A story about Reiki that brings home the meaning of friendship, caring and the value of love in healing.
Remembering Reiki by Tracy Crosby
Early in my practitioner career, a client with cancer shared with me a unique use of Reiki. In listening to her story, I was amazed that it had never dawned on me that this would be a viable way to experience Reiki between appointments. Now, thanks to her, I offer this idea to all of my clients and students.
Her creative technique to extend the benefits of weekly Reiki sessions was simple, yet profound: she remembered Reiki.
I had been a practicing Reiki Master for only two years when I got a shocking call from a friend and retired colleague, Joan. I could hardly believe what I was hearing as she somberly stated she had recently been diagnosed with “Stage 4″ pancreatic cancer. As I sat quietly, taking in her words, I thought how long it had been since we last spoke.
Joan and I had worked closely with each other for more than a decade at a large community college, and over the years had developed a close relationship. As senior instructors in the music department, we often worked together deciding course content, adjudicating music major juries, or discussing the progress of students. Her faculty performances always left me amazed at the caliber of her professional talent, but it was her down-to-earth, serene nature and quirky sense of humor that I most connected with. There were many times our shared lunches ended with belly laughs and giggle tears. Talking with her now, I realized how much I had missed her.
As she spoke about her cancer, I was deeply affected. “What can I do for you?” I asked. She asked that I pray for her, and I said I would. She went on to explain her decision to undergo chemotherapy and other drug related treatments, but that the prognosis was not good. Nevertheless, she was determined to come through it, strong in her faith and her family support.
We spoke briefly of past memories, asking after our families and then I casually reminded Joan that I was a Reiki practitioner. I said I would be happy (at no charge) to offer sessions or to share Reiki 1. As I spoke about the soothing effects of Reiki, I could hear her resistance to trying it. This reaction is something I am familiar with here in Mississippi, where practices such as acupuncture, Reiki, functional medicine, and even nutritional support are mostly still considered “fringe” therapies. In fact, not even one of the numerous mega-hospitals or university medical centers in the capital city of Jackson hosts an integrative healing department or clinic. So, I wasn’t surprised when Joan declined my offer and reinforced her plan of nothing but standard allopathic care. Nevertheless, I asked that she call me if she changed her mind.
We chatted a bit more, about colleagues, students, music, and agreed to speak again soon. With her approval, I said I would place her into my ongoing Reiki prayer basket, and then gently said goodbye.
As I hung up the phone, I felt a sense of dread at what Joan was about to go through, and I knew that her path would be not only challenging, but likely terminal. I was truly so sad at the thought of my wonderful friend going through such suffering and a possibly painful exit from her life. It was difficult for me to get back to my day’s appointments and that evening, I did a special Reiki practice for Joan – and, for myself.
Joan stayed in my thoughts over the next weeks and whenever I called to check in, her husband Gerry explained that chemo was draining her strength and that she didn’t feel up to speaking. I took food occasionally by her house, but Gerry usually met me at the door to explain that she was resting. As time went by, I knew they were both “pulling in”, keeping their lives sacred and close as they struggled though this terrible passage and tried to make sense of the non-sensible. Out of respect for their privacy, I curtailed my calls and visits and relied on a mutual friend for news about Joan. Time went by, and the six month mark passed.
And then, she called.
“Joan, oh my, how are you doing?” I asked.
Her voice was tiny, weak, as she spoke. “I wanted to call and thank you so much for the cards and especially the food – Gerry hates to cook so that’s been a real blessing. I’ve been meaning to send a thank you note, but well, I’ve been a little tired.” I smiled to myself at her Southern good manners, thinking that only here in the Deep South do thank you notes take precedent in conversation over talk of one’s struggles with cancer.
I assured her a thank you was not needed, and asked again, “How are you, friend? What can I do for you?”
Joan explained that she hadn’t been able to sleep at all since starting chemo, no matter how exhausted she was. Prescribed sleep medications either made her feel worse or didn’t work. “Do you think that Reiki could help me?” she asked. “I’d like to try it, but I can’t get myself to your studio, I’m too tired to ride in the car. Do you think you could possibly come here?”
I assured her I would gladly come to her, anytime, as often as she liked. We agreed I should bring my table over the next day, but I hung up the phone feeling anxious about this impending home visit with my dying friend. Could I handle seeing her this way? Would I be able to practice Reiki effectively, or would I be overcome with emotion?
The next day, Joan greeted me at the door, holding her orange tabby cat, Thomas. She wore an old robe and a wool cap over her now bald head, and probably weighed no more than 90 pounds, if that. The lack of once dark eyebrows gave her an unusual and etheric countenance. Though I had tried to prepare myself, it was startling seeing her this way. I was so glad I had sunglasses on, for my eyes uncontrollably welled with tears.
Even in her weakened state, Joan offered me a big smile, a soft hug and some freshly made iced tea (those Southern manners!) before we set up the Reiki table in her music room. As we visited, I could still see and hear “Joan” inside the unfamiliar body before me. It was good, and healing, to engage her presence again.
Our session went extremely well, and she reported that she was quite surprised at how relaxed she felt, and that she may have actually fallen asleep for a time. She was encouraged, and made a weekly appointment with me.
Over the next weeks, Joan reported some interesting things to me with her Reiki sessions. She was able to sleep at night, able to eat better on days with Reiki. She wasn’t as stressed, or as angry. Things seemed better between her “chemo weeks”, and she actually gained some weight during those periods. Her husband curiously asked me about Reiki, affirming that, “whatever it is, it certainly seems to help her.” Several times I offered to train them both, but even with these admissions of positive effects, they continually declined.
Graciously, and with Southern politeness, of course.
We continued like this for another six months, having weekly sessions except during Joan’s chemo weeks. During those times, she explained she needed every bit of willpower just to get to the hospital and home, and that afterward she wanted only privacy. We sometimes didn’t see each other for 3 weeks, and it was after one of those times that she revealed to me her ‘secret’ technique for using Reiki between sessions.
We had resumed meeting after a series of particularly heavy treatments, and she looked especially wrung out this time. Our session was longer than usual, and she lingered on the table as I began to pack up my music player. After a time, she asked for some water, and then looked up at me from the pillow and said, “I know I told you that I sleep well on nights we have these sessions, but have I ever told you what I do between our appointments to get to sleep?”
“Why, no, I don’t think you have. Are you listening to music ? Meditating?” I asked.
“No, I lie in bed and I remember Reiki.”
I was intrigued. “What do you mean you remember Reiki?”
Joan continued. “Well, I get into bed and as I am lying still, I remember our sessions. I remember getting on the table, the music starting, and the way my body feels as it relaxes, little by little. I remember the feeling of complete rest and letting go, not thinking about anything but feeling almost as if I am floating on a cloud. I remember my legs and arms unwinding, and the sensation in my shoulders – especially my shoulders – like a tight cord being cut loose. I just remember how it feels, and before I know it, it’s morning.”
“Joan that’s amazing!” I replied, and I was sincere in my comment. “Do you mind if I share that with other people?”
“Oh no, I don’t mind at all! I’m sure I’m not the only one to think of that, it’s just like what we do with pianists.”
Joan was referring to a common technique that we music teachers use to train young musicians: we tell them to remember a time when everything felt just right during a performance and then keep remembering that feeling while practicing. Building a feeling through remembering is a standard way to imprint “muscle memory” and to get the subconscious to respond without technical thoughts getting in the way. Soon, the fingers, the lips or the voice react without direction – instead, performing by “remembering” how a perfect performance feels.
And now, I understood it was exactly the same with Reiki.
“Joan, you’re a genius and still a master teacher. I’m going to share that from now on. Thank you, friend.”
Our sessions continued for more than a year, long after her doctors told her she would survive. And, to the very last month, she remained “Joan”, steadfast in her faith and pursuit in healing and living on. But, the day came that she was so very ill, I knew we would not be able to have our visits anymore. When I called to set up or time, Gerry explained that she simply wasn’t able to talk, and was going in and out of consciousness. I continued to send Reiki and keep her name in my prayer basket, taking comfort that Joan would be finding rest by “remembering Reiki” whenever she could as she transitioned through the gateway out of this reality, to whatever awaited her next.
A few month’s after Joan’s funeral, I ran into Gerry at the local market. We caught up for a bit, and he shared with me again how important Reiki sessions had been for Joan throughout that last year. He affirmed that she stated to him many times how Reiki was the only thing that helped her to sleep, and what a blessing that had been. He even told me something Joan had not: that she often sat in the afternoons on the back porch, with eyes closed. He thought she might be meditating or praying, and so he asked once, “Hon, what are you doing out there?”
“I’m just relaxing, remembering my Reiki session”.
I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity over the last 12 years to learn so many things from clients and students, and I know I always will continue to learn from them. However, Joan’s lesson in “remembering Reiki” as a means to feels its effects long after a session is one that stands out as something uniquely personal and important to me.
And so, I’ll be remembering my friend Joan, every time I “remember Reiki.”
I hope you will, too.
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