Upcoming Virtual Events

Honoring Our Teachers
Meinrad Craighead: Praying with Images
Thursday, October 22, 6-7pm (Eastern Time)
Zoom conversation with Amy Dosser
Executive Producer, Praying with Images

Several years ago, I had the good fortune to be involved with the production of the documentary Meinrad Craighead: Praying with Images (2009). Meinrad passed away in April 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can learn more about Meinrad here; she was an important mentor to me, in art and life. When I learned that Praying with Images had recently been released digitally, I jumped at an opportunity to share Meinrad’s work again.

On Thursday, October 22, I’ll host a conversation with Amy Dosser, Executive Producer of Praying with Images. We’ll talk about Meinrad’s images and her writing, and her exceptional ability to hold sacred space for women. You’re invited to watch the documentary—which you can rent or buy in digital format here—ahead of time, and then join us in conversation. If you’d like to buy a DVD, you can do that here.

Free, but pre-registration is required.
Contact me to register, with Meinrad Craighead in the comment box.
You must download the Zoom app to participate.

Past Event: Resting Warrior 
Breathing Practices for Lung Strength
Thursday, September 24, 6-7pm (Eastern)
Zoom workshop with Meghan Maris
of Mama Priya Yoga

Supporting our lung health is critical as we approach the autumn of 2020. I’m partnering with yoga teacher Meghan Maris, of Mama Priya Yoga in Portland, Oregon to offer a Zoom session on how to breathe better. We’ll explore diaphragmatic breathing, equal breathing, and touch on lunar nostril/breathing. Meghan will also offer some of the theory, mythic elements and philosophy of the subtle body and pranayama—the breathing practices used in yoga practice.

*This event has passed, but if you are interested in a redux, contact me–perhaps we can arrange something!

Working with Pain

Spine
Thursday, August 20: Understanding and Treating Pain
with Janet DeLong of DeLong Wellness
6:00-7:15pm, via Zoom
A couple of years ago, I heard Janet speak at the Monroe County Public Library, and her presentation stuck with me. She explained that pain is complex, a “sensory and emotional experience,” that can be worked with, as much as managed.

If you or someone you care about experiences pain that impacts quality of life, or if you’re just curious to learn more, please join us. This event is free, but virtual space is limited and registration is required. To register, contact me–please include “working with pain” and your phone number in the comments box.

The Healing Art of Guo Fengyi

 

ToSeeFromADistance

Essays by Rosario Güiraldes, Laura Hoptman, Kathleen M. Ryor, Xu Tan

Chinese artist Guo Fengyi (1942-2010) created mesmerizing ink drawings, intricate images derived from visions that came to her during qigong practice. Qigong is a subtle body practice from the Chinese tradition, and Reiki–Japanese in origin–is sometimes compared to it. Both practices are meditative and seem to facilitate healing experiences. (You can find an earlier post about qigong, here.)

Guo began practicing qigong for pain relief, after severe arthritis forced her to quit a career at a chemical plant, in her late 40s. Guo understood qigong as a method for understanding, and healing, her body; she made detailed descriptions of how her body, mind, and spirit moved as she practiced. In one journal entry, she encouraged herself:

“You have to have a strong will and endurance. Through sustained practice, you will achieve enlightenment. If you hold on to the [qigong] practice, naturally, everything will be achieved through real practice.” *

As Guo immersed herself in qigong, written descriptions quickly gave way to powerful visual images, which she inked onto paper. The images became more convoluted. Guo strongly believed that these drawings were healing, and she never wavered from that intent. The contemporary art world of China regarded her as a curiosity; even those who admired her work were hesitant to call it “art.” Her images were too raw, too weird. And they were rooted in a quest for personal healing—the work of a middle-aged woman, who had no art education, circling at the fringes of a contemporary art scene dominated by men.

No matter.  Guo Fengyi kept practicing. A decade after her death, the first major institutional exhibit of her work in the United States took place at The Drawing Center in NYC. How is wish I could have seen it! Maybe I’ll be able to catch it in Savannah, Georgia, the next stop. For now, I have to settle for the exhibition catalogue, which has well-written, accessible essays and lovely reproductions of Guo’s detailed images.

As I read about the artist’s work, nourished by her qigong practice, I noted how much it reflected my own experience of Reiki. My background is in the arts, but when I first learned Reiki, I had consciously stepped back from art, to focus on a demanding job. However, after a few years of Reiki practice, I noticed that my perception of color seemed to shift; in particular, I perceived a new sense of relationship between colors, a rich conversation that I suddenly felt privy to. The spectrum of color–our old friend ROY G BIV–seemed to stretch and deepen. It was like discovering new flavors that I’d had no idea existed.

When we practice paying attention, we gain new information about ourselves, and the world around us. When we have new information, new options may appear. Often, these options were completely out of our line of sight: out of the blue, we might say. Through focusing on our practice–Reiki, yoga, meditation, qigong–anything that takes us simultaneously out of ourselves and deeper in–we soften our gaze, which allows us to see what is at the edge of our vision.

In many ways, Reiki practice reminds me of walking a path in snowy woods, at night. If I look for the path, it’s difficult to see it in the darkness. But if I move ahead slowly, my eyes roaming gently side to side, the path emerges as a muted brightness, winding ahead of me. It’s the subtle difference between looking at something, as opposed to taking it in.

Practice. Walk the snowy path of whatever practice speaks to you. We commit to walking the path, but we need not stare at it–we simply need to show up, and be receptive.
____

* Guo Fengyi: To See from a Distance, exhibition catalogue, Footnote 5, p 27

Breathe, Digest, and Sleep

NewYearSalad

Breathing better, digesting better, and sleeping better are three things that Reiki seems to be particularly good at. How is this possible? As I readily admit, I don’t know exactly how Reiki works. But I can say that, as a general rule, a Reiki session helps people to relax. I’ve observed how the breath deepens, the face softens; people sigh, they swallow, and sometimes they fall asleep. Something about this practice appears to evoke the power of the parasympathetic nervous system–the “rest and digest” system that is so restorative for the body and mind.

We think of highly stressed people as being in flight or fight mode, but there is a third mode: freeze, the strategy of the rabbit. It strikes me that COVID-19 has put many of us into all three modes simultaneously. Irritability, insomnia, and panic attacks abound. If you are fortunate enough to have Reiki, you can self-practice. And you can share with others in your household, if they’re interested.

But many people don’t have Reiki in their home. So what can you do, right now, to help your body breathe, digest, and sleep better? There are options, even while sheltering in place and socially distancing.

BREATHE.
Meditation. You don’t have to sit on a cushion for an hour. You might try setting an alert for the start of every hour, and spend five minutes watching your breath. When you pay attention to your breath, you breathe better.
Exercise. When you move your body, you move the air in your lungs. You don’t have to run a marathon! Go for a brisk walk, dance in your living room, take the stairs.
Go outside. It is springtime–breathe it in.

DIGEST.
Meal planning. This can go either way. Some people I know say they are eating better than they were before shelter-in-place, because they have more time to cook. Others have been stress baking and eating cookies for breakfast. (Yep, that’s happened at my house.) Whichever direction you’re leaning in, healthy meals are a gift to your body now.
Fresh foods. Eat as many fresh veggies and fruits as you can–they are full of life-force, and add water to your diet, too. The Supergrain Salad above is a rainbow-on-a-plate dish that I fell in love with in Portland, Oregon. I have a few versions of my own!
Exercise. Moving your body moves your digestive system, too. And exercise encourages us to drink water, which keeps the digestive system hydrated.

SLEEP.
Exercise. Perhaps you detect a theme! The human body evolved to be on the move, not sitting in a chair. Who doesn’t sleep well after a long walk or a day in the garden?
Log out. Turn off tech gadgets (all of them) one hour before bed. Set an alarm if you need to. Read a paper book, take a bath, journal. The mental gears need time to wind down.
Relaaaaax into sleep. Consider going to bed a half hour earlier than you typically do. Once in bed, place your hands behind your head, in a looking-up-at-the-clouds position. Feel the weight of your skull settle heavily into the cradle of your hands. After a few minutes, place your hands over your heart. And a few minutes after that, if you’re still awake, rest your hands on your low belly. Breathe.

Vampires and Garlic Gardens

Garlic

Garlic by David Ondrik

I recently read an article in an issue of Breathe about empaths and “energy vampires.”

This is a phrase I’m hesitant to use, because it encourages us to (literally) demonize other people, especially those whom we find personally draining or difficult. 

Most of the time, a person we think of as an energy vampire is simply someone who is not conscious of themselves, or their impact on others. Think about when children are sick; we love and want to care for them, and when they are deeply depleted, they need more of our ki—our vitalityto sustain themselves. Generally speaking, we don’t think of children as vampires!

What if we apply that same patience and compassion to adults who aren’t able to straightforwardly ask for what they need, due to stress, illness, or past trauma? It’s entirely possible that the person who is draining you thinks that they don’t matter enough to affect other people—a sad situation, indeed.

How do we feel more kindly towards people who exhaust us? The best defense against anything that feels depleting is self care. Deep self care—Self Love, really—is the best protection, because when we are well-rested, well-fed, exercised, and truly engaged with our own life, we are less susceptible to getting swept up in someone else’s drama. When we find ourselves feeling drained by a person or situation that we believe has snared us, it’s usually a sign that that we need to take a good, compassionate look at ourselves. Are we offering up our own life force for the taking, consciously or not?

Another thing to be aware of is our own capacity to BE that energy vampire. What? Me?! No way! Yes. This does not make us a bad or weak person; it means that we are human, and we have down times, just like everyone else. If we’re not attentive to our own needs, and aware of our own less-than-helpful coping strategies, it is easy to tip over to that “dark side,” where we harbor unrealistic expectations of our friends, family, and co-workers, worrying about our unmet needs and unconsciously trying to pull people in to help us.

Building up our psychic immune system is the best way to avoid—and to avoid becoming—an energy vampire.  When I say “psychic,” I mean of the psyche, of the soul or the mind. We strengthen the psyche so that it’s flexible and resilient, able to spot and easily move around or accommodate difficulty, and also able to recover more quickly when knocked down by a challenge. Challenges come in all shapes and sizes, and often they blindside us—such as unexpectedly harsh words from a friend, or criticism from a colleague. When our psyche is strong, we can stand confident in ourselves, sure of our healthy connections with others and in our ability to weather whatever happens next. We can watch something play out, and even though we may not like it, we can wait and see what happens rather than jump into the fray.

Garlic has a long tradition of being beneficial to the immune system (although contemporary medicine isn’t entirely on board with this). And as the old stories go, garlic keeps vampires at bay! So how do you tend the garlic garden of your psyche’s immune system? Here are a few strategies:

  • Schedule yourself first: sleep, good food, exercise. Mind your work, your relationships, and your household.
  • Find a daily practice that requires focus: Reiki, meditation, yoga, martial arts, writing, art.
  • Set your phone to “do not disturb” an hour before bed; turn off your computer and television, too.
  • Go to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual, at least once a week. 
  • Take a social media break. Focus on doing what nourishes you, rather than posting about it.
  • Spend your free time doing things you enjoy, hanging out with people you like, and participating in work (and fun!) that is meaningful to you.

Do these seem too simplistic? Simple is good. Simple is healthy. Simplicity doesn’t drain your resources; it builds your primary resource, which is YOU, and your vitality.

If you often find yourself drained by others, try to resist being the girl in the flimsy negligee, barefoot, inching her way down the dark hallway with a wooden stake in her hand. You know where that scene ends up! Instead, get your boots on, go outside (yes, even if it’s nighttime), and check in with your psychic garlic garden. Touch the cool dirt, break off a garlic scape, and breathe in the pungent scent. Look at the stars, and feel yourself a part of this real life on Earth.

There’s no need to waste precious time being afraid of imaginary monsters.

Are you ready for a Reiki reboot?

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Self-treatment is the heart of Reiki.

Do you wish the people in your life took Reiki–and your practice–more seriously?

Perhaps it’s worth considering this question: How can you convey the value of Reiki to others, when you haven’t committed yourself to regular practice?

If you’ve lost your daily practice, or have doubts about whether your Reiki is “still good,” you are invited to Orange Flower Healing to review and restore your commitment to Reiki and to self-care.

FREE Reiki Self-Practice Reboot
Thursday, December 6, 7-9pm
at East West Acupuncture
357 S. Landmark Ave (off west 3rd Street)
Questions? 812-327-1330

After brief introductions and a quick review of hand placements, we’ll share a guided self-practice for about 40 minutes. There will be plenty of time for sharing and questions afterwards.

Bring a yoga mat or blanket to lie on, and a pillow if you’d like. There will be some Reiki tables available; contact me if you’d like to reserve one. Otherwise, we’ll be stretched out on the floor.

This is a FREE event, all lineages and all levels are invited!

 

Making Sleep Sacred

Sleep offers the body an opportunity to rest and repair. After a Reiki session, I suggest that clients drink extra water, and then go to bed a little earlier than usual. “Really?!” is the typical response to this suggestion–as if I’ve given people permission to “indulge” in something luxurious.

I have been thrilled about the recent media attention around sleep and its importance. This interview with Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep; the 2017 Nobel Prize in Medicine going to three scientists who study circadian rhythm; and Arianna Huffington’s 2016 book The Sleep Revolution, have all caught my attention. Huffington suggests reciting meditations when we wake up in the middle of the night, rather than picking up our phones to start scrolling. Yes!

You could also try Reiki. Whatever is causing the insomnia, laying Reiki hands on your own body is soothing, and encourages the body to return to its natural nighttime state: slumber. Reiki can feel like a warm bath for the body and spirit, calming gritty eyes, quieting a spinning brain, or comforting a worried heart.

There’s a good chance that you will fall back to sleep while self-practicing Reiki. But even if it takes some time, I always feel better just knowing that I am actively caring for myself while I wait for sleep to return.

Making sleep sacred starts with how we prepare for it each night. Consider cultivating your sleep-bed as you would a garden-bed: plant yourself tenderly but firmly! If you are fortunate enough to be in a time and place in your life where uninterrupted sleep is a possibility, make sleep a priority. (If only we could donate our sleep-hours to new mothers, like frequent flyer miles.)

Back to Reiki. Haven’t taken a Reiki class? As my friend Kim Lohan says, “Even if you haven’t studied energy healing, you can still offer yourself healing energy.” Similarly, one of my favorite yoga teachers urged her students, “Where does your body need attention? Rest your medicine hands there, and breathe.”

Your next sleepless night is your next opportunity to practice.

 

I haven’t practiced in a long time…

ReikiTime1
Self-practice is the heart of Reiki: a full self-treatment, every day, helps maintain balance and a relaxed awareness as we go about our lives. But it can be hard to find time for self-practice, since we have to consciously choose to make time.

I sometimes meet people who, when learning that I have a Reiki practice, say: “I took a Reiki class years ago, but I haven’t used it in a really long time.”

Whereupon, I encourage them to start again.

How do we get back to Reiki practice? By placing Reiki hands on ourselves, every day. A few ways to reengage with Reiki, if you haven’t practiced in a while:

– Give yourself a mini self-treatment after hitting the snooze button: press snooze, and then place your hands. Drift back to sleep, letting Reiki flow for the next 8 or 9 minutes. If you choose to snooze some more, you can move your hands—if you started at your head, move to your heart. If you started at your heart, move to your belly.

– Practice for a few minutes before lunch, or after. Place your hands wherever Reiki is called to—if nothing speaks to you, try your belly, and imagine your body digesting well and absorbing all the nourishment available in your meal.

– Go to bed 10 or 15 minutes earlier than you usually do, and practice as you fall asleep. You may experience the best night of sleep you’ve had in a while!

Try practicing just a small amount each day for a month. A full self-treatment, every day, is what you’re aiming for, but if you get off track, don’t worry. Some Reiki is always better than no Reiki. Just notice how you feel: as you practice, when you awaken, during the events of your day, and going to sleep.

Need a refresher on the hand placements for self-treatment? Contact me about getting together one-on-one, or in a group, to practice. Reiki is safe, so simple, and deeply supportive. Once you’ve got it, it never “goes away”—you just have to remember to practice what you already know.

Wedding Planning with Reiki

photo by Val Hollingsworth

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.

If you’ve got something going on that’s important enough to plan for, consider scheduling a Reiki session at Orange Flower Healing. Have questions? Great! Contact Becky.