Reiki is an ancient, non-intrusive complementary therapy that involves a hands-on healing technique. Amanda Cassidy charts her first fascinating experience of the Japanese art of healing
My inner cynic is primed as I lie fully-clothed on the relaxing massage bed at The Thirsty Soul in Blackrock, Co Dublin. Reiki master and teacher, Roseleen McNally has the lights low as she rests her hands gently on my head.
I am under instruction to do nothing whatsoever.
"Think or don’t think," she tells me softly. "Simply try to relax and open yourself up to the harmony and balance that Reiki invites on your body."
This is the first time I’ve ever tried anything like this. I've never even done acupuncture. Roseleen explains she had no understanding of it either when she first heard about energy healing. "I was working as an accountant and I was really unhappy. I didn’t know why and I was searching for answers... I found myself without any way of navigating through it.
"So, I started getting healing sessions and it was the first time in my life that I felt I could release the emotional build-up inside of me. I felt more like myself than I had in years.
"We know that the entire universe is made of energy, and our bodies are no exception."
You are allowing the body to start its own energy to move and heal itself
But how does it actually work? "Reiki invites your body to centre itself so we can make better choices, feel more connected and compassionate. It moves us from fight or flight to rest and digest.
"By placing your hands on someone – their body is receiving and taking in what it needs. You are allowing the body to start its own energy to move and heal itself.
"Most practitioners work on the chakra system — there are seven chakras that correspond to a specific aspect of human behaviour and development. The root chakra represents your foundation system – everything about family, how we view the world, our fears, our core beliefs. This is around the base of your spine.”
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We know that the entire universe is made of energy, and our bodies are no exception. Ancient cultures understood that all living things have a life force inside (also called prana) that spins and rotates.
These centres of energy ideally bring the right amount of energy to every part of your body, mind and spirit. But if one is too slow or closed or askew, your health (or mental health) may suffer.
There is something quite moving about the power of touch. We understand its power when it comes to things like newborns needing skin-to-skin contact to soothe – even hugging can reduce anxiety. As I lie in the calm room with Rosaleen’s hands resting on my head, I feel that lovely sensation of being protected.
Some people are being poked and prodded all day. Here they receive the gentle touch
Later, Roseleen explains: "Often, the laying of the hands is the only touch my clients might get from one session to the next if they live alone.
"It can often remind us of our childhood – that feeling that someone has got you — that you are being held so then you can let go a little. Some people, who might be going through invasive procedures like chemo, are being poked and prodded all day.
"Here they can come and allow to receive with a gentle touch. That, in itself, can be very healing."
Later, I ask Roseleen what she is thinking of as she moves around the massage bed laying hands-on and over parts of my body. "I use Japanese meditation practices to focus my mind. I can also receive as I’m giving. Many of those who practice Reiki love doing it because it is so peaceful for both parties. Reiki can mean different things to different people – and that’s why it is hard to describe to people.
At one stage I peeked my eyes open a little because I thought the heat I could feel travelling around my body was perhaps from a candle
I completely agree with her as I try to put into words what happened over the 60 minutes I experienced. Rosaleen had advised me that often temperature can fluctuate. At one stage I peeked my eyes open a little because I thought the heat I could feel travelling around my body was perhaps from a candle she was holding near me (she wasn’t). The entire experience was really quite extraordinary.
When she laid her hands on my hip, I could feel little sensations ripple gently through my gut area. Maybe it was the calm and deeply peaceful experience of trying to feel my own energy but I did feel more connected to my body. Behind my eyes, I could see purple swirls dancing and pulsing like the Northern Lights. I analysed if I was really seeing it or just imagining it but I am convinced that what I was seeing was a form of energy our bodies are made up of.
It was also quite a spiritual experience for me. How does that sit with those who might be religious? "Some people are very cynical. Some say I don’t know why I’m here but I’m just curious. Reiki isn’t religious but it can deepen our own connection to whatever we believe in."
Afterwards, I ask Roseleen to talk to me about my own energy. "Your body has shown, in the moment, that you are caught up in your solar plexus and sacral, the places that contain your womb, your core, your emotional centre.
"It is also the place we hold stress. I think you are quite a guarded person and keep yourself in a certain space. You may show one thing to the world and have something else happening inside. You seem to put a brave face on."
This definitely resonates. But how do I ensure my energy flows better?
Focus on change
"Well, now that you have awareness, you can decide to focus on changing that, or decide if you want to change it at all. You might want to look at the choices you have – what do I need to do to let people in? What did you learn in your childhood to make you feel like you have to put on a certain face to the world?
"We are constantly learning and absorbing from the world around us. Allowing ourselves to tap into the way our energy is being affected by our thoughts, feelings and the outside world and how this affects our bodies to the outside world is not only helpful but also hugely healing."
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
The Thirsty Soul offers Reiki in Dublin and Meath and costs €70 a session.
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