TheAMT: What was your inspiration for writing Finding the River?
Sally Topham: I've always been interested in the many different paths, techniques and strategies I could explore in order to find more skilful ways of moving through life and managing my emotions. I suppose it's because, being an Aquarian, I'm naturally eclectic!
Several years ago, I'd occasionally teach one-day workshops to my Reiki students in which I'd introduce them to various different self-help techniques and I did this along the lines of using Nature's seasonal energies as a guide to show us what we needed to do and when.
This started me off thinking that maybe I could extend this format into a weekend workshop. However, after several attempts at trying to pull something together, I gave it up because there was just too much material to cover. All I had was the title - Finding the River!!! Then, gradually I came to see that perhaps this idea and format were probably better suited to a book. The only trouble was that I never got around to writing it - that is, until the opportunity to do so came through DragonRising back in 2008.
AMT: What challenges did you face when writing the book?
ST: The biggest challenge was finding the time to write as my days are usually pretty busy. I therefore had to do a lot of writing in the evenings at the end of a working day which, of course, isn't the time when one's energies are at their peak! This is why it took me such a long time to write.
Another challenge was finding a way to explain everything so that it unfolded clearly and naturally. I had to be able to present the numerous different exercises and techniques in a manner in which they were able to flow as easily as possible from one to another without being overwhelming. Also, as each chapter is a bit like a mini book in its own right, I had to deliver information about each subject in a way which was clear and understandable, prioritising the key facts and making it interesting enough for the reader to want to find out more about each thing.
AMT: Of the various Energy Therapies featured in the book, which do you find most effective personally?
ST: I use a number of Donna Eden's Energy Exercises on a daily basis and also make an effort to meditate every day. I also do an awful lot of EFT on myself. Keeping the energies of my home as clear and flowing as possible is also important to me as that provides a supporting and nourishing atmosphere in which to work and live. Into all this I feed in Endorphin techniques, EmoTrance, as well as a lot of self-Reiki which I haven't talked about in the book because I don't think it's something you can describe or explain. You have to experience it to get some sort of handle on its healing and rebalancing qualities.
AMT: The book is dedicated to Juliane Koepke, but is there anyone else who has greatly inspired you?
ST: It's dedicated to Juliane because her traumatic experience was such a beacon to me in terms of someone who had the courage and tenacity to plough on through enormous adversity, despite life-threatening odds. Thankfully, few of us have to face such dire challenges. All of my teachers have inspired me - not only because of their knowledge but also because of their individual and unique qualities. For example : Silvia Hartmann for her innovative ideas and extraordinary output of creativity; Donna Eden for her amazing energy; Madison King for her enthusiasm, sense of humour and warmth; William Bloom for his fine mind, vast spiritual and esoteric knowledge and experience, etc. etc. Then there are all the people who've written books who inspired me - too many to mention here; the spiritual teachers who've given me the benefit of their wisdom; not forgetting the help and inspiration received from friends, animals and inner guides.
AMT: Finding the River is full of great advice and excellent exercises, but what is the one piece of advice you would give to everyone who is embarking on a journey of discovery with Energy Therapies?
ST: Keep your mind open, and listen to your body and the rest will fall into place.
AMT: The book has already received much praise from some highly respected members of the Energy Psychology community, including Dr Mark Atkinson, William Bloom and Silvia Hartmann. Did you expect such a great response to your book before it was published, and how does it feel to get such a reaction from pillars of the energy community?
ST: I didn't know what to expect, but I certainly didn't anticipate getting these reactions. It's very gratifying and humbling and I feel very honoured to receive such praise from teachers and practitioners for whom I have so much respect and admiration.
AMT: You were trained as an actor originally, so how did you discover Energy Therapies?
ST: Everything unfolded very gradually. I became interested in things like telepathy, ESP (Extra Sensory Perception), and ancient cultures and the arts and sciences they practised when I was in my teens. I'd already decided that God wasn't an ancient sage with a long white beard living on top of a cumulus cloud (!) and had begun to intuit that the nature of the Divine was some energy or force to which we were somehow all aligned - although I wasn't able to understand this in any depth.
My early life in the the theatre brought me into contact with new and interesting people and opened my mind to things I'd never encountered before. I remember one actress I shared "digs" with ("digs" is a traditional show biz name for lodgings where actors stay when they're either on tour or working outside of their locality), who was into levitation. She knew how to make people's bodies become light as a feather so it was possible to lift them up with your fingertips. One evening after the show she showed me how to do this and we lifted our 18 stone landlord up off a chair just using our index fingers! I was never able to replicate what we did (although I certainly tried a few times!), but I was amazed and enthralled with what I'd seen and experienced. It really brought home to me the truth of that much quoted line from Shakespeare's Hamlet in which he says : "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy". Being exposed to so many new and fascinating things, I suppose it was inevitable that I slowly opened up to accepting the existence of mystery and extraordinary natural forces.
In the early 1970's, inbetween acting engagements I became involved and active in an esoteric group where I learnt to meditate and use crystals for healing purposes. This opened me up even further to the idea of an energy which pervaded all things and which could be harnessed for healing purposes. I learnt an awful lot in a relatively short time, and developed a great appetite for further knowledge.
Ten years later, I found myself drawn towards Indian religions and philosophy and began following my first spiritual master. Whilst involved in following his teachings, I encountered Polarity Therapy and decided to train to become a therapist in this technique. Polarity is an extraordinary combination of east/west understandings blending together Naturopathy, Ayurveda, Osteopathy and the knowledge of the subtle energy which flows through everything in life. During my training, I learnt that by developing sensitivity in the hands, one can detect subtle energy blocks within the human energy anatomy which can be softened and dissolved through a combination of gentle touch, manipulation, diet and exercise. I also learnt how our thoughts can affect our attitudes, health and well-being. From the mid 80's onwards, I became more and more fascinated by the mind/body connection. I had no idea that at this exact time, the fields of Energy Psychology and Energy Medicine were being formulated and developed.
I later moved on to study another Indian spiritual path which was when I first came in contact with and experienced Reiki, although it wasn't until the mid 1990's that I did my Reiki training.
By the early 'noughties' I was being drawn irresistibly to experiencing and training in more and more energy work and between 2000 and 2005 I trained in EFT and EmoTrance as well as studying Energy Medicine. And the rest, as they say, is history!
AMT: What can AMT practitioners gain from Finding the River? How can it help them, both in their working life as practitioners and in their personal life?
ST: Finding the River covers various levels of working. It's a guide for people wanting to find a way, first and foremost, into helping themselves through difficulties and challenges. In the process of doing that, this book can lead people into discovering how to work with their own energy using simple techniques. It then moves more deeply into stuff like meditation and spirituality and goes on to take the reader towards the understanding that we're all energetic beings living in a world made up of energy with which we're constantly interacting in positive and negative ways. This understanding then provides a platform for learning how to work to help oneself using techniques from Energy Psychology and Energy Medicine and many of the other energy-based methods and strategies I've described throughout the book.
Whilst on the surface, AMT practitioners might think Finding the River tells them nothing they don't already know, I believe that anyone committed to personal/spiritual development and energy work understands that ultimately, we always have to keep going back to basics. And that every time we do, we gain a new level of understanding. This is a process which goes on continually and helps us move through the seasons of our development and, if you believe in reincarnation, as we go from one life to another. It's a never-ending cycle. There's always room for more growth and understanding.
We have to learn to always look beneath the surface. That which appears simple has great depth and the deeper we go, the higher we can reach. But within all of this, we have to learn to keep ourselves grounded and centred so we stay balanced as we begin to unfold and discover our true nature; and the exercises and techniques for doing this are always worth repeating and coming back to time after time after time. The greatest masters never stop practising their art or forget about looking for deeper understandings of the things they already know. Finding the River is therefore a handbook not only for people who are new to this kind of work but for practitioners who have been involved in it for a while. It can also serve as a guide and reminder for those who are further advanced along the path of healing and spiritual development.
Finding the River: The Energy Self-Help Guide for Surviving Life's Challenges by Sally Topham is available now from the publishers website and all good bookshops.