What I learned from John Chitty


Last week, I learned that one of my teachers, John Chitty, passed away. This was a shock that brought immediate, deep feelings—and tears—of gratitude. I felt gratitude for the four golden days I got to spend in class with him, learning how to Work with Babies. During that training, I received a deep dose of his wisdom and experience, presented in the most humble, disarming, and gently humorous way. . . while containing such potency, wisdom and refined skill that I think I’ll be processing, and will be a touchstone, for my entire life as a healing arts practitioner.

It really is hard for me to convey the gentleness, yet crystal-clear, acuminous intelligence of John Chitty’s transmission of holding therapeutic space and tracking capital-H Health. I’m thinking that it was his grounded spiritual clarity that potentized his teaching and his work. In my (so brief!) experience of John, it feels epitomized in a beautiful series of words he called the Recognition Mantra, because it entered me so deeply and has become, for myself, one of the guiding principles of my work.

I know who you are.
I know where you came from.
I know why you are here.

John, in his humility, said this came straight from Dr. Randolph Stone, founder of Polarity Therapy:

“The soul which inhabits this body is a unit of consciousness from another sphere, of much finer essences. . . Each incarnating soul brings with it a design of life, of its own, by which it differs from others..

The purpose is for the experience of souls embodied in forms and placed in outer space of matter and resistance in order to gain awareness through perception and action, for the fulfillment of consciousness.” (Stone, Polarity Therapy Vol 1, p9, 11.)

But John made it his own, teaching it like this (from my notes):

I know who you are. (You are a unit of consciousness.)

I know where you came from. (You came from the invisible world.)

I know why you are here. (You were sent to this life to encounter resistance to achieve higher consciousness.)

In this “simple” mantra, John spoke to the individual Intelligence and unique destiny of each of us; the vast mystery and hugeness that we all come from; and the karma we have chosen so that we may evolve.

Our Soul’s Journey.

With this mantra, which he taught that we should say internally (or out loud, if appropriate) every time we work with a baby, he was able to hold compassionate space for a fellow-being who came from the purity of the other world, was suffering in this moment and would suffer again in the future, and yet, was here for a greater purpose. He communicated to his newborn clients that they were not alone, that they were in the right place at the right time, and that this life is a journey very worth doing; just as he, John the practitioner, was also experiencing in his own Soul’s journey simultaneously.

And, with this mantra, he conveyed another of one of the most powerful and elemental aspects of healing: being recognized. Also known as feeling “seen” or “heard”. . . except that John was recognizing all the way to the soul level.


I find no end of comfort in the wisdom of this mantra. These words even give me great comfort in my own moments of suffering. I am an integrous being far vaster than this body in this life; I come from another world of infinite energy and mystery; I came here for experiences, both beautiful and painful, so I could be forged into something clearer, to serve a higher purpose.

It helps me to hold space for terrible suffering, in clients, in myself, even in my children. It helps me to see the beauty and to hold out a lifeline—without feeling that I should or would even be able to fix or save someone. In fact, it helps me understand that nothing is wrong*. And, amazingly, this recognition is often enough. It is that powerful to be recognized. Once recognized, a person’s system reorganizes itself; it finds its own way home.

And although I know I am still in shock and denial that John is no longer with us (I know—that’s debatable), and incredible sadness that I won’t get to study with him again, this mantra helps me to understand the stage of the journey he has moved to—back to the invisible world from whence he came.

Godspeed, John. And thank you, thank you, thank you.

Learn more about John and his work:
Podcast Interview on Working with Babies
Diane Heller Interviews John Chitty: Babies and the Polyvagal Theory
Book: Working with Babies by John Chitty
Colorado School of Energy Studies

* “Nothing is wrong,” from Celia Owens

Painting of the Recognition Mantra created by Aleta Braun.

Cairn Photo by Nathan Lindahl on Unsplash