The first time someone laid her Reiki hands on me was after a harsh breakup.

(Feh! I know:  they’re all harsh.  This one was sudden, and though I knew I wasn’t in love with the person in question, that this wasn’t the relationship I wanted to be in for the long haul, the abruptness of it shocked my system.  I seemed to go in a traumatized state.  I couldn’t eat, and hardly slept.  I couldn’t even stomach a glass of wine, which I knew would help me sleep.  I was a mess.)

I don’t remember why I thought Reiki would help or what it would help with.  Probably desperation tinged with curiosity. I had a regular yoga practice, which I could usually count on to get myself back to center, but even it had turned sour; the athletic form I enjoyed doing seemed to exacerbate my already intense low back pain.

I knew almost nothing about Reiki other than it was an energy practice — and my energy was at a fucking low.  (Though, in retrospect, my mind’s energy was manically racing over and over everything about the suddenly-gone relationship and just about every other relationship I had ever been in.)

Roza Oblak, a Reiki Master who studied with Luann Jacobs (foreshadowing!), did three sessions on me at the Josephine Butler Parks Center, the former Hungarian embassy which now houses a dozen nonprofits just across the alley from the small back deck where I’m writing this post from.  She was also getting certified in flower essences at the time, so I also got the great benefit of her concoctions.

If you’ve ever gotten Reiki, you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s the most relaxing experience EVAH.  More than sleep.  And Roza is natural healer, with a soothing touch and a very caring demeanor.  I got lots of light shows (moving lines of light behind my closed lids, with sudden fireworks displays) so it also felt trippy.

At one of the sessions I “saw” what looked like super tall light beings (easily twice as tall as me, so let’s call it ten feet).  They were definitely dudes.  They seemed to be surrounding my head.

Now, I don’t normally see giant faceless dudes made up of light.  (I’ve lived almost all my life on the ever practical East Coast, for one.)

But I have always been sensitive to people and places — to the energy of a place.

A few years before this Reiki experience, I visited Auschwitz, as part of a month-long trip to Poland, the country of my father’s birth.  Auschwitz was also the death camp where my mother, uncle, and grandparents arrived in July 1944 after having been held in a ghetto in their native Hungary.  My mother was the only one to live through that day, and indeed through that camp, and another one (Bergen Belsen), and a slave labor camp near the border with Luxembourg border from where she was liberated at the war’s end.

One of the things I wanted to do at Auschwitz was say a prayer for the dead (called Kaddish, after the Allen Ginsberg poem.  NOT! Just wanted to see if you were still reading.)  At the camp’s fields, where human ashes fertilized food grown for inmates, I sat and prayed for a long time, listening to the birds and my thoughts.  When it was time for me to head back, I decided to cut through the ruins of barracks.  The barbed wire surrounding the area seemed to have many gaps and I figured it would be more meditative for me to head back a different way than I came.  I walked in the direction of the imposing guard tower, under which the cattle cars came in.

Everywhere I stepped I knew someone had been beaten down or was killed or died from exhaustion and hunger.  I tried to imagine what it would look like filled with prisoners in striped suits, German shepherds, wheelbarrows of corpses and large rats. Yet, the place itself struck me as sacred ground.

Suddenly, I heard barking so close my heart raced and I looked around, thinking I was about to get jumped.  Intellectually, I knew that dogs weren’t allowed in the camp anymore, that she must have belonged to one of the houses beyond its parameters.  I also knew that the worse that could happen if I was caught traipsing along my makeshift path would be an admonishment from the folks who worked there.  But I felt trapped in this immense domain, suffocating as I would in a closed coffin, and inexplicably scared.

Some weeks before that trip, I met with a Polish journalist I knew for a cup of coffee.  He told me about the first time that he stood in the middle of this field with a friend.

“We both heard voices at the same time, and had to get out of there.”

“What voices?”

“There were many.  Some crying, others screaming.  There was nobody around, but we both heard the same thing.”

I certainly didn’t want my imagination to get the best of me.  But no matter how quickly I moved toward the entrance to the camp, I went as far as a hamster on a wheel.  The barks continued, and I heard human voices.  Panic rose from my gut like a condensed ball of flame and I was terrified that I’d violently throw it up, and burn my throat.

Finally, a bird call broke the spell.  I found a break in the fence, and made my way to the Guard Tower.  It was like a Bermuda Triangle experience. I don’t know if I spent five minutes trying to get back to the entrance or hours.  By the time I arrived, the sun hung low in the sky.

I’ve come to believe that places can hold the energy of events there — the way churches can feel like the right place to pray and gyms the right place to sweat.

And I believe that our bodies too hold the energy of our experiences and our emotions.

Those first experiences with Roza and Reiki were powerful enough to convince me that I wanted to learn about how to manage my own energy better.  If it meant learning that I could harness healing energies from the universe, so be it.  Roza attuned me for the first degree of Reiki, and I’ve been using it ever since.  (In Reiki you get attuned, same way any musical instrument does.  There is a skills part to Reiki too, but the attunement is when you really begin to feel your own energy centers open up and connect, and the energy really starts flowing through you. More on that in a subsequent post.)

I’d love to hear about any experiences with energy you’ve had.  Or maybe you prefer to set your timer and freewrite for ten minutes about a time you heard voices and yet were all alone.

Thanks for reading my first foray into the world of blogging!  Until next time!

Happy days —


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