Auras, chakras, meridians and more. Can Western medicine learn something from practitioners who balance and activate the body’s natural healing energies?
In 2009 my life seemed to be going great. I’d landed a high profile director’s position and was making more money than I’d ever made before. Physically, I was in great shape. I drank loads of green juices, did yoga and went for long hikes in the mountains to unwind. Then, all of the sudden, I started to experience some unsettling neurological symptoms — pain, dizziness and severe anxiety. It totally freaked me out. I thought I had brain cancer or an aneurism and was going to die.
The first thing I did was tell my primary care physician what was going on. Acting quickly, she ordered an MRI of my head and a series of tests. A week later, I was sitting in the exam room convinced she was going to tell me to get my affairs in order.
My doctor, a small Filipino woman with jet-black hair, looked like she just graduated from high school. When she walked into the room, her brow was creased as she flipped through the pages of my chart. My stomach was coiling in on itself.
“Well, Wendy, all your tests came back normal,” she said, looking up briefly. “You should be really grateful.”
I paused, sighed and replied, “I would be if someone could tell my why it feels like I’m being stabbed in the head with an icepick.”
“Well, perhaps if I put you on an antidepressant…” she said, “that’s been known to help.”
“No thanks, I think I’ll pass.”
Later, I confided to my friend about my lack of trust in a medical care system that thinks drugs are the solution for almost anything. After listening, she told me I might try an alternative route and suggested I go see Shari Geitzenauer, an energy medicine practitioner who lives in the Santa Monica Mountains.
On the day of my appointment, I was having second thoughts. What could this healer possibly do for me? I needed conclusive diagnostic testing, not some woo-woo, hocus pocus crap — but I went because I was getting desperate.
As I walked up the dirt driveway, I was met by Shari who was not at all what I’d expected. An ex fashion model, she has olive skin, exotic features and voluptuous figure. When she was in her twenties, Shari had a successful modeling career that took her all over the world. She moved to L.A. to pursue acting, but when things didn’t go as planned, she found herself in the grips of an intense emotional breakdown.
Somehow she heard about a man named Papa Joe, a Maori healer who, before he passed away, would come to the United States every six months to perform healings on people. The Maori are the native people of New Zealand and as part of their spiritual healing process use deep bodywork that can include the use of elbows, hands, knees, feet and stones. It’s said to be quite painful for those who are used to a softer, more coddling approach.
Shari said when she met Papa Joe, she knew immediately that she was in the presence of a highly evolved human being. “Papa Joe changed my life,” she said. “My energy was blocked and I didn’t even know it.”
After that first session, Shari began an apprenticeship with Papa Joe, studying the Maori’s ancient method of healing. She told me she was honored to learn these sacred techniques, passed down from generation to generation.
After Shari and I talked a bit more, she took me into a small room in the back of her house. The sound of trickling water came from a small fountain just outside the door. The scent of lilies hung in the air and chimes tinkled softly in the breeze. As I crawled onto the massage table, Shari turned on some soothing flute music. I closed my eyes and willed myself to keep an open mind.
“Breathe,” Shari said. “Just take a deep, deep breath.”
After a few moments Shari came along side me and put one hand on my stomach, the other on my heart.
“Your heart has been broken,” she said. “It feels like it’s encased inside a hard shell.”
OK, so I suppose I should have told her that besides having a bit of a rough childhood I never really got over my husband leaving me after twenty years of marriage. But who does? You just learn to live with it right?
Pressing firmly on my sternum, Shari’s hands felt like they’d been warmed in an oven. I grimaced and squirmed. For an instant I thought my fight or flight response would get the best of me, but I willed myself to stay put.
Moments later, I kid you not; it felt like a blackness was erupting from my chest. I began to cry, softly at first but before long I was sobbing. The tears felt like they were being pulled out of my sockets by the fistfuls. It was intense. When Shari told me to breathe into the pain, it just made me cry even more. After a two-hour session it felt like I had hacked up an emotional hairball of grief. I was unbelievably calm and peaceful. It was incredible.
Since then, I’ve found that my more open-minded friends are swapping out therapy for healers as well. So I decided to talk to a couple of successful professionals who work in the realm of what’s called energy medicine.
Athena Schofield is a pretty blond Reiki practitioner and owner of Mind and Body Works. When we sat down in her cozy, dimly lit office in Santa Monica, there was a massage table on one side and crystals of various colors laid out on her desk.
Athena, who has a very calming presence, told me that during an hour session she will first use aromatherapy oils to help her clients relax and then places her hands above them or lightly touches them.
“Reiki works on the whole body, mind and spirit,” Athena said. “I use the universal life force to transmit energy through my hands to the individual. It’s about moving energy that may be blocked or stagnant.”
“But, but how do you know where they’re blocked?” I asked.
“I can sense it,” Athena said. “And each clients experience is different. Some have emotional releases, some feel their bodies tingle or jump, others feel relaxed, while others tell me it’s better than any massage they’ve ever had.”
The next person I talked to was a psychiatrist who also practices energy medicine. Dr. Eva Altobelli has short reddish-brown hair, trendy glasses and a strong handshake. When we met at Resolutions Therapeutic Services where she facilitates therapy groups, she invited me into a large room with lots of cushy chairs and a great view of the city. I asked how she came to use energy healing with her patients.
“My journey into energy medicine started as a result of traumatic events in my life that eventually led me to seek alternative healing modalities,” she said. “I believe very strongly in the mind-body connection. Talk therapy and medication management can address some of the problems but we’re still missing an entire realm of intervention. Energy work is under-represented and undervalued. As a psychiatrist, I feel it is my responsibility to bring this to the attention of our medical community and to open up the discussion as well.”
Dr. Altobelli was so passionate and convincing I could have easily jumped into her next group session. Instead I thanked her and made my way onto a crowded elevator where everyone’s heads were bowed down, not in thoughtful contemplation, but to check their phones.
As I headed home, making my way through the hectic L.A. traffic, I couldn’t help but feel a little frazzled myself. But something always shifts when I hit Pacific Coast Highway and see the ocean and that strip of white beach. I let out a long sigh.
I realize that some people think that energy healing is just more New Age hype. I used to think that way too. Still, I think most of us accept that there are many mysteries in life we can’t explain. Energy healing worked for me. What if it worked for you?
Copyright © 2015 Wendy Adamson/Singular Communications, LLC