Free Reiki Clinics

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I took a cue from my pal Kim Lohan over at Hara Studio in Charlottesville, VA and am hosting two free Reiki clinics in October and November.

Free Reiki Clinics :: Saturday, October 20 and Saturday, November 17
Contact me to schedule a free 15 minute appointment.
First session available at 8:30am, last session at 3pm. No drop-ins, please.

Reiki is a light-touch practice that gently encourages balance in the mind and body. Sessions are received lying down on a massage table, fully clothed. You can receive Reiki from a friend or family member, or from a professional practitioner. You can even learn how to practice Reiki on yourself, and enjoy the benefits of committed daily practice.

There are a lot (and I mean a LOT) of different ideas floating around about Reiki out on the Interwebs. But the fact is that Reiki is a safe, simple, and supportive practice that evokes a state similar to deep meditation, or to the blissful rest one experiences in savasana at the end of a yoga class.

If you’ve heard of Reiki and have questions, this is a great opportunity to try a brief session and bring all your queries to an experienced practitioner!

Shinrin-Yoku: The Japanese Art and Science of Forest Bathing

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Interested in trying a bit of forest bathing? Join me for a slow-and-easy excursion in beautiful McCormick’s Creek State Park this Saturday, October 13. We’ll meet at 3pm in the Orange Flower Healing parking lot, so that we can carpool and save on the park entry fee. (You are welcome to drive alone and meet us there, if you prefer). We’ll explore the Wolf Cave Trail (#5). More info at MeetUp.
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I recently read Dr. Qing Li’s 2018 book Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness. Dr. Li is the Chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine, and his book is an easy read, straightforward and practical. The first chapter describes the benefits of spending time in the forest: decreased stress levels, a sense of calm, increased vitality, and a strong feeling of connection with the natural world. He cites studies that show some measurable health benefits gained from forest bathing, including improved blood pressure, boosted immune system response, and mood enhancement.

The book offers guidance on how to practice shinrin-yoku and suggests methods for bringing “the forest” into our living and work spaces, with indoor plants and essential oils. The author then encourages readers to join the effort to preserve our forests, which cover just over 30% of the Earth’s land. Most Americans experience forests as a place for recreation, but the reality is that the livelihoods and food security of around 250 million rural poor depend on vibrant forests and trees, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

Li offers facts and figures, but is also careful to convey the aesthetic power of forests. He offers lines of poetry from Bashō, and provides an outline for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. He also mentions a study, Fertile Green: Green Facilitates Creative Performance, that demonstrated how just a brief glimpse of the color green can influence performance on creative tasks.

The color green is a balm to the human eye, and nature’s age-old method of indicating that water, and possibly food, are nearby. Green is the color of nourishment, potentiality, and growth–and can help set the stage for healing.

The practice of shinrin-yoku aligns perfectly with Reiki practice; some of my favorite Reiki sessions have been in large urban parks, practicing among the trees. And that was before I even knew about shinrin-yoku! I’ve often gone to the woods searching for refuge and comfort, but Li’s book encourages me to think of nature as prescription: Big Tree Medicine.

Take 2 hours in the forest, and call me in the morning.

 

 

 

Qigong Practice and Receptivity

Today’s guest column, about the power of Qigong to increase receptivity to herbal medicine, is written by Sheila Devitt of Sun & Moon Dispensary. Qigong is a subtle body practice from the Chinese tradition, and Reiki, a Japanese light-touch healing practice, is sometimes compared to it. Both practices are meditative and seem to facilitate healing.

Sheila Devitt is an herbalist and actor in San Francisco. We met in the late 1990s, while working for an herbalist. I have long admired her equally strong commitments to acting and herbalism, interests which seem to balance and influence one another in ways that I find continually inspiring.

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I’ve been a practicing herbalist since 1998, first working with Western European and North American herbal medicine, then incorporating Ayurvedic traditions, including yoga practice, and in recent years expanding to include Traditional Chinese herbal medicine. A couple years ago, I had an opportunity to study herbal medicine in Shanghai. I traveled with a group of fellow students and teachers for a two-week intensive. While doing hospital rounds, our translator mentioned that she also works at the Shanghai Qigong Research Institute, across the street. She arranged for our small group to meet some of the instructors and drop-in on a couple classes.

One of the instructors asked about our group of herbalists from the United States. “How can you just practice herbs?” he asked. “We do not separate it from the other branches of Traditional Chinese Medicine” (acupuncture, Qigong exercise, Tui Na massage, and diet and nutrition).

“We practice Qigong so that our bodies will be more receptive to the herbs.”

That simple statement was like a light-bulb moment for me, an “A-ha!” Of course.

Qigong is a form of simple stretching and movement that focuses on the meridians: the same meridians that acupuncturists reference when selecting needle points. One teacher defines Qigong as “a form of gentle exercise composed of movements that are repeated a number of times, often stretching the body, increasing fluid movement (blood, synovial and lymph) and building awareness of how the body moves through space.”

Another teacher says, “Practicing Qigong cultivates positive energy.”

When we practice Qigong, we clear stagnation in the meridians. Receiving acupuncture also clears stagnation, or blocked energy, in the meridians. When energy blockages are removed, or at least reduced, it clears the pathway for herbs to work in the body. When we are less tense, more relaxed, the herbs have an easier time getting to where they need to go, therefore working more effectively and efficiently. (Oftentimes, herbal formulas will include a small amount of a warming, spicy ingredient that stimulates circulation, such as ginger, cinnamon, cayenne or black pepper. This serves a similar function, helping to facilitate circulation, and deliver the main ingredients in the formula to their destination, whether that’s a particular organ or joint or limb.)

Acupuncture, Qigong and herbal medicine are all synergistic modalities: each one amplifies the benefits of the others. I believe that any practice that helps to calm us down, reduce stress, quiet the mind and release tension will also help the body become more receptive to herbal medicine, both physiologically and energetically.

I recently read an article about electricity in nature that said, “Plants, being earthed, have the same negative charge as the ground that they grow upon, but they protrude into the positively charged air. This creates substantial electrical fields between the air around them and the tips of their leaves and branches…”

Herbs as medicine contain a variety of active chemical constituents, that can be identified and measured using various scientific means, but they also retain this electrical energy. Of course it’s highest when the plant is alive, and will gradually diminish once the plant is harvested and dried, but it will still retain some echo of that energy.

When we practice subtle body arts, in the form of Reiki or Qigong, we might well tune in to, and amplify, a similar electrical energy in our own living bodies. I believe in this way, we become more receptive.

Here are links to a couple of my favorite Qigong videos. I often recommend the Eight Brocades series and the Five Element series to my herbal medicine clients. The Eight Brocades is an ancient practice that has been handed down over many generations. I think of it as a foundational set, similar to doing sun salutations in yoga. In the Five Element series, I especially like the link between the physical organs, and corresponding emotions. When our emotions feel overwhelming, as if they are too much to contain, this practice can help us to create a larger, more stable container, and to provide us with a greater capacity to process difficult emotions.

Here are links to a couple Qigong teachers and their practices:
Water Tradition Internal Arts (in California)
Water Study Chi Kung (in Oregon)

When we combine the physical exercise with herbal medicine, we are utilizing simple, gentle, powerfully effective healing modalities that bring peace and comfort in a busy world.

Orange Flower Healing has new digs!

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Orange Flower Healing has moved to 357 S. Landmark, inside East West Acupuncture.

After starting as a home-based “micro business” in 2016, I’d outgrown my space and had been keeping an eye out for just the right office. Mission accomplished! When you enter the main office, I’m down the hallway in Suite B, Office 2. Depending on the day you come in, you might get to see some of the fine folks who run East West, and they will no doubt be happy to answer your acupuncture questions.

My regular office hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-4pm, with some Saturday and evening appointments available. I’m planning an open house at the office within the month, details to come. If you’d like to schedule an appointment or be added to my email list, contact me.

In the interest of deepening my personal and professional Reiki practice, in mid-August I traveled to Soderworld Wellness Center, outside Chicago, to attend a three-day Reiki & Medicine Intensive with Pamela Miles. Miles has spent decades bringing Reiki practice to the mainstream medical community, with a no-nonsense style and an emphasis on committed, daily self practice. As she says, “Take care of your state and your state takes care of everything else.” I think this goes double for anyone in care-giving, whether you’re a nurse, a massage therapist, a teacher, a parent… you name it. We all provide care for others to some degree or another.

If you are even the least bit interested in bringing Reiki practice to people in healthcare settings, or perhaps face health care challenges of your own, I would encourage you to consider this intensive. Since Reiki is not licensed, or monitored by any associations, it is up to practitioners (and potential clients) to rigorously educate ourselves, and then make the best possible effort to be professional, practiced, and prepared to talk about Reiki without getting defensive.

Daily self practice helps. When we practice Reiki every day, we know what we’re talking about–our own, observed experience. And we also know where words just aren’t enough, and are comfortable with saying less rather than venturing into “red flag” territory. (More on that in the future.)

Looking ahead to October: You’ll find Orange Flower Healing at Olcott Center’s Pink Power fundraising event on October 4, from 5-9pm, at Shreve Hall on the Ivy Tech Campus. Tickets to Pink Power are $10, and there will be tons of fun stuff going on–you can even win a gift certificate for a Reiki session (among many other wonderful items). Call Olcott Center at 812-353-5283 for details.

Sweet, Slow Medicine

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David Ondrik, Seedlings, from the Arid Harvests series

I recently read Victoria Sweet’s 2017 book, Slow Medicine: The Way to Healing. Sweet is an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco, and also has a Ph.D. in history. She practiced medicine for over twenty years at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, and is a storyteller skilled at bridging medicine and the humanities. She explores the multitude of reasons people seek doctors to sustain them—not just to fix their ailments—and argues that encouraging and allowing doctors to slow down can benefit everyone: doctors, nurses, and patients alike.

“Anything that contributes to healing power should be employed; anything that takes away from it should be abandoned,” Sweet writes. How can contemporary medicine help people to heal in the least damaging way possible? By tending them s-l-o-w-l-y, is the suggestion. This doesn’t mean that medicine should give up moving quickly; rather, Sweet asserts that Fast Medicine and Slow Medicine work best together, alternating as needed. When you’re having a heart attack, you want everybody working at a clip! But when the heart attack is over, it’s time to recover, to heal and address prevention of future heart attacks. This is the time to employ slow medicine, to ask how a patient wants their life to look going forward, and what the patient can do to help their life move in that direction. How can their doctor support them in this important work? Slow medicine is partly about a doctor listening to and observing a patient to learn the areas in which the patient can be empowered.

Although Reiki isn’t mentioned in Slow Medicine, the concept of chi is referenced a few times—Sweet laments its depletion in weary medical interns. Of course, I was thinking about Reiki as I read this book, and how the very particular slow-listening of Reiki practice can serve as a powerful accompaniment to the rigors of modern fast medicine.

Sweet also writes at length about Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th-century Benedictine nun who emphasized the concept of viriditas or “greenness,” a metaphor for life force, and spiritual and physical health. (Sweet’s PhD in history focused on Bingen and pre-modern medicine.) She says the implications of Bingen’s idea, “which for me was revolutionary, [was] that as a doctor I should be not only a mechanic of the body, looking for what is broken and trying to fix it, but also a gardener of the body, nourishing viriditas, and removing what is in its way.”

Sweet does a great job of expanding this notion of viriditas beyond the individual patient, to the organizational level. What does a healthy health care system look like? What nourishes the garden of health care so that it can provide the right services at the right time, and what stands in the way of hospitals and doctors truly serving the people? I found myself thinking in new ways about the health care (eco) system.

I have previously associated viriditas with the vitality that Reiki seems to evoke, vitality that nourishes and restores balance in myself, and in the individuals I treat. Reiki practice appears to meet people right where they are, never pushing or forcing an issue, always gently encouraging the recipient to balance, however that might appear for them. I believe that Reiki practice is naturally and deeply aligned with Slow Medicine, “where relationship is key and the theme is attention, quietness, openness.”

Practicing Reiki like a Martial Art

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Every once in a while, someone who is curious but skeptical about Reiki will ask if I really “believe” that it works. This can be intimidating, depending on the tone in which the question is asked. It is easy to start stammering, and to fall back on vague “woo-woo” language, which never helps. It only takes a few experiences like this to discourage one from speaking with confidence about the value of Reiki, a practice that is truly better experienced than discussed.

Recently I’ve been trying a response that feels more playful: Do you ask an aikido student if she believes in aikido?

My spouse, David Ondrik (pictured above) helped bring me to this idea. A student of taekwando for 25 years, he took Reiki I with me, and immediately saw a reflection of his martial arts training in the approach: the Grand Master/Master/student relationship; regular practice with fellow students; an individual commitment that, when combined with the commitment of others, becomes the larger community of the dojang.

Martial arts training benefits the body, the mind, and the spirit. An aikido student doesn’t believe in aikido, she practices it. More precisely, she practices because she believes in the benefits the practice brings her. It is an art she has committed herself to, and the power of her aikido practice lies in doing the work, not in talking about it. If you’re interested in what she has–strength, ease in her body, a calmness about her–then you might want to know more about how she attained those things. She may have some simple words to offer, but most likely she will encourage you to experience aikido for yourself.

“Reiki” is two things: it is universal life energy (Rei = universal, ki = life energy), and it is also the practice itself. When people ask if I believe in Reiki, they usually mean the former, universal life energy. All I can say to that is everyone knows when they see someone who is lacking in life energy; a person might seem depressed, washed out, a little blue, bored.

Reiki practice works at the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels (much like a martial art). We all know what physical muscles look like, but what about your emotional muscles? What constitutes mental muscle? And what shape does spiritual muscle take?

In the martial arts, testing day is often a public event. Given the task of breaking through a series of wooden planks, the student take all of his or her experience from practice—the body, the emotions, the mind, the spirit, and their sacred connection to their Master’s lineage—and brings that experience to bear on the task at hand. To an outsider, this task might seem impossible; they might not believe it can be done. The student might not even be certain they can do it. All the student can do is prepare, and then give it their best.

And so it is with the art of Reiki. I am less concerned with believing in Reiki than I am in practicing it. It is through practice that Reiki teaches me, and I can speak of my own personal experience with confidence and ease. I aspire to what Stephen Mitchell writes, in his translation of the Tao te Ching: “He who knows doesn’t talk, but words are no hindrance for him. He uses them as he would use gardening tools. When someone asks, he answers.”

 

Reiki in the Park

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I’ve been wanting to have a “Reiki in the Park” gathering for a while now, and it’s finally happening. Woo-hoo! It can be really sweet to practice under the sky, with the ground directly beneath us, and surrounded by trees. Practicing in a public place can also mean questions from curious passers-by … a great opportunity to introduce people to the benefits of Reiki. Don’t be shy!

Location and details can be found at Meetup.

Do you already have Reiki hands? Wonderful! Please come and share your practice.

Contact me with questions, or just to connect.

The Mystery takes form in the glory of the Earth…

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Epic Earth image from NASA.

Happy Earth Day.

“The Mystery takes form in the glory of the Earth,” Marion Woodman assures us in her wonderful lecture series, Sitting by the Well: Bringing the Feminine to Consciousness Through Language, Dreams, and Metaphor.

Today I’m setting aside some time to send Reiki to our sweet home, planet Earth. I’ll offer healing Reiki — Universal Life Energy — to the waters, the land, the skies; the plants, wild and cultivated; the insects, birds, and animals who run wild, live as our companions, and provide food; and to the humans, whose choices impact every aspect of life on Earth.

A few minutes spent in meditation today can help connect us with our planet and the abundance of shared resources that Earth provides to each and every one of us. If you don’t currently practice Reiki, a conscious expression of gratitude will work, too!

 

Reiki and Pain Management

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I recently learned about the Joint Commission, and the Commission’s 2018 new and revised pain assessment and management standards for its accredited hospitals.

What is the Joint Commission? The Joint Commission accredits health care organizations and programs in the United States. It is an independent, nonprofit organization, and is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. In July 2017 they announced New and Revised Standards Related to Pain Assessment and Management, with several revisions, including a requirement that hospitals “provide at least one non-pharmacological pain treatment modality.”

What does this mean? This means that the American health care system is beginning to address the fact that some pain may be better treated with approaches other than pharmaceuticals. The experience of pain can be complicated and multi-faceted, and it varies for every person. Successfully managing pain—while minimizing risks, including addiction—may be best served by a combination of approaches.

What does this have to do with Reiki? In my work with people navigating cancer treatment, 85% of those surveyed have reported decreased pain and/or stress levels following their Reiki session. I have seen people arrive to an appointment in tears because of pain, and then watched their faces soften into relaxation as they receive Reiki and the pain loses its grip. It can be astonishing for the patient, and even as a Reiki devotee, I can still be surprised.

Does Reiki work for everybody? No. Does it work to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the individual? Yes. Is it a one-stop-pain-free-for-life solution? Absolutely not—and nothing is. But Reiki can help calm the body, the mind, the emotions, and the spirit, softening pain and offering just a little more room in which to breathe. In that space, with that breath, other options can suddenly seem viable.

I find myself encouraged by the implications of the Joint Commission’s mandate. Stay tuned for more on this topic, in future posts.