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Reiki & Anxiety: An Ancient Healing Art for the Stress of Modern Life

When I tell people I suffered from clinical depression and anxiety for thirteen years, their jaws usually hit the floor. These days I’m a naturally smiley, happy person. This is not to say I’m a ball of pure bliss every moment (I’m not proud of my tender ego, my road rage, or my fury toward numerous political figures), but I feel vastly different than the old me — a girl paralyzed by self-loathing, who self-medicated with alcohol, attention, and the illusion that achievements would bring me lasting satisfaction.

Anxiety can still wreak havoc within me, but I now have the tools to alleviate it: Reiki, yoga, and meditation. Reiki has been the single most significant healing tool of my life: so powerful that I relegate my life as pre-Reiki and post-Reiki. In 2006, when I first received a Reiki treatment from my teacher Maggie Wilcox, I felt something new.

Not happiness. Not exactly. This was contentment.

Happiness is fleeting, a shimmer that dissolves as quickly as it comes.

Contentment doesn’t need a reason to exist. I’m happy when good things happen — when I achieve something, when I feel validated, when my canditate wins. But happiness can’t sustain me. It’s an emotion that ping pongs with the cycles of life. However, I can be content regardless of what’s going on. It was this deep sense of inner peace that I’d always sought. From my first 15-minute Reiki session, I knew I’d tapped into something profound and transformative for my healing journey. I knew I had to be attuned to Reiki and learn this system for myself.

Twelve years later and still I always feel different after receiving a Reiki treatment: calmer, lighter, and more at peace (the same is true when giving Reiki treatments and attunements, since I'm not depleting my own energy).

Throughout my life I have always been intrigued by the mystical world — horoscopes, Tarot cards, Ouija boards. What girl born in the 80s didn’t watch The Craft and secretly wish to cast Wiccan spells, to look good in black lipstick, to manifest the magic all girls must know deep down they possess?

For thousands of years the Chinese have referred to the energy that flows through and around the body as qi; Indians call it prana; the Japanese know it as ki.

Different terms for the same luminous vitality.

You can sense this subtle energy in a yoga practice (and specifically through pranayama practice), in Tai Chi, and Chi Gong.

Reiki, in theory, channels this energy to promote healing on physical, mental, and emotional levels.

This holistic approach has been crucial for me in mitigating my anxiety. Instead of looking at anxiety as "there's something cracked and flawed within me" (which is how I perceived myself for YEARS), I now perceive my anxiety in terms of mental, energetic, and physical functioning.

For example, physically my anxiety lives in my gut -- that twisting, knotted feeling in my belly. Mentally, it's a loop of panicked thoughts. Energetically I become tense, and my breathing patterns shallows.

Knowing yoga and Reiki affords me a helpful way to approach my anxiety. Physically, I can take a few conscious, deep breaths, which stimulates my parasympathetic nervous system and helps me calm down. Mentally, however, I can't think myself out of anxiety.

Same with depression.

When I was depressed all those years, people constantly told me to "just be happy." Just smile, Melissa! Well, I wanted to. I really freakin' wanted to. And if I could have, trust me, I would have.

Since I can't use the same equipment (my mind) to get myself out of anxious thinking patterns, I use yoga, Reiki, and meditation practices, which, over time, have brought a deep sense of inner peace and contentment that gives me the resilience to handle anxious states.

Yoga philosophy refers to the layers of the self as koshas. The term kosha often translates to sheath: think of these aspects of your being (physical, mental, energetic, etc.) like Russian nesting dolls. Understanding the different, interwoven koshas has helped me understand my own human experience -- and ultimately not blame myself for being broken or flawed. Instead, I can use tried-and-true techniques to help myself along this healing journey.

What Is Reiki?

Often called “hands-on healing,” Reiki is an energy healing modality. The Reiki practitioner channels Ki (prana/chi) through intention and hand positions to transmit universal, life-force energy into the receiver through the person’s biomagnetic field, or the aura. In a Reiki treatment, the practitioner acts like a metal rod conducting electricity or heat energy from a source to its destination. By connecting to higher or finer frequencies of energy (which is all around us), and using loving intention or thought (which is also energy) to heal and cleanse, the Reiki practitioner is able to direct the energy to where it is most needed. But having said this, Reiki will go where it is needed regardless of where the practitioner places their hands, or in the case of distance Reiki, across any space to the desired recipient (Johnson, Elephant Journal 2016).

Even a hard skeptic can admit they’ve felt immediately at ease when they’ve walked into a welcoming space filled with good-intentioned people, and they’ve also felt wary when entering a potentially negative situation. When explaining Reiki, often to a confused friend, I like to talk about vibes, since we’ve all felt them to some degree or another.

Reiki Chakra Healing

All matter is composed of energy, and all energy vibrates as particles and waves. In fact, scientific research confirms that the universe is 99.9999999% empty space (Sundermier, Business Insider 2016). And yet, scientists know that space isn’t really empty: it’s filled with quantum fields of energy.

And so, there is so much more than the human species can perceive with only the instruments of our five senses.

On a more personal level, when you seek comfort or experience physical pain, it’s a natural instinct to place your hands on the affected are. Likewise, if your heartstrings are pulled, you might place a hand over your heart. We are innate healers.

In this way, every human has the seeds for tremendous potential, healing, and compassion within them. The practice of Reiki is a natural healing art that harmonizes on all levels: mental, physical, emotional, and energetic. Through a sincere Reiki practice, you water those seeds for true healing and growth. Reiki is accessible to everyone. Reiki is not a religion, nor is it related to any single spiritual tradition. It is for all, and can of course be a beautiful addition to one’s spiritual beliefs.

If this healing path resonates with you, I'd like to invite you to the Reiki Attunement I'm offering at the beautiful

The first degree or level of Reiki is focused on healing oneself. After all, we can't heal others until we ourselves begin to find wholeness and peace within. In this attunement your energy field is opened and you are taught how to give yourself a Reiki treatment. Your Reiki 1 attunement will be a beautiful afternoon that includes deep guided meditation, pranayama (breathing/energy) exercises, and a bonfire (weather permitting), plus:

  • An in-depth understanding of the chakra system and a healing chakra meditation

  • The history of Reiki (Usui lineage)

  • The Reiki principles

  • Various energy and breathing exercises to calm and cleanse, create a sense of well-being, as well as enliven your prana/ki

  • Reiki hand positions for a self-healing treatment

  • An introduction to the koshas (layers of the self)

  • How to ground and protect your own energy

  • An in-depth manual covering the hand positions, chakras, history, etc.

  • Reiki Level I attunement and certification

wil be redirected to the Lotus Pond's website

The 3 Levels of Reiki Healing

Different schools of Reiki have been developed over the last century since Reiki began to spread from Japan across the globe. However, most schools of Reiki in the West have three initiations, or levels of attunement. Each initiation physically attunes your body to the Reiki energy and to a particular pranic level. A person attuned to Reiki has had their meridians/nadis opened, clearing the way for healing energy to flow. You receive an increase in this universal life-force energy for your own healing, and become connected to the source of energy. From the time of your attunement and through the rest of your life, all you need to do to connect with the healing energy is place your hands upon yourself or someone else and it will flow through you automatically. Here's a (very) quick breakdown of the 3 levels of Reiki attunements:

First Degree Reiki

The first level of Reiki opens you to this healing path for yourself. It focuses primarily on the physical level. This facilitates self-healing, and you learn how to do a Reiki treatment on yourself. The chakras and nadis experience a profound cleansing and balancing.

Second Degree Reiki

The second level attunes you to healing on the mental and emotional levels and allows you to facilitate mental and emotional clearings for others. You learn four Reiki symbols and how to use them during an in-person and an absentee treatment.

Third Degree Reiki

The Master degree Reiki involves deeper inner work (svadhyaya), looking inward and clearing out what does not serve you, to facilitate your growth along the path. In this level you learn to attune others and teach Reiki. After each attunement, you will probably experience ​​some kind of cleansing. The energy will loosen old built-up toxins, and old unresolved issues may come forward to be dealt with. Dealing with them can simply mean sitting in the seat of your conscious awareness, without reaction, and observing with gratitude for lessons and the resiliency you’ve gained through the events of your life.

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