You have to see the Sanctuary to believe it. But first you have to find it. The store is nestled behind Exline's Pizza in Bartlett, not the kind of place you'd normally expect to find a New Agey center for "body, mind, and spirit." But the Sanctuary has a devoted and growing clientele -- customers who return again and again for the classes and conversation that season the space. A resident black cat named Flora Adora drapes herself on countertops and wanders from one lap to the next. People sit in clusters, awaiting ear-candling or essential-oil treatments, exchanging advice and insight.
The shelves are lined with an array of crystals, herbs, and literature -- tools for the path toward mental, physical, and spiritual equanimity.
"The crystals are used for a lot of different things," says Sanctuary owner Mary Ellen Smith (pictured). "They transmit energy just like a quartz that's used in a radio, so they can be used for healing. They can be used to direct energy, to help you focus your own energy. It's subtle energy work; that's what it's called."
The collection of herbs in the Sanctuary is particularly eye-catching -- jars of many shapes and sizes containing crushed and whole ingredients.
"The herbs are used for all kinds of things -- teas, primarily," explains Smith. "I make eye pillows and neck wraps. The herbs make a moist heat and work not only if you ingest them, but also if you apply them to your skin, particularly if you have the properties of lavender. It's an anti-spasmatic. So, if you have tight muscles, not only does the heat feel good, the aromatherapy is also therapeutic."
Essential oils are also popular here. I was fortunate enough to receive a treatment by Annette Chaffee, who used a combination of oils and chakra (the body's central points of energy) manipulation to alleviate my stubborn back pain. Although my relief was only temporary, the experience was fascinating and Chaffee seemed knowledgeable about the relationship that pain shares with stressors in life.
"Essential oils are similar to herbs, but essential oils are more of the living essence. They're stronger," says Smith.
"We talk about the mind, body, and spirit connection, and I feel really strongly that this natural stuff is so much better for us," says Smith. "But to me, that's part of the spirit -- going back to how it was originally intended to be. This doesn't have anything to do with religion, and that's something that people in Memphis really don't seem to understand."
Misinterpretation of the Sanctuary's purpose may deter some potential customers, but Smith wants people to understand that the services and products she offers have nothing to do with the dark arts or anything anti-religious.
"People who come in have been of all faiths, and I've been really pleased with that. Where I was raised, in central New York, being psychic didn't mean that you wore a turban that smelled like incense," says Smith. "It meant that you had a really good relationship with your intuition. And some people have different levels. I believe that everybody's psychic, really."
Smith says there are ways to sort out legitimate psychics from money-grubbing posers.
"If someone wants to charge money to help you, to pray for you, or to remove black energy or dark energy or something like that, then people should run, not walk, away," Smith advises. "But the really good readers read the energies that are around you and help you to make your best decisions. A psychic will never tell you what to do regarding a situation. And so, people can prayerfully consider that -- just as much as the advice that they get at church."
The real incentive for visiting the Sanctuary should be meeting Smith. Her desire to help people seek and find unity in mind, body, and spirit is obviously genuine.
"People should know that if they want to find something that's just a little different, this is where to go," says Smith. "I want there to be a central place, so even if I don't have what they want to explore or learn about, I can direct them."
Of course, Bartlett's not exactly a central place, but a journey to the Sanctuary may put you on a better path to your own center. ●