SMC nurses open door to new age healing

Last Saturday, Santa Monica College’s Student Nursing Association invited students and alternative health advocates to experience “a holistic approach to health.” For attendees, this meant allowing oneself to bathe in the sounds of gongs and Tibetan singing bowls, letting essential oils awaken the senses, or receiving a healing touch from a reiki practitioner while performing a gentler form of yoga. The Integrative Health Symposium was part of an Integrative Health program that Professor Eve Adler received a grant to start at SMC. However, the Symposium itself was the idea of SNA president Johaira Dilauro, who’d always wanted to put on an event like this and decided to go through with it when she became SNA president.

Holistic approaches focus on treating the mind and the body instead of just the symptoms of a condition, something that “makes sense” to Dilauro. “There’s not one person who doesn’t feel like they need to take a deep breath,” said Dilauro.

On why people are revisiting these methods, she said, “I feel like I don’t know that much [technically] when it comes to these things, but I can tell you that I feel it, and it’s raw, and it feels like my body’s been begging for it.”

The event started with sound therapy, or a soundbath, from specialist Guy Douglas. With a set of chakra-based crystal bowls, a gong “tuned to the frequency of the sun,” and an instrument similar to a rainstick, Douglas managed to take a room full of nursing students from tense and stressed to relaxed and grounded after an experience some considered a journey.

He explained how important it is to cease mental chatter. “It actually cancels the chatter in our minds and brings us to almost a meditative state where healing can start," said Douglas. "When we enter the space with these frequencies it's realigning all these frequencies, cleaning the energy within our being.”

Reiki, known as palm healing, was also covered during the symposium. Tania Ranjeva, who presented it at the event, considered it a calling. “I always felt I had a healing power and I’ve been drawn to alternative healing from an early age,” said Ranjeva.

She explains that Reiki is healing energy from the universe that heals through the hands of a practitioner, who basically functions as a vehicle for such energy. It also aids in self-care, which is important for anyone but is especially important for nurses. “For nurses it's essential to do self-care because you care so much for other people that a lot of times people feel depleted,” said Ranjeva. Event attendees were able to sign up for a Reiki class for the beginning of next year, and anyone interested can contact Dilauro for details.

Aromatherapy, a more familiar form of alternative healing that goes back to the ancient oil trade, was presented by Shirley Martin, a doTERRA representative. Not trying to knock Western medicine, Martin emphasized the public’s lack of knowledge of what’s in a given prescription. “There are side effects to pills and we don’t know what’s in them," said Martin. "There’s fillers that have side effects and you have to take something else to counteract that side effect.”

In between showing attendees the various uses of essential oils, Martin shared her own experiences with the oils and how they combated MRSA and acne, arguably a testimony about their effectiveness in providing “that balance, that constant zen you could say, of being well.”

After a lunch break where most people spent more time getting free "essential oils" than eating, attendees heard from Stefanie LaRue, a stage four metastatic breast cancer survivor whose story moved the room to tears. Diagnosed at 30 years old after three hospitals declared her healthy, she was told she had six months to a year to live; That was nine years ago.

La Rue turned to many of the treatments discussed earlier in the day, but had to find out about them by herself. She now advocates for giving people options, including alternative treatments. “I wanted options so I could make the best choices for myself," said LaRue. "Desiring that for myself made me realize that others probably desired it, so that inspired me to become an advocate to help share all the educational information out there we need to learn about how to live a better quality of life.”

The Symposium ended with Urban Zen, a stress relieving treatment that includes Reiki, yoga, and aromatherapy. After Casey Cota of Yogaworks led a shortened, “gentler” yoga class, and goodie bags of free memberships to David Barton Gym and Yogaworks were handed out, attendees went home with a taste of “constant zen” if nothing else.