The Buzz on Energy Medicine
Christopher Clymer Kurtz | Photography by Mary Baldwin
If I didn’t trust the judgment of my good friend who last summer told me about Annmarie Early’s Soul Song Institute, I may have scoffed:
A spiritual energy center emanating from the crown of my head? A “third eye”?
And if I didn’t know Early herself through my church—albeit only by face and name—a sentence from an email a week before my appointment may have caused more than a little anxiety:
“Folks can be disoriented at the end of the session,” she wrote.
And if I didn’t know she’d taught psychology for a decade and a half at Eastern Mennonite University—my alma mater and current employer—I may have doubted the scientific validity of her current profession: Integrative Energetic Medicine.
What the heck?
But judging from the size of my energy field when I arrived at her institute on College Street in Dayton for the session she’d offered me, skepticism wasn’t going to rule the day.
In the late fall gray, the classic storefront duplex looked quaint, its tall wood-frame windows and door trimmed white against brown brick.
Inside the Soul Song Institute half, the world was warmer, smart thrift store finds accentuating art from Peru. Early has traveled there to look directly at the sun from on Tres Cruces mountain. She stayed twice with a healer who is also an archaeologist who apparently “found a Machu Picchu behind Machu Picchu,” Early said.
She set this Dayton practice up three years ago and hasn’t touched the decor since. When I first talked with her in early October, she was already booked for a couple months; I was lucky when a spot opened up in early December.
People have an energy field—their soul—that extends two or three feet—an arms length—around them, she told me. At its edge “you’re connected to the All That Is, however you want to understand that.”
It can be pulled in—“like if you feel I’m creepy,” she said—or extended. And information is coming into and out through it all the time.
“You stay here,” she said, stepping across the room from me and then gently approaching. “I can walk into your field, and you’ll actually feel me.”
She stopped about six or seven feet away. “That’s where you begin.”
“That’s where I begin? So you’re feeling me right now?”
“Yeah. You can feel me, too, touching. If you let yourself feel.”
“How do I do that?”
“If you just let yourself drop in a little bit and not think too much about it,” she said.
She stepped back. “I’m out here, I don’t feel anything, and there will be a literal sense of you”—she moved toward me—“right there.”
Maybe I felt something…in my chest? Maybe?
Early said she’s always been a mystic at heart. But cultural forces didn’t really encourage that in her, so she went into psychology, got her PhD in marriage and family therapy from the Fuller Theological Seminary School of Psychology. She practiced psychotherapy for 25 years, and taught for a decade and a half at EMU. But she felt the limits of conventional practice, and wanted “something more.”
Along the way she had a session with an energy worker that “opened me up to such a state of awareness,” she said, “there was change in places I didn’t expect. I didn’t know how to describe it or explain it.” When a sabbatical from EMU coincided with the start of a one-year training in energy medicine with Fernand Poulin, founder and director of White Winds Institute in Georgia, she took it. As she told me, “timing is always perfect”—if not always with comfortable results. The training “upended” her formal psychology background. She does not practice the energy work under her psychotherapist license.
“It’s probably the scariest thing I ever did, since I wasn’t allowed to use my mind to figure out what was happening for people,” she said. “I had to willingly suspend my disbelief and go into their energy field and start listening. I had to unravel all of my training, all of my thinking, all of my clinical experience, and just begin from the ground up.”
She said she hears energy, more than sees or feels it.
“The funnest thing is when someone comes in with hip pain,” she said. “They can’t find relief for it, and I can do these things in their energy field, and you know, they’ll call me and say, ‘It’s amazing. It’s gone.’ I was never trained to do physical things, so for me, that’s, like, super cool.”
Integrative Energetic Medicine
“We are in the midst of a paradigm shift,” Early wrote in a 2016 paper titled “Beyond the Boundaries of Our Skin: Extending Our Felt Sense.” This shift “offers support for working intentionally with felt sensing realms in all areas of our lived experience (especially clinically), and that opens up the potential of extending our felt sense beyond our skin into subtle energies that influence our wellbeing, allowing us to enhance our connection with others and the larger world.”
Those “subtle energies” are in seven chakras, she told me, each with a consciousness about different aspects of ourselves in the world: our standing and ancestry, for example, how we do or don’t speak, or how we “perceive and manifest.”
These can be thrown out of balance by, say, physical or emotional trauma. When they are balanced and connected, however, “things flow and we can heal body, mind and spirit.”
It’s a realm that’s “so much more alive than we realize,” she said. Think quantum physics, when the movement of one “entangled” particle will shift its entangled counterpart even when separated by great distances. People “entangle all the time, and don’t know it.”
She points to books she said are building a foundation for the science of energy fields: Norman Doidge’s The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity (Penguin, 2016); Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence (Penguin, 2018); and Bruce Lipton’s The Biology of Belief 10th Anniversary Edition: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles (Hay House, 2016).
“I promise you, in ten years, my field of counseling, we won’t do counseling the way we are now,” she said, “because there’s so much more that we can do.” She already works in tandem with practicing therapists who refer clients to her, and she knows of medical doctors who, though skeptical of energy medicine, refer clients to IEM practitioners.
I don’t know how to write about what I experienced in my session.
We stepped into the back of the room; Early slid closed the wooden barn doors behind us and fastened the large hook-and-eye latch. We sat in chairs and talked a bit: Was there anything I wanted from the session? Not in particular. I was mostly curious but open to learning. Anything she should know? I didn’t think so. Any body pain? No.
I took off my glasses and shoes and got comfortable on the massage table.
“Your job is to relax and just accept what rises,” she said. She would be listening, and sharing what she heard: “Half the time I don’t know what it means. I just give it to you, and it’s for you to work with.”
I quieted my mind, looked at the ceiling or sometimes closed my eyes, waiting to experience. Early assessed my energy field, then stepped into it, exploring, very quickly observing what she described as a yearning:
“My sense is, it’s like a bell’s being rung, like you’re being called to something,” she said. “It’s like you don’t know quite what to do with that. It’s, like, pick up and start walking. It’s almost like you don’t have shoes on, like there’s dust, it’s kicking the dust off your feet. It’s almost like you have a bag over your shoulder, like a travel bag. It’s like it’s time to start walking, start moving.”
She asked what I was noticing in my body, if anything.
“I feel my hands,” I said. Pretty much they just felt like my hands, resting there beside me on the table.
“When I say to you those words about something is calling for you, how does that resonate for you?”
From me, then, tears, a choked, “Yeah.” I in fact had been waiting, keeping my head up and eyes open for clarity, both listening for a sense of clear direction and uncertain about how to pick up and walk.
“You already know this,” she said. “So just let that move, keep going. Let it move. Just allow it, what rises.”
That was early in my hour-long session. She continued to move about me, offering more observations, sometimes touching my feet, for a while feeling the back of my neck. She held her hands a foot or two above my torso, then raised them: “I’m just lifting the energy that sometimes can be compressed over the body, just to make a little more space,” she said.
Did I feel lighter? I couldn’t be sure. None of this was like the metaphorical path-slashing-through-the-jungle or soaring off a mountaintop stuff; I was just resting, receiving—with visceral emotion, lots of tears and a refreshing sense that who I am was being newly articulated.
Was I feeling my soul energy?
Early said that sometimes people “don’t remember what happens in the sessions, and contact her later to ask.” She often doesn’t remember either, but sometimes can “go back in and listen.” I’d brought an audio recorder along, and it’s kind of strange to—literally—listen back, but I’m glad to have caught the many things she said, like this question I still carry with me:
“So I’m in the energy of your first chakra, which is how you stand in the world, and there’s something here that I’m sensing about how life is asking you to shift, and to stand differently. Do you know what that is?”
Some of the images she described didn’t apply to me—or at least I haven’t made sense of them yet—but others were spot on, profoundly personal metaphors about who I am and my sense of purpose, about how there may be barriers preventing the flow between my different chakras.
After the session, it took a little time for me to ease out of my “receptive state of awareness,” sitting there on the edge of the table. The energy “keeps moving” for one to three days, Early said. I shouldn’t go straight back to work, should drink lots of water, and could take an Epsom salts bath for no longer than 15 minutes, to keep the energy flowing and pull out toxins.
And I should watch my life, pay attention to my dreams and “what life delivers to you.”
This year, Early is scheduling sessions at her Dayton office just one day a week, and increasing her focus on two different types of retreats and trainings, including online. This will allow her to reach more people, she said, so they can “really be able to work within their own life, so they don’t have to come see me to be able to access that place for themselves.”
She and a colleague Annie Browning have planned retreats in Colorado, Ireland and North Carolina, which emphasizes creating “spiritual awakening communities aligning with and opening awareness to the Divine movement within and around all of us.” The duo will also pilot a virtual coaching program on “sacred alignment” and “the expansion of awareness.”
In addition, she’ll offer The Soul’s Compass: A Wayfinding Retreat, with another colleague Tammy LaDrew. One is scheduled for April in Gore; it’s based on “the structure and wisdom of ancient and modern mandalas—the living, sacred circles of life.”
As for the circle of my life?
I would say I’ve had a taste of expanded awareness. I’m not sure I really understand what that means, and I haven’t—yet—packed a travel bag or kicked dust off my feet, but I’m definitely listening—both to my soul and with my soul—for that sound of bells.