Teachers of any
disciplinewhether a healing art, a spiritual practice, an artistic endeavor, or an
athletic pursuitneed to convey both the form (knowledge base, attitudes, and
behaviors that must be learned to succeed in the discipline) and the spirit (the
ability to creatively respond at any moment in a manner that goes beyond the form)
of that discipline. Mastery then becomes the ability to allow the spirit to shine through
the form. This requires the cultivation of intuition, wisdom, and a perception that
transcends the physical senses. While it is easier to teach a disciplines form than
spirit, great teachers help their students develop both. Nonetheless, even superb teachers
who have passed their work to their students have faltered on this issue. As the system
survives them, it retains the form but loses the spirit, the dimension that cannot easily
be quantified yet which fuels and empowers the form.
With Donna, it has been a little different. People love to study with
her because she so exudes the spirit of her work that they are able to absorb that spirit.
Our challenge has been to get it into enough form that the behaviors and routine decision
points can be taught in a coherent, systematic manner. In the early days of Donnas
career, her students were full of enthusiasm for energy work, but it was much more
difficult for them to learn the systems that would allow them to replicate
her approach. Over the past decade, we have worked very hard to put the approach into a
format that people could internalize, starting with the book, Energy Medicine. Now
we have it pretty well spelled out in the book and a series of videotaped classes that
constitute a more or less systematic Energy Medicine curriculum.
However, the pendulum swings. As a result of having systematized the
work, we are now feeling the more universal challenge of keeping the spirit in the
form. Ironically, this is getting to be a trickier issue for us as our organization
becomes more advanced and sophisticated. Were at the point now where our students,
our top practitioners, are teaching classes. They have learned the form, there is no
question about that. But can they imbue it with the spirit that Donna brings to her work?
Or more correctly, can they imbue it with their own spirit and wisdom so that the form
becomes a vehicle for the deeper work that is true healing, rather than a substitute for
it? That has been one of the big questions with which we have wrestled, and one of our
concerns about teaching and certifying practitioners. It is much easier to test whether
they have mastered the knowledge base and the techniques than whether they can apply them
in a manner that transcends technique and goes to the heart of healing.
This was tested in March of 2005 when we held our first major event
where Donna was not present. It was a Practicum in Houston which brought together six of
our top instructors and nearly a dozen teaching assistants to create a learning experience
where about 80 students practiced the methods taught in a 5-Day Basic class. Our
experience in the past, repeated over and over, was that when organizations invited Donna
to give a presentation and we said "Her schedule does not allow it, but may we
recommend one of our most advanced students," they were virtually never interested.
So we were concerned that, in bringing people to an event where Donna was not present,
would the work fall flat? Was Donnas spirit the essential element that caused people
to consistently report such wonderful experiences in her classes, or have we cultivated a
group of practitioners who are also able to convey that spirit? Just teaching the
"form" was not going to lead to an enthusiastic response, that much we knew.
Would our staff be able to carry the spirit of the work as well?
The Practicum was going to put this to a test. We systematically
collect written feedback at the end of our classes. We did expect people to be generally
satisfied with the Practicum, but the feedback showed it to be off the charts. The ratings
on Donnas classes average almost all 4s and 5s on our 5-point scale. The
ratings of the Practicum were right up there with the ratings of Donnas classes,
including several comments along the lines of "Well, Ive been to several Donna
classes, but this was definitely the best class Ive been to." People loved the
This event helped to convince us that we have been successful in
cultivating an advanced group that is able to teach the form and the spirit of
Energy Medicine. Of course, as were looking at more advanced teaching by our
students, "Form vs. Spirit" remains an issue. And it remains a tough one.
We are now thinking about a Certification Program. Will that get mired
in the fine points of technique and information and lose sight of the spirit of the work?
Can we devise ways to certify not only that a person has mastered the methods but is able
to apply them in a manner that transcends method? As Enya says, "Who knows, only
time." But I am articulating the issue to affirm our personal and organizational
commitment to continuing to teach the spirit of the work as well as its form.
A little microcosm of the dilemma just occurred in this class. When you
were in pairs working on your partners chakras, you were following the form we
taught you: counter-clockwise circles over the chakra, followed by clockwise. We had
instructed our teaching assistants to be vigilant and correct anyone who wasnt doing
the technique as wed taught it. We used to be loose about this, but as Energy
Medicine is becoming part of the culture, more and more of our students have studied
chakra work with other teachers and they often will do the chakra work according to the
form theyve already learned. While we believe there are many ways to approach any of
the bodys energy systems, our position is that our students are in the class to
learn Donnas approach, so we ask them to set aside the other technique for a moment
and learn this one. Then they can decide what to take home with them, how to integrate the
two, et cetera. And if you dont know a different form, learn this form well. Then
let your intuition take over, go in different directions with the form. That is great!
That is how we want you to learn. Get the form, then go with your heart. But get the form
first. So our teaching staff was instructed to guide people to adhere to the form.
During the practice session, Donna was walking through the room
observing. She saw it happen in several different instances that a very sensitive,
intuitive person was totally into the experience, almost in an altered state, with the
hand that was circling no longer circling, but accurately following the energy of the
chakra, perhaps not even resembling the form wed just taught. It was not like they
were following a different system than they were being taught; they were following the
energy itself. That is exactly how Donna "invented" her own system, and it
brought her joy to see such attunement. But then, along came a teaching assistant who
dutifully interrupted the person with instruction on how to do it "correctly,"
bringing the person out of the reverie and into confusion and frustration.
So there was Donna, watching the teaching staff do exactly what we told
them to do, gently tapping the person on the shoulder and demonstrating how to do it
according to the form, interrupting a beautiful process. The persons hand was in the
moment inventing exactly the perfect technique for the recipient at that point in time. It
was an energy healing version of the proverbial hospital practice of waking up the patient
to administer a sleeping pill. Here we have the Form vs. Spirit dilemma in our face.
There has to be a dance. Im speaking now to our teaching staff as
well as to the rest of you taking back what we told the teaching staff. If someone
is following the form of a different method than what we are teaching, yes, this is not
the time for practicing that method and we do want to encourage everyone to learn
Donnas approach. But we remove you from the responsibility of making sure that
people do it exactly according to the form.
Jeff Harris handled this very well at Omega last year. It was also
during a chakra session. He was watching a couple working together. The wife was
working on the husband in what appeared to be a very "freeform" manner,
unrelated to Donna's how-to instructions. He went over to the table, watched for a
moment, then asked if the wife was feeling and moving with the energy. She stated
that she was. He pointed out that this wasn't the way Donna taught, that he hoped
she understood what had been taught, and that he understands that Donna also teaches
always to honor the energy and the personal experience over the theory. He then left