Posts Tagged ‘folklore’

As research for a folklore project, I created a series of questions designed to gauge how energy healers perceive themselves, their place in society, and their cohesiveness as a group. This questionnaire is for practitioners of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies that use channeled energy as a main therapeutic tool, such as Reiki. If you answer this questionnaire, no guarantee of use is given, but if I quote you it will be anonymously. Feel free to forward this to anyone that you think would be interested in participating. Responses must be received by midnight, 5 March 2009. Please don’t take offense at the “subculture” moniker – it is “sub” as in “subset” and not as “sub-standard.”

To answer this, copy and paste into a Word document (make sure to save it as .doc) and send it to me as a comment to this blog. Thanks!

1. What healing technique(s) do you use?
2. What other healing techniques are you familiar with that use Universal Life Force Energy, Divine Energy, Spiritual Energy, or other channeled energies?
3. If you know enough about other techniques to form an opinion, what is that opinion, and why do you feel that way?
4. Are you aware of other practitioners of your technique, or of other practitioners of techniques you feel are akin to yours, in your area? If so, do you socialize with them in any way (this would include regularly attending a healing circle or other such event)?
5. Are you aware of any jokes told by practitioners about their own technique, about other techniques, about healers in general, or about the publicå/clients? If so, can you share them with me? (include as many of these as you can – some examples included at the end). If not – why do you think that there are no jokes about healers? If there are religious jokes and jokes told by Western physicians about the occupation, why no healer jokes?
6. Do you routinely tell anecdotes or stories about your technique to other people (other healers, students, other like-minded persons)? These stories might resemble the kinds of stories you might tell at family gatherings (“Remember when Aunt Martha’s teeth flew out of her mouth during the speech she gave?”) These stories serve to reinforce beliefs and values in the technique (or group) and to warn against forbidden behavior (inappropriate touching, etc.). An example might be something like “My student told me about this practitioner in another town that was spacing out during the session with an older woman who died on the table and the practitioner didn’t even realize it until after the session was over!” (as a warning to be attentive to our clients, etc.).
7. What phrases seem to be used by many different practitioners or teachers on a regular basis that are not part of the official training text? For instance, I routinely use the phrase “you can’t pour water out of an empty pitcher” to remind students to do self-care, yet that phrase is not “officially” a Reiki tenet.
8. What stereotypes of energy healers are you aware of? Please be as specific as possible, even if you vehemently disagree with the stereotype itself.
9. When you talk to different people about what you do, do you change the language for different groups? For instance, do you describe your work in exactly the same way to a physician, a massage therapist, a fundamentalist minister, a person met at a metaphysical store, and a non-like-minded person sitting next to you at the dentist’s office? If not, how do you change the wording of your description, and why? What would you expect the result to be if you used the exact same wording for each of these groups?
10. What opinion do you think mainstream Western medicine has of your technique?
11. Is it your opinion that all energy healers seem to think alike in areas other than the specific healing techniques? In politics, modes of dress, attitudes toward business, etc.
12. Do you see energy healers in general, and practitioners of your own technique in particular, as a cohesive group, even if you don’t have regular get-togethers?
13. What kinds of things do energy healers share with each other? What professional tips, personal advice, etc., have you been given freely from other healers?
14. How does the mainstream media show energy workers? Is it your experience that the media in general view work such as yours with a positive or negative bias, or objectively and fairly? Do you have any examples you could send me of the type of coverage you are used to seeing? Do you think your local media does a better job of reporting fairly than national or international media?
15. What place do you see energy workers holding in the social structure of your community at large? In the social structure of the USA? The world?
16. Why did you get into energy work? Do you feel that you were “called” to do the work you do?
17. What are your beliefs concerning your work – is there a spiritual component to your work?
18. Is energy work one of the primary ways you use to identify yourself?
19. Do you believe that your practices are generally the same (allowing for some individuality) as those of other practitioners of your technique?
20. Is there anything else about your work or about energy healers in general that you would like to add here? Any thoughts that these questions have raised?
Some jokes about healers

Version 1:How many ‘Usui Shiki Ryoho’ Reiki Masters does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Four – one to hold the ladder, one to hold the energy, one to hold the ten thousand dollar fee, and of course, one to hold the light bulb!

Version 2: How many manic-obsessive “with time, Reiki can fix anything” Reiki Masters does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Nine – Eight people to participate in a Reiki marathon/group treatment [2 teams of 4 people doing shifts of: 3hrs treatment, 3hrs rest, 3hrs treatment, etc) continuously over a period of 21 days] in an attempt to restore the bulb to fully functioning condition – and one (not so obsessive) person to have the good sense to go to Walmart, buy a new bulb, and redirect the groups healing resources to where they are really needed

Version 3: How many Philosophical Reiki Masters does it take to change a lightbulb?
Answer: It doesn’t matter, Change must come from within…

Version 4: How many Buddhist Reiki Masters does it take to change a lightbulb?
Answer: None – There is no lightbulb, no reiki master – nothing to change. all is illusion …
How many Reiki Masters does it take to change a lightbulb?

* None. Reiki Masters are lights unto themselves
* That information is sacred and only revealed other Reiki Masters
* Well, you have to remember that everything is energy, so….
* None: They concern themselves with inner light.
Bumper sticker: Reiki Masters do it with energy


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I don’t really want to be an “ist.” I don’t want to be stuck in a box as an anthropologist, folklorist, mythologist, hypnotherapist, religionist, spiritualist, or any other kind of “ist.”

I think that this sort of division plays a big role in our inability to heal and move forward, both as individuals and as a species. There are divisions within the divisions and everyone thinks that their perspective is the best one for everyone.

How dumb is that? While specialists fight over which form of therapy is best, people are repeatedly given the message that their own innate knowledge is flawed and not to be trusted. Don’t go with the therapist that “feels right” to you – go with the one with the most diplomas on the wall or the most empirical data behind their technique.

The same can be said for religions and philosophies, too. And though people seem to be more accepting of dogma in religion or philosophy, those same dogmatic stances are no more logical, effective, or “correct” than those held by therapists, scientists, etc. (Dogma is dogma, anyway you look at it).

While all of these “ists” argue, there are non-standardized forms of healing that rely on community and belief (in the form, in the community, or in the healer) that work just fine. There are no empirical studies, no rigorous tests to “prove” this form works, yet the people who use it swear by it and do just fine, thank you.

I want to be someone who sees beyond the divisions and helps people find what works for them. I want to erase those divisions and bring folklorists together with physicians, mythologists together with psychiatrists, herbalists together with nutritionists, all working together to create a network of wisdom that everyone can access and draw on in time of need.

Of course, in order for this to happen, we need to let go of judgment and fear. We have to stop judging other techniques as “quakery” simply because there have been no empirical studies. Remember, there have been no empirical studies on the efficacy of aspirin (they’ve all been anecdotal), yet at this point no one questions aspirin’s usefulness. And we have to let go of several fears: the fear that this other form will be injurious to those who use it; the fear that it is “only” the placebo effect (more on that later); the fear that these other forms will draw income away from our own wallets; and, lurking deep down inside, the fear that these other techniques actually work and all of our beliefs about them have been wrong all this time.

This is where I think the study of belief, culture, and folklore all come into play.

Alan Lomax said that, “the folklorist has the duty to speak as the advocate of the common man,” and while I think the common man or woman is perfectly capable of speaking for him or her self, there is merit to this statement. I would change it a bit, however, and give it a slightly different perspective:

Folklorists have the duty to illustrate the relevance of the common: the beliefs, rituals, music, stories, customs, jokes, food, art and adornment of the everyday person. Through this illustration we find commonalities and see each other as much more alike than not; as having similar needs, hopes and dreams; and of being more “human” than previously thought.

The diplomat needs to know these things if he is to be effective in working with his counterpart from a vastly different culture. The military strategist needs to know these things to understand when and where military action will be most effective and when it will incur the greatest retaliation. The teacher needs to know these things to better communicate with her students of differing backgrounds. The doctor needs to know these things to use every possible tool to aid in the healing process. The attorney needs to know these things to better defend his client. The traveler needs to know these things to enhance her trips abroad. The clergy need to know these things to make sense of the different ways that people express their faith. And I need to know them to better understand myself, my family, my nation and how we all fit into the web of existence.

Therefore, I propose to use some other form if self-identification, regardless of any degrees or training I may accumulate over my lifetime. Something that doesn’t put me in a box, clearly delineated for all to assume judgment upon. Something that does not, by its very existence, create division and suspicion in others. Something more suited to my perspective and belief. Something like: Observer of the Way Things Are and Seeker of Why That Is.

How do you identify yourself, in your heart and to the world?

About the placebo effect: when will we stop saying that it was “only” the placebo effect that created wellness in a person? Why on earth should we disdain the power of the mind to effect positive change without introducing chemicals or involving invasive techniques? Shouldn’t we applaud the placebo effect? Here we have people healing themselves from the inside, all because they have faith in the drug/technique/healing professional – I think we should be delighted and study the effect more closely to find ways to use it on a regular basis.

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