Online chat with Janera Soerel of 24thletter.com

JS. You call yourself an acupuncturist and spiritual counselor. I’ve seen you for treatment twice now and in both cases have felt a real shift toward healing. Could you please explain your process for the members?

AA. My process stems from the varied background of the healing modalities that I have studied. They include bodywork, acupuncture, marital arts and qi kung, training as an intuitive, psychotherapy biofeedback and meditation, to Native and South American shamanism. I started studying and practicing healing straight out of college, at 22 so I have been at it now for 28 years.

JS. You also hold a conversation with your patients before the acupuncture. How does that fit with the healing process?

AA. I see healing as having three dimensions: mental, physical and spiritual. I find that talking helps really understand where someone is at. Not just for me as the healer but also for the person sharing their stories. There is much magic in allowing space and truly hearing someone. Very few people actually and fully listen to another person. That opens a doorway for me as the practitioner to see beyond the physical symptoms and into what might be going on under them.

JS. It’s like magic. Energy shifts. Can you please explain the overall concept of energy healing? What are the biggest traps to steer away?

AA. Being in the moment is where the magic happens and unfortunately all of us are too anxious to reside in that space. That is why we are always thinking and not here. The term energy healing is a vague one and so many modalities can be put under its umbrella. The term energy sounds hokey to people not familiar with that type of work or to Western medicine. It is interesting to note that many standard allopathic diagnostic tests such as EEG (measure of brain function), EKG (heart) and EMG (muscle) measure the electrical conductance of the body. “Energy healing” works by manipulating this same DC micro-current. For example we know that in the case of tissue damage or inflammation of a joint that current is compromised, it is something that we can measure. It is not so clear cut exactly how it works although there is much research that points to possibilities of the mechanism. There are SO many varied techniques that people put under that term (from Reiki to acupuncture and craniosacral therapy) and the explanations would vary with the technique. As with any healing modality, the proof should be in the pudding. One should feel some difference in one’s symptoms, physical, emotional or both after several sessions. The traps to steer away from are no different that any other modality, allopathic or complementary: beware of wild and unreal claims, ask to talk to people who have had treatments from that practitioner, be clear of what you are expecting from the treatment.

JS. Wow, thanks for the explanation. I am a big believer in energy healing, it has served me well. There is also much integration now of the more esoteric eastern healing modalities with the western medical system. What can Eastern medicine teach Western culture?

AA. Good question. Eastern medicine can certainly complement Western medicine. It can share that the body is not a machine, it is not just a bunch of parts put together. It can teach that the emotional state of the body-mind affects specific organ systems and that the weakening of organ systems have specific emotional consequences. It can teach us to look at the whole person: not only their symptoms but also their emotional and spiritual state. The reductionist model that has led to such amazing developments in allopathic medicine has also become its Achilles tendon. Western medicine is incredible at heroic measures: infectious diseases, emergency medicine, surgery and organ transplants. But it fails miserably at much of what people struggle with initially in health related complaints which starts as functional issues and not yet organ based. That means that their symptoms cannot be picked up by blood tests yet but they are having real issues and suffering.

Eastern medicine can also teach our culture the value of slowing down and conserving some of our energy, our life force. Our consumptive culture is not just an external form of expenditure, it also is internal in that most of us are exhausted beyond belief and have little energy left over in case of an emergency. Similar to the financial crisis, there is not much left in reserve….

JS. So we as individuals will benefit from the integration of the two systems. Live a holistic life. Which brings me to the individual’s responsibilities in taking care of their own health. What role does the ego play in our overall health and well being? It’s been getting a bad rap lately, but it must be good for something, right?

AA. Absolutely and well said, the two complement each other, they are not “alternative”. I certainly would want the best ER doc around if I crash my bike….

JS. And what about our ego? What room is there for ego in a spiritual life?

AA. This is a very broad question. We use the word ego in our culture in more varied terms than its psychological definition. In many contexts we tend to use it to mean as an ego centric or inflated one. From an evolutionary point of view, the ego is no different than any other aspect of us that has developed: their function is to help us survive and navigate this realm. The ego is like clothing, we certainly need it to walk down the street. We can have a clean set that we wear to go about our business or spend all our resources dressing up. That is the difference between a healthy ego and one that has run amok. Spirituality tempers the ego so that it serves “us” as opposed to running the show. The problem is not really the ego but “our” relationship to it. Who is “us” or “our”? We have to sit with that one and find out if we are just our egos or is there something else animating us….

JS. So in other words, we need to refresh our ego periodically? Like take it to the cleaners? How does one do that? Yoga maybe? Or meditation?

AA. We do not refresh our egos but rather our relationship to it. It is not as simple as that. We all know or have met yogis, martial artists or meditation people who are ego-centric. So the ego cleaning of those systems did not work too well for them. Remember that we are a hyper individuated culture and as such our egos are getting all the wrong attention all the time. Psychotherapy can be very helpful here as well as introspection.

That certainly is my beef for most of what passes for spiritual practice in our culture: ego candy passed on as spirituality.

JS. There are no short cuts!

AA. Bummer, isn’t it? But it is worse than that: the short cuts can really make our lives miserable.

JS. There is much disconnection being passed on as connection: whether through spirituality or all the new found technology. For my last question, as I type away on my iPhone: How can we use technology for enlightenment? How has technology and the desire for connectedness affected our anxiety levels?

AA. And I answer you from my laptop: technology, similar to money, is a tool that magnifies what is already there. If we are disconnected, then it gives us an ability to disconnect even further. The obvious answer is that it can offer a doorway to abundant information that can certainly be helpful to our quest for awakening. Enlightenment is an internal process and as such only you can help yourself. The desire for connectedness is a whole different and complex issue. I witness people who seek and find connection using it but I also see many people who love the idea of connection but are afraid of the actual act. They seem to use it as a poor replacement for true connection. It can become a part of our addictive culture: how many friends can we gather on Facebook etc. I wonder how many of those people would actually show up when you are sick laying in bed to care for you and vice versa for how many of them would you do that?

Unconscious anxiety is the root cause of most of our issues. It needs to be faced head on and then it will lose much of its power over us. Meditation is of utmost importance here.

JS. Meditation, yes. As you said there are no short cuts. Would you have a recommendation for our members on a meditation practice?

AA. I am a big fan of being mindful which is just a way of saying be present in the moment. The best trick that I have found is to become kinesthetically aware of our body and then stay with that awareness. As you are reading this, be aware of your hands, your breath, any jewelry you might be wearing, feel your feet on the floor. Now expand that awareness to any sounds you might be hearing while you are feeling your body. Being mindful feels lovely, does it not?

JS. It does! Thank you very much Abdi for this conversation. Is there anything else you would like to share with our members? If not, I look forward to seeing you again soon!

AA. I would end by saying, spend five minutes a day and practice this technique. It is such powerful medicine to make friends with this stranger we call our self. Becoming our own ally can help us be less afraid, to trust the process of life as well our selves more. It can help us be less of a control freak. It can teach us that not every thing is about us and that we are part of a greater whole. That in turn can bring more ease to our journey through this realm. Lovely chatting with you.