Reiki introduction

2016-01-17 Janine Prince and Patricia NewtonThere’s so much suffering in the world and it felt like time to find a way to contribute to the healing of that rather than continue to feel helpless and overwhelmed. As in all things, one must start with oneself, so last weekend, I did a Reiki introduction course with Patricia Newtown. Primarily I wanted to find a way forward in dealing with my colitis and depression. I was hoping for something that would complement my philosophical and intellectual explorations and perhaps help address the patterns of my behaviour that I have not been able to resolve on my own. I decided to ask for help.

First reiki impressions

Reiki is something that has given me a lot of support and help over the past 12 months through occasional short treatments. It is simple to receive, non-invasive, and people who give it always seem to be happy. I like the look of being happy, it is like holidays, but it doesn’t come to an end. Pat’s reiki introduction course looked appealing because she looked happy in her picture, and it would be near where I live. That’s a simple enough decision making process isn’t it? Well it worked. Learning is always fun, but reiki is not just an intellectual pursuit, there is of course lots of attention given to one’s body (in every sense). The welcoming space and happy faces were nice, but the real connection came as soon as we started by checking in on our individual energy levels, and then immediately raising them. That first technique, learnt in the first ten minutes of the day, has been working hard in the days since and will continue to be a touchstone to sanity. Did you know there’s a vibrational frequency to happiness? Of course you do, that’s why everybody loves music. That’s why you feel better after a long walk in nature. That’s why we have the phrase “out of synch” for when we’re down.

Reiki revealed

As in so many courses, much of the learning comes from the interaction with the other people as well as the course leaders. Something like this is incredibly supportive and inspiring as there’s a deliberate choice to be authentic and present in participation. I was also in the pleasant situation of being the least experienced member of the group and so everything the others said seemed to spark another revelation in me, another informational connection, another moment of personal insight. There were also some moments of divine simplicity. Have you ever used that phrase for a friend in distress “I’m sending you love”? That’s what reiki is, sending love. That’s the big reveal. Love. No need to over-think it. What was transformational in my experience was becoming a receiver for that energy and realising how to pass it along. There was an enormous amount of unexpected emotional release of old baggage that happened from the process of being “brought up to speed”.

Now for the housework

As is always the case after a peak experience, there’s a wobbly period afterwards. Lots of emotional clearing, intense personal experiences, heavy downloads of information all need time to settle in and become part of who you are. If indeed you decide to keep them. reiki practitioners around the world encourage the use of a “21 day cycle” which is a protocol for integration based around three full cycles through the seven energy centres in the body. What that means is that much as I was high as a kite last Sunday (when the photo of Pat and I was taken) it was taken for granted that there’s be a ‘coming to ground’ on Monday, and verily that did come to pass and that’s ok too. For healing (and learning) to be meaningful, it has to occur within our everyday lives. That’s what the 21 day cycle is for. Integration moves something from being an idea to wisdom. I’m diligently doing my homework, forgiving my slips and falls, not expecting miracles. This is the time for finding the right place for these skills in the toolbox of my life.

Was it amazing? Yes. Was it worth doing? Yes. Will I go back and learn more? Yes. Has it made a difference to my health? Only time will truly tell, but it has already made a positive difference to my ability to ‘pick myself up’ each morning and face the day with a smile. Can I recommend Patricia Newton as a trainer and a healer? Yes! Absolutely!

What use is love?

So reiki is love. It is a pretty happy, blissful kind of thing. It is a useful thing to add to one’s repertoire of skills and to grow one’s wisdom. So before you ask “what use is reiki?” maybe ask if you want to be the person who is asking “What use is love?”

Belief without love will make you fanatical,
Duty without love will make you ill-humoured,
Order without love will make you pedantic,
Power without love will make you violent,
Justice without love will make you severe,
A life without love will make you ill.

(Excerpt from “Reiki: Universal free energy” by Baginski and Sharamon.)

Ten years living with ulcerative colitis

Janine Prince March 2015This week marks ten years living with ulcerative colitis. Not an anniversary to celebrate. No. However a moment worth marking nonetheless and I’d like to bear witness to my experience. My intention is to do so as a recognition of all the other people who are living with a chronic illness or for those who might find these words when they are first diagnosed, and search (as I did at the time) for some hint that life goes on.
I haven’t learned enough in life yet, but I have learned that my burden is not the heaviest nor the only burden being carried. So many people suffer every day, and that’s the normal part of their day. Many of them are brave, they are courageous, generous, loving and all those things that people are and to me they seem to be saints because they do all of that without ever asking for pity or a special deal for their own personal situation.
I’ve never been like that. I grew up a self-centred, petulant and ego-driven individual who coasted through life enjoying good health and generally easy successes. If something didn’t go my way, I threw a tantrum. I was bad mannered and basically, if you’ll excuse the expression, a pain in the arse.

The fall

Like many people I was misdiagnosed in the early stages and also like many people, the arrival of this condition was extreme. I won’t bore you or try to shock you with the tedious and grotesque details, but if you are interested, by all means read about ulcerative colitis on Wikipedia and be warned, it isn’t pleasant and there are pictures. The first months were a traumatic roller-coaster of denial, endless specialist visits and a cocktail of anger, fatigue, loneliness and humiliation.
Anyone who has a chronic illness has probably had a similar experience in the broad sense. It is something that undermines your sense of identity, worth and optimism. I came to my knees and the landing was hard. Nothing was fair, and no amount of tantrums would change the physical facts. I kept fighting, and I kept not getting anywhere. Chronic illness does not have any obligation to get better or ease up or otherwise change itself just because your life is falling apart.

I can’t go on

For me, it got a bit worse psychologically even while my physical symptoms began to stabilise. Due to the large blood loss sustained on a daily basis, I had a lovey delicate pallor that was visually appealing. I didn’t have anything bandaged, or in a cast, or visible bruising – I looked pretty good. Inside I was in constant pain (no suggestion at that time from any specialist that I seek or simply be given some support for this, other than more drugs) and questioning if this might be a good time to make an informed decision to exist the great stage. Not only was I not confident that the daily regime of drugs would ever restore me to functional operation, but I felt that I had lost my place in the world. Who would ever want someone this broken?

I’ll go on

Thankfully, I didn’t have the energy or the requisite escape-velocity of self-loathing to finalise the exit at that time and urgent practical matters took my mind off the subject in the long, dark nights. If you’re in the first year or so of having been diagnosed with a chronic illness, please get support as soon as possible for managing your physical and emotional pain. Much as you may think it, you’re not currently in a position to make an “informed decision” about what to do with yourself. In hindsight, I can see it was my ego throwing a pretty big tantrum. A bluff I wouldn’t wish on anybody to call.
The sun rose in the east, arced through the sky and set again to the west. The tides of the moon and the wheel of the year swung around me while my bubble of self-protection and self-pity got cramped and ever lonelier. People have different experiences. I was slowly to learn that I was one of the lucky ones. For a long time I kept a list of illness I was grateful I didn’t have and it got longer as I began to listen to other people’s stories. The burdens I was unequal to carrying slowly lightened as I was able to return to work and also to listen with empathy to what others were carrying. It was still unfair, and so little in life was, that the bleakness never wavered. Days trudged by and the game became one of fighting boredom. I was still fighting, still not winning, still pushing people away as much as begging for closeness. It was a life, but it felt hollow. The fight had been to stop the illness from taking over, from changing things, from taking the freedom of choice away. Laugh if you like, it had done that from the moment it appeared, would I ever come to my senses and stop fighting something that had already won?

The serpent

The trouble was, chronic illness is so easy to see as an enemy. For years I thought of it as a great coiled serpent where my bowel should be. A serpent that in some nightmares ate me whole from the feet up. My powerful enemy could bring me to my knees at any time it cared to flex and coil, raise and strike. My feeble body was a warzone of drugs, fear and fatigue.

What if it is all ok?

Thankfully there are a lot of wise and giving people in the world, some of whom planted seeds of wisdom and compassion in my stony skull. I still had some long dark nights where I wondered if all this effort was for nothing, yet at the same time I slowly began to understand the incredible power of helping other people. I began to see a third way between the fantasies of freedom and total annihilation. The endless confrontations with nightmares opened my other eyes to the shadows I held within. Most importantly, I accepted that sometimes the pain was horrible and I stopped trying to anticipate that or wish it away. I held a rock and took it one breath at a time. I checked in every few breaths, maybe changed the rock to the other hand. Breathe. Right now. This is what is happening. Time helped the reality replace the fantasy. I could live in the cracks. Maybe I could bloom where I was planted too. What if I was ok enough?

It is what it is

There’s no snake now, no enemy, no answer either. I have a thing, like you might, or someone you know does. I manage it as best I can and sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I forget I have it, other times, well, I still have that rock to hold. My road in the last ten years has been hard work, and followed a river of tears. Along the way I’ve changed and (hopefully) grown. I wish you all the best on your journey, just remember, we’re all in this together.

Of course, your mileage may vary.