By Jeffrey Hotchkiss, Contributing Editor
Oh my, I thought, we’re going to have to be very careful about expectations here.
On the bed, Ben* was lying, rigid, staring sightlessly at the wall next to him. His arms were crossed over his chest, hands at each shoulder, like a mummy. His legs were drawn up, feet flat on the bed. Bald on top, hooked nose, slim and still strong, though his muscles were stiff, he looked like an eagle in repose. He was breathing normally and his skin was clean, as were his clothes. The staff of the nursing home were taking the best care of him they knew how.
I couldn’t imagine how Reiki was going to make any noticeable difference. To my untrained eye, he looked catatonic and stiff as a board.
But, I had committed to trying. So.... here goes, I thought.
“Hi, Ben”, I said softly. “I saw you last week and told you about Reiki, gave you a little treatment to see how it felt, and now I’m here again, as I promised.” No reaction – did his eyes move at all? I wasn’t sure.
“I’m going to slowly and gently start to give you Reiki again. As I said before, if at any time you want me to stop, just show me with your body.” In last week’s brief introductory session, in the sunny common room off the courtyard, his body had relaxed into my hands, and I could feel him accepting the treatment. Nevertheless, I had resolved to check for his acceptance at each session. Although his daughter, Heather*, had signed the permission form, because she had power of attorney, that did not mean I could treat him every time I visited, that he would welcome Reiki every visit. In end-stage Alzheimer’s, every encounter would be a first time for him, I assumed. If he shrugged me away, or in any way showed anxious body language, I would remove my hands from his body and end the session.
I took a breath, and pulled up a chair next to his bed, trying not to scrape it on the floor. Softly, gently, I let my hands find their way to the beginning places – head and heart.
Almost immediately, though my eyes were open, my mind’s eye opened as well to a vision -- paired black triangles raising into a corner, like the Vietnam Memorial. It felt like the ground opening up, to allow me entry to Ben’s mind.
Then, I saw a large tawny cat, sitting on his bedstead, with the feeling of closeness to Ben Startling in its clarity, personality and sense of meaning, the image seemed intent for me to remember it.
I continued the session, for half an hour, leaning over his bed. Was he relaxing? Hard to tell, but it seemed he was receiving as willingly as the last time. Once during the session, the call button went off in another resident’s room, with a loud repeating beep echoing down the hallway. “Leave me alone!” was the immediate sense I felt from Ben Was that body language, intuitive sensing, or just my thought projection pretending to be his? My notes say that the beeper stopped his process of reviewing his life in his mind’s eye, and he had to start over.
I ended the treatment after half an hour, offered thanks to Reiki and to Ben, and left bemused and bubbling over with excitement, at the unexpected depth of the connection with an elder who had barely opened his eyes or spoken a word.
A few days later, I talked to his daughter Heather, to tell her how the first treatment went. Uncertain how she would react, I told her about the strong intuitive image of a cat. She confirmed that her father had had a beloved cat fitting my description, before the Alzheimer’s forced him into full time nursing care. Finishing the call, we agreed to half-hour sessions twice a week for Ben.
At that time, I was dazzled by how often Reiki yielded accurate verifiable intuitions. Finding the connection with Ben via the image of his cat, I felt joy at bridging the communication gap that is so anguishing for the loved ones of a dementia sufferer. Ben’s ability to tell a story was unexpectedly restored, in a wonderful way.
As it turned out, this episode served more as a comfort to his daughter and me, that we were reaching out to him in a meaningful way. It was not to be an ongoing way to share his personal stories with the world at large.
For the next session, I gave him Reiki in the sunlit courtyard room. My notes refer to working on his left shoulder – did I see his neck relax a bit, from its rigid board-straight posture?
Next time, I’ll continue the story. It was to be a fascinating and joyful journey. Writing about it, I learn anew.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
Your thoughts on intuition
Deborah Flanagan’s recent article on intuition makes some thought-provoking points. In my own practice, I am more often encouraging clients and students to awaken their own intuition, however I can still see value in speaking and acting from mine. Learning about appropriate and balanced expression of intuition has improved my practice. This story marks a milestone along my way of understanding this question.
What do you feel is the role of intuition in Reiki practice? How does permission play into it? What are considerations for working with elders, for both intuition and permission?