In 2007, Amy Shuford, of Leland, was struggling to figure out the cause of many mysterious and alarming symptoms she’d begun to experience, including bodily numbness, vertigo, fatigue, and forgetfulness. She underwent a number of medical tests and eventually had a spinal tap without a blood patch, which triggered a headache that lasted for 21 days. Desperate to feel better, when a friend of hers recommended that she try Reiki, a form of alternative medicine with Japanese origins, Shuford didn’t waste any time.
The International Center for Reiki Training describes the practice as technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.
“I thought it was ‘woo woo’,” Shuford admits, “but I didn’t care at that point.” She gave Reiki a try and much to her surprise and relief, it worked. She was intrigued. After years of working in the hospitality industry, managing hotels and ski resorts, Shuford soon found herself dabbling in something completely new. She began studying Reiki and went on to earn Reiki I, Reiki II, and Reiki Master Teacher certifications. Eventually, she became a Certified Crystal Healer, Shamanic Practitioner, and Young Living Essential Oil consultant, as well.
While the world of alternative medicine may seem far from her original path, Shuford says that at the heart of both her current and past professions is a passion for people. Her motto in the hotel business had always been: “people matter.” Through Reiki, she’s learned to help people in a different way, using her hands and her intuition.
She explains that in a Reiki session, the client lies comfortably clothed on a massage table covered with a sheet or blanket, with essential oils diffusing in the room. She performs Reiki by lightly touching the client or holding the client’s hands just above his or her body. Her hands emit energy that’s intuitive, she says – the energy goes where it’s needed, and people’s experiences and responses vary. It’s common for them to feel deeply peaceful she explains, or to feel warmth in certain areas, and cooling in others (especially where there’s inflammation). Some people see colors.
“It can [also] be emotional,” Shuford shares. “We all have a chakra system. Our cells have memory and we tend to hold different things in, whether it’s emotional or physical.”
So, crying, laughing, falling asleep – “it’s all normal” during Reiki. “You always get what you need,” she says.
Shuford has been providing Reiki services for the last six years. But on January 1, 2018, she launched a full-time holistic, multi-modality wellness practice in Belville, where she treats people of all ages, and pets. Shuford also offers treatment options for people who are homebound or in a facility, and free consultations for those who aren’t yet sure if Reiki will be a good fit.
Once she gets to know a client, Shuford works with him or her to formulate an individualized direction for their holistic work to move. But she says that there is always one overarching goal, and that is to heal a person’s mind, body, and spirit.
“We are energy,” she says, and “everything has a vibration … health has a certain vibration and so does disease. Everything I work with – from Reiki to energy healing to the crystals and essential oils – has a certain vibration” and the objective is “to bring your body to a vibration of health, to keep you above the wellness line and to raise vibrations where they’re needed and lower them where they’re needed.” Reiki works with the meridians of the body in a way similar to acupuncture, she explains.
Shuford shares that Reiki is used in a variety of settings, including hospitals, hospices, and assisted living facilities. As a Reiki Master Teacher, Shuford has provided Reiki instruction to nurses, business owners, college students, mothers.
“Reiki is for everyone,” she says.
It often complements medical or mental health care, such as chemotherapy, grief therapy, or post-delivery care. Oncologists frequently refer patients for Reiki treatment and some surgeons, like celebrity M.D. Dr. Oz, won’t even operate without a Reiki Master present, Shuford says.
While there remains a significant amount of skepticism surrounding this spiritual healing art, Shuford says that she’s that she’s seen a shift in the last five years where our society is becoming more accepting of natural healing methods and health-fortifying practices.
“As people are moving away from Big Pharma, and as people are questioning what they’re putting in their bodies and are trying to be more organic and looking at the local Gen-X [issue], people are becoming more open,” she says.
She points out how popular yoga has become, and how meditation is now a buzzword, too. Shuford can’t recommend daily meditative practice enough. But for anyone intimidated by the idea, Shuford wants to make it clear that meditation doesn’t have to mean thirty minutes of sitting in a corner saying, “Om.” Meditation can take many forms, she says, including a walk on the beach, stealing a few moments in the morning to just sit still, or taking intentional two-minute breaks throughout the workday – it’s “anything that puts you in the present,” she says.
In a mindful, meditative state, people learn about themselves, she adds. But we miss this opportunity for self-exploration when we’re glued to our phones and Facebook newsfeeds.
“Our minds are filled with so much noise,” Shuford says. “We are so out of touch [as a culture] with who we are on a soul level.”
To reconnect with ourselves and ground ourselves in the present, Shuford recommends turning off our phones for a while, tuning out the bombardment of news and social media, and turning inwards instead, tuning into what our minds and our bodies really need.
Nourishing our souls is simpler than many think, she says. “Put your bare feet on the soil, grass, or sand … it’s so simple and amazing what you can get from feeling the earth beneath your feet … the energy we can pull form the earth is immense.”
Try a yoga class, she adds. Visit the Farmers’ Market and add more fresh fruit and vegetables to your diet. Some of Shuford’s personal favorite healthy activities are kayaking on the Belville riverfront, playing with her godson and two little dogs, and painting. Peaceful practices like these can be not only healing, but also preventative.
If there’s anything Shuford has learned from her difficult medical journey that resulted in a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, it’s that we are our best agents in our health. It’s so important to listen to our bodies, she says.
Shuford’s goals for the New Year include writing a book, working more with the dying – a population to which she is drawn – and forming a group for gifted children and their parents. “There are lots of kids out there who are special,” she says, but need permission and encouragement to be their natural selves. “Who knows what beautiful things they can do.”
To learn more about Amy Shuford’s holistic wellness work and services, visit her Facebook page.