Challenging My Skepticism One Spiritual Modality at a Time
My health coaching and nurse practitioner philosophy is one of holism. I recognize the importance of the mind-body connection and the role of spirituality in bridging the gap between the two. Yet, despite encouraging patients and clients to find strength in their spirituality, I've done very little (aside from an occasional half-assed attempt at meditation) to adopt my own spiritual practice. I have a science-oriented, practical brain and I believe in evidence-based practices. Not to say there isn't an evidence base for certain spiritual or mind-body therapies (meditation holds a significant body of reliable evidence in it's corner), but I remained somewhat a skeptic.
One of my goals during my year-long travel journey was to get more in tune with my spiritual side. Well 7 months went by and again aside from a sporadic yoga class or meditation session and a walk through various temples in Southeast Asia, I've done little to balance this area of my life. I've always felt connected to and invigorated by nature, though haven't specifically identified those feelings as spiritual. Since Sofia is surrounded by mountains and there seems to be a growing wellness movement, I decided to finally dedicate much of this month to wellness and outdoor activity in relation to spirituality. It seems like the perfect month to finally ground myself and reconnect.
I arrived in Sofia not feeling quite like myself, so figured it wouldn't hurt to attempt a little energy rebalancing. Yesterday, inspired by my friend Allison, I scheduled a 40-minute Reiki session. Reiki was developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui and is purported to promote the healing of physical and spiritual ailments through gentle touch. Reiki is pseudoscience based on qi, which practitioners say is a universal life force or energy. Chakras are the areas in the body where this energy is stored. Use of light pressure techniques are meant to balance qi, restore harmony and provide deep relaxation and a sense of clarity. I was wary scheduling the appointment, but vowed to keep an open mind. Plus if renowned hospitals like Memorial Sloan Kettering and the Mayo Clinic (as well as supposedly over 800 other hospitals in the U.S.) offer Reiki as part of their integrative medicine services, there has to be some validity to the practice, right? Oh and I love Japanese culture, so there's that.
My Reiki practitioner spoke very little English, but instructed me to lay down fully clothed on my back on the table and close my eyes. She turned on soothing music and got to work. I assume she started by hovering her hands above my face as I could see shadows. I have this chronic injury in my right sesamoid (a small bone on the pad of the foot) from a pair of high heels. I barely notice it now and it has no impact on my running or any other activity, but as she hovered her hands above my face the old injury in my foot began to throb. That lasted several minutes before the throbbing dissipated to it's baseline level of low-grade discomfort. She then hovered her hands over my eyes, without touching my face and I could feel an intense warmth between her hands and my eyes, as if I was sitting in front of a campfire. She placed her hands gently at the nape of my neck for several minutes. I developed a tingling pulsation in my tongue, gums, finger tips and toes that lasted the rest of the session. She hovered her hands above my lower abdomen and it felt as if a swirling vortex was born in my stomach. She placed her hands on my hips bones and random muscles all over my body began to twitch spontaneously. She moved her hands to my knees and my left hand practically shot off the table and then went completely numb for the remainder of the session. When she removed her hands from the final pressure point on the bottom of my feet, the numbness in my left hand quickly resolved. She told me I had very good energy overall, that the greatest imbalance was in my knees, to make sure to drink at least 2 liters of water over the course of the day and to 'clear out' my stomach (whatever that means).
I must admit I was very surprised by the sensations I felt throughout my body during the therapy. I left the session feeling energized and relaxed- was it the light touch and rebalancing of energy or the soothing music and the fact that I just laid there with my eyes closed for 40 minutes? I did wake up at 5 AM this morning feeling energized, inspired and creative. After a week long low grade funk, I feel like myself again. Whether you call it the power of Reiki or call it the placebo effect (there's a large evidence base for that too!), there is no evidence to show Reiki cures any specific medical ailments, but I do now believe (and many physicians and other healthcare providers would agree) that it can contribute to overall wellness. Though it shouldn't replace traditional medical treatment, I believe it serves as a great adjunct and it has me more excited and motivated than ever to continue my spiritual exploration.