Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Business of Marketing the Spiritual

Wow, looking back at my latest posts I have to stop and think: Is putting out my conflicts and growth as a healer really a good thing? It's not what most people do. Interestingly, the people I appreciate the most break the "image is the only thing" rule. Ellen Degeneres comes to mind. She doesn't dress to the nines or hide behind a mask. She breaks the mystique apart, talks to her audience like they're all potential friends, shows her soft spots and raw edges, even makes fun of it. I've never seen her show -- only clips on the evening news and Youtube. I just know I like what I've seen. It makes me feel that coming out of the closet as a real human being isn't necessarily a bad thing -- it might be healing for all concerned. When I see her I think "Thank you! I'm so glad you're you! We all need permission to be exactly who we are, too."

I think I got into the spiritual counseling business through my lifelong interest in what makes people tick, how do human relationships work, how do I learn to do that, too. You see, I was one of the ostracized kids. One of the geeks on the social sidelines on the outside looking in. And like all geeks I didn't like what I saw people do. By some strange quirk of fate I was actually invited to a party thrown by someone I perceived as part of the "in" crowd. Yuck! Ragging on the other kids, acting sexy, getting drunk, and getting sick. I remember thinking "Is that all it is that they do with each other? That's what I thought I've been missing out on?!" No thank you!

As I grew older I started to see the ways social conformity put people in chains. Too afraid to do what their hearts want, too enmeshed in the image they were so practiced at being they didn't even hear the murmurings of their hearts anymore. Most of them are more financially well off than me and Paul even imagine being. (There's grief in that.) But when someone in that situation comes into our office we treat them the same as anyone else, try to help them see where their problems are coming from, shine a light on their true hearts' desires, lift them up and encourage them on their way. The majority who want a "quick fix" -- the magical equivalent of the little colored pills we see advertised on TV -- exclaim repeatedly what a wonderful experience their session was and we never see or hear from them twice. But some people come again and again, bloom and grow and change at a pace those other ones wouldn't dream of. Those are the ones we seem to be attracting more of as our practice, and attitude towards it, changes.

When Paul and I got started we thought we needed to do magic wand, one time visit, types of healing. Turns out that's not realistic for everyone we meet. And even if it happens, what does it serve?

It does serve their need for wonder and for believing in something beyond the physical. And there are plenty of wonderful spiritual healers, as well as charlatans and stage magicians, who have mastered the art of helping people believe. They sell mystique, revelation, and awe. Reiki Masters used to fall in that category, too. $10,000 was the standard rate to be "ordained"-- the belief being that Americans, at least, couldn't be convinced to believe in anything unless they paid through the nose for it. Now every massage therapist learns basic level Reiki and there are Reiki Masters in this community and many others giving their services away for free and belittling those who deem themselves worthy of being paid. Spend too much time around people like that and anyone would be afraid to try to make a little money selling a $15 Reiki Bear, too! Damn it! Ordinary teddy bears at full retail cost the same!

Or more if it has a brand name mystique attached to it. My instinct tells me I would sell more Reiki Bears at $25 than $15. (It costs me the same.)

Last night on the evening news they reported that a very ugly and nothing to write home about Andy Warhol painting of Elizabeth Taylor had been resold by the person who invested in it for $23 million -- far less than people expected. Meanwhile in our local community people slave away doing social work and all kinds of wonderful things in the nonprofit sector for less than a true living wage and artists and photographers offering their work to these agencies are told that they can't get paid at all unless they're famous already. Trust me, Paul and I know. I've been a social worker at a nonprofit and we both have been artists offering our work for sale.

It's backwards!

So I'm working out some of my conflicts and growing up experiences here with the idea that maybe it can help a few other people going through the same thing. And because shining a light on what we do to each other in this world is important. Someone has to say something. "This is ridiculous" is good enough, at least as a start. Whether it serves my heart, well, I don't know. Sharing it does. Selling the counseling and healing work Paul and I do would serve it better. Whether one desire serves the other . . . we'll have to wait and find out.

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