A pair of very hot hands hover just above my hairline, nearest the right side of my face. My eyes are closed, my brain doing its very best to think of nothing whatsoever, when a memory of a guy who ripped my heart out three years ago comes rushing towards the surface. He’s right there, in these cells, a series of repressed memories living just beneath the surface of my skin… at least if you believe in the power of Reiki.
Reiki, for those unfamiliar, is a method of spiritual healing that involves an opening and clearing of energy—life force energy, in particular. There’s a belief that we hold emotional trauma at certain points within our body, and that Reiki can be used to help clear it out. The body as a dirty carburetor, if you will.
Previously, my only experience with Reiki had been when I was living in Los Angeles seven years ago and was peripheral at best. There was Tatiana, the model I used to work with who would use us as guinea pigs backstage at shows, putting her hands on our backs and breathing deeply, more engrossed with the spiritual process than any of us in our early 20s were capable of. And then there was the emotionally plugged-in actress from my yoga class. Her first Reiki session had apparently put her through the ringer; she spent most of the session sobbing inexplicably whenever this man’s hands were placed around her upper back. Did it sound interesting? Sure. Was I ready for it? Not really.
But when Lisa Levine from the Maha Rose Center for Healing in Greenpoint reached out to me for a session last week, I was in a different place. Since my first vicarious encounters with Reiki, I had been dumped by my boyfriend, moved to New York, been dumped by other boyfriends, moved apartments, changed careers, upped my coffee intake, started losing my vision. Over the last four years, this city has taken its toll, physically and mentally. I’d be a fool to not be open to the idea of an overhaul, be it the physical rigors of SoulCycle or the intangible shifting of what I like to think is my energy force field.
Maha Rose has what I imagine I would expect out of healing center, though I—type A, hyperactive, sort-of-abrasive person that I am—haven’t spent much, if any, time in them. There are crystals on countertops, plants in pots, oils, candles, pendants, and all sorts of bric-a-brac that begs for you to forget that you live in a city filled with 13,605 honking cabs, 8.3 million bodies, and just 468 square-miles containing it all. And Lisa, the calm and measured person standing in front of me is liquid Valium -- I’m not.
I prop myself up on an extra-padded massage table, lined with what I can only describe as packing material made of cotton balls or marshmallows. My legs dangle with what I hope is not perceived as extreme anxiety—having to curtail what I see in myself as an irrepressible bigness to fit into a space that honors smaller, simple things… you know, like the soul.
“Do you have any physical problems?” she asks. Reiki addresses physical ailments as the product of spiritual blockages. Fix the emotional blockage, and you’ll fix the ailment. Your body, and your mind, is capable of both putting yourself back together, after it’s taken itself apart. Unfortunately, I do not fall into this category, unless the muscles in my back strung as tight as a new fiddle count as an ailment. I tell her “no.”
Yes, for today, all of my ailments will be of a strictly emotional variety. Because I am a mess. Have you ever cried into the thin plastic of your dry cleaning bag, clutching your freshly washed winter sweaters -- which feel so remarkably close to hugging a real person -- and wondering when you’ll stop feeling so alone? Ever stared at the mirror, possibly intoxicated, tears welling in your eyes, telling yourself aloud, “One day, someone will like you”? Did you, last weekend, drunkenly sit outside the front door of a boy’s apartment, seriously contemplating sleeping there until he woke up the next morning and found you there? If you have done any of these things, or anything like them, you know what I’m talking about. And you probably need help. Because I know I do.
New York City has been an absolute life changer for my career; it’s also been the stage for unspeakable heartbreak and routine disappointment, something a lot of girls living in New York will likely attest. It’s hard here. Like, really hard. After what feels like 100 failed dates with 100 failed dudes, this place has left me feeling emotionally bankrupt.
You show up here all bright-eyed and clueless, thinking you’ve been handed a debit card with unlimited funds, only to find that you’re coming dangerously to the end of your bottom line, just cents away from zero. And you can work to try to top it up, fill it with reserves, but there is this utter lack of abundance. For every three dollars you manage to put in the proverbial bank, someone is taking out ten while you’re not looking. Four years here… it’s a long time to feel that way.
Lisa tucks me into my de facto bed and begins to walk me through a spoken meditation, during which I attempt to clear my head, which is about a ridiculous a request as someone asking that New York City smell a little bit better, be a little bit less covered in old garbage. But I try. In moments, I am successful.
Back in the summer of 2007, I rented a bedroom in the West Village with two Indian boys, one of whom had a mother in town one week. One afternoon, she sat with me on my subletted queen-size mattress with no pillows and one scratchy floral sheet, and walked me through how to meditate. “Just imagine a monkey, passing coins,” she said. “Those are your thoughts. Just let them pass.”
So now I’m with Lisa, trying to do that again—be a monkey passing coins, not a gorilla stampeding through her life.
But just when my brain becomes a blissful black void, thoughts keep popping up—weird associations to people and things that present themselves depending on where Lisa’s hot little hands are. My ex-boyfriend just above my hairline, as I mentioned. Another guy in my feet. My entire modeling career, emotionally accessed just at the back of my knees. Face down, I begin to fight back tears, having not expected the modeling to register as trauma, although, in all honesty, out of the boys and heartbreak, all that, it is the modeling that has perhaps been the most systematically damaging, an unhealthy relationship spanning over a decade.
Before I have the time to really lose it, the session is over. Lisa tells me she has curved what are apparently my very straight and rigid energy lines, giving them a more feminine softness. “Drink lots of water,” she tells me. “Take it easy tomorrow.” I walk home in a daze, glossy eyed and distanced from myself. I sit on my stoop and write a children’s poem for a friend, which seems pretty bloody feminine, if I do say so myself.
By morning, the shift I’ve felt—or at least recognized—has been pushed aside, the energy patterns fallen into the same aggressive habits. And while I can’t say one Reiki session changed my life forever, I can say that it did force me to come face-to-face with things I’ve buried deeply. While I can’t change that trauma, there’s something healthy about acknowledging it’s there, so that one day, when I’m ready, I can let it go.
Have you ever thought about trying Reiki? Or have you been done it before? Would love to hear your experience with it.