Flower Power

In the Vermont forest, the Lightheart Sanctuary is a haven for those who seek healing

Story by Priscila Ortiz
Photos courtesy of Maureen Short

what's this pic about?

The Lightheart Sanctuary is a private, sacred place.

Overcoming personal drama and trauma, Maureen Short, a Reiki master, has taken her life experiences and made a career out of helping others. Dealing with alcohol and substance abuse at a young age, Short realized she was in need of major healing.

“I had no money, so I started looking for alternative modalities,” Short says. She began learning about the healing powers of Reiki on her own and apprenticed with a healer for about three years. Reiki, a Japanese technique for relaxation and stress reduction, promotes healing. Administered by a healer laying their hands on certain parts of the body, “It is based on the idea that an unseen life force energy flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s life force energy is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.”

Short began practicing Reiki in Shellborn, Vt., in 1993, and with her husband, she built a sanctuary in a Vermont forest about ten years ago. The Lightheart Sanctuary is a seventeen-by-seventeen foot room with eight sides. “Being that it’s in the forest, it’s a very private, sacred place,” Short says. Being from a rural area, Short encountered much resistance from her family and community when she first got started. “Getting the word out was really hard. I didn’t have a good reputation,” she says.

Since Short started in 1993, she feels her practice has grown tremendously. “I learned, grew, and expanded. When I heal, I channel love, spirits, and healing energy. I keep it as pure as I can.” Aside from Reiki, Short also practices Shamanism, which she describes as “going into the spiritual world to work with spiritual allies. Short often uses a drum, tuning forks, rattles, and crystal bowls. “The bottom line in healing is that everything is made up of vibrations, even solids," she says. “This is what we mean when we talk about an aura. Happy people have a light of dancing energy around them.”

At a typical session at the Lightheart Sanctuary, Short tries to make newcomers feel as comfortable as possible, especially if they’re nervous. “People are relieved when they see I’m normal and grounded, that I don’t wear a robe,” she says with a laugh.

“It’s important to stay grounded in the human life world because I’m in the spiritual world so much.”

As a Reiki master, her practice is the definition of hands-on. Visitors to the sanctuary lie on a kind of massage table, while Short begins doing Reiki. “Sometimes my hands will get hot during the session.” She then utilizes healing tools like crystals, minerals, gem stones, and she’ll place them either on or around the visitor. “So much of healing is cleansing away of what stands in the way of a balanced, healthy life.” Then she introduces sound with the use of tuning forks and crystal bowls. “The purity of my intent, and the sounds and vibrations clear and uplift,” she says. At the end of each session, “Everyone feels wonderful, so much better and amazed with the effects of the healing.”

At the sanctuary, there is also a private sweat lodge that is used as a sauna. “It’s mostly well-known as a Native American ritual. It takes place in a small, air-tight space. Usually women go, and it’s pitch dark. It’s all about purification and endurance,” Short says. While inside the sweat lodge, the visitors pray for the earth, animals, water, and things of that nature. No more than eight people are allowed in the lodge.

what's this pic about?

Short is registered as an alternative and complementary modalities healer.
Short has been selling twenty-two different flower essences for eight years, including aster (for transforming anger into peace), blue delphinium (for the right use of power), and mullein (transforming despair to hope), through her website. Short will use a flower essence during a session by putting a few drops in certain places around the body. After each session, the visitor goes home with some of the flower essence. They would use it two-four times a day, adding a few drops of it in their drinking water.

Short also sells her products to health food stores and body, mind, and spirit festivals. Healthy Living Market in Burlington has been selling her products for seven years. She also takes part in the fall craft fair in Plattsburgh and the Northeast Healer’s Emporium where she does presentations.

“I tell people that all healing comes from within individuals, not the healer. You need to embrace yourself," Short says. “I empower people to help themselves by suggesting they do affirmations and asking them how they talk to themselves. Are they criticizing and judgmental? Do they have a problem with negative thinking? That’s where I come in.”

While a license to practice this kind of healing isn’t required in Vermont, Short is registered as an alternative and complementary modalities healer “to protect people from quackery,” Short says.

Short has also been selling jewelry from a cart on Church Street in Burlington for over 25 years. Short handmakes the jewelry she sells. She says she has a gift in her hands, adding healing energy into every piece of jewelry she makes. Short gets the stones and beads from catalogs and gem and mineral shows. Working at the cart was her part of her inspiration to become a healer.

“Talking to people about the troubled world and helping them feel better made me feel great. The experiences at the jewelry cart touched my heart.”

Abba Corliss has worked part-time at Short's jewelry cart for ten years. A friend had worked full-time and enjoyed it so much, she spread the word to Corliss. “Maureen is a fantastic woman. She has this amazing energy which makes it such a pleasure working for her.”

Short has overcome a lot of resistance throughout her career, but she says she knows it’s just because of a lack of understanding. “It really hurts my heart sometimes. I was once at a body, mind, and spirit festival, and a man came up to me and called me a snake oil saleswoman in a really negative tone. But I know he just didn’t understand.”

what's this pic about?

Flower essences being made.

She even felt resistance within her own family. “Thirty years ago, they thought I was strange. Now they all love and accept me. They see I’m healthy and happy helping people,” she says. As for people who refuse to be open-minded, Short says she hopes they find someone who can help them in whichever way they need.

The light at the end of the tunnel keeps getting brighter for Short as alternative modalities are becoming more mainstream. “It’s not in the lunatic fringe anymore,” Short says. “Thirty years ago, this would have not been good. But now, people are more open and accepting.” According to Short, instead of calling it alternative modalities, now it’s being called complementary.

The most miraculous, dramatic healing Short has done when a woman told her that her granddaughter had severely burned the palms of her hands on a wood stove. Short went to her sanctuary and did what she calls “distant healing”. Short says, “The girl went to get treated at the hospital the next day, and her hands had been healed.” Another woman had cysts on her ovaries, and after 4 sessions with Short, her cysts had disappeared.

Galandrielle Richmond has been a friend of Short’s since 1987. They met when Richmond began attending high school with Short’s stepdaughter. “Maureen is kind and compassionate. She puts people at ease and really helps people,” Richmond says. “She’s the real deal.”


Would you use or have you ever used alternative modalities?

Top of Page