For me, this was more than just helping a friend: it was a lesson in living and dying, in discovering my own spirituality. It began a healing process in which I was able to come to terms with my father’s unexpected illness and death. I learned that healing does not mean curing and what my own ideas and fears of death were.
Reiki has changed my life in so many ways. Using the ancient healing technique of Reiki on myself and others has taught me many invaluable lessons about the connection of body, mind and spirit. Reiki, consisting of two Japanese words “Rei” and “Ki” meaning “Universal Life Force Energy”, is a Japanese practice of transmitting healing energy through the hands using specific hand positions which correspond to major organs and energy centers, such as the heart or adrenal glands.
Each Reiki practitioner has his or her own story how they came to Reiki. Mine began with feeling helpless during my father’s fatal illness and continued during my own healing journey after surgery. Although a non-smoker, my father was unexpectedly diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 56. He went through several rounds of chemo which took much of his life energy. I remember vividly when I asked him if I could do anything to help him feel better. He was very nauseous and exhausted, and asked me to just sit there with him as he knew there was nothing else I could have done. At that time I did not know anything about Reiki and felt helpless. This was the moment that inspired me to look for ways I can help people who are suffering.
Reiki came into my life as a tool of non-invasive healing method, which I can use quickly and efficiently. If we look at the concept of health, there are many levels that we often disregard. We are mostly concerned with the physical wellbeing, however, how can we heal physically if our spirits are down? And, what about healing our spirit if there is no more physical healing possible? Sometimes I find words or medicine are not enough.
I have used Reiki on many of my friends, to help them relax, to ease minor aches or pains, sometimes to help them feel more in tune with themselves on all levels, mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. My deepest experience in giving Reiki, however, I had with my dear friend David, before he was dying of cancer.
David had been living with cancer for 12 years, without any major problems, until he started to be in pain again a couple of years ago. Surgery did not provide much relief and the doctors told him that even with chemotherapy, he only had a small chance to survive another three months. When I found out about this through friends, I was devastated. He was only 38 years old.
David did not return my phone calls for a while after he had received the fatal diagnosis. I sent him a letter to let him know that I was thinking of him and that he could talk to me anytime. I sent him distance-Reiki energy. He responded with a moving letter where he explained why he had isolated himself from friends and others, as he found the part of David his friends knew and loved had already died. Some people found the letter rather depressing, which made me realize how much we avoid in our society the subject of dying, despite the fact that it is inevitable.
A few weeks after I had received David’s letter, I received a call of one of his closest friends saying that he had been admitted to the respite house, and that he would like me to visit him and give him some Reiki. The call came as a surprise to me as we had not been very close friends. Yet he would let me partake in one of the most sacred experiences of his life, the process of dying. I was nervous and excited at the same time, the atmosphere of death I expected in the respite house scared me. Once I entered though, I soon noticed that there was a sense of peace in the building that is hard to describe. The personnel were warm and welcoming. David was sitting in the living room area with some friends.
He was very shaky on his legs but insisted on giving me a tour of the facilities. His eyes were wide and sometimes his consciousness would just fade away for a couple of seconds before he came back. David did not want me to give him Reiki in his room, but in the chapel. This was a more sacred area to do it in, he thought. We pushed a couple of chairs together so he could lie down. Starting with his head and working my way down his body, I could feel the energy streaming out of my hands. I was overcome by a deep sense of peace and harmony, and felt the peacefulness of David’s energy. He took long deep breaths, interrupted by scary long breaks where he did not breathe at all. I remember how my mind started spinning stories that he could die under my hands. Later I found out from one of the staff members that as the people get closer to death their breathing gets more irregular and the breaks between inhalation and exhalation become longer. Energetically I felt that he was drifting between the physical and the spiritual worlds, and as I gave him Reiki, he seemed to be leaning more into the world beyond. Waves of energy, which were neither hot nor cold, were flowing through my hands.
As I asked David to turn over, he told me that he felt very peaceful but that he sensed someone else besides himself and me was in the room, although we were alone. I believed this to be plausible but I had not picked up on anything as I was focused on directing energy. Once I had finished doing energy work on his back, I had to wake him up as he had slipped into a deep sleep. He reiterated that there was someone else in the room but that he did not know who it was. David then said he felt some fur rubbing against his leg and we decided it must have been the spirit of his cat Scout. We returned to the sitting area with all the other friends and family afterwards and shared our experiences.
I went back to see David a couple of times to give him Reiki. He had a harder time to stay conscious the whole time I was there, but was not sleeping either. As I gave him Reiki, he started snoring, which was truly a sign of letting go – even if it was just temporary.
One time, one of his closest friends was in the room with us as I gave him Reiki. She was rocking back and forth on the couch, watching us, and trying to read a book. I saw the discomfort in her eyes, and as David had drifted into a deep sleep, I asked her if she minded if I gave her some Reiki. She nodded. I started at the head, moving down the chakras, and the moment I reached her heart chakra, she started crying, which came as a deep release of all the grief and anger she had held inside for so long about David’s dying. She was finally able to let go and talk to me about her struggle to accept his death. Thus, Reiki helps the dying as well as the grieving family and friends.
As I opened the door of David’s room the last time I saw him before his death, David briefly awoke from his unconsciousness to turn his head and say a heartfelt good-bye, something I will never forget. A few days later, just before Thanksgiving, he died.
David taught me what it means - dying. That it is a time to look inside, observing your soul to find inner peace; to learn to accept the end of the physical life here on earth. It is a struggle of anger and depression at times. David asked me in his letter to promise him to “recognize the beautiful interplay between mind, soul, and spirit that is yours to nurture. Look around you and wonder at the beauty of nature, the bonds that have been forged between you, your family and friends, the peace of life lived to its fullest.” Something I am still taking to heart, especially as I practice Reiki.
David has left a strong impression on me as I continue my journey as a Reiki practitioner. Last year I had another opportunity to go back to the respite house and give Reiki to the dying. Some of them just enjoyed the attention they received and the sense of gentle touch and energy, some wanted to talk during the Reiki sessions, others drifted into sleep. I remember one man who had received Reiki before. He had a hard time articulating and finding words. He also drifted into that space – just like David – between the physical and the spirit world while I gave him Reiki, tears were running down his eyes but he had a smile on his face. Once I was done, he said: “O-X”. I had no idea what that meant but then his friend explained to me it meant hugs and kisses. What a deep and meaningful way to express gratitude for such a simple healing practice. May they all rest in peace.
I am continuing my Reiki path of healing for others and myself, by working with my Reiki Master Teacher exploring spiritual art forms, and by collaborating with the Vermont Reiki Association at some Reiki events. David’s spirit is not forgotten as I carry on the lessons he taught me to take care of myself, enjoy everyday as if it was my last and to eliminate the cause of suffering as I am called to do so.
Simone Blaise-Glaunsinger is a level two Usui Reiki Practitioner and is affiliated with the Vermont Reiki Association. As a member of the University of Vermont Mindfulness Center she leads weekly mindfulness meditation groups and coordinates day-long meditation retreats at the University. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.