Lena Maxson is the first to admit that her holistic healing-based business “sounds weird.” She uses nontraditional methods based on “natural energies” and the power of touch, which smacks of hippy-dippy baloney. But she also employs another type of therapy not usually offered alongside foot baths and deep-tissue backrubs — she engages her customers in a low-key style of psychoanalysis.
“If you don’t deal with certain issues in your life, they can (manifest) themselves into illness or chronic pain,” Maxson said. “If you ignore something, it almost always comes to the physical level. So part of what I do is talk (to my clients) about their lives, starting from the back forward. Behind every illness is an issue. Needless to say, I get a lot of divorcees in here.”
She founded her business, Lena Maxson — Center of the Healing Arts, five years ago in Bath but moved to Old Town earlier this year. She was drawn not only by the historic neighborhood’s central location, where she’d have access to more customers, but also Old Town’s decidedly offbeat vibe.
“Everything is allowed in Old Town,” she said. “You can be as crazy as you want, and everything is accepted. I felt at home here right away.”
The Center of the Healing Arts is based on pranic healing, a pseudoscientific curative system that claims prana, or energy, can be used to activate natural healing systems in the body. The first step in pranic healing is reiki, which invokes this body energy through the power of touch and the use of colors.
“I know it sounds weird, but it’s effective,” Maxson said. “In Europe, doctors and (holistic) healers work together to analyze problems from both a clinical and a spiritual side. In America, everything is so splintered. The two sides never talk, and I think that’s such a shame. You need both.”
Maxson, 53, grew up in West Germany, where she took care of her grandmother starting from a young age. That developed into a love for working with the human body, so she pursued a career in nursing. At 21, she met a man from Lansing and got married. She moved to America with the idea of opening a German bakery/bistro in East Lansing.
“At our wedding, we got all the china we would need for the restaurant. But after we moved here, it just never happened,” Maxson said. “I didn’t know any English, so I was dependent on my husband for everything. He never did anything he promised. I was young and naïve.”
Maxson and her husband had two children but divorced soon afterward. Then, as she was navigating the complicated American legal system, she suffered two car accidents that left her confined to a wheelchair. She was 29.
“But that’s when my journey actually started,” she said. “They operated on me five times with no success, so I said, ‘To heck with this, I’m going back to Germany.’ I found a job I hated just so I could have the insurance to cover the rest of my surgeries.”
It was during this time that Maxson was introduced to pranic healing. She was able to ditch her wheelchair and became certified and licensed in India under the movement’s founder. She honed her skills in Europe as she added additional specialties to her education, including mainstream body sciences. She moved back to the Lansing area six years ago to be closer to her children but found the U.S. has its own set of challenges.
“Americans are so repressed,” Maxson said. “No one touches each other here, even though there’s a basic need to be touched. I think that’s actually linked to many of this country’s health problems. It’s difficult to describe the power of touch until you’ve experienced it.”
Services at the Center of the Healing Arts include full-body massages, reflexology, aromatherapy and ionic detoxification. She also uses her space for classes, seminars and coaching sessions that complement those services. Additionally, Maxson works in tandem with doctors and chiropractors around town who are less skeptical of her treatment style.
“They keep me secret from most patients, but occasionally, if they sense a need, they send them to me,” Maxson said. “I’ve been able to get through to people that no other type of medicine or therapy has been able to do.”
Prices vary based on service, and Maxson meets with new customers to determine what service will suit them best. A 90-minute massage is $110, for two hours it’s $150 and ionic foot baths run $99 for three sessions. Maxson said most people end up getting a combination of services, which sometimes include a full pranic healing session, which costs $240. And for those, she said, time isn’t a factor.
“For pranic healing, I stay with my customer until they’re healed,” Maxson said.
“But not everything is meant to be healed, and some things can’t be healed, such as cancer. And not everyone lets themselves be healed.”
For example, Maxson said, she once had a customer who had suffered from hives for years. When she asked the person if she remembered when it started, she responded, “Hell yeah.”
“I said, ‘Well come on, let’s talk about it,’” Maxson recalled. “But then I never heard from her. Some people are too scared to look inside themselves, even if it means they stay sick. The truth is, what I do scares most people. But I’ve had great success with customers who (initially scoffed) at the idea of energy healing. I’ve found the more skeptical someone is, the better results I get. That’s my power.”
Lena Maxson — Center of the Healing Arts
1220 N. Washington Ave., Lansing
(By appointment only) 10a.m -5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday
(517) 525-2478, lenamaxson-cotha.com