I have a confession to make: I’m a closet hippie.
There. I said it.
I think I’ve been a hippie since childhood. My favorite movie when I was 4 was “FernGully.” My favorite television show was “Captain Planet.” I bugged my parents into getting a recycling bin, and then I bugged them into using it.
I learned about the depleting ozone layer in third grade, and I literally had nightmares about it. I continue to have this irrational fear of dolphins and porpoises getting stuck in plastic soda rings — so much so that I don't buy or drink anything that comes in plastic soda rings.
But my most recent foray into hippie-ism has nothing to do with environmentalism. Instead, it’s a little more dubious. It’s called energy healing.
Three years ago, my friend Dana — a borderline hippie herself — was in charge of planning weekly Catholic fellowship events at the Newman Center. One of these events was dedicated to a topic called reiki. Dana brought in an energy healer to speak to us. She prefers not to be mentioned by name in the press and is especially wary of being identified in the smaller energy healing community.
Aside from her bare feet, she looked like any woman off the street, dressed in black pants, a long-sleeved blouse, wearing stud earrings and sporting a short hairstyle that reminded me of Reese Witherspoon in "Sweet Home Alabama." But tucked underneath her arms were books with titles that included words like “natural energy” and “inner growth” and “chakra.”
For the next hour she talked about seemingly debatable concepts like natural energy in the body and redirecting this energy with the hands. The more she talked, the more convinced I became of her insanity.
Energy healing has a bunch of different names, she said — reiki, chakra healing, alternative medicine — but it’s all basically the same thing. The practitioner places his or her hands on the patient and uses the natural energy in the body to heal the patient.
My reaction: Riiiight.
To prove her point, she demonstrated her skills on a male friend who was experiencing some neck pain. She placed one hand on his forehead and the other at the base of his neck. She closed her eyes. For a few minutes, his head moved every which way. As she did this, she claimed she wasn’t moving his head — instead, the energy in his body was doing it for him. After his head was apparently “finished,” she let go and asked him how he felt. He said he was pain free.
Believe me, I know it sounds ridiculous. I didn’t believe it at first, either. Every time she said that she wasn’t moving his head, I mentally scoffed. She was definitely moving his head, and all of that weird energy stuff seemed like a total psychological hoax.
But my friend with the healed neck was emphatic that the healing worked. Many in the room were just as skeptical as I, but many more were interested. The energy healer said she would host a crash course soon.
Despite my disbelief, my inner hippie was intrigued, and with the curiosity of a doctor performing an autopsy, I attended the demonstration.
After three hours of talking about energy and chakras, a new side of my hippie-ness emerged. I became a full-fledged believer.
I’ve seen this method of healing work in different ways. At my first demonstration, a woman I knew who had broken her leg in a tap dancing accident in high school was the recipient of energy healing. She wore a cast until the leg was better, but it must not have been completely healed because during the energy-healing session, the leg in question started twitching like crazy. It did this for almost an entire half-hour, and the leg was even twitching in patterns that resembled how she had been dancing when she injured it. When the twitching finally stopped, she stood up and declared that her leg had never felt better.
At the same demonstration, my roommate used energy healing on me. She started by placing her hands at my feet. Then she channeled the energy from my feet to my knee and from my knee to my hip until the energy was running throughout my whole leg.
The process continued until the energy that ran through all of my limbs and my body, she determined, had been balanced. I hadn’t really been sore or ailing at the time, but I could definitely feel her working the energy in my body. Energy healing feels different for everyone, but for me, it felt like my limbs were filled with warm water, with the healer pushing the water back and forth like a gentle tide.
Most recently, I used it on a friend who plays piano. Whenever I use energy healing, my body tends to ache where the recipient aches or twinge wherever the recipient is sore. In this case, my friend's hands and arms had been sore from playing and conducting. He had never seen energy healing before, and I didn’t tell him what I was going to do before I took his hands and used it. In the middle of the session, my forefinger started twitching.
I asked him, “Is your forefinger especially sore?”
He looked up at me in surprise. “Yeah, it is.”
After it was finished, I asked him how he felt. He looked amazed and said that he felt much better.
The more I practice energy healing, the more I out myself as a hippie. But I find that I don’t mind people knowing anymore, and that’s mostly because energy healing is beginning to gain legitimacy. There are hospitals that actually use this method of care. According to Natural Solutions Magazine, nurses have embraced this unorthodox practice all over the country, including hospitals on the East Coast.
Religious figures have also found a place for energy healing in their ministries. The U.S. Catholic Bishops have condemned the practice, citing the lack of scientific proof and an apparent clash of ideals. But that hasn’t stopped several nuns from using reiki, including the Sisters of Mercy in Cincinnati. They offer holistic therapies at their retreat center with a focus on spiritual guidance. Other Christians who use this practice make reference to Christ healing the sick by laying his hands on them.
I’m not saying that energy healing is the end all, be all. Practitioners carefully stress the importance of seeing a traditional doctor in addition to alternative medicine. The woman who trained me said that the two complement one another.
Energy healing also doesn’t work all the time. My father has really bad knees and the first time I worked on him, it helped. But his pain came back quickly and continued to bother him until he started eating gin-soaked raisins (an unusual but effective remedy).
But before you spend good money on a chiropractor, try an energy healer first. Most energy healers I know, myself included, are happy to offer their services for free.