Rallying the (Love) Troops

Microbiome study

Microbiome study

I recently listened to this Fresh Air interview with science writer Ed Yong about his new book, I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life. His subject is the microbiome, the bazillions of tiny organisms that live in and on the human body. I’m fascinated by the recent mainstreaming of this microbiome concept and the understanding that we are “not ourselves” (or rather that we are so much more than we ever imagined).

When it comes to illness, we tend to evoke the language of war: battling, fighting, surviving. Antibiotics, as wonderful and useful as they are, tend to wipe out the helpful bacteria as cleanly as they destroy the bad. Anyone who has experienced chemo, or seen a loved one go through that, knows what a kick in the pants it is for your joie de vivre. Illness and the ensuing treatments can easily start to feel like a war zone unfolding in the body.

But I’ve been trying to re-imagine illness as a challenging journey through a thick, dark forest. Let’s say that skilled, compassionate doctors are forest rangers, peaceful troops familiar with the ecosystem they’re entering. They are prepared to implement a controlled burn (a treatment) that is unfortunate but necessary, for the health of the larger forest (the physical body).

Everyone is well-trained and working hard. Even so, there are no guarantees.

I imagine Reiki as the energizing, vital force that sustains the forest, connecting all the life that lives there as the controlled burn does its work. Maybe Reiki helps rally the “love troops” — everything in the body (and spirit) which is working fine. What if Reiki gently whispers: Okay folks, we’ve got a situation. Outcome to be determined. Everyone who’s feeling strong: take a breath, relax, and do your best to keep things going.

During a Reiki session, the body, emotions, mind and spirit are infused with Reiki. Sometimes this can help ease symptoms, side effects, or fatigue; sometimes the recipient simply feels more hopeful, more confident about and supported in their choices. Maybe the sense of humor improves, which can make a big difference.

Each person experiences Reiki uniquely, so the possibilities are as varied as humans are. Maybe even as varied as each tiny creature dwelling inside each human!


Reiki as an Adaptogenic Practice

I was recently talking to a good friend about Reiki, exchanging our experiences of the practice and musing about how it “works” for each of us. My experience of Reiki is that it supports whatever is going on. I think of it as bolstering what is working within the person (or animal, plant, situation) and minimizing negative factors that drain life force.

My friend, who is well attuned to the magic of medicinal plants, responded with this: “So you feel Reiki is like an adaptogen?” The light bulb went on in my mind (and more importantly, in my gut). YES! That is exactly how I experience Reiki.

In the world of herbal medicine, an adaptogen is a plant that meets the body where it needs support, and assists in bringing the body’s systems back to balance. Adaptogens gently tug the body in the direction of wellness and away from the effects of stress, illness, and depletion. It’s less about curing symptoms than about supporting balance and resilience, so that symptoms lose the upper hand.

Here’s another way of looking at it: we all have a friend or family member that we feel especially close with. And no matter what’s going on in our lives, we’re always pleased to be in that person’s company. He or she somehow manages to make things better, simply through their presence, and they help us adapt to whatever is going on.

Thinking of Reiki as an “adaptogenic friend” has been a good meditation: it is wise to check in often and appreciate its quiet strength–like watering an herb garden or catching up with a dear friend–and then let “the work” happen naturally.