Reiki as Refuge

QuanYinSpring

Kuan Yin in the Garden, photo by David Ondrik


Querencia
is a Spanish term that can mean a few different things: it’s the place where one feels secure; the deep love of place; affection for home; a favorite spot. It is often associated with bull fighting, querencia being the place in the arena where the bull feels strong, and confident that he can survive the brutal contest he’s stuck in.

When I first learned about querencia, towards the end of my fifteen years living in New Mexico, it was described to me more as a way of being, or a way behaving. I was offered the image of a dog, circling and circling, and circling yet again, before plunking herself down to rest, with a big sigh. All is well, for the moment, at least.

These last few, strange, weeks, I have been circling endlessly, but not quite getting to my querencia. Time and again, sometimes several times a day, I think I’ve got it and then—poof—something happens and I find myself starting again. Anxiety, fear, and doubt are taking up more time in my head (and heart) than I’m used to—and boy, they are tenacious.

In my own life experience, this time of uncertainty most reminds of when a loved one was dying, several years ago. The sense of limbo was almost unbearable; I was waterlogged with anticipatory grief that seemed too intimate to share with my work colleagues, the people with whom I spent most of my waking hours. I felt overwhelmed and isolated, and I was not a lot of fun to be around. It was like being at sea; no land in sight.

At that time, the only place where I consistently found peace was in Reiki—a practice that was new to me, but which felt like my one reliable place of rest. And much like my grief, I had trouble putting Reiki into words. Paradoxically, it felt critical to my vitality, and utterly intangible. I felt foolish when I tried to explain Reiki to others, and finally I stopped trying. I took comfort in a passage from the Tao te Ching: “Those who know, don’t talk; those who talk, don’t know.”*

As years have passed, my daily practice has become almost second nature. Reiki saw me through the difficulty of that period, and has been with me through many other changes—some that I welcomed, and others that I wanted to resist. I have developed a mindset that I mostly find helpful: When in doubt, apply Reiki practice. When not in doubt, still apply Reiki practice. I’ve slowly accumulated some words that are useful when trying to talk about Reiki, but they are, “(in the traditional Buddhist metaphor), fingers pointing at the moon; if you watch the finger, you can’t see the moon.”†

Navigating this strange new world of coronavirus, I have found myself thinking hard about Reiki as refuge, perhaps as the querencia I can retreat to. My professional practice—the hands-on practice with others, that brings such peace and comfort to many clients—is impossible. I’m realizing how much holding that space with other people helps me, too. It seems cruel that just when we most need comforting touch, it is denied to us—whether through Reiki, massage, or just plain-old human hugs and hand holding. 

I’ve been given the opportunity—ugh! that word feels so hard, right now—to reflect more deeply on my self-practice. And my partner and I have been exchanging Reiki more often. Hawayo Takata, the woman who brought Reiki to the United States, said: “You are Number One! Then, if you have time, treat your family and your friends; but in Reiki, you first, then other people.”‡

I’ve also heard Takata said that every household should have a baker, and a Reiki practitioner. Reiki? Check. Baker? Check.

Querencia? Still circling.

* Chapter 56, Tao te Ching, by Lao Tzu, translated by Stephen Mitchell
† Notes, Chapter 1, Tao te Ching, by Lao Tzu, translated by Stephen Mitchell
Reiki: Hawayo Takata’s Story, by Helen J. Haberly

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