Updated: Jan 8
Reiki has gone from a rather obscure word over the last 30 years to a term many have heard of, even if they don’t know what it is. So, what exactly is Reiki? That is a question I've danced with for nearly a decade. As with most things in my life, the only way for me to truly “know” was to deeply explore and experience it, until I began to embody and understand it from the inside out. This is my story of getting to know Reiki, and coming out of the Reiki closet.
I think many of us, or at least those of my generation, may remember the music of the ice cream truck. Sometimes it was so far away, that only a few stray notes were carried to you in the soft summer wind. The music was so ephemeral, you had to stop in your tracks and listen with all your might to be certain you really heard it. Moments later you heard it again, this time closer, and you stopped what you were doing to find a parent or run outside to search for the truck. This reminds me of the way Reiki came into my life. It was a whisper in my ear, “Reiki.” So soft and subtle, I wasn’t sure I really heard it. The truth is I had no context for it, so I paid it no attention. However, it continued to make itself known, similar to the approaching music of the ice cream truck, until it became so loud I could no longer ignore it and became curious.
"What is Reiki?" was the question I asked myself. So I consulted the Google. I didn’t even know how to spell it. I searched "raykey" and Google kindly autocorrected, delivering me to Reiki. My reaction when I initially read about it was, ‘weird.’ Considering this word kept coming to me out of the ethers, I decided to take a Reiki class and learn more about it. My first Reiki class felt familiar, like a homecoming – it was all the things I had come to love mashed into one. It was energy, meditation, contemplation, connection to source and nature and everything and everyone around us explained through the model of Reiki. After the initiation, the energy I felt in my hands was tremendous and it reminded me of the energy I felt intrinsically as a child, a memory I had long ago buried and left by the wayside.
For many years that is how I thought my journey with Reiki had begun, only to realize later that the beginning was the energy consciousness in my youth, and the decades of a personal meditation practice accessing and cultivating Universal source energy. Reiki was always there - I just didn't have a name or a framework to know it and understand it. While I had developed an embodied understanding that energy is accessed and cultivated by being present and going inwards, I had not embraced this part of me as it didn't fit neatly into any of the boxes in my life, and so I kept it in the dark recesses of my being, ‘in the closet’ so to speak. On numerous occasions it surprised me, and sometimes others, by finding its own way out, but I always found a way to shove it back in there - until finally, I gave the practice of Reiki some space to grow in my life.
For me personally, the question was never as simple as, ‘what is Reiki,’ because that question bled into other questions like, ‘what is energy,’ and ‘what is it to know intuitively versus analytical reasoning,’ and ‘how is Reiki different from meditation?’ I’ve been meditating since my early twenties – a practice that was born from a deep connection to source that takes me back to some of my earliest memories as a child. The truth is, I have felt ‘energy’ as early as I can remember. As a child, feeling energy was no different than tasting food, feeling a breeze on my face or the roughness of tree bark under my fingertips, smelling and embodying the sweetness of flowers and the pungent aroma of earth after it rains, noticing the brightness of the colors of nature, or being drawn to and feeling intrinsically connected to the animal kingdom.
All of these experiences were ‘normal’ and added up to was who I was. I never questioned any of them until I got to an age where I became aware that some of these things were not talked about - ever. This awareness marked a period of time where I began to split off and suppress pieces of myself. Over time some of those pieces began to disappear into the dark recesses of my being, because a framework to understand them did not exist. A framework was not culturally available to me. There was no framework in the macrocosms of education, career, or systemized religion, or in the cultural microcosms of my family and peer relationships.
This created an uncomfortable dissonance that as my life progressed, became impossible to ignore (although I certainly did try). As a young adult and college student living on my own, I felt drawn to and delved deeper into energy and meditation. As I read books, studied world Religions, and developed a meditation practice during my University years, I remember thinking, “how is it that no one is talking about this?” I spent every waking moment that I wasn’t studying or working, at the Crazy Wisdom Book Store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, soaking up the words on the pages from a myriad of texts on meditation and energy. I went through a period of ‘coming out’ to myself. I realized I was different – that I could feel energy, and I often felt alone and confused. I realized I sometimes knew things without understanding how I knew them, like waking up in the middle of the night at the exact moment when someone died, or picking up the phone before it rang and saying “hello,” not realizing it didn’t ring until my room mate told me it didn’t ring. Being the first student ever , according to my professor, to receive 100% on a final with hundreds of impossible questions that I didn’t know the answers too, yet they just kept popping into my head, one after the other. It was territhrilling.
I found it hard to reconcile these certain parts of myself relating to energy and ‘knowing,’ and I buried them all for another decade as I graduated from university, embarked on a career, got married and started a family. I often felt directionless, and many of my early years were about writing, art, vivid dreams and callings from the ethers to remember, to come back to ‘zero,’ or wake up. All of these activities created channels and paths to the lost pieces of me, and as each came forth it was very much like giving birth. There was always an indescribable pain and struggle to accept “this is really happening,” entangled with an exquisite falling in love and elation of what has come forth. With each discovery, there was a difficult period of shaking off the dirt and dust, of polishing to remove residue and rust. As a born and raised Catholic with Lutheran grandparents on one side of the family, I found it a challenge to make sense of and accept these lost parts of me in the absence of cultural context, or worse, a cultural context of religious condemnation.
Reiki became one of many frameworks or vehicles that allowed me to recognize that meditation, conscious and contemplative living, and the ability to cultivate and feel energy is a thing. It allowed me to begin to accept all the parts of me, and eventually to out my authentic self. As I reclaimed and made peace with each piece of me, each part of my identity I had buried between childhood and adolescence, I began to transition from feeling lost in the darkness, to feeling alive and filled with joy and light. I had lived a great part of my life with a constant droning and angst of “there must be more to life that this," and "I don’t know who I am,” whispering to me in the background. With each step forward into my truth, the background noise and confusion began to fade, and was replaced with a deep knowing and sure-footedness that can be described as feeling grounded, centered, simple joy, and peace.
Interestingly, and as a sidenote, the colors IN MY CLOSET were part of my transition – moving from the dark, stepping into my truth, and into the light. When I was so deeply in the closet that I did not even know I was in a closet – I only wore black. I literally only felt comfortable wearing black. I felt assaulted by color the few times I attempted to introduce it into my wardrobe, and I quickly retreated to the familiarity of black. I wore black for so long (from my early twenties until my early-thirties,) that when the color started creeping in, I was confused. I didn’t know why I felt drawn to a new color but each time it happened, it felt like air to me. It started with midnight blues, deep browns and earthy greens, and then came a prolonged and notable ‘gray period.’ Towards the end of my gray period I had accepted the practice of Reiki into my life, and started finding ways to share it with those close to me. It was as though a floodgate opened, and my wardrobe went from an exclusive array of grays to a serious cream and ivory period which eventually made way for pale shades of roses and salmon pinks, soft purples and bright lime greens and oranges.
It wasn’t that I didn’t see this happening, but initially I didn’t understand WHY it was happening. Eventually I came into an awareness that I was softening, and making a transition towards 'opening up to being vulnerable' in my truth. My husband also noticed and we would talk about it on occasion. I told him it was because I felt safer being me. The safer I felt, the more I was able to bloom, and step into my authentic self, and alongside the colors started to bloom in my closet. Today my closet has both the vibrant and soft hues of a box of crayons, with lots of whites and creams, and a smattering of blacks and gray. At the moment I find it harder to wear the darker colors because they now feel like an assault to my energy.
I also look back on my artwork in high school and from my University career as a student of art and design, and I see the parallels between what I created and what was deeply hidden. Often, I would create a piece and wonder, “what is this?” I could not always make sense of what was coming up and out through pencil, crayon, pixels, paint and metals. I recollect a day where I drew a picture where hands were trees, and there was a personalized wind or spirit blowing them. This picture pretty much drew itself and it wasn’t my style of drawing. Oddly, I never understood what it meant or why I drew it until recently. I look at it now, and like a lot of my art, it points to Divine source, the connection of all things, of energy and Reiki.
I was called to the act of creating, which evolved into a journey back to my deepest self; each piece involving a process that culminated in an end state I often characterized as ‘finding the light in it.’ My creations relentlessly took the form of revealing what was hidden, unseen, thrown away or forgotten. My work became stories of hibernation, finding beauty in things wrongly labeled ugly or lacking in value. They became the medium to see beyond the myths we are told of what to value and what to throw away or disregard. The creative process became my compass and map to uncovering the ability to know by going inward, and listening from the inside out. This is how I came to know my authentic self, and develop a code of ethics that allowed me to walk in my truth even when my culture and those around me see things differently.
I feel energy – and I love that about myself. I feel your energy, my energy, the energy of trees and plants and animals, and rocks and streams. I am that person. As long as I’m outing myself, I also know things sometimes without asking to know them – things just comes to me. On occasion I sometimes have interactions with those on the other side. I have had many interesting interactions with the animal world and it has become clear to me that communication is not always verbal, and that the more deeply we connect from the inside out, the more we can connect with and understand other species. I also have a seriously powerful bullshitometer, and whether I like it or not, I pick up on the energy of what is, rather than what people say and do to sometimes mask their own truths. This used to be somewhat disconcerting, when someone’s words, actions or body language did not match their energy. I used to think of it as a curse, and if I ignored it I would end up regretting it. Today I both honor and find gratitude in this beautiful gift.
Saying in writing, “I can feel energy,” feels like I’m coming out of a dark closet that I didn’t realize I was locked in for the greater part of my life. It is terrifying and thrilling mashed together into something I've come to know as territhrilling. It is deeply healing and empowering to finally be able to stand in my truth, and to care less that it doesn’t exactly align to my cultural, social, or family norms. I am finding my people, and re-imagining the truths and realities of the culture and world I exist in. It is both an incredible relief and a deep joy to look in the mirror and recognize the one staring back at me. Today I am out of that dark and stifling closet, but staying out, and being okay with it, and standing fully in my truth at all times remains an exciting adventure that is still evolving.