On Friday March 17, The Harmony hosted a community gathering at the Juice Bar with yoga teachers, therapists and healers of different specialties to discuss “How we work”; an approach led by Harmony Writer in Residence, Jeff Warren. Jeff and his partner Sarah Barmak have spent a month in our unique community, and Jeff felt inspired to create this space for uniting all the outstanding healers that have fallen in love with this place. Jeff’s written intro to the conversation is below (along with some pics from the evening taken by our friend Trevor Francis), with full audio of the community discussion available through the Soundcloud player.
I’ve had the great privilege this past month of having access to the Harmony Hotel Healing Centre. That means that almost every day I’ve taken a yoga class, or a restorative class, or attended a meditation, or breathwork session, or a kirtan. There is a lot of diversity of what’s on offer, and the quality of the teaching is tremendous – so much wisdom and skill and expertise to have in one community, wow. Monica has done a superb job of putting together a genuinely healing curriculum for both visitors and locals.
One of the things I like to do when I’m attending these classes – as both a journalist and a meditation teacher (and a geek) – is listen carefully to how different teachers and healers talk about what they do. How do they orient people in their classes to ever-deeper experiences of healing and connection and wholeness? I always listen for the same things:
- What is distinct to their particular expression and way of working, and what is shared by others?
- What the heck is “healing” anyway?
- And, finally, how do the things that happen here – which can seem very esoteric and specialist from the outside – how do they relate to our standard Western models of health and healing?
This latter is particularly important to consider because there are two very different cultures in the West. They used to talk about our big cultural division being the Humanities vs the Sciences. But there is a far deeper division between the secular and the spiritual. Spiritual methods and philosophies are often written off as self-indulgent woo-woo by the guardians of respectable conversation in our culture. You will never read a review of a spiritual book in The London Review of Books, or The New Yorker. The main reasons for this, I think, is they simply don’t know what to make of the language and the claims of people who operate in the great overlapping wellness and spirituality fields. What’s more, they are suspicious of its various expressions of existential or religious certainty. I think with good reason.
And that brings us to the subject of this evening’s conversation – for I hope it will be a conversation, an exploration of our collective wisdom here, and, perhaps, our collective humility.
What exactly are we talking about when we talk about healing? Can we begin to talk together about the different ways in which we work, about how they are different, but also what principles they share? And what are some of the challenges in the work we do, where inevitably we become beholden to our tradition and our hidden assumptions and our way of working? Science at least has a process of debate and updating knowledge and a common working vocabulary. The same is definitely NOT true of different spiritual and healing traditions. One huge reason for this is they work with very different kinds of evidence: the first is all about objective facts, the second about subjective experience.
Before I open it up, I’ll offer up one fairly universal model of healing to get us started, one that’s has been around a long time in the west, as well as the east and the south: the idea of balance or homeostasis. That is, a state of equilibrium in the body / mind / spirit with respect to its various states and processes and functions. Western medicine accepts this is true of the body. Other traditions argue it is true of the mind and emotions and (most mystical and intriguing of all) of our entire existential predicaments. That we can learn, through healing and practice, to bring our bodies, our minds, and our worlds into a vibrantly healthy dynamic equilibrium.
So I will moderate from here on in, but I am curious to begin to hear from the people here: how do you think about the mystery of healing, and how do you work towards it in your personal and professional practices?
Jeff Warren is a writer and meditation instructor. He is the author of The Head Trip, a travel guide to sleeping, dreaming and meditation that many critics enjoyed, although his mother thought it was too long.