Vivien Schapera: “We are still amazingly functional!”

We are still amazingly functional! Previous pandemics didn’t have the extraordinary luxuries that we have now — able to work remotely from home, shop online, connect with friends all over the world. It is amazing how well we can still function! Instead of bemoaning our fate, let those of us who are virtually untouched by the restrictions […]

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We are still amazingly functional! Previous pandemics didn’t have the extraordinary luxuries that we have now — able to work remotely from home, shop online, connect with friends all over the world. It is amazing how well we can still function! Instead of bemoaning our fate, let those of us who are virtually untouched by the restrictions share our blessings and good fortune with those who are experiencing hardship.

As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vivien Schapera. Vivien is the author of a textbook entitled The Complete Guide to Crystal Surgery (2020). She has rare expertise in each of our three layers of existence — the physical, the mental and the spiritual; and she specializes in translating intuitive, energetic and spiritual dynamics into practical information for celebrating life. In Everyday Magic (2002), Vivien relates how the spirit world guided her, from childhood in Apartheid South Africa, through coming to the USA, and founding FourWinds Academy, a school for training healers. Vivien wrote The Energy of Money A Healer’s Guide in Massage & Bodywork (Feb./Mar. 2004), as a spin off from her book How to Lose Weight and Gain Money (2004). Internationally renowned as a teacher of the Alexander Technique, and co-author of Guided Lessons for Students of the Alexander Technique (2010), after 25 years of intense research, Vivien is poised to also burst forth as a world leader in crystal healing.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Initially I trained in Clinical Psychology, but I got diverted into a little-known profession called the Alexander Technique, a method for retraining neuromuscular dynamics. That suited me better, because I love teaching. The only reason why I didn’t want to be a teacher, was because I didn’t want to be in an institution for the rest of my life. What I wanted from clinical psychology was the one-on-one connection, and that’s how the Alexander Technique is taught — one-on-one.

Then one day, a new client booked an appointment, and when she arrived, she announced: “I’m not here for an Alexander lesson, I want a healing session. I can tell you’re a healer and that’s what I want.” I just looked at her dumbfounded, because what the heck was I supposed to do?

I’d already had a very strange afternoon, in which three clients in succession were no-shows. During the time of the second no-show, rather than sit around doing nothing, I had decided to do a meditation which I’d found in a book. The meditation was to use a phantom crystal to meet a spirit guide. In the meditation, two spirit guides showed up, and I just kept getting more and more skeptical, thinking that I must be making this stuff up. The spirit guides got a bit annoyed with me, and offered to give me a message in writing to prove they were real.

I have to tell you this was more than absurd: I was alone in my office, the mail had come, no one else worked on my floor and there was no earthly way they could get a message in writing to me, so I accepted. They asked me what I wanted the message to be about (more absurdity) so I said: “Give me a message about the new person who is coming at 3 p.m.” When the third person was a no-show, I grabbed my keys, and took myself out for lunch.

I wasn’t in a good mood, and now, on top of everything, I had to come up with a way to give a healing session. I was way out of my comfort zone. “Well then,” I asked, “what’s wrong? Why do you need healing?” The client proceeded to go on a long and rambling explanation, which ended with the words: “I have a cardiac fracture.”

Yikes! A heart-condition! This was not my field. I felt quite dazed. She saw my expression, and clarified: “I have a broken heart.”

“Oh,” I said, “in that case, I have a message here for you from my spirit guides,” and I handed her the piece of paper from my lunch-time fortune cookie. The message said: Love is the only medicine for a broken heart.

Talk about a day that sets a new cycle in motion! I began adding healing techniques to my repertoire, including crystal healing, and gradually developed my skills. Others wanted to learn what I was doing, so we created a second school. We were already training Alexander Teachers, and now we began training healers as well.

I wanted to be a teacher, but not trapped in the system. Instead I founded two schools of my own!

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Yes, yes, yes and yes! The Art of Happiness A Handbook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler. I love this book, because it is full of wisdom, yet easy to read. I’ve read many books by the Dalai Lama, but most are hard to understand. This one is accessible because Cutler has done a really good job. He uses an interview style, together with story-telling, and he anchors the messages in western culture with his own extensive knowledge of psychiatry.

When this book first came out, I was having some challenges in an important relationship. I chose not to buy the book, but to go to the book store and read excerpts, then close the book, go home and contemplate what I had read. This book is a resource, not a book that you sit down and read from cover to cover and then forget. It was of great solace at a time when I sorely needed it. Then, when the book galloped off the shelves, and I couldn’t find it in the bookstore, I bought myself a copy. When the e-book came out, I bought that too, so that it could travel with me wherever I went.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I wondered what the Dalai Lama had to say about the crisis we were finding ourselves in. I wished to hear his words of wisdom with regard to this specific topic. Hoping such a book existed, I went to the library, on my iPad, and there it was! The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World (2009) and that is what I am reading now.

Happiness is a crucial topic for me, it is my currency. I evaluate the quality of my work by gauging whether my clients are becoming happier.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

Yes, there are many reasons to be hopeful! We can look at both history and science, including the social sciences, and see a clear path out of this.

Plagues and pandemics are not new. It’s just our turn now. It’s a great opportunity to get in touch with the collective unconscious. We have inherited knowledge and skills from previous generations who have gone through this, let’s tap in to the wisdom of the ages. Remember, this too shall pass.

We are hard-wired to survive, so we will. First, we’ll do all the other things that we’re hard-wired to do, and then, once we unify in perceiving this is truly a survival game, our number one instinct, SURVIVAL, will take over. The sooner we can consciously perceive this, the better, but otherwise we will just have to wait for instinct to catch up.

We are still amazingly functional! Previous pandemics didn’t have the extraordinary luxuries that we have now — able to work remotely from home, shop online, connect with friends all over the world. It is amazing how well we can still function! Instead of bemoaning our fate, let those of us who are virtually untouched by the restrictions share our blessings and good fortune with those who are experiencing hardship.

We can expect growth and change. There is no need to lose hope because things seem bad. The good thing and the bad thing are the same thing. This crisis didn’t create social problems, it unmasked the problems. Major crises stimulate us, compel us to discover more of our human potential, trigger extraordinary developments, because necessity is the mother of invention. Look at the advances of the 20th century. These were stimulated by wars and pandemics!

There is a spiritual side to this. When the chips are down, even the non-believers turn to prayer. No matter our faith, this is the time to practice the purest principles of our personal brand of spirituality. Once the bad side of human nature has indulged itself, we will see the extraordinary brilliance of the human spirit. Let’s look forward to that!

Upon analysis, we see that we have so much to be grateful for. The next step is to bring our feelings into line with this cognitive perspective.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

Be affirming of the person by acknowledging the validity of these feelings.

Help the person become calmer. Our brains don’t work when we’re agitated, we just react. My first message is that there is no shame in feeling anxious. On the contrary, it would be strange if we were not feeling anxious, considering the circumstances, the level of threat and the degree of “unknown” that we are being subjected to. My Alexander Teacher, Walter Carrington, had a very handy phrase that is remarkably comforting. After anyone shared an uncomfortable emotion with him, he would say two profound words: “Of course!” It’s even calming when we say these words to ourselves. Once we’re calmer, we can make a plan.

Once calmer, help the person think through her situation, layer by layer, ascertaining what’s emotion, what’s fear and what’s hard reality. Think of yourself as having three voices, each from a different layer of self — the inner self, the conscious self and the higher self. Each of these selves will have a different take on what you are experiencing. When we are experiencing inner conflict and mixed emotions, this specifically means that the different aspects of self are not in accord. What one is likely to find, is that the inner self experiences fear, the conscious self experiences reason, and the higher self experiences the wisdom of the moment. Bringing these 3 aspects into an alignment is what is called “centering.”

Help process grief. One thing I’ve learned: We’re all just human. That’s it. No exceptions. And all of us need to allow ourselves to be human. These are the five stages of grief that are part of our human experience: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (Kubler Ross, 1969). Identify which stage you, and your loved ones are in, and talk about it factually, as in “Yesterday I just felt angry, angry, angry, but today … well, today I’m feeling depressed.” In that moment of giving voice, something happens, including realizing that you’re making progress because you’ve moved to the next stage.

Help the person choose a course of action. Making a plan, figuring out what to do, is the most calming thing that I can do for myself. When we become paralyzed by emotions, we can need assistance to get moving again. The worst thing to do to an emotionally paralyzed person is expect her to ask you for the help she needs. That’s exactly what she can’t do — she can’t figure out what she wants or make a decision. Emotional support is essential, and the emotional support is best when it progresses from being affirming and understanding, to helping overcome inertia, to moving into action. The important dynamics to comprehend is that any action will do, small is better than big, and easy is better than difficult. If there is something difficult that needs to be done, this could be blocking all other actions. Break the difficult task into smaller steps and help the person move from step to step until the task is complete. This brings relief and restores flow.

Choose something new to learn. Learning new skills and doing new projects are invigorating at any time, and no more so than now. Go into 2021 with new powers — the choice is yours.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

In any and every situation, our best resource is love. It’s in our language. We talk about what we can and can’t buy “for love or money” and let’s take note that “love” precedes “money” in this hierarchy.

When anxious, the best thing to do is connect with someone who loves you, either a family member or friend, and if that’s not possible, do something you love. This will calm your nervous system and calming your nervous system will reduce anxiety considerably.

It’s very important to love yourself. To love yourself, you need to learn how to talk to yourself, and also how to listen to yourself. The most powerful thing I ever did for myself was to become my own best friend. It took a lot of thought to examine all the layers, and it was worth the mental effort.

Practical measures include doing something each day to take care of body, mind and spirit. When anxious or depressed, we tend to neglect our grooming, so that when we catch sight of ourselves in the mirror, we feel even worse. Showering and putting on clean clothes, with attractive colors, is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Daily stimulus for our minds is also a necessity, or we get bored and miserable. With so much easy access to information, we can design our own study program on any topic, and we can finally get around to reading some books again.

How to attend to our spirits can be somewhat mysterious in this secular existence. Rituals are very helpful which is why they are integral to all religions. Find something that speaks to your spirit and build your own ritual. It can be something simple like lighting a candle, or identifying at the start of the day what you feel grateful for.

Laughter is still the best medicine. Reread a book, watch a favorite movie, or follow a TV show that makes you laugh and brings you comfort. This works especially well if you are fond of the characters and feel a connection with them.

Help someone else. Feeling needed is a great antidote to feeling down in any way, and helping someone else is the most uplifting action in our human repertoire.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“The good thing and the bad thing are the same thing” is my quote for the current situation.

This derives from my Tibetan Buddhist readings, which delivers the insight that “everything is neutral” as well as the Ram Dass “Wisdom Story” about the farmer whose horse ran away, leading to a series of events that looked bad-good-bad-good-bad-good. As a psychologist, I’ve tweaked the insight, because in western culture we use the constructs of “good” and “bad” to anchor our thinking, whereas the word “neutral” confuses us.

It is the prevailing truth of my life. Earlier I said I was “diverted” from Clinical Psychology, but actually, I was blocked. I was extremely young and naïve, and shared in a confidential group that the professor in charge of the clinical program had visited me on a Saturday night at my boyfriend’s home, discussed the other students with me, gave me tips on how to prepare for the upcoming exam and had stayed until 2 a.m.

My boyfriend was 13 years older than me, and politically very astute. He told me not to tell anyone, but I was terribly upset by the situation and I needed help. The group was for the clinical and counseling students, to experience the process of working through our emotions, and I trusted the group, so I reached out to them. The facilitator wasted no time in reporting my confidential information directly to the professor in the staff dining room at lunch-time that day; and that was the end of any hope I had of ever advancing in the clinical program.

It was the worst mistake I could have made and it had the best impact on my life. Instead of going into the next phase of the clinical program, I bought a plane ticket to the northern hemisphere, and traveled alone for a year. Wow, what a formative year that was! And, that was just the start. I had one nagging doubt about becoming a clinical psychologist: in my heart, I am a teacher, not a therapist. In therapy, my chosen style is non-directive, but as a teacher I pro-actively impart empowering information — and that’s what really floats my boat — teaching.

When I got back from my travels, my Alexander Teacher invited me to consider training, because of my background in psychology. My mother taught me “no learning is ever lost” so I grabbed the opportunity with both hands, even though I doubted I would be any good as an Alexander Teacher — I wanted to learn as much about the Alexander Technique as possible for my own wellbeing.

My career has flowed from Clinical Psychology to the Alexander Technique, from the Alexander Technique to Healing, from Healing to Crystal Healing, and from Crystal Healing to developing Crystal Surgery. How great is that!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Yes, and thank you for asking! I would love to see a “Listening Movement.”

About 16 years ago, after some reflection, I hypothesized that the key to a better life lies in improving communication. I decided to run a little empirical project by observing my communication, and continuously upgrading my style and method, hoping to become more and more successful in getting my message across, as well as improving my relationships with others. After two years I was mighty discouraged. I’m pretty much successful at almost everything I do, but despite all efforts, I could see no improvement.

Upon analysis, I realized that communication requires two parties — a sender and a receiver. To succeed in improvement, both parties need to be paying attention to upgrading the standard. With no conscious attention being paid to receiving communications, there was little chance of success.

Imagine if each and every one of us were to upgrade our listening skills? Now that could truly change the world — and at no cost at all!

What is the best way for our readers to follow you online?

Yes, please come and meet me. My website is a big, innovative adventure with all kinds of goodies. You can read my blogs, access my books, link to my social media accounts, plus there’s a contact form you can use to get in touch with me. Best of all, you can view the PDF of my new book The Complete Guide to Crystal Surgery. It is an innovative work of original writing, drawings, diagrams and photographs and I’m very, very proud of my team. Even if you aren’t one bit interested in crystal healing, please swing by.

Here is the link:

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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