Located in Ashland, Oregon, The Leela School is an educational non-profit (501c3) dedicated to world peace and freedom through universal self-realization. The school offers retreats and training locally, as well as in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The mission of the school is for both client and therapist to wake up. This will support a world of peace and freedom.
In today’s interview, we spoke with Leela School Trainer Lisa Schumacher to discuss what the School is offering this year, including certification courses in Ashland in April and September.
Hi Lisa, welcome back, and thank you so very much for speaking with us today.
Thank you, Shields. I so much enjoyed our talk the other day!
Lisa, to begin with, will you please introduce us to the Leela School and its history here in Ashland, Oregon?
The Leela School of Awakening was founded here in 2016. The school arose out of the meeting that Eli Jaxon-Bear, my teacher and the founder of the Leela School, had with his teacher, Papaji, whom he met on his search for enlightenment in Lucknow, India back in the early 90’s.
Confirming Eli’s realization and knowing that he was training therapists, Papaji gave him an assignment, “Let both client and therapist wake up.” This gave birth to Eli’s vision of spreading world peace and freedom through universal self-realization. The vehicle for this is the teaching of being a True Friend – having a silent mind and an open heart. This approach to life and self-reflection has now spread throughout the world. We have watched over the past years as the light of self-inquiry has spread from heart to heart on almost every continent. Deeper discoveries of what it means to live a life of true freedom and service to yourself, and the world is the heart of our school.
Lisa, the Leela School hosts students from all around the world. Does the school have a campus or virtual online location?
The Leela School’s main office is based here in Ashland; with schools and staff in Sydney, Australia; and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. In the last two years during the pandemic, we have held all our classes online through Zoom. People joined from all over the world and united the three schools in a beautiful way. This year the school will return to in-person courses, with a simultaneous online (hybrid) option on Zoom, so that everyone who wants to can participate.
What types of courses are being offered at the Leela School and who are your teachers?
The courses reflect the Leela School’s commitment that you will be trained in a compassionate and heart-based manner, with the most advanced skill set for serving yourself and your community. You will learn how to address and work with the three levels of therapeutic intervention: symptom level, such as curing phobias and stopping addictions; ego strengthening which might include healing trauma, meeting despair, gaining self-confidence, and addressing fear; and uniquely to our training, ego transcendence, which is support in waking up from your own egoic identification and directly realizing your true self.
Right now, as well as teachers in Australia and Amsterdam, we have German-speaking people teaching in Berlin and Hamburg.
I feel so blessed to be a part of this sacred work in the world. It came to me by way of Gangaji, whom I was first introduced to in a video, shared with a group in the living room of a friend here in Ashland in 1995. While watching this seemingly ordinary woman speak, I found that my mind was completely stopped and that something in her voice was penetrating deep into my heart. I heard her say, “Be your natural Self,” and my heart caught on fire! I became conscious of my own true desire to be totally authentic in the world. I didn’t know it, but I was ripe for love to take me and for my life to be used in service of awakening. I have always wanted to spread love and peace, to be true and kind and honest, and I realized that this is my true nature.
In the School, we discover how to be a True Friend; how we can meet each other with a quiet mind, an open heart and not take anything personally. We become a mirror for the other, without an agenda, without needing anything; facilitating a true meeting that is the fulfillment of the desire for connection. Connection is found when you put your personal story aside and meet the other freshly. Then we can listen to one another, rather than miss each other by always wanting to “be heard.” To listen is to receive. To be received is truly a gift. The Leela Therapist knows how to listen, not by doing it, but with Heart and from the quiet presence of one who has emptied herself of doing.
Lisa, will you please tell us what the enneagram is and how it is utilized at the Leela School?
The enneagram is a revelatory system for identifying egoic fixation in specific detail and traits, with accompanying emotions, thoughts and behaviors. This allows for a deep level of self-reflection. It reveals how we have falsely identified ourselves as a body with certain behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Once these patterns of subconscious identification are brought to light, they can be seen through in the search for your true self, that is not fixated. In this way, the enneagram is immediately useful in the process of ending our personal story of suffering.
In the Leela School we utilize the discovery that the character fixation is who you are not, to realize who you really are. This is the possibility to use the enneagram as a sacred tool for awakening.
I understand that the Leela´s School approach in using the enneagram is very different than many may be familiar with. Can you please tell us more about this?
Most people use the enneagram as a personality system, which is a more superficial layer rising out of the ego. In this vein everyone wants to have a better personality, that is to be more successful in the world, through relationships, career, and family. In pursuing this we chase after egoic improvements and pleasures by practice and acquiring, being a better, more enlightened personality. People will then identify themselves as a more enlightened fixation without ever noticing the deeper egoic suffering just below the surface.
The trap is that you reinforce your subconscious egoic identity and use the fixation as an excuse to justify a continuation of suffering by labeling yourself a “type.” Usually, people who discover the enneagram head straight for an online test to see what number they are. Over the decades of working with people individually and in large groups around the world, we have found these online tests to be largely ineffective in identifying the correct fixation type.
The reason is that most people are unconscious of the deeper patterns that are running their lives, underneath the apparent personality. Most, if not all of us, have a story about ourselves that overlooks the deeper structure of the character fixation. The enneagram reveals this false character that is covering the essence of your being with fixated patterns of relationship. It is a powerful medicine for seeing who you really are.
It has been truly revelatory in my life, to engage in deep study of the enneagram and find liberation from the unnecessary suffering that comes with egoic fixation. Most people don’t even know the egoic identity is running and believe that this is just “me.” I know this was true for myself.
When I took the course and then read Eli’s book, Fixation to Freedom: The Enneagram of Liberation, I learned that what I was calling “me” I could actually find described in a book! It was all predictable, mechanical and painful. Definitely not unique! The enneagram, the way that we teach it in The Leela School is for those who want freedom, not another identity. It is a potent medicine to be used in sacred space for transforming the attachment to the personal.
It is the end of seeking for a better life inside the trance of an unfulfilled someone. I can’t say enough about the benefits of delving deeply into it with the experienced guidance of a Leela School Mentor.
Lisa, what are some of your favorite training and teachings that the Leela School offers?
Well, I love it all. It’s my passion, and I’ve given myself to it. Meeting people and supporting them to discover the essence of being a True Friend to themselves and in the world is nothing short of Grace in action. Each meeting is Sacred Space, each person in attendance embodies the very real potential for the end of the madness of war and selfishness in the world.
Whether it is learning how to be in rapport during the True Friend Immersion or uncovering your fixation in Eli’s 5-day Seeing Through the Structure of Ego retreat, we hold the space for the dawning of pure presence in individual consciousness. It is thrilling. It is how I am an activist for what is possible for humanity, and how I personally take a stand for the truth. All of us in the school want this, with all of our hearts, out of Love for life and peace, and dignity.
There are many Leela-trained therapists around the world. Please talk more about the premise of the work.
Our goal is to serve everyone who is interested in attaining true self-knowledge, freedom, and peace and to inspire unconditional respect for human dignity and diversity. Our core values include supporting the right to control our choices in life; avoiding actions that cause harm or servility; treating all individuals justly, fairly, and with empathy and grace; fulfilling our responsibility of trust in professional, mentoring, and personal relationships; fostering the well-being of both individual and society by facilitating the realization of our true nature.
Lisa, what does it mean to “awaken” and what does this word symbolize in the Leela School?
To awaken is to have a radical shift in your self-knowledge into direct realization. To awaken means to turn away from everything you believe to be real to discover unchanging reality. Then, you are no longer believing who you always believed yourself to be. You are instead rooted in the direct realization of who you are, beyond belief.
It is the recognition that who you really are is complete and whole in this moment. This is the root of fulfillment and the foundation of true causeless happiness.
Also, to be awake to your true nature is to no longer be compelled to betray yourself for any reason. To have the freedom to say “yes” and the freedom to say “no,” without fear of what you may lose. It is the inherent freedom to be as you are and be completely happy. This is possible for everyone because it is perfectly natural; it is not something that can be done or given to you.
To awaken requires your complete attention. This is why it seems rare and is challenging. We have given our attention, the only real power that we have, away to wants and needs that are based in our belief that we are incomplete, separate, flawed in some way. This is the trance that is busted in the Leela School, by the willingness of the student, coupled with the skillful means of the teachers and mentors.
Is the Leela School open to anyone, or are they for a particular kind of person? And do you have to commit to the full-year course? Can classes be done online or only in person?
The courses are open to anyone at any stage of their career or life. Some people are looking for a vocation; a way to independently earn a living in the world, particularly in the helping professions. After certification, we support people in starting their private practice in their communities and sharing the skill of being a True Friend with those who come for guidance or support. We offer both the True Friend Immersion and Structure of Ego (Enneagram) in Module 1 as a stand-alone course, so you can come and see how it resonates for you. From there you can decide if you want to continue for the rest of the year into Modules 2 (personal Mentoring) and 3 (in-depth skills practice and training). We also offer weekend retreats that are open to everyone.
Lisa, what transformations do you see occurring in the participants of the Leela School?
I am currently co-teaching the Australian Module 1 of the True Friend Immersion with my colleague in Sydney, Jared Franks. Today there were people who reported during the class that they had seen how they had been living their whole lives trying to be better, or different, and how thrilling it is to be free of that! Each one had seen through the egoic identification as a “somebody,” and had discovered the effortless, true presence of their natural being. It was blissful to witness. We were all laughing and crying at the same time, celebrating our great good luck to have found this teaching!
People go out and start private practices of their own. They solve issues in their marriages and families. They start careers and stabilize their incomes. They open to self-love and self-care.
Lisa, in your own experience, what have been some of the greatest transformations you have experienced in your own life?
There is an ongoing thrill of discovery of who I am that is a reflection of fidelity to the truth. When I met Gangaji, I wanted to know the truth about Love. Is it real? Am I capable of loving, and how can I be loving? I had a desperate desire to contribute authentically to peace in the world. I found out that it starts with my relationship with myself. That relationship with myself has transformed from fixing, failing, and blaming to a deep integrity that includes all being as an expression of my own true heart. The narrative of separation that was the story of me, a story that was triggered in childhood trauma and repeated time and again throughout my life as the story ran unconsciously, has ended. In that I am available as a force of peace and love in the world.
Lisa, in your day-to-day life how do you go about creating the peace and change we so badly need in this world?
Mostly peace in our world is conditional. It comes and goes depending on circumstances. Allies can become enemies and peace can lead to war. True peace is untouched by circumstances. The outside world may bring you war, as it is right now in Ukraine, but it does not touch the peace that is your essence. You can then serve where help is needed without the burden of doubts and fears. When you love truth more deeply than you love your story of being right, you take full responsibility for your own life and happiness. You say yes when you mean yes and no when you mean no. It’s simple and challenging and fun to be true!
Given a magic wand, how would you go about creating the peace and change we so badly need in this world?
The “magic wand” is your attention. When attention is used for discovering who you really are and for seeing through your story of suffering, true fulfillment is discovered because there is nothing needed from anyone else for your happiness. You find it in yourself, and it’s permanent. This frees up your attention and your life from searching for that happiness in things that come and go. You find out where the source of peace is, realize yourself as that, and you naturally become a beacon of peace in the world. Your life then is used for peace, for truth, for love – free of the effort of trying to attain it.
You are fulfilled, you are complete, and you are the solution to the problem.
On April 21st, we begin our True Friend Immersion Course (12 days) as well as our Seeing Through the Structure of the Ego course (5 days) and the very first meeting for both is an Open Meeting, free for anyone to attend and no registration is needed if you are meeting in-person. You can sign up online for the Zoom link if you are attending by Zoom, or you can simply show up at 685 A Street in Ashland for this free and open meeting at 6pm. We do ask that those that attend in-person are vaccinated and do not have symptoms. We are very excited to meet together in-person once again after 2 years.
Lisa, are there any last thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers here today?
To be a True Friend in the Leela School for Awakening means to have a quiet mind and open heart, and not take anything personally. This is the foundation of the Leela Skills, our therapist certification program and the beginning of a true meeting. From here we offer a range of effective skillful means and psychotherapeutic methods to support others in discovering for themselves what they need, to discover the answers to their own questions, and realize the source of all questions and answers. Thank you for inviting me to share the gift of this with everyone, Shields.
The Leela School of Awakening
685 A Street Ashland Oregon 97520