Speaking with international bestseller and world renowned authority on emotional healing and life transformation Brandon Bays recently, Elizabeth Jewell Stephens found out more about Brandon’s personal life and lessons learned from dealing with and overcoming deep personal trauma.
Brandon Bays is the founder of The Journey and creator of The Journey Method, which she developed over the last 20 years out of her own direct experience of healing from a large tumour over a period of six weeks. The Journey Method has since grown to be a globally recognised healing methodology.
Elizabeth: Do you agree that the key to vision and purpose is always found in experiences in this life and past lives? Maybe the tumour was for you to be able to find your vision and purpose better.
Brandon Bays: I do feel that, Elizabeth. The last thing I ever expected to have happen was to end up with a basketball-sized tumour. It seemed like I was doing everything right. And then life threw an anvil at my head and I got a huge wake-up call. It definitely was an invitation to go much deeper into myself. I feel we are all here to learn our soul’s lessons. And life conspires so that we can learn what we need to learn. If we don’t get the lessons the first time around, then life might have to repeat our wake-up calls until we get the message.
Clearly I wasn’t getting the message and so this wake-up call really sent me reeling. At the age of 39, I honestly felt I was at a peak in my life. I felt deeply fulfilled. Everyone always says you get sick because you were stressed, but I didn’t feel stressed. I felt blessed. So it hit me like a Mack truck, that I would get ill when it seemed I was doing everything right.
In my case I had a series of huge life lessons after healing from that tumour. A year later my house burned down. I didn’t have any house insurance. Then the next year my husband of 20 years left me for a younger woman. I lost my job. Everything I believed to be certain in my life came crumbling down around me. And it feels to me like The Journey was born out of the ashes of what had been my life. Like a phoenix rising I was invited by life to a whole new fresh way forward.
Elizabeth: What was it that you needed to learn most in this life, the learning of which gave your life meaning?
Brandon Bays: There are so many lesson Elizabeth. One of the first lessons, came from my first journey process with the tumour. The ‘cell memory’ I uncovered was of violent abuse from my childhood. Of course, as a therapist I already knew about that issue, and had worked on that repeatedly over the years. I thought it was completely handled. Yet it was crystal clear when I got inside that tumour, this old issue of the violent abuse was rearing its head again. Clearly I hadn’t fully healed from that trauma. I feel that learning to embrace, accept and forgive all that had happened was part of my lesson.
In the next journey process I went to a previous lifetime (or perhaps it’s a genetic memory). In this memory I was a scullery maid and I was on a straw cart. I was being raped by six men. I didn’t know how to cope in the face of that level of violence and brutality. In that memory, I started calling out to God. “Please, what am I meant to learn from this?” Eventually it became clear I needed to learn compassion in the face of violence. That powerful teaching is actually what has allowed me to work in places that are currently violent, or even war zones.
We have a humanitarian organisation called Journey Outreach where we bring journey work to people who cannot afford to buy a book, let alone go to a seminar. We go into indigenous communities where people have been disenfranchised, separated, where deep trauma has occurred and healing is needed: Aboriginal communities, Maori, the first nations peoples in North America, African tribal communities, Indian orphanages, etc.
The first time I went into Soweto, which is a three million person township in South Africa, our team was accompanied by six police cars, with white drivers, driving us to the outskirts of the ghetto. We were then greeted by six black policemen to drive us into the heart of the ghetto. I was able to go into such a violent community because something inside of me had come to peace with violence in my life. That’s one of the many, many, many life lessons that that tumour gave me.
Elizabeth: If you could ask your mother or your mother’s mother’s mother what she thinks about the path you’ve taken, what would her reaction be?
Brandon Bays: Interestingly enough, in our latter years I learned how to speak to the ‘Buddha nature’, the divine wisdom in my mother, and together we learned to communicate at a much deeper level. We’ve shared a real love affair for the last 20+ years. Her mother, my grandmother, was an opera singer, both living in Vienna, Austria, during WWII, and I believe both were scarred by the Holocaust. My grandfather was put into prison by the Nazis and shot through the head; so Omi came to America a very damaged woman. My mother’s first husband was shot down by the Luftwaffe and so they both suffered deep trauma in WWII.
I can’t say what my forefathers or foremothers would have felt about my current path. What I do know is that inside each of us there is a realisation of our own inner divinity. No matter how damaged we are and how much pain we’ve suffered in life, I think all of us sense that that there is a divine potential inside. I’m sure that, in my grandmother and her mother before her, there was a sensing of that, even if they had no words to describe it nor a way to access it.
I think most of us feel that we’re not living wholly, as our full potential, whoever we are. We’re living a version of it that we present to the world. I feel that all of us have a knowing that there is greatness there. That there is beauty there. That there is love there. What The Journey allows you to do is to open into that. To realise that. To connect to that which is your own essential nature.
Elizabeth: What’s your perspective on taking risks? Is it more important to you to have opportunity for dreaming, building, failing, succeeding, or security?
Brandon Bays: Opportunity. Hands down. I listen to an inner-guidedness, Elizabeth. I listen to my heart. And I trust it and am guided by it. Often it takes me to unexpected, dangerous, thrilling, heartbreaking, heart-opening — beautiful places. This passion to serve life is so strong that I’ve let it take me where other people fear to tread. It allows me to take a chance on things that, in the past, were I looking for security, I wouldn’t have attempted.
I was in Israel while it was under attack and the Iron Dome was up. I just have a feeling that I will die when it is my time to die; not before. There is a quiet trust inside. I don’t want to call it a fearlessness – I’m certainly not without fear – but it does give me the motivation to go where others might feel there is no security. In business as well.
For instance I’m going to Romania at the end of September. I go to a lot of Eastern European countries that were behind the iron curtain. In Romania’s case it was run by the ruthless dictator Ceaușescu, for the last years before they became a free country. These are countries that have a history of people living in oppressed conditions where their lives were daily in peril. They’re poor countries brought to their knees by the regime. Whenever I go, I have no idea if it’s going to be a successful venture. Yet there’s a deep desire there to heal from all the horrors that happened in Romania. That’s what pulls me to any country.
Yes, I take a lot of financial risks in going to those countries. And I charge a lot less for The Journey because they simply can’t afford it. On a financial level, if you’re talking about that kind of security, yes, if it means I can help people come to a sense of wholeness after their whole lives have been fractured, shattered, yes, this is time well spent.
Estonia is another place I feel strongly called to. After WWII, when the Russians came in, they took 200,000 of the intelligentsia — the doctors, lawyers, magistrates, professors and teachers — and shipped them out to Siberia. This is in a small country of only 2 million. They were replaced with Siberian peasants. If you were a child and you spoke up against the regime, made some sarcastic comment about the KGB in the schoolyard, someone in your family could be killed for your insubordinate attitude.
One of my students shared that her father made some comment in the schoolyard about the KGB, and he was not punished directly, but had to watch his parents being shot in front of them. Why do Estonians never even raise their hand when I’m teaching a class? Because they’re afraid if they say the wrong thing they’ll be killed, or their family will be killed. It’s in their DNA.
This is why I feel so drawn to take the financial risk to go to countries that have been war torn, where, in their DNA, they’ve learned you can’t speak up. In Romania, if your grandmother was seen praying in a church, not just seeing it as a historical monument, the grandmother could disappear because religion wasn’t allowed. These are very real issues that are getting stored inside people’s DNA. Am I willing to take a risk and put my whole heart into serving that kind of background and epigenetics? Yes, because The Journey‘s so effective in dealing with issues that are stored in our DNA.
In Australia, aside from the Aborigines, most people have European heritage, and so carry all of the epigenetic coding and programming that the Europeans carry that has been passed down generationally. Like me. I was born in New York, but my Austrian mother married a lieutenant in the US army.
The first time I brought The Journey to Germany was in 2005. On the second day of The Journey Intensive one man shared that, in his physical journey process, he went inside his heart. The cell memory he uncovered there wasn’t his own. It was his mother’s. She had been in a concentration camp in the war and had never once spoken about her time there. He said that his mother had gone ‘stumm’ — meaning ‘we don’t talk about this’.
Like me, he was born post World War II. And like his mother, mine never once spoke about her time in WWII. He said when he uncovered that genetically passed on cell memory he felt like he was experiencing it directly, as if he was living through her memory . He said to me, “You know, Brandon, my whole life, I have never known what she’d gone through. Even though I was born born after the Holocaust, I feel like I have had a lid over my life because of what she went thru.”
I asked everybody in the room, “How many of you born post World War II feel like you have a had lid over your life?” Nearly everyone in the room raised their hands.
He said, “Brandon, I never felt that I could be crazy, wild, joyous and enthusiastic.” There has always been this lid over my life.
I looked at my own life and I realised that, even though I grew up in New York, I too had grown up with a lid over my life. That I didn’t feel I could be crazy, carefree, wild and wonderful. It was like I was contained by whatever it was that my mother went through. Part of what The Journey work is doing is lifting off these genetically passed on lids that we all have so that we can live freely expressed as our true selves.
It is time we all took the lids off our lives.
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