Photo by Gregory Ciurczak
My interest in healing work has been lifelong, but my need to be more hands-on began in the middle 1980s. I was living in the San Francisco Bay area and still do, but back then the Bay area was Ground Zero for the AIDS epidemic and the premier AIDS education and support organization in the nation was the Shanti Project in San Francisco. I was too far from San Francisco to volunteer, but in my county, Santa Clara, I found the Aris Project. Modeled on Shanti, it was the standard bearer for HIV support and education in my area and I signed up to volunteer.
The idea of being an “emotional support volunteer” resonated with me. They were the folks who simply were “with” people who had HIV. Hung out with them. They lent an ear, really. They were a sounding board for all the heartbreak, fear and laughter that surrounded life with HIV. And yes, there was laughter.
Don’t try this without training
But they didn’t just let us loose on an unsuspecting group of gay men. Yes, back then HIV was primarily a gay disease, although not completely, as I ended up facilitating a group for women who had HIV. But first, an intense, two-weekend training was required, and I do mean intense. It was a training that prepared us for working with people who had a potentially (and back then, often) terminal disease. That meant getting in touch with our own “stuff,” including our own mortality.
I have to admit that back in the late 1980s I had had little experience with death and dying. This was all new to me and I spent most of the two weekends crying because everything touched me so deeply. But by the end, I was ready for my first “client.” And the healing work that wouldn’t heal the body, but could help heal the soul.
Most died in those days
My first client,, Y. was from my part of New York state and, although quite different from me, was a good match. I remember him visiting me at my parents’ house in Rochester when we were both in the area at the same time. Back then HIV was a death sentence for so many and after a year or so, he died. My next client was a transsexual prostitute and she was directly responsible for my compassion for and views about the trans world. She died, too.
I have to say that my time with the Aris Project was life-changing. It’s gone now and the need for it and groups like it also gone. But I see now that my many experiences with Aris were the foundation for what I’m doing with my new business, A Healing Spirit. At Aris I learned how important it was for sick people to express themselves. To express their fears along with their hopes and dreams. To feel grief and let it out. And also to focus on healing.
Giving credit where due
And thus, all these years later, was born the healing work represented by my line of products and services that support healing. A Guided Journal for Healing, to allow people to express some of their deepest emotions about their illness. Healing Affirmation Cards to help focus their daily thoughts on healing–because the mind/body connection is real. A downloadable audio file for those having treatments, like chemo and also one for those who suffer anxiety. Because a serious illness is a reason for anxiety. Not to mention the one-on-one hypnotherapy I offer.
I’m not exaggerating when I give credit to the Aris Project and those who helped train me and with whom I eventually worked with side by side as a trainer. Carol, Gregory, Harry, Denny, Dwayne, Mike, Lori, Bob, Pat, Nancy, Julian, Marty and so many, many more–you all played a role in the development of these products.
And it feels really good for me to be able to offer them to people who could benefit from this kind of support for healing. I hope you’ll come look around at my online home, A Healing Spirit. Thank you.