By Saurabh Bhattacharya
Paul Taylor practices a new form of healing that touches the spirit through simply listening with an open heart and a feeling of universal love
Identify this tableau. The sitting room of an up market Delhi house in India. Evening. Mild clatter of teacups. People split in pairs. Soft murmur of speech. Silent nodding of heads. Polite coughs.
Just another cozy tea party?
Try again. Most of the people in the room have met each other for the first time in their lives. The soft murmur involves a pouring out of intensely personal troubles to an attentive stranger who provides no advice. Heads nod in rapt listening.
This is not small talk over cake and cookies. This is healing. Attitudinal Healing.
In the middle of the tableau sits Paul Taylor, cofounder and director of the Attitudinal Healing Center in Bern, Switzerland, and facilitator of the present session. Taylor stresses the word ‘facilitator’. ‘In Attitudinal Healing,’ he says, ‘there’s no place for teachers. We are all students here. I’m here for my own healing. I’m not here for you. You will experience me because you want to.’
Attitudinal Healing may be a new term for India but it has had quite a successful run in the USA, Europe, South America, Ukraine and Russia. The creation of Dr Gerald Jampolsky, a noted psychiatrist, Attitudinal Healing was the result of his experiences with terminally ill children-and a book. During the ’70s, Dr Jampolsky discovered a book called A Course in Miracles, channeled by Helen Schucman. This work gave a new direction to his psychiatric views and led directly to his founding the Center for Attitudinal Healing in California, an emotional support center opened for children with cancer and expanded to embrace all disturbed people.
But the emotional support is provided by ordinary volunteers, not experts. As Taylor, a former volunteer with the center, explains: ‘Attitudinal Healing makes no demands. It is merely a reminder that we can choose between peace and conflict, love and fear. It helps remind me that the essence of our being is love, that I can look beyond the person and his actions and see that he is calling for help.’
Taylor himself is a classic example of how Attitudinal Healing helps distressed people. From a confirmed alcoholic and drug addict who used to sell blood, steal money, commit acts of violence and even peddle drugs, to a sober, warm Californian settled in Switzerland with a wife and a daughter, Taylor has come a long way. And he thanks Attitudinal Healing for this metamorphosis. ‘About five years ago, I was doing some spiritual mentoring,’ he says. ‘I visited about 10 people a week. One of the preconditions for this relationship was that they offer unconditional support through volunteerism. One day I was looking through the local paper and read that the California center was giving volunteer training. My inner guidance made it clear that I needed to attend.’ Within a short while, Taylor was co-facilitating a support group for people suffering from HIV/AIDS, and a group inside the San Quentin prison. ‘I didn’t learn Attitudinal Healing,’ he clarifies. ‘It is an inherent part of me. I would do what I am doing under some other label if this term disappeared tomorrow.’ Till date, Taylor has been apologizing for the hurt he inflicted on others. ‘I have realized my own mistakes, without groveling at anyone’s feet,’ he says. ‘That sense of responsibility is one of Attitudinal Healing’s biggest gifts to me.’
Attitudinal Healing involvs the willingness to listen non-judgmentally and the desire to be unconditionally loving and truthful. Of these, listening, or, as Attitudinal Healing volunteers put it, ‘empathic listening’, is the most important. A write-up on this concept from the California center describes empathic listening as the process of ‘entering the private perceptual world of the other and becoming thoroughly at home in it. It involves being sensitive, moment by moment, to the changing meanings that flow in this other person’.
There are no set patterns to this healing, although there are certain principles and guidelines. These include an emphasis on self-healing, nonjudgmental sharing of experiences, a tacit respect for confidentiality, ever-changing roles of student and teacher and a consistently positive outlook. The fluidity of this system is apparent in the absence of any central headquarters of Attitudinal Healing. And in the way people want to use it.
‘Over a period of time, every Attitudinal Healing volunteer and facilitator creates his or her own style,’ says Kavita Kowshik, a social worker and executive director of the Association for Attitudinal Healing in India. ‘I work with prison inmates. Naturally, my way of doing Attitudinal Healing will be different from someone working with corporate executives.’ Kowshik, the first person to bring Attitudinal Healing to India, came across the concept through the Internet.
The reaction of people being introduced to this unique form of healing is as varied as the process. The recent workshop in Delhi, held under the guidance of Taylor, was a case in point. While Kowshik, who invited Taylor to India, is herself excited by the possibilities of this system and has seen its beneficial effects on prisoners, other participants are yet to warm up to the process.
‘I would like to use Attitudinal Healing with disturbed youth,’ says Praveena Singhal, a teacher at the Indian School in Delhi. ‘But first, I’d rather settle my personal affairs.’ There is also a hint of disappointment in others. ‘Let’s face it,’ says Shyama Sanghvi, one of the more involved workshop participants. ‘I have not been able to attend to the principles in my own life. I feel as though I’m running away from the situation. When it comes to empathic was listening, I might be speaking what the other person wants to hear.’
So, does this fledgling concept face a premature death in India? Taylor would not think so. ‘There are already quite a few people that take Attitudinal Healing seriously in India and there will be more,’ he says. ‘Some of these interested individuals will be the beginning for centers. I believe that if these centers are intended for the service of others, they will be successful in the spiritual sense.’
Taylor also feels that the biggest strength of this healing lies in its benign nature. There is no couch-confined patient being cross-examined by a ponderous shrink, neither is there any attempt at dictating rules of conduct. The aim of this system is personal empowerment.
‘What I perceive is a mirror of what is in my own mind,’ he says. ‘But people are unconscious of this. Attitudinal Healing helps people become conscious that giving and receiving are one and the same.’
It may have diverse implementations, diverse modes and diverse results. But the essence of this simple form of healing is a universal four-letter word: love. As Taylor would put it: ‘Sit with someone who is dying. Listen with your heart. The unexplainable may happen. We call it Attitudinal Healing.’
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• The essence of our being is love
• Health is inner peace.
• Healing is letting go of fear.
• Giving and receiving are the same.
• We can let go of the past and the future.
• Now is the only time there is and each instant is for giving.
• We can learn to love others and ourselves by forgiving rather than judging.
• We can become love finders instead of faultfinders.
• We can choose to be peaceful inside, regardless of what is happening outside.
• We are students and teachers to each other.
We can focus on the whole of life rather than the fragments.
• Since love is eternal, death need not be viewed as fearful.
• We can always perceive others and ourselves as either extending love or giving a call for help.