August 17, 2007

Holistic Expo; A Tour of the Strange

Category: News — Ira @ 6:32 pm

“Did you ever see the customers in health-food stores?
They are pale, skinny people who look half dead. In a
steak house, you see robust, ruddy people. They’re
dying, of course, but they look terrific.”
—Bill Cosby

When I was a child, we used to make fun of “Organic” people, because of their insist-ence that naturally grown foods were healthier (I know, I know, it was uncouth and we were brats, so save it). The ones I remember were usually thin and wan and reeked of garlic and ate lots of nuts and other legumes. Meanwhile, we were scarfing down large amounts of starchy potatoes, noodles, meat and homemade white bread. But now, as an adult, the organic concept makes a lot of sense to me. I try to eat healthy, salads and such, with occasional splurging on anything I like (especially ice cream). I have now taken Superfood (see Links Page) daily for more than two years and don’t know what I would do without it. I also take a variety of daily vitamins and have for a number of years.

I believe today that there is a natural cure for almost any illness, including most cancers. I don’t know for sure, but I believe if I were diagnosed with a serious disease, I would seek a natural approach to healing first. But the holistic approach (Holistic medicine attempts to treat both the mind and the body., once one digs deep into it, is riddled with a vast array of New Age spiritualism, mumbo jumbo and snake oil. One has to sift through a maze of theories and claims and decide what is legit and what is not, what is helpful and what is useless (or dangerous), and whether the source is from darkness or from light.

A good friend of mine from the Bob Jones years in South Carolina, Elizabeth, worked in the holistic healing field after her graduation. She once told me she was leaving her then-current job because her boss, a lady, was openly calling her Spirit Guide, a demon named in the Bible, onto the premises where she worked. Elizabeth was completely freaked out. And got out.

Some months ago, I found an advertisement for “Celebration of Life!,” a Holistic expo and conference in York, PA, and decided to attend. The event was scheduled for this past Saturday, August 11th. I arrived at about mid-morning, walked in and paid my $5 entry fee and received my bag of goodies. I began a slow tour around the perimeter, examining the booths without making eye contact so no over-eager vendor would assault me.

The place was busy. A lot of people. Eighty vendors. Exotic aromas from incense sticks and spices drifted through the air. A drum beat softly from somewhere in the middle of the building. A lot of people, and they all seemed to know why they were there. Many of the women were dressed in colorful, natural fabrics. Some men had long full beards. Back to the earth, Birkenstock people. Some looked peaceful. Some looked blissful. Some looked harried. And some just looked worn and tired.

Two items seemed to be in about every other booth. Magic stones and dragons. The stones were of all colors and types; one vender even offered “energized” stones purported to ward off evil from the wearer. Cost: around $30. The Shambhala Meditation Center booth had a metal pyramid set up. Clients paid to put on some kind of ear phones and several at a time sat on the sides of the pyramid. Lights flickered, and they seemed to be meditating profusely. Across the aisle, the Aura booth was doing a brisk business. Have you seen your Aura lately?, blared the sign. “No,” I thought to myself, “I haven’t. And don’t intend to.” Patrons sat before a computerized camera to have their photos taken. The picture when developed showed the colors of their aura. For $30 to $45, depending on the length of the session, they could sit and be consulted on the meaning of those colors.

Shambhala Meditation Center pyramid

Magic stones and masks

Palm reading session (client’s back to camera)

Tarot cards and palm reading booths abounded as well. Customers paid for and sat somberly for their readings. One of the busiest booths was the Energy Wellness table run by Amy Valazquez. The client would lie flat on his back while Amy made many gesticulations around and above his body. She would then sit beside the table and rub a stick around a brass bowl for some minutes. It made a humming sound. For complete harmony, I guess. The sessions lasted for a good fifteen minutes. The clients walked away unburdened, both of their bad vibes and a good chunk of change.

Amy Valazquez dispensing energy wellness

In another booth, Willow Earth, a female Native American seer, stood beside her caged white dove and held (eagle?) feathers to each side of her client’s head and chanted. Willow Earth claims to be able to see the future. I’ve always been curious about such claims. If you can see the future, why go to all the hassle of setting up a booth at some two-bit expo and charging a pittance to tell people theirs? Why not “see” next week’s winning lottery ticket? But then again, I suppose the Native American seers exist on a different platform of values and want to “help” others. For a fee, of course.

Willow Earth (with back to camera), Native American seer.
Cage holds a white dove.

I walked around and observed and tried to remain unobtrusive. I stopped at different booths and examined stones and trinkets. I wanted to ask questions as to the import-ance of stones and dragons, but decided not to call attention to myself by showing my ignorance. I was definitely an observer, a novice, a babe in the woods. In the middle of the building was a space with chairs for people to sit and rest. A blanket with a labyrinth pattern was spread out and taped to the floor. I sat and rested quite a bit and watched the people flow by. During one such sitting session, an attractive young woman approached and asked politely what time it was. I told her, then asked her to take a few pictures of me, using my camera. She obliged happily. I thanked her. She had a large dragon tattooed on the back of her left leg, just above the ankle. I thought briefly about asking her what the dragon signified, but figured she might expose me as a heretic. So I held my tongue.


Pictures taken by the dragon lady. Woman and child
behind me are walking the labyrinth.

Although I had my camera with me, I decided not to openly take pictures of the various booths. Instead, I surreptitiously snapped a few with my cell phone camera. The quality isn’t quite as good, but it beat the suspicious glances and protests that an open camera would have generated. It’s more exciting to sneak pictures anyway.

At a booth just outside the lecture room, Dr. Barry Helm was giving massages on a portable massage table. I watched. It looked very relaxing and beneficial, and I was tempted to sign up. With all the stress in my life lately, I could use a good massage. About that time, he had the client lie on his back on the table and placed one small rock on his (the client’s) forehead, one on the stomach and one by his feet. Then he made many fervent gesticulations above and around the client. He jabbed the air like a mad man. I decided not to avail myself of his services after all.

Soul Calling booth

Other booths included Signature Cell Healing, Numerology/Handwriting analysis, Soul Calling, Hypnotists, Angelic Connections and Alternative Therapies. I wondered about the “Angelic Connections.” Is there such a thing? Or something else posing as angels? What about soul calling? Snake oil or legit? Whose soul is called? Could I choose? I was disappointed that there were not more “natural foods” booths. Maybe one or two, and they were staffed by aggressive-looking persons, mostly women. I felt no urge to engage them.

I overheard some startling conversations. Two women discussed their previous lives. They talked openly, freely and believed it completely. I listened and tried not to look astonished. It struck me that most of the people attending (I saw one or two rednecks walking around forlornly and sympathized with them.) were in search of or believed they had found the secret of life. Yet all were aging. Many were elderly. All will die. And none will return in another life to walk this earth, despite their beliefs and deepest desires to do so.

A lot of the people walking around were thin, almost emaciated, and had the pasty, white unhealthy glow of the Vegan. Some, mostly female, had hard, set facial features, as if they were expecting to be challenged and/or rejected because of their lifestyles and beliefs. Or had dealt with such challenges and rejections in the past. In this place they didn’t have to worry; they were accepted. There is no question in my mind that I was mingling with people who belonged to covens. Wiccans and warlocks. I had conversations with three people, a rotund, jolly bearded man, the dragon lady who took my picture, and one of the ladies discussing her past life. Our conversations were not in-depth.

At around 2 o’clock, I decided I’d about had my five bucks’ worth. I did one more quick walk through the expo. The tempo had picked up a bit. The crowd was growing. The drumbeat in the middle of the building was joined by a second. The booths hum-med with activity and earnest consultations. The dragon lady sat in deep discussion with a psychic, the Rev. Corrie Mitleid, at the “Fire through Spirit” table. Maybe that’s why she’d asked me what time it was, so she could keep her appointment. A young monk was immersed in fervent conversation with a seeker at the Kalpa Bhadra Buddhist Center booth. The rotund jolly man wandered by and smiled at me. I smiled back and walked on toward the exit. And so I left them.

I believe there exists around us a spiritual dimension inhabited by beings we cannot imagine. I believe that world can be tapped and its powers harnessed to the desires of humans. Many of the vendors at the expo emphasized good things, such as diet and healthy lifestyles. Others were no doubt charlatans, hawking snake oil to their gullible customers. But some, I am convinced, were tapped into that spiritual world. What they had was real. They stood at the open gates and offered passage into a world I chose to leave unentered and unexplored.


In the first year of our marriage, Ellen and I went shopping and bought a brand new vinyl couch at Unclaimed Freight. A very nice green couch with a hideaway bed. Several months ago a friend gave me a beautiful “furry” full-color New York Jets throw blanket. The blanket was proudly displayed on the couch back. It stayed there pretty much untouched for months until last week, when I decided to remove it. I blithely tugged on the blanket, but it strangely remained glued to the couch. Annoyed, I tugged harder. It finally dislodged with a ripping and tearing sound. Sadly, a good bit of the blanket remains attached to the couch in a thousand little “fringlies.” I was horrified. They won’t wash off, and they are immune to the lint brush. I suppose they will attach to any guests who might happen to sit on the couch in the coming months. I had no idea such a thing could happen. Who’da thunk it?

This week I have been battling a savage head cold. I get about one a year, sometimes less. I can’t figure out where I picked it up. Maybe at the Celebration of Life Expo.

Finally, I received a call this week from an out-of-state reader of this blog. He asked me if he was permitted to print out hard copies of my blog for some friends who didn’t have computer access. He didn’t know; he thought the copyright sign at the bottom perhaps prohibited him from doing so. I appreciated that he checked with me, but as far as I’m concerned, anyone is welcome to make hard copies of anything on this site. What you may not do is publish it elsewhere or reproduce it in any way without my permission.




  1. I’m one of those people that’s “too busy” to eat good. My diet is usually greasy Casey’s or Hardee’s.

    I’m always up for a new adventure, but I’m not sure if I would have ventured to the Holistic expo. Sounds like an interesting time though.

    Comment by Reuben Wagler — August 17, 2007 @ 6:53 pm

  2. A thought on the Labyrinth…. They used to be part of the cloistered clergy’s daily office. They were prescribed to the laity as penance and “walked” on ones knees to invoke the suffering of Christ. All cathedrals were planned with a labyrinth usually in the transept. The cathedral at Chartes labyrinth remains intact. After the Gothic era, the new dawn began – the Renaissance – labyrinths fell out of favor because they were not symmetrical rational shapes and lent themselves to mystical rather than empirical experiences. Also with the Renaissance the clergy moved out of the cloister and into the public sphere under the direction of St. Francis and others…….thus concludes today’s lesson in Architectural History…

    Comment by Glo — August 18, 2007 @ 10:35 am

  3. Your observations serve as evidence that evolution upwards is not an inevitable progression! (God’s Law gives light.)

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — August 18, 2007 @ 7:19 pm

  4. When I was 12, a woman who was a drafter at our family metal fabrication business visited my parents to have a go at the Ouiji board. She was and still is a spiritualist and was able to get the pointer to move without touching it when she alone or with another spiritualist was running the board. When I was on the board, we both needed to touch it but it moved very strongly and did levitate from the board’s surface. During this time, we did my past life regression through her spirit guide and found that I had at least three past lives, very heady information for a seventh grader.

    Later, as I studied logic and math further, I had an epiphany; about six billion humans live on the earth now, 1/2 of the humans who have ever lived here. So, if I had three past lives, how many did you have? Am I special so that my soul has return star power that the common crowd lacks? Do several people living today share parts of the same soul from a person who is now deceased? At least the Hindus belive that the transmigration of souls is between all animals from cows to monkeys to humans (the cows and monkeys are both higher forms of life) to bacteria. This allows their math to work. What’s six billion humans compared to trillions of other organisms?

    I do very much believe that there is a turned sideways, extra dimensional spirit world surronding us, occupied by both holy angels and demons. I suspect that her spirit guide was not one of the former.

    Comment by Mark Hersch — August 18, 2007 @ 10:29 pm

  5. Greetings from the bottom-feeder of the lawn mower world. My father in law (a very good man to have around) picked up a lawn mower at a sale for a dollar. We are currently using it for the third season and works fine. (Pops has so far neglected to collect his dollar.) ;)

    To Mark, do the trillions of other organisms not also have previous lives?

    Comment by jason yutzy — August 20, 2007 @ 11:42 am

  6. Hello Ira:
    I was visiting with your brother Titus today and he asked me to check out your web site. Several interesting tid bits of information. I have never tried the wholistic or organic diets. However due to battling a weight problem all of my life, I have found that I have very good success with the Adkins program as long as I stay on it. The only problem is that when I get close to my target weight I have the erroneous thought that I can go off of Adkins and manage my weight by just watching what I eat. What a mistake!!! As far as the afterlives and future lives, I like you believe it is appointed to man “ONCE” to die. I guess that kind of rules out the after lives and future lives for me. As far as contacting the spiritual beings I have mixed feelings but John Edwards has been the most convincing to me.

    I’m not sure if I have ever met you or not. I first met Titus a few weeks after his diving accident while working as a Registered Nurse at Schoitz Medical Center in Waterloo, Iowa. That is where I first met Titus. We became friends almost at once and I try to get over to see Titus from time to time. Not near as often as I really should.

    Comment by Barry Clinkenbeard — August 22, 2007 @ 7:15 pm

  7. This is August 23 and I want everyone to know that tomorrow is Ira’s birthday. I am not sure how many years this makes for him, but Ira, take time off to do something you truly enjoy doing; go hiking, have tea at some exotic place or whatever you feel like. We will be flying to S.C. tomorrow, but I will think of you and your day. I heard Rhoda sent you some really yum yums, not to excuse myself, but I was helping with the food part of an 88 yr old lady’s passing, a blessed privelege indeed. I mean to help, but left no extra time for me to mail greetings, etc., so best wishes for a happy day. Rachel

    Ira’s response: Thanks for broadcasting the news to the whole world, dear Sis. As a matter of fact, tomorrow’s blog will reflect on my creeping age and other brooding issues.

    Comment by rachel — August 23, 2007 @ 1:57 pm

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