The sensitive soul
WHEN I WAS a child, I used to drive my ebullient mother wild with frustration. At the slightest upset, the tears would flow. I was ultra aware of atmosphere – worried by raised voices, by any hint of disharmony. “Oh stop crying! You’re too sensitive!” my mother would wail. She wasn’t scared of a good scrap herself. But me? Always one skin less. As I have developed in my adult life, to work, as a writer and teacher, with groups of people who may themselves be vulnerable in some way, this sensitivity has served me well. And when working as an artist on solo projects – memoir, features and poetry, drawing deeply on my own inner life – the tendency to brood and be introspective has also been a plus. But it comes at a price. Particularly when the outside world ramps up the threat. At such times, having a nervous system like a highly-tuned sports car, is no longer an advantage: it is, instead, an extra worry and a burden.
When things fall apart
Death and serious illness never came near me when I was growing up. But by the time I got to my thirties it was all around me, like a stormy sea. Close friends were getting ill and dying from AIDS and cancer. Then, at only 37, my husband also got sick. We hadn’t been together very long, and had a very young child. But illness is no respecter of circumstance, and he was diagnosed with a thymoma, a rare and incurable cancer of the thymus gland. Death was certain – though he spent ten years keeping it at bay, determined, as he was, to see his beloved daughter grow to be eleven, before he left us. Those ten years were a minefield of treatments and of physical suffering for him: and, as his primary carer, I was also exhausted, and psychologically battered. It took another ten years to recover. But somehow, my mind never got back to a state of utter balance. The adrenaline alert I had lived with for so long, just kept on pushing and pulling in the background, disturbing sleep, and mood, even as I made a new and creative life for myself and my daughter.
Reiki to the rescue
Many techniques have helped and enriched me through these challenges and depletions – from T’ai Chi, to acupuncture, to massage and meditation. They bring balance, a sense of peace, moments of exquisite harmony. But when I started investigating Reiki, it wasn’t really any of those things that I was seeking from it. I had recently fractured my shoulder. I wanted help with the pain. I wanted to feel physically comfortable again. Physiotherapy had helped enormously – thank goodness for our National Health Service. Painkillers played their part. Codeine can be a godsend when your body is screaming for respite. But Reiki seemed to go deeper than that. As I investigated further, receiving treatments, and finally becoming trained and attuned myself as a Reiki practitioner, I realised that my whole nervous system seemed to be quietening down. And that the new composure was there for good!
Fight or Flight
A herbalist I consulted a few years back said that my adrenal glands were depleted – leaving me anaemic, weak and unsteady. It was years of living with the red alert of serious illness – I had got used to my nervous system going into “fight or flight” mode at the slightest provocation. My stomach would lurch with anxiety, even when faced with fairly mundane problems or challenges. Somehow, I could never switch off. The “sympathetic” part of my nervous system – preparing my body for action, pumping blood to the heart, speeding up breathing – seemed to be just too busy, all of the time.
Rest and Digest
After a few months of working with simple, profound Reiki techniques, I noticed something different. My stomach refused to lurch in anticipation of new or unexpected events. I felt quieter and more steady, deep inside myself. And this different way of being wasn’t going away. It was mine, now. It was me. My “parasympathetic” nervous system, which allows for inner equilibrium and a steady calm, was coming into play. Reiki seemed to be helping that happen.
Helping Hands – Quiet Mind
Apart from skilful intervention from a Reiki Master during this steadying-up period, I learned how to lay hands upon myself. Before sleep, I laid two hands, side by side, palms down, over my heart area; then over the solar plexus; and finally, on the belly. Feeling the warmth. Keeping the hands still. Feeling the mind quieten into rest. Upon waking – I did the same thing again. I now do this every day and every night, without fail. And if I wake in the night from bad dreams, or a racing mind, something to which I have always been prone – then again, I place my hands over my heart. And a softening begins to happen. And back to sleep I go.
Caring for Self and for Others
We are living in anxious – and, indeed, violent – times. The ability to be quiet and calm, to switch off and replenish the inner self, seems to be getting lost in a clamour of loud voices all around us. It is a delight to find something that does NOT shout; that is simple and steady and always available. The warmth of the hands – of the life force or “ki/chi” itself – finds its way to the heart. And lets us know that everything will be OK. If we let it. If we learn how to do it, and to keep on doing it, all through our lives. Reiki is just one way to find this inner stillness and balance. It is a beautiful form of self care – and of care for others, too. A quiet mind, in a quiet body. A little bit of “yin”, to the “yang” of the outside world. If YOUR mind is overburdened, and your body tired and depleted; maybe Reiki can help you to drop some of that weight, and travel a little lighter through your days.
I offer solo treatments in my Reiki Room in Oakwood, Leeds, West Yorkshire. If you would like to find out more, take a look at my Reiki In Leeds page here.