Dave asked me to explain more of what this empowerment stuff is, and how energyWorks got started, what it does and why. So. In the begining...
when I was training to be a Reiki Master I attended something called a self assessment workshop. Two of them, actually. These were week long residential intensives given by Phyllis Furumoto (Grand Master of the Usui System of Natural Helaing) as a way to meet and get to know Master Candidates. She would invite other Masters to assist in certain areas - Paul Mitchell taught Aikido philosophy and exercises, Michael Hartley taught Japanese brush painting/calligraphy.
These self assessment workshops were called intensives, and they certainly were. Twenty to thirty potential Masters, and five to ten teaching Masters in one place for a week, with personal growth on their minds. The intensives were designed to support each candidate to assess their individual strengths and weaknesses, find ways to heal and release past experiences, change old ways of thinking/being, be conscious and current in thought and action..
I knew Reiki. I had been practicing this healing technique for almost two years, and was certain that teaching Reiki was my path. These intensives were entirely new terrritory - confrontational personal growth. There was a lot of language I didn’t know, terms and rules of behavior I didn’t understand, and there wasn’t a lot of time to learn it. It was like an encounter group with a purpose - uncovering your weakest points in order to heal them. There was group support, and loving non-intervention.
At the time I didn’t realize how much information I assimilated in this process, or the influence it would have on my life. The Aikido philosophy and exercises really got my attention. Paul taught us how to translate each experience, especially if we had any difficulty, and how it paralleled our unconscious attitudes and reactions. Conscious practice supported me through the intensives, incorporating these new attitudes made changes in my everyday life as well.
One of the thoughts we learned is , “Your life is your dojo.” A dojo is a place like a school where both learning and practice take place. It is always entered in a sacred manner. I liked the thought of my life as a sacred place, a place of learning where practice is essential and mistakes are only information, not a tragedy. I came up with the image of walking. I learn something, and it is like taking a step with my left foot. I do something with what I have learned, and it is like taking a step with my right foot. I learn (left foot ahead), I do (right foot ahead). I learn, I do. Learnings come from anywhere, what I do with them is my choice. I walk my path in consciousness, guided by my own inner truth. I do my best, and my best is sufficient, at least for me. It is the quality of my journey that counts. The emphasis of my life changed with this practice.
A couple of years later, after I had been initiated as a Reiki Master, I was explaining the impact of some of the Aikido philosophy to one of my classes. One of the students asked if I would consider teaching a day-long workshop using these skills. I agreed, and the first self-empowerment workshop was born. It was dedicated to teaching tools that a person could use to change their life. We looked at our assumptions and patterns of behavior, and effective ways to change them. Aikido exercises illustrate particular points and issues, bringing responses into a physical realm that makes them immediately apparent and understandable. Awareness allows change.
energyWorks is a company that Randy Gearhart and I created when we began teaching self empowerment classes together about six years ago. Randy is a nationally certified addictions counselor, and when we met he was looking for a more holistic method of therapy. Reiki was it. I shared some of the self-empowerment ideas and exercises with him. He loved them, mostly because they worked. He started using them in his practice.
We began working together and found a natural connection between his psychology and my philosophy, his intellectual and my experiential approach in bringing about healing, growth and change in ourselves and our clients. We are both dedicated to our own healing and growth, we continue to study the underlying concepts, and use these techniques ourselves.
We created self-empowerment workshops in both substance and behavioral addictions/recovery areas. We use broader understandings of traditional ideas, for example: personal boundaries are a natural part of our auric field; inner child and higher self are powerful parts of our functional being whether we recognize them or not, whether we integrate their wisdom, or not.
We continue to use the term self-empowerment because our basic premise is conscious use of our own power to recognize, release and change old, non productive, or addictive patterns and behaviors. These patterns/behaviors are often based on erroneous information or understandings from our childhood, and they have profound effects on our decision making processes and the resulting quality of our life. Once we recognize these patterns, and choose to change them, we can move into truly conscious living, clear decision making which creates the future we really want and deserve.
We combine many different techniques, using both intellectual and experiential approaches to look at the attitudes and assumptions that affect our lives. We work with forgiveness and release of self and others, use healing to fill injured areas and dissolve the need for any dysfunction.
The women's empowerment that I teach looks particularly at the family, religious and cultural influences on women in this society, and the effects of limited thinking based on our assumptions. The emphasis is on recognition and release of outdated or harmful information, making the space and freeing up the energy needed to take clear responsibility for ourselves, and to create our lives as we choose from this time on.
We use toys in energyWorks, and tell stories to illusttrate ideas. Let me tell you about a few of them. Let’s start with the concept of patterns of behavior. Patterns are not really good or bad in themselves, they are simply methods of coping with life situations that we develop through our experiences. Confronted with a similar situation, we don’t have to think it through, we can apply what we already learned. However, we may notice that we are not getting the best results in any given situation, and we don’t really know why.
Problems arise when a pattern of behavior no longer fits the situation it is supposed to address. If it is no longer useful in our lives, we have what we call a non-productive behavior. Why would anyone want to repeat a behavior that wasn’t productive? And why would they repeat it often enough to have it be a pattern? Well -
Patterns can be based on erroneous or outdated information. I tell a story to illustrate the point. This one is about the roast beef and the pan.
The husband comes into the kitchen and sees the wife preparing dinner. She cuts the end off the roast beef before she puts it in the pan. She always does this. He asks her why. She says, “I don’t really know. My Mother always did it that way. Maybe it is like when you cut a cucumber, you have to swirl the end around three times so it won’t be bitter.” He says he doesn’t know anything about the cucumber theory, but he would appreciate it if she would please call her mother and check about why you have to cut the end off the beef, because it is ten dollars a pound. She calls her mother. “Mom, why do you cut the end off the roast beef before you put it in the pan?” Mother says she doesn’t know why, she never thought about it, her mother always did it. Maybe it is like the cucumbers, she suggests. “Why don’t you call Grandma and ask?” The daughter calls the grandmother. “Grandma, I was wondering, why do you cut the end off the roast beef before you put it in the pan?” “So it will fit,” answers the grandmother.
We often perpetuate information, or a way of doing things, automatically. Maybe we saw it done that way and misinterpreted, or assumed it was a solution for all problems not just one instance. Or perhaps we were told to do it a particular way, and continue without thinking if it is appropriate in this circumstance, if it serves us today.
In recovery issues, there is also an emotional charge to patterns and behaviors. Especially if a person was hurt in the process of learning something. These patterns need to be recognized and healed to be released.
For example, Sally may still be treating all people as if they are untrustworthy, which they were in her formative years. She is no longer a child, circumstances have changed, and that is not the true picture in 1996. She got in the habit of thinking all people were untrustworthy, and treats them that way no matter what. She has a pattern of behavior that doesn’t fit in today’s circumstance, but it is so old, she doesn’t even remember that she has it and certainly doesn’t realize she is making decisions through it - like she forgot she had her glasses on and tried to put on another pair.
Awareness of the pattern will explain why a lot of people in her life feel misjudged, and may be angry about it. Awareness will allow Sally to decide if she would like to move ahead or stay stuck .
Let’s go to the toys. Here’s the slikny of life. Did you ever feel like you were back at aquare one? How did I get here again? I thought I learned this lesson already. And you might even spend some time yelling at yourself, making yourself feel a little worse than you already do, telling yourself how dumb you are for making the same mistake again. Well, it is probably a pattern that you have discovered. And patterns, once identified, can be changed.
You all know what a slinky looks like. Pretend you are on the first rung. If you feel like you are back at square one with a problem, I assure you you are not. If you have experienced it before, you are at least on rung two. If you become aware of the pattern or behavior, the next time you are presented with a situation, even if you don’t make the best of all possible choices, you are at least on rung three. You reach the top when you have learned to successsfully handle all situations in the category that used to be “charged” for you - like I used to be afraid of travelling, but now I fly anywhere with out losing my tickets, my cookies or my mind. Then, having succesfully reached the top, you get to turn the slinky upside down and do it all over again with another issue. My personal theory is that when I get done with all my issues, I die and go to heaven for a few minutes, then I get to come back and do something else exciting.
The Nerf ball is another toy - very good to illustrate control issues. If you have ever tried to control a situation, you know that that is almost impossible. You can guide, and affect the outcome, but if you insist on total control, you’d better stick with the TV and a good remote, and even then you don’t control everything. Someone else controls what is being presented, you can only control your choice. Even then you don’t have total control, the electric could go out, the cable could go down, or the equipment could fail (just to annoy you, of course) and then you have no choices left, except to move to a new activity. So we use the nerf ball to illustrate the futility of control. Put it in your left hand and squeeze. Watch it compress. Use the index finger of your right hand to help the process. Tuck in all the Nerf that escapes your fingers. It is like tucking in the loose ends of your life. Keep tucking, and getting a stronger grip, until the entire Nerf ball is concealed, and held in your firm grasp. Now, let your attention wander for a few seconds. Loosen you grip. The ball begins to escape. Redouble your efforts, get a grip, get it under control. Do this a few times.
Now, just open your hand and release your need to control the Nerf ball. The ball falls to the floor. Are you feeling a sense of failure, you didn’t use all your time, talent and energy to keep the situation under your control? Well, think about it. Could you have, say, made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the Nerf ball in your hand, under your control? No?
Well, trying to control every thing in our lives is a lot like that - we spend so much of our energy controlling things that we forget to look at whether or not control is necessary, useful, worthwhile or even possible in any given situation. Of ten control becomes the point. We forget to find out what we really need or want out of the situation, to check out whether it serves us or not to even be involved.
We have should balls, too. Should balls are made of something that feels like very thick jello that sort of sticks to your skin like (forgive me) a damp booger. Or snot. I should probably say mucous, but (we also have a but patrol) you probably now have a vivid picture, you get the point, and the should. We pass these balls out with a loud, “You know what you SHOULD do?” and then we have people pass them on with the same phrase to the person beside them. We use these for the entire workshop, plastering them on anyone who offers a “sould” to anyone else, or gives one to themselves. “Don’t should on yourself.” The point being that should is usually someone else’s shit, someone else’s agenda, someone else’s morals or ethics or values, and as such might be a guide but SHOULD not the source of your decisions or actions.
Enough toys for now. Come back next month and I’ll tell you some more.
Everything we do in empowerment workshops is geared to allowing you to see the places where you may be giving your power away, help you find ways to reclaim it and use it for your benefit and the benefit of the world in general.
Remember when assertiveness workshops were the rage? Some of them seemed to be geared to teach justifiable agressive behavior. Empowerment address this difference. If I claim my power, and practice a good form of control, it is like driving a car. That is certainly a lot of power, and can be a destructive thing for myself and others if I am not aware and skilled in my use of it. Empowerment is a guidance system for reclaiming and consciously using our inate power according to our own ethics and value system.
Often in our worskshops we take a poll of how the participants feel about power, what images and issues it brings up for them. Power can be a scary thing, often emotionally linked to violence in some way. Personal power can have a bad reputation.
Personal power is a part of everything we do, part of what we choose to do in life, and how we choose to do it, completely integrated with self esteem issues. Learnigng about our personal power, our innate connection to the universe is important.
If you are alive and breathing, you have power. One of the meditations I lead in the classes is about becoming a tree - feeling your roots go into the earth, pulling up the nutrients needed for growth, breathing up the strength of the earth. Then feeling the sun on your leaves, allowing the power of the universe to flow through you, feeling that power of the sun flow all the way to the tinyiest roots, which respond by growing further into the earth., We breathe up the strength of the earth, allow the power of the universe to flow through us, until the flow is so strong in both directions that it simply feels like power. Know that you are connected to the earth, and breath up the strength of the earth with every breath. Know that your energy field is also connected to the Universe, the sky energy, and it flows throutgh you too. Your are actually the connection between the earth energies and the sky energies, and you have all the power and atrength you need just by breathing. Now that you know you have it, your mind, connected to and guided by your inner and higher selves, can choose how to use it.
All of these workshops are intensive, and life changing. We provide a safe and supportive atmosphere to do this work. Many people repeat an empowerment workshop each year, noticing the changes in thinking and behavior that occur as old behavior patterns are replaced with conscious living. Reiki is used as a support and healing energy in all these workshops. Randy and I are teaching empowerment together in March (11-14) and July (15-18) Gansevoort, New York, at Carol von Kaenel's (518-584-4617). I am teaching women's empowerment in March (28-31)in New Hampshire at Jan Smith's (603-279-8568) and September (26-29). Fee, $250, including food, lodging may be extra.