The moment I read the topic, “the balancing act,” (writing for an e-zine in India) a few global dilemmas came to mind instantly.
Sex and spirit—old as hills and never to be resolved properly I think.
Love and Lust—huge topic by itself. Do we have a tough time being sexually attracted to the people who love and nurture and take good care of us?
Spirituality and materiality—this I think continues to be one of the biggest conflicts for most practitioners in the complementary healing world and one I want to restrict myself to for now.
Having grown up in Calcutta and seen people living in the most wretched and horrific poverty I am crystal clear on one thing—there is Absolutely NOTHING spiritual about being poor.
I come from a business family whose main goal was to make money! So there is a part of me that is happy with the idea of having and enjoying all that money can buy.
And yet since having drifted into the complementary healing field 20 years ago, I have had a hard time charging my fees without cringing a wee bit every time.
The reason I keep mentioning “complementary healing” is because doctors and surgeons, dentists and all the “traditional” healers have No issues expecting to be paid and even their patients don’t give it a second thought. Outside of voluntary services, there is no profession or service or business where you are not expected to pay a remuneration.
And yet the moment I started printing my business card and distributing it to a few and sundry, especially family and friends, mostly everyone began assuming that any reading would be free—just as their pundits gave. Well the pundits could be given a small donation of 101 rupees, half a dozen bananas and a newspaper bag full of old laddus. But since I would be clever enough to spot old laddus, they couldn’t and thus didn’t offer me anything!
If there was someone amongst the relatives selling furniture, or jewellery or shirts, it was clear that you wouldn’t really get a free dining table, or a free gold ring or such from them. But for some reason what I offered, invaluable guidance and healing, was expected gratis.
My dilemma first began showing it’s venomous head when for the first year or so of my astrological practice I charged $25 and spent a week working on the personally analysed and typed 10-12 page horoscope report!! I told myself since I was just starting out it was right that I should keep my fees so pathetically low.
I discussed the issue with my Hypnotherapy Tutor in New York who warned that if I don’t charge, my service will not be valued—also the treatment does not “stick” for some reason.
I agreed vigorously and proceeded to continue giving free or very low priced sessions.
A few years later, I was sick of the anxiety and resentment about the constant confusion and yet couldn’t mention the price without feeling guilty, ashamed, fearful and worried. And at the same time, charging low fees gave me absolutely No feelings of satisfaction at having done a good deed which it ought to have been.
Consciously and rationally I had a fantastic case for charging a fat fee as I was obviously highly skilled and offered a superb service. (The testimonials on my website are from real people).But obviously the complex was rooted deep in my subconscious beliefs about my self worth, money matters and spirituality.
And to be fair most of the issues of payment came up with my clients or friends or family in India. In all these years, there have been maybe just a couple of instances when I’ve been asked for concession by clients here in the UK.
In India I often hear someone mention an astrologer they went to, “he doesn’t charge. He may sometimes take a small donation. Good man”! Does not charge a fee = good person. Since just about everyone charges for the services or goods they provide, the few who don’t are automatically considered noble, virtuous and holy.
So one sunny afternoon in my home in London I made a decision that for at least a whole year, I would charge EVERYONE outside the immediate family. And only after that period which would hopefully clear this complex, I would offer some free sessions as part of my pro bono work.
I was pumped up and couldn’t wait to test my new resolve and I am not dramatising for the sake of the story but actually, the Next day I received a call from a chap in India, my first love, our first contact in about 20 years, who was going through severe financial problems and had learned that I was now an astrologer and asked if I would give him a reading!
Walking on hot coals would have been less painful as over the next few days I agonised and wept and finally explained to him why I just would have to charge him—but, I added quickly, he could pay whenever he was able to. He was very decent, said no problem and did send me a check some months later.
Unlike of course a surgeon in Delhi who, after I’d finished giving him a reading in 2007, stood up from the chair and walked smartly out of my office saying he would mail the cheque. Although I’ve written off ever receiving that cheque, some minuscule part of me still feels like bopping myself on the head for letting him walk off without being able to say a word. To be fair to myself, he scuttled out so quickly I didn’t stand a chance.
So where does this fear of asking for a fee come from? And I know it is not mine alone—there are dozens of self help books, audios and miraculous programmes all offering coaching on exactly this conundrum!
For many of us the issue is not that we don’t allow ourselves to have any material comforts—in fact quite often we have supportive and financially sound spouses who don’t, thankfully, have our complexes.
But mostly it seems to be a belief rooted in childhood about our own self worth, qualities of a good person, and believing there is something virtuous about poverty. For some of us who studied in convent schools, it was likely the Sister/Poor Claires and Franciscans and their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience that got us.
For when you think about Hinduism, there is a goddess specifically in charge of all material wealth. There is a god who can remove all your complexes which prevent you from acquiring such wealth. There is a bloke, Kuber, one of the richest in the universe, the accountant of gods, whose presence in your altar is deemed beneficial. The Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupati, promises all the wealth you want for a small commission!
So clearly, if holistic healing is rooted in spirituality, money and the pursuit of money is not prohibited by at least the Hindu gods.
Then, quite possibly it is more about whether you feel you are deserving or not. If you grew up being told you were not good enough as many, many many of us were, then how could you ethically charge for providing a service at which you couldn’t really be very good!
If you learned that giving everything of yourself and what you had freely was a virtue and made you a very likeable and kind person, then the opposite, asking for money made you bad. So what were you going to choose?
Not only do we feel awkward about asking for our own fees, but sneakily judge anyone else who has no hesitation asking for a fee that in heart of hearts, you would kill for!
But say I managed to get Shahrukh Khan as a client and managed to confidently quote Rs one lakh per session (yes you can stop giggling!), how do I determine how much to charge someone in the remaining 98 percent of the population.
This is more like a statistical or technical problem. Should I charge premium rates on Fridays and economy rates the rest of the week?
Another layer of this whole muddle is it’s hard to place a value on or quantify a healing session because sometimes the results are not instant. You may feel the difference three days later and that too very indirectly, as in a change of some attitude. How much is that worth to you as a client?
As a practitioner I feel a bit relieved that our attitude towards money is changing. Even though we still try to barter for service, pass it off as “energy exchange”, offer concessions and so forth, increasingly we are seeing the difference between money as something to hoard and attach to, or money as energy which can flow through our lives.
People like Deepak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins, Oprah and dozens of other spiritual, super successful and very wealthy people have also been showing us how this inner discord is unnecessary and doesn’t serve anyone.
Ultimately, in order to clear these stupid blockages I think we need to address two main themes rooted in our childhood conditioning: 1. our sense of self worth 2. our beliefs about spirituality and service.
(Note to myself: remove offer for concessions on my website).
God Bless you all.Share