Note: Reiki I is the first level of Reiki training, the basic method of hands-on healing.
In 1984 I had a reading from a famous clairvoyant called Mario Schoenmaker. Mario believed in reincarnation. He described a scenario in which, in my last life, I tried to help some dying people.
'So in this life,' he added, almost casually, 'If you wanted to, you could heal with your hands,'
That wasn't a thing I had any idea of taking up. I already had my vocation: I was a poet.
Some years later, in a personal development course, I got chatting to the woman sitting next to me.
'You seem a bit tense,' she said. 'I think I can help you. I'm a massage therapist. Let me give you my card.'
It seemed like a great idea, and I became a customer. I didn't make regular appointments, just rang her up whenever I felt especially tense, weeks or sometimes months apart. I'd never had a massage before. I found it blissful, and very relaxing. I was a busy mother of young children, and working part-time. It was about the only 'me time' I had. I usually dozed off.
One day she said,
'I've just learned this new thing called Reiki. It's not a vigorous massage. It's more like a gentle laying on of hands. Do you mind if I try it on you?' As far as I was concerned, she could try anything on me. She was good!
I blissed out as usual and didn't really notice what technique she was using. It felt great; that's all that registered.
Some months later she said,
'I've just learnt Reiki II, the advanced course. Is it OK if I try that on you?'
'Sure,' I said, and once again registered little of the actual treatment, only how wonderful I felt afterwards. It had such an effect that I never again felt so tense that I needed to consult her. However, because I wasn't going on a regular basis, I didn't notice that until much later. Anyway, that's how I came to believe that Reiki was a type of massage. I now know it works very well in conjunction with massage and many other therapies, so practitioners of various kinds add it to their qualifications.
Abalone diving is a young man's game. Bill retired and we moved to the country east of Melbourne, to a tiny place called Three Bridges, near Yarra Junction and Warburton. That was where we were living when I saw Beth Gray's Reiki seminars advertised. I got a huge, irrational hit: 'That's for you!' It was easy to then rationalise it: it was just after I started wishing for something Bill and I could both learn to help him with his spiritual healing gifts.
Bill wasn't hard to persuade. I think he must have been tired of feeling drained after doing healings, and the thought of me being able to give him a nice massage afterwards was enticing. Also he had recently managed to put my back out while attempting to relieve an ache. A friend who did massage had to make an urgent visit to put it right. The idea of getting some actual training must have started to seem good too.
The time and money for us to do the course became available with almost miraculous ease. 'It's as if the Universe opened up for us,' I said.
Beth Gray was an American Reiki Master who visited Australia twice a year to teach in all the capital cities and some large country centres. (There were no Australian Reiki Masters then, though Beth was in the process of training some.) Our course was in Melbourne, over a weekend. There was a free introductory session on the Friday night, for people to find out about Reiki and see if they wanted to do it. We didn't see why we needed to drive all the way from Three Bridges for that. We were already enrolled in the course, and we knew what Reiki was - a form of massage, right?
So we turned up on the Saturday morning, and found ourselves in a room of about 60 students and maybe 10 assistants. Beth was short, vibrant and glamorous, with beautifully coiffed grey hair, a stylish suit and scarf, high heels, bright lipstick, and long red nails. I found out later she was nearly 70. She looked 50.
She asked a few of us to share why we wanted to learn Reiki, and then asked some of the assistants to tell us what Reiki had done for them. We heard of healings that sounded like miracles. Then she led us in a meditation. That was cool; Bill and I had done meditation before. We still didn't really understand what we were getting into.
Then we had to stay in our quiet, meditative state while the assistants ushered us, 10 at a time, to a small room to receive what Beth called a 'fine tuning'. Each group would be gone a little while, then they'd come back into the main room. Meanwhile the assistants rearranged their empty seats to form long rows, one chair behind another, where people were directed to sit when they returned.
As instructed, I was still in a meditative state as I lined up outside the little room for the fine tuning. When we went in, we sat on chairs side by side in front of Beth. She instructed us to keep our eyes closed until told to open them. She said we would feel her doing things to our heads and our hands, but on no account to open our eyes. The procedure, she told us, was sacred and secret.
She wore a little bracelet of bells which tinkled softly as she moved. She told us later that she got it in the Philippines where, before she knew about Reiki, she trained with the spiritual healers. She said she wore it as a reminder to stay humble, knowing that she was not really the healer but merely a channel, a pipeline for the healing energy. It was nice to hear the little bells as Beth moved along the line. There was something sweet and reassuring in the sound. I'm sure all Reiki Masters who ever had a fine tuning from Beth dreamed of one day wearing just such a bracelet when working with their own students. I for one never found my bracelet.
At one point, I felt her stop in front of me, then she took my hands in hers. I was so startled that my eyes flew open involuntarily, and I found myself staring into the face, not of Beth but her chief assistant, Denise Crundall, whom she was training as a Reiki Master. Denise and I stared at each other wordlessly a moment, then I recollected myself and shut my eyes again.
When we went back into the main room and sat one behind the other, we were shown how to put our hands on the shoulders of the person in front of us. We must leave them in place, we were told. If it became uncomfortable because our muscles weren't used to the position, we must 'push through' the discomfort.
Then I got the shock of my life, in more ways than one. My hands suddenly felt as though little electric currents were running through them. 'Oh,' I thought, 'This is something other than massage.' Later I came to know this phenomenon as the hands 'switching on'. Reiki is activated by touch I guess if we'd attended the Friday night talk that would have been made clear. I expect it would have been explained as scientifically as possible. But ever since that startling experience, I have privately felt that Reiki is magic.
After a while I noticed that Bill's hands on my shoulders felt warm and soothing. When everyone was back in the room, sitting in their 'Reiki trains', as these lines of people with hands on shoulders were called, Beth started going up and down the lines, feeling everyone's hands and asking us all the same two questions: 'How do your hands feel?' and, 'How do the hands on your shoulders feel?' We learned that different people perceive the energy in different ways. It has something to do with one's own individual energy, and something to do with how much need of healing there is in the body under the hands.
Over the weekend we received three more fine turnings. Beth explained that the energy is passed on in 25% increments because 100% all at once would be too much to cope with. We got lots of practice working on each other on Reiki tables (which are similar to massage tables) and experiencing at first hand our aches, pains, tiredness etc. leaving us. An even greater thrill was being able to do that for others, as they reported in wonderment.
After presenting our certificates, Beth told us she would be back in six months to teach Reiki II, the technique for healing 'in absence'. With that, we'd be able to give Reiki to anyone in the world, without having to be with them in person. More magic! I could hardly wait.