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This month we interview Elaine Grundy of Reiki Centre in Eastern Singapore and profile her near decade dedication to reiki, the business, the history and her wise advice to aspiring practitioners.
How do you usually introduce yourself and your line of work to lay people on the street?
I usually don’t even mention Reiki (with a smile). I say I run a wellness Centre and if they seem interested then I talk about how I teach Reiki, an energy balancing system – like meditation.
What are the common responses?
Most people are happy with the Wellness centre response and move on. The ones who show an interest in this tend to be more open to holistic therapy in general and so we can then have an open conversation about Reiki. I have learnt over the years that Reiki is not that interesting to most people, hehe.
How long have you been interested in your specialization?
I was lucky enough to be introduced to Reiki over 20 years ago and have loved it from then – being a self-healing modality first and foremost means I have benefited enormously from its gentle balancing energy, even when I have gone through periods of not teaching.
How long have you been in business?
I have been teaching Reiki since 1996. I started out renting rooms from hotels or clubs before moving in with Basic Essence when they started business. I founded the Reiki Centre in 2007 as a small studio in River valley before moving to our two studio East Coast premises in 2010.
Tell us how you chose or were chosen for your line of work? What experiences led you here to where you are today? What decisions did you make? What trials did you face?
It’s really been a progression, Reiki was a very personal journey in the beginning and I started teaching in the weekends, probably only 3-4 times a year as people asked me. I stayed in my corporate career for 10 years like this and slowly demand grew and I just went with it. When Randy and Jac asked me to join them at Basic Essence it was a really big push to become more ‘established’ – I am so grateful to them! The big decision was to open the Centre, I remember being very nervous about that – but by then I was pretty well established so I knew that my classes alone would pay the rent. My attitude is always to be shown the work first before moving into it – by that I mean it’s a ‘pull’ into the work as its already evolving, instead of just opening a centre with no clients or experience and then having to ‘push’ your way into the market – that’s always a recipe for disaster!
How has your work evolved and where is it headed?
Its grown with me, as my energy grows, so does the Reiki attunements and who is attracted to me depends on how I am resonating with them. So there is a very natural and easy progression that happens – more like an unfolding. As for the future….that’s an impossible question ;-)
What are the latest trends, advances and developments in your brand of spirituality?
Reiki is always evolving and since I started it has definitely shifted into the Holistic mainstream. Many more people search Reiki directly and most people find me through search engines, as they know exactly what they are looking for – that’s a big change from 10 years ago when Reiki was still relatively obscure. I think the next stage is online healing and teaching, but we’re still a bit behind that curve – mainly due to the resistance of the Reiki teachers – but it will come within the next decade.
What are Singaporeans' biggest blocks in embracing your type of spirituality?
Actually I have found Singapore extremely supportive and open to Reiki. The high stress environment and the openness to healing through anything ‘chi’ related is already very well established compared to Europe or America, so people in Asia embrace energy healing much better and with a more open mind. The gentle self-healing of Reiki and the fact you can empower yourself is also a big draw for people here. Sometimes I come across some resistance when they think Reiki is a religion or belief system but that is about it. And of course a large portion of the population is not open to energy healing at all as they don’t feel it or can’t see it, but that’s the same across the world.
Tell us about your understanding of the holism scene, how long it has been around and where it is headed in the near future.
I started teaching here in 1996 so can only comment from that time frame. Back then there were only a few Reiki teacher’s here and a big name from Australia, Barbara McGregor who came over and did huge classes – so it was a relatively niche thing. Certainly we didn’t have the breadth we have now – it's amazing to me how many wonderful therapists, teachers and modalities we have now – I think we can pretty much find anything we want now! Back in the 90’s it was not so and you usually had to travel to other countries to learn more obscure therapies or find out about other types of healing. I think it will continue to expand for sure. I’ve also noticed the quality is growing and you can find an exceptional teacher or therapist in most modalities here without having to go overseas anymore – that’s fantastic to note and its always a good sign when students come in from Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei to attend classes at the Centre as it makes you realize Singapore is becoming a regional hub for holistic work.
What changes have you seen over the years in this business in terms of receptivity, enthusiasm and interest in your work?
Huge difference! The free talks and Reiki meditations are always well attended by all walks of life, there is no age, race, religion barrier with Reiki and that’s one thing I am always so grateful for – at any talk you have a huge variety of people, the one thing they have in common is an open heart. I’ve also noticed corporate HR interest has increased over the past few years and I get invited more frequently to talk in offices and organisations.
What were and are the roles of foreign practitioners in Singapore?
In the past, to be honest, we relied on foreign practitioners for their experience, expertise and training – they had to come in to train us, or we had to travel to them to be trained. My personal feeling is that this has really changed and we now have our own home grown talent (hehe I say ‘our’ as I consider myself a non-foreign talent ;-)) Now when people from overseas come to Singapore and expect to be able to just attract people I am always asking them what they can bring that we cannot find here? Its getting harder and harder for them to give me a reasonable answer, and I think its harder for teachers from overseas to just come here and expect full classes.
What do you consider to be the three most difficult experiences you have encountered in starting and keeping afloat this business?
1. Rent! But on the flip side, the affluence of this city allows me to charge more than I could in a country with low rents, so I guess it evens out, but it’s a tough one.
2. My niceness. No honest, I find I want to keep my prices as low as possible in both my classes, in my room rental to other teachers, and my products I sell. Although I know I am running a business, I feel like it is also a community project and I feel it is my opportunity to help other teachers find their feet, and to help people grow spiritually, so I often treat the business as more of a social service, which is not very good for the bottom line ;-)
3. My time. I do this part time as my family comes first. I run the business from 9-2pm and then some weekends for classes but the rest of the time is dedicated to my children and home duties. Its tough to run a business part time!
What do you think needs to be done to increase the holism market in Singapore?
I think it’s growing quite well as it is. If we, in the holistic market, all focus on our own spiritual growth, others will follow if they see us growing, and at peace. It’s a natural thing to be attracted to those who have what you want – so I always feel that for those in the holistic field we need to really shine the light, and be the role models. If we can’t do that, then why would others want what we have? If we can’t attract clients or students, if we can’t make money or grow ourselves, this says more about our own internal growth than anything to do with the market – if we all focus on being more peaceful, kind and loving, the rest will follow.
What do you see your role as a centre in the holism community?
I don’t see I have a role. I am here, and anyone who is attracted to what we offer is very welcome to join us. I don’t really have any higher aspirations than that. For me I am just delighted I get to do what I love doing every day and get paid for it.
Do you consider the market saturated for centers in Singapore?
Absolutely not. But I do think many centres open with totally unrealistic expectations and the Kevin Costner ‘Build it and they will come’ mentality. People only come if you are offering something they want. Many newly trained teachers and therapists think they just need to hang up a sign and people will flood in – but where is the attraction? If you are a new therapist or teacher my advice is to build your client base first, once this is solid, then open your centre when you already know you can make the rent – that is the process for longevity, the 10,000 hour rule. Or if you are not a teacher but want to open a centre, make sure you have well-established teachers joining your centre, and the same success will happen – but you cannot open a new centre with no clients and not expect a bit of an uphill battle – then it will take you at least 3 years to become established, so do you have 3 years worth of rental cash to keep yourself afloat?
The second thing to consider is your niche – every Centre here has a niche and its own unique energy – we all draw different clientele and this is what allows us to stay successful – if we are all fighting for the same pool of people its very difficult. So you have the big players like Pure and True Yoga and then you have the niche Centres like Reiki Centre, Basic Essence, Golden Space, Gallery Helios, Balanced Living, Soul Centre, and of course lots of small yoga and pilates studios – we all have very different vibes. So any new centre, unless you are going huge, you have to find that niche that you feel totally comfortable in (and you can own as your own), and then really focus on attracting the right teachers and therapists that are aligned with your vibe. I have a lot of teachers approach me wanting to teach at the centre and often the answer is no – not because they are not great teachers, but because I know their vibe is not right for the centre – we have a very specific niche and its something I work hard to preserve.
What advice can you give to aspiring practitioners from your past experience?
1. You master your profession after 10,000 hours of practice. If you remember this it will keep you focused on gaining experience as a priority, and keep things in perspective.
2. You have to be one step ahead of your students/ clients so make sure you never stop doing your own personal work. If you think you know it all, or are ‘done’ you are in big trouble!
3. Passion and enthusiasm is not the same as wisdom and knowledge…at all. One of the most misunderstood, and yet favourite, sayings in holistic thought is ‘follow your heart and the rest will follow’. But accurately and fully it should be ‘follow your heart with no thought that the rest will follow, follow your heart despite the fact there may be nothing following you, follow your heart with no desire or need for others to follow…and then the rest will follow’. Hehehe, the Universe has a great sense of humour ;-)
What are your thoughts on the issue of commerce and spirituality?
Commerce = Base chakra
Spirituality = crown chakra
You need both to be nice and balanced. Keeping the balance is not easy, for sure, but it is a balance and thinking it is one or the other or that it cannot mix is absurd.
Do you think that practitioners are bad if they charge and worse if they charge higher? Do you think that our services are too pricey in general?
I come from a corporate background so perhaps I have a different perspective than others on this. In my corporate life it was normal to value your time. A company pays for your time, and in exchange you give them your productivity on certain hours as agreed. This is how I view what I do, people can come to me, I am available for teaching or healing but I greatly value my time – I have two wonderful children that I could be spending time with, and a whole bunch of other fun stuff I could be doing. Reiki is not a duty to me and it’s not an obligation. I do it because I love it, but I don’t feel the urge to do it for free. One day that might change, and I may find myself with much more free time, maybe when the children leave home, and I‘ll be happy to give more hours for free. But right now that is not the case.
I also have some hefty bills to pay, rental to meet, salaries to pay and this all needs to be taken care of. I see this as just normal concerns – I’m not sure why you have it under an ethics section as it has nothing to do with ethics in my opinion.
If healers can attract clients at higher prices, then good for them. Is it always worth it? Probably not. We are pricey in Singapore for sure, but that’s because we have higher bills to pay – if my business was in Malaysia or Indonesia I could afford to charge half what I charge here because my bills would also be half.
How have you reconciled the two in your life?
It’s never been something I have had to reconcile. Some people do come to me and ask me why my teaching/ healing is not free and I simply direct them to the free Reiki sites on the internet.
What is your biggest wish for your work in the near future?
Do you think your brand of spirituality will have a space in the mainstream in time to come?
Personally I think Reiki is mainstream already, in terms of for those who are interested in self-healing. I think we are still generations away from a really mainstream grasp of holistic therapy in terms of the average man on the street.
I have a bigger wish for the teachers within my profession to use Reiki more intentionally for their own growth. I do think a lot of Reiki teachers are not very evolved spiritually and I think that is why for many people they don’t see Reiki as very ‘powerful’. That is a shame as my personal belief is that Reiki is a very well trodden path to enlightenment.
How do you hope Singapore will evolve spiritually?
I hope people continue to grow towards the light, to recognize that inner peace is realized through the self and not through the external focus of gathering ‘stuff’ or trying to control life. It would be good if people here relaxed and smiled more – more hugging is always a good thing.
The Reiki Centre can be found at
42A Joo Chiat Place
+65- 9660 4893