A light in the shadows

Back in 2019, I was told as I had begun Reiki training that it would change me as a person. I was warned that the process of working with healing energy would cause an unavoidable butterfly effect; one that would extend into the hallways of my life that have been left closed off and darkened. I was informed it wasn’t about healing others, that part would come later. First, my attention would be drawn inward as I worked on healing myself. That is what the Reiki 1 level certification was about: focusing on bringing healing energy into my own existence. If I could not see the benefit of using this for myself, how could I possibly explain or share it with others?

My experience with Reiki at first was simple: Live well and do my daily self-treatments while focusing on the 5 Reiki precepts. I would practice the hand placements on myself and draw to me the energy that would help bring restoration. I learned to truly feel the sensations during the practice and share my feedback with Chris, my Reiki master. He always had an uplifting or encouraging word for me, which gave added fuel for my practice. There was an element of fun in applying the things I had learned into daily opportunities.

Full disclosure: I am a klutz. If it can be knocked over, spilled, tripped over, stepped on or bumped into…odds are I’ve done it. That being said, one of my favorite games is “How did I get that bruise?” Mercifully, I’ve not been one to frequent emergency rooms because I embrace my klutziness and counteract it with an abundance of caution. However, life does happen and I’ve gotten to practice “energetic first aid” on myself*. About a year ago, I got a pretty gnarly burn on my forearm after cooking. Metal baking sheet heated close to 450 degrees + exposed flesh = amateur branding. Follow me for more kinky kitchen ideas! ** So after dutifully performing the basic burn treatments (rinsing with cool water and applying a washcloth covered icepack), I decided to apply Reiki to the affected site. I closed my eyes and instantly felt the heat coming out of my skin. It was radiating.

For those of you who have no experience with Reiki but want to know what it feels like: Go back in your memory to a time when you got a really bad sunburn. I mean BAD. So bad, you winced before touching it or even putting a piece of clothing on it. Have you ever hovered your hand over that sunburn and could literally feel the heat pouring out? Yep. That’s what I feel when I am giving a Reiki treatment to someone. Sometimes there is an overwhelming amount of “heat” in a particular area. That heat to me will usually indicate some sort of inflammation, pain, or worse…illness. The sensations I get in my hands are absolute and do not lie. I’ve learned to trust whatever I feel in my hands as some sort of energetic download, and they have never steered me wrong.

I began to take pictures of my burn before and after several passes with Reiki. Over the course of several hours, what would have been a pretty bad second degree burn had all but faded. I don’t even have a mark on my skin from where it occurred. Could it have been the stellar first aid administration prior to the Reiki that did it, or was it the Reiki itself? I will never diminish or belittle medical science, but a part of me does become curious as to how far Reiki can go in terms of complementing medical treatments. I now apply it to every injury I get. In November of this past year, I had to have a wisdom tooth removed. You can bet I was Reiki-ing myself before, during, and after the procedure. You cannot overdose on Reiki, and I used it in mass quantities like the Kardashians use bronzer. I gave Reiki to the dental chair and the room. Of course this occurred as the surgeon was entering the room. I had hopes with the copious amounts of good energy I poured out, the oral surgery would be a breeze. Man plans, and God laughs. To put it simply, it was an ordeal for the surgeon as well as myself (who should have been rendered unconscious if I had known what it would really be like.) Live and learn. Fortunately, I healed faster after my wisdom tooth extraction than when I had a molar taken out in 2018. I had only started my Reiki quest in 2019, so I sincerely believe it played a part this time around.

After enough time had gone by working with myself and sharing the energy with others since I received my Reiki Level 2 Certification, I began to develop the desire for something more. We never are satisfied with what we have. We always want more. After treating a bunch of people remotely in 2020/21 via distance for Covid, I started expressing an interest to Chris about becoming a Reiki Master. He warned me that in the time leading up to my certification for Reiki Level 3, I would go through a period of introspection. I would have to evaluate why it was I wanted to become a Reiki Master. I sat with the idea for a while and let my mind roll around the thoughts. Did I want this merely because the title and it would be an ego boost? Let’s be real. Who else in modern society is called a master of something? Dungeon Master (for my nerdy Dungeons and Dragons friends out there), Dungeon Master (for my kinky friends out there). There are not many instances where you hear the word being used in public. Imagine being a sushi chef at a revered Michelin star restaurant and holding the title “Sushi Master”. You can bet, you’d want to eat their sashimi! You’d pay top dollar for it as well. Or you would be very willing to study with a Pilates Master versus a regular teacher. To be a master of something implies not just skill, but power. I see people’s eyebrows go up when I say, “I am a Reiki Master”. To some degree it is because ill-informed people believe that being a Reiki Master makes one more spiritual or more powerful in their healing abilities.*** My definition of a true Reiki Master: A person who is in regular practice of Reiki for themselves as well as administering Reiki to others. They live purposefully with a daily intention of living the 5 Reiki Precepts. They practice without ego and the need for external validation. They are continually developing their skills while now sharing the information with others as a teacher who gives attunements. A Reiki Master need not give attunements to others, but I personally one day would like to be able to help the people I work with to heal themselves by attuning them. Then down the road, they help others to heal. Think of it like an energetic pyramid scheme, sans monetary exploitation. I would prefer to think of this as a form of metaphysical “Pay if Forward”. A lofty idea, but considering how much our world is suffering right now we kind of need it as a collective society.

In the Spring of 2021 I began to do some shadow work. I cannot define what shadow work is to anyone but for myself, so here it is:

“Shadow work is the introspective practice of looking back in your life and discovering aspects of yourself that you have avoided accountability for. It sheds light on your insecurities and triggers. It is discovering the ways you function and behave are largely due to your past upbringing, programming and conditioning. Shadow work causes you to find the causal link from what you experienced child to how you function in the present as an adult. Shadow work is the realization that the way you behave now as an adult is directly linked to parts of your childhood that you have intentionally blocked out due to prior abuse and trauma.

If you’re reading this and you just drew in a huge breath, it’s ok. I got you. I am perfectly comfortable sharing this because I know several things: 1) Everyone has had some element of dysfunction in their life and this may help one of you out there 2) There is nothing wrong with sharing my truth and in the pursuit of willful avoidance, I will only be causing more suffering to myself by living an inauthentic existence. 3) Nobody really cares out there, so there is no consequence to me being forthright and brutally honest.

For those of you who are curious about shadow work, a quick Google search can easily overwhelm you with options. My form of shadow work was a crash course in reviewing my life in the most cringiest of ways: I read my journals. All of them.

Growing up as a kid of the 80’s who spent a huge chunk of her life isolated, I journaled. Journaling was my escape from reality while sharing details of said reality. I was like Harriet the Spy, writing everything down. I wanted to write it all down so I’d remember it all. I had a journal when I was as young as 7, but those records have disappeared. Or they were thrown out. I can’t recall. Sadly, one of the tell tale signs of C-PTSD or trauma is memory loss. There are chunks of my life that are hazy or erased completely. Think of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” on crack. I’ve had people come up to me and remind me of conversations that I was actively a participant of, but I cannot recall. I have since made a concerted effort to write things down in my journal if I want to remember them. People I’ve dated or have made a fond impression on me, I would write down things so they wouldn’t be erased. I have a few people that have remarked “You have a great memory.” I really don’t, but I made an effort to remember. So if I point out memories from years ago or small details….there’s a reason. I want to remember it. One man said it made me seem “creepy”, until I told him the truth about it. He probably still thinks I’m a creep, but that’s his problem. One of the biggest things I would hate to feel in someone else’s life is ineffectual. Take my effort in writing these things down as a compliment. My journals are a lifeline linking me back to moments in time that would have otherwise evaporated. I am exceptionally organized at keeping records, and I knew there would be information long since hidden in these passages. My second journal began around 1994 and extended to 1998. I then had a highschool journal that went from 1998-2002. Another that documented my college years, the loss of my mother and multiple boyfriends that turned out to be rather disappointing people in the end. I had another journal that documented my young female adult years and another one that brings me just about up to today.

I sat on the couch and over the span of 2 weeks, began reading each journal from cover to cover. Instantly, I was transported back to the very place I was when I wrote each entry. I was in my old house in Bellerose, I was in school (pretending to take notes but couldn’t be bothered since it was dull busywork), or I was on my front stoop. As I read the excerpts a lot of the things I wrote about came roaring back. There’s a line in the film “Minority Report” that says, “When you dig up the past, all you get is dirty.” That line holds more truth than you will ever know with my life. I remembered things that were said to me by others in my life but more importantly, I remembered how it make me feel. Waves of emotion overwhelmed me. I had bouts of anger, disbelief, shock and grief hit. I also had flurries of elation and joy pepper the moments. I felt the things I as a young girl felt all those years ago. In addition to that, because of how much time had elapsed since those experiences and how much I had developed emotionally, I began to look at the author as someone separate from the woman I was. I not only heard my voice in the replaying of the passages, but heard this small child in an almost third person sort of way. Then came the striking moments of cognitive dissonance when the realization hit: This is not normal. This is now how you should treat a child. This is not healthy. This is abuse. This is wrong. How could they do this to me?

I’m going to refrain from sharing too many intimate details of my childhood because I do not feel the desire to re-hash painful past moments. I did that back in May of last year and am currently sharing this information with my therapist weekly. With love, there is nothing any of you out there can offer me to take the pain away.

Step one was reading a painful excerpt. Step two was channeling back into the Regina I was when I had written the entry, and try to feel what she/I had experienced. Healing requires feeling the original pain. Step three was to shift my focus to the present situation and address the author of the entry like I was a benevolent and loving adult talking to a small child. Step 4 was to send Reiki to that moment. I will provide an example below. I had a lot of anger growing up. I was not able to freely express myself and when I did, I was criticized harshly and sometimes even hit. Anger is what happens when grief gets trapped in the body. Anger is what happens when you don’t know what to do with your feelings because people are emotionally unavailable and cannot help you process. I was very angry at times because I was frequently misunderstood, and even worse, judged as a kid.

“5/6/98: My mom is such a pain in my ass! I was trying to play ‘Spinning Song’ on piano and I’m not perfect. So I was really happy that I finished my piece and get it to my satisfaction when this bitch tells me how the ‘composers are trying to create it and how it should be’ and I was listening so then she goes, “Regina go upstairs before I slap you.” What the hell? You know she says I should give her regard. F*CK that. I’m busting my ass to get a piece so that it pleases my ear and she gets all high and mighty about how I should play it this way or that. I’m only trying to get it right for my teacher. My mom doesn’t play piano! I’m happy with how I’m doing so she better not tell me if I’m right or wrong because she knows NOTHING!”

I told you I was an angry kid. I reflected on this entry and silently thought: “Good for you 15 year old me for recognizing the fact that your mom is a perfectionist controlling woman who is never satisfied. Also, it’s interesting that she makes physical threats when she feels I’m not listening to her. I was probably disassociating at the time because I have no respect for authority figures who grandstand about things they have no knowledge in.”

Obviously this passage was written while I was alone in my bedroom after the encounter. My bedroom was often used as a safe haven from her tirades and outbursts. I remember sliding a rolling cabinet in front of the door as a kid because my door did not lock, and I needed to feel safe. I also was great at hiding as a child. One of my favorite spots to hide was under my bed. Being small enough, I could wriggle under the wire box-spring and be alone in a safe place. I’m just realizing now, one of my biggest triggers around people is how safe I feel (or do NOT feel with them) I need to feel safe in romantic relationships, otherwise I will not pursue them. Safety is critical for me now, because looking back, I was not safe as a child.

Needless to say, doing the shadow work proved itself to be eye opening as well as painful. There was alot of needless suffering due to the words and actions of other people. Many of the heartbreaking moments I had faced as a child, I faced again re-reading the passages while saying, “What did they do to you? You were only a little girl. That should never have happened.” Unfortunately because I was forced to regulate my emotions alone, alot of my self esteem and confidence issues stem from my these hurtful childhood episodes. I get a knot in my stomach when conflict of arguments start. I feel my heart race. I start looking around to places I can go to and be alone. I don’t like when people yell. I don’t like when people in positions of authority criticize me. I don’t like it when people make fun of me at my own expense. As a child of verbal abuse, I can attest your jokes will only land like daggers on me. So no, I can’t take a joke. I don’t like when my physical space is encroached on. Don’t get too close to me. I don’t like when people I don’t consider close, try getting too close or touching me. I don’t like being touched, especially by strangers. I don’t like being hugged. I don’t like being around drunk people. I don’t like being around people who are in one form or another, on drugs. Thus, as an adult I don’t like being drunk or out of control. I don’t like violence. Action films or movies where there is excessive violence turn me off. It all makes sense when the physical evidence is laid out for you to see. To survive, I had to create coping mechanisms to manage what was happening to me. I journaled, I played piano, I sang in glee club and performed in local theater shows, or I was physically active. The best escape was when I was on my bike. Bonus points was when I started listening to music while riding my bike or going for walks alone.

The final part of my Shadow Work experience is to send healing Reiki energy to those heartbreaking moments and that girl where she was in her life. The beauty of learning Level 2 Reiki was being able to send energetic healing to the past, or even the future. I am learning to transport myself back to those places in time to where she was so isolated, scared and alone. I am now sitting with her as she cries out in confusion and anger, slowly stroking her hair saying, “It’s all right. I am here and it’s going to be ok. I’m going to take care of you.” I am slowly learning to heal from the past. I am learning to listen to that small child who is still very much alive inside of me; who only wants to be loved, nurtured and cared for. That child is not dead, even though she could have been easily destroyed years ago. I am learning to self regulate what I need, and not seek it from other people. I have learned sadly, there is not a single human being who can give me the love I so desperately need. I have to find it and give it to myself. I am learning to stop seeking reassurance, validation and safety from others. I am learning to give that child the attention she needed as well as the words of encouragement that she lived without. She is slowly starting to come out from under the bed and I am there to be the mother she needed. Only then, will there be light in the shadows.

*Reiki is never to be used in lieu of medical assistance or first aid, the author is merely being silly. Always, seek medical assistance or intervention before endeavoring to do metaphysical energetic work.

**Please don’t.

***It doesn’t. It’s all an ego trap. Don’t fall in.

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