(originally published in Pathways, Summer 2015)
How would you feel if you encountered on a street a shaman wearing a hoodie? Or if you arrived at an energy intuitive session to find a barefoot twenty-something wearing healing stones around her neck? What if the person sitting next to you on the metro, appearing to be high school-aged, channeled a message to you from a spirit?
Some of us would be surprised by these experiences, while others would not. Age may play a big role in our reactions, and similarly, age may play a role in our decisions about to who we look for healing support. The reality is that the current allopathic health care model in this country is not just failing the “old” and the “sick”--its failing all of us. This increasingly self-evident truth may explain why some millennials are moving toward integrative and complementary healing not only for their own wellness but for their professional work, too.
Coming out as a healer is fairly safe in this metropolitan area these days--even fun--compared to other places and times during which people who practiced certain kinds of spiritual power faced threats of violence by the masses or religious authorities, and were forced underground to practice.
As most people know very little about energy healing nowadays, many people are genuinely interested and open to learning more about it. Growing curiosity may reflect more than dissatisfaction with allopathic medicine, it may show changing ideas about how we maintain our health and well-being, at least within our popular imagination. Today, among many 20 and 30-somethings, healing work may be viewed as a form of service, a commitment that while not well-understood, may be well-respected for its caring intention.
There are a wide range of younger healers in and around the District, some of whom fall into the same “young professional” profile with law and public health masters degrees, for example. Some younger folks, perhaps with more freedom than ever, enliven a wider set of passions and animate a broader set of their talents, of which traditional healing is among many. When asked the inevitable question within professional circles of “what do you do?” younger healers may hesitate or give a complex answer, which will sound wildly different for each person to reflect the panoply of interests, work, and new opportunities.
Yet, younger healers may be less visible than our older counterparts, particularly within holistic healing communities. Healers like us may be less likely to have formal training but rather, after being aware of our healing abilities or sensitivities for years, self-cultivated many of our skills. We may be less likely to have a location-specific or full-time healing practice given modern technologies and costs, choosing instead to rely on other mainstays for our livelihoods or opting to practice multiple places. Younger folks may also have a more expansive definition of healing. Alongside energy workers, shamans, mediums and bodyworkers, other people like ambitious urban farmers, creative classroom teachers, vibrant yoga instructors, and visionary artists may be identified as healers as well. We, of course, are not suggesting that all young healers navigate this way or that older healers do not share similar experiences but we are acknowledging the ways in which new conditions have required all healers, particularly newer ones, to adapt and innovate. In fact, our own practices vary in considerable ways although we are both younger healers.
For example, Renata is 28. She believes that all have different backgrounds, abilities, and comfort levels, and as such, we are each called into service through means and ways particular to our own situation. She inherently knew that her sensing abilities were there but her mind would not go any further until her questions about how it worked were answered. Her healing arts “gateway” was through Healing Touch, mostly because of the program’s standardized classes, national accreditation and their ability to answer her questions in a logical, physics-affirming way. Since then with her academia-influenced, research-loving perspective quenched, she has moved into healing areas and modalities that she probably could not have accepted but for her robust Healing Touch education.
Renata understands that we all conceptualize and articulate healing differently - amongst our clients, and within ourselves. She has, at times, felt judged by some for relating her past academic (read: non purely spiritual) experiences into her energy healing, yet it is how she is able to leap into the healing realm. She maintains her academic inclination because she knows that others also need similar bridges before they can cross into other healing realms too. She believes, as healers, we strive to meet people where they are, and that doing so is a key element to appealing to, and eventually shifting our society into one in which the healing arts and modern medicine work together seamlessly to prevent and address the health catastrophes that befall us.
Richael, as another example, recently turned 30. She firmly believes that we each are keepers of our own healing and that an essential role of a modern healer is to teach others how to reconnect to their indigeneity for healing. She calls this way of remembering, “everyday majik.” Similar to Renata, she was long sensitive to high frequencies and subtle vibrations. She entered a meditation community after college, was introduced to reiki, and shortly after the second-level, began to move voluntarily during treatments. She explored her body dowsing with automatic writing and pendulum for nearly seven years.
As Richael left full-time legal practice, she found a home for her energy healing and intuitive gifts in the shamanic tradition. She practices new-style conjure--also known as the Black folk tradition from the US South--with energy healing as her “center.” In honor of our multitudes she integrates her shamanic practice into art and politics, putting her gifts toward healing racism, colonization, and dominion over the natural world. Her passion is for adapting traditional practices for modern city-life, seeing healing in places and communities where others project powerlessness and taking advantage of conjure’s eclectic-ness by combining seemingly different traditions and modalities as spirit leads her.
Although we are only examples, we are aware that younger healers may be establishing a new norm by which an “essence of healing” will become most paramount. Old attitudes which reinforce “this is better than that” or “only my method can heal this” will eventually be replaced by a mutual understanding of the connectedness of various healing arts as foundational to reaching our most powerful forces. In other words, as no single method or technique works for every person at every stage of healing, we see the plurality of healing that can and must exist for the level of depth required during these troubled times. The next generation of healers is well positioned to bring these truths to light, not only within healing communities but to popular culture, as well.
As young healers we may innovate the old ways and recognize the politics of our work--or sometimes not. We, at the very least, rely on the courageousness, fortitude, and vision of our elders, and are inspired to walk alongside them to carry on the medicine, the mojo, the meaning of healing forward into new consciousness for us all.
Renata Maniaci is a contemporary energy worker, sexual health educator, and self-care enthusiast who draws from a number of healing traditions. She firmly believes that all healing is self-healing, and is committed to sharing that truth by facilitating the healing process of others. To accomplish this she uses Healing Touch, and some other methods as guided, in her healing spaces in Woodley Park and at Freed Bodyworks in Capitol Hill.
Richael Faithful is a “street shaman,” creative, and lawyer. She is founder and Voice Curator of Conjure! Freedom Collective, a healing justice group committed to healing trauma from slavery, ending racial caste, and creating a love politic in the US. Richael also serves as the Shaman-In-Residence at Freed Bodyworks in Capitol Hill.