Losing, and Finding, My Religion, Part 3: My First Reiki Session

It was my lover who wanted to take the Reiki class: she was training to be a Doula, as was the woman who was teaching the class. I’d never heard of Reiki before my girlfriend told me about it, but the teacher had encouraged me to take the class as well. I knew nothing about Reiki except that it was an energetic healing technique. Guided by my budding fascination with paganism and magical healing, I decided to try it.

Magical Healing

I was in a pretty tough place back then. My girlfriend and I were financially strapped and isolated. My parents were barely speaking to me since I came out to them a year previously. New Orleans was populated with giant, flying cockroaches, and I was so terrified of them I was in a constant state of fight-or-flight anxiety. (New Orleans belongs to the roaches, I think, and they let humans stay because we provide cool places to hide and plenty of garbage to eat. Forget the meek. When the apocalypse comes, the cockroaches, dandelions, and pigeons will inherit the earth.)

The week before our class was Valentine’s Day week. I worked in a flower shop in the garden district (with a giant roach living in the bathroom–I tried not to go to the bathroom when I was at work!). Valentines Day behind the scenes in a flower shop is brutal: the night before the holiday we worked until midnight. Valentine’s morning we opened at 8:00 a.m., and a crowd waited at the door. Throughout the grueling hours on my feet, I thought about how excited I was about my upcoming class–and about my first Reiki session.

Since I’d never experienced Reiki, Valentine’s evening our soon-to-be Reiki Master would give me my first session.

After eating and changing into dry clothes I dragged my exhausted, aching body to the Reiki Master’s house. She had a room set aside for healing: that night it was dimly lit, and very quiet. The massage table had blankets and a pillow; she told me to get comfortable and lit incense and candles. On her desk, a specially designed box housed several honey bees, which she used in her Ho Shin practice. As the smoke from the incense curled through the room, the bees began to buzz inside their temporary home. Somehow this sound was the most soothing one in the room. I felt safe, a feeling I wasn’t accustomed to.

She began the session with her hands at the top of my head, and I immediately felt warm, tingling sensations there, which slowly spread downward to my neck and the tops of my shoulders. Over the next hour, she moved her hands down my chakras, then down my legs to my feet. Warmth and comfort spread ever so slowly through my entire body. The sensations were all subtle and gentle, and I grew more and more relaxed. When she finished, she told me to take my time getting up, and left the room. As soon as she left, I burst into tears.

Of course, my response to most intense emotions is to cry. These tears were mostly about releasing all the stress and tension of my work week, and about the relief of feeling my usually tense body relax.

But I also cried because I felt a stirring of hope–the first hope I’d felt in a while. At the time I didn’t have any concept of emotional and spiritual healing. I knew you could go to therapy for your mental problems, to a doctor for physical ailments, but I didn’t understand that the spirit could be healed just as surely as the body and mind could be. What I couldn’t articulate in that moment, but felt deeply, was the tentative beginning of the process of healing from the emotional and spiritual abuse of my childhood.

After I stopped crying, I went into the living room and drank water, and we talked about the session. She gave me some input on what she had sensed when she worked on me, and some ideas for how I might make my day-to-day stress a little more tolerable. I told her I was excited about the class, and went home. I slept better that night than I’d slept in months.

I sensed, after that first session, that Reiki would be an important force in my life. I didn’t know, of course, that it was only the beginning of my explorations into healing and vision work . . . more about that to come.

If you want to learn more about Reiki, I highly recommend Christopher Penczak’s Magick of Reiki (affiliate link).

This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on my personal blog.

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