I saw the flier for the free Reiki class while walking down a narrow road in Varkala. The flier said 11 a.m. on Mondays. It was Sunday and I was thankful that I could take the opportunity to attend this class. My mother and sister both do Reiki and healing with the energy was interesting to me.
“Nothing to Do But Heal Yourself.” – Michelle, Reiki Teacher
At 11, I walked towards Mother Palace hotel, but then saw a sign that said the class was moved to the Chill Out lounge in the back. The place normally reserved for ganja-smoking backpackers and old hippies were curtained off and the makeshift classroom. I joined a circle of about a dozen people of varying ages. Most of the people were women and all were dressed like backpackers or Yoga students in backpacker cotton clothes.
Our teacher entered the “room.” Michelle was about mid-fifties with short grey/white hair and a medium build. She’s neither fat nor thin, but strong and taller. Dressed in a flowy pink top and white pant with tan, healthy skin, she had a very warm feeling about her and a kind, strong voice. “Welcome,” she said and we felt welcomed. She came up to me immediately and introduced herself. I thought she was drawn to me especially, but then realized that she already knew the other attendees as all were students in her paid Reiki classes.
We started class with a beautiful meditation. Her voice had her Australian lilt and was deep and melodic. She guided us to focus our breathing on an area, the tanden, 3 cm below our navel, or the center of our body. We were going to join the center of the body with the center of the mind at the third eye and create wholeness in our breath.
Michelle led us in a visualization to get us grounded and then connected to the Universal energy, the Light. She had us imagine a long line going from our tanden into the Earth’s core and drawing up that energy. Then she told us to see a line going up from our third eye into the sky, through the galaxies, and home to the Source of Light.
Finally, we joined the lines right below our heart and created a union of mind and body. She asked that we see a bright ball of light coming from that heart space and radiating into every cell of our being and into the space around us. It was an excellent meditation and one that left me feeling light and open to learning and receiving Reiki.
I started my three day Reiki Level 1 attunement course with Sofie, a French woman living in Belgium, Nana, a Japanese Yoga teacher, both of whom had just completed the Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Course in Trivandrum, and Michelle, our Australian teacher who is a 20-year veteran of Reiki training and currently living in Varkala.
Day 1: Anus Closed, Big Toes
Michelle started off the first class by directing the three of us to stand in front of her. We had all met just 10 minutes earlier outside of the makeshift hut behind the Chill Out lounge in North Cliff Varkala. Michelle had just been evicted from her current space due to the mad workings of a tiny, angry German landlord and was making do the best she could by holding our class in a bamboo hut surrounded by a palm tree forest. She had lined the walls of the hut with white cotton curtains, placed rattan mats on the floor, and placed cushions along the walls and on the floor for our comfort. Michelle had also created her own alter to her own spiritual gurus: Reiki masters, Jesus Christ, Krishna, and Osho.
The three of us stood in front of her, next to her alter, in a semi circle. She pushed on our clavicle bone one by one and one by one each of us stumbled backwards, including, I may add to make myself feel better, the newly trained Yoga teachers. The point of the exercise was to illustrate that we’d ‘centered’ ourselves not at our center or Hara area below our naval, but near our mind at the top of our head. It was central (ha ha) to Reiki practice that we are centered and grounded, strong in our stance and connected to the Earth in order to be channels for Reiki energy. We’d let our thoughts become our world and this created an imbalance in the body demonstrated by our lack of physical balance at a simple push to the clavicle bone.
Michelle demonstrated the correct, centered way to stand: “Anus closed big toes.” At first, I was really put off by the term, “anus”, kind of like when I was in sex Ed in middle school and first heard penis and vagina for the first time. I had the impulse to giggle and then become embarrassed, but no one else showed these actions, so I kept them to myself. What this anatomically-correct description means is that we should stand with our tailbone curled under our spine, clench our backend and tighten our core. This way of standing naturally grounds us, centers our body where it should be centered – at the center – and provides much more stability, not to mention more presence in our bodies, a key part of Reiki practice. The feet feel larger and the toes spread out, hence the second part of the phrase.
So we all tried it. It didn’t feel very natural to me since I carry enough energetic baggage around my shoulders and head to be qualified a mental Nepalese Sherpa. My upper back strained and I felt hunched over. Michelle went one by one and pushed us hard on the clavicle bone again. This time we did not budge. We were grounded and sturdy on the Earth. Then, she extended the lesson to include a little Yoga for the benefit of my fellow students. Michelle got into warrior 1 pose and showed us how our new stance created excellent grounding and balance for this posture. I tried it and sure enough, I felt much more grounded than I ever had during a Yoga practice. I even dared to make my way into a stand-on-one-leg tree pose and found it much easier than my tottering attempts before.
After class, I attempted to walk around Varkala, on the cliff path and then the beach. Still it felt unnatural and I felt hunched over. But here’s what I noticed, I could only pay attention to the center area of my body. I concentrated on every step and every breath, I couldn’t think of anything else. No loft thoughts passing by my mind and distracting me from the present moment.
However, this also meant that I did not enjoy the surf crashing on the shore nor become amused by the European men who wore banana hammocks strung between their hipbones. That’s to notice when sitting on the beach I think. It was just squeeze, breath, and step. My stomach muscles tightened and felt stronger, but still balanced out the pain in my upper back. I was completely in the moment. In my room I looked in the mirror to see my stance. Even though I felt hunched over, I was standing straight up.
Day 2 & 3: Nothing to do, but heal yourself (and others)
We started day two reviewing the theory and Reiki energy points learned on Day 1, which we had covered after our standing lesson. Then, we moved onto conducing Reiki on our fellow classmates by focusing energy on the 29 energy points of our body. We added some Chakra balancing at the end for good measure and then learned how to seal the energy off. Finally, our session concluded with full Reiki attunement – or having Michelle open our channel of energy.
The third Reiki session by meditating and opening our channels of energy to the Earth and Universe by visualizing and feeling spinning wheels at each chakra. I love this meditation; I can actually feel the energy coming down from the Universe through my head like a downpour.
Michelle began by leading us in a prayer of gratitude to God, Reiki masters, our parents (for making us), ourselves, and “saints and sages, seen and unseen.” We set the intention to be Reiki channels and allow the energy to flow through and out of us and be directed to wherever the healing was needed most. Michelle had impressed me the first day with this statement, “Energy follows are intention and attention.”
I read Dr. Wayne Dyer and set intentions everyday and usually receive everything I set my intentions on with the blessed help of the Universe and Angels, seen and unseen. Our intention was important for each part of the process because that’s where our energy would flow. Needless to say, our presence in each part was also necessary.
If our attention wandered to tricky little thoughts and sullen emotions, that’s where our energy would flow. It would not go to our selves nor the person we were healing, which would make the session moot.
Sofie was my patient and I was to set about healing her on about half of the energy points, since we ran out of time during our second class. The next day I set about healing Michelle, our teacher. It was a very intimate experience, healing another person, but I felt the light flow through me and felt great to give something to another person.
I’ll describe Reiki to those who are new to it, but I encourage you to Google it and learn from experts beyond me. This is from Michelle’s class materials: “REIKI is a Japanese word. When REI and KI are broken down into their component parts, REI means Universal and KI means Life Force Energy.” It’s similar to the Chi, the Prana, the Christ Consciousness, or the Light. Everything is energy, but different vibrational levels. Physical things are at lower vibrational levels, so much so that they have slowed enough to be matter. People have a physical body at one vibrational level and then four other bodies at higher vibrational levels. Since everything is energy, we can use the universal energy to connect and heal other things and beings at these different levels.
“Reiki is a holistic method of treatment. Reiki completely balances the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of our personality. It stimulates the body’s defense system, clears up blocked energy in the body and promotes healing and relaxation.” Michelle taught us that stress, anxiety, and ultimately illness all occur because we are unbalanced. Reiki balances and heals through the channeling of energy. We can perform Reiki on ourselves and others to heal. Energy flows through everything and definitely follows our “intentions and attentions.” Therefore, Reiki healers and recipients must come together with the intention of healing. A healer is just a channel and begins with this intention and bringing light to the receiver. They keep no part of the energy or the issues, only passing through like a spiritual drifter.
About half the class was students of Michelle and the other half were newcomers. Michelle paired us off to match student to newcomer. The newcomers were going to receive a free Reiki treatment – how lucky! Kate, a thirty something fit Brit with long blonde hair, was my healer. I lay down next to her and closed my eyes. She placed her hands along different parts of my body. Instantly I felt lighter and my heavy worrying thoughts were gone. Little fluttery thoughts, random thoughts came to me. I don’t even remember them, but they felt like little moths floating around my head and face. I let them go and focused again on my breath and then intention to be in the present and my breath.
At the end of the session, Kate “sealed up my aura” and I saw the different colors of the chakras as she moved past them: A deep green for my heart and then a deep purple around my crown. I’d never seen these colors before and they were deep and strong in my mind’s vision. Finishing the class, Michelle invited those that wished to take a two day level 1 workshop to become attuned (a channel) for Reiki could stay to find out more. I didn’t feel like moving so I stayed. The price was a bit steep for my backpacker budget ($130), but it just felt right, hadn’t I just asked for some help with lessons and healing? Here was a teacher and a class, and yes, I could afford it.
In talking with my mother about it, she was just thrilled – what a gift I was being given. My sister mentioned, “What a tribe of healers we’ll be,” referring to the fact that herself, my mother, and I will all be attuned to healing with Reiki. It felt good, Michelle a good teacher, and I’d already felt lighter and better after a small two hour class. I signed up for the level 1 attunement to begin the next day.