Monday through Friday I sat in a gray cubicle under beams of fluorescent lights and edited Walmart advertisements, tooling over such creative gesticulations as “Five Minutes ’til Dinner’s Done!” and “Lose Weight, Feel Great, New Formula!”
I made very good money doing this, but I’d found that corporate life didn’t fit me well. I wasn’t built to sit in front of a computer screen for eight hours a day, propelled by Starbucks and the gleam of company revenue, an unctuous word I heard often from the sales execs.
Some mornings I practiced yoga before work, so I didn’t completely lose my mind. This was 11 years ago.
One morning my coworker buddy leaned over my cubicle and cracks open his second can of Monster energy drink. “So you really believe you can heal people with your hands?” We’d been talking about yoga in the break room earlier, and I foolishly brought up Reiki. He took a swig of his neon beverage. “Meliss, come on, that’s bullshit. Or at the very best it’s placebo.”
My muscles tightened in defense. I swiveled my office chair toward him. “It really works. I know this sounds crazy, but it’s changed my life. See, my hands aren’t really doing the healing, it’s energy flowing through my hands—”
He rolled his eyes. “They shouldn’t call it Reiki, they should call it Fakey.”
My coworkers nearby started to crack up. They spun around in their desk chairs and proceeded to wave their palms through the air while making laser noises, pretending to give each other Fakey.
It was actually pretty funny, but I was steaming with anger and too stubborn to laugh.
This must look nuts.
A man is lying face up on a massage table, his eyes closed, his lips parted in a gentle smile. He’s wearing sweatpants and a T-shirt that says “Life is Buddha-ful.” I stand near him with my hands hovering over his body. There are four other people doing the same thing, their hands outstretched, palms held a few inches above him. We’re in the back room of a Tampa yoga studio and the air is laced with lavender oil. We are silent for fifteen minutes while we transfer what we believe is healing energy from our hands to this man. This is called a Reiki circle: Reiki is a holistic energy therapy, and Maggie, our teacher, offers these circles where we give one another short treatments. They’re kind of like energetic massages. I always feel different after receiving a Reiki treatment: calmer, lighter, and more at peace.
A couple of years earlier and I would have thought a scene like that was sort of cute and hilarious in a very condescending, I-know-my-perceptions-are-ultimately-right sort of way. But as BKS Iyengar says, “Words fail to convey the total value of yoga. It has to be experienced.” The same is true with Reiki.
Because I could tell you about incredible the benefits I’ve experienced for myself through this gentle, yet powerful practice.
I could tell you how, during my Reiki 1 attunement in 2006, my hands got hot. I could tell you about the barely believable, yet undeniable physical reaction in my palms.
I could tell you how when I got home from that attunement I got a nosebleed — and although I’d had chronic sinusitis for 13 years and had two sinus surgeries, I never got nosebleeds. (Maggie told us that common symptoms after an attunement included nosebleeds and diarrhea, as the body naturally detoxified. Our physical, emotional, mental, and energetic and dimensions are indeed all interconnected. To read more on that and how Reiki has helped me and others with anxiety, check this out.) So I got a bad nosebleed that lasts on and off for a couple of days.
I could tell you how for the next month I give myself Reiki every night before going to bed, which simply involved placing my hands over my seven major chakras (on either side of my hips, my lower belly, my solar plexus, over my heart, my throat, my forehead, and the top of my head). And my headaches nearly completely vanish. I went from having a headache almost every day to having one a month. And this felt pretty fucking snazzy, this being drug-free and pain-free after thirteen years.
I could tell you all this, but my words are just a door and you have to let yourself in and experience it for yourself. But maybe what others believe — or don’t — about Reiki isn’t even the point. Maybe the point is that for the first time in my life I finally felt at ease. I felt lighter. My head wasn’t bogged down with its own useless worries or its mercurial pains. And it felt incredible to be so free from my own thoughts. Growing up as the sad, cynical girl with cement in her heart (and lots of awful poetry in her notebooks), I never thought I’d be the type of person who marveled at daffodils or kept a gratitude journal. I never thought I’d gain access to that luminous, mysterious sense of happiness I’d always wanted.
Of course, I had to realize, through Buddhist philosophy, meditation, yoga, and Reiki, that that mysterious sense of happiness wasn’t outside of myself. It was in the place I’d never looked — within.
The Reiki Principles
Also called “the recipe for happiness,” the reiki principles were written in the early 20th century by Mikao Usui, the monk responsible for bringing reiki into the modern world. They are supposed to be recited every morning and night:
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 be grateful.
Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing.
The words are so straight-forward, seemingly uncomplicated, and yet are so difficult. The preface to each, however — “just for today” — lightens the mood a bit. I won’t be corrupted with guilt if I mess up. To take things one day at a time, cultivating my inner faculties, is enough.
When I heard the Reiki principles for the very first time, during my level 1 attunement with Maggie, it wasn’t as if I were learning anything new. It felt like a remembering.
Good writing and spiritual revelations can do this as well: when words are arranged in just the right way — when they click together at just the precise angle — it’s as if something deep within me becomes unburied. Some glimmer that was hidden is sudden made light.