Heal yourself, heal the world

crystal_dragonTwo years ago this day fell on a Saturday, and I went with T to a Reiki class that was taught by a colleague from work. He had come home from work a couple of weeks earlier with a brochure for this teacher’s class, and said he would like to sign us both up to learn the technique. What was it, a type of massage? I asked. He wasn’t really sure, something about energy transfer, he thought. I read the brochure, and said, why not. With no other preparation or understanding of what to expect, I went.

Six years ago this day fell on a Tuesday. It was a clear cool New England morning and I was excited about the prospect of my parents finally meeting T’s parents in their home in Maine. T’s parents were not able to attend our wedding so this was a much anticipated first. We lived in Boston at the time and my parents and my mom’s best friend were visiting from Guam and Okinawa, respectively. As we began the drive north, the radio was reporting strange events in the skies around the East Coast. It was unclear, but it sounded like there was a plane crash in New York City and a building was hit.

Our instructor, CB, talked to us about the history of Reiki, its precepts, and how it worked. Reiki is a form a energy healing and balancing that was developed and named by Japanese researcher and teacher, Usui Mikao, in the late 19th century. Dr. Usui studied many ancient healing arts in Asia, including India. He distilled what he learned into the practice he called, Reiki — a term coined from the Japanese word, Rei, meaning “universal” and Ki, meaning “life energy.” For me, the most intriguing thing CB said was that in Reiki, the healer does not direct or in any way control the energy — she is only a conduit; instead, it is the patient’s responsibility to accept the energy, which flows always where it is needed most.

We were not expected at T’s parents’ house until the late afternoon, but planned stops at the LLBean store and a visit to T’s adolescent home near Bowdoin College for a lobster lunch. At Bean’s, there was a wall-sized TV screen that was tuned to CNN and was following that strange story we heard on the radio. While my mom and my “aunt” and I trolled the floors, T and my dad gravitated to the TV. After about 20 minutes, T came looking for us with the horrific news — another plane hit another building, maybe a third in DC, more somewhere else. There was speculation it was all coordinated. As we all headed to the TV, the first tower in New York collapsed on screen and cries and gasps filled the store. Everyone stood dumbstruck. Many people started crying. Someone mentioned Pearl Harbor, and looked right at us.

More Reiki instruction and a meditation session preceded lunch, after which, revived in mind and body, we were initiated into healing. Immediately afterward, each student took a turn as a “patient” to receive Reiki from the others. This was our opportunity to see what Reiki felt like as a recipient, and gave us 5 chances to practice hand placements in healing others. Although a patient may lie (fully clothed) on a massage table, as we did that day, Reiki may also be administered to someone sitting upright. When I took my turn, I was surprised by how relaxed I felt. The second thing I noticed was the different degrees of heat I could feel in different parts of my body, except at my feet. Gentle pulses of coolness radiated from the tops of my feet and up my leg. Around the other five parts where a healer had placed his or her hands, although no one was physically touching me, I could feel heat. Some felt as hot as an electric hot pad on the high setting (one was T, I learned later), another a milder but more focused warmth. The overall feeling was one of deep relaxation. Half of the students fell asleep when it was their turn on the table.

T’s dad was the head of aviation safety for the state of Maine six years ago, and as the extent of the disaster dawned on us, T knew his dad was going to be called to coordinate the state’s response. A call home confirmed that he was already on his way in and that there was talk about completely shutting down US airspace. Given the uncertainties of the day and the days ahead, we all decided to postpone the meeting until a more auspicious time. Instead, we found ourselves like everyone in the country, in the world — glued to our TV and watching in disbelief and anguish the 24-hour coverage. It was planned. It was coordinated. It was an attack. It was aimed at us.

Before our Reiki class ended, CB extracted from each of us a commitment to practice self-healing for at least 30 consecutive days. After that, it would either be a practice we couldn’t live without or we might find it didn’t do anything for us and leave it. The night after that group healing session I had the best night’s sleep of my life, I think. At the time, I was averaging about 6 hours sleep each night. That night I slept for 9 and woke feeling rested and with a wonderful sense of well-being. What I wanted most was to become a Reiki master so I could teach my family and friends how to do self-healing every day, too. I couldn’t believe I had been given such a profound gift so unexpectedly.

11 September. September 11th. 9/11. It will always be a day tinged with grief and memories of horror. I‘m grateful that it also came to mark a day that was filled with healing and the gift to share healing. The second in no way erases the first. But the knowledge that healing is available to us — as close as our own hands — is a comfort in a world where evil can imagine steering a plane into a building on a cloudless autumn day, and a gift in a world that still needs so much healing. Reiki teaches that before you can heal anyone else, you must first heal yourself.