Massage & Bodywork

September/October 2012

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"I don't know about reiki energy," I said, "but I know that reiki practice is balancing and can be helpful at any time, not just the first three weeks." Her eyes sprung open as she asked, "You don't know about reiki energy? Then what are you doing? What am I feeling?" "I don't know. What are you feeling? Can you describe your experience?" "It's hard to put into words," she started. "I feel a sense of flow, as if energy were pouring through my body, and sometimes pulsating. And I feel like I'd fall into a deep meditation if I weren't so stunned by what you just said." I asked if she'd ever felt these sensations before. "Yes, I have, actually … usually during an acupuncture treatment, or in shavasana at the end of yoga class. And once I felt them very strongly when I went chanting with a friend." "Is it possible it's not reiki energy you're feeling, but rather your own system reorganizing itself toward greater balance and coherence?" I asked. "I never thought of it that way, but it makes sense," she said, and paused before adding, "That feels right somehow." "Imagine giving yourself that same balancing benefit at least once a day, and more often when needed," I suggested. "Since reiki practice is balancing from within you, it is refreshing and helps you stay in touch with yourself in a simple, yet profound way. It might be just what you need to find peace with yourself and your work, and stay connected to the compassion that drew you to oncology massage." REIKI SPIRITUAL PRACTICE Reiki is often thought of as "energy work" or "energy medicine," and it clearly has therapeutic benefits and applications. Nonetheless, reiki belongs alongside chanting, meditation, prayer, tai chi, yoga, and others in the category of spiritual practices. Spiritual practices arise in all cultures. Regardless their form or orientation, whether they involve stillness or movement, silence or sound, they all have the same goal: to influence our systems toward balance. This shift toward balance often brings a sense of greater clarity and ease, and of feeling simultaneously relaxed and energized. The decluttering that accompanies spiritual practice, and the increased sense of inner alignment, enables us to live with greater awareness of ourselves and the world around us. Consistent spiritual practice forges a pathway to our innermost reality, our spiritual core. Repetition is key, because it is only through repetition that we create pathways that change our habitual responses, particularly our response to challenge. These pathways are not only metaphysical, but also physiologic. The pioneering research of affective neuroscientist Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has shown that those who meditate develop neural pathways in the brain that support a less stressful approach to life. It is too soon to extrapolate Davidson's findings to all spiritual practice, but it is likely that these findings have some generalizability beyond meditation. Let's clearly distinguish spiritual, which refers to a part of our nature, and religious, which refers to a complex system of beliefs. We are spiritual beings just as we are physical, mental, emotional, and social beings. We may choose to develop any of these aspects of ourselves, or not. Regardless our engagement in these various aspects of ourselves, they are still part of who we are. Irrespective one's religion or chosen spiritual practice, spiritual experiences have some common characteristics. Spiritual experiences typically involve a sense of transcendence—of being something greater than our individual Spiritual practices arise in all cultures. Regardless their form or orientation, whether they involve stillness or movement, silence or sound, they all have the same goal: to influence our systems toward balance. Visit the newly designed ABMP.com. Log in. Explore. Enjoy. 111

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