On Reiki

Several months ago now, when I was suffering from some severe anxiety, several of my blog friends suggested that I try reiki and I owe you such a debt of gratitude; it turned out to be exactly what I needed. I was fortunate enough to find a practitioner with whom I immediately bonded, and our sessions have consistently helped me to be more serene and grounded than I’ve been in a long while. And yesterday, as seems to be the normal progression of things with this therapy, I spent the day learning how to practice reiki myself.

If I haven’t mentioned reiki before now, it’s because I’ve been struggling to get my head around it. If I didn’t actually feel better after sessions I would find it hard to believe it could work at all. My practitioner, J., never touches me; instead I lie on her table and (as far as I can ever see) she waves her arms around my head and that is it. It has been almost embarrassing to think it works, even though I have more respect than most for the mysteries of human nature and a lively awareness that there is so much about our functioning that we have no way to understand. Learning how to practice it for myself was one of the strangest experiences I have had, but like all disconcerting events, there was much that was revelatory about it.

Reiki is about regulating the flow of energy in the body and in particular tapping into the forces of protective, guiding energy that keep us centred and provide clarity into our identity and our purpose. As someone recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome, I feel I have a special awareness of the odd caprices of that most powerful and fundamental of human forces, vitality. Energy changes all the time as we progress through life, from the carefree abundance of childhood, through the fierce localised explosions of adolescence into the steady stamina of middle age. It isn’t just a question of creature comforts that fuel our energy reserves, we need to be nourished by more than food, warmth and sleep (although not much can happen without those), we respond violently to excitement, sorrow, distress, inspiration, grief, rage and desire. Energy ebbs and flows in complicated patterns through an intricate matrix of circumstances, both inside and beyond the body. And then unaccountable things happen to it. Chronic fatigue was akin to being powered by a leaky car battery. I would rest and rest and rest, and when I set off I would feel fine. But all too soon I could feel my energy seeping away, draining out of me faster than seemed possible, and I would be emptied out, operating in the place of depletion which, let me tell you, is a frightening place to be.

I wasn’t at all sure yesterday that I would be able to do what was asked of me. Not just physically (since five solid hours of training was more than I’d put into any occupation in a while) but simply capable of this strange, mystical engagement with a quality of being that was certainly not in my own control. J. showed me where I should place my hands, and became my guinea pig. ‘You’ll find it much easier to do reiki on someone else,’ she told me, ‘everyone does.’ At first I placed my hands on her, as she suggested, and felt nothing more than the opening up of contact that touch always performs between our self-enclosed but sensitive bodies. Then, following her instructions, I held my hands six or seven inches above her and was quite simply bowled over to feel the force field of energy emanating from her, the same sort of dense resistance that you experience in deep water, a soupy, springy massing of the air that I could rest my hands upon. When it felt right, I could sense the strong connection between her energy and mine and the energy of the world around us, joining us all up in a complex web like a child’s dot-to-dot drawing.

After that it felt easier when I placed my hands on myself. Instantly I was drawn into an ongoing narrative taking place in a language I did not know. Fits and starts, sparks and sputterings, heavy undertows, short circuits, powerful tides. I realised that as a teacher, I already knew more than I supposed about people’s energy. You have to be attentive to its flow in a class, to the pockets of coiled mischief that have the potential to disrupt the room, to the dips of concentration that stretch out in great deserts of empty inattentiveness. I didn’t realise that I knew about all of this. It also started to make sense to me that people with chronic fatigue are often quite forceful, determined types. Chronic fatigue is about pouring too much energy into everyday activities, to the point that a fuse is blown in the system. The greater the energy input, the worse the collateral damage. I understood with more clarity now what J had been telling me; that there is a point of steady ticking over that my body most wants to inhabit, and the key now is to habituate myself to returning to it, over and over again.

When I returned home, I had a try at feeling my son’s energy field, only to be rewarded with one of those witheringly contemptuous stares for which 16-year-olds have a genius. Then Mister Litlove bounced in like the Tigger he is, asking equally mickey-taking questions and waving his arms about in the air before, of course, wanting to have it done to himself. But neither of them really needs reiki – Mister Litlove in particular having the longest battery life of anyone I have ever met. But I’ll be practising steadily on myself, not just because I am intrigued by the discontinuous flow of my energy, but because it feels so nice, so different, to do something that relies entirely on the intuitiveness of the body and not at all on the analytical skill of the mind.

17 thoughts on “On Reiki

  1. Snap!
    Your post is so interesting, and your experience of all this similar to my own. Knowing very little about it, I sought out a Reiki practitioner a few years ago when I had a spell of very low energy, aches and pains, and generally feeling like an old crock. I went in with no pre-conceptions other than the notion that it might tackle things at source rather than symptomatically. That session was a revelation. I woke next morning without back pain for the first time in years, gone was the tickly cough and the ‘under the weather’ feeling, and I felt like a different person. I, too, went back and learned how to practise Reiki myself, and yes I still have moments when I question that it really does work because it sounds ‘mad’, but I know from my own experience (and giving it to a couple of friends and members of the family) that it does indeed.
    I hope your new skill will be of great benefit to you.

  2. I’ve heard amazing things about reiki but never experienced it myself. This is all very fascinating. Do keep us informed of how you get on with it all — sounds like it has been really helpful so far.

  3. This is great, Litlove — and I’m so glad you tried it! I’m still processing the effects of the one session I had, and I will be very interested to see what happens when I go back for Round #2. My practitioner actually did physical touch, but started in the space above and gradually moved downward. One of the most fascinating things, to me, was the fact that the carpal tunnel-esque pain I’d been having in my right hand vanished after the session…she spent quite a lot of time on my hands, and almost none on or around my head, telling me that she “didn’t have permission yet.” This made sense to me, as I am quite sure my energy field has some fairly substantial barriers in it.

  4. I’ve never had Reiki done on me but I have seen it done on someone else who was suffering from severe backpain and the look of relief on her face afterwards spoke volumes. So glad that this is helping you and should I ever find the need for Reiki I know who I can call😉

  5. I think Reiki can be very powerful but gentle at the same time. It’s wonderful that you found exactly what you needed. I believe there is something for each of us that is exactly right or a combination of some things. Others might respond to other ways. I was always tempted to train in Reiki. I like energy work a lot. We cannot explain all of it, it seems almost magical but, yes, it does work.
    I was thinking of what you said about the energy of children, I believe I didn’t have it. I grew up with a mother who was severely depressed and had constant panic attacks, I suppose I muted my energy for her sake, in sympathy. It took a long time to get it flowing again. That did make me very tired, this constant keeping down of the natural flow. But I can see how putting too much energy into something might drain you as well in the end. The only problem I have with Reiki is that it isn’t easy to find a good practitioner. There are a lot of quacks. Yours sounds like a godsend.

  6. How wonderful that Reike has helped so much, and that you are learning how to do it yourself. I’m so glad it has helped. It is not like anything I have ever tried before, but I’m very curious how I would respond and will have to try it some day, when I feel inspired to.

  7. Glad to hear your good news! I have seen Reiki work wonders on people, and once did a day’s training myself. I think we spend so much time being cerebral beings that we forget that our bodies and their amazing energy flows are important too. How wonderful that it is working for you.

  8. Your description of Mr. Litlove and Son’s reactions is very funny. I like knowing that you just keep right on going, which is at it should be. It seems hard to believe that something that doesn’t involve any contact with the body could somehow be good for it. And yet so many things that have to do with our physical selves are mysterious.. I’m glad this is working for you, and am hoping you’ll update us on how it’s going down the road. xoxo

  9. I often wonder – what if we have everything we need around us in the natural world in order to stay fed and balanced but we’ve just lost touch with how to get it, how to find it and use it?

  10. I’m glad that Reiki is working for you. I sought it out because it is a gentle form of healing – I found I couldn’t tolerate massage after a certain point. I have always had hands-on as well as non-touch Reiki – it IS gentle, but very powerful. I have done 2 levels of Reiki myself and I have done a self-treatment every morning for more than 5 years. It balances me out for my day. It really changes your life. Lovely post. All the best in your healing journey. I always enjoy reading your insights.

  11. Cornflower – I was delighted to read your comment and find someone else who’s experience of reiki has been wholly positive. I’m practising my reiki but feel very much the novice at the moment, so hope that I’ll get better at it over time! I wish I’d gone to reiki earlier, as I’ve had many years of struggling through with low energy and feeling like an old crock – I didn’t realise there could be such a helpful treatment!

    Harriet – I’ll certainly let you know how it goes – I’ve tried lots and lots of alternative therapies with mixed success, but this one does seem to be the most effective (well apart from Chinese herbal medicine, which can be great but disgusting to drink). I’m really grateful to it!

    David – that’s very interesting. There definitely seems to be a belief amongst reiki practitioners that you follow the energy where it allows you to go. My reiki practitioner is of the opinion that the best place to work is where the energy is flowing openly – then you can ‘get in by the back door’ as she describes it, to blocked and troubled areas. I’m so pleased to hear that your carpel-tunnel pain has diminished. Do let me know how you get on over time, would you? I’d like to compare notes.

    Stefanie – lol! I’ll need a bit more practice before I can feel your energy field across the Atlantic, but I’m more than willing to give it a go! And so nice to hear of someone else who found a lot of relief by it – it does seem to have some surprisingly good results.

    Caroline – I do so feel for mothers and children when there is a problem with depression; it must be a dreadful situation for all concerned. Children model parents, so I daresay you did download an energy programme that was not natural to your system. I do hope that subsequent life experiences, and various therapies have helped you to find your ordinary self. I’m glad to have another vote for reiki, too. It really does seem to be surprisingly powerful. And I’ve been very lucky in my practitioner – she’s lovely and very effective.

    Lilian – thank you SO much for pointing me in that direction. It has helped a great deal!🙂

    Dorothy – it’s always good to have something in reserve if you need it. You are so healthy and fit with all your cycling that you probably won’t need any sort of intervention for a long, long time. But it’s very good with any kind of anxiety, and/or recurring pain. I’ve tried LOTS of alternative therapies, and I like this one more than any other I’ve tried.

    Charlotte – now that is SO true. And particularly for me – I figure I can do everything with my mind, and more or less forget about my body altogether. It’s been salutary to do things differently. I send hugs and thanks for suggesting I try this, my friend!

    Lily – if I had to take account of the contempt of my menfolk I’d barely be able to get out of bed in the morning, lol!🙂 They are very good for firming up my purpose….. I could possibly hire the two of them out as an alternative therapy for the undecided! I’ll certainly let you know how I get on, although at the moment I feel VERY much the novice.

    oh – I think you are right in line with reiki thinking there, which is pretty much that we do possess everything we need, but lose access to it. However, it’s hard to find your way back to something calm and natural, once you’ve gone off the tracks (or I find it so), and I suppose throughout history there have been teachers and practitioners of one kind or another to help us back. The big thing is deciding to make a difference, isn’t it, and committing to making changes. That seems to be the hard part, and then it’s a matter of finding what works. Well, I hope so, at least!

    Beth – it’s lovely to hear from you and I’d love to know more about the second level of training that you did. It’s inspiring to think that five years down the line, you are still committed to reiki and still receiving its benefits. That is so encouraging to know. When I heard that you practised it, I admit it made me even keener to try it!

    Ezra – thank you so much, that’s so kind!

  12. I had never heard of this until you mentioned it a while ago. It seems so much more preferable to taking drugs or more invasive sorts of techniques, so I’m glad it seems to be working for you. I wonder if part of the healing process is being open to having a treatment work. It seems like a good thing in any case to be in tune with your body and its energy flow.

  13. Danielle – as you know, I am no fan of drugs or invasive techniques! Anything that avoids them is good by me. I think it’s really easy to get out of tune with your body, not to listen to the signals it sends you and to let repressed emotions drag you down. I’m still surprised by reiki, but thank goodness it IS working.

    Pete – oh do give it a go. I wish I’d discovered it much earlier!

  14. I’m so happy that this worked for you. The whole thing makes perfect sense to me. I was under a great deal of stress in May and that ended up with me having all sorts of medical issues in June. The connection between our minds and our bodies is so strong. I know my energy was completely off and learning how to re-balance that would be great.

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