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…

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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.

Your Energetic Savings Account

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Sacrum/Blossom

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.

Reiki, Self-Care, and the Inner Life

Possibly the most important part of anyone’s Reiki practice is self-practice. This means giving oneself a Reiki treatment every day; a full session is ideal, but even 15 minutes of Reiki is beneficial.

Strangely, I’m starting to realize that I am better about my self-practice when I’m busy or stressed out—which is awesome, because self-practice is a healthy choice when life gets crazy. But I’m very curious about why it’s harder for me to stick to this habit of self-care when the weather is fine, relationships are going smoothly, and life is more or less even-keeled. It’s like some sneaky part of my brain decides: “Oh, things are great, why do you need to waste time relaxing, right now? There are important things to do out there!” Whether it’s work or play, there is a lot to attend to. Spring fever makes it even easier to stay busy.

I just listened to a lovely interview with Pico Iyer at On Being (it’s from June, sadly I’m always a little behind on these things). He says:

“… I think we all know our outer lives are only as good as our inner lives, so to neglect our inner lives is to really incapacitate our outer lives; we don’t have so much to give to other people, or the world, or our job, or our kids.”

When things are going smoothly, it’s so tempting to neglect the inner life. But that inner life helps to steer the purpose of the outer life, and if we stop tending to it, all that we do “out there,” even the good stuff, will slowly start to deplete us.

Taking time for Reiki every day—rain and shine—is one way to tend the inner life. If you don’t yet have Reiki hands, I’d be happy to help you find a class. Just shoot me an email.