The Leela School – Waking Up From The Trance of Suffering

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 trainings 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 Trainers Lisa Schumacher and Jared Franks to discuss what the School is offering this year, including certification courses in Ashland in April and September.

Lisa and Jared, thank you so much for doing this interview today and for being a part of the LocalsGuide. How will your work get us a world of peace and freedom?

Lisa: For those of us with the great good fortune to reside in a vibrant community such as Ashland, it may seem obvious that deep transformation is needed to break the cycle of ignorance and waste that now threaten to destroy the delicate web of life on our Mother Earth. We can see all around us the results of ignorance. We can realize that people rooted in ignorance are not convinced to change their ways by arguments or reasoned judgements.

So instead of trying to change other people’s ignorance, we start with uncovering our own. We can be “woke” in the ways of the world but still ignorant of our true nature. One of the by-products of our school, you could say, is the creation of an enlightened citizenry through deep self-examination.

This offers us the direct possibility to consciously take part in the evolution of our species by awakening to our true nature.

You offer a course called True Friend Immersion. Can you explain this term “True Friend” and how that relates to ending ignorance?

Jared: Mostly we think of a friend as someone who listens to and supports our story of what’s wrong and why we are suffering. Our “friends” listen to our stories of suffering, and we are obligated to listen to theirs. Our friends will support our position of being right, and a victim of others injustice.

By contrast, a True Friend will listen carefully, with no internal dialogue, no position, and will meet whatever is arising in the other with an open heart. This will reflect back to the other their own silent nature and open heart, allowing for deeper realization and something fresh to be discovered. Rather than strengthening the story of suffering, the True Friend reflects the possibility of transcendence. This is the beginning of the end of ignorance which by definition is a story of the world created by beliefs and projections that are called “reality.”

Lisa: We call a True Friend someone who attentively listens with a quiet mind and an open heart. A True Friend does not project their own ideas or concepts or judgements onto the other and does not support the projections of the other. To be an effective therapist, guide, healer, or loving life-partner is to be empty of your own personal agenda, so that you can listen with deep curiosity and compassion as you meet the one in front of you with a quiet mind and open heart. This is possible for everyone in all situations.

Once the advanced therapeutic skills we offer become integrated through practice, then the True Friend can truly be a healing force in service of love. At this point, certification is possible to work as a health professional. Then the veil of ignorance is pierced one heart at a time.

Are these courses open to anyone, or are they for a particular kind of person? And do you have to commit to the full year course?

Lisa: These 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. We support people in starting their private practice in their communities, and sharing these skills of being a True Friend with those who are in need of guidance or support.

Jared: The courses are not just for those who are seeking certification. Many people who attend the True Friend Immersion, or the Enneagram retreat, do so for their desire to wake up from their trance of suffering. They want to show up in their lives and meet others from a place of openness, clarity and curiosity. In participating in these courses, they have an opportunity to discover their own true nature. Seeing habitual patterns of suffering allows greater access to inherent freedom and love.

Lisa: Some people come just for the five-day retreat and others have been coming for years. There are no requirements unless you want to be certified.

Jared: We offer both the True Friend Immersion and Enneagram Module 1 as a stand-alone course, so anyone can come and try it out and see how it works for them. From there they can decide if they want to continue on for the rest of the year into Modules 2 and 3.

“Let both the client and therapist wake up.” Can you explain this quote more?

Lisa: There is no end to the depth of realization of oneself that one can awaken to. We all start out in a form of waking trance, believing that we know who we are because we were taught by our parents our name and our relationships. We are taught that “human” is where the being is.

Jared: This ignorance of our true identity is the ground of self-centeredness that gives rise to all the problems of suffering in our world. Waking up from the trance of suffering directly reveals our true nature, which is the beginning of a life of true love and fulfillment.

Whether your client comes to solve a problem, stop a negative habit, develop self-esteem and confidence, heal an emotional wound, or something deeper, your open-hearted contact with them will transmit the possibility of living life in openness and love, centered in intelligence and clarity.

Last year we interviewed the Founder of the Leela School, Eli Jaxon-Bear. What’s new at the School this year?

Jared: Each year, our job as trainers and administrators of the school is to listen to our students and always strive for improvement in the course syllabus. We take great care in how we deliver these incredibly powerful tools that assist in the process of effecting positive, lasting transformation. We continue to fine tune the courses while keeping the high standards that we are known for. We now have our 4th year of graduates, many of whom are returning to continue their education and development of their skills.

Lisa: Another new aspect is the growing number of mentors in the school, including someone locally here in Ashland. In addition to Eli, we now have two trainers, and 10 mentors from around the world, offering personalized one-on-one support to new and returning students of the School.

Jared: We also offer a range of supervision packages for graduate students so that they have ongoing support when they go out into their community and offer themselves as therapists in a professional setting. This gives them stability for continued growth and development as a therapist.

After your 4th year of graduates, what is some of the feedback you are receiving about the school? Can you share this with us?

Lisa: We have been receiving wonderful feedback from students about how they have taken the skills and certification into their lives and communities. Margot who works with vulnerable children on a Native American reservation in New Mexico says:

“The Leela School has been a profound gift, a beautiful crucible of burning and deepening and a deliciously supportive community. Wonderful skilful means to be used. Layers of doubt are dropping and the fire of Truth burns brighter with more and more steadiness and certainty. I love the sessions I do in trade with fellow students from all over the world – such beautiful connections!

Working with Native American youth from a reservation here in northern New Mexico, I did a couple of Leela Sessions addressing the PTSD-like secondary traumatic stress symptoms. Such relief! Wow!”

Another report from Natasa, who addressed the trainers who facilitated the retreat:

“Thank you so much for the recent Leela School retreat. You exemplified true friendship so deeply and profoundly; I feel we were all and continue to be, blessed beyond measure by your devotion and love of truth. Your willingness to be presence and space itself made us stronger in our own awareness, connection and direct realization of Self. I cannot thank you enough for living the truth with such clarity, it illuminated all our lives so brightly, fearlessly and compassionately.

I was surprised by the depth and intensity of the retreat, even as I am aware there is always ever more. My ‘yes’ continues to resound through my life and heart in such joy and peace.”

Jared: We find that the Leela School is not just an advanced therapy training, but offers something much deeper to the individual. A personalized approach, helping fulfill the motto of the school “Let both client and therapist wake up!”

You mention the growth of the school in terms of trainers and mentors. Can you speak more specifically about the people who make this possible?

Lisa: We (Jared and Lisa) are the trainers, along with Eli, who run the in-person retreats. We have been with our teacher and the founder of the Leela School Eli Jaxon-Bear for over 30 years between us. We both have our own busy private practices, offering the Leela Skills to people all over the world, both in one-on-one sessions, and in groups, teaching the enneagram, the True Friend Immersion courses and the certification and mentor programs.

All of our Mentors are highly qualified, and have the depth of skills to meet anyone and anything that arises with our students. We recommend checking out their profiles on the website here:

Can you give us some background on how the School started?

Jared: In the 1980’s Eli was on the Board of Examiners of the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners and certified as a Master Trainer in Neurolinguistics by the founders, John Grinder and Richard Bandler. He was trained in Ericksonian and classical hypnosis and had a successful clinic in San Francisco. He began leading retreats at the University of California and at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.

Lisa: His first book, Healing the Heart of Suffering, was published in 1989 in German and Hungarian. It presented a new model of ego and a new way to address the issue of human suffering on a very practical basis.

Jared: His next three books, Wake Up and Roar, Sudden Awakening and Fixation to Freedom continued the exploration of the path to Enlightenment and the possibility of full awakening to true identity and freedom. They have been translated into German, French, Italian, Hungarian, Russian, Hebrew and Korean. His memoir, An Outlaw Makes It Home: The Awakening of a Spiritual Revolutionary will be released in German this spring, while Fixation to Freedom is being released in Dutch and Japanese this year.

After thirty years of leading retreats on every continent (except Antarctica), and meeting with thousands of individuals, Eli, with the help of a group of trainers, started the Leela School in 2015 as a means to transmit the teaching and skills in a formal structured way. It has now been 5 years, and we are happy to see how the School has grown and developed over this time.

Lisa: Most recently, Eli has published a new book; The Awakened Guide, which is the manual for the Leela School, and is a comprehensive collection of the various skills and modalities offered in the Leela School. It can be read and studied by anyone with an interest in being an effective and skilful True Friend in the world.  We use it as a study guide and course curriculum.

What is your intention for the students who go through the Leela School True Friend Immersion course?

Jared: If you are called to wake up from egoic trance, or to support others to wake up from their trance of suffering, then we invite you to be supported by the Leela School and its comprehensive network of courses and resources. We want everyone to recognize that they are supported to realize true happiness and freedom, and that in being happy and free, they can go out into the world and support others.

Lisa: From this essential realization, combined with the skills to guide others, your life will be used to foster love in ways that are beyond belief.

Can you give specific times and dates of the trainings this year, and the steps required to participate?

Jared: This year, in Ashland we have two trainings; a 5-day Enneagram retreat from April 23 to 27, and then Module 1 of the True Friends Immersion, which is a 12-day retreat, including the Enneagram portion.

We recommend going to the website to find out more information about the events. You can also talk with a Trainer or Mentor to get a more personal introduction to the School.

Lisa: You can also contact the office directly and speak with Leigh our office manager at: 541-201-0900, ext 100, or email her at

You can also find us on Facebook, where we share videos, and information on retreats.

Jared: And finally, you can book private sessions with one of our staff by contacting Leigh in the office.

And finally any last thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

Lisa: We are just so happy and grateful to be a part of the community here in Ashland, and to participate in the progressive and compassionate attitude of this town. We gather from all over the world to work towards freedom and peace in ourselves, and in our wider community, and finally for the whole of humanity.

Jared: We invite you to join us if you are called in this intention, to a deepening self-awareness and realization of our true nature, along with the skills for working with others and relating to others. Whether you are a doctor, a yoga teacher, a life coach, a healer, or a construction worker, you will benefit from our time together. You may discover a deeper reality, and the possibility to serve the world in a fresh way.



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