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Feeling sick? Just rub some (Robi)’tussin’ on it! Leg broke? ‘Tussin. Everybody knows that infamous Chris Rock joke from his 1999 stand-up comedy film Bigger and Blacker. Although it had us holding our sides in laughter, the truth behind the comedy isn’t exactly such a laughing matter. For centuries, African Americans have been perpetuating an archaic outlook on overall health awareness and practices, skipping important doctor check-ups, and downplaying the importance of possibly serious symptoms (hence cough syrup Robitussin becoming the household remedy for any ailment, and the butt of Chris Rock’s joke). Even more alarming is that African Americans for the past few centuries have been so caught up in a fury of survival that they often do not give any thought to nurturing their mental and spiritual well-being.

Melissa Watts is here to change that. A certified hypnotherapist and lecturer, Melissa is bringing spiritual healing to the Black community through the often uncharted medium of hypnotherapy with her Westchester, NY-based practice  Enlightened Pathways Healing Center (EPHC). Now don’t get freaked out, hypnotherapy is not what you might be thinking — you lie down on a long couch, a swinging pendulum puts you into a trance, next thing you know, you’re barking like a dog like you’re Akeem’s bride-to-be. Actually the real thing is a lot less intimidating. “Hypnotherapy is not something that is meant to be frightening or controlling,” explains Watts . “The method is really much more relaxing and serene; the idea is to look inward, tapping into a universal wealth of self-knowledge to deal with problems that are manifesting in your physical life.”

In 2005, Watts invested her own savings, earned through her years as a marketing executive, and created her practice with her sister Tina coming on board as VP of Operations and Development. The Harlem native received her formal training and certification from the Holistic Healing Center of New York and has crafted her practice as a habitat of positive energy and serenity. Watts has used hypnotherapy to help her clients face and overcome a variety of issues, from smoking and phobias, to post-traumatic stress disorder and loss. Although she has found much success in traditional hypnotherapy, it was an even lesser-known division of the practice where she found her true calling and specialty: past life regression.

Past life regression is the art of using hypnosis to uncover and experience one’s past lives, which believer say can help people bring to light reasons or explanations for circumstances that present themselves in their current life. “Exposing our past lives can be one of the best ways to discover who we are in the present,” says Watts.

For those of you who just said, “Say what?,” that very reaction is something Watts is used to hearing from prospective clients and has subsequently conquered several times. Many African Americans were raised heavily in the church, and the thought of reincarnation and a new look on spirituality can make a lot of people uncomfortable given the way we are taught to process religion and otherworldliness. “When something is deeply wrong most Black folks are just told to pray on it,” she explains. “And that is fine, but many people are suffering in today’s world. There is a growing need for a deeper sense of reflection, a better understanding of what makes you who you are, and why you make the decisions that you do. This is what I’m here to provide. Clarity. Like a light at the end of a tunnel.”

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