In 2020, the American Psychological Association issued a warning about the impact of stress due to Covid-19 on long-term physical and mental health. They warned that Americans faced a second pandemic — one that would persist even after the physical threat of the virus has been addressed, and they stated that “nearly a year into the pandemic, prolonged stress persists at elevated levels for many Americans.”
What to do, what to do?
Well, The Reiki School + Clinic in Queen Village is a good place to start. With a homepage that states, “Heal with us” the clinic is dedicated to creating a supportive environment for healing and learning. They provide reiki sessions, massage, intuitive readings, shiatsu, sound healing, primordial sound meditation training and wellness workshops. It is also a teaching clinic if you’re feeling the call to learn how to help others. I’ve had a fair number of professional massages in different styles, but there were things listed on the website that I’d never even heard of. In addition to the typical Swedish and Shiatsu massages, you can get a Lotus massage, which integrates music and rhythm in a choreographed massage, a Mu-Xing Massage which combines heated Rosewood and Bamboo instruments with a custom blend of oils, designed to ease tense muscles, or a Lomi Lomi Hawaiian Temple Massage, which encourages deep relaxation and release for full body, mind and spirit alignment. Has the Covid lockdown got you sluggish and not feeling your best? You can get a private consultation with an herbalist to help guide you on the path to wellness. And with the professionals at the clinic, not only can you clear your head, you can also arrange for someone to come and clear the energy in your home or office. I spoke to one of the owners of the clinic, Vicki Zaharapoulos. She’s also my ex, so I can give a personal testament to her skill and professionalism. Hey, it’s Pride month and what’s gayer than lesbians remaining friends after they break up?
[Laughing] Let’s pretend I don’t know the answers to most of these questions. Where did you grow up?
I’m originally from Rochester, NY. There’s a surprisingly big Greek community there.
What? All this time I thought you were Irish. I guess the last name should have been a clue. Well, that and your real first name.
[Smiling] Yeah, it’s just a little Greek. After Rochester we moved to Texas, then back to Rochester and then to New Jersey when I was in 6th grade.
What’s one of your memories from Rochester?
My favorite memory is picking dandelion greens with my grandmother to make “horta” which is like a spinach dish. [Laughing] Basically we were picking weeds for dinner! We used to pick veggies that, uh, may or may not have come from some of the neighborhood farms… We’d listen to Greek music in her foxy little red car. It was fun.
Any memories from Texas?
Yeah, we used to go to Austin pretty often and went to the beach too. I did a lot of camping with my mother, it was fun just being out in nature. She was always doing new things. I rode a bike for the first time there, I got chickenpox there, I remember a lot.
Were you a Tomboy or girly-girl?
Tomboy; I hated shopping for dresses. I wanted to be comfortable. We’re both Tauruses so you know we’re all about comfort.
Tell us a little about the family?
My parents came here from Greece so I’m first generation. They got married in Greece, conceived me and then came to the states, so I was born here. My mother was already living here. She’d gone to high school in Rochester but then went back to Greece and got married at the church in her home town before returning to the states. I was very close to my grandmother. I always connected with her. I felt safe with her and we had a lot of laughs. We’re Greek, so of course my family were all in the restaurant business. I grew up doing homework in the office, polishing silverware in the kitchen, and later did my fair share of waiting tables.
But dad wasn’t in the picture for long.
Right, we left him when I was 4 and I didn’t have contact with him until much later.
I recall that you knew that he was in Florida. When we went there on a trip we thought maybe you’d found him at a small restaurant near Universal Studios.
That’s right, they had business cards by the cashier and the owner of the place was named Zaharapoulos and had the same first name as my father, so I jokingly said to him, “Are you my daddy?” His wife didn’t think it was so funny. She said, “He better NOT be!” I did eventually find my real father through a family member. He came up to visit and we had a little show down in the car when I told him I was gay.
Yeah, that was a little tense.
He came around at first, and I got to meet my half siblings. We had a good 10 year run before things fell apart and I stopped talking to him. Four years later he died, but at least I had a chance to make peace with it and said my goodbyes.
But now you’ve created a new family.
Yes, my business partner Stephanie is also my wife and we have a two year old who is the light of my life!
And cute as a button too! What got you interested in the wellness industry?
I used to massage my friends all the time, I had no training but was just intuitively good at it. I was fascinated with muscles and bodies. One of my friends told me I should look into really doing it as a profession and I thought, “You know, I really should, why not?” I left her house and was driving to the shore and heard a radio ad for a massage school. I called right away… wait, we didn’t have cell phones then. I think I called the next day and signed up 2 days later. And that’s what I’ve done ever since. And now I’ve trained in other countries and in a myriad of modalities, I also teach and now I have an amazing clinic!
And way before that, you had a small practice at William Way.
Yes, in the beginning I did mostly in-home clients, in fact one of my teachers gave me all of his clients when he retired and I still work with some of them 22 years later. Around the same time, I got a spot at the William Way, it was like $75 a month at the time for a small room! I also used the room to rehearse when I was singing. I did some profound massage work there. There was one guy who was just coming out and there was such a connection there that I was glowing after the session. There’s something that happens sometimes when people are feeling vulnerable and you can help them open up. I think a lot of the people I worked on at William Way really needed some deep healing and they felt safe there.
And from there?
I worked at a spa for almost 12 years. It was a great learning experience, I learned a lot and also began teaching there. They sent me to Austria twice and I got certified in several different techniques during my time in Glen Mills. I also got to dabble in making my own products, essential oil blends, scrubs, massage oils, all sorts of things. Products by the gallon that were used by the staff on the clients, and some that were sold over the counter.
Let’s get into the deets about your new place.
My partner Stephanie bought the place when I was a student. I was taking reiki classes and I loved the space and loved being there so I kept taking classes. I learned a lot about myself and how to deal with anger and I rose from student to teacher. Eventually we became a couple and a few years ago I decided to quit my job at the spa and work full-time at the clinic. So now we’re both partners and between the two of us we have about 20 modalities covered.
What’s one of the most unusual?
Maybe the Maya Abdominal Therapy. To learn about it, we went to Mexico near Cancun and took a ferry to the Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women. It’s an ancient technique that has been around for thousands of years. It helps with fertility, it helps with back problems and all sorts of issues. I used it for my pregnancy both before and after.
How do spiritual things get incorporated into what you do?
Reiki can be a spiritual journey but I also think that it’s a matter of self. Like meditation, if you’re really ready to go on the journey of coming home to yourself and learning about who you are and peeling the onion, reiki helps you show up for yourself. When you’re learning, you’re held accountable in the classes so it can be like therapy. We do daily check in as you go along the journey to see how you’re doing. Doing reiki has taught me to own the things that were happening in my life and to take control. I’ve seen people quit their jobs, stop smoking, change relationships… if you’re standing still enough and being present you begin to realize what you really want. We do 12-week sessions so there’s time to really delve into it.
And continuing with that vibe, your mom reads coffee cups and I know that you both are into dream interpretation, so it’s in your blood.
Yeah, it’s a Greek thing. I read coffee cups as well. Over the pandemic I started reading Tarot and I now have a youtube channel, called Second Sight Tarot: A Branch of Wellness. I’m new at it and still learning the meanings, but I’ve always been intuitive about reading people’s drawings, and that’s how I approach the cards.
Well, you’ve always had that spirit that draws things to you. I still have the picture that we captured when we were ghost hunting in Salem. A misty figure that was clearly seen on camera but not with the naked eye.
I have it on my phone too! I still love that stuff! We had something happen after my father died. My daughter had never met him but one night she said, “Papou is in my room.” Stephanie ran in there like, “Who is in the room?” My daughter said that Papou had come to visit and didn’t do anything but he told her who he was. She’d never heard that name before and part of me was like, “You asshole, you don’t visit her when you were alive, but now you show up?” and I was really mad. But then I got a card reading and she said that it wasn’t about him, it was about the ancestors.
Nice, okay, let’s get to some random questions. Describe your mother in 5 words.
Giving, amazing cook, wait, that’s 2 words…
Knowing your mother’s cooking wizardry, I’ll allow that to count as one.
Right? Seriously good food. Okay, 3 more, teacher, strong, and fair.
Hey, you forgot funny. Your mother is one of the wittiest people I know and I know a lot of people.
That’s true, so give me 6 words!
Your house is on fire, what non-living thing do you grab?
My set of tuning forks and my Tarot cards. And pictures of my kid.
If you could do something dangerous just once with no risk what would you do?
I would probably take a shuttle into outer space and just travel around looking at other planets
Do your dreams sometimes guide you?
Yes, I always listen to dreams when I can remember them. It’s weird, but sometimes if I have a dream that my teeth are falling out, it means I’m gonna have car problems within 1 to 3 days so I always hyperfocus on that and it’s usually the case. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to always be severe, it’s usually a flat tire or something like that.
Your best karaoke song.
Shoop, just kidding, though that is fun. Something from Whitney.
I think your best was Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This” or Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You.”
Okay, yeah, those are good too.
I remember you had one especially unusual client.
Lee Daniels and Hellen Mirren when you were working on Shadow Boxer.
[Laughing] Well, yes, but I meant your four footed friend.
Aww Boots! My client Irv’s cat. Irv would say, “Boots, your lady is coming!” and Boots would wait for me at the window. As soon as I put my table up he would jump on it and lay upside down and I’d give him a 10 minute massage. It was sad when he passed away.
What about your work moves you the most?
I’ve started doing herbalism and have some clients that have shifted their entire regimens for all sorts of reasons; some have fertility issues, others just want to make life changes, and it’s been awesome to see the improvements. Especially through Covid, I really vamped up that side of my practice and have really been concentrating on that area. I’ve learned how to read blood work and tongue diagnosis so it’s serious studies, not just frou-frou, off the cuff stuff. I’m creating custom formulas that really help people with their symptoms. I get people telling me, I feel SO much better or I have a regular cycle for the first time in a year, or I’m able to get to sleep at night and my depression has changed. And it’s not me doing the work, we have to do it together, to work as a team. So I’m seeing people really show up for their health and being accountable for themselves. Combined with the massage, the herbalism has been a game changer in the way I do things. And it’s been a life saver for us. In addition to some online classes, it is what kept us going during the pandemic. But I’m happy to say we’re fully open again and we’re jamming! I think everyone’s in need for interaction and healing and The Reiki School + Clinic is here to help.
For more information go to www.thereikischool.com/.