Photo by Melodee Solomon.
Erin Telford, in the simplest terms, is a healer. But she’s so much more than that. Much like our friend Morgan Yakus, Erin was depressed while working in the fashion industry in New York when she felt a calling to the healing arts. It came from deep inside her—a past-life connectedness to the practice. From there, it evolved, and now Erin works with clients through the art and science of acupuncture, herbs, Reiki, and Breathwork.
When I first learned about Erin, I was intrigued by her directness, a quality I personally admire in a practitioner. Sometimes, when you start a healing journey, the easiest approach is indirect, skirting around feeling the pain by practicing modalities that give us the sense of feeling better. But without directly facing the real, honest, and raw pain, truly feeling it and then releasing it, we remain in a chase without ever catching what’s in front of us. With blog posts like, “Why Anger is a Positive Emotion,” “It's Getting Scarier to Stay Stuck Than Change,” and “Constructive Depression,” it becomes clear that Erin’s approach to healing doesn’t allow much in the way of hiding. However, as you will see, her willingness to directly face pain with her clients, giving space for its energies to move and shift, is a reflection of her own commitment to self-work, a commitment we all must make.
As a follow up to Erin’s article We Need A New Way To Work With Pain, I was able to catch an interview with this oft busy yet incredibly grounded woman.
Alison Hersel: Hi Erin, thank you for taking time to talk with us. I’m intrigued by origin stories, so what started your journey towards the healing arts?
Erin Telford: I was always curious and investigating and looking for ways to work with the sadness and anxiety that I experienced beginning as a teenage girl. It wasn’t until I was working for a fashion brand in New York that was making me sick and depressed that I got a sign to go back to school for acupuncture. That moment was a knowing and a reconnection to other lifetimes where I had done this kind of work. It was a quick decision, and I never looked back.
Since then, every time I discover something new that has a profound effect on my spirit and my healing, I learn how to do that thing so that I can share it with others. That’s how I brought Reiki and Breathwork into my practice. I had very intense experiences with both practices that blew my mind.
AH: As a practitioner, what are the primary tools in your toolbox for supporting the healing process?
ET: It’s a lot of things: my breath, my curiosity, my consciousness, my empathy, my commitment, my intuition, a good sense of humor, love, and connection to Spirit.
AH: I’m always intrigued by how individual differences impact the healing process. What are your thoughts on bio-individuality and learning differences as it relates to supporting clients in finding healing tools for self-care?
ET: We can all be served well by quality sleep, eating whole foods, drinking water, moving our bodies, spending time in nature, creative expression and having some connection to something greater than ourselves. Beyond that, it’s an individual path to discover what works and what feels good. I support people in finding and cultivating practices that feel good and fun and sustainable. For some people that is going to be drinking tea, journaling, and meditating. For others, it’s going to be a daily dance practice or even screaming into a pillow for a few minutes every morning. It’s about finding practices that serve you right now.
AH: With so much access to information and options, both ancient and modern, it can feel overwhelming to navigate the healing arts. Do you see clients who are discouraged if a certain modality isn't working for them? How do you support the inquiry process for clients on the path?
ET: I see frustration sometimes because people just want to feel better. We are a culture of pretty quick fixes and grown up problems can be intricate. There is a root, and many branches extend out making it challenging to choose where to start, what to do, and for how long. Some healing modalities or self-care practices or herbal medicines or dietary changes are going to have to be consistent to see any kind of results. Some healing practices are going to create a big immediate shift, and we do need those breakthrough moments to sustain us when the going feels slow.
YOU CAN MAKE A JUDGEMENT ABOUT A PERSON YOU SEE IN A GROUP ABOUT HOW TOGETHER THEY MUST BE COMPARED TO YOU, AND THEN THEY SHARE SOMETHING TRUE AND HEARTFELT, AND THE JUDGMENT DISSOLVES. WE ARE ALL GOING THROUGH IT.
Healing yourself is some of the most important work you will do in your life, but it’s a process of peeling layers. It’s not a marathon, and there’s no finish line or perfect place to get to. If you can approach your healing with a commitment to lighten your burden, deepen your self-knowledge, and follow your intuition and curiosity, it will feel less like a job and more like an exploration. We all need a team of people, so you want to work with people that bring hope, possibility, and help you move forward.
AH: With an insurgence in group healing classes, what role do you see group work serving, and how is the group experience different from one-on-one, or self-directed practice?
ET: My favorite thing about group work is that it helps people feel less alone. It is so easy to think that you are the only one who feels lonely or anxious or different. You can make a judgment about a person you see in a group about how together they must be compared to you, and then they share something true and heartfelt, and the judgment dissolves. We are all going through it. We’re all humans, and we all share the same emotions and pain, even if it takes a different shape. Group work is beautiful in that each person is a perfect contribution to the group and supports the whole. Group work is connective and intimate. It gives people the experience of hearing other people cry or yell or express or share vulnerably. One person’s emotional expression can give someone else permission or encouragement to open up even more. We have an echo in our DNA of how we used to live in groups and in community and an understanding that this is what feels good—people supporting people. One of the greatest predictors of health and a long life are the quality and closeness of our relationships; group work can be incredible for facilitating that feeling of connectivity.
EVERY TIME I DISCOVER SOMETHING NEW THAT HAS A PROFOUND EFFECT ON MY SPIRIT AND MY HEALING, I LEARN HOW TO DO THAT THING SO THAT I CAN SHARE IT WITH OTHERS.
The one-on-one work I do with people is going to be different in that we have an opportunity to tune into exactly what that person needs. I have more space to offer individual counsel and witnessing, so the treatment will be specific to what they want to clear or shift or strengthen.
A self-directed practice is empowering and gives you a chance to experiment and get to know what works for you. With Breathwork, when people practice at home, they might feel free from any kind of self-consciousness they might feel in a one-on-one session or group. They will also be in their own home or a safe space of their choosing. They can choose to do a shorter or longer session depending on what they feel they need.
AH: So what role has community played in your own healing?
ET: One of the biggest mental game changers for me was my first experience of healing in community. I was on my first retreat at my teacher David’s house in New Mexico. I was just checking out the community and holding a little healthy skepticism as I moved through the weekend. There were a couple of people who were offering one-on-one healing work in addition to everything else that was going on that weekend. I had scheduled a massage with an incredible woman who combined Breathwork with massage. Her table was downstairs in the house in the common area outside of three bedrooms that people were staying in. Everything was separated by only a couple of shoji screens. As I was breathing and working through some really intense grief around my younger sister’s death years earlier, people were going in and out of the bathroom, walking up and down the stairs, getting things out of their rooms, napping, etc. I was sobbing and releasing and hearing the sounds of other people moving around me the whole time. It was a moment that took all the shame out of healing in a public space.
YOU LIVE IN YOUR BODY AND YOUR LIFE, SO YOU ARE THE EXPERT ON YOU. I AM MORE INTERESTED IN A PARTNERSHIP WHERE A CLIENT IS SELF-SOVEREIGN, TAKES PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY, AND IS DISCERNING ABOUT THEIR NEEDS.
We are so used to keeping our pain behind closed doors, minds, and hearts and this was an experience that showed me how beautiful it could be when we take the stigma away from feeling pain in front of other people. I have carried that safety and acceptance into the work that I do with my groups and with how I share on publicly on social media.
AH: Have you experienced periods of resistance and discomfort while working through your own healing? What tools have aided you most during those times of angst?
ET: Absolutely. Who wants to feel intense pain and hold your own hand to the fire right? I do it because I love the increased peace and stability and joy that comes on the other side, but it’s not always a good time. I push myself by putting myself in environments where I can’t hide and where I have people and teachers that can see my blind spots. Even then, I’ve had times where I’ve had intense resistance and anxiety before a retreat or a healing session, but that’s only when I know something big is about to move and change. My community and my close friends are my best tools. We are all doing this together so they can support me or call me out when I’m trying to avoid something. I also believe in the ebb and flow of healing work. I move toward it when I need it and also enjoy relaxing in and integrating my efforts.
AH: What do you perceive as barriers to entry in the healing arts for people in pain? These may be limiting beliefs, normative social ideologies, or more tangible obstacles.
ET: Shame, confusion, exhaustion, not knowing where to start, and money, to name a few. When you are in the thick of pain and don’t know which way is up, or it’s just difficult for you to just get through a day, it’s hard to think beyond the immediate to what could possibly be the beginning of a solution. Being in pain is such a delicate space. Asking for help in a vulnerable state can be a barrier. Not knowing who to ask can be a barrier. Not believing that anyone can help you is a barrier. Not being able to afford help is a barrier.
AH: On your website, it reads, "She is fiercely committed to doing her own personal work because she knows she can only take her clients as deep and as far as she is willing to go." I love this statement because it speaks to our interconnectedness. It also humanizes you as a practitioner and allows the client-practitioner relationship to exist as a partnership. With this idea in mind, what are your thoughts about the idea of the "expert?"
ET: The term “expert” gets used loosely sometimes in the health/wellness/coaching world, and it feels a little hierarchical to me. I believe that you are your own best doctor and your own best healer. I am not interested in being a magical being that does magical things to you. I want the people I work with to understand what’s going on, ask questions, and be a powerful half of our healing dynamic. You live in your body and your life, so you are the expert on you. I am more interested in a partnership where a client is self-sovereign, takes personal responsibility, and is discerning about their needs. I have my own lifetime of experience and education, so I will offer that, advice, and use the tools I have to help to support clients in healthy, educated personal authority.
AH: What are your daily self-care rituals?
ET: I keep it simple. I don’t do anything too elaborate. I take my time. I take it slow it in the morning and give myself a couple of hours to prepare for the day before I see clients. I drink coffee and brew a single cup to drink while I read or listen to music or check emails. I always cook myself a good breakfast--usually eggs and vegetables. Some days I’ll go to a yoga class. Some days I’ll take a walk. Some days I’ll do some Breathwork. I honor my energy level, my mood, and my senses to see what feels best. I don’t like to have too much routine or discipline around daily self-care or else it starts to feel like a chore. I just choose what feels most nourishing on any particular day.
AH: What is the best way for our readership to access your services?
For the publication of the interview, Erin also graciously shared a meditation song, including nine minutes of binaural beats, chimes, singing bowls, and 99 subliminal affirmations in her voice reminding you of your divine nature. You can listen above and find more resources from Erin here.