Two summers ago, my mom gave me the gift of a massage. "But, just to warn you," she added, "it might involve some energy healing, too." So long as it’s more massage than "healing," I’m game.
Smells like weed, I thought as I entered the massage therapist/energy healer’s studio. (Turns out—burning sage.) "Get relaxed and changed." I did as told, then lay naked under a sheet as she held a pendulum over my body, "reading" my five chakras. Wondering, if it could also read minds and hear "da fuq Mom?" running through mine.
"Your back chakras are entirely closed," she said, as if I should know what that means. "Meaning there’s no connection between your back will centers and emotional front body." Right… I thought. "Meaning," she finished, "you’re trying to hold everything together."
My inner-snark stopped. You’re trying to hold everything together: the sentence to dissolve my skepticism. How did she know I felt like breaking down at any moment? (I was going through a painful breakup at the time.) Let alone articulate what I felt better than I could? We just met.
Since then, I’ve seen the same healer multiple times in Hawaii. Astrology and tarot cards aside, I’m always amazed how precise her proclamations about my emotional wellbeing are. When I tell people I see energy healers, they invariably ask, "you mean like Reiki?" which is a mode of energy healing, though one I’ve never tried. Despite my alternative proclivities, "energy healing" still sounds like a new-age pseudoscience I’m surprised I even use. Although, hospitals offer energy healing such as Healing Touch and Therapeutic Touch (TT) given by trained health care professionals.
Priscilla Bright—a woman with a name that matches both her disposition and job description—is an energy healer with 23 years of experience and former dean of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. She notices that "there has been a tremendous opening to energy work and a great increase in interest." Her clients are not fringe hippies, but instead professionals in law, business, finance, and marketing. "People," she says, "with high-pressure jobs that really look to energy healing for help, as well as people in transition or loss."
When asked about what energy healing is and how it works, she emphasizes she can only speak for the Brennan method and her experience, but explains that every healer will have a personal approach to the technique they’re trained in. Bright, for example, does not practice massage therapy, read chakras, ask what moon I was born under, offer tarot cards, or burn sage during my session with her. Instead, she asks I sit across from her in a dimly lit room, close my eyes, and relax. My body melts with her mellifluous voice save for an expanse between my sternum and across my chest and back. It vibrates, disconnected from the rest of my body. When asked, I tell Bright about the sensation. She offers no insight as to why I might feel this way. Instead, instructs me to breathe vigorously, or more slowly, to remember past instances of this feeling, to notice and let go. The vibrations dull, then I move to the table where she performs touch energy work. She pulls on my feet, makes swirling motions above my body, cradles the crown of my head. When she’s finished, I stand. That segregated space, no longer noticeable. I feel grounded, calm, exuberant even.
From experience, each session with the same healer will be very different, too. Often, you don’t realize how you'll be affected until you’re there (pendulum may or may not be present). Which makes sense since Bright says her goal with clients is to "help to bring forward maybe the pieces that are calling out for healing within themselves that they haven’t even articulated yet."
While "healing" might connote sickness or brokenness, Bright explains, "it’s a process that the individual goes through, not fixing something in someone." It’s a therapeutic service with a holistic and spiritually-accepting slant since energy work "allows clients to receive nurturance to really be listened to on a very deep level, sometimes without words. To be honored."
When asked about the science surrounding energy fields, Bright defers to intuition. "The idea of working with the energy field is that we have our physical body and we have energy running through our body and we also have a zone of energy around us. It’s really about the subtle interactions between people. It’s also about where energy flows within your physical and emotional body and maybe where it doesn’t flow as well. So are there areas within a particular individual where they tend to hold their energy? Where they tend to hold their feelings tightly, perhaps? Maybe they’ve had some painful experiences. Or it’s part of their family culture to not express certain parts of their energy field. Maybe they’ve gotten into the habit of deadening their aliveness a little bit, to stay safe, to not be seen. I think the core of good energy work is about the core qualities of the client. What are the core longings and core energies within them that wish to come out more?"
Ultimately, she says, "it’s not so important to me to convince people how it works. Or why it works. But is it of use? Is it of comfort? The answer is: yes."
Which is why I tell my friends that they must try energy healing. Though I can already hear "da fuq," running through their heads.
Photos by Tom Newton.