Developing A Life Long Healing Practice With Reiki
At this point in the evolution of humanity, people everywhere are longing for divine connection and a sense of higher spiritual purpose. In the aftermath of September 11 and the ever-increasing levels of violence and suffering throughout the world, we feel that we are on the verge of some great transformation in human consciousness, but are not quite sure exactly what that transformation entails or what will be our roles as individuals. We are aware that our own individual process of growth and healing will somehow help to bring about the evolution of the collective whole, but to do this we must unite the physical and spiritual dimensions of our lives. Just how to accomplish this, however, frequently remains a mystery.
As we seek meaningful paths to help us reconnect with the eternal, divine and wise part of ourselves, we are often so bombarded with choices and information that we tend to shut down entirely, vowing to begin “something” when we have more time or feel clearer about our paths. Or we may be tempted to go for the quick fix and dabble a bit in many different disciplines without truly going deep enough into any one practice for authentic growth to take place. It seems much easier to look for immediate answers or solutions outside of ourselves, turning instead to “experts” to enlighten us, or to wait for a path that doesn’t really ask us to stretch too far outside our comfort zone. There is, alas, no one single path that will lead everyone (or anyone!) to instant enlightenment. True growth and transformation take time, patience and internal work, and only we as individuals can ultimately take responsibility for choosing our own path and sticking with it. There is reassurance, though, in knowing that authentic tools are available that can help us on this path toward wholeness and healing.
One of the tools that can be accessed by any individual is Reiki, the ancient Japanese art of hands-on healing. Reiki is the universal life force flowing through all living things and a gentle method of laying-on of hands. It brings nurturing, sustaining energy into our bodies to facilitate healing on spiritual, emotional and physical levels. Unlike many other energy-based spiritual disciplines that can take years of practice before the practitioner becomes aware of progress, Reiki students often report significant and profound shifts in awareness and understanding during and immediately after a class. Reiki is also fast becoming accepted in mainstream healthcare settings such as hospitals and operating and recovery rooms, helping to demystify its effects and add a much needed boost to the spiritual healing of the planet.
Reiki is easy to learn, and the first level of self-healing may even be learned in a weekend workshop. However, for both beginners and those interested in learning advanced techniques of working with others, it is important to seek out a Reiki Master teacher who follows the time-honored tradition of apprenticeship and support over an extended period of time. Just as we cannot become masters of medicine, law, or any other subject in a matter of a few days, we cannot quickly master the profound, esoteric information of healing and wholeness that Reiki encompasses in just a few short weeks or days.
Whether you are looking to take a Reiki class for the first time, or to retake a class because you felt that a class that you already took was incomplete, start by interviewing several teachers and asking them to explain what Reiki means to them. How do they integrate Reiki into their own lives? Ask how long they trained and with whom they trained. Are they continuing to grow in their understanding of healing? Discuss class size and content, how long they encourage you to wait between levels before taking the next class, how they view the teacher/student relationship, and whether or not they offer ongoing support in the form of Reiki support/share groups, telephone or email communication. You should intuitively feel comfortable with the person that you choose to study with. The sacred gift of Reiki lasts a lifetime, so do not short change yourself by choosing the quickest training just to save a few hours, or the least expensive class to save a few dollars.
Once you have chosen a Reiki Master to study with and attended your first training, you can begin to develop your own daily healing practice. Because there are literally dozens of self-healing techniques other than Reiki, some people may choose to explore one of these as their personal healing process. Yoga, tai chi, meditation, prayer, crystal work, drumming and dance would name just a few. The important thing is to find a technique that you are comfortable with so you can remain committed.
Create a Healing Space
The first step in integrating Reiki or any self-healing technique into your daily life is to create a personal sacred space. To begin, spend some quiet time reflecting on situations in your life in which you have felt moved by the setting that you were in, both in traditional religious settings as well as less conventional environments. Try to recreate in your mind the atmosphere of the setting that spoke to your inner sense of the Divine. Was the music or lighting particularly beautiful? Were there aromas, sounds or pieces of artwork that touched you deeply? As you take this internal inventory, make sure to focus on all of your senses, knowing that Spirit speaks to us in many ways and on many levels. After reviewing your past experiences, begin to pay careful attention to your response to spaces and situations in your current life. You may want to keep a list of conditions that you find desirable, adding new insights as they come to your awareness.
Now that you have become more familiar with the conditions that enhance your sense of the Divine, you are ready to find ways to recreate this atmosphere in your own home. Your sacred space should be as unique as your fingerprint; there is no wrong way to go about this. Of course, you must take practical reality into account and design your space according to the size and layout of your living quarters. Ideally, you will be able to tuck away a permanent small triangular shelf unit in a corner or find a small space in a quiet room where you can set up a small shelf or altar to keep a few objects on. If you don’t have access to your own private space, you can purchase or make a small folding altar, keeping your sacred objects in a small wooden box or other container, and assembling them at the start of your session. You may find that you enjoy the richness that a permanent display of many objects has to offer, or perhaps you prefer the serenity and simple beauty of a few carefully chosen items. Your sacred objects may include religious icons, pictures and statues, beautiful pieces of artwork, letters from or pictures of dear family and friends, gemstones and crystals, rocks and pieces of wood or other objects from nature collected over the years, sacred medicines such as tobacco, copal or sage, and small gifts given by special people throughout your life. You may also want to add the beauty of flowers or potted plants to your display. Gentle lighting with candles, the aroma of incense or essential oils, and the beautiful sounds of soothing music can round out your healing haven.
Once you have created your space, it is important to decide what part of your day you would like to set aside for this spiritual time. Ideally, you should plan on spending thirty minutes in order to give yourself time to really settle in. Whether you choose a morning or evening routine is dependent on your personal lifestyle and preference, although establishing some sort of routine is very important to ensure consistency. Many people find that rising early to dedicate a half-hour each morning to their healing practice actually increases their energy level, ability to focus and withstand stress throughout the day. If you can’t work a morning time into your schedule, then an evening time is also quite effective and beneficial.
In our culture, we are frequently so overscheduled that we feel we can’t find another minute to fit something in. Finding time for ourselves often seems to be the lowest priority, and it sometimes sounds like just one more obligation to add to our already too-long list of things to do. In reality, though, if we continue to give and give and not take the time to renew and replenish our internal resources, we end up taxing ourselves physically and emotionally and not being able to fulfill our responsibilities and function as effectively in our relationships as we would like. Just as a pitcher full of water eventually runs dry if it is not replenished, so, too, does our own container eventually become depleted if untended.
If we honestly look at how we spend our time, we can usually find an expendable activity that appears to be relaxing, but actually adds to our feelings of being stressed and harried. Does that loud sitcom on television really help you to unwind, and is that extra hour on the internet really productive and essential? Establishing new, positive habits can be challenging to start, but it is well worth the effort given the benefits of increased energy levels, peace of mind and perspective that a regular spiritual healing practice can offer. If you find yourself having a great deal of difficulty finding time for yourself, you may want to reexamine your scheduling priorities, or honestly examine any resistance you may be feeling about the changes you are trying to make in your life. Remember that you are a beautiful, eternal child of God, and you are worthy of taking this time for reconnection and rejuvenation.
You may also find some resistance among your family members as you begin to take some quiet time for yourself, and you may have to gently but firmly hold your ground as they adjust to the changes that you are making. You can remind them that you still love them, and remind yourself that you are not taking anything away from anyone. Instead, you are tending to your own needs and allowing yourself to be in relationship with yourself and others from a place of fullness and strength rather than of depletion or resentment.
Having established a space and time for your practice, you are ready to begin meditation and self-treatment. It is helpful to begin any spiritual activity with a small ritual which sends our intention to the universe that we are setting aside time for our growth and healing. This ritual can be as simple as mindfully arranging sacred objects on a table, or saying a favorite prayer as you light a candle and incense. Perhaps you might read a poem or passage that you find moving. Make sure that the lighting isn’t harsh and the music, if you are using it, isn’t too loud or distracting. Sit comfortably and take a few slow, deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the nose, relaxing your shoulders and neck and letting go of worries and concerns. Try to rest in the present moment. Spend a few minutes just focusing on your breath, feeling the rhythms of the rise and fall of your chest. If it helps you to focus, you can keep track of your breath by counting each one up to ten, and then starting over again. When you find your mind wandering, gently bring your attention back to your breath. At first you may find your mind constantly jumping from thought to thought. This is normal and it is important to try not to become impatient with yourself and judge yourself. Gently bring your awareness back to your breath, and you will find that with practice, it will become easier to focus for longer periods and you will reach deeper and deeper levels of relaxation and peacefulness. Even thirty seconds of meditative focus is a great start!
After a few minutes of meditation, you are ready to begin your self-treatment. If you are using Reiki, the energy of Reiki flows in through the top of the head, down through your third-eye, to your throat, your heart center and then down both arms to the palms. Before you begin, while still in the meditative position, take a moment to focus on each of these energy centers, observing any sensations or movements of energy. Then get in a comfortable position, perhaps reclining on a couch or a chair or leaning against a wall. Close your eyes and place your hands over your heart center, or in the prayer position, and reconnect with feelings of gratitude, unconditional love and compassion. Feel the energy of Reiki flow from your heart center to your palms, and back into your heart center.
When you are feeling totally connected to the energy, you can gently begin to place your hands over the major chakras, or energy centers, in your body, remaining at each position for a few minutes until you feel ready to move on. Make sure that you are comfortably able to reach each position without undue strain or fatigue. If you find yourself becoming uncomfortable in a position, just move to the next one. Our bodies have an innate intelligence, and we draw the energy in where we need it most, so it is not necessary to be directly over an area for it to receive the energy that it needs. Ideally, you will stay at each position for three to five minutes. Move progressively from the top of the head down your body, eventually ending at the feet or at the knees, visualizing energy flowing to the feet if it is difficult for you to reach your feet. When you are finished treating the major chakras, take a moment to see if there are any places that are calling your attention, and go back and place your hands there until you feel that the treatment is complete. When you are done, thank yourself for taking the time for this experience. When you are ready, take a few slow, deep breaths, and a moment to see how your body feels. Slowly open your eyes and gently ease yourself back into the room.
Taking time for self-healing is a powerful vehicle for getting to know ourselves better. We may begin to hear messages about our physical bodies that can direct us to seek medical care to prevent serious illness. Many of us have also been wounded through touch, whether it be through careless or thoughtless touch, sexual or physical abuse, or a withholding of vital, loving touch. When self-healing treatments are integrated into a daily spiritual practice that incorporate meditation and prayer, it offers the opportunity for a direct experience of the unconditional love and compassion of God — the essence of healing. When we begin to develop feelings of compassion and forgiveness for ourselves, we can then extend the same to others and a circle of healing grows. One person reaching out to another and healing through connection is the divine thread that ties us all together. It is the path to authentic healing.
Nancy Silva is a Reiki Jin Kei Do Master and Teacher in the lineage of International Buddho/Enersense Master and Teacher Patricia Warren. She can be reached at 781-266-7228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.