spiritual leadership without charge?
As I explored my discomfort, I realized that my conflict had its roots in centuries of the misuse of the words "spiritual" and "secular." Even the most ancient religions taught that certain places, certain activities, certain people were sacred, and that all others were not. Even in the Christian churches, this split between secular and spiritual continues in many forms to this day.
When Jesus talked with a woman of Samaria, she referred to a mountain her people revered as the most holy place of worship. He responded that the time had already come when those who loved God would no longer feel they had to worship on her mountain or in his temple. "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24, New Revised Standard Version.)
Within the vision of incarnational spirituality, there is no distinction between spiritual and secular. In God’s heart, all places where God is loved are holy places; all actions placed in God’s hands are spiritual actions.
From this radical stance, my specialized ministry of retreat and prayer leadership is neither more nor less "spiritual" than the work of any lover of God. The discerning question that keeps pure our work is, "Do I put my work and the wage I receive in God’s hands?"
Founder of HolisticPR.com, teacher of spiritual marketing, author of Creating an Abundant Practice: A Spiritual and Practical Guide for Holistic Practitioners and Healing Centers and The Science of Spiritual Marketing: Initiation into Magnetism
During a period when I wasn’t making much money, I was several times asked to speak on the subject of abundance. At first I thought it was odd because I could hardly pay my rent. But then I saw the cosmic humor and knew there was something I needed to look at more deeply. After giving the talks, a huge shift took place. It was like an explosion, and I realized that abundance has to do with my own heart. Abundance is an inside job that has little to do with external circumstances. And charging clients, being in the flow of giving and receiving, is part of this heart-opening exchange.
The more I stay with that pure intention to serve, the more I offer my clients, who in turn are transformed and experience abundance of their own.
Jason Jinen Shulman
Spiritual teacher, author, and modern kabbalist, founder of A Society of Souls Training in Integrated Kabbalistic Healing (www.kabbalah.org )
These questions assume that there is something -- heaven, truth, spirituality -- that needs to be protected from the mundane -- earth, human desires and needs -- things that are traditionally seen as lower in some way.
What is there to keep pure except my original intention: to see God everywhere? What exactly is that I have to keep pristine when I invite everything in? Intentionality is all. How do we make making a living a holy thing? The entire program of spirituality is to make our life one thing, and not a group of pieces working against each other.
There is nothing wrong with money; there is something wrong with greed, since it negatively separates us from each other. There is nothing wrong with charging for services one does professionally; there is something wrong about using professionalism to put oneself above human need or to objectify others. When people don’t understand this, they think that there is something that is intrinsically or essentially impure and another thing that is pure. This is an error in approach, I believe.
As far as keeping my intention pure, I have helpers and advisors whose support I actively and constantly seek out when I lose my way. This helps me stay true to myself and my mission.
A final thought: the great Jewish prayer of the Shema tells us that God is One. We can use this prayer to reflect upon the concerns of our daily life. For example, how are money and service, purity and impurity one thing? The answer is not easy to find, but struggling to find it, you begin to know what God is.
Aside from my training program, which I’m actively marketing, my practice has developed mostly by word of mouth. This has felt fine. Any commercial marketing I’ve done of my practice has been necessary for survival. So I’ve done it, albeit reluctantly.
One buffer I’ve had that many healers don’t is the insurance mafia. Because I’m a doctor, my services are often covered by health insurance, so any guilt I feel about charging more than double what most other healers charge (and four times a carpenter’s hourly rate and two-thirds my divorce lawyer’s) is assuaged by the significant insurance reimbursements most of my patients receive. When people can’t afford my fee, I’m often willing to work out alternative arrangements.
I came to justify my fees partly by looking at how much more physicians charge for their time than I do, especially considering that my education as a physician and healer was over two decades long -- more than twice the time most doctors spend in training. Basically, however, these are my excuses for being a part of a dissociated society where wealth is unequally distributed and greed and fear about not having enough reign supreme.
I try to do the best job I can, but I have no illusions about my imperfections. Sometimes the healing that comes through me is wonderfully clear and inspired; other times it’s technically good, and that’s enough. I’m a professional who’s been doing this work for 20 years, so even on my bad days I can pull it together to do good treatments.
Most of my patients see me as a human being who is doing this work because I love it and am good at it, because I like helping people grow and develop, and because it’s my calling and my livelihood. I’d probably be happy if I could barter for all my material wants and needs like a shaman in an indigenous society, but money is our primary means of energy exchange, and since I like exchanging energy, I like getting paid for my services.
Sandra Ingerman, M.A.
Teacher of shamanic healing, author of Medicine for the Earth and Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self
I feel strongly that we should not turn away clients for financial reasons if they seek spiritual healing. I do believe that there are spiritual consequences to this, and that practitioners need to be flexible and charge on a sliding scale. I have also found it rare that a practitioner can keep a state of compassion needed if the only source of income is spiritual healing. Clients often end up becoming dollar signs. Most of the practitioners I refer clients to do shamanic healing part-time so they don’t get burned out.
Wayne Dyer, Ph.D.
Author of classic self-help books including Your Erroneous Zones, motivational speaker (www.drwaynedyer.com)
It’s my effort and my goal to live as close to God realization as I possibly can -- oneness. To have conflict, you need two-ness. You need two people, two ideas, two things that go up against each other. I don’t go up against anyone or anything. I feel very connected to the Source from which I emanated -- a source of endless perfect abundance. I just never got separated from it, so I’ve always known that I am that, and it is me.
This is something that’s with me wherever I go because I never doubt it. Thinking in terms of conflict or being conflicted about the abundance that has come into my life is just not a concern of mine.
I don’t believe that I am famous, because fame isn’t located in me. Fame is located in other people. Fame is a component of the ego. The ego says, "I am what I have; I am what I do; I am what others think of me."
I try to live in a spiritual consciousness, which says that who I am is a divine creation of Source that lives as a divine creation of Source. When you stay in that awareness, then you create what I call the power of intention. You create the ability to be just like God. We came from love. We came from kindness. We came from joy. We came from perfect abundance.
If you see yourself that way, then you’ll attract that into your life. If you see yourself needing to have other people love you and care for you or buy your books or whatever, then you’ll attract lacks, shortages, and needs into your life, and I don’t have any lacks or shortages or needs. If people only knew who or what is with them, in them, beside them all the time, they would never worry about anything.