STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — 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 and 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 said. "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 said the first time she was attuned by a previous master was "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 a while 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."
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."
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. "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 peace she never had before.
"I haven't put my scientific hat on and studied people afterward, but when they leave here, they feel relaxed, and that's my goal," she said.
Information from: The Commercial Dispatch, http://www.cdispatch.com