Reader Charlie Lehardy sent in a story from his local paper, the Arizona Daily Star. The paper regularly runs prominent articles on alternative spirituality, he said. Erin White's interesting profile of a shamanic energy healer begins with the story of a woman, Susan Luzader Prust, who bought a piece of land to run a resort for dogs but felt that parts of the property were "a little spooky and scary."
The businesswoman worried her company wouldn't flourish amid the negative energy she felt. Then Prust hired Pam Hale Trachta, a shamanic energy healer who runs a business called On Solid Ground, to help her "heal" the land.
Energy healings, particularly in forms like Reiki, have surged in acceptance in recent years. The tradition dates back centuries among native South Americans, and the year-and-a-half-old Ealy Center for Natural Healing here, which is licensed by the state Board for Private Postsecondary Education, works with clients and teaches energy healing.
Energy healings may or may not have "surged in acceptance in recent years." But the way the reader determines a quantifiable increase is through data, not an anecdote about one school being started. One of the biggest frustrations about reporting on these types of groups is the difficulty of coming up with hard numbers. But in the absence of hard numbers, it's not appropriate to say energy healings have surged in acceptance.
Anyway, the story explains how Trachta left a corporate career of consulting. She would help companies restructure their personnel and business practices but left their "energy" untouched.
After Prust hired her, Trachta walked the acreage, calling in the four directions to create sacred space. Trachta then set out to find the heart of the land -- what she considers the energy center.
"It is spiritual work -- there's no way around that," she says, "but as soon as you mention that, people start picturing ghosts."
That's not an accurate idea of what she does, she says. "I work as a bridge to invisible influences that can be worked with to assist our quality of life."
She struggles to verbalize the process in concrete terms. "It's just a knowing," she says. "All of a sudden, I got to a spot and felt sadness, a lump in my throat, and I ask, 'Is this the heart of the land?'"
The two women sat on the land, and both say that, in their mind's eye, they saw a young Apache man who told them he was sad because he'd had to leave.
After talking with the spirits still on the land, Trachta recommended a corn ceremony for healing. The two women layered tissue paper with symbolic bits -- stickers of dogs, flower petals to represent plant life, sugar for Mother Earth, pink sugar for attracting clients -- and buried the despacho, or offering, at the spot Trachta identified as the heart of the land.
The article goes on to describe Trachta's business model and her self-awareness that people probably think she's a bit out there. The reporter also talks to a skeptic with a group called Quackwatch. All in all, a great way to cover a non-traditional religious story.
Lehardy wondered whether alternative spirituality gets as much coverage in major newspapers and religion media as it does in Arizona. I seem to recall much more coverage when I lived in Colorado, which makes sense. A quick search of Reiki and New Age spirituality shows a bunch of coverage, but none in major media.