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Thursday, February 26, 2009

To the rescue

"You're a rescuer," a family counselor told me one afternoon a few decades ago.

"That's right," I replied.

"So you're aware of that?"

"I'd better be," I told her, glancing out the window at my car, equipped with red light and siren, my firefighter's boots and coat in the trunk, just in case. "I serve two shifts a week with the local fire department." Being young and proud, I began rattling off my various certifications in firefighting and emergency care.

"That's being a rescuer, all right, but it's not what I'm talking about," she explained. My being a rescuer wasn't just my work as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician: it was a personality trait. As such it was both a strength and a weakness, the counselor told me, and I needed to be aware of it so that I could rescue only where appropriate. Otherwise, she warned, I would not only be less effective as a rescuer, but I might well need rescuing myself.

You may not have your own red light, siren, and fire boots -- I don't, anymore -- but if you're a Reiki practitioner, chances are you have a more-than-average inclination to help others. Am I right, or am I right?

Back then I had never heard of Reiki -- very few people had in those days. I didn't know then that in order to help others, you have to take care of yourself. Many years later, I was fortunate to study with a teacher who emphasized not only the importance of a daily Reiki self-care practice, but of boundaries: our own as well as our clients'.

I was reminded of my rescue squad days last week, when I renewed my professional rescuer certification  in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for the first time in years. Much has changed with that basic lifesaving technique since I last learned it. Back in my firefighter days, we were instructed to pinch the victim's nose closed while we blew directly into the mouth. Nowadays we're issued a mask and rubber gloves along with our certificates. Cardiac defibrillators were a rarity back then; now they're available in airports, banks, restaurants, and many other public places. And as of last week, I know how to use one.

CPR and defibrillation are desperate measures, used only when the victim has no pulse. I hope I never need to use that training in an emergency. But I'm glad I know how.

Speaking of rescuing, the day I spent trying to save training dummies in that American Red Cross classroom last week was one of the few days this past month that I didn't have to spend looking after my chronically ill loved one. It almost seemed like a day off.

As the ink dries on my CPR recertification, I have a renewed appreciation of what a miracle CPR is. And I urge all Reiki practitioners who are physically capable to get CPR training themselves. For one thing, you might save a life. For another -- the more likely scenario -- learning CPR and thus becoming part of the emergency medical system -- can help you learn to function as a part of that team, can teach you some basics about how to function in a medical situation, and can come in handy if you ever find yourself practicing Reiki in a hospital or other mainstream medical situation. 

Unfortunately, in many Reiki lineages, it is taught that Reiki is not appropriate in an emergency. But Reiki author Pamela Miles emphatically disagrees: give Reiki with one hand, she says, and call 911 with the other.

I agree emphatically. And having studied emergency techniques such as CPR before and after I learned Reiki, I know now that the most important thing in an emergency is to remain calm, or at least postpone your panic for a more appropriate occasion. Practicing Reiki at those crucial moments can make a key difference: don't gasp in panic -- breathe into your tanden. Ground yourself: Then extend yourself to those in need. And if you train, train, train, then that will come naturally. Don't waste precious time with rituals that may be appropriate in less urgent situations. Just breathe. And then do what you've been trained to do. 

I am confident that if I ever again have to use my emergency training, I will be using it along with Reiki -- because I use Reiki all day, every day, no matter what else I'm doing. 

Coincidentally, Pamela's training on practicing Reiki in a medical environment is one of the other types of training I recommend to any Reiki practitioner who might ever use Reiki in a hospital or other medical situation (i.e., if a client or anyone you care about might ever be in a hospital). She has a new round of classes coming up, and we hope to have her back at The Reiki Dojo later this year for more medical Reiki training. 

Anyway, there are many things Reiki practitioners can learn from CPR training. With CPR we learn to step in, anytime, anywhere, and become part of a team in a situation where seconds count. Standardization is absolutely necessary in those situations. In experiencing CPR training first in the 1970s and then in the 21st century, I find myself in in awe of the evolution of the emergency medical system. I know that if I came upon a situation anywhere in the world where one or more rescuers were already giving CPR, I could jump in and seamlessly become part of that team. I wouldn't be able to jump in nearly as quickly as one of a group of Reiki practitioners -- fortunately, I wouldn't need to move quite so swiftly with a client who still had a pulse. But in any case, to work with medical professionals, we need to learn to be part of a team.

To practice CPR, you need to be able to kneel, lock your arms, and compress the victim's chest up to 2 inches by literally bending their ribcage. Not all Reiki practitioners are physically able to do that -- all the more reason for those of us who can to learn how.

If there are any other Reiki practitioner/first responders out there, we'd love to hear from you, and we'd especially love to hear how you use Reiki in emergencies. You can join in our ongoing discussion by adding a comment to this post on our web site, or emailing your thoughts to 


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