The Business of Healing
Rescue Rx for the Ailing Holistic Practice
By Kerry Lee Daniel
If you are a holistic health practitioner, you are heartwired to heal. You are a heartcentered being that draws from a vast reservoir of spiritual guidance, knowledge, technique and intuitive gifts to facilitate powerful transformative change in the health and well being of the clients you treat. Whether your specialty is massage therapy, acupuncture, Reiki, or one of the myriad other healing arts, you are good at what you do. But the dirty little secret you hope no one finds out is that when you lock the door behind your only client of the day, you will don an apron, then bicycle to your next gig as a barista at the corner Starbucks. It’s one of several part-time jobs you work to pay the rent and light bills until you figure out how to support yourself as a healer, doing the work you truly love and that your spirit calls you to do.
It’s a constant tug of war. And the first tug in this case probably comes when you finish your client’s massage, and it’s time for her to pay you for the healing session. She hands you $20, saying, “I’m sorry, this is all I have today.” And you reply, “That’s okay—you can make it up another time.”
The truth is that while you are uniquely heartwired to heal, your brain is softwired for business failure. It’s an inner conflict that often sabotages your dream of a thriving practice. And it’s a conflict that is pervasive in the healing arts community. When economic necessity drives healers to channel their energy into moonlighting activities, countless people in pain are deprived of access to noninvasive, restorative care that could add significantly to their quality of life.
Bonnie Willow offers help with Love, Light & Business: Business Anatomy for Holistic Healers.
Bonnie Willow is no stranger to that tug of war. For decades she waged the same inner battles while learning to support herself exclusively through her healing gifts.
Today, Willow has mastered many branches of energy healing, and she’s also an Interfaith Minister, artist and author. She has practiced Transformative Energy Healing for over thirty-five years. She also logged decades working in the business world, honing her skills in management, marketing and administration.
Her personal and professional journey led her from her girlhood home in the Washington, D.C. area, to Manitou Springs, Colorado, where she and husband Gary created an award-winning art gallery they operated for seven years. While in Manitou Springs, Bonnie experienced a deep spiritual calling to focus on her healing work. For nearly a decade, her healing was in great demand throughout Colorado and internationally. Then a family crisis led her and Gary to their new home in Asheville.
I met Bonnie for the first time when I interviewed her for this article. I was drawn to her immediately. She exudes grace, honesty and charm. As the interview went on she proved to be warm, intelligent and funny. It was an arresting combination of qualities, for sure. And then there are her eyes. Please don’t dismiss me for using the cliché about ‘the eyes being a window to the soul.’ Hers are. They are an extraordinarily light and luminous blue. She is the first person I’ve met whose eyes truly twinkle…they do. I was mesmerized by them, by her loving spirit, by her presence and by her story. If ever there was a light spirit, she is one.
Today this passionate healer and successful businesswoman is eager to share her knowledge, wisdom and experience with other holistic practitioners who desire to grow their practices.
Her passion for healing and love of writing inspired her to write, “Love, Light and Business: Business Anatomy for Holistic Healers,” a beautifully crafted A-Z guide and workbook published by Balboa Press (a division of Hay House) in 2011.
“For years I’d been thinking that someone needed to write a book for healers because in general they tend to be dreamy, creative, heartoriented, spiritual yet ungrounded beings. And according to my observations, they – and I – were often equally poor at running a functional business. The majority of healers I knew either had a second job or had a husband or wife who made all the money in the family. A healing practitioner couldn’t even consider making a living from their gift in those days,” says Willow.
She observed, though, that male healers who followed a more patriarchal, competitive business style were sometimes more successful than their female counterparts. “I didn’t want that to be the reality,” she says, “but that’s what I saw happening. And I felt an urgent call to do something. I wanted to re-design that business model so that it would be just, collaborative, cooperative, and so there would be respect for the healer’s time and needs. It’s important for healers to continue to do their charity work, but they shouldn’t give all their gifts away. So the seed of this book grew in my mind for a long while, but I never had time to actually sit down and write it.”
Then Willow’s life took an unfortunate turn when she was sidelined by serious injury. For six months she was unable to stand or walk. “I felt sorry for myself at first, “ she says. “But then I felt a shift in my attitude. I began to see that this was the gift of time I’d been waiting for to write my book.” Though it took nearly six years from start to publication, the writing itself was easy and divinely inspired. Each chapter arrived in her mind and flowed onto the page fully formed.
Willow created the book using an analogy that holistic practitioners will readily understand; she correlates the human anatomy to business anatomy. One focal point is the Cardiovascular System, which in business relates to money. “The heart pumps blood through the body,” Willow says. “When blood stops circulating, you can’t live for long. It’s the same with your business. You need to keep money coming in and going out. Receive money, pay bills…Receive money, give to others. If you bleed out more than you take in, your business can’t survive for long.”
Nothing makes holistic practitioners squirm more than the topic of money. Willow says, “There is such emotion around money: how to ask for money; how to get what you need; and, how to not feel greedy.”
“Our universe is filled with abundance. So you need to get comfortable asking for the money you need. Money is the most effective form of barter; you can exchange it for anything. When a spiritually centered person receives money and gives it back through prayerful spending, it uplifts the entire financial system to a higher level. The healing gifts you send out into the world, along with the money you circulate, supports others.”
“Many of us have inherited injury around money issues, perhaps stemming from our parents or grandparents who lived through the Great Depression. Whatever the reason, many of us struggle with these issues and with poverty consciousness,” Willow says.
“For many, there is a belief system that tells them that money and abundance go against the grain of a spiritually centered life. Others believe that being successful in business means you have to be fiercely competitive or aggressive. It’s an old business model that’s simply not helpful in today’s world. Instead, I’d like to see people adopt an attitude of enthusiastic, grateful cooperation with competitors and with other providers who offer complementary services.”
“Think about how this spirit of cooperation has helped build alliances in other parts of our community. You see it in restaurants where the owners display the work of local artists. The owners enhance their ambiance with beautifully adorned walls, free of charge, while new artists build a loyal following each time their work is discovered and appreciated.”
“In the healing world, I’ve seen cooperative alliances formed between a chiropractor and a massage therapist, a chiropractor and a craniosacral therapist, a psychotherapist and an energy healer. Not only do the practitioners benefit from referring to one another, but the patients they share often experience deeper, more rapid healing.”
Willow covers other important business concepts in her book, including: how to set up your office, how to run your business, how to effectively market your business, and the importance of ethics. She saw that holistic healers did not have a professional oath or code of ethics, so she created one. The book also includes useful forms and worksheets to photocopy and use in your practice.
“Love, Light & Business: Business Anatomy for Holistic Healers” is available at Malaprops and Grateful Steps bookstores for $20.
Holistic practitioners who would appreciate a more interactive experience as well as the opportunity to ask questions, can sign up for Bonnie’s workshop which she will present on Wednesday, February 27, 2013, from 9am-3 pm at Mountain BizWorks. The cost is $75. To register for the class, call Ashley Epling, 828-253-2834, ext. 27.
Bonnie will also lead an ongoing series of healing meditations at her own business, The School of Peace.
I asked Bonnie what specific qualities about Asheville drew her to these beautiful mountains and what anchors her to our community, and she said, “I had a wonderful group of friends in Colorado for about 20 years. Then they all got so busy – I guess all of us were busy – and we stopped getting together unless it was for a meeting. Nobody dropped in at each other’s houses anymore to hang out on the porch and talk, except on rare occasions. And I noticed that when we came to Asheville to put on workshops, the group of friends we’d begun to connect with made time for each other. I also noticed that in Asheville people gather in circles and hold hands to give thanks before they eat, before a potluck, or before any social event. I began comparing this experience to Colorado, and I observed that Colorado has a masculine energy – tall, pointy mountains, a hurried pace of life, dry air. Whereas here it’s moist, warm, and relaxing; people gather in circles, which is a feminine thing to do. And the mountains here are lush and green. I find the energy in Asheville more welcoming, embracing. I still go back to Colorado and California, to see clients. But I love coming home to Asheville.”
I asked Bonnie if it’s possible for an area like Asheville to be oversaturated with holistic practitioners. “Perhaps so, if you’re someone who wants to practice only in Asheville. That’s why it’s important to market your services outside the immediate area as well. And the most important advice I can give to anyone interested in building a solid practice is: Look to see what portion of the community is not now being served. Have you checked out the VA Hospital and their needs for alternative healing? What about retirement and nursing homes? The people who actually live in the facilities may not be able to pay for your services, but what about their family members? You’ll need to learn to translate your gifts into a language that someone at these facilities can understand. Start out by saying, “Here’s something I can do for people in your shoes. Do you need stress release? Is your heart burdened? Their answers to your questions will lead you to offer creative ways to serve them. Just find a niche and fill it.”
Bonnie’s dream for her book: “I hope this information leads to a proliferation of active, successful holistic healers. When that shift happens, the ratio of healers to allopathic medicine providers will change exponentially, nationwide. That means that people everywhere will have greater access to natural, non-invasive treatments for their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. I can’t imagine a better outcome!”
To learn more about Bonnie Willow and her work, visit www.LoveLightAndBusiness.com. Or call Bonnie at 828-776-8288.
Perhaps the most important concept in her book is about developing healthy Prosperity Attitudes. If you have triggers on the subject of making money, Willow recommends that you try the following exercise:
- Identify your dysfunctional attitudes about money, likely learned in childhood. What did your parents say and think about money? Your friends? What lifelong attitudes towards money does your spouse or partner have?
- Create a list of your own beliefs about money.
- Create an adjacent list of the money attitudes of your spouse, business partner, or best friend. They influence you too.
- Decide which beliefs serve you well and which you’re ready to discard. Write down the attitude(s) that you’re now finished with.
- Write a list of the new attitude(s) that make more sense to you now.
- Put these two lists where you will see them often. Every time you see them, say to yourself “I am finished with these old attitudes. I fully accept these new attitudes.” Then read the new money attitudes aloud each day.
Kerry Lee Daniel has published numerous magazine articles and is now working on her first book. She is also an avid letter writer, doing her small part to keep the lost art – and the post office – alive in these changing times. She lives in Asheville with her partner and two mischievous boy cats, Ted and Marty. Email Kerry at firstname.lastname@example.org.