Welcome to our inaugural Reiki Blog Hop! A group of Reiki practitioners from around the world are all writing on the same topic, and linking to each other so you can hop around from blog to blog, reading all the different stories they have to share! Our topic for this hop was Your First Reiki Experience.
My First Reiki Experience
The first time I heard of energy work I was in college in Northfield, Minnesota, maybe around 1990. I heard of it as part of Neo-Pagan ritual work, and sometimes in a slightly disparaging way, as in: “Those other people are only interested in how much energy they can build.” I had no idea what it meant, but was fascinated. I ended up joining the group and participating in rituals and having some powerful visions and experiences.
Then in 1991 I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado where I met my spiritual teacher. He worked with me to teach me how to develop group and personal rituals and how to work with energy from a spiritual and magical perspective. He taught me how to understand my own personal energy and how to track its ebbs and flows and to observe how outside influences affected it.
The first time I heard of Reiki was a couple years later, in the early 90s. I had an office in an old house in Loveland, Colorado. I made friends with an artist who had her studio there. One day we were standing outside the building and she introduced me to a woman who must also have had an office there–she said she was a Reiki practitioner. I asked what Reiki was. The woman was quiet, still, and soft. If I had to describe it, I might say she seemed far away, except present and rooted. I don’t remember what she told me about Reiki, but I still remember the experience vividly.
Around that same time, I read a book called The Women’s Book of Healing by Diane Stein. It described how to do chakra balancing with gemstones. I’m not going to guarantee I read the book—I might have only looked at the pictures. I’m always raring to go with new things. I went to the local metaphysical store in Fort Collins, Colorado and bought some tiny chakra stones and then back in my office I lay on the floor and put the stones on me. I held quartz crystal points in my hands as the book described. It was a pretty cool feeling.
A friend came over and I told her to lie on the floor and I’d do this gemstone thing on her. She lay down and I put the stones on her and gave her the crystals to hold. She had a powerful outburst, crying and wailing and sobbing. I took the stones off immediately. I had no idea what to do or what had happened. Later on I called the local massage therapy school and asked them about it. The person I talked to didn’t seem to know what had happened either. Or I guess it’s possible that she did know what happened (anyone trained in healing modalities or initiatic traditions knows what a healing crisis is) and I simply didn’t understand her explanation. I remember feeling frustrated and not knowing what I did wrong. I certainly wasn’t ever going to do that again!
Then in the late 90s I was reading another Diane Stein book, given to me by my wonderful friend Stef. That book, All Women are Healers, had a chapter introducing the healing modality of Reiki. I remember there was mention of using symbols—I was quite intrigued by sigils and glyphs and had several books on the subject that I was working with at the time. I had also started working with developing personal symbols. This book had a symbol illustrated on one of the pages. It looked like the letter pi and seemed to float off the page. I was completely fascinated by the idea of incorporating symbols into healing and energy work. I meditated on the symbol and felt quite powerful energy working with it, as well as receiving personally relevant insight into its meaning.
It wasn’t until 2003 that I took the first steps on my own Reiki journey. I worked in the theatre then in Fort Collins and two of my friends learned Reiki around the same time. Both talked to me about it and I was interested. One of them, Trish, who eventually became one of my Reiki teachers, invited me to come over to her place and receive a session. When I got there, she had set up a lawn chair, the kind that stretches out flat for sunbathing, in the living room. She told me to lie down on it. I lay on my back and closed my eyes. All of a sudden I felt a powerful energy flow through me—I had been doing energy work as part of my ritual work for many years now, and never had I felt such a powerful flow of energy without a much more structured process of building it up. This seemed to come out of nowhere. Then Trish said, rather simply and perhaps not altogether confidently, “I drew the Reiki symbols in your aura.” Wow! Each symbol felt six feet tall. This was amazing!
I went home and looked through the local metaphysical store newsletter to see when a Reiki class was. There was one scheduled in a few weeks, offered by a woman named Cathy Cole. I called her to sign up. I said I wanted to sign up for Level 1. She said Levels 1 and 2 were taught together as a weekend class. I said I didn’t have enough money for Level 2. She said, well, I’ll sign you up and we’ll see. The week before the class I started to feel queasy and odd, an energetic shifting. I assumed the teacher was doing some kind of preparatory energy work on us. Then a few days before the class, a friend of mine called me up. She was scheduled to do tarot readings at an art gallery opening that Friday and something had come up and she couldn’t do it. Would I fill in for her? I said yes, and that night I made enough money to cover the Level 2 class. I was amazed that this had worked out so easily!
I showed up for class on Saturday morning and was bursting I was so excited—I told her that I had worked a job the night before and now had the money for Level 2. She didn’t bat an eye and seemed utterly nonchalant about the whole thing. I might say that she seemed surprised that I was surprised. I also asked her if she had done energy work on us beforehand, because I had felt something. She seemed slightly shocked that I would suggest such a thing and said no.
Saturday we did Level 1. I was studying Usui Shiki Ryôhô/Usui Tibetan Reiki. She said that she would implant the symbols into our auras, which I was thrilled about. We did a meditation to meet our Reiki guides and received a gift from them. I have to admit my gift was pretty disturbing. I asked her about it the next morning, and again she seemed rather unconcerned with a “wait and see” attitude. Over many years, the gift has seemed more and more relevant on deeper and deeper layers to me. I’m glad she didn’t try to tell me what it meant, and only encouraged me to find my own understanding.
Sunday we did Level 2. We learned the symbols. Yay! We did a partner exercise where one of us would draw the symbol in the air and “send” it to the other, who would feel it wash over them and simply experience it. I found this to be profound.
After the weekend was over I was exhausted. I remember not being able to get out of bed. But our teacher had explained the idea of energy clearing and the healing crisis, so I knew that this was part of the process.
I had a cut on my finger. It was starting to heal but seemed to be doing so slowly. I decided that since now I knew Reiki I should speed up the process. I put my hand over the cut. And then realized I had absolutely no idea what to do. This wasn’t only about symbols implanted in my chakras or that amazingly strong energy or spirit guides. I simply wanted the cut healed and I didn’t know what to do. I remembered reading that when doing energetic healing, you should visualize the wound clearly, then visualize it healing until it was completely better with no longer any evidence of a wound. I decided to do the visualization, because how would the Reiki work without me doing anything? I visualized the wound clearly as I did the energy work. Probably too clearly. I actually felt the cut rip open on my finger. I looked down and the cut was definitely worse. I stopped doing the Reiki and put a Band-Aid on it. This experience was unsettling, but I learned a valuable lesson. I learned to trust the Reiki to work on its own without me trying to interfere, guide it, or otherwise DO anything. We had learned that Reiki doesn’t harm—so I knew that it was my visualization that created the problem, not the Reiki energy.
I went on to study all the levels in Usui Reiki Ryôhô, studying Level 3 and Teacher Level with my friend Trish on New Year’s Eve and Day, 2004/2005. I started doing daily energetic meditations. I felt like I was glowing like a beacon all the time. I started looking for Reiki Shares in my area—I had moved to Denver now—and found some people I liked to work with.
A few years later, with lots of Reiki Shares under my belt, I wanted to increase my practice. I wanted to understand the symbols better and developed a way to work with them by drawing them in the air and then chanting what we originally learned as the name of the symbol. Not saying it with a normal voice, like we learned in class, but really powerfully and energetically chanting it, and then feeling the energy wash over me. I was excited about this and told Trish what I was doing. It was 2008. She said she had recently learned a new style of Reiki and said I would love it—they did a special form of chanting of the Reiki mantras. Mantras? That sounded right. She had studied with Frans Stiene of the International House of Reiki and was now teaching that style. She invited me to attend the class she was teaching starting that weekend and I said yes! That class was my first experience of traditional Japanese Reiki. A lot of the stuff that hadn’t resonated with earlier classes fell away and things that had resonated, or that I had come to discover as true for me, were now being taught. I soaked it all up!
Of course, I continued to steadily grow in my practice, participating in Reiki Shares every month, teaching others, starting to do professional sessions, and eventually in 2009 forming my business Joy Vernon Tarot and Reiki. I studied with other teachers including Hyakuten Inamoto of Komyo Reiki Kai and eventually Frans Stiene of the International House of Reiki.
I took Shinpiden with Frans in April last year. He did the first initiation for us, a simple, unstructured opening and sharing of energy. I felt a vast and profound emptiness. I tried to explain it to Stef afterwards, and realized what I was saying could be construed as negative. But this emptiness was quiet and still and full of light, and felt…empty…no words can describe it, not positive ones or negative ones. There was almost no experience, but yet an utterly fully realized experience of no experience. Then out of that came a rhythm and urge to move. I didn’t jump up and start dancing around the class—although I laugh to think what Frans would have thought! He probably would have danced with me! But I did feel my energetic being begin to dance and move and stretch in ways that I couldn’t have physically done. It was deeply…moving, in all the meanings of that word.
I have a student who first studied with me four years ago, and now is doing private mentoring. We’re reviewing some of the basics and working to take them deeper. I worked with Symbol 1 with her and then we talked about the mantra. I asked her if she remembered what it meant. We talked about it as meaning “an imperial command.” Then I looked it up in the manual to show her what pages to review. I noticed that one of the meanings, one that had never made sense to me, was: “Supreme spiritual emptiness (void).” I get it now. I got it with my training with Frans. Now, after a dozen years of self-Reiki, palm-healing for others, precept chanting, working with the symbols, and years of daily meditations, I am now initiated into the first symbol! I hope I eventually come to know each one! So much potential lies before me on my Reiki path!
I’d love to hear your stories in the comments! And please use the navigation links below to visit all the blogs in the Reiki Blog Hop!
Joy Vernon has been studying energetic and esoteric modalities for more than twenty years and has been practicing Reiki since 2003. She is a Reiki Practitioner and Teacher in the traditional Japanese Usui Reiki Ryôhô lineage through the International House of Reiki, studying under the IHR Founder Frans Stiene. She is also a certified Komyo Reiki Shihan (Teacher) and studied under Komyo Reiki Kai Founder Hyakuten Inamoto in 2011 and 2013. She leads the Denver Traditional Reiki Meetup and is a member of Shibumi International Reiki Association and the Healing Touch Professional Association. Joy is also a Certified Professional Tarot Reader. For more information, please see her website.
© 2016 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.