October 19, 2013 10:31:17 PM
Nathan Gregory - firstname.lastname@example.org
BY NATHAN GREGORY
It's an upstairs bedroom in a Starkville apartment. There are lit candles in the window and some crystals on the floor. The walls are bare and the room is empty, except for a portable massage table.
This is what Leslie Le Blanc calls her Reiki room.
It's where she meditates and shuts out the world's stress and noise.
A little more than a year ago, Le Blanc was introduced to an alternative healing practice involving the use of her palms as a transfer of positive life energy. She bought into it. Now she practices it herself. It's her way of not only staying grounded and in tune with nature, but of helping others.
Practitioners say the art is aimed at opening chakras -- centers of energy on the human body -- through their palms, as well as with "tools," like stones with different colors and personalities. Some, including Le Blanc, also hold a pendulum over each of the seven chakras to see whether or not it moves by itself. An idle pendulum represents a closed chakra, meaning the subject is having difficulty staying grounded, confident, able to love or focus. This provides some subjects with a balance they were previously lacking.
Others might see this alternative healing technique and oracle card reading as outrageous or ineffective and Le Blanc understands that. But, she said, it works for her.
Le Blanc, a 24-year-old nutrition major at Mississippi State University, has been performing the technique on others for about four months. She currently has four clients. She hopes to gain more during her path toward becoming a Reiki master.
"I remember being pretty young, 11 and 12 years old," Le Blanc remembers. "Maybe I just loved Harry Potter a little too much, but I really did feel like there was a sense of 'magic' in the world. I suppressed that for a long time. It's not something I generally talk about to people."
A decade later, dissatisfied with her direction in life, Le Blanc visited a woman who worked at a fair-trade store in Jackson. She was introduced to people who shared her views and were happy to have a dialogue with her.
"Once I started doing the meditations like the people were telling me, and being really honest with myself, I got an intense sense of peace," she said. "When I was talking to the first person who told me about Reiki, she was talking about the crown chakra (which represents spiritual connection). I stopped her and told her exactly how I thought it would be in my head before she told me and it was really accurate."
Wanting to learn more, she eventually met the person who is now her Reiki master. Learning about Reiki and how it's performed is through a teacher-student relationship. The master later "attunes" the student during a spiritual ceremony. One is considered a Reiki master after three attunements.
Le Blanc described the first time she was attuned by a previous master as "crazy." All of the cells in her body were "vibrating," she said.
"I'm not 100 percent sure what she did," she said. "But I felt it."
Le Blanc's first master also taught her about the history of Reiki and the general concept.
"I practiced on that for awhile on other people and on my master now. He taught me the symbols and what they do. It got me more in depth in it," she said.
She is working on becoming a Reiki master. She described the journey as an "internal thing." Her master offered to attune her to the grandmaster. She declined, though, saying that in her soul she didn't feel ready.
"Ascension is the process," she said. "Not the destination."
Le Blanc introduces a new client to Reiki by describing what it is and what she is about to do. The client lays down on the massage table and she has them breathe deeply, exaggerated and labored. She then calmly directs the client to relax every muscle. She describes the use of her body to "raise their vibration about themselves" into a more self-healing state.
"Our body is self-repairing," she said. "Our cells are repairing each other. Sometimes people who are bogged down with the stresses of life, they're not relaxed. They're not healing themselves. When they come here, my main goal is to get them relaxed. I use my body as a vessel to bring good, positive life energy -- chi, if you want to call it that -- to the client's chakras."
With self-consciousness comes baggage, she said. She wants clients to get "good energy."
She concentrates while placing her hands on several of the chakras, starting with the temple and moving on to the forehead, where the "third eye" is located, before progressing to the throat, the chest and upper and lower abdomen. She also places her hands on the knees and feet to gauge how tense muscles are. Depending on the client, she will place stones of various colors on chakras she perceives to be closed off. She surrounds the person with stones with certain properties or might have him or her hold some.
One of the reasons she became interested in becoming a practitioner is because of Reiki's emphasis on healing.
"I want to help people," she said. "I find that a lot of people are stressed out and don't know where to turn. If they're coming for alternative treatment, they're at their last bet. If I can give them a feeling of relaxation and comfort and maybe they start to pick themselves up because of it, everyone's a winner."
In the cards
A misnomer of oracle card reading is that it's supposed to predict a person's future, Le Blanc said. While that's the preferred result, the cards she uses may or may not point to what will actually happen. More important is that the cards she reveals to people relate to a situation they're going through in their lives at the time, she said.
"The objective is to somehow get a message from it," she said. "It's a highly personal thing. Sometimes you don't get a message at all. Sometimes it's unclear. Sometimes when people are asking for the answer to some stressful, emotional dilemma, they just want a sign that something is going to happen."
Still, the first time she had someone read cards for her, they were "way too accurate" about her situation at the time, she said.
"It would talk about the emotions I was feeling," she said. "Sometimes we're not really clear on what we're actually feeling as humans. A lot of things just end up being fear, doubt and stress and sometimes you need to get the cause of that. Some of these help you figure out the cause of why you're always feeling down."
Le Blanc said she's aware her methods of achieving spiritual connection and healing have their detractors, people who tell her what she's doing is ridiculous.
"It's an intuitive thing if it makes your gut feel right. Some people might view it as entertainment. Awesome. I made 15 bucks for making you entertained for 30 minutes," she said of reading oracle cards. "That's cool, but if it resonates with your gut, with your heart, that's why it's here. That's why I do it."
She's not out to change people's minds. Whoever will believe Reiki and oracle readings fail to achieve what they are designed to do will continue to feel that way.
"This is their belief system and this is my belief system," she said. "I will be very happy to invite anyone into my belief system. My dad, he thinks this is all bull---t. From an educated standpoint, I can almost see it. From another educated standpoint, spirituality has been lost in this world and people just don't want to accept it anymore."
She added, "This, for me, is reconnecting with love."
Le Blanc wants to introduce methods that have changed her life to others in hopes of improving theirs. She's not aware of the extent to which Reiki actually has or hasn't been a successful treatment to those who gave it a try, but it has given her a grounding and a peace she never had before.
"I haven't put my scientific hat on and studied people afterwards, but when they leave here, they feel relaxed, and that's my goal," she said.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.