A tiny stitch

London is behind me. I am back to my small (adopted) home town in North Cornwall.  It is a happy little community that is a mix of indigenous locals and immigrants like us who recognise its innate charm and under-rated profile.  It is not tourist territory.  Nor is it industrial.  This is exactly why we chose it.

 

We are a five minute drive from the sea. When I walk my son to school each morning (no traffic to contend with or parking space to find) we hear dove-call as we amble along the pebble-path along alleyways to the high street. The slower pace of life is what appealed to us.  But how easy will it be to set up a business as a Reconnective Healing Practitioner here?  What will the townsfolk make of me?

 

The final day of our training seminar was devoted to setting up your own practise. I need a clean, warm room to work from, and a treatment table.   I need public liability insurance, to register for tax and some form of effective advertising.  This is all new to me.   As a teacher I just turned up.  Well not exactly, but I wasn’t involved with the business side of things; tax and National Insurance being automatically deducted at source by my LEA.  I never had to think about it.

 

Now I will have to learn.

 

I make a start by building a website.  I like the creativity of choosing a template and playing around with different images and fonts to get the right format and style.  I go for a clean and professional look, but with warmth and personality in the content style.  Tomorrow I have a hair salon appointment.  I’ll ask husband to take some photos when I get back and choose the best to upload.   I’m quite enjoying myself.  Before I know it it’s time to stop for the school run.  I’m fairly pleased with how it’s looking so far.  But I know there’s more to being successful than having a fancy website.

 

I need a mission statement.

 

Something that will remind me of my purpose on days when it all seems a bit slow, like nothing’s happening , that I mustn’t become disheartened but must press on when I come up against obstacles  or have no clients.

 

Gosh this sounds so negative. But I’ve been reading up about self-promotion, social media and how to build your list and  all the platforms I need to be on and in truth I am feeling a bit daunted by it all.

 

Then I remember what Eric said: ‘some of you are finding your mission’.    That’s when the light went on.  Something inside said ‘YES’.  There was an emotional response.

 

I pick up my Bible. (OK I didn’t pick it up.  It wasn’t just there.  I had to fish it out from the bottom of a pile of boxes still in storage.)  But when I find and open it up my eyes fall upon some familiar words:

 

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 1:6

 

I like the word ‘confident’. I am perfectly happy to take instruction to feel confident.  I am also aware that I’ve been brought to this place for a reason, and what’s more it’s not all about me.

 

It really isn’t just about providing me with a happy and fulfilling life; this may (and will) happen as a side-effect, but in truth I am but a tiny stitch in a vast tapestry. The real purpose expands far beyond me and is part of a grander, richer design.

 

This makes me feel better. It means I’m not in this alone.

We’re all in it together.

 

And this changes my perspective.

The pressure’s off.

 

I am not the Weaver.

I just play my part.

Bit by bit, little by little.

 

I can do this.

I can be one little stitch within the context of a weave where I am supported by the framework of the loom and all the other little stitches surrounding me.

 

I smile, log into Vistaprint and order some business cards.

I just want to be normal

I buy myself a medical/lab coat from Amazon because I am told I need one. I put it on and look at myself in the mirror.  I like the way it looks, but it feels like dressing up.  Secret dressing up.  I’m not sure I’d answer the door wearing it.  So how am I going to do this healing thing that I feel I’m called to do, and keep it secret at the same time?

I wear my white coat when I practise on my Mum. I take it with me in a Next carrier bag.  But just as we finish some visitors arrive.  I whip it off quickly and shove it back in the bag before they see.

Goodness – I can’t be doing with this carry on every time.

Maybe I could become a volunteer with at the Aetherius Temple, where all the other healers will be wearing white coats too and I won’t feel so conspicuous. But the Aetherius Temple is a long drive from where I live.  It isn’t a practical option.

Maybe I should join?

The thing is, I’ve already joined one organisation in my life – the evangelical Christian mission of which my family were members. I even became a minister within this church myself.  But when I decided I really wanted a life for myself,  and to be free to make my own choices, I left.

It was like the unforgiveable sin, because I’d signed up for life.

It wasn’t easy.  I wrestled with the dilemma for a long time.  Should I sacrifice my own desires (for a husband, a family) and put God and ‘the work’ first?

Then I heard the voice within.

Why do you find it so hard to believe I would want to give you something good?

The ‘something good’ was my freedom, my personal happiness.

This ‘word’ was enough for me. I accepted the fact that they would try (by their silent disapproval) to heap guilt upon me.  I had failed, given up, abandoned the ‘good fight’ and put myself first.

I knew that God didn’t think this, but they did. And I didn’t want a repeat of this sense of  failure.

 

Nevertheless I go along to Sunday worship at the Aetherius Temple, out of curiosity and because I genuinely liked the people I’d met.

The two lovely ladies are there. But this time they are wearing robes, as are all the others.  Helen leads the worship. Behind her is a wooden cross embedded with crystals.  To the left is a picture of Jesus.  I recognise it as the same painting we had in our family home when I was growing up.  How I loved that picture.  I had spoken to that face many times.  Poured my heart out and felt its loving response. To the right is a portrait of Dr George King.  For this face I feel nothing.  Both these figures are esteemed Ascended Masters by members of the Aetherius society.  But to give them equal status?

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

During worship I am allowed to join in with one of the mantras:

Om mani padme hum.  Om mani padme hum.

We had already been introduced to the use of this mantra for the purpose of distance healing at the training day.

But other mantras I can only listen to, and must not try to join in with.

There seems to be a lot of protocol. And it all seems very alien to normal everyday life.

The rules, the chanting, the robes…

 

The organisation to which I belonged before had a uniform. There was always internal disagreement about whether it was a bad thing because it separated us out from others, or a good thing because it identified us with a set of values and beliefs.

I don’t want to set myself apart as different anymore.

I just want to be normal.

Or as normal as is possible when you’ve decided you want to be a healer!

 

The Aetherius Society’s beliefs cover a wide spectrum of philosophy, religion, metaphysics and spiritual sciences, in a similar way to the Theosophy movement. Their particular focus is helping the world through dynamic prayer and spiritual healing, both incredibly worthy priorities and values I share.

I know, however, I cannot make a commitment to another organisation. I cannot take that spiritual ‘vow’.

I am grateful to the Aetherius Society for introducing me to healing, for giving me faith in myself and showing me I could do it. Through my encounter with them I met some wonderful spiritual people of real integrity who will remain life-long friends.

But I know this is not the way forward for me.

So what is?

‘In the name of JEEEESUS!’

So I resist the obvious Reiki route and decide that since I am a Christian I really should stick with the Christians and join in with their healing thing.   The only problem being, in your ‘bog-standard’ (is that irreverent?) church you don’t see much healing going on.  You have to go to one of these MEGA-churches like you see on the tele (or You Tube).

 

Now it just so happened that we lived within walking distance of one of these free independent churches that was well-attended and ‘alive’.  I also found out that this church had followed the US model of having associated Healing Rooms that people could attend mid-week.  So clearly this church prioritised healing as a central part of its ministry.

Excellent.

I went along to Sunday worship.  I rather liked the band – the electric guitars and drums, played by very talented musicians skilled at enhancing the mood; rousing and euphoric one minute and with a soothing and gentle sensitivity the next.  I seem to remember being rather mesmerised by the bass player who must have only been about 15.  These guys are clearly dedicated and put the hours of practise in.

The people were very loving, very joyful, glowing in fact.  Their love of God, their sincere worship created a sacred space. Tangibly so. The air became thick with the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Shekinah.  I recognised it.  Years earlier I had followed a calling into the ministry.  I was familiar with the Holy Spirit, and the intensity of experience that could be witnessed at such collective gatherings.

We sang.  And sang. And sang some more.

People were standing, arms in the air, eyes closed, swaying gently, and their was a sense of collective hypnosis that seemed to take effect and swell in magnitude.  Only I was on the outside.  I didn’t feel comfortable putting my hands up in the air.  Bit self-conscious maybe, but that’s just me.  So after the sixteenth repeat of “I will sing of your love forever,” (not being facetious btw – the chorus is that same line four times,  so after four repeats of the chorus it adds up),  I sat down and just bathed in the presence.  By now I was starting to get hungry.  I know it’s wrong, but I’m not used to these two hour services. I glance at the lady across the aisle who’s gone a bit When Harry Met Sally – her face is creased up, I think in ecstasy rather than agony, but it could be either.  Yet I’m not feeling it. My stomach’s rumbling and I can’t help thinking about roast potatoes and gravy…

I slip out before the end because it’s OK to move about here – all very relaxed and informal.  As I walk home I feel different.  I can tell my consciousness has been altered.  It’s how I imagine being on drugs to be like. A gentle sedation that softens everything along with a wonderful feeling of pleasure and deep peace. This altered state temporarily cushions me from the harsh reality of living in the world, this town that could be grubby and hostile.  The pavement seems more vivid, I notice.  And the litter….  And the blaring sirens of a police car racing past…  I don’t want my bubble to burst.  I’m enjoying this cocoon.  The contrast is striking and the wonderful inner feeling stays with me all day.

I decide to visit the Healing Rooms the following Wednesday.  Having had corneal surgery on both eyes, I am left with compromised visual acuity.  I give some details, fill out a form and three volunteers are assigned to me.  We go into a quiet back room.  I sit on a chair and after listening to me,  the three of them surround the chair, placing a hand on my shoulder, arm, back.  They are so gentle, warm, loving.  I feel the air in the room thicken with grace one again.  As they lay hands on me and take turns to pray I feel deeply blessed.  Beryl tells me she feels my healing will be gradual and I must just trust and know it will happen.

I make a return visit a few weeks later.  This time a different lady leads.  Before we go into the room she tells me she had a ‘word’ about eyes this morning, and that she feels sure a miracle is going to happen.  Irene (not her real name)  asks me to stand.  She places her hands over my eyes, but that doesn’t seem to be enough.  She places her index and middle finger together and presses them against my eyelids while she’talks’ to the cornea, commanding it in the name of Jesus.  I am then asked to sit down.  She begins questioning me about my past, my relationship with my first husband.  I answer truthfully, but am beginning to find it all a bit personal and, well invasive to be honest. My husband didn’t treat me right.  Did I ever wish he was dead?  I am astonished.  The others seem a bit awkward too.  It’s important, she tells me.  I need to repent of sin that may be blocking and preventing a healing.  I am asked to repeat certain phrases after her.  Not in my head, out loud.  It has to be out loud, witnessed by others.  I do as I’m told, but inside I’m squirming.  It’s embarrassing as much as anything.  I know all about using spiritual authority, but this is a type of aggression.  “I cast out this spirit of infirmity and disease in the name  of JEEEESUS!” she almost shouts,  pushing back my forehead.  I think this lady has been watching too many You Tube videos.  She is styling herself on the evangelical celebrity pastors with their theatrical stage tactics that I find such uncomfortable viewing.   The others are muttering “Thank you, Jesus” and “Yes, Lord” while she’s doing this, but all I can think is let me out of here, and I know I won’t be coming back for more of this – there won’t be a next time.  I found the experience unpleasant and humiliating.  It was so very different from my first visit to the Healing Rooms.

 

So what do I learn from this?   That Christian healing doesn’t work?  That it’s all hype and hot air?  No.  I believe that Jesus can and does heal through this followers today.  But more significantly I learn that there is a lot about the style, presentation and delivery of healing within the evangelical church that I do not feel comfortable with.  The emphasis on proclamations and declarations I believe to be unnecessary and fear-based, reducing a living faith to ritualistic superstition.  Why was it so important I had to say certain words out loud?  Who makes these rules?

I also know I cannot be certain what kind of experience I’m going to have when I ask for Christian healing.  Some will say, that’s because the Holy Spirit will do what he will, and we can’t predict or control what that will look like.  But I’m not talking about this.  I’m talking about the things we can control.  Making sure the encounter is user-friendly.  That a person would know pretty much what to expect when they made a visit, and there wouldn’t be any curveballs.  This doesn’t seem to be the case because the priesthood of all believers encompasses a diversity of personality types each with their own way of doing things.  And if someone says the Spirit led them to do it like this, who can argue with that?

 

So I choose Anglicanism.  The uniformity of the liturgy and communion service gives me the  ‘quality control’ and assurance against vigilante charismatics I need.  Every second Sunday of the month, the Communion service incorporates an invitation to healing prayer.  As the organ plays you can go forward, kneel at the rail, and the vicar will place his hand on your head and voice a personal prayer customised to your concern.  No casting out spirits, no raised voices, no undignified falling backwards on the floor.

But does it work?  I commented to a friend who happened to be on the church council, that we never seemed to hear much about healing in the Anglican church (surprising considering healing was such a central part of Jesus’ earthly ministry).  She told me something that made my mind up once and for all.

She told me of a lady (without disclosing the name), who had gone forward to the rail to receive healing prayer.  And had indeed received a miraculous cure.  I was fascinated.   Was this something that might have got better by itself, or could it really be classed as a ‘miracle’?  She confirmed the latter.  BUT the details of this unexplained improvement in symptoms was told in strictest confidence, and my friend had to promise never to disclose this information to anyone.

This lady’s healing was clearly a source of embarrassment to her.

No testimony.  No glorifying God for the sake of expanding the Kingdom and bringing others to faith.  Secrecy for the sake of respectability at all costs.

 

I feel disappointed.  Disillusioned. Saddened more than anything.   I realise that the stigma attached to healing has become a cause of real division within the church, an inconvenient political fly in the ointment.

And yet I know more than anything That I want yo be involved in healing.  I want to help people overcome illness and suffering because I don’t believe this s part of the Father’s design for us.  And I believe it s possible to heal through the same transformative power that was demonstrated in Jesus, and that he promised would be available to us.

 

I love Jesus.  Passionately.  Deeply.  And I know that my soul is eternally ‘in Christ’.

But what I don’t know, what I’m unsure of is whether I will find an avenue of service within the church.

 

Where do I go from here?