Or Opening Up So It Can Explore You

yogacitynyc | 22 October, 2012 11:52

Even among the yogis, the New Agers, and the hippies, reiki remains relatively unexplored.  That’s why last Monday, I descended into the warm healing caverns of  Elizabeth Rossa’s Shriyoga for my first ever reiki session.

Before the meeting, my expectations about reiki were somewhat stereotypical: I imagined sitting upright in a dark room while someone, trained in an offshoot of witchcraft, attempted to flood my body with universal energy, and which would either be really overwhelming — or just not much.

When I met Elizabeth outside the studio, she was hidden underneath a baseball hat and a plain fall jacket.  I could only tell that she was much shorter than me.  But by her sincerity in speech and general up-beatness, I knew that my reiki stereotype was grossly unfitting. She escorted me into her small, clean, and chic studio whose uneven white plastering filled the space with a sense of warmth.  The burning of incense and the application of Frankincense on my feet settled the final traces of awkwardness in my body, recalling contemplative childhood moments in Catholic churches.

I sat on the reiki table and answered a few questions intended to help Elizabeth guide the session.  I told her that I don’t get claustrophobic, that I’m physically well except for frequent stomach problems, and have slight anxiety.  But mainly, I related how enraging my morning was, and that I was still suffering from its effects.  Elizabeth assured me that it was quite fortuitous, then, that I was having a reiki session.

I had to agree with her.  Invited to focus on the quality of my breath, marked by the strong perfume of Frankincense, I meditated deeper and deeper while her hands moved, slowly, from my head to over my eyes, to under my shoulders, to my chest, then knees, then feet.

Internally, it was not what I expected.  As the revolutions of my mind’s wandering and focusing subsided, I caught glimpses of subtle yet wild motions in my body of what could only be called energy.  They were uncontrolled, moving in indiscernible directions and without origin.  Occasionally coagulating into a pulsing wave that moved from head to toe; though I was unsure whether I was deceiving myself and was not, instead, merely sensing more clearly the pulsing of my blood around my body.

Throughout the session I didn’t feel a strong connection to Elizabeth.  Thus, during the intervals when she changed hand positions, I couldn’t sense her location.  Nor did I know whether we achieved the “shared meditation” characteristic of reiki that we discussed before the practice.  Yet after what felt like only 20 minutes, the one-hour session ended with three chimes of a bell.  The they were beautiful, and, for once, I had gained a strong enough concentration to follow them throughout their entire duration.

Afterwards, while attempting to make the small movements that Elizabeth suggested such as moving my knee slightly, then a few toes, I discovered an incredible resistance in my body to any motion.  It was as if it was encased in some sort of shell.  Even my cheeks felt stiff.  And it took a decent amount of force to break through.

When I finally arrived back at a seated position, I was incredibly calm.  Speaking felt excessive and barbaric.  The weight of the morning’s bad energy had almost completely been released.  I peacefully sat for a few minutes, accepting Elizabeth’s permission to not give her any feedback.

A few days later, after speaking with Elizabeth on the phone, I discovered that my experience of a letting go is very much intended not only in reiki, but also, in her view, in yoga and meditation practices.  This letting go does not merely aim to provide a feeling of calm, but instead intends to serve as the bridge for one to experience one’s deepest self as a unique manifestation of universal energy.

As long as the pure intention for reiki exists, Elizabeth explained, not even the gripping of the mind can get in the way of its healing revelation.

Reiki, in Japanese, simply means “universal energy.”  It’s a word derived from the Chinese qi, also meaning energy.  In this perspective, the unity of reiki, yoga, and meditation as practices is obvious.  Not dogmatic codes, not causal techniques, these practices are instead intended to remove the clutter so that meditation in its pure form can arrive, and so that the life force can flow.

For Elizabeth, the uniqueness of reiki lies in its emphasis on the addition of human touch.  Against the backdrop of a technological culture lacking more and more in human touch, the practice of reiki only gains in importance.

I will certainly try a second session with Elizabeth.

—-Matthew Pellegrino