I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Tag: Deep Relaxation

Believing in Reiki

healing-hands-patricia-januszkiewicz

Healing Hands

“Why yes. Yes I am. I am a Reiki healer.”

Hahahahahahahaha! Cue the laughter. I am just pretending. Fooled you!

My daughter discovered Reiki through her yoga teachers. I was inclined to poo-poo Reiki as crazy hokum. How can someone heal simply by holding their hands on or near you? I want deep tissue massage! I want little needles! And maybe an occasional pill. I want proof!

My daughter shrugged and said it made her feel comfortable and relaxed and all warm and tingly. I was skeptical. I had to read up on it. That’s my way. Let me read some books. Then I tried a few sessions. My Reiki mentors would tell me they could feel the thoughts exploding out of my head. Always thinking thinking thinking! What? Isn’t everyone’s brain like that? She told me to feel the energy move down to my feet, to ground myself in the present moment. I felt comfortable and relaxed and all warm and tingly. I saw colors and images and felt more than two hands offering me healing energy. (To whom did the other hand belong?) My intuition heightened and I could sense someone’s mood or “aura” just by tuning in. When I asked for a book to read, she counseled me “Why don’t you try not reading and just focus on your experience.” Well, that’s different.

During one session, she paused, stuck on my heart. She interrupted the quiet session and asked me what was going on. I cried. And cried and cried. It was around the end of my mother’s life, though she had not yet had the fall that would break her hip and lead to the infection that ultimately would kill her. But the end of her life was near and I had sensed it for a while. So I cried. Mourning the passing of time, the words said and unsaid, the regret that we had not shared more mixed with the loss of the deep love that we had shared.

During another session, I told her about my skin picking. How I destroy my cuticles and pick and rub at the skin by my ear until it is raw. I beat myself up for this nervous habit. All my life I have had this habit and beaten myself up for it. She shrugged and said “Maybe that’s simply what you need to do to release your anxious energy.” Suddenly, the perspective shifted. Maybe it was no big deal! She gave me permission to give myself permission. That I was okay and I could be kind and forgiving. To me.

My daughter and I received Reiki 1 attunement. Then, my daughter and I received Reiki 2 attunement. It was a meaningful shared experience that brought us closer. Occasionally we practiced on each other. I offered Reiki to my husband. He is the ultimate skeptic. He fell asleep and woke up 9 hours later and said it was the best sleep he had ever had.   I offered Reiki to a beloved young woman who was struggling with a panic attack. She calmed. I offered Reiki to my mother when she was dying. She was able to let go. But mostly I secretly and somewhat embarrassedly practiced on myself when I was alone.

Secretly and somewhat embarrassedly because I don’t understand how it “works.” I can hear all the skeptics in my life poo-pooing me for believing in this crazy hokum. I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I found it comforting and relaxing and felt all warm and tingly. Like any mystery, it requires faith. Certainly, the power of touch and the effects of meditation and deep relaxation are profound, with plenty of scientific evidence. But healing energy? That’s a little woo-woo for me. And yet. I’ve felt the energy. I’ve experienced the healing. Reiki has helped with my chronic anxious insomnia. My cuticles have started healing. My skin has  started healing. I feel happier, more grounded, more able to enjoy the present moment.

This summer, a full year after receiving Reiki 2 attunement, it occurred to me that I could actually offer Reiki to other people. Truly, it was a revelation, like a voice or a gut feeling that simply but insistently turned on.

I decided that for my birthday, to kick off my new year, I would offer a Restorative Yoga and Reiki workshop. It took me a while to remember to tell my yoga students about it. (Even though I am a marketer by trade, I am not so good at marketing myself.) The first time I mentioned it, I said “Yeah, I don’t really understand how Reiki works, but it’s deeply relaxing.” My daughter laughed at me. “Mom, no one is going to come if you don’t believe in yourself and in Reiki!” Indeed. The second time I mentioned it, I sensed intense interest and acceptance. I heard myself say: “Why yes. Yes, I am. I am a Reiki healer.” One of my students looked me in the eye and said, “Well, of course you are. That makes complete sense.”

What do they see that I don’t?

I led my workshop and poured myself into offering Reiki to my students. After it was over, I saw clear eyes and relaxed bodies and love and gratitude. They felt comfortable and relaxed and all warm and tingly. I was amazed and exhilarated!

I’ve had to work a bit to hang on to that exhilaration. Back in my busy busy busy work world of Monday to Friday, it is easy to let the skepticism take over. This Reiki stuff is silly. Crazy hokum. I have important things to do at WORK! But, if I can help people sleep, help people reduce their anxiety and panic, help people die, isn’t that at least as important as being busy busy busy?

I am a Reiki healer. And I am beginning to believe it.

Image:  Healing Hands by Patricia Januszkiewicz, used with permission.  Thank you Patricia!

To Sleep

arianna-addormentata

Perchance to Dream

A funny thing has happened as I’ve gotten older (and kinder to myself). I am sleeping more. Maybe it’s the dark mornings of Winter. Maybe I am a little depressed. While I do feel subdued, I don’t feel depressed. Indeed, after the death of my mother, I feel an increased urgency to live authentically, say what I want to say, and not waste time. Sleep doesn’t feel like a waste of time. Sleep feels precious and restorative. I am less and less willing to drag myself out of bed, tired. Maybe it’s peace. Maybe it’s wisdom.

I used to drag myself out of bed. To exercise. To school. To work. Frequently to exercise. Years and years of my life, I have dragged myself out of bed in the cold and the dark for punishing workouts which allowed me to feel virtuous and smug and provided an excuse for eating quantities of food. In my disciplined way, on auto-pilot, I did not listen to whether my body needed rest, I simply got up and did whatever it was I felt compelled to do at 5 am.

Now, when I wake at 4:30 or 5:00, I go to the bathroom, marvel that I ever dragged myself out of bed so early, and go back to sleep. Sometimes I have anxiety and find it difficult to go back to sleep. I breathe, I chant (in my head – my husband would be quite perplexed if I chanted out loud in the middle of the night), I do self-Reiki, and I usually go back to sleep, grateful that I am past the awful, awful, awful (did I say awful?) years-long, chronic insomnia of menopause. And when I go back to sleep at 5 am, I dream. Wild dreams. Convoluted spiritual journeys. Dives of rebirth into deep, deep water. And of course my standby, the anxiety dream. Lately, however, I’ve caught myself mid-anxiety-dream and told myself not to go there. “Don’t go there!” I command myself. And the dream changes or stops before it gets too nightmarish. I take this as a good sign. Of kindness and acceptance of myself. I am grateful.

Being sleep-deprived used to be a badge of honor. Oh, I never sleep more than 6 hours a night! Oh, I am so tired! Oh, I have so much to do! Oh, I am so important! Funny, then, I was sicker, had more headaches, and carried the weight of the world on my shoulders. In fact, “I am so tired” was an automatic mantra. I said it all the time. Now, I catch myself when those words bubble up, usually out of habit. I pause. Am I tired? Why would I say I am tired? Is it an excuse? For what? I’ve realized that it’s usually code for I don’t want to do whatever it is I am about to do. So, I pause and check in. What am I feeling? Am I truly tired? Do I need to do something different? Maybe I need to tackle an obstacle and get through it. Maybe I need to ask for help. Maybe I need a nap.

When I stopped therapy last year, I gave myself permission to treat myself to a massage once a month. This permission is hard for me. Massages feel self-indulgent. But the truth is that I am healthier and more content. The funny thing about these once-a-month massages is that they make me realize how tense I am. On the weekends when I get a massage, I find I am more likely to cut out activities and more likely to take a nap. Rest breeds the need for more rest.

Of course, there is still that voice, that habitual voice, that whispers: “You’re going to get fat. You’re going to get out of shape. You’re going to fall behind on achieving your goals. You Are Lazy. You Are Bad.” But there is a new voice that says, Be Quiet! This is me. I feel better when I rest, restore, sleep. And when I feel better, I am more compassionate to myself, more open to others, more creative, more energetic, more able to live authentically. More myself.

The science of sleep and deep rest (Restorative Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Meditation, Massage) is fascinating. The benefits of sleep are many. Sleep strengthens the immune system, allowing us to heal from pain and wounds. Sleep prevents us from over-eating, helping us to maintain a healthy weight. Sleep eliminates the stress hormones from our body-mind and clears negative emotions, supporting us to be happier and better friends/parents/lovers. Sleep is central to our cognitive well-being, assisting us to process new knowledge and store memories properly. Sleep is crucial for children and teens – growth hormones are more active in certain cycles of sleep. Insufficient sleep is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and possibly Alzheimer’s.  That’s just the short list.

And of course there are all those magical dreams. Those dreams that only occur if you sleep enough to have REM sleep. I’ve started pausing between sleep and waking. Hanging on to my dreams. What was my dream? What does it mean? What can I learn from my dream?

Life is too short to spend it being tired. Go to sleep. Dream. Healing dreams.

Image:  Statue of Sleeping Ariadne

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