By Mary Leslie, MSW, RSW
My encounters with two profound healers and how this experience changed my life.
I was spellbound as I sat watching Virginia Satir work her magic with a family on stage for my first time. That was over 45 years ago, as a student, and I still vividly recall my amazement as she had family members stand, and move about with her on stage, seemingly oblivious to the 100 or so of us watching their intimate journey with her. I was so impressed by the sense of connection she seemed to have with the entire family. Intrigued as I was, I couldn’t, at that point, imagine ever being able to work as she did. It felt so far removed from what I was learning at the time, in my social work classes.
Fast forward about 12 years, to my second opportunity to observe Virginia, this time with a much larger audience of onlookers. Having read her book, Conjoint Family Therapy, I was more able to see and appreciate how the words helped, but were quite secondary to her presence, movements and touch. I understood more, but her style of working still felt quite beyond my skills and ability.
Eight or so years later, another wonderful healer came into my life, immersed in the beauty and sacredness of Camp Indralaya on Orcas Island, part of the San Juan Islands, where I attended a 6 day workshop on Therapeutic Touch, taught by the two co-founders of TT, Dora Kunz, a scientist and psychic healer, and Dolores Krieger, a PhD nursing professor from New York University. Learning this energy modality, learning to ground and center ourselves and use our hands to feel and support a shift of energy in others, felt challenging, but also very transformative. It was here that many of my questions about Virginia’s way of working with and being present to her clients, began to make more sense. The similarities of these two women and systems were remarkable and curious, at the same time. Of the two wonderful teachers, Dora left a special place in my heart, when she died in 1999 at age of 95.
There are moments in one’s life, when one feels like there has been a significant internal shift; a 180 degree turn, as if one had crossed a line in the sand, as it were, and there would be no turning back.
I was standing on a floating dock, in the winds and rains of a January evening, with a few others, waiting for a water taxi to take me to my home on Bowen Island. It was 11:30 pm, and as those of us waiting for our boat huddled together to keep each other warm, I asked a dear friend, standing beside me, what brought her here this Sunday stormy evening. She replied that she had just come from a Level 2 workshop on the teachings of Virginia Satir. I had never heard of this training program, and the thought that I might have an opportunity to revisit the work of this amazing woman, right here in my own community, made my heart leap. In seconds I had written down the phone number to enroll, and in less than 12 hours, I was sitting in their Level 1 training, just 6 days later. It was a very pivotal moment, one that revealed itself more fully over the days, weeks and years, as I lapped up every moment of that Level 1 Program and following that, level 2.
My explorations in both Therapeutic Touch, and the teachings of Dora Kunz and The Satir Model of Virginia Satir continued and deepened, and with each year, the similarities and complementarity of each with the other, strengthened. I was curious about whether Dora and Virginia had ever met in their lifetimes, one mostly living on the west coast, and the other, a New Yorker. Aside from learning that Virginia had taken an interest in the teachings of Dora Kunz and Dolores Krieger, no one could tell me that they knew of an actual meeting, but I felt them meeting in my inner world and felt drawn to give voice to the sense of unity I feel between these two healers and their respective healing modalities.
It took a wonderful digital story telling course through the education department of Simon Fraser University in the fall of 2015, for me to draw the threads of these two modalities and their impact on me, into clearer focus. As we were guided to reach inside ourselves for a vitally important story within our experience, I immediately chose how learning energy healing had changed my life, in very important ways. I considered Virginia’s work to be a healing modality, also. The course offered me an additional impetus to reflect on, in a deeper way the life changing aspects of both the work of Dora and Virginia in my life. I began to realize that an internal life-change had its beginnings when I first watched Virginia work, years earlier. I reflected that I now felt a deeper calm more of the time in my work and personal life. I could see, more clearly, that change in the world or in my clients did not depend solely on my efforts. I began to see the therapeutic relationship as a tripartite relationship, involving my skills and spiritual connection, the gifts and wisdom of the ‘higher self’ of my clients, and the guiding hand of spirit, as the ‘third’ voice in the evolving healing relationship. This enabled me to feel lighter, more hopeful and better able to attend to my own self-care, in the face of the needs of those with whom I journeyed. I had, over time, tried to live and work from the belief that all of my thoughts can be sensed by another, given that we are all interconnected, and to heed Virginia’s call to seek the greatest level of congruence within ourselves possible, personally and professionally. Looking back in this reflective way I could see more clearly that greater congruence was slowly and steadily happening. In taking stock and acknowledging my deep gratitude for both of these women and those who follow in their footsteps, I realize that this evolving dance with these two powerful women, and their healing modalities, is deep and would be lifelong; I feel strongly that this dance will continue to be a part of my living and growing until my very last breath.