The seeds of my flirtation with Reiki healing were planted at a bon voyage party for a friend. There, I met another friend’s boyfriend, who looked like a Williamsburg fashion-executive type but was surprisingly a full-time Reiki healer and life coach (who used to be…a fashion executive). He coaches clients regarding everything, from relationships and health to career and trauma, and I said, “This looks like the kind of thing I would have really benefitted from when I was stuck in a toxic workplace! Now though, I feel like my main issue is overwork and not having enough time. Other than that, I feel great!”
I identify as a Catholic, and with that comes skepticism of superstition. For me, holistic modalities are great as long as they help clear your confusion and guide you toward what you already know. If, however, these astrologers/tarot readers/healers etc claim to know and shape your future, then a huge red flag goes up. In between, I figure there is quite a range of innocuous activities and disciplines that are fun to indulge in without too much risk.
I was going to file Reiki under the middle category, but the friend’s boyfriend had a truly astonishing story. “I used to be in fashion advertising, when one day I went completely cross-eyed,” he said, gesturing at his perfectly fine-looking eyes. It turned out to be Graves’s disease, also called thyroid eye disease. He could no longer work as a creative director in luxury fashion and his marriage also failed. But then he discovered whole plant-based diet cutting out all sugar, gluten, alcohol, and all processed foods. Then he was introduced to Reiki, which balanced his body from within. Fast forward several years, he’s cured himself of a disease that doctors said would require a lifetime of hormonal pills to control.
The Alchemist’s Kitchen on Bowery is a gorgeous space with cafe, apothecary, spa…
With this newfound respect in the back of my mind, Jen and I decided to do a shared experience as a holiday gift to each other and chose Reiki healing at The Alchemist’s Kitchen. At first I was a bit wary at discovering that my healer, Ben Lang, will be a man, but he immediately put me at ease with his–no other way this can be described!–incredible aura. [editor’s note: Ben now has his own practice in Brooklyn, and he can also be found on Instagram.] He had an uncommonly calming yet bright energy. Ben asked if there was anything I wanted to focus on today, and I answered, “Stress!! I work too much. Other than that, I’m fine!!”
Ben led me to the dark, private room and asked me to take off any metal jewelry. Then I took off my shoes and got on the massage table. Ben had mentioned that there will be very light touching, but I didn’t feel anything for a while except a sweet, spicy smell of burning sage. Soon though, I began to notice warmth just above my left hand, making me wonder if he was hovering over it. Then I felt his hands graze over my forehead, neck, and abs, but very gently and fleetingly.
I was in a very relaxed state where I was still conscious, but time seemed to flow differently. In terms of brain waves this is called the Theta state, which is achieved during REM sleep, hypnosis, and deep meditation. This is where you access your subconscious, and it’s also the first stage of dreaming.
After what felt like about 15 minutes, Ben brought me back and we went to the sitting room to talk about what I experienced.
“I feel so relaxed like I just had the best 4-5 hour nap. But I was awake the whole time!” I gushed. “I also felt like you were touching my left hand because it was hotter than my right.”
“I wasn’t touching, but left is where you receive energy and right is where it flows out,” Ben explained. (Later Jen and I would compare notes and she too said the same thing about heat on her left hand).
From that left-receiving energy thing, I self-inferred that I go about my life having a tight control on my plans, setting goals, executing relentlessly, and giving a lot of energy. “It’s really exhausting, especially when I care so much about nature and animals. Climate change news or people acting callously around me really, really gets me down on a daily basis. How much more do I have to do to help?” I said, tearing up. This was something that I hadn’t even acknowledged to myself; I always thought it was just work, but I was really getting heartbroken.
“Some people are empaths for other peoples’ feelings. I’m like an empath for the Earth and animals,” I continued free-talking. This was also something I never thought consciously before, but made total sense. “Yes, you can get hurt by the reality, but this is also your gift,” Ben said. “You can also keep doing all you can to be active and help, but you can also do it in a more spiritual way. Right hand as well as the left hand.”
I would never have guessed at the tremendous stress I was hiding in the deepest corner of my psyche–if anyone had asked, I may have said, “um, I don’t know, being single and 30?” for lack of any other reasonable answer. I love my career overall, my cozy apartment, friends, family, my adorable cat, what could I possibly complain about? But I wasn’t just fine. It turns out that my biggest heartbreak was from a different source, and Reiki brought me the clarity to know how to self-heal.
The 45-minute Reiki session left me feeling more relaxed and rejuvenated than a 4-5 hour nap + 1 hour massage combined. The physical sense of balance *plus* mental peace was something I’d never experienced before. The effect lasted at least 24 hours, which definitely beats the best massage or yoga class I’ve ever taken. It just might be the best self-care dollars I’ve ever spent–and I can’t wait to discover some other truth about myself next time.
Have you tried Reiki healing? What did you experience?
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Photo: Kay C via Yelp; The Alchemist’s Kitchen