Walking into my first Reiki class was both an exciting and a daunting experience. I had been led there by a sense of detachment. I had a feeling of emptiness I believed to be symptomatic of our modern world, and the myriad of problems we seem to be forced to face at this particular time. I had a feeling that I needed to find some kind of spiritual connection to something.
Albert Einstein had many ideas on intuition as the leader of the rational mind, and he spoke extensively on these concepts.¬†‚ÄúThe intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.‚Äù Einstein is famously quoted for saying this, but in fact this quote appears in the book Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness¬†by Bob Samples as a summary of Einstein‚Äôs ideas on intuition. Either way, the sentiment rings true.
I was tired of honouring the servant and I wanted to discover the gift. For a long time I have been caught up on the treadmill of city life and societal aspirations. Pushing myself in my career, starting my own business and aspiring to the Western notion of ‚Äúbigger and better‚Äù to fill my life up had ultimately left this big empty space inside me that I couldn‚Äôt put my finger on.¬† I knew about Reiki and I‚Äôve done some spiritual exploration, but in the end I booked the course on a whim in a moment when I was feeling stressed and uptight and like I needed to do something about it. I thought at the very least this would be 3 hours to myself once a week to think and feel.
We all had questions that couldn‚Äôt be answered by Google.
I am not sure what I was expecting from my fellow students, but what I walked into that first night wasn‚Äôt really it. I arrived to a full but silent room. Everyone was bundled up in jackets and scarves and a gas heater fought valiantly in the corner, to cut through the chilly autumn evening. Around fifteen expectant faces looked up at me as I took one of the few remaining seats and I was grateful for the protection of the dim light. I was nervous. Something inside of me wanted to run out. It was too late. I took in the faces around me. It was a motley crew spanning a range of ages, from those in their fifties to their twenties and careers that spanned from law to teaching and everything in between. One or two immediately stood out as being the opposite of any stereotypes I may have been expecting. There was a big, buff looking guy I later found out to be an engineer as well as a young dentist who wished to introduce some Reiki into her dentistry practise. This was a sign that maybe it was not just me looking for the gift. Each person had their reason for being there, but in the end it all came down to the same thing. We all had questions about life. We all had questions about healing and growth. We all had questions that couldn‚Äôt be answered by Google.
I felt my hands warming up to the point of feeling really hot.
As our teacher began to talk to us about what we could expect over the coming weeks she explained that we would need to address three things in our journey to our own healing and to becoming healers. Those three things would be, self-forgiveness, self-acceptance and self-love. This made sense. This world is hard and we are all in need of some reflection on the self. Our modern condition is to be self-critical and to always push ourselves harder. This seemed to offer a welcome respite.
After our lecture we did a practical introduction to healing. We were told to write down someone‚Äôs name that we would like to send healing to. We did this on one piece of paper and placed it in the middle of the room. We then closed our eyes and thought of that person, while saying words along the lines of sending them love and healing, with our hands facing upwards. I felt my hands warming up to the point of feeling really hot. After the meditation our teacher asked if we felt any sensations in our hands. Some felt warmth, some felt tingling or coolness. All of us were feeling very uncertain of what we felt and the awkwardness was clear in our muttered responses. I noticed my hands felt totally normal at this point and I was wondering if it had all been in my imagination. Since then we‚Äôve worked more with our hands, and I have had that sensation each time. Once or twice I have had a cool sensation, and both of those times the person I was working on spontaneously told me they felt something cool. I‚Äôve learned to let go and just accept things. Whether they are in our imaginations or not becomes unimportant in the greater lessons I have gained from Reiki.
When the United States occupied Japan in World War 2, all traditional eastern healing practices were banned and only western medical practices were allowed.
Reiki is a Japanese word that when translated to English is split into two parts. Simplistically translated, the word Rei means the Higher Power or Subtle Wisdom and Ki means life force energy. So Reiki is essentially ‚Äúspiritually guided life force energy.‚Äù It is said to have originated somewhere in Tibet, however it is widely accepted that it was re-discovered and developed by the Japanese Buddhist monk, Dr. Mikao Usui in 1922. When the United States occupied Japan in World War 2, all traditional Eastern healing practices were banned and only Western medical practices were allowed. Reiki practitioners went underground and formed a secret society, at which point the traditional practice of Reiki was almost lost to the world. However, during World War 2 it was brought to the United States by Reiki Master Mrs Hawayo Takata, and so introduced into the Western world. Though it was adapted and some of the principles and executions were changed, the core principle of healing through a universal energy remained.
Like most alternative healing practices, it remains controversial in the Western medical world. As a healing modality it is classified as a ‚Äúpseudo-science‚Äù and is met with the expected amount of skepticism. In traditional Japanese Reiki, Reiki Masters do an extensive study of the anatomy, are able to actively treat illness and even use massage techniques on the body to promote healing. However, this has had to be adapted and changed for the West, where only qualified medical doctors are able to diagnose illness and prescribe treatment. In the West Reiki is used to relax the body to allow it to release toxins and promote its own healing. Upon delving into the history and development of Reiki, it becomes clear that traditional Reiki is not only a healing technique but a way of life. Dr. Usui founded Reiki on five principles which, no matter your beliefs or inclinations, would seem pretty sensible words to live by. Reiki focuses on being in the present, a concept many of us in the modern world struggle to comprehend. Most of us live in the future, in tomorrow‚Äôs meeting, in next week‚Äôs vacation in next month‚Äôs tax submissions. Very few of us are able to say we are in each moment, taking it for what it is and really living it. Usui‚Äôs principles try to bring us into the present by bringing awareness to our thoughts.
Just for today, I will live the attitude of gratitude
Just for today, I will not worry
Just for today, I will not anger
Just for today, I will do my work honestly
Just for today, I will show love and respect for every living thing
Over the last few weeks we have undergone a huge amount of self-healing. Each week we address an element of the human condition and we work on it. It is taught in Reiki that in order to heal others, you need to be present and in order to be present you basically need to deal with your stuff. We‚Äôve looked at regret and life crises. We‚Äôve worked on self-judgment and dealt with anger and resentment towards those who have hurt us. The self-work that we have done comes in many forms. We just happen to be doing this work through a Reiki course. Reiki is free of religion or of any dogma. Individuals are free to bring their own beliefs into the practice and the meditation of Reiki.
In our most recent lesson we were able to work with our hands and practice transferring healing energy to one another. My two partners were the engineer and the dentist. I volunteered to be the first subject and asked if they would work on my left shoulder. My ‚Äúfrozen shoulder‚Äù is a symptom of too much sitting and stressing. As I was lying on the bed half dozing off, the engineer was working on my shoulder. I thought I could feel it relaxing as a warm sensation passed through and then, ‚Äúpop‚Äù something happened. The sensation was similar to a good stretch. I felt a release of the muscle under the shoulder blade as it clicked into place, a similar feeling to having your back clicked. He heard it too. We loved it. It was a moment of discovery that perhaps there is more to being human than simply trying to survive, or hurting each other and our planet or working to get cool stuff and it was really exciting. The concept that we really are connected can sometimes feel like a removed idea. We are often told we are all one, all of us from the tiniest grain of sand to our neighbour, to the furthest star in the sky. We are all created from the same matter and the same energy. It‚Äôs an idea I have struggled to really comprehend. This moment gave me an inkling into that idea. We need to remember that our very existence is magical. We have the potential great men like Einstein tried to tell us about. We have a gift.
Artwork from Chris Moore‚Äôs ‘Weather or Not‘.