"Healing and Teaching: Three Forms of AlternativeHealing and their Implications for Teaching"
Spiritual healing is based on the belief that life's problems are caused the erroneous, limiting, crippling way we believe things to be. It is concerned with our vision of the universe and our place in it--a field that since Aristotle has been known as "metaphysics"--and so is often called "metaphysical healing." It is the healing of the worldview. (Note 16)
Spiritual healers help people identify the large-scale limiting beliefs they hold about themselves and life and replace those with a more generous vision. In the classic approach to spiritual healing, the client's normal worldview is transformed by the infusion of an extraordinary alternative--an ecstatic, mystical vision of oneness with the Infinite. In this worldview, nothing exists but God, and God is health, happiness, fulfillment, perfection. Any appearance to the contrary is an error that must be faced and reperceived as an illusion and replaced with the direct perception that there is no reality but infinite love and perfection. In most cases, the client learns to practice this new mode of consciousness. Another spiritual healing practice requires nothing of the recipient; the healer "practices the presence" by seeing spiritual perfection everywhere. Such healing is based on a truly remarkable premise: One can heal others simply by seeing them in a certain way--so to speak, through the eyes of God.
Someone coming to this view for the first time is likely to find it strange, for it violates so many important concepts in the normal view and creates so many complicated simplifications. But it is a widely used form of healing, best known in the form of Christian Science, also used in Science of Mind and Unity, and considered in some schools of yoga to be the highest form of healing. Books by Joel Goldsmith provide articulate modern descriptions of a spiritual healer at work. (Note 17)
Another form of spiritual healing that has a long history believes that the physical universe is the product of normally-unseen spiritual forces. Practitioners call upon the assistance of spiritual beings or angels. Some of these healers (often known as "spiritualists") go into trance while the guides take over. Others consciously communicate with their guides. Spirit guide healing has a lively following in England, and spiritual entities play a central role in the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner (though they do not appear to be a direct part of the educational theory of the Waldorf schools.) (Note 18)
Some spiritualist healers (for example, among the Navajo) attribute some diseases to malevolent action by spiritual forces, which must then be dealt with on a spiritual level. This is not a game for amateurs. Some people who cannot control the influence of such spiritual powers are called possessed, or crazy; (Note 19) some of those who can are called shamans.
An ancient method for the systematic use of the imagination has recently become widely known in the adaptation of shamanism for Westerners. Helped by the rhythm of monotonous drumbeats, shamans enter an altered state of consciousness (characterized by vivid images) in which they may receive assistance from spirit guides (often in animal form), discover things about people, meet one another and have shared experiences that both can later recall, receive inspiration, and perform healings. Shamanism is, in one teacher's terms, a traditional technology for developing intuitive guidance in life. It is one of the most vivid methods for discovering that there is more to the world than Westerners ordinarily believe. A system of "core shamanism" is now being widely taught around the country as a method of personal growth and healing. (Note 20)
One of the basic tenets of spiritual healing is that people can lose touch with their true natures, forget who they really are, and live a partial life whose limitations hurt them. All approaches to spiritual healing help people reconnect to themselves at a very deep level (the spiritual level) and realign their lives from that level. In some spiritual healings, clients are coached to reestablish contact with (what is variously called) the high self, the true self, being, spirit, the higher power, or the soul. This true self knows who you are and what you need to do in this life; it may even have an agenda that needs to be accomplished in this lifetime--for spiritual healing often implies a worldview in which souls are reborn many times, each time to learn certain lessons in a world that is a kind of school for soul-making. (Healing and learning are more closely related than you might at first imagine.)
Consider the claims of spiritual healing: Being cut off from our true nature causes the major problems in our lives, for we then become addicted to unsatisfiable needs. The most important activity of life is to reconnect with our true nature and realign our lives around it. Healing our worldview helps to heal us. How we see others helps make them sick or heal them. There are spiritual beings who want to share their wisdom and power with us. --What implications would these beliefs have for education? How could a teacher use these concepts?
Again, the most important place for you to start as a teacher is to work with yourself first. Study how you view the universe and your place in it, and what effect that view has on your life. In what realms of life do you see yourself as creator? As victim? What would you have to change to see yourself as co-creator in all realms?
Educators know that their behavior toward students can have a crucial influence on students. Spiritual healing goes a step further and claims that the way you see other people--regardless of how you act--affects them directly. Not only can a teacher's beliefs hinder a student, a teacher's beliefs--independent of any action-- can inspire, integrate, encourage, and heal. It therefore could be of utmost importance for teachers to develop the most expansive, inclusive, generous, and life-affirming beliefs about the nature of the universe and people, for students may be receiving the teacher's beliefs by direct psychic broadcast, hour after hour, day after day. And not just in your classroom, but all over the school, and perhaps all over the world.
Many cultures routinely call upon their ancestors, especially when teaching essential, traditional knowledge. If you have ever had a great and inspiring teacher, consider asking her to come psychically to consult, plan, and teach with you. Whether or not your great (and perhaps dead) teacher is "actually there" or exists only in your mind is irrelevant; what matters is the power that can be made accessible to you by this way of focusing your imagination.
Teachers and counselers engage in an activity similar to spiritual healing when they work with students on goal-setting, especially in that phase of the work that requires students to examine who they are, what brings them joy, and what they feel to be their deepest purposes in life. The healing view also suggests teachers can help the student by visualizing the student attaining deep self-knowledge, true life goals, satisfying those goals, and becoming whole. Several authors--Brian Tracey and Shakti Gawain, to mention two--have developed goal-setting methods that begin from rational or meditative self-analysis and move toward restructuring one's worldview using visualization, affirmation, and perhaps even spiritual healing techniques. (Note 21)
Some people claim to have been healed merely by coming into the presence of a certain person who is so powerful, holy, or spiritual, that healing naturally takes place in the vicinity. Everyone is familiar with this phenomenon on a more modest level: There are people around whom things go better, meetings are more productive, people naturally concentrate on deeper issues, and conflicts arise less often. Such people need not speak to be effective. Their presence alone helps. They communicate, by their very being, vital messages about what matters most in life. Those who heal by presence carry this ability to its utmost and radiate something that can cause others to change without a word being spoken.
You also teach by your presence. On a simple level, you see students in a positive way. Students know, by the way you look at them and speak with them, that you see them as valid, important human beings with great potential.
On a higher level, you serve as a model to your students--a model of learning, mature living, health, joy, creativity, a model of how to express emotions, how to think, how to speak, how to be a person in a body in this society on this earth, moving at your own pace through your own life-cycle, as they will do through theirs. Above all, you communicate the simple, enduring, and indelible message that life is worthwhile--a message of strength shaped by delight and gratitude.
At the highest level, you teach even when you do nothing at all. You teach by presence. For in your presence, they learn about the possibilities of life. Your presence teaches them what you hold close to your heart, what you have on your mind, how much room you make for things to happen in. You teach by being with them, by seeing into their hearts, seeing their accomplishments, failures, potentialities, their perfect and transitional qualities, their struggles and triumphs--and accepting them as they are in a way that inspires them to become more of what they can be.
In Western education, teachers are too often considered conveyers of information, or, increasingly, managers of the systems that convey the information. But the foundation of all knowledge is embodied knowledge, presence--a human being who has gained knowledge and lives it. Students learn differently and more deeply when they are in the presence of a person who embodies knowledge as a living, coping, caring human being.
This simple truth has almost vanished from American education, though it is known and valued--I have been assured--in India and other places still. The study of healing shows us that education is not only about information and skills, but also about individual, profoundly interconnected people, living their lives in deep contact with one another.
Spiritual healing leads naturally to the study of worldviews. Worldviews
are normally studied in college classes on comparative religion or cultural
anthropology, but worldviews form the basis for the multicultural approach
to education and can be studied at any age. The classic popular book on
worldviews, their power, and the power of changing them, is Joseph Chilton
Pearce's The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, also a book about healing.
Works on religion and anthropology would be helpful for older students, but an excellent starting point is to bring in guests who hold worldviews that your students would find unusual. Such people might be found in Native Americans, fundamentalist Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Rosacrucians, Rastafarians, Marxists, Jewish mystics, Jainists, witches, palm readers, or people who grew up in faraway lands where things are done differently. Start by having students write down their preconceptions in advance of the visit, then compare those with what they found.
The first payoff from such visitors is that they serve as a mirror. Students cannot know only one worldview; with only one, it lives them, simply and invisibly. Only when they learn a second worldview can their own become visible to them. In contrast to what the visitors say about their views of the world, students can question their own parents and friends about the nature of their own deep beliefs and casual assumptions, and they can identify the beliefs implicit in popular media, such as science shows on TV.
Ask older students to identify the worldviews implicit in the works of literature they are studying. For example, the attitudes to nature expressed by Jack London and Stephen Crane make a powerful contrast to the one expressed by Henry David Thoreau. While London and Crane tell stories, they also convey a vision of the world and our place in it--a sometimes grim and modern vision. It is good not to let such visions infiltrate students' own beliefs unnoticed, for they have--healers say--great power over us.
Ask of each worldview: What does it make easy that is difficult or impossible in other belief systems? What exists in it that is unreal in other worldviews? At this point, many teachers will probably take the postmodern route of critical analysis and investigate how different worldviews maintain elite groups in power.
Yet, there are no perfect worldviews; to compensate, each traditional worldview contains methods to help people live with the limitations of that worldview--things like religion, art, carnival, humor, and entertainment. At its most powerful, spiritual healing (like some forms of mysticism and Buddhism) transforms our very relationship to worldviews, by regrounding us in the ecstatic, holistic vision of a pre-worldview view--what our faces were like, as the Zen koan goes, "before our parents were born."
In a similar way, each new child, each new student, each new learning experience summons us to rediscover and reaffirm the transformative innocence at the heart of life.
Table Comparing the Healing Methods Discussed
The study of healing provides a model in comparison to which many normal assumptions about education become more visible. The types of healing discussed in this article--energy healing, mental healing, and spiritual healing--suggest practices for teachers and activities for class use.
In a larger sense, healing redefines the task of education as not only to develop cognition, but also to cultivate energy; not only to impart facts, information, and skills, but also to heal ourselves, each other, and the world; not only to teach the mind to solve problems, but also to teach the imagination to create the world; not only to know and to do, but also to be.