The Beginning of Vocation: My Session with Jane

1982. I had just opened my initial practice of Swedish massage in an upscale salon in Nashville. I watched as my new client arrived in a Jaguar convertible to the glass front of the salon. Jane stepped out of her car in a tailored Donna Karan suit, hair professionally coiffed, make-up perfectly appointed. Nonetheless, her externalized style could not hide the pain and stress in her eyes. She explained that her dentist had referred her to me for relaxation. After she was situated on the massage table, I began the massage by gently rocking her spine. Within the period of a few moments, Jane began to sob uncontrollably. Having received less-than adequate training – I was unprepared for this. I remember praying silently – God, I don’t know what this is, or, what to do with it. I’m simply going to continue to gently rock until you show me what you want me to do. Jane’s sobbing continued for about fifteen minutes, and then, began to subside. I simply said – Feel free to express what you are experiencing. She revealed – during the six-month period prior to this session – that both of her abusive, alcoholic parents had died; that her husband had filed for divorce and, one day after the finalization of the divorce, had married his girlfriend; that her sixteen-year-old son had attempted suicide by taking a razor his wrists in the bathroom. Jane took responsibility for cleaning the blood from the tile grout.


Now, my decision to practice massage was less-than virtuous. I had my degree in pre-medicine, but had opted out of attending medical school. I simply took a six-month certification in Swedish massage with the intention of getting out of a dead-end career of waiting tables and bartending. Massage would permit me to be self-employed and make more money. That was the depth of my intention for doing massage. Spirit had a much deeper intention for me that would be revealed over the ensuing years.


Because of my experience in that session with Jane, I enrolled in a course called Healing of Emotion Through Prayer. That led me into the study of metaphysical healing. I initiated in three levels of Reiki attunements. I entered twelve-step recovery for my alcoholism. I began therapy to address the physical, emotional, and religious abuse of my childhood. I began volunteering with Hospice and working with people with AIDS. I began studying with other master healers. I established a group practice of like-minded therapists. I opened Cumberland Institute – a school of holistic massage and healing. I enlisted a faculty of holistic medical doctors, nurses, metaphysical healers, master therapists, and – my favorite Dominican nun. We created a curriculum that addressed and included all that I had not received when studying massage. I began Primal Therapy for my chronic depression. As a result of my success in healing from depression, I trained in Primal Therapy. I entered a two-year training of Spiritual Direction based on the teachings of the contemplative Christian mystics. On a ski trip in Salt Lake City, I began working with a shaman who would later be one of my teachers in my initiations through the International Foundation for Shamanic Studies. Now, I simply serve you through this Spirit-guided vocation called healing.


I merely wanted to make more money, to be self-employed.


Spirit wanted more.


Jane was the catalyst.



Healing Story: David


While practicing holistic therapy in Nashville, I received a call from Chris, whose brother – David – was a head-trauma patient in a local rehabilitation hospital, and, whose insurance coverage was about to expire. This meant that Chris would be taking her brother to her home in Kentucky in order to care for him with the assistance of her husband and two small children – ages four and six. She wanted me to show her any techniques that might assist David’s healing once he was in her care. She stated that she had received approval for me to enter the hospital and utilize the rehabilitation room.


In 1985, it was rare for a hospital to approve clearance for a non-staff therapist/healer to provide treatment in-house. I was greeted by the hospital administrator, head occupational therapist, two physical therapists, and, Chris – her two children in tow. On my behalf, the administrator commenced a tour of the hospital prior to escorting me to the rehabilitation room. “This is a patient/family visitation room.” I peered in through the door. In the center of the large room was a head-trauma patient – head, legs, and, arms strapped into a special wheelchair. Encircled about the perimeter of the room were the patient’s family and friends – seated, and, conversing with each other around the patient as if he were not there, and, did not exist. I remembered thinking in that moment, “This is hell.”


The tour completed, we entered the rehabilitation room where David lay on a large, padded, hydraulic, therapy table – the size of a king-sized bed. Two rehabilitation staff were standing by the table. David was twenty-nine years old and had suffered a severe head-trauma in a motorcycle accident. He was paralyzed, and, could not speak. His muscles were hard, and, in acute contractile tonus. He could open his eyes and respond “yes” and “no” by blinking. His intelligence was not impaired. He was in terminal “locked-in” syndrome. I explained to Chris what I would be demonstrating for her, then, sat next to David. I looked into his eyes. I held his gaze for an extended moment. We established a profound bond in which he silently pleaded, “Help me…”


I began my extensive agenda of hand placements on different areas of David’s body in order to invite a minor and temporary relaxation-response within his muscles. No response. I attempted the techniques again. No response. In my mind, I was experiencing performance anxiety while the administrator, occupational therapist, and, physical therapists attentively looked on. My ego was in full throttle – I came to impress the traditional medical world with my craft – but, my craft wasn’t working. Then Spirit intervened, and, my mind returned to the patient in the visitation room. Others’ agendas. Absence of touch. Absence of love. I gazed into David’s eyes. I looked at Chris. I looked at David’s niece and nephew. “Would you like to help your Uncle David?” Their faces lit up. They quickly edged up to the side of the table. I remembered Chris explaining to me on the phone how David was like a second father to her kids – he lived nearby and didn’t have a family of his own, so, he had been actively involved in their lives on a daily basis from the time of their births. They “worshipped” their Uncle David. “Go ahead and climb up with David and get really close.” His six-year-old niece snuggled up into David’s left arm and rested her hand on his belly. His four-year-old nephew snuggled up into David’s right arm and rested his little hand on David’s heart. “Now close your eyes. Get really quiet inside. Think about how much your uncle loves you… and, how much you love him. Let that love fill your heart… now, feel that love flow down your arm and into your uncle’s heart.” Visibly we could see David’s muscles softening – temporarily – but, softening. I looked up at Chris and silently invited her to join the kids on the table. She cuddled up to David, spooning behind her son’s little body, and, placing her hand over her son’s on David’s heart. “Feel your uncle’s love coming into your heart.”  I closed my eyes, and, basked in the energy that was filling the rehab room. I silently and humbly thanked Spirit for intervening, and, for healing. I looked at David. His eyes were closed. Tears left their trails down the side of his face.


I received a letter from Chris several weeks later. She stated that the kids had a regular daily routine of lying with David and “filling” him with love. She stated that she believed that David’s accident and injury were bringing a deeper quality of love, intention and dynamic into the family – that “love” was now less about “words” and more about “being.”



Healing Story: Paloma


One day on a recent visit to Rancho La Maquina in Oaxaca, I was busy pruning trees and prepping firewood when an old pick-up truck arrived to the ranch. A thirty-something Mexican woman emerged from the truck and asked to see Lobo Gris. Putting down my ax, I escorted her into the living area, removed my gloves and changed my sweaty shirt, washed my hands and lit my altar. Speaking only Spanish, Paloma expressed that she was unable to function for seven years after the fatal car accident of her husband and father of her children. She was stuck in and unable to emerge from her grief – affecting her ability to be emotionally present for her children. I recommended a neo-shamanic ritual of resolution and separation with her husband’s spirit to which she agreed. On the table, I prepared Paloma for the ritual with a traditional limpia and energy balancing while silently praying for profound help from Spirit as I had never guided this spoken ritual in my very limited Spanish. “Great Spirit… I am limited. You are not. I invoke your healing, your compassion, your love. Help me speak the language of love in this moment.” Seamlessly, Spirit spoke perfect Spanish through me. At the moment that her husband’s spirit was invoked, Paloma broke into emotional release and catharthis. I knew now that Spirit had intervened, that Paloma understood Spirit’s language of love in Spanish and was now in contact with her husband. When completed, Paloma emerged from the table and from seven years of immobilizing grief in peace and resolve. On my last visit to Oaxaca, I asked about Paloma. Her friend stated that she was like a new woman and now healing and re-establishing her relationship with her children.


All healing is an act of Spirit. The “healer” is only invoking and holding the presence of Spirit so that Spirit may “do the doing.” My experience with Paloma was yet another reminder for me to “get out of the way” of Spirit so that true healing may occur.



Healing Story: Lee


For several years in Nashville and New York, I and my schools received referrals from two AIDs agencies – Nashville Cares and the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. I and my interns provided – on an “at need” basis – free therapy for people with AIDs. So it was that I began to provide therapy for Lee, a graduate of Julliard and neo-classical composer. Lee came in to see me weekly and, from the first session, displayed “wasting syndrome” – a physical dynamic where the body has lost its fat and muscle density. In other words, Lee’s body was basically just skin and bone. During his second massage with me, Lee apologized for wasting my time as there was, in his words, “nothing to massage”. With compassion, I expressed that I was honored to touch him with or without body fat or muscle and encouraged him to focus on his body’s sensations as I was touching him. Receiving these words, Lee broke down in tears and responded, “Some days, I feel like a leper – people just don’t touch me anymore. Now, more than ever, I really need to be touched.” Lee died two months later. Some time after, I received a call from the Gay Men’s Health Crisis telling me that Lee’s compositions had been produced on a CD and that he requested a copy be sent to me. A few months later, I attended a benefit symphony for GMHC at Carnegie Hall where several compositions by composers with Aids were performed by a full orchestra. One of the compositions was Lee’s. Hearing his beautiful expression through music took me back to that day when Lee cried on my table. Listening to his music, I was touched by Lee. And this time, the tears were mine.