16 November 2005

Attunement to the Universe

My word for this week seems to be "attunement." I might venture a definition for that word as "the state of coming into balance." Balance is a quality I have craved in my life for many years. While it is impossible for anyone to be in balance all of the time, I have been able to practice maintaining my balance by consciously slowing down when I know I'm stressed out by breathing deeply and centering myself. I have also increased my attention to keeping my physical self in tune because I neglected and disliked my body for most of my teenage and early adult years.

Tuesday night I went to a meeting of my women's group to learn about Reiki, pronounced "ree'-key" in American English. Reiki is a Japanese word that translates as something like "universal life force." As my friend K. described it, the "ki" part of the word designates something similar to the Chinese concept of "chi," as in the body movements called Tai Chi Chuan. Reiki is a healing practice for many in the West and some people take it further and consider it as a spiritual practice.

When I came to the gathering, K. took me aside and asked if I had ever had a Reiki Attunement. I didn't even know what an Attunement was. Basically, it's a manner of laying-on-hands to convey healing energy. K. had me sit on a chair outside on the balcony under the brilliant light of the full moon. She asked me to hold my hands together in front of my heart, as if I might bow to someone. She raised my hands upward, then back to my heart, then my hands outward and open like a book, and once again to my heart. She walked behind me and touched my back briefly and then held her hands behind my head, not touching me.

I know many people who find the idea of spiritual energy to be a "crazy hippy concept" or something akin to belief in angels or UFOs. I admit I was skeptical about energy work until about ten years ago, but I what I have learned about it since then has changed my mind. Modern scientists rediscovered what has been known by healers since ancient times: the human body has electrical current flowing through it. Our nervous system is electrical and runs on chemical impulses. The brain is the central computer that sends waves of energy to the appropriate places. If you have a pain, sometimes it feels like pulses are running through the afflicted area--those are your nerves at work. I experienced that kind of pain once when I was diagnosed with sciatica, a type of shooting pain in my legs brought about by a problem with my lower back nerves. Fortunately, medication followed by a program of regular workouts have solved that problem for me. I also know I have experienced the body's electrical power in other more positive ways. When you touch someone with whom you are in love, isn't just possible you actually sense "sparks" as your nervous system responds to another's?

My experiences with energy work are amateur and experimental, but I believe that massage, accupressure, accupuncture, tai chi, yoga and other bodywork healing practices can help smooth and improve the body's electrical system. So as K. lead the meeting she explained more about Reiki and how it works. I can understand the aspects of energy she described. Picture if you will, later that same evening, when she had the whole group of 15 or so fully-clothed women of ages ranging from teenager to grandmother, sitting in a big circle on the floor, with each woman touching the back of the other. The idea was that we would pass our energy to the next person and through the physical connection of touch spread the healing throughout our circle and out into the universe. In other words, once each of the participants felt attuned to the universe, she could pass that healing energy onward to herself and to others. It seems to me like opening a channel to the universe. In fact, K. used the phrase "it's like tuning in to a frequency on the radio dial" to explain what Reiki Attunement does.

Scientists know that atoms bounce around and are attracted together to form chemical bonds and repelled from each other to break the bonds down. I think of it as a dance, where the individuals move and sway to the beat of cosmic time. Movement is energy. The dance of the atoms creates the maple tree, the air you breath, that cat perched on the windowsill and the metals and plastics comprising your car. And You! As Astronomer Carl Sagan used to say, "We are, all of us, made of star-stuff."

Back on earth, it is a stressful week at my place of work. My positive experience at the meeting of women who I like and care about has left me feeling more relaxed and confident. The odd thing is that I have been having stiffness in my lower back when I wake up in the morning lately, but on the morning after that meeting my back was not stiff at all. Perhaps the healing power of energy work is all in my mind, but I am not so certain.


  1. What a fascinating post. I'd heard of Reiki but didn't really know what it was until now. Thank you so much for sharing your direct experience! Balance is also a quality that I have sought and practiced -- to varying degrees of success -- for many years. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of slowing down when the stress meter hits red. Taking time to breathe naturally restores the equilibrium. In fact, lately I've been consciously avoiding multi-tasking. Having so many platters spinning at once can be quite stressful, and often it's counter-productive. From my personal experience, this discussion ties in with the Buddhist concept of mindfulness -- simply being aware of what you're doing and doing only that. It's so easy to state and so difficult to practice, but in those moments when you experience mindfulness, the clarity and resulting balance are definitely worth it.

  2. Thank you for reading and commenting, Natalie!

    My feelings of balance are often sidetracked by the general busy quality of my working life. When I actually take the time to relax and escape thoughts of work, I become more creative and more even-tempered. Mindfulness is elusive for me when I am under stress, but at least now that I'm older and wise, I know better what it's like to attain it.

    Whenever I encounter a new type of bodywork like this I am always rather skeptical of whether I am actually experiencing anything or it really is working. But those types of bodywork practices I have tried for a longer term: like Tai Chi and massage, have shown me that the body really can respond to stimuli like an electronic system. I believe in experimenting to find things out about yourself which is why I came to the reiki circle. I'm fascinated to perhaps know more about it someday.