Healer, heal thyself
Featured Practitioner: Bobbe Bramson, Reiki Master Teacher, Westchester County, New York
By Bobbe Bramson
If I had to pick the one lesson that has been the most prevalent in my soul’s journey it would be this: learning how to take care of myself without guilt, without justification, without apology.
Like so many women of my generation, I was taught to sacrifice my own needs on the altar of everyone else’s, to hide my dreams deep down where they wouldn’t be found, and to tamp down the spark of my unique self lest my light offend or overwhelm those who took care of me. To protect myself I became hyper vigilant, reading facial cues from those around me to tell me when and how I should act and stifling my own self-expression. This was not an environment that fostered feelings of confidence, deservedness, or self-love. Bottom line: Take care of others first. Put thyself last.
A Native American elder once told me that I was a shaman healer precisely because of the "sacred hurt" that I had endured as a child. As the black sheep of my family I took on other people’s projected hurts and adopted the errant (heir-ant) belief that if I could just fix their problems then I could finally attend to mine. I was indoctrinated early and well into patterns of self-neglect and I have spent a lifetime learning how to undo them.
I do not feel unique in this regard. In my experience many people who become healing professionals have similar stories to tell, and many are much more harrowing than mine. Let’s face it. As a group we caretakers are great at giving-giving-giving and not so good at being on the receiving end ourselves.
My entrenched patterns reached crisis proportions in my late 40’s. I had overworked for decades in a career that I’d come to by default and didn’t enjoy, all the while pursuing fame and fortune writing songs that went against what I believed in. Almost everything I did was either fake or done for the wrong reasons and it was bleeding me dry. Still I chose to ignore the warning signs until finally my body gave up the charade and literally bled out. Surgery saved my life, but I knew that something else horrible would happen if I didn’t address the root of the problem: chronic self-neglect. I simply did not know how to listen to or serve my own needs.
What followed was a very dark night of the soul and it was my attunement to Reiki that brought back the light. Reiki became my new lifeblood. It was a lifeline that I grabbed hold of, praying that it would bring me back to my true self and it has never let me down since. From the very beginning I felt a passionate connection to Reiki. It astonished me that this flow of energy could water me, nourish and sustain me. It thrilled me that it was dependable beyond any measure I could fathom, infinitely available to me just for the asking. Its insistent urging called me back to me, opening a space within that would allow me to love me, wearing down the hard rock of my self- neglect and melting away my resistance to getting better, my fear of being seen and heard in the world.
Reiki changed my life, but it might be more truthful to say that the regular use of Reiki was what made the change, and for the better. Even though I have become a practitioner and teacher, my primary focus in using Reiki is as a path of self-discovery, spiritual growth and self-empowerment. I have used Reiki on myself every day, almost without exception, for six years, and I would like to share with you some of the ways I have found to weave it into my life, why I feel it is so important for all of us to do so, and why it can be hard to give to ourselves on a regular basis.
I love this quote: "The perfect man of old looked after himself first before looking to help others." (Chuang Tsu c.360BC-275BC) While it would seem completely logical to look after our own well-being first before attending to others, most of us don’t. And it doesn’t help that we live in a culture that judges such behavior as selfish and in fact encourages overworking and busyness to the point of exhaustion.
Imagine yourself and your precious energy as a high-yielding savings account. Now imagine that every day you withdraw money from this account, but never once put in any deposits. Pretty soon the inevitable is going to occur; you go in to take out your money and, whoops, there’s not a cent left. I’m exaggerating, of course, but this is exactly what we do when we give to everyone else (including clients/students) and don’t take the time to "make a deposit" into our own account. What does it say about us when we counsel clients to take better care of themselves while not doing it for ourselves? How can we expect our clients, loved ones, and co-workers to do their healing work if we don’t?
So what is it that keeps us from making an investment of time towards our own healing? There are lots of reasons, but some common rationalizations are "I’m too busy," "I have to do these more pressing things first," "I’m tired now, I’ll do it later," "I can’t do Reiki now because (insert your own)". I think the core reason we don’t, no matter what guise it takes on, is that we don’t feel we really deserve it, or that somehow we aren’t good enough to warrant that kind of loving attention. Here is the truth: any time we give ourselves a Reiki treatment, any time we put our hands on our bodies and run the energy we are participating in a radical act of self-love.
Is it okay for us to give to ourselves so that we can feel good and be more at peace even if around us others are struggling, miserable, or have lives filled with chaos? I would advocate for its being not only okay, but imperative. It’s really very simple: The healthier we are the more we have to give. The more we use Reiki on ourselves the more ki there is flowing through us all the time and the stronger channel we become. Reiki fills in the gaps and clears the places we block our light, and when our light shines other people benefit from its clarity and warmth. The more we are "being Reiki," the more grounded and calm we can be in the midst of life’s storms.
Reiki will heal the issues around not allowing ourselves to receive. One of the first things we can do to address any unworthiness and/or guilt that may underlie our reasons for not doing regular self-treatment is to ask the Reiki for help by coming up with a positive affirmation such as "I request and intend that Reiki support me in finding ways to self-treat every day" or "I request and intend Reiki support me in creating ways to incorporate it into my life on a daily basis." So even if at the beginning you are only doing one self-treatment a week, by stating your intention during that treatment or meditation you are making an alliance with Reiki to make a positive change in your life. If you have a Reiki box you can also write down your affirmation on a piece of paper, Reiki the paper for a few minutes and then place it into your Reiki box. Put the box in a highly visible place and whenever you go by it pause for a minute or two and Reiki the box holding your intention in your mind as you do so. Better yet, seize the moment to actually sir down for five or ten minutes and give yourself some Reiki!
I think that another thing that gets in the way is how we define self-treatment. A lot of people were taught they must go through every hand position in order to get the full effect of a session, but this just isn’t true. And as far as we know, Mikao Usui did not teach self-treatment this way either. During Reiki I training I wasn’t able to hold the self-treatment positions for the prescribed time because of shoulder and neck pain. As a result I discovered that the Reiki flowed anywhere I intended it to without putting my hands there. Never bound by the constraints of having to self-treat in a certain way, I have developed alternative ways that work great for me and I encourage everyone to do the same.
I always invite Reiki in while I meditate. I like the ritual of drawing the symbols as I quiet my mind. Resting my hands on my thighs or lower abdomen for the duration I intend that the Reiki flow with its Divine intelligence to exactly where it is most needed on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels and that it bring healing, balancing, and harmonizing to every fiber of my being. If there is a place that I know could use special attention then I put my hands or my mind there. When I am done meditating I intend that the healing that has occurred integrate with grace and ease for my highest good and go about my day. This is the heart of my Reiki self-treatment.
A wonderful way to remove emotional blocks to receiving is to do the Japanese technique called seheiki chiryo ho, (or for level 1 nentatsu ho which is done without the symbols). You would again come up with a positive affirmation like "It is safe for me to put myself first," or "It’s easy to carve out time to nurture myself," or "I’m finding small ways to give to myself each day," and then sit or lie down placing one hand on your forehead and the other on the back of the head. As you give Reiki to these two spots repeat your affirmation either out loud or to yourself for three to five minutes. Then stop repeating the affirmation, remove the hand on your forehead and continue giving Reiki to the back of the head for another five minutes or so just allowing yourself to rest in its soothing energy. You will begin to notice shifts in attitude if done consistently once a day over a period of time. (An illustration and description of this technique can be found in The Reiki Sourcebook by Bronwen and Frans Stiene.)
You should know
From the way
When you practice more
You (will) get better results
One of the most common concerns that students bring up once they have learned Reiki is that they have no time to practice it. When I talk to them awhile, though, it becomes clear that they have made an unconscious choice to NOT use Reiki. We live in a world that inputs information to us 24/7 unless we consciously unplug from the mainframe and spend some time going within. All of us living in the 21st century must grapple with the time thieves of phones and emails to answer, TV shows to watch, bills to pay, and endless errands to run. Still, when you get right down to it there are at least as many opportunities to tune into Reiki as there are to not tune in to It. We just have to decide that we will. Here is but a small sampling:
- Before getting out of bed in the morning take 5-10 minutes and bring in the Reiki.
- In the shower/bath Reiki the water intending that it fill your aura and cleanse your body.
- Stuck in a traffic jam that isn’t moving at all? Invite in some Reiki to keep you company.
- At lunch take a moment to bless your food and yourself with Reiki and spend a minute or two in gratitude.
- If you are standing on a long line, waiting for the kid’s bus, etc. Reiki, Reiki, Reiki...
- Try doing Reiki during a yoga class or when cooling down after you exercise.
- When you get into bed at night bring in the Reiki and intend that it work its healing magic as you sleep.
It probably goes without saying that the Reiki precepts are a beautiful template for self-care. These five golden rules (six if we include "just for today" as an all inclusive one) are nourishment for body and soul as long as we do our best to remember them. For me two of them in particular resonate with this topic:
Just for today I will be kind to my neighbor and all living beings. Now add INCLUDING MYSELF. If you want to be a true rebel you might change this precept to read "Just for today I will be kind to myself by putting my needs first, and from there I will be an overflowing well of kindness from which I allow others to freely drink."
Just for today I will do my work honestly. For me this means I will do my best to walk the Reiki path with integrity, honoring the Reiki by using it on a regular basis by doing my spiritual work and loving myself enough to take an active, responsible and compassionate part in MY OWN HEALING.
Am I perfect at self-care? No, I’m not. I still catch myself sabotaging my best efforts and shortchanging myself now and then, especially in the past couple of years as I go through the on again-off again vigilance and triage necessary to care for my ill and aging father. Just when things seem to be letting up and I am beginning to return to a sense of stability, just at the moment when I feel like I can use my energy to build a fire under my own dreams, that’s precisely the moment when a new crisis emerges and another opportunity for spiritual growth presents itself. I am using this karmic petri dish to conduct a powerful Reiki experiment. Each new trial puts me to the test again so that I can grow up, become the adult, and learn how to take better care of myself. Whenever I have felt myself spinning out of control or sinking into a vortex of fear, Reiki has been my energetic intervention of choice, my saving grace. My way of making peace with whatever is happening is to ask the Reiki to flow where it is most needed, not only for my highest good, but for that of the entire situation and everyone involved. I know I’ve made positive progress because now I can say in the middle of a highly charged emergency situation, "Wait a minute! Before I rush headlong into the fray to fix what’s out there, what do I need to do for me first?"
I would like to leave you with this acronym to help remind you to self-treat with Reiki.
Remember to use Reiki. Those of us lucky enough to be attuned to Reiki have been given an amazing healing gift. Remember that this incredibly adaptable, evolving energy works on all levels of our being gently and persistently, but it has to be used!
Every day Even small regular applications of Reiki can make a big difference overall, so use it on yourself every day (or at least as often as you possibly can). If you meditate on a daily basis throw some Reiki into the mix.
Intend I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but really, intention is everything. Reiki flows where intention goes. Intend that you are finding more time to devote to you and your self care and it will be so. Intend that Reiki support you in learning how to nurture yourself and you will be rewarded.
Kindle a relationship with Reiki and then keep the flame alive by regularly interacting with it. Reiki is a vibrant and responsive partner in your self-growth and healing so ask it questions and expect the answers to come over time. Ask for its support and guidance and don’t be afraid to experiment with different ways to make it a part of your life. I promise you, much will be revealed.
Invest in you. Every time we give ourselves Reiki we are making an investment in our own bankable resources. What you put into Reiki you will get back, and with interest! And don’t forget, this is NOT a selfish act because the more you deposit in your "bank," the more you will have to give to others and the world.
We are all precious beyond measure, beautiful diamonds in the rough waiting to radiantly glimmer and shine our light out into a world that needs it now more than ever. So in support of this heartfelt sentiment here is another waka from the Meiji Emperor:
A Precious Gemstone*
The precious stone
Is not shining
Because you forgot
To polish it.
©2010 Bobbe Bramson RM
Bobbe Bramson is the founder of Lotus Song Healing Arts in Westchester County, New York, and is a Reiki Master Teacher of the Usui System of Natural Healing, a certified Karuna Reiki Master, I.E.T. (Integrated Energy Therapy) Master Instructor, and Green Tara Seichim teacher. With over 30 years experience in the creative and metaphysical arts she offers guidance, resources and inspiration for the soul’s journey, both privately and in group settings. Her guiding intention is to create custom-designed healing strategies that empower people to live lives connected to the sacred and beautiful within themselves and the natural world. She can be reached at (914)673-0976 or bramsongs @ verizon.net
*All waka are from The Spirit of Reiki
by Lubeck, Petter, and Rand: