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Washington Post Magazine: Voodoo Economics

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As a successful financial planner, Larry Ford helps his clients manage their wallets. But as a shaman, he also helps them tap into their spirituality. Video by Pierre Kattar/washingtonpost.com

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Laura Blumenfeld
Washington Post Magazine Staff Writer
Monday, December 8, 2008; 12:00 PM

Larry Ford was a successful financial planner. But he couldn't shake the emptiness inside. Now he straddles two worlds: finance and spiritual healing.

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Washington Post Magazine staff writer Laura Blumenfeld will be online Monday, December 8 at 12 noon ET to discuss her cover story on Larry Ford, "Voodoo Economics."

Laura Blumenfeld has covered national politics, counter-terrorism and the Middle East for the Washington Post. Her non-fiction book Revenge: A Story of Hope, has been translated into eight languages.

A transcript follows.

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Laura Blumenfeld: Hi folks,

Monday lunch is a good day to talk about life's purpose since we're all back at our desks, wondering... why?

Thanks for joining us for a chat about my story "The Shaman of Wall Street."

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K Street: First thing yesterday morning my husband brought the Magazine to me and said "you have to read this." I am an attorney and for the past year or so, I have felt I am being "called" to do something more. But it has been difficult trying to figure out how to balance and make sense of my day job when my weekends are spent learning reiki and other healing modalities. The story was inspirational and encourages me to push ahead on my journey, knowing that the two sides of my life do not have to be mutually exclusive. Thank you so much for writing the story and thank you to Larry for sharing his experiences.

Laura Blumenfeld: Hi lawyer, thanks! So happy the story resonated with you. I think a lot of people, given the meltdown, are searching. Here's an email from a reader in New Zealand:

A friend sent me your article on Larry Ford. I am in New Zealand so would not usually have access to your paper. Congratulations on a great piece. The fear is so huge at the moment all over the world and it is like a virus in that the more fearful we are the more we have to fear, it was great to see some balance amidst all of that. If we do believe then we can and will be ok.

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Washington, D.C.: Wonderful Article about Larry's healing powers connecting the two worlds of Wall Street and Beyond together. I ask Larry, after my own exerience with Shamanism, soul retrieval, and identifying a power animal, how can we on a daily basis tap into that world of 'knowing' our true power, and direction in life? Thank you!

Laura Blumenfeld: Thought you might like to hear from the shaman on this one. Here ya go:

[Lawrence Ford] not always easy is it in this land of busyness - go to the moment- be still during the day... find your eye in the midst of the hurricane- it is where your power lies- your core- your you!

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Bethesda, Maryland: I may know a couple of people who would like to meet Larry Ford as both a financial planner and shaman. How does one contact him for an appointment?

thank you.

Laura Blumenfeld: You can reach Larry at:

larry@gettingpurpose.com

Laura Blumenfeld: www.gettingpurpose.org

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Washington, D.C.: I liked the story. How does Larry keep his own demons at bay? And how does he quell the corporate voice that says this is all nonsense and imagination? Can he heal himself of physical ailments?

Laura Blumenfeld: I love this question. I poked Larry quite a bit trying to get a rise out of his demons. Here is his answer to you:

[Lawrence Ford] I do not take on the troubles of others- it is not my job and would only hurt both myself and the client- the deeper I have moved into my power the softer the voices get- I know they come from fear and lack of understanding

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Marlborough, Mass.: I read your article on the Wall Street Shaman -- I have been an executive in the software industry for many years. Your article touched me deeply (I can't quite explain it) and shook me to my core -- I am confused and very motivated to find my purpose and passion and don't know how or where to start -- do you have any guidance for me?

Laura Blumenfeld: Thanks so much. I passed your question along to Larry. Here is his reply:

[Lawrence Ford] KNOW that you are on the right path and I honor you for your courage to listen. The one thing you can do is trust your experience- and know that you are opening up to something greater- deeper into you. Look for signs- books that may call you, people you may know that have followed a similar path.. perhaps our website may help as well- trust that the right teachers will appear...and don't let go of your dreams..

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New York: Does a shaman ever profess any particular religion?

Laura Blumenfeld: He believes in all gods. When we were standing in front of the New York Stock Exchange, a minister tried to get Larry to proclaim Christ as the true God. The minister got annoyed when Larry said he was one of his gods. That was a little depressing for Larry because he thrives on a sense of connectedness.

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anonymous: I guess it was only a matter of time before someone came along who embodied two of the worst, most evil human traits imaginable -- that of a Wall Street -fixer- and a religious cult leader. The irony is stunning!

Laura Blumenfeld: I'm going to send your comment to Larry and see if he'd like to respond, yes?

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Munich, Germany: I usually associate the word Shaman with North American Medicine Men. Is there any connection between what you do and their beliefs and practices? Also, is Buddhism an important part of your methods?

Laura Blumenfeld: [Lawrence Ford] I am initiated in the Tamang tradition which is Tibetan so there are close links to Buddhism- but Shamanism is not a religion. I believe we are all connected- and I have also been blessed to have been taught by the native American tradition as well.

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Philly: I think this is fantastic article and that the writer did a great job of presenting all the angles. Shyster, shaman, you decide. Hell of a story.

Laura Blumenfeld: Hey, thanks.

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Laura Blumenfeld: One question I had going into the shaman story was, "is this real?"

Turns out, it may not matter. I asked my brother, Dr. Hal Blumenfeld, a neurologist at Yale medical school, what he thought of spiritual healers. He said, "the emotional parts of the brain are closely connected to pain thresholds and to the immune system. Because of that the placebo affects can be very real."

In other words, if you believe it is real, it is. Or at least a little bit.

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Washington, D.C.: Like K street, my husband brought your article to my attention too! I am a scientist, but have been studying Peruvian shamanism and go back and forth in my own mind as to what is real and what is not. It was wonderful to read of someone else successfully balancing both of these worlds, thanks so much.

Laura Blumenfeld: have you encountered any spirits?

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Laura Blumenfeld: some folks read the story and thought Larry seemed like a hustler. here is his response to the earlier post:

[Lawrence Ford] I am sorry that you have so grossly misunderstood the intention and the work. I suggest you look at yourself and why this story is stirring you up... it is the key to growth... either way I wish you many blessings..

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Shamans: Thanks for a terrific article. The contrast of his two worlds was just delightful! Shamans exist on every continent within indigenous cultures - Africa, North and South America, Asia, Australia, Europe, and Antarctica. Most of us in the non-indigenous cultures of the planet find shamanism improbable. And - if it doesn't really exist then the shaman must be taking advantage of the person who is seeking help. Whether you believe the methodology or not, the individuals who sought help from Larry Ford appeared to find it; were comforted when distressed. Contrast that with the debacle of the real estate industry allowing individuals to be fooled into thinking they were buying homes, but were not, or the imploding financial markets based on fantasy. Got to agree with Larry here - I think the shaman has a better sense of reality than many of us claiming to know what that is.

Laura Blumenfeld: thanks for your comment. One thing I've learned from the meltdown is how connected we all are.

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Washington, D.C.: Amazingly GREAT article. We are a new local group (The Tribe of Beltway Shamans, http://www.meetup.com/Tribe-of-Beltway-Shamans/) that forms a sacred circle every two weeks right near the U Street Corridor. We hold space for one another, do some ritual, discuss shamanism, and generally socialize (afterwards). It would be great to have folks like Larry join us to share some nights.

Michael Walker

Laura Blumenfeld: Hey Larry, want to Shamanize D.C.?

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Anywhere, USA: Mysterious. Fun. In its own way, it's all very real. We have all had rare moments when we feel the presence of an ancestor or old friend, or start to cry unexpectedly. I can understand that a person has a talent to initiate these kinds of release and feeling, and not use it to fleece people.

I also have a job with a personal touch. I do gardening and landscaping for urban clients. I want the garden to be enjoyed, felt, lived in. I share what makes me feel good. I work hard, and I don't get rich. Customers ask for something just to keep up with the neighbors and I won't take the job. It's too much work.

Laura Blumenfeld: Nice to hear upbeat voices. The other day a friend said that given the economy it's now "every man for himself." Yikes.

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Yourself: Laura, since spending time with Larry working on this article have you applied any of his shamanic techniques to your own life or work when you feel stressed or lost?

Laura Blumenfeld: Ah, you got a smile out of me. I've kept myself at a professional distance from Larry's shaman-ways. There's one thing though that I got from him: instead of saying "have a great day," I now say "make it a great day."

Like, it's up to me, and my attitude.

Which is usually pretty stressed.

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Washington D.C.: If the question on spirits was to me, well, not exactly. I usually perceive from an "inner knower channel". That is, I just know and feel rather than see actual spirits. But answers come to me in that way. I must admit a bit of "shaman envy" to those who actually see these spirits!

Laura Blumenfeld: Larry -- help this shaman! How can she/he see spirits?

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New York: The article was really fascinating. I wonder if a shaman has any connections to a formal religion like Christianity, etc.?

Laura Blumenfeld: Here's Larry's reply to your question:

[Lawrence Ford] there are many paths that lead to the top of the mountain and I take in all I can from many of the great religions and teachers that have come. All of us are connected, even religions..and at the top of the mountain we are all one...

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Laura Blumenfeld: Wouldn't it be cool if a spirit spoke to us during this Washington Post Live chat?

Anyone?

Anyone?

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How much does it cost?: Maybe that is why some folks are skeptical, you take the loot and get a massage out of the process.

Laura Blumenfeld: Good question, thanks. Larry charges anything from $0-$250. He has formal sessions which he charges for, but I've seen him shamanize the toll booth lady, holding up traffic on the Henry Hudson Parkway, or the guy standing behind him on line at Starbucks. It's a way of life for Larry. But yes -- it's also a living.

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Larry the Shaman: Do you install cable too?

Laura Blumenfeld: He installs invisible cable, from you to your power source. :)

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Harrisburg, Pa.: This may be a question more for Larry Ford, yet how similar or different are the beliefs of a shaman from the beliefs of the gurus who pray for communities, or priests or nuns or ministers who pray for others, or that fact that people pray themselves, or believe that positive energies can cause improvements around them. Do you see some similar connections in each of these beliefs?

Laura Blumenfeld: [Lawrence Ford] ALL ONE :)

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Washington, DC: On the question of "seeing" spirits -- for me it's more of a feeling thing. I had to get used to the idea that my physical eyes are for seeing things on this plane; and my "visionary eyes" are for seeing things like spirits, chakras, energy fields, etc. It was tough because we're so used to only believing what we see with the physical eyes. Once I got used to the idea that was I envisioned was also real, I felt the chains of disbelief drop away.

Laura Blumenfeld: Yes, Larry describes it as a 'knowing.' He says it doesn't come in through any of the five senses.

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New York, N.Y.: Earlier today, I was discussing John Lennon, whose anniversary of his death is tomorrow, and how the Broadway play "Lennon" came out at the wrong time, following September 11, when people in New York audiences were not as open to themes of interconnectedness and peace. The play had several different people including different races and sexes portray Lennon throughout the play, which also was a little quirky for audiences. Yet, that was the point of Lennon: we are all connected. We are all Lennon, we are all each other. We all shine on. I noted similar themes in this article on the shaman, and thought I would pass this along.

Laura Blumenfeld: Super! I agree. The Shaman of Wall Street would make a great musical. Dancing brokers! Singing stock analysts!

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New Jersey: Very, very interesting article. Larry, do you have any predictions on the future of our economy that you want to share with us?

Laura Blumenfeld: [Lawrence Ford] very funny!..unfortunately for you not one of my gifts. But I do predict that this opportunity will move many of us to reconnect, to slow down for a moment and examine how out of purpose we have become...so I have lots of hope

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Riverdale, N.Y.: Is it possible to get kids involved in this shaman approach to life?

Laura Blumenfeld: Larry talks a lot about "being in the moment," about not allowing distractions to take you away from what's important in life. With kids, it's easy to get distracted. How many of you read the paper at the breakfast table, when your kids would rather you pay attention to them? I would say, try to "be in the moment" more with them. This from a mom of three who's addicted to her Blackberry...

Here's Larry's take--

[Lawrence Ford] sounds like you may have something here (and something to give back!) - I adore kids and love the thought... let me know what you figure out.

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Arlington, Va.: How did you find Larry?

Laura Blumenfeld: I met him in St. John three years ago. I called my editor and said there was "this shaman person," treating vacationers. She loved the story idea and I wrote a brief piece about him then.

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Washington, D.C.: Do plants and animals hold special importance to Larry? I've heard that they're teachers -- any thoughts?

Laura Blumenfeld: The morning he shamanized Brian and Terri, two deer walked up to his living room window. He was very excited about the symbolism. He said they were a symbol of compassion.

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Washington, D.C.: Larry, do you have any thoughts on time and space, past/present/future? If we're all one, then does anything much matter if it "happened yesterday" or could (potentially) happen tomorrow? I imagine positive thinking is the best way to live -- that and to be aware of the illusory nature of things?

Laura Blumenfeld: From Larry Ford --

You're here for a reason... We all have a purpose. When we are on the path to finding and embodying our purpose, we live in authentic power, we are excited to be alive, and we ask ourselves "What more can we do?" When we are out of purpose and have lost connection to self and our reason for being on this earth, life is draining, and we ask ourselves "Why are we here?" I also run a non profit called Getting Purpose, Inc.that helps individuals and companies reconnect to their purpose, reclaim their power, and ignite their passion. We dedicate ourselves to reawakening the conviction that we are here for a reason by providing practical, real-world education and examples to help guide individuals and organizations into an empowered life of purpose.

Please visit www.gettingpurpose.org

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Laura Blumenfeld: Did any of you do anything differently yesterday or today because of Larry's story?

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Laura Blumenfeld:

[Lawrence Ford] sounds like you've got it nailed- in my experience (outside of the market openings and closings :)) time is not linear. But then the paradox- we are here and very much a part of this dream we have created- very much rooted in linear time.. like most great things better to be experienced than discussed--

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Washington, DC: I think a special "thanks" is in order for you, Laura. Your article and the Post's willingness to publish it is a great help in spreading the message about shamanism. Hopefully it will enrich our local community and propel people into finding out more about this awesome way of living their lives. Thanks so much!

Laura Blumenfeld: I'm publishing this post because it will make my mother proud. thank you

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Washington, DC: Does Larry have anything special planned for the upcoming full moon on Friday? Does it hold a special meaning in shamanism?

Laura Blumenfeld: [Lawrence Ford] I love full moons it signifies the peak of a cycle- Thanks for the reminder and the idea for my Friday night date. I think I will sit in my home with my fiance and just stare for a while!

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Laura Blumenfeld: Well, an hour later. We're still at our desks. But hey, at least we connected...

Thanks for joining the chat. Signing off now.

Make it a great day.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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