Quakers aren’t just anti-violence. Much of our work is, in fact, pro-healing. John Calvi, a renowned Quaker healer, on why healing work is so incredibly essential.
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- John Calvi offers that “maybe we spend most of our lives—Quakers and people from the peace churches—undoing the damage that has been done by violence.” What does it mean to dedicate your life to undoing the damage of violence? Is this something that you feel called to?
- John says that when he listens, he receives messages about the person that he is doing healing work on: where the pain is in their bodies and how it has been laid there. Is there work that you do in which you notice that, if you listen, you receive guidance about how to conduct that work?
Violence is always a bad choice. It just is. It not only makes a horrible mess at the time that it’s happening, but it leaves an even bigger mess after it’s been done. There’s the people who are the victims of the violence, there are the people who have done the violence, and it’s just a huge mess and it has reverberations for a long time. So a lot of compassionate work in the world is undoing the damage that has been done by violence. Maybe we spend most of our lives—Quakers and people from the peace churches—undoing the damage that has been done by violence.
Undoing the Damage of Violence
I’m John Calvi. I’m a member of Putney Meeting in Vermont, and I work as a Quaker healer.
I think one of the important things in our time right now is that there are many hurt people. There are many positions of power that think that cruelty and domination is a simple, direct way to operate. As a result, there are many many wounded people.
We really live in a time where we need more and more in the way of people doing compassionate work. Friends have a great history of doing compassionate work. Not only the handful of Friends who were involved in ending slavery, but also organizing for women’s suffrage, and one friend of mine, as a Quaker, his first job was to go into Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and sort the living from the dead. That’s a good day’s work for a Quaker. That’s good compassionate work.
So I teach massage, and I teach energy work, so that there are more and more people doing compassionate work. And there are many, many Quakers involved in doing compassionate work around the world.
The Spiritual Practice of Healing Work
When I begin working with someone, I’m listening to what they have to tell me, if we share common language, which is not always the case. But I’m also listening for the guidance—the spiritual guidance—that comes to me. And often I receive messages about where the pain is in their bodies and how it’s been laid there, and I’m receiving messages about the history of that pain, and whether or not its my work to release it.
For some people, I’m not very much help, and for some people, I’m a little bit of a help. And for some people—thank goodness—there are times I’m a very big help. And so the pain of rape, or the pain of imprisonment can be mostly released so that that is not the loudest voice in that person’s body, and there is this moment of grace when it is removed, and someone who has been through some horrible circumstance comes to a place they thought they would never be in before, where they are completely relaxed and at home with themselves again.
I think of my work as a Quaker healer as someone who comes to clean and wash the damage following violence, and this is an aspect of nonviolence, that we’re doing compassionate work following the violence.