Editor’s note: This story was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, so at the time physical distancing and masking was not in place.
After I arrived at the former motel on Regent Street, I entered the basement. I am now lying on a bed.
No, wait. That doesn’t sound good at all. Let me try that again.
I am laying on a bed, with a heating mat beneath me. I am covered in a blanket, my head resting on a pillow with another just behind my legs, allowing my back to sink into the mattress. I am in a treatment room at Tree of Life North, about to have my very first experience with reiki.
It is warm in the room. There is music playing softly in the background — what could only be described as ‘Alexa, play spa mix’ — and I am fully clothed. I think there is a fountain; I hear one, but that could be the spa mix.
I consider myself to be a fairly open minded person, I am the daughter of hippies; but like most fellow members of Generation X, I am very proficient in eye-rolling. I am interested to hear what is new, but I do hope for some evidence, some back up, something that can quell the skeptic within me. And right now, I’m a little skeptical.
But I vowed to open my mind to reiki, for the readers’ sake. Remember my sacrifice of lying in comfort for 45 minutes. I do it because I care.
Reiki is Japanese in origin, and the word "reiki" is a mash-up of the Japanese word "rei," which means "universal life," I’m told, and "ki," which means "energy." Reiki is not affiliated with any particular religion or religious practice. Reiki practitioners aim to put their clients back in touch with the body’s ability to heal itself by clearing the ki, allowing it to be strong and free flowing. Reiki practitioners believe imbalances in this flow of energy cause issues (illnesses and the like) with the body, mind and spirit.
As Charmaine Kennedy, reiki master and owner of Tree of Life North puts it, “Our bodies are in constant flight or fight. For most of us, our bodies don’t even remember what it feels like to be fully relaxed. What the reiki does is it helps to bring that body to a state of remembrance.”
I thought about this while I prepared for my treatment. Other than while ill, or in the moments before sleep, how often do we simply rest? I can remember spending hours as a child simply staring at the sky and watching the clouds, but now? Now, I can’t even watch an entire television show without reaching for my phone at least once.
Perhaps we are so removed from this feeling that we can no longer find it when we need it most?
As far as my initial skepticism goes, I found it interesting to note the beginnings of research towards the acceptance of reiki as a complementary therapy. An increasing number of studies are showing that in self-reported findings from patients there are promising impressions of the practice, especially for a technique that is non-invasive, and has no clear side effects.
For instance, a study published in the Journal of Palliative Care and conducted at a hospital in Richmond Hill, showed “a significant decrease in severity of pain, anxiety, low mood, restlessness, and discomfort; significant increase in inner stillness/peace; and convincing narratives on an increase in comfort. The evaluation by staff was positive and encouraged continuation of the program.” They concluded that as a complementary therapy program, there is value in offering this to patients. A similar American study found this as well, and Kennedy notes, “In the United States they have reiki practitioners in almost every hospital.”
The only thing I can speak to, however, is my experience.
I laid on my back for the first portion of the treatment, and on my stomach for the rest. Kennedy told me to relax as much as I am able to, and she began with my head. As she moved around me, touching me through the blanket gently, but solidly — no rubbing — a few thoughts occurred to me:
- Why do I feel her hands sometimes and then nothing? Why do they feel very hot at some points, and not at others?
- Why is she touching my hip, but I feel a sensation all the way to my knee?
- I am not relaxed anymore. You’re terrible at this, Jenny! Get more relaxed! (Internal screaming is not a helpful technique in this instance, just FYI.)
- I have to pee. I am now thinking about the fountain again. Is it in the room? Is it in the music? Is it the only thing I can think of? Yes. Firm yes.
After my treatment, we spoke for a few minutes about my experiences. It turns out, her hands never stopped touching me, and they were the same temperature at all times. Kennedy said I felt them differently based on trouble areas in my body, and in my spirit.
Surprisingly, before I mentioned my hip to knee thoughts, she asked me if I had any hip pain, and any issues with sciatica. Why yes, and apparently I am now a person who says “Oh, my sciatica is acting up.”
I made no comment on my bladder, but for politely wiggling on the treatment table as we finished up. Also, never solved the fountain mystery. An enigma for the ages, perhaps.
Additionally, she noticed tension in my solar plexus, and asked if I had any heavy decisions I was trying to make. (Yes, yes I do, thank you for asking.)
Kennedy noted most people won’t find all the benefits of a treatment the first time. She recommended (and offers discounts for) three treatments to see any benefit. She also recommended interviewing your practitioner to ensure that you trust them, and you feel comfortable.
But I can tell you that I left my treatment very thirsty, very intrigued, and very relaxed. I felt calm, and like I had just awoken from a good rest. I trusted Kennedy almost immediately, and I enjoyed her company and warm personality very much.
So if you have trouble finding the place of peace and relaxation that so often eludes us, maybe for years at a time, reiki could be an interesting option to find your way back. What that means for your health, your body and your belief in reiki, is up to you.
I don’t think it healed what ailed me, but I did find it relaxing.