Total immersion 6

When Diana was 13, her family pulled up roots and relocated to Switzerland. She and her younger siblings were abruptly thrown into the local school system and while all four came home the first day in tears, at least they were crying in French. I, too, was transplanted into a foreign culture at an early age when my family abandoned drought-stricken West Texas for the fecund Central Valley of California where my brothers and I had to trade Real American for Proper English.

It’s not just learning a foreign language that benefits from total immersion. It also works for religion, which might explain why the solemn Presbyterian sprinkling on my forehead as a baby didn’t really register. But if you full dip a fervent Pentecostal in the symbolic River of Jordan, he comes up sputtering in Tongues. Sometimes you just need a good dunking to do it right.

The hands-on treatments I’d been giving Diana were based on whatever I’d gleaned from books and friends or anything I might have intuited while doing them. I had not been formally trained in any of the methods. It was like wading in the shallows of a clear, cold mountain lake with the water lapping a bit North of my knees and just South of my…commitments. If Diana and I were going to resolve the little blot that had showed up on her scan using means other than additional medical intervention, I was going to have to man up and go deeper.

At heart, I am an observer. In the wings, on the sidelines, behind the camera. I typically stand back and watch…consider…calculate. And then from the safety of the shadows I either 1) offer insightful commentary, or 2) take a cheap shot. Being in the thick of it has no appeal to me. In most debate, I try to maintain a certain professional distance and objectivity which can also be referred to as “being a chicken-shit” in the vernacular of Real American. It’s also called that in Proper English. I don’t know what it is in French.

So it was time to ditch the water wings. I decided I had to get some bona fide training in one of these hands-on energy methods. But which one? I felt indebted to Jin Shin Jyutsu since that was what started us down this road, but the seminars were five days long and several states distant. I didn’t want to be away from Diana that long or away from the $895 at all. Healing Touch and acupressure presented similar obstacles. The only one that was local, short, and inexpensive was something called Reiki, which I’d read about and had already tried to incorporate into Diana’s treatments. Reiki also appealed to my generalist tendencies since it seemed to involve just the seven chakras instead of the 26 points used in Jin Shin and the hundreds used in acupressure. So cheap-and-easy won the day.

A Reiki class is typically a one-day affair for $125 or so which includes a series of “attunements” by a Reiki Master that you obviously cannot get from a book. I came across a flyer for a Reiki class being offered the very next weekend just five miles from home. Across the top was written: “Using Reiki On Your Garden Fairies.”

I was ready for the Reiki. I wasn’t ready for the fairies.

At least not then. These days I cannot categorically deny the existence of fairies or anything that might be mistaken for them or acting on their behalf, but I can assure you there are obviously none in our garden regardless of their actual existence or their need for Reiki.

I looked further afield and located a Reiki introductory class in Bellevue, about an hour away across the ferry. A week later I walked into a classroom that had soft music, tea, a circle of chairs, and…the same vibe as the ’70s personal growth workshops against which I’d sealed my mind with a curse to rival Ramses.

“This is never going to work,” I told my Knee-Jerk Inner Skeptic.

“I know!” he laughed. “What a joke!”

“No, I mean it’s never going to work with you here,” I replied.

And with that I consciously, deliberately, and completely relaxed my mind, allowing all the toxic prejudice, objections, and misgivings to drain out through the soles of my feet, across the floorboards, down the pavement, and into the storm sewers of Bellevue that empty into Lake Washington where the EPA has no jurisdiction. And then I was ready to experience the class for whatever it was, at entirely face value.

Very little of the content was new, and while I approached the first attunement with some curiosity, my expectations were neutral at best. It was performed with appropriate ceremony, our eyes closed, the room quiet. I could feel the Reiki Master do something around my head and then blow sharply through my pressed palms toward my forehead. What the hell was that? The puff of air penetrated my skull and into my brain an inch and a half. It felt like a pneumatic cattle prod used in Chicago stockyards, but nonlethal—except to my Knee-Jerk Inner Skeptic who promptly drowned in Lake Washington.

Reiki is a Japanese system that dates back a hundred years with roots that go back several millennia more. It is based on the idea of a universal life force that pervades everything and everywhere. Someone who has been “attuned” can act as a conduit through which the person being treated pulls and uses that life force to heal himself or herself—or itself, for that matter. Therefore, a Reiki practitioner is not a healer; the recipient is the healer. That’s the short version.

Does it really work that way? Beats me.
Does it work at all? Yes, it does.
Do I care to elaborate on that? No, I don’t.
Don’t or won’t? Can’t.

So I had waded in way, way over my head. Or maybe I’d waded in without my head. Either one is apt. In the weeks that followed the class I would find myself at times madly treading water to keep from sinking; other times floating on my back watching the sky gently spin; occasionally, sitting on the bottom, a gilled and gilded Buddha with a weight belt.

The reason the world looks different from the middle of a lake than from the shore is because the world is different from there. Unfamiliar and unexpected. Exhilarating and exotic. Remote and refreshing. It was actually a very good place for me to be. I had a lot to not think about. Even more to not talk about. Learning a language that doesn’t exist can be a bit of a challenge, even when fully immersed.

6 thoughts on “Total immersion

  • Reply

    If you’re on the dance floor, it looks a whole lot different than when you’re on the balcony looking down on the dancers. And, it is. Thought provoking post. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Ellen Collord

    Love the Knee-Jerk Inner Skeptic! Loved that he drowned…
    There are things that cannot be explained-and your journey is such a great read for me because your scientific mind is doing that hard work that mine does not-asking questions and struggling. I think, because of the imperative mission, that you are open minded to possibilities. And when we are looking for other options/possibilities, I think we find them. I too have that Knee-Jerk Inner Skeptic lurking in the background. Will send her to Monterey Bay. Soon.
    Glad you and family are basking in the sun-thanks for another thought provoking post. And as always, I love the humor.

  • Reply
    Vince Warren

    Hi Kelly…

    I caught up on your blog today, and I continue to see many parallels to my experience as a caretaker. I can’t describe what I went through as compellingly as you. Your way with words is a gift that allows you to share challenging times with those of us who can barely imagine the details of what you and Diana are facing so courageously.

    During my time as a caretaker I relied on a couple of truths that I see throughout your blog:
    1) The urgency of cancer demands crisp focus in order to care for the one that you love — a focus that renders “what to do” astonishingly clear. While I don’t remember spending time planning my next move, I always (somehow?) knew what to do next. I have a feeling that a lot of the planning occurs on the back burner of the mind. You touch upon this when you describe dreams and other mind rambling.
    2) We can use “mind over matter” for healing. You can call it Reiki or any other name, but we all have some capability to heal ourselves, and each other. Realizing that, and using that, is very powerful. I’m trained as a scientist like you. I just suspended all of that in order to believe in and harness what so obviously works.

    Thanks for putting it out there for all of us to see and consider.

  • Reply
    Targe Lindsay

    Total immersion… sometimes takes different excursions… like when we three brothers who grew up in West Texas, came to California… I’ll never forget our first recess at Leighton Littlejohn Elementary… what the crap were those flags hanging out of the hip pockets of the guys playing football out on the hardpan??? We were the only triad of brothers that day (5th, 3rd, and 2nd graders) out tackling the guy foolish enough to be carrying the ball. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were dealing with wusses… decades before the term was coined. The California kids kept telling us we couldn’t tackle… we kept saying, “watch us.” We, too, learned… and being totally immersed in another situation, put up with flag football through the 8th grade… then in high school it was back to bull-dogging, the Wachter crotch-ride, sweat and blood… and fun. For all the painfully treacherous moments you and Diana have had over the past 5 years or so, you have to admit that some of it has actually been fun beyond anything that any of us could ever imagine or understand.

  • Reply
    Susan Taylor

    Hi Kelly!

    I resonate deeply with your experience of Reiki. I took classes here in Tallahassee several years ago.

  • Reply

    Kelly, I knew from Diana’s emails you were using one of the Eastern healing practices, just didn’t know it is Reiki. Wow!! I too know it works and that is why I could follow her lead. I studied world religions and remain faithful to the Eastern philosophies because they work. Those teachings along with all prayer have kept me alive also. The tumor remains, doesn’t grow, doesn’t spread; it is as though it is in a suspended space without power.
    Thank you so much for giving this valuable knowledge to those who read blogs. Much love to Diana and you.


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