Connecticut Man Is Finance Guru And Shaman
MICHEL MARTIN, host:
I'm Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Coming up, a Washington area businessman is throwing a big inaugural bash for those who might not otherwise be included in the festivities. We'll find out why in just a few minutes.
But first, we're going to dip into the pages of the Washington Post Magazine, something we do just about every week for interesting stories about the way we live now. This week, we learned about Larry Ford. He's a financial consultant in Connecticut. And in a lot of ways, his life is exactly what you'd expect. He drives a Mercedes, he wears designer suits, and he spends his days helping people manage their investments. And in this troubled economy, manage their anxieties about their investments.
But he's driven by another purpose, as well. Larry is also a shaman, a spiritual healer, and the way in which those two worlds collide is the subject of this week's cover story by Laura Bloomenfeld. And Larry Ford joins us now from member station WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut. Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.
Mr. LARRY FORD (Financial Consultant; Shaman): Thanks for having Michel. It's truly an honor.
MARTIN: Well, thank you. But first tell us, what is a shaman? At least, how do you define it?
Mr. FORD: You know, shamanism appears all over the globe, in almost every culture. And at the root of shamanism, it is a person - a woman or a man - who is acting out his or her divine purpose as a healer of people. And my particular gift as a shaman is helping people move into their passion and their purpose and their power in life.
MARTIN: What do you mean by that?
Mr. FORD: Well, I mean that I believe that every one of us has a gift to give back, and that that is exactly why we're here on this earth. And so sometimes in the business of everyday's life, we forget about that and often become disconnected from self. And so first of all, I've learned that through my own journey and had quite a trip on that side figuring out who I am and what I have to give back with my little bit of a unique gift. And also as a shaman, I have a gift of helping people move through some of the blocks that may be holding them back to be fully who they are in their life.
MARTIN: This story is fascinating, and it describes how your pursuit of your calling began with a physical affliction. I mean, you've been working as a financial consultant for a very long time, and it describes how when you were in your mid-30s, that your palms started to itch and then they blistered, which is kind of funny because there is a folk saying that if your palms are itching that you're going to come into money, which is the first thing I noticed about that. But then it said that you made a deal with yourself to do healing work and that you actually had an experience where you laid hands on someone and he did experience a healing, and then you - that once you accepted this gift, the blisters went away. But what I'm curious about is, what made you even think that there might be a spiritual component to what you were experiencing?
Mr. FORD: Michel, it was a feeling. It was a sense that certainly, when I first saw the blisters on my hands, the last thing in the world I connected it to was if I would touch people and go ahead and live my purpose and do my work, they'd go away. In my consciousness that was pretty close to nuts. But you know, deep down inside I had a sense as, you know, began to put cortisone cream on and all that kind of fun stuff, that there was something more to this because during that time of my life things were happening and the gift was beginning to expose itself in ways. And so I made a deal with whoever I thought I was making a deal with - God, spirit - and said, you know, OK, I get it. If I do some more of this, make them go away and I'll believe. And I did some more of my work helping people and it went away and I still didn't believe.
MARTIN: The article describes how in order to pursue this calling you changed your life radically for a time. You went to - first to St. John, then you went Nepal for training. But then you came back to Connecticut and resumed your work as a financial consultant. But you're also working - working on, if that's the right word, as a shaman. How do you work those two together?
Mr. FORD: Well, it's a lot easier these days. And you know, Michel, there's a great saying that I love. I think it's Lao-Tzu, it's a Taoist saying that says, "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." So I'm back. And in many ways, you know, it's just absolutely perfect bringing myself back. I have four kids, two twelve-year-olds and a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old. And so life is fairly normal, as my day goes on, and I just bring my full shaman self into what I do as much as I'm able to in each moment.
MARTIN: I would think that there are people in either world who might have some difficulty accepting the other world. I mean, there are those who believe in some traditions that the pursuit of riches is itself the source of pain, right? Or on the other hand, you describe this very funny scene where you're going out. What were you, on your lawn, burning sage and wearing your yak(ph) beads and your neighbor, who is a DEA agent, kind of looked at you and said, wait a minute. I thought I was living near a normal person.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. FORD: I thought - I thought I knew that guy. I had a deal with him...
MARTIN: What's going with the sage? What's going on? I'm sure he had his dogs come over and test that sage to make sure it really was sage. But is it sometimes hard to reconcile those two identities? Because in some ways people feel that those - the values of each identity are in conflict.
Mr. FORD: It is difficult, you know. I get up in the morning, and especially in these financial markets, you know, things have been panicked. People are running around. And at the core of it, I really feel that it's, you know, a disconnection from self. So I have that challenge, as well, during the day from time to time because the world of the money and the greed and the fear is so disconnected. And we're seeing that in the meltdown of Wall Street and how disconnected that is to the average person. So, yeah, I'm right in the fire of it, and I'm not immune to it. I'm human. And it's difficult some days.
MARTIN: What are some of the things you do as a shaman to help people come into their power, as you put it?
Mr. FORD: The first thing that I do, Michel, is I sit with them open hearted and out of judgment and truly just be present with them. And sadly enough, that doesn't happen with a lot of people in today's busy world. And then when I sit with them, you know, I meet people where they are. The yak beads and the headdress doesn't come out in Connecticut too often because it's going to scare people away, and it's not necessary for the ritual for me. So I meet people where they are, and you know, whether it be people who are going through terminal issues or whether it be someone who's brought to a spot in life where they're saying, hey, you know, I thought life was good but I know there's something more. I need to wake up. I need some guidance. I sit with them, and I actually shift consciousness when I'm with them and help guide them through what they're looking for as best as I'm able.
MARTIN: As somebody who not only deals with numbers but also the emotional component of this current economic crisis, what's your take on the current situation? Is this something that will change us as a people? Is there something profound that we are meant to learn from this or is this is a blip?
Mr. FORD: Oh, boy, Michel. That is the key question. Every morning when I wake up and I meditate and I pray, I pray for change for this because I know that, you know, nature finds its balance, and we often have to go to extremes to bring ourselves back home, back to center. So my prayer is that it will help us reconnect, that Wall Street being so disconnected from Main Street, our governments being so disconnected from the voice of the people, our employers being so disconnected to the employees, the largest disparity of senior management to the lower worker. And many employees have shifted to the relationship of employers as just looking at the next meal ticket.
So I hope that this terrible meltdown that's hurting everyday people and dropping their 401(k)'s and their savings in half, in some cases, is a gift. And I'm extremely hopeful, I'm very hopeful that that will hopefully wake everybody up, and perhaps, Michel, your program and maybe in some small way my voice this morning will help that along.
MARTIN: Why did you decided to go public? I can see a situation where people from one part of your world, which is, in fact, your livelihood, your Connecticut side, your financial consultant side, would be really freaked out by this. It's one thing to sort of keep it on the down low, which is to say, OK, what you do in your own time is your business. But to have you on the cover of this magazine wearing your headdress and your drum and your beads and your scarf...
Mr. FORD: Well, why?
MARTIN: Yeah, why. You know, just do your thing on the down low. Why did you decide to go public?
Mr. FORD: Well, you know, I didn't. Public decided to go me, and I didn't resist it. And I didn't resist it because I feel that because of my unique story of, you know, this upper middle-class white guy who has shaman roots, perhaps it can share with other people that they - you know, everybody does have a gift, and you know, you don't have a put a headdress on to do it. And it may not fit specifically in the modes and the paradigms of society, but you know what? It's why where here. It's not some lofty kind of new-age babble. You know, we're all here for a reason.
MARTIN: Larry Ford is a financial consultant and a shaman. He was featured in this week's Washington Post Magazine in an article by Laura Blumenfeld. If you want to read the piece in its entirety, you can go to our Web site at npr.org and click on Tell Me More. The piece is called "The Shaman of Wall Street." Larry Ford, thank you so much for speaking with us.
Mr. FORD: Thank you, Michel.
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