With a background in science, Colleen Tola Dopkin, our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, was wired to look for scientific facts before undergoing any treatment. After suffering from debilitating chronic back and neck pain for nearly a decade and finding no help from traditional therapies, Colleen went to the most extreme option and scheduled a surgery. So when her soon-to-be husband suggested Reiki months before the operation, Colleen—desperate to try anything—hesitantly agreed, since there was no scientific evidence that it could help. Yet, in just a few visits with a practitioner, she was shocked to find herself permanently pain-free and ready to make a life change. She canceled the surgery, started studying to be a Reiki Master, and vowed to help others heal themselves from myriad physical and psychological issues, including pain, anxiety, and trauma. Colleen has been practicing for over ten years, and she recently opened the brick-and-mortar Reiki Wellness Center of Manahawkin, with additional healing modalities, including crystal bowl events, meditation, yoga, and qigong. We caught up with this Manahawkin mom of two to discover what she shares with the non-believers, how Reiki works to heal, and the shore restaurants that serve her favorite vegan dishes. (featured photo credit: Courtney Simpson Photography)
Tell us a little about your family. My husband, Jamie, and I have been married for ten years, and we have two children, Jamison, 8, and Lukas, 6. We moved to Manahawkin in 2011 because we love that it’s close to the beach, has a great sense of community, and has an excellent school system.
You come from a science background. How did you pivot from that to this? I have my BA in Science and Biology and my Masters in Public Health, so helping people has always been important to me. I was a research assistant for an epidemiologist and a safety and health specialist and have had a lot of science-related jobs throughout my career. Still, when I had my transformational healing experience, I knew I wanted to be able to help others this way, too. I’d been suffering from debilitating back pain. I had tried physical therapy, injections, nerve blocks, radiofrequency ablation, and more, all without successful results, and because of that, I scheduled surgery that was more than six months out. Jamie was my fiancé at the time, and he nudged me to give Reiki a try, and it ended up changing my life. Around this time, my grandmother was ill and in the hospital, so I started studying the practice to help her handle the emotional toll she was going through. Reiki is so much more than just pain management. If needed, it can also be mental, emotional, or spiritual. I became a practitioner in June of 2012 and continued my work to become a master in 2014 when I launched my first business.
How do you explain it? The client intends to heal a specific physical, mental or spiritual pain (something they’re struggling with), and the Reiki Master is an energy conduit following intention. The practitioner uses hands-on healing to transfer “universal energy” to put the body into a state of deep relaxation so that the body can heal itself. Everyone carries energy in their body. For example, your first instinct as a mother is to place your hands on your child. Or, when someone is hurting, you instinctively give a hug. What you’re doing in these moments is putting your energy there to help someone else. When I help someone through Reiki, I offer them higher vibrational energy so their body can heal.
When it comes to Reiki, there are a lot of non-believers. What do you say to the naysayers to help them better understand it? I don’t mind naysayers because I was a one myself. And my advice is to try it anyway. With my background in science, I couldn’t have been more close-minded about it–I was looking for the articles and scientific facts, and they’re not there. But, nothing else had worked for me, and I’d gotten to the point where I was willing to try anything because I couldn’t take the pain anymore. My surgery was still months away, and despite my negative mindset, I noticed a big difference after a few sessions. And then I was pain-free. I canceled my surgery, leaving my doctors as shocked as I was.
Please share a story about how your business has helped, touched, or affected someone’s life. My account is my favorite because without discovering this, I would never have been able to have my kids. I’d gotten to the point where I was in so much pain that I was spending my days going from my bed to my couch. Since then, I’ve run marathons. Along with seeing clients find relief from pain, I’ve also seen others move past debilitating anxiety where they can go out and function in the world and others that make peace with grief or find their life’s passion. The client always sets the intention of what they want out of the session.
Does your family play a role in your business? My family offers their full support, which feels good and allows me to help others. When Jamie was my fiancé, he nudged me in this direction to help me find a solution to help me through my daily pain–even though he knew nothing about Reiki himself. He also bought me my first table after I became a practitioner and was able to work on others. He’s always believed in me. When I broke my ankle about two years ago, he helped me move forward, and we found the space that would become this business. We gutted it, and my dad and Jamie spent innumerable hours fixing it up for the better part of a year so that I could run my business out of it. And my mom watches my boys when I’m working on clients. My boys will ask for Reiki often, and I take them to the store with me, where they make crystal videos, which I love to post. I think it’s cool for them to learn reiki and practice meditation because they’re valuable practices that can help them deal with their emotions and can only continue to help them as they grow.
What are some of your go-to NJ businesses? One of my favorite shops is Sun Dog on LBI. I love their unique and beautiful rompers and sundresses. They used to be a brick and mortar but now do pop-ups on weekends. We go to Kaya’s Kitchen in Belmar often. It has a fantastic ambiance, and the vegan Country Nuggets and Buddhas Dream are delicious. Also, Living on the Veg has the best beet juice, and their potato salad is terrific. They also make something called the Chuckwich—that’s my new favorite.
Where do you like to spend time in NJ with your family? We’re sea life-oriented, so the beach is our happy place. Our go-to is Surf City Beach in Long Beach Island because my husband spent his summers there growing up. He’s a tugboat captain and has a fishing business, so sometimes he can take the kids to work with him, and they love it. We’re also big fans of Camden’s Adventure Aquarium and Ocean Acres Lake Park in Manahawkin, which they just redid. There’s so much to do there, but we love picking up takeout and having dinner on the benches or taking our bikes and riding the trail.
What is your best piece of advice for an NJMOMpreneur just starting? If you feel a calling but think the timing isn’t right, show up and do it anyway. It will work out if your passion, soul, and heart are in the right place and you’re willing to give it your best. Have confidence in yourself and move forward. I’m the perfect example. I opened up my new business during the pandemic with a broken ankle while I still couldn’t drive and found a way to make it work.