Jeannie Kelley

Shedding Light

On a rainy morning-gently quiet more than dreary-I met Jeannie Kelley, owner of Island Soma Therapy on Hilton Head Island. Comfortable in a black and white flannel shirt and jeans, she led me upstairs to her office space. It's beautiful. Banks of windows flood the two rooms with natural light; you feel suspended in the trees. We settled into our coffees and conversation. Within minutes the serenity of this woman and this place enveloped me. Jeannie-and Island Soma Therapy­-are well known to people interested in alternative therapies, yoga, meditation, poetry, dance and drum circles. Jeannie is a licensed massage therapist, a certified Rolf Practitioner and a craniosacral therapist.* The Greek word soma means "living body" and people come here to nurture and integrate the needs of their bodies, minds and spirits. It is a soothing place. As I listen, Jeannie's soft low voice is also soothing. It's hard to reconcile that this self-possessed woman feels anxious about the interview. "I know I need to step out of my comfort zone to promote the work I believe in, but I don't like being the focus of attention," she says taking off her glasses and cleaning them.again. It's her only visible sign of nervousness. Jeannie's mission is to gain wider acceptance within the medical community for integrative healing modalities. In partnership with Hands for Heroes, Island Soma Therapy is providing free cranial treatments to qualifying veterans suffering head injuries and PTSD for a six-month trial. Her purpose is to alleviate suffering. Her goal is to demonstrate-through valid data-the efficacy of these treatments to a skeptical medical establishment. Her conflict is to promote her work without feeling like a self-promoter. She may have some false starts trying to talk about herself, but there isn't a false note in what she says. She is matter-of-fact about growing up in Tucson, Arizona. When she was three- or four-years-old, her parents recognized her "independent and self-directed" nature and put her in a Montessori school. As a teenager she pushed hard against conventional restraints: she battled psychiatric issues, eating disorders and alcohol and drug addictions. She is philosophical about those years saying, "I could have easily not lived through my teenage years, but out of chaos comes order. I had my existential crisis early and got it over with. I'm glad. I have no regrets." Her mother died when Jeannie was 23. "I had no resources around death and loss. I went into hospice training to help me understand." She smiles and repeats the Nietzsche quote: "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." She is aware that she used these early crises as a path to growth. She seems unaware of the courage and strength that was required at such a young age. These experiences were her portal into a life of spirituality and healing. "I don't plan my life per se. My parents allowed me to live letting life unfold, and that's what I've always done." Over the next decades she gained practical skills in alternative healing practices and deepened her spirituality through a variety of mentors, including a shamanic teacher. "I didn't grow up with any formal religion; my teenage experiences with 12-step programs gave me a path to divinity. I don't limit divine mystery in anyway, but I am comfortable using the word God." Her "dark night of the soul" came several years after she moved to Hilton Head (a decade ago) in the form of a car accident. "I lost everything-financially, physically, psychologically. Eight months after the accident, when my mind, my soul and my life seemed to be slipping through my fingers, in a desperate and angry attempt to understand why this was all happening, I demanded an answer from the 'powers that be.' I was in an ashram that honors all religions and I literally heard, 'It's already healed, you just need to walk the path.' I knew I had to be willing to go through what God was giving me to find trust and faith." Ultimately, "walking the path" meant accepting help from others, including what Jeannie describes as a "miracle healing" of her head injury-over six months of structural integration treatments-by a woman she describes as a savant. "I know I am required to justify this personal miracle by making these treatments available to other people who need them. I carry the vision of being utilized for a bigger order. My miracle was transformative; it compels me to bring this healing to the world." She talks about courage and compassion and suffering. "I've learned that going into the dissolves into something else. There is opportunity in crisis. I think I had to go through my accident to learn compassion for other people making their way through these traumas." She adds, "I don't in anyway compare my hurdles in life to the wounds I know some people carry, or the horrors some manage to survive. All I know is we need to make some good of it in order to come to peace." Jeannie Kelley's modesty is genuine. She radiates a light and stillness I can only describe as grace. She is uncomfortable with praise, but clearly she is keyed into something transcendent: on 12/12/12 around noon she went to Fresh Market. Her receipt was $12.12. UP CLOSE Personal favorite quote and guiding principle: Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back.the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe *For detailed descriptions of these healing treatments and other services visit