Orange Flower Healing is happy to be a sponsor for the Bloomington Garden Club’s annual Summer Garden Walk, taking place this weekend, June 17 and 18. Visit 4 private gardens, the Hilltop Nature Center and Gardens, and the Monroe County History Center. Hours and ticket info are at the Garden Club website….
“Touching is a very old way of healing and so we try to touch people with the same tenderness that a mother would touch a child with, because what a mother is saying to a child in that touch is: Live.”
One of my favorite things about Reiki practice is that there is no agenda. Beyond childhood, it’s rare to have another person’s hands on our body with no preconceived notion of what they’re trying to accomplish. A massage therapist is loosening tight muscles; a chiropractor is adjusting bones; a doctor is feeling for tenderness or lumps. Even a loving partner touches to reaffirm connection through comfort or pleasure, a wordless way to say: you and me.
But in Reiki, we just place our hands and let Reiki do the rest. When I share Reiki, I am not seeking to fix a problem, or to diagnose a condition—I am simply asking Reiki to flow where it is needed. I follow the traditional hand placements as taught to me by my teacher, in the tradition of Reiki Master Hawayo Takata: I gently place my hands on the head, torso and then the back, spending a few minutes in each area.
Do I have an intention when I begin a session?
No, other than for Reiki to flow, which I respectfully request of Reiki before placing my hands. Before we start, I usually ask the person, “How can Reiki help you today?” But sometimes we don’t yet have words for what we need, and that’s where Reiki can really surprise us. It goes right to the place that hungers for life force, attention, juice. It may be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual; Reiki nourishes that place gently, with no expectations. And things shift, perhaps subtly, sometimes notably. Either way, everything around that initial shift moves a bit, too. A process has begun.
“Open yourself to the Tao,
then trust your natural responses;
and everything will fall into place.”
Tao te Ching, Ch. 23
How does Reiki work? I don’t know. I know how to practice; I know how I feel after a session; I know how others have described their experiences. But how Reiki works, or maybe I mean why, is a mystery. Since my very first session, this is what intrigued me about the practice. It seems too easy, but a few minutes and Reiki hands are all one needs. A quiet place is helpful, but Reiki can happen anywhere. In our busy, info-packed world, it’s choosing to go agenda-free–for even 15 minutes!–that might be the most challenging task of all.
Before starting to practice Reiki, I’d been practicing art for many years. This proved helpful to me when learning Reiki, because I understood the value of a daily commitment: with any regular practice, we strengthen muscles both physical and mental, and stay familiar with our tools. With daily effort, we worry less about “good” and “bad” practice, and keep the focus on consistently showing up.
One of my tools for art practice is something I call my “soft eyes.” This is when I step back and look at something I’m working on with my eyes slightly unfocused, which offers me a chance to see the work in a looser way. (I do this when looking at other artists’ work, too.) Problems–and strengths–in the image often jump out, and deciding what to do next is easier. Other times I realize it’s time to let something alone.
It took me a long time to notice this “soft eyes” effect, and it took me even longer to consciously employ it as a tool. Years later, when my Reiki teacher encouraged me to observe with “Reiki eyes,” it then took time to recognize that, for me, Reiki eyes were the same soft eyes I called on in the art studio.
Whether in Reiki or art practice, soft eyes encourage me to wait for pattern and meaning to emerge, rather than letting my mind carry me to a premature conclusion. The soft gaze of not-knowing can be an important space to hang out in, if slightly uncomfortable.
I sometimes think of art as something that I do “for myself,” and Reiki as something I offer “for others.” But I self practice with Reiki almost every day, and my art does find its way out into the world. (I’ll have some work in The Vault at Ivy Tech’s John Waldron Arts Center, in May.) Both art and Reiki help me stay aware of the big picture, while keeping a soft eye on the details.
In the last couple weeks, picking up coffee, I have overheard two wedding planning consultations. It’s reminded me how stressful wedding planning is: the dress, the flowers, the food, the family… the expenses, the opinions, the expectations. It’s a lot of pressure to place on the shoulders of two people who are standing at the sacred threshold of a life together. I recall the weeks before my wedding as some of the most anxious of my life! I didn’t know about Reiki then, but oh, how I wish I had.
How can Reiki help your wedding plans? Reiki helps people feel better. This can include improved sleep, digestion, and breathing — ahhhh. When we feel better, we think more clearly and can focus on prioritizing the tasks ahead; we communicate more clearly, let the little things go, and make important decisions with confidence.
Reiki helps us feel better by gently drawing the body, emotions, mind, and spirit back to balance. It’s worthwhile to prepare for any major life event by seeking balance at the beginning. We don’t always get that choice — think of any change you didn’t want to see, coming down the pike — but there are many things we plan ahead for: a wedding, a move, a pregnancy, a job change, a medical procedure. Why wouldn’t we choose to embark on these journeys from a place of nourished balance? To quote Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the ever-relevant Tao te Ching, chapter 64:
Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.
The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet.
Last week we had one of those eerie-for-February-but-still-appreciated 60-degree days. I loaded up the dog and drove out for a walk in one of my favorite spots…
It was warm and gray, and the woods were winter-brown. Strips of bright green moss stood out, wrapping downed trees and the occasional boulder.
About halfway through the hike I came upon this enormous outcrop, covered in moss. It glowed in the diffuse light of the cloudy day, and looked to me like a big green beast emerging from the winter earth.
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
Tao te Ching
Lao-tzu, translated by Stephen Mitchell
Silence can be profoundly healing. Next to sleep, I find nothing to be more restorative. And in these past winter weeks, I’ve been unsure about what I have to say that is worth throwing into the cacophony of dismay reverberating throughout the United States, and the world.
Possibly I’ve been waiting for my mud to settle.
But as people gather in protest against too many distressing developments, I’ve been considering how speaking up—and out—is healing, too.
I have attended several events in the last couple of weeks: the Indianapolis Women’s March, author Roxane Gay’s appearance at IU, the National Organization for Women’s Monroe County call out meeting, and a postcard write-in at Yarns Unlimited. I have noticed that many of the speakers are saying: pace yourself. We’re in this for the long haul, and each person must pick the issues that speak to her heart, and take on only what she can reasonably handle.
This seems very different from the activism I participated in years ago, and I wonder if this is what mindfulness practice, slowly trickling into the larger culture, looks like. Personal healing is intrinsically connected to community and global healing, and speaking out and keeping quiet are twin skills to be cultivated with equal dedication.
Which brings to mind a favorite poem by Pablo Neruda, Keeping Quiet.
I’m feeling a bit wordless these days.
This is my favorite piece of music for Reiki sessions. I started playing it in the Reiki room earlier this year, when a musician friend suggested I check out Brian Eno, just days after an artist friend posted this same video.
Reiki is often translated as Universal Life Energy. The second part of the word, Ki, is similar to the Chinese concept of Qi, the “life force” that flows through living things.
After a Reiki session, recipients might feel sleepy, rested, or energized. The next day is when the effects of a session might be most noticeable: people often sleep deeply the night of a Reiki treatment, and wake up feeling renewed.
In my own experience, this is when a strong temptation pops up, to spend that fresh new energy tackling any number of worthwhile tasks. Which is seductive at the time, but quickly leaves people feeling depleted all over again.
To resist this urge, when receiving Reiki, I treat my session like a mini-retreat: if my appointment is in the morning, I keep my schedule light that day, and set aside quiet time. If I schedule an afternoon or evening appointment, I try to stay away from digital gadgetry the rest of the day, and go to bed early. Whenever I receive Reiki, I drink plenty of water afterwards, and listen to my intuition when it comes to food, exercise, and rest—every session is different, so there is no one-size-fits all response. The day after a session, however energized I may feel, I try to keep my day as flexible as possible.
This is how I choose to accept the Reiki I’ve received, welcoming it into all the little spaces that can benefit from healing. When we allow ourselves to fully absorb a Reiki session, it’s like making a deposit into the “energy savings account,” and tucking a bit of vital life energy under the proverbial mattress.
We benefit from receiving Reiki during times of relative ease, which can help sustain us in busier times. When life gets stressful, we can keep the Reiki flowing by practicing daily self-treatment, and receiving Reiki from others. Whatever may be happening, we have choices in how we nourish, conserve and wield our Ki.
As we move into autumn, and all the wonderful busyness of cooler days and longer nights, it’s worthwhile to stash some Ki in the self-care bank. Whether through receiving Reiki, getting plenty of sleep, practicing meditation or prayer, or making time for gentle bodywork like yoga or Qigong, you can care for your Ki, and invest in your self.
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!
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.