Warm hands and a warm heart are the tools of her trade for Mary Rautenstrauch of Enterprise, practitioner of Reiki, an ancient art that promotes natural healing, stress reduction and relaxation.
Reiki, pronounced "ray key," means universal life energy, and is the energy that is channeled through the healer and received by the body of the recipient during a Reiki session.
"Everything around us is energy," explained Rautenstrauch. "When the energy in a person is not flowing properly, two things happen: pain and disease."
"I can feel congestion - I can't think of another word to describe it when the energy isn't flowing the way it should be," said Rautenstrauch. As she works on a client, her hands get warmer and warmer as a reiki session progresses. "Some people tell me they feel like hot pads."
A Reiki treatment essentially consists of placing hands on different energy points on the body, an ancient technique common to many spiritual traditions. In a typical Reiki treatment, the client lies down (fully clothed) on a padded treatment table. Energy is transferred to the client through the hands of the practitioner in a sequence of positions.
Treatment starts with the client's head, then covers the abdomen from just below the ribs to the lower belly. The client turns over, and the practitioner then works gradually from the top of the back to the tailbone. In each position, the hands are simply rested on the client for 3-5 minutes. A full treatment usually takes about an hour.
While Rautenstrauch said most people will benefit from Reiki, those who experience chronic pain or are healing from some sort of trauma probably benefit the most. Some hospitals even incorporate Reiki in their treatment programs, and nurses, who have long known about "the healing touch," are learning the technique, she said.
There is a $20 an hour charge, but Rautenstrauch said she will work around a client's financial situation. "I don't do it for the money," said Rautenstrauch. "It's made me feel so good, I want to share it with other people."
Best known as the longtime no-nonsense manager of the OK Theatre in Enterprise, Rautenstrauch was introduced to Reiki about seven years ago when she was experiencing chronic muscle pain as the results of surgery she'd gone through in 1994. The traumatic operation left her with two steel rods and six screws in her spine and fused from the waist.
While the surgery had relieved 65-75 percent of the intense, constant back pain and accompanying migraines that had made it hard to carry on a normal life, because of the fusion the muscles in her lower back were usually knotted. Regular trips to local masseuse, who "had fits trying to get the knots out", eased the pain only partially and briefly. "I was battling the muscle issue all the time. It was like a bad toothache," she said.
A new friend, Julie Anderson of Enterprise, turned out to be a Reiki master, and gave Mary her first Reiki treatment in 1996. "I was amazed at how good I felt," she remembered. Eventually Rautenstrauch became an apprentice to Anderson, who also owns a business called Winter's End, which deals in natural health products. Rautenstrauch achieved her first level certificate in 2001. She's now a Level 2 practitioner, with additional "attunements" divulged to increase her effectiveness at each level.
She said she conducts an average of two to five sessions a week. The fact that approximately 90 percent of her clients return for additional sessions speaks for the therapy's effectiveness.
Her clients have included the entire Joseph High School volleyball team, brought in by their coach for a Reiki session, and many who suffer some type of pain, including migraine headaches. "There's no quick fix," she said, then told about a regular customer calling her with a migraine she had been unable to shake for three days. It was gone by the end of an hour-long session.
One skeptical client told someone before she visited Rautenstrauch for the first time she was going for a "voodoo" treatment. When she returned for a second treatment, Rautenstrauch jokingly met her at the door with her version of a voodoo doll.
Rautenstrauch said that Reiki is no replacement for traditional medical treatment, it isn't used for disease diagnosis and no cures are promised. However, she feels almost everyone can benefit.
"It's changed my life," she said. Not only has the pain been relieved, but her approach toward problems has also changed. "I used to feel like I needed to fix everything. Now I've learned to let it go."