I spent much of my childhood in Boulder, Colorado surrounded by hippies. I think I had developed an internal rebellion against all the granola traditions which were everywhere. Hemp clothing. Crystals. Bob Marley. My mom even dated a member of the Osho cult, which you may have heard about in the documentary Wild Country. Yes it was that level. He screamed at me for killing a spider one day because it was a living thing. I found the whole lifestyle navel-gazing and, frankly, bullshit.
Later, in grad school, I was living in a shared house in Honolulu called the ‘Bamboo Republic.’ It likely violated zoning rules about occupancy. I started paying a couple hundred a month for a place to sleep in the hallway. I moved up in seniority and my favorite place was a bed on the lanai with a gorgeous view of the island and ocean. My walls were mosquito netting, and my pet was a large tarantula who was big enough to be more like a mammal than anything scary.
During my time in the Bamboo Republic, it was a lot like Boulder. My roommates were pagans, wiccans, a random airline pilot, someone who looked like an ax murdered, and yes, a Reiki practitioner. Again, I found the whole concept absurd. How could anyone believe one could do any kind of healing with energy?
Fast forward 15 years or so to about a year ago. Following a near-nuclear personal meltdown, I became a huge fan of Acupuncture and Qi Gong and related interventions. They saved my life. So I thought, why not be a little open to other modalities? A work colleague did Reiki on the side. She offered to give me a free session. I thought what the hell do I have to lose? At most, I would feel nothing.
That first session was a total shift. She did a hands free version (the usual), but I felt like her hands were on me for much of it. When she was near my ears, I felt this deep heaviness and energy. It was an hour long session in a gorgeous sun-lit room with mostly windows. When she started, the sun was radiating in and warming me, along with the energy I could feel from her hands. It was a very calming and peaceful presence. It was also summer and in the course of a half hour, a dramatic thunder and hailstorm moved in. The windows went from bright warmth to a spectacular show of lightning, hail, dramatic rain. While I’m pretty sure there may not be cosmic significance to that moment, to me it felt like a strong sign. I walked out of the room in a bit of a daze. When I got downstairs to go outside, it was still storming intensely. I sat on the stoop outside under an awning and just drank in the energy all around me. It was transformational.
Not long after that, two friends and I got our Reiki level 1 and 2 certifications. In level one, you are cleared to work on yourself, children and animals. You have to do a 21-day cleanse where you try to minimize caffeine/alcohol/other toxins. And you also should do as much self-Reiki and meditation as you can to build up your vibrational energy.
During that 21 day practice period, I tried some Reiki on our animals. My dog was healthy and a little weirded out the first time. He definitely responded to the energy field but was kind of spooked. Our cat on the other hand was in what would be her last month or so. She had a visible tumor growing on top of her head (and we suspected, cancer elsewhere). She was already suggested to be on comfort-measures only by the vet. So I gave her some Reiki and she started purring eagerly. I focused on the tumor on her head. A few days later, it felt right off! I gave her another session once and the dog (who had always chased and tortured her) curiously came over. I asked if he wanted to help and for the first time in their 10 year antagonistic history, he laid next to her and even put his paws on her. She kept purring. It was the weirdest interaction we had ever seen. The Reiki continued through her end of life. About 2 weeks before she passed, after a session the cat went to the door. She was declawed before we got her and afraid of everything outside. But in those last weeks, she had a stroll around the yard which she had initiated. It was gorgeous out and she roamed around the trees not furtively like when she had attempted to venture out before, but like she owned the joint. Like she was without fear about anything. It may not have cured her, but it certainly made her last days arguably the best of her life.
A few months later, we had our Reiki 2 training, which permits you to work on adults and to do distance Reiki. We practiced on each other. I felt different things with each practitioner. Sometimes that heavy sensation, sometimes long-forgotten memories would come back, sometimes just a dance of light before my closed eyes. Always peaceful. I wasn’t very confident doing it on others for the first few months after that, but there were a few people who responded they could feel things intensely, which helped. A key principle of Reiki is that you (the practitioner) aren’t really doing anything. You are simply a vessel for energy to pass through. Your only job is to be open and keep yourself in good order to receive and pass on healing energy. That takes a bit of pressure off if you keep it in mind.
Perhaps my favorite experience as a Reiki practitioner so far was at a random community fair-type event. My partner Bridgette and I were just there doing some free chakra balancing and quick focused Reiki sessions. It wasn’t the most ideal place from a calming perspective. Heavy foot traffic, kids crying, dogs wandering around. And the sessions were maybe 5 minutes each. But in that event, perfect strangers would get on our table and with minimal prompting from us, they would share their very souls. One woman cried as she described how this was going to be the first holiday season without her mom. Another was in the middle of a divorce and had no idea what was ahead of her. I hadn’t had such deep interactions with strangers since I was a sleep tech a million years ago (sleep techs apply EEGs to the scalp, so patients often feel like they’re at a salon when you are playing with their hair, and they will tell you everything). Something about getting on a table and having hope in the possibility to heal opens people up in ways you’d never expect them to do in casual interactions. Recently, my ever-skeptical wife (who basically ignores everything about this crazy new hobby) finally asked if we could see if Reiki did anything for her recurring knee pain. Shocked she would even consider it, we did a session. Not only did it improve her knee and have her asking for follow ups, but it was re-connecting on a relationship level. It was deeply intimate.
It’s that power to connect with strangers (and to former deeper connections with loved ones) that I find most intoxicating about Reiki. It’s a wonderful gift to be able to share. It’s a motivator to keep taking care of myself and my energy so I can be a better healing conduit to others. It’s been an amazing trip so far and we’re still just getting started. If you have any curiosity around this practice, we are here ready to show you the ropes! Jess (and Bridgette)
Curious to learn more? This book is a good place to start.