As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Vivien Schapera.
Vivien is the author of a groundbreaking textbook entitled The Complete Guide to Crystal Surgery (2020). She has rare expertise in each of our 3 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 also poised to burst forth as a world leader in crystal healing.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Initially I trained in Clinical Psychology, but I got diverted into a little-known profession called the Alexander Technique, which I discovered because of personal need. Essentially, I had such poor posture that even strangers in the street would say to me: “Stand up straight, Girly,” as I walked past. When I looked around me at school, I noticed I wasn’t the only one hunched at my desk, and I reasoned “There must be something somewhere in the world that can help me with this.” About six years later, I found out about the Alexander Technique, a method used for retraining neuromuscular dynamics, and the one and only teacher in South Africa lived and worked right across the road from the high school where I had theorized the “something somewhere!”
I didn’t decide to become an Alexander Teacher, because believe me, my posture was so bad that I didn’t think I had a snowball’s hope in hell of ever becoming proficient. Nonetheless, I did accept when my teacher offered to train me along with two other women, who were exactly double my age.
The Alexander Technique is more about thinking than anything else, and I am a good thinker … so I did, in time, become a decent Alexander Teacher. Actually, I became rather sought after and had to take the unusual step of limiting the number of sessions I gave to 73 per week. (These were half hour sessions and that’s all a week allows for!) The point isn’t so much to brag, as to segue to the next development, which was that by virtue of seeing so many people, in quick succession, over a number of years, I became super-sensitive to the human energy field. That led me to investigating more layers of our human existence, including the energy field and energy healing.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The Alexander Technique trains the teacher to perceive mind-body dynamics in a uniquely insightful way, but unbeknown to me, my developing sensitivity had me perceiving more even than that. I found out inadvertently.
Even though it isn’t part of the Alexander Technique, I offered to do a guided chakra meditation with an anxious client. I asked him to visualize the colors of the rainbow. As he did, my own visualization of swirling colors turned into an image of a color chart, with the colors organized in layered bands, so I said to him: “But not in stripes.”
He fixed me with a baleful glare, then accused me: “Are you reading my mind?”
I was stopped in my tracks. At first, I was dumbfounded, because I hadn’t realized that he didn’t tell me what he was picturing. “I suppose I am,” I answered.
I didn’t know I had become intuitive, yet the evidence was in. It’s funny now, but I assure you, my client was far from amused. People do not want their privacy invaded and mind-readers are not welcome!
The biggest take away is that intuition knows no boundaries and intuitives need to tread with great caution and even greater quantities of respect.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
When I was 19, in the counseling psychology program, one of our references was Dr. Haim Ginott’s book Between Parent and Child (1961). I can honestly say that that book, together with a spin-off entitled How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk (1980) by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish set me up for life — and for any career I could ever possibly choose.
From the first page, Dr. Ginott explains how our communication is encoded, giving a most poignant example of a young child asking his father about abandoned children. For me, Dr. Ginott unlocked a mystery of the universe — how to understand what people actually mean when they speak.
Based on those two books, I trained myself how to listen, and also, how to respond, in order to achieve deep and meaningful connection in all my relationships with others.
I do believe, that my intuition developed because the Alexander Technique taught me how to quiet my own internal noise, and Ginott, Faber and Mazlish taught me how to listen.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
I am fascinated by human potential. I was pleased with my new choice of profession, because I could work more directly with this dynamic. As a clinical psychologist, the objective would have been to help people move from dysfunctional to functional. As an Alexander Teacher, I was empowered to give people a brand-new experience of themselves, from the very first session, and we could build from there.
Imagine having a teacher who is equipped to help you become “the best you” that you could possibly be. Well, that’s me!
My deepest gratitude goes to my teachers. I was blessed to have many who took a personal interest in me, and it is my pleasure to pay this forward. I believe that if every person could have a mentor who helps her develop her potential, the world would be a better place. Our greatest resource is our human potential.
In the 20th century, we conquered outer space. My vision for the 21st century, is that we conquer “inner space’’ — that we learn more about our energetic structures, our brain capacities, our spiritual nature and how all these pieces fit together. I don’t think that I have a gift in being intuitive, I just think I found the formula for accessing that piece of our human potential. I teach people how to develop their intuition, and it is a process as systematic as learning logic or math.
We look back and marvel at how the world changed from the year 1901 to the year 2001 — all the advances that were made — advances that couldn’t have been imagined, yet came about through the extraordinary genius and inventiveness that is stored inside our human capacity. Of course there’s more, and I for one, am looking forward to seeing what that looks like!
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
Yes, my number one principle is “people come first.”
You can see how that mangled the COVID response in this country — which comes first? Protecting the people or protecting the economy? This is not a “which comes first, the chicken or the egg,” kind of hypothetical question. Without people, there is no economy. And who needs “an economy?” We all do! And who is “we?” We, the people — every single one of us, rich and poor, young and old, employers and employees, manufacturers and consumers — we’re all people. An economy begins with people and ends with people. Economics is a social science.
Without people wanting my services, whether it be for sessions or for classes, I don’t have a business. Especially my businesses! Nobody wakes up suddenly one morning with the idea: “I think I’m going to find something I’ve never heard of, because it could help me with a problem I don’t know that I have.” The vast majority have never heard of the Alexander Technique, and they don’t believe in crystal healing. I depend on providing such a superior service to people, that others beg them for their secret.
To provide a superior service, I must care — not about the Alexander Technique and crystals — I must care about the person inside. It was quite the aha for me, the day that I got it into words: “I don’t teach the Alexander Technique, I teach people. The Alexander Technique is my vehicle, not my objective.” From that I also understood a priority: What if this client were to die tomorrow? What would be more important — that I gave a technically brilliant Alexander lesson or that we had a personally meaningful interaction? Ever since then, I’ve focused on the personally meaningful interaction as the guiding priority.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
At the personal level, our experience of the pandemic has been both worthy of lament and worthy of profound gratitude.
We were fortunate enough to get a very strong email from a client who is an oncologist, married to a South Korean, forewarning us of the severity, and advising us how to prepare for the pandemic. I will never forget the creeping cold that came over me as I read that email. Forewarned is forearmed, so we got out early to stock up with groceries, and immediately began preparing mentally.
Additionally, we live in Ohio, and our governor was pro-active about lockdown. He has attracted all kinds of flak for what he did, and got seemingly zero support from his own party, but we felt grateful to him for showing strong leadership and stepping up to his responsibilities. It was comforting for us to see someone take hold of the reins and put necessary safety measures in place.
Unfortunately, it was equally stressful to watch others react with vitriol and hostility to these same measures. The violence toward our governor’s medical advisor, and her family, was very frightening to me. This was not party politics, this was something else entirely, and it was deeply disturbing. As a psychologist, this behavior made it clear to me that something sinister is afoot in our country. My anxiety was triggered to levels that I hadn’t experienced since leaving South Africa, and my “post” traumatic stress became “current” traumatic stress. Put that together with the depressing circumstances that the world was in — and there it was — a rapid ping pong game, with me as the ball, being hit back-and-forth by the twin bats of anxiety and depression. Ouch!
One of the things we are grateful for, was that our son and his family live around the corner. We still followed the guidelines and isolated from each other for three weeks; we have to remember how little was known about COVID at the beginning. My husband fit into the “high risk” category and my son was intent on protecting him.
At first my son wasn’t sure that his employers would be able to continue paying his salary, so that was a bit tense, but pale in comparison to how our two-year old granddaughter was impacted. My son and his wife are very central to their community, and suddenly, from one day to the next, their house turned from a vibrant home filled with people, to a sad, empty shadow of its former self. With lockdown, our granddaughter couldn’t go to daycare, and despite all precautions, she twice caught sight of her grandpa, and called and called to him hysterically, wanting desperately to be with him. She could not understand why all the people in her life had disappeared and she developed separation anxiety and night terrors. This was particularly stressful for her parents, because they were pregnant, expecting baby number two in July.
We’ve had some extremely hard knocks in our lives, including two tragic losses, so mortality is very real to us. Every COVID death weighed heavy on our hearts, particularly the reports of young people dying. Our empathy for the bereaved knew no bounds. I’d receive emails and messages trying to convince me that COVID is a hoax on the same day as I would hear that a client’s parent had just died of COVID and another had just been hospitalized. When we had gone through our own bereavement, I realized how much the landscape matters, and this was a ghastly landscape that magnified the horror. As if that wasn’t enough, along came the hurricanes and fires as well. I chose to focus my mind on an iconic post that I saw on Facebook, instead. The clip was of a young girl being dressed in protective clothing, so that she could hug her father, a police officer, in his lunch break.
The feeling that we were OK, but others weren’t, was a throwback to our South African days. There is no mental peace when you know that others are suffering. I had to coach myself every day, that we were OK because we had made it so with careful planning, and that we deserved to enjoy the benefits of our foresight.
We got through by counting our blessings. We were safe. We had enough to eat. We were financially able to see the pandemic through. The situation was finite. We knew how to survive and we could trust that, in time, we would recover. After three weeks we were able to end our isolation and re-unite with our granddaughter. This will forever be a highlight memory of our lives. My husband and I sat on the front porch, like little children, waiting for our visitor. By the time our son’s car drove up the drive, we were jumping up and down in anticipation and as soon as our granddaughter could get out of her car seat, she leapt into our arms. Then at the end of July, came our next wondrous blessing, granddaughter number two. What a happy event!
Can you share a few of the biggest work-related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
My private practice work, source of our core income, requires touching people. There was no way I could institute social distancing, and nor could I institute “deep cleaning.” It was a blunt truth. I spent one week orienting my clients, sharing the information that I’d received in the forewarning email and that was it — I had to put out the lights, close the door and go home.
That part of my business was cut and dried, but I had another huge challenge that demanded navigation, and would sorely test my mettle. I was coming to the end of a twenty-five-year project, writing a complicated textbook with many layers to it. My goal had been to complete the book in 2019, but there were too many details. Already beyond my deadline, we were racing against the clock. And then the pandemic hit and we did not get the book finished before lockdown.
A third work-related challenge is that, based on having this comprehensive, brand-spanking-new, first-of-its-kind textbook, I had planned a huge training course, with international attendees, for August 2020. The class was fully registered, bookings had been made. In March 2020 there was no knowing how long we could expect to be out of action — it could be anything from six weeks to two years.
I was in shock. We all were. I mean, how could we not be? I decided not to jump into the fray. I was too upset. I couldn’t face “making a plan” and I definitely didn’t want to “soldier through” yet again. I felt so fragile, I couldn’t even face “breaking in” my new slippers!
We put all our focus into getting the book finished. The book had stretched each of us on the team way beyond capacity, requiring us to become proficient in multiple new skills and find solutions to problems that nobody could help us with. We were pioneering, going where no one has gone before, and it was intense. Add in the pandemic and the issues amplified and multiplied. We now also had to contend with a forest of emotions — shock, anxiety, depression, fear, and the paralysis of feeling hopeless and helpless as an invisible enemy overwhelmed our lives. Everything took literally three to ten times longer. The book itself was exhilarating, but the process of finishing it was a nightmare.
Once the book was finished, I needed to recover, so I allocated time to that. In the meantime, my “wait and see” approach was delivering information. One of my clients, an anesthesiologist qualified to put patients on ventilators, wanted to continue his sessions remotely, and so did his wife. Being on the frontline was nerve-wracking for them and giving them the support they needed was the very least I could do.
I kept myself available to all my clients. I gave free healing sessions to those who caught the coronavirus, and anyone else who felt they needed my help, but couldn’t afford it. Once we’d pulled ourselves together enough, we created helpful videos, posted on YouTube, like Meditation to Boost the Immune System, Becoming Centered and Grounded after Shock and Restoring Peace of Mind in Stressful Times.
Until the pandemic, my remote work was not well developed, as it had represented about 5% of my practice. Now it was 100% of my work. I was developing new skills and refining my process on a daily basis. Next thing I knew, we were making videos demonstrating how to do remote Crystal Surgery. I decided to share my process and offered a free course to purchasers of the book, so they could explore the content with a partner, at the same time as learning how to do remote crystal healing.
In the meantime, I was getting busier and busier with these remote sessions. In the same week, I worked with people in New Zealand, Italy, South Africa, Canada, England and across the USA. Since the pandemic had alerted people to the possibility of remote work, all kinds of new people had been contacting me asking if I did remote sessions.
There are still many challenges ahead and many decisions to make. There is no way to anticipate how this is going to unfold. There is only one way to prepare — get ready to adapt, adapt, adapt!
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Yes, I feel very concerned about the psychological conditions we are experiencing, and I’m especially concerned about the widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Social psychology teaches us that when this gap escalates in size, our society is at grave risk.
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.
My second message is to pay attention to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow was a humanist psychologist who wrote about self-actualization, and he analyzed our broiling mass of human needs into a practical list. First, we attend to basic survival needs such as food and safety, then we attend to psychological needs such as loving connection and esteem, and after that we can think about the “more” of self-actualization. It is helpful to assess which needs are “less met” because of the pandemic, and pay careful attention to finding creative ways to meet those needs. For example, my big need is for loving connection and I’m accustomed to connecting meaningfully with multiple people per week. The isolation was very stressful for me, so I went onto Facebook and formed a network of friends and colleagues who were sharing humorous posts and uplifting images.
We also need to recognize that we are all going through the 5 stages of grief, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (Kubler Ross, 1969). Identify which stage you, and your loved ones are in, and do some conscious work processing each of the stages. Processing emotion is what is meant by “digging deep.” It’s hard, but doing difficult personal work is the dynamic that develops trust in ourselves. When we can trust in ourselves, the world is a much friendlier place. By sending everyone home to shelter in place, the pandemic has offered a rare opportunity for us to examine ourselves — we don’t usually have time for this. Unfortunately, “examining ourselves” is very hard to do, and is a discomfiting process, better done with help. If a family member needs such help, it is important to prioritize, because there is true danger in not getting timely assistance.
When the chips were down, my husband and I learned how to engage in “constructive diversion.” This is the time to catch up on backlog, like clearing the basement. Clearing space is a form of detoxing. If we detox our lives we will feel much, much, much better and go into post-COVID free of the past. I find that after I tidy a closet or drawer, I am energized for days. I go back over and over again to enjoy the refreshed energy and the visual pleasure of a well-organized space. Clearing away clutter and backlog is not only rejuvenating, it also gives us the mental and emotional strength to face the new challenges that will inevitably be coming.
Once we’ve cleared the old there’s room for something new. Learn, or do, something new in 2020, so it isn’t a “lost year.” 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.
Obviously, we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
When I closed my door in Cincinnati, the whole world opened up to me.
My vision with Crystal Surgery is to train two people in every city of the world. Now that the pandemic has trained my target market (and me!) how to use Zoom and other conference technologies, I have new ways to think of offering training, and new, cost effective means to reach my goal.
My business philosophy has been: “If someone else can do it, let them. I want to focus on what only I can do.” While this means small target markets, it also means that I don’t have any competition. With multiple businesses, every opportunity that I can possibly dream of is going to come to me post-COVID. It’s a no-brainer, because all the seeds that I’ve sown are already coming up and there is a pent-up demand building.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
The pandemic has forced us to break the mold. It is a fantastic opportunity for change. Are we going to take it?
From here, the whole world goes forward together with pandemic consciousness. Everything that happens after is shaped by this consciousness and in that sense is “permanent.” But don’t be fooled. There won’t necessarily be changes. Large swaths have been unaffected by the coronavirus, and there are sectors that have benefited immensely. Witness how the economy is going down the tube, yet the stock market continues to surge.
People fight against change. That’s just a fact. We fight for what we know, and we fear what we don’t know. Look what happened with the Affordable Care Act. Opponents fought tooth and nail against the ACA claiming it was unpopular. Then when the chance came to vote out the ACA, it was suddenly discovered that it was very popular, particularly the bit about “pre-existing conditions” that had padlocked so many into life-limiting situations. It’s another paradox: We want the benefit of change, but we fear there will be pain. It’s all neatly contained in the pop song title attributed to Albert King — Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die.
Change has a passive aspect and an active aspect. The world is changed, and because the future is built on the past, that does change the future. People’s circumstances have changed, bringing some changes into their lives, but that doesn’t mean that people have changed. On the contrary, people don’t change. They follow statistical patterns, even while rah-rah-ing about their individuality and personal freedom. Worse, people don’t like change. They complain bitterly if they feel their “way of life threatened.” Our politicians are taking full advantage of this human trait, threatening us with the horrible changes that will be forced upon us if we don’t vote for them.
Most people are probably just waiting for life to “go back” to normal. That means, when push comes to shove, to go back to their old patterns. Fair enough. We established our old patterns for good reasons, one of the best being that that’s what fit our lives.
Others have found value in being forced into a different lifestyle. Our appreciation of family and the value of family-time have come back into focus. We can reassess the costs and policies of commuting long distances to work, the advantages of work-at-home policies and even reviewing the space needs of businesses.
If we want to come out of this changed, we’re going to have to consciously choose change. We need to be specific about the change we want, choose the road and systematically steer ourselves along it.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
I’m going to watch how things unfold, and I’m going to begin by responding to need. That’s straightforward for me to determine, because I can just wait and see what people ask me for. My businesses are like a buffet — I allow people to pick and choose what they want.
My big task is to get myself ready. I am going to need to decide what I want. Having completed the textbook, I’m at a crossroads, positioned to choose what’s next.
I need to rejuvenate so I don’t get overwhelmed. I need to be strong when I select which opportunities will bear the most fruit, not only for me, but for the world.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
Ask yourself: In my field, what will be needed in the post-COVID phase? How do I fit in? What can I contribute? Get ready to respond to this need, and get ready to make your contribution.
Don’t wait to rebuild, start now, so you can hit the ground running when the gates open. The work you do now becomes the foundation for this next phase, and the foundation needs to be deep, flexible and resilient.
Take stock — every business should do stock-taking on a regular basis and again, during a crisis. Honestly evaluate where you were pre-pandemic, where you are now during the pandemic, and where you need to be post-pandemic. We were able to navigate both this down-cycle and the 2008 down-cycle, because we took stock of our entire situation, business and personal, during the 2001 down-cycle. That one really hurt us, forcing us to give up our premises, and juggle bills. By looking at every truth fair and square, we were able to recession-proof our businesses and our lives. A business built during a down-cycle is much, much stronger than a business built on the bloat of boom times.
State your personal intention for the post-COVID economy. Intention is the coordinating mechanism of the universe and energy follows intention. To be clear, an intention is less specific and narrow than a goal, as it includes possibilities from what you don’t know, along with what you do know. Remember: You can modify your intention whenever you want. As soon as you clarify your intention, the magic begins!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The only thing we can change quickly is our attitude,” is the quote I choose for here.
The most challenging aspect of the pandemic was having to cancel the Crystal Surgery Instructor Training, because this was part of my carefully built marketing strategy as well as an important way to get a payday for all our hard work. I had to coach myself step-by-step. I reminded myself what a mistake it had been to push ahead in 2008 with a conference despite the great recession. I reassured myself that we could do the training once the pandemic was over. What I needed most, though, was to transform my disappointment into inspiration. I identified all the new opportunities that could flow to me if I released the training … and that worked. Invigorated instead of depressed, I was able to go to my computer, and inform all the participants that we would be rescheduling, with the certain knowledge that the training would be stronger because of it.
Attitude isn’t only important in business, it is equally important in our personal lives. In my healing work, I’ve discovered that we can’t really begin the process of healing with a “wrong” or “bad” attitude. I am very careful with my clients in this regard. I give them time to vent their pain, anger and distress, and during that time I listen extremely carefully to what they say and how they say it. I listen to the meaning of their words, and ascertain what their souls want. From there, we work together to reframe their understanding of their circumstances, transforming negative to positive. This is the shift that sets healing into motion.
As an Alexander Teacher, I have studied change for 38 years. Change is a long process, with another important feature — change is directional. This is exactly the same as driving your car, you have to pick a destination and then follow the route. You don’t just randomly drive around, you decide where you’re going and you go there. Attitude determines both direction and quality. A negative attitude can engender inaction and destructive behaviors, whereas a positive attitude inspires constructive action toward a desired goal.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Yes, please come and visit 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: www.CrystalHealingTechniques.com