The Healer Within and the Circle of Life: Healing Through Self-Reliance and Personal Empowerment–An Interview with Roger Jahnke, O.M.D., and Rebecca McLean
Dr. Roger Jahnke is one of the foremost Western experts in the practice of Qigong and Tai chi, ancient Chinese forms of energy medicine, and an acclaimed practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. Through his books, videos, lectures, consultations, and training sessions, Roger has played a leading role in reshaping the way in which individuals and organizations nationwide perceive, practice, and deliver health care. The principles and many health benefits of Qigong and Tai chi led to the deveopment of The Healer Within process, which is now widely used in healthcare, education, and corporate wellness programs .
Rebecca McLean has been involved in the health care field since 1974, particularly the areas of health and life coaching, stress management, and multidisciplinary health care. She is the developer of The Circle of Life process, a holistic continuous life and health improvement process which is now being utilized by businesses, hospitals, support groups, churches, schools, and other agencies and organizations across the country.
In 1983, Roger and Rebecca co-founded Health Action, an association of health care professionals and consultants located in Santa Barbara, California, and dedicated to helping individuals, communities, corporations, schools, and other organizations enhance well-being and productivity by promoting peak performance and health self-reliance through use of the processes discussed below. Their stated goal is “to incite a revolution in self-reliance and personal empowerment that will transform medicine, business, and even our communities.” Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of their mission is the fact that it does not rely upon experts or authority figures to achieve its goals. Instead, it promotes the natural and spontaneous activation of each individual’s “own internal medicine,” and “inner wisdom.” The result is the ability to achieve and maintain optimal health and well-being without the need of medical intervention.
How did The Healer Within and Circle of Life programs come to be?
Roger: The whole concept of the Healer Within goes back over thirty years ago, when I first started studying Chinese medicine. I was very attracted to the whole idea of the treatment -acupuncture, herbs, massage, and so forth – as a natural healing system that was very consistent with my own philosophy at the time about the need to improve our health care system. Then, as I got into studying it, I realized that there was this other piece to Chinese medicine, which is called Qigong. There are actually thousands of kinds of Qigong. In addition, there is a maxim in Chinese medicine that I didn’t pay attention to so much early on, which says that the superior physician teaches people how to sustain and improve their health. I heard it, and I read it, and I studied it, but it didn’t really sink in, because our own model here in the Western world is that you just treat people. You know, people wait in the waiting room, then you give them their treatment, they leave, and then they return for treatments in the future. However, over time that principle began to haunt me as I learned more about Qigong and Tai chi and continued my own practice.
Practicing the self-care methods from China-gentle body movement, breath practice, meditation, and self-applied massage–is not complex and is accessible to anyone. It began to dawn on me also about how people can heal themselves for no cost, or at least complement their treatment for no cost. So eventually we started a practice session at our holistic clinic in Santa Barbara, which has now been going every Wednesday at 10:30 in the morning for twelve years. Thousands of people have been there and derived benefit from learning and practicing these self-care methods. Eventually, I was invited to write The Healer Within, which has helped many others to have these benefits, as well. This insight that the Chinese have had for more than 5,000 years has a revolutionary application in the modern world. In addition, The Healer Within process contains what I call eight “pearls of wisdom,” as well as a radical possibility.
The eight pearls are: The greatest healer is within us. We produce the most profound medicine ever developed in human history within our own bodies. The four essential self-healing and health enhancement methods — body movement, breath practice, meditation, and self-applied massage — turn these medicines on. We can heal disease and enhance our vitality for free. We can transform the health care crisis into a rebirth of self-reliance. The self-healing and health enhancement methods have hundreds of applications that can heal and empower our communities. The practice of the self-healing methods can expand our spiritual practice. And average people can teach each other to do self-healing. From that, we move into the radical potentiality, which is that through our practice of these methods, we contribute to a global “healing field,” because when we heal ourselves we help to heal the world.
Rebecca: I started the Circle of Life process about fifteen years ago when Roger and I opened up our holistic clinic. Previous to that, I had been working in the health care field for about twelve years. I worked in hospitals and clinics in occupational therapy. What I found is when you’re working with a person’s health you need to address all areas of their life, because the way a person lives contributes to their health and well-being, or sabotages their health and well-being. I found that only addressing a person’s health symptom was sort of like cutting off the top of the weed–it didn’t really get to the root. The symptom returns or remanifests in another form. To really find out how to solve a health problem, we need to know the whole person. Through self-inquiry on twelve or more areas of their life, a person can discover what is draining their life force and what kinds of things are supporting their well-being and health.
The Circle of Life process began from my work in stress management and wellness programs in corporations, banks, schools, churches, and with individual clients. I found that through the process of the Circle of Life, where we utilized a self-assessment of twelve areas of One’s life, followed by a step-by-step improvement process, that people began to change their whole lives, which positively changed their overall health. All aspects of this holistic approach feed into each other and affect each other. So, when people come into the clinic, instead of doing a lot of treatment, like a lot of acupuncture, or a lot of massage or any kind of modality, we focused more on empowering people to know what they could do for themselves and what steps they needed to take in their lives to make their life healthier. I started working with individuals using the Circle of Life process and then I started facilitating many groups. I had run AIDS groups, chronic fatigue groups, cancer groups, senior groups, and MS groups and so forth, and I started finding that this process worked for any health condition, or life problem. So, about 15 years ago, I started using tit with everyone. It didn’t matter what their condition was. When you came in our clinic with a headache, or depression, or AIDS, or a cancer diagnosis, the same process would support any person in moving forward to improving the quality of their life and their health. Since then I’ve continued to use the Circle of Life process in a full range of contexts for people with chronic illness, life threatening diseases, wellness programs, peak performance programs, and risk management groups.
Roger: I would add — and this is true of both the Healer Within and the Circle of Life — we’ve started with the paradigm of medical treatment, in which individuals did not participate in their own health care. We started giving treatment to people who were basically consumers, but who now we are evolving. The first step of the evolution was to say, wait a minute, we should look at the possibility of teaching people how to improve their health. We would get together a group of people and put an expert up in front of them and tell people to change their diet or reduce their stress. Observing the process, we realized that having an expert tell people stuff didn’t really incite the implementation or the inspiration necessary for change, even though paradoxically, the discussion was convincing. Then we decided to create an environment where, instead of one person standing in front of an audience, we put that expert in a circle and there would be a group participatory event. At that point, it seemed like something was kicking in. In other words, the participation and getting the expert off the pedestal and into the circle really accelerated involvement and action. But the most profound revelation in all of this is that there is actually another step, which is to eliminate the expert altogether and have the process happen among the participants themselves. So the final version of both the Healer Within and Circle of Life was that you put out into the world a methodology, a model for how to do this. Instead of worrying about how important it is to have a highly trained expert to tell people how to do it, you just say, ‟You can do this and here’s how”. Then put lots of encouragement and enthusiasm into the idea that people should just try these things on their own and get together with groups of people to do it, without needing to have a lot of training or without having to go through a certification process. Just do it. Like they would have done it in china thousands of years ago and are still doing it now. So it’s gone from the point, in the beginning, where the participant is perceived as someone for whom you have to do everything, to realizing that the participant is actually the secret ingredient in the entire formula for their healing and wellness.
Describe the Healer Within and the Circle of Life process and how they work?
Roger: Basically the concept of the Healer Within was to take the body of traditional information from Chinese medicine about self-healing, or the personal practice of self-empowerment methods, and package it in such a way that it could be embraced by anyone. Conveniently, Qigong breaks down into four elements: moving the body gently and adjusting the posture; breath practice, or focused breath control; meditation; and self-applied massage. So we broke Qigong down into its four parts and explained very clearly the physiological mechanisms that are associated with why those activities are so beneficial to health. In China, the whole logic for how Qigong works is the Qi itself, the life force, the energy from the universe that circulates within the human system and creates vitality. We don’t readily understand Qi in the Western world, so for the mainstream the goal was to change the conversation from the Qi rationale to the typically recognized rationale of physiology in the Western world. So how the Healer Within works, basically, is that the individual, who either uses the book, or is in a class where somebody else has found this book, or logs onto the web site that is associated with this material, gets inspired and follows the process. There’s actually a file on http://www.healerwithin.com that’s called the national network of practice and it explains how to start a practice session in your own town and so forth. So people get together or practice on their own, just like in China. You can go to the park in China and you see some people who are kind of back in the trees by themselves practicing and other people who are practicing in groups of ten or fifteen, and then there are other groups of hundreds of people practicing together. The Healer Within process is set up so that it can be done any of these ways.
A typical practice session is the session that we do here in Santa Barbara. It’s an hour long. We do about fifteen minutes of body movement and postural adjustment, followed by fifteen minutes of breath practice, then fifteen minutes of self-applied massage, and then we conclude with a meditation. There are five different movement methods and five breath methods to choose from, thirteen self-applied massage methods, and four or five meditation exercises, so it’s kind of like a banquet of possibilities. Individuals utilize the ones that feel comfortable or useful for them, and if they are doing it with a group they would choose from that banquet of possibilities to create about an hour’s worth of practice.
Rebecca: The Circle of Life process begins with a quick yet effective method for evaluating one’s health and life. Participants access twelve areas of their life using the circle diagram, with pie shaped rays extending from the center. Each ray represents an aspect of life, such as: Nutrition, exercise, stress mastery, health care, relationships, work, financial health, play, nature, emotions, life purpose and spirituality.
While it is typical in most health care or corporate programs to focus on weaknesses and deficiencies, the Circle of Life process does not start there. It is true that a process of improvement must ultimately assess what is missing or needed and then put that into place. However, it is also true that dynamic improvement must draw upon strength. In the Circle of Life process, a powerful key is to celebrate your victories and positive qualities, count achievements — even the smallest ones — purposefully name what is working for you, and express what you are grateful for in your life.
When we relax, open up, let go, and become more appreciative of others and ourselves, we have access to greater energy, joy, creativity and health. Acknowledging strengths translates into enthusiasm and more effective choice making. At every point along the way, acknowledge assets, act from strengths and celebrate victories. At the beginning of the circle process, we discuss the areas of strength that were revealed in the self-inquiry phase.
We also incorporate a variety of inner processes to quiet the mind and access inner resources and information. Next, the participants introduce themselves and acknowledge and talk about their strengths. Most systems focus on what is not working or what is wrong in the person’s life. The Circle of Life process starts by encouraging people to focus on what’s working well and why. The energy level increases when you take your confidence and strength into the areas in which you need support. We also create a fail-safe system by emphasizing that, whatever you’re going to work on, there is no such thing as failure; it’s a process of learning and developing and refining, so there is no judgement. No matter what you do you’re always in a learning, growing, continuing to improve process.
After the participants have evaluated their lives, they then define what area they want to work on and be supported in, to contribute to their health and well being. This ensures that each person is working with the area that he or she really wants to work with, rather than unsuccessfully trying to do what somebody else thinks they should do. This is very important because part of this process, to choose and focus, gives the individual, more energy, more vitality, and the energy to make changes. It’s really about the power of choice, electing to improve, readiness for change, and setting the person up for success.
Once the participants have identified the areas in their lives that are deficient, and they are ready to make a change, the next step is the process called “the intention/goal, the challenge, the action step, the affirmation and the accountability.” So they set a goal. Next, they look at their challenges involved with meeting their goal, such as mental and emotional challenges, physical, financial, relationship or situational challenges. We really help each other to look at what is keeping us from obtaining our goals and then, after that, to identify what actions we could take to start neutralizing or changing those challenges, or breaking through those barriers. Solutions could arise as the group starts sharing their ideas about the issue, sharing options and experiences that they’ve had that helped them to work through those particular barriers or challenges. In this way you’re getting feedback from all the wisdom and experience of the group. Circle of Life groups are usually formed by people with a common concern or health condition, e.g. individuals with chronic fatigue or arthritis. So they’re going to understand each other more, and they can be the most supportive because they have similar challenges. After they’ve acknowledged their challenges, they start to look at the steps they might take to bring their goals into actualization. Then they have one step, maybe two steps, they’re going to take in that week, and we really work on setting each person up for success, by helping the person to schedule it at a time so that it’s really going to work for him or her. Once each person decides on the realistic action step that they want to take, they then write it down. We have a schedule sheet and they block out a time to take that action step, and then we have accountability the following week about that. We’re clarifying what our goals are, we’re clarifying what our steps are, we’re clarifying the time frame, and then we have accountability with the group. Then we come back the next week and talk about what worked and what didn’t work and why. A person may say, I shouldn’t have scheduled it at that time. I found out that wasn’t the right time to schedule my exercise. Or I found out I should have made it a more realistic goal. Or I did do my ten minutes; it felt really good just to get going, to get started. But no matter what it is, it’s a victory in learning our growth because you’re learning about yourself and you’re learning why things aren’t working in your life and you’re working through ways and solutions and steps that will work. So we celebrate the victory. We use an affirmation, which is our positive self-statement that we’ll be reaffirming to ourselves throughout the week to reinforce our goal or intentions. This is a continuous improvement process.
So the basic process is self-inquiry, giving an honest evaluation without judgement, then setting up a plan to move forward. I always tell people one step a week is fifty-two steps in a year. If you take fifty-two steps in any area of your life, whether it was a better relationship, or better exercise, or better diet, you’ll be healthier or you’ll have a better quality of life. If you take one action step each week, you’ll experience improvement. Then build on those successes. From group sharing everyone is learning from each other, both from each other’s mistakes and each other’s victories. And the process is continuous.
Most of the groups I work with start off with me as a facilitator, and then they end up continuing, even if they’re cured or well, because this process is about life. It’s about improving the quality of your life, and it’s a safe place to tell the truth, and to make mistakes, and learn from them, and everybody celebrates their victories and we laugh and we share testimony, which is very empowering. If somebody else in the group is starting to do something you really want to do for yourself, it gives permission for you to do it, too, and it also shows you a way to do it. So the group members build on each other’s strengths and victories.
Why do you feel these methodologies are so revolutionary and empowering?
Rebecca: They are empowering because all of us, if we participated in a circle with our friends, or even our next door neighbors, we all know some things we can do to improve our life without relying upon an expert or a doctor. We all know things that we can improve, like maybe going to bed half an hour earlier, or maybe taking a walk instead of watching the news, or maybe giving and receiving a foot massage from a loved one, or drinking more water. These are all things that people can do that improve the quality of their health and their lives without needing an expert, or to do any research or receive training. They can just start with what they already know. Yes, they can go ahead and get more expertise, which is totally valuable, but there’s no need to wait. So first of all, there’s no waiting. People already have information and if they’d just sit down for a minute, they can all probably list at least fifteen to twenty things that they could do that would make their life healthier and more vital.
Roger: We’ve found that people tend to repress their wisdom in the presence of experts, but when it’s a group of peers who are present who have all declared by being in the process that they are interested in improvement, it blows the top right off of that repression. Suddenly there’s this wisdom, what we call “inner wisdom” which, by virtue of the nature of the Circle of Life process, surfaces.
And for the Healer Within process, the revelation is that the healer has always been inherently present in the human system, placed there by the architect of the universe. When people come to understand the concept that the most profound healing resource is actually already within them, and then by doing the practices they literally feel that, it just makes people extremely enthusiastic. Rebecca and I didn’t make that breakthrough. We recognized that people have forgotten their innate strengths, which is that we are extremely self-reliant, extremely resilient, and that the capacity to self-repair and self-heal has always been within the human system. Somehow, we just seem to have stopped paying attention to it, so I think that one of the great empowering or revolutionary features of all of this lies just in saying that people can do this. It is not about a system that is initiated and sustained by experts; it’s about a system that is initiated and sustained by anybody who wants to see improvement.
We are a culture that spends over $1 trillion a year on health care. Billions of dollars of productivity in our corporations are lost due to stress claims. We are, proposing that this can all just go away if the average person will just do their part. One of the lines in The Healer Within is that if each person does the small part to take care of their own life, the huge job of taking care of everyone is already done. That’s pretty revolutionary.
Rebecca: I’d like to just say a couple of more things about why this is so empowering. First of all, taking a group of people and just focusing on your own life, you find out you really do have many strengths and abilities. And the group context is important, as well. Research has shown that when people are together there is more energy, more enthusiasm, and more power. When you’re with people and you’re hearing positive stories of breakthroughs, it starts bringing people into a state of a positive hypnosis that they really can have a better quality of life. Especially when you’re with a group of people who are going through a similar challenge as yourself, like in my MS group. They come every week and they share things that they’re doing to bring a higher quality into their lives. They inspire each other and keep getting more and more renewed from each other, Much more than they would by working with an expert who does not have MS. You probably know about the study at Stanford University by the psychiatrist David Spiegel, who demonstrated that women with breast cancer who met in a weekly support group lived twice as long as those who didn’t. Another study has shown that people with the lowest number of social ties were two to three times as likely to get sick or die of all causes than those with more social connections. What such studies are showing is that just being together with other people can really help improve your health. You don’t even have to do anything else. Just being together and sharing and talking and laughing and crying — that in itself is very therapeutic.
Where and in what contexts are the Circle of Life and The Healer Within methodologies being used?
Roger: Probably the most illustrative example of that has been The Healer Within group here in Santa Barbara, which has been going for twelve years. Many of the people who come today are people who were coming then, and then we have other people who are new. It’s continually growing. Some of those people have passed away and some of them didn’t pass away when they were supposed to, according to their medical prognosis, and survived cancers and heart disease and so forth.
And instead of one person facilitating those sessions there, we now have six different people. It’s easy for us to sustain this in this community without a lot of effort because there are so many people who are very positive people who are involved in it. And some of the hospitals are picking up on it, and the local adult education programs and so forth. And so now we get e-mails on a very regular basis from people in every portion of the United States and in fact from New Zealand, Australia, and Europe where people are doing this in their homes and local communities. On my lecture travels and so forth, I’ve had opportunities to go to their practice sessions and see what they do. And it’s interesting because everybody’s got a different interpretation of it. It’s a wide-open model open to all kinds of interpretation, using the Healer Within methods as a kind of focal point, but also allowing the participants themselves to add their own talents and knowledge to the mix. And this is now going on in communities all over the United States.
Another context in which this is being used is in the arena of complementary medicine today with hospitals and HMO’s that are multiplying their utilization of self-healing practices. Many hospitals have opened up fitness centers, and they’re using The Healer Within as one of the self-care modalities. Many surgical units now are also doing pre- and post-surgical health enhancement programs, and the Healer Within can be used as a methodology to stimulate inner resources prior to the surgery and then to speed up recovery after the surgery. We also get a lot of requests from physical therapists, occupational therapists, people in the social services, and so forth.
We are hoping that corporations will utilize the healer within web site, so that their employees can access methods for alleviating a headache or, if they tend to be tired in the middle of the afternoon, techniques they can use to increase energy.
The last context that I’ll mention, is the correctional facility, where both the Circle of Life and the Healer Within have made some inroads. I was invited to give a presentation at Folsom Prison, which is a maximum security prison with the worst offenders – murderers, rapists and others serving life sentences. After my presentation, we started receiving requests from their library for more copies of the book because The Healer Within was the most highly requested book at the Folsom Prison library. And, of course, if people who are in jail find them useful to recover a certain level of being, or to explore a new way of being; what would happen if those same people had these methods previous to their crime? That is one of the big questions that we’re asking.
That’s wonderful. Who’s eligible to be a facilitator?
Rebecca: The Circle of Life is being used at St. Charles Medical Center, in Bend, Oregon. I think they may have changed the name of it, but three times a year they have a ten-week process called the Medical Symptom Reduction Program and they use the Circle of Life assessment tool with individuals at the beginning of the ten weeks. They usually have about twenty people in the program with various diagnoses. It doesn’t matter what the medical symptom is — whether it be angina, headaches, high blood pressure, cancer, or if you want to lose weight, or are depressed — you can come into the program. They also offer it to all of their employees, patients and to the community. During each week, the participants meet for three hours and the program begins with the Circle of Life evaluation, and they also do the Healer Within practices at the end of the session. The hospital has been doing this for three years now, and they’ve found a couple of insurance companies that will pay for it because the results were so successful. They are getting people to start taking steps towards their own health and recovery.
The local schools in the Santa Barbara area are also using the Circle of Life. Originally it was a stress management program and the teachers found that it is a really good way to help keep them healthy and balanced. Then they started imparting it to the children to show them a method for learning about their own life and how to take responsibility for it. The Healer Within process is used to keep the students centered. I know Roger has had several teachers say that it really reduces attention-deficit disorder and all these hyperactive problems that kids are having.
Roger: The Santa Barbara school system is now looking at these processes as possible afterschool activities, both for creating a regular positive environment and as an alternative to detention.
Rebecca: I’ve also used it as a wellness program for banks, corporations, our local county services, and several other agencies. They wanted to increase performance from their employees and the only way you can get peak performance is for a person to really focus on upgrading their own life. They have to have some energy, and they have to have interest in it, and they have to evaluate their own life and find out what they really want to work on. For example, more exercise, better diet, more fun, equals better work performance. The result was that, overall, the employees became healthier, more clear minded, and less stressed, which was reflected in less down time and sick days.
Roger: The point is that both The Circle of Life and The Healer Within processes can be used across all of these contexts. They are not limited to a particular industry or field. When I went to Folsom Prison to do The Healer Within program, one of the inmates said to me, “That was so interesting, do you have anything else?” I happened to have a copy of Circle of Life so I gave it to him. A couple of months later we got a letter from the prison asking permission to make ten copies of it. We signed off on that, and a little bit later we got a letter asking for twenty-five copies for the facilitators. We signed off on that, too, and then we got a letter that asked for one hundred and twenty copies. We called up and said, what is going on? And they said that the prisoners are utilizing the program. It’s not costing the justice system anything. The prison doesn’t have to provide any kind of hired facilitator because the inmates are being their own facilitators. And the most incredible part of it is that nobody was trained in this. I just handed one prisoner the book. The point here is that these methods, these models if you will, are so breakthrough because they are self-contained in such a way that allows these tools to be used by anybody.
So anyone is eligible to be a facilitator?
Rebecca: Yes, absolutely. We’ve had a phone organization called Support Works, where I’ve done trainings over the phone with people who have MS, or environmental illness, or other problems, where their support group is over the phone. And I’ve taught them within an hour basically how to do this, then they just continue the process in their phone conferences. And in all the groups I’ve run, from cancer groups, to AIDS groups, to the MS wellness group that I do, once I’ve taught them how to facilitate, they don’t really need me anymore because they learn how to take turns being the facilitator.
The facilitator is basically somebody who is making sure that everybody has equal time and that you stay in the process. He or she is not an expert, just somebody who’s learned how to keep people in the process. You know, making sure that things don’t get scattered, and keeping the talkers from talking too much, and making sure that the people who are quiet and reticent about sharing get to share something. In many groups, I’ve never even met the people. They just took the Circle of Life Facilitator’s Manual and took off with it. So, anyone who wants to be a facilitator and who has read through the book and is following those guidelines, is totally capable of doing it.
Roger: At one point, the people at Folsom Prison called us and said they wanted to have a phone conference because they were running into challenges. So we set the conference for a couple of weeks later, but when we called one of the people said, “Well, using the process, we worked it all out,” so they didn’t need us.
Rebecca: Yeah, which was really great.
Roger: Anybody who wants to can do this. Sometimes people get a copy of The Circle of Life or The Healer Within and go to their church and say, Let’s do this. Sometimes they call it a health ministry. There’s been a lot of that going on and we support that enthusiastically.
However, there is another track here. We just said that anybody could do this. However, in the health care industry there are some restraints, and we should just talk about it very briefly so that it makes sense to the readers. For any kind of a process to be utilized as an adjunctive program to therapy with people who are intending to be reimbursed by their insurance company for those services, that requires that the right people provide these services. So, even though, we’ve already acknowledged that resident wisdom exists, and that the power of The Circle of Life and The Healer Within rests largely in the whole concept of tapping into self-reliance, which is the backbone of the American vision, we also live in a reality based on credibility and certification and so forth. Within that context, both for The Circle of Life, and for The Healer Within, there are trainings, which occur that are targeted at nurses, occupational therapists, social workers, and other people in the health care industry. And this probably could be true in education, as well, and in the justice system, among people who provide certain services who have to be certified, whether it’s a social worker or whatever. They tend to want to have structured trainings within those contexts.
The Healer Within, for example, really falls in the Qigong category, which is currently going through its evolution in the Western world, and there is a minimum requirement now of two hundred hours of training for Qigong instructors who are going to be employed by hospitals or YMCA’s and so forth. It is paradoxical because we know that the methodology and the wisdom within the methodology belongs to the people, but at the same time we’re also involved in this infrastructure of life in the United States that requires certification in certain contexts. So, rather than saying we’re going to hold this behind the wall of certification, and make everybody pay a lot of money for it, we are saying that if people need that certification, then we can provide a pathway that’s a little bit more structured, that will provide them with certification. But because there is so much need within this culture among disenfranchised communities — people at risk for drugs, young women at risk for unwanted pregnancies — the list is so long of where there is so much need that it would be unethical, if you will, to hold back these processes from the people to whom they really belong. So we’re doing both, because there is a greater potential that can unfold in our culture if we foster the power that people already have within them.
What do you see the long-term ramifications of your work being as we move into the 21st century?
Roger: I think that intuitively we can operate from a kind of a top-down vision. Not in terms of corporate or governmental decisions that give permission to the people below to do things, but about the real top, which is what the Chinese would call Heaven, or celestial influences. These tools are inherent within the human culture. The elements of The Circle of Life, for example, had their origin when people first began sitting around tribal fires and making decisions about how to do a better job and improving their lives. This has occurred for nearly a million years. As for The Healer Within, as I said, it comes out of Qigong, and the records on Qigong go back at least 7,000 years and we don’t even know happened before that. So what we’re dealing with here is really a vision of taking some very basic and practical ideas that have immense histories and reminding people of the fact that we have these powers within us that we’ve become seduced into forgetting and not continuing to believe in somehow. Our goal is to release from on high, if you will, that which has always been there.
And then the other side of it is the bottom-up, which is to say that anybody can do this and that it’s freely available. The bottom-up, you might call the earth energy, and top-down the celestial energy, and when those mix it’s the secret of Qigong from thousands of years ago. When the Heaven and Earth energy mix it makes a dynamic resource called Qi. We see this Qi, this energy that’s always been there, pushing these practical ideas into absolutely every context in which they can possibly be utilized. It’s obvious in health care, it’s obvious in the increase in productivity and effectiveness in corporate life, but we’re interested in what happens when the grandmother learns The Healer Within and The Circle of Life processes at the senior center, and kids are using it in afterschool programs, and so forth. I think the beautiful question is, What happens when everybody in the family comes to dinner and, instead of talking about sports scores and the latest political challenge, they also have common knowledge about a body of information, about personal improvement, and know that there’s something inherently possible in our culture that could be leveraged or fostered by the fact that everybody in the family is basically utilizing this same basis of information? In sociology they say that all conversations will tend to settle at a common denominator. If the common denominator is the latest terrible thing that is going on, or the latest political event, or the latest TV show, then that’s what people are going to be talking about. But what would happen if we would make these processes we’ve been discussing part of that common denominator within the family?
Rebecca: I just want to add that we’re discovering that drugs and surgeries aren’t really working for a lot of health conditions. So people are looking to other avenues of healing and well-being because the conventional ones aren’t working or they can’t afford them, and they’re not always what you need. As a result, the alternative and integrative health system continues to rapidly grow. And really the essence of all of those things is coming back to yourself and learning what you can do for yourself. Even in when it comes to alternative treatments, who can afford a million acupuncture treatments? It’s getting to the point now where people are realizing that if they do some self-care, or if they start making some small shifts in their lives, they’re not going to have to pay out that money, or be in an HMO they don’t like, or live with pain or disease. I also think there continues to be a growing interest in Eastern philosophies and approaches to healing, and these processes all stem from that. They come from traditional cultures that recognized the importance of breathing, and speaking your truth, and doing things together, and sharing your wisdom, and being supported. And these things are so inexpensive. Through our programs in our community you can come to learn all these things for free, and then share them with your family, or your spouse, or your grandchild, or whomever.
So when people have health problems they can seek out different options like using the methods of the Circle or Healer Within, which are so inexpensive yet so effective. And I know that health practitioners are starting to recognize this. I know doctors, for instance, who refer patients to me because they can’t spend enough time with them. And when the patients come and we’re doing a Circle process, their recovery is much faster. They feel more power; they need less medication; and there are less calls to the medical facilities because they’re receiving all this information, resources, and support as an individual or from the group. So I think it’s essential that we start returning to our own self-responsibility and to our own tradition in healing and well-being.
Roger: One more thought is that traditionally the American way is really based on self-reliance. But that’s gotten lost to some extent, and the health care field has been probably one of the most guilty parties, in terms of disenfranchising people from their spontaneous awareness of their own self-reliance. So, to a certain extent, rather than being revolutionary new breakthrough material, this is actually material that is very much a reflection of the base line qualities or values that we in America have respected very highly all along.
The Gathering Breath
The following exercise is adapted from Dr. Jahnke’s book The Healer Within.
Sit down with your hands in your lap, palms up, and begin to inhale deeply. As you do, move your hands outward and upward, as if you were scooping something precious from the air around you. When your hands are slightly above and in front of you, your inhalation should be complete. Now bring your hands, side by side and palms facing you, towards your head. As you exhale, move them slowly down in front of your face, your chest, and your abdomen. When your hands reach your navel area, linger for a moment, and then repeat the process.
This exercise is part of a Qigong method known as “marrow washing,” which gathers vital energy (Qi) from nature and stores it in the bone marrow. As your hands pass over your body, visualize vital energy penetrating through your body’s surface to nourish your organs and glands as it is stored in the bone marrow. As you relax into this practice, you may feel the warmth of your hands as they pass in front of your face. This is known as “Qi sensation” and is an indication of the vital energy you are gathering and storing.
Initially, perform this exercise for two or three repetitions once or twice a day, working up to ten to twenty repetitions per day. Regular practice helps to increase the flow of lymph in the chest and shoulder area, helping to prevent or resolve discomfort in the chest and neck area. The deep inhalation also triggers the elimination of waste by-products from the spaces between the cells, and in the organs and glands.
243 Pebble Beach
Santa Barbara, California 93117
By Roger Janhke
The Healer Within: The Four Essential Self-care Methods for Creating Optimal Health by Roger Jahnke. (HarperCollins, 1999).
Healing Promise of Qi: Creating Extraordinary Wellness With Qigong and Tai Chi by Roger Jahnke (Contemporary Books, 2002).
By Rebecca McLean
The Circle of Life: A Manual for Personal, GROUP and Community Well-being and Effectiveness by Rebecca McLean (Health Action, 1999)