At the fourth annual Mind Body Spirit Expo, held Jan. 14 at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center, a vendor invited me to pick a stone from one of three baskets at her booth and wear it on the left side of my body for seven days to let it raise my vibratory frequency. After that, she said, I’d be set forever.
“In what way?” I asked.
She told me that some people gain better mental clarity, some people heal from disease, and some people just find that their lives have generally improved.
I put the rock in my pocket because in the face of a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, I’m taking as many low-cost precautions as possible, and this was free. The vibrational frequency of a polished rock probably won’t cure or prevent cancer, but in 2017 this is what taking your health in your own hands can look like — especially in Santa Fe, which has an international reputation as a haven for holistic health practitioners and those seeking their services.
Bear with me, skeptics. I am not telling anyone to forgo chemotherapy for homeopathic remedies, or to trade seizure meds for a regimen of crystals and kombucha. But many say that the laying-on of hands, which comes in myriad forms, can be used to reduce and/or manage symptoms of chronic pain and illness with noninvasive techniques, instead of taking potentially addictive prescription pills or living in perpetual misery. Though they don’t work for everybody, massage and acupuncture are practically mainstream, with the latter often covered by health insurance plans (at least for now). Other options readily available for an out-of-pocket cost in Santa Fe include craniosacral therapy, hypnotherapy, chakra alignment, electronic lymph drainage, Reiki, and other kinds of energy work that practitioners maintain break up blockages in the body.
Many vendors offered free mini-sessions at the Expo — a perk I went after with gusto. I had a five-minute session of sound and vibration healing with Candace Caldwell, for which I sat in a chair and listened to calming music through headphones, sort of like what you might hear in a yoga class, while she moved a vibrating pad up and down my spine and over my shoulders. According to the literature available, this is supposed to move fluid and restore balance in the body, and based on my experience it seems like it would be good for reducing mild pain and stress, though Caldwell seemed hesitant to tell me much about the benefits and simply handed me a flier. I next tried craniosacral therapy with Raghurai M.C. Donnelly. Before she began, Donnelly asked me if I had any specific areas of pain. I do, but I have found that holistic practitioners don’t always respond well to a litany of Western medical diagnoses, preferring instead to work on intuition, so I told her “general pain” and left it to her to prove her skillset. She was up to the challenge. With no direction at all she found a few major areas of concern, including one that no bodyworker has ever gone to on their own. Though it was unusual to lie on a massage table with my eyes closed in the middle of a busy health fair, despite the cacophony of voices I was able to relax almost completely for 10 or 15 minutes.
For the benefit of Pasatiempo readers, I asked Brian Piotrowski, a salesperson for d–oTerra essential oils, which oils can help with seasonal allergies, since they will strike Santa Feans as soon as the juniper blooms. “Peppermint, lavender, and lemon in a diffuser,” he told me, holding up a kit like he’d been waiting for just that question. I’ve tried this combo and have found it to be effective on my allergies and sinus headaches, and it’s easier than popping decongestants and antihistamines for the duration of our windy spring. You can add essential oils to Epsom salts and soak in a bath to relieve sore muscles, congestion, and other minor ailments — or just because they smell good. In fact, the whole Expo and all of the vendors smelled amazing.
Most of the Expo attendees I spoke to were healers who wanted to connect with others in similar fields. I met yoga teachers, horse therapists, psychics, and Ayurveda practitioners, as well as a Pilates instructor named Raymond Kurshals who thought the Expo was so packed that it needed a bigger venue and stood as proof that the city should play host to a national holistic healing trade show. He and his friend, a chiropractor named Patrick O’Keefe, maintained that this could be an economic booster for the city. Looking around the crowded room, it was hard to disagree. We also talked about the need for healers operating outside the traditional medical community to develop their knowledge of common Western medical diagnoses and pain conditions, and the vocabulary of symptoms associated with them, so that they can better complement the care of those in the throes of or recovering from serious illness.
I met two vendors whose understanding of this issue especially impressed me. The first was a life coach, Joni Holub, who made it very clear that her services are not intended to replace psychotherapy. She works with people who want to create change in their lives, which might include getting up the courage to find a therapist to work on deeper psychological issues. “I can be a complement to counseling,” she said. “When a therapist is giving you advice but you don’t know how to work it practically into your life, I can help with that.” Susan Griego O’Connor is a yoga therapist who works on a sliding-fee scale with people suffering from illness or trauma who cannot embark on an exercise program without guidance. She described showing students, with whom she works individually, a few movements they can integrate into their day to help release pain and tension that builds from morning to night. “Every time the phone rings at your desk at work, maybe you take that moment to do a gentle twist in your chair,” she said. “Holistic practice is not about how much you can do, but how consistent you can be.”
If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, many of us will find our healthcare options severely limited — which is already often the case because some insurance plans make it very difficult to choose your own doctor, or change to another one if you don’t like the care you’re receiving. As scary as the prospect of repeal is, there is some comfort to be taken in knowing that holistic healing is a smorgasbord of choice, and Santa Fe offers even more variety than your average small city.