My mother and I are in her bedroom. I have the rare opportunity to administer healing energy to her, an act that will draw us together—physically, emotionally, spiritually. We are awkward about touching one another; emotionally, we don’t discuss matters close to the heart. The idea of God and a Higher Presence is strictly private.
This is the nature of our relationship, dictated by her upbringing.
Overwhelmed at the prospect of laying hands on her, I ask her to lie down on the bed. I recall when I needed her support and love—when I first got my period, the aftermath of boyfriend breakups, amid broken bones and excruciating pain—and she conveyed little.
Her convictions, tainted by my bouts of rebellion, are as big as a mountain.
I underwent Reiki training when writer’s block saturated every molecule of my body. Explaining the premise of the healing art to my conventionally-minded parents was like conveying Einstein’s theory of relativity in Swahili.
I read their expressions like an open book.
They figured, like my memoir writing, practicing Reiki was an escape from reality—another endeavor to keep me from returning to the workforce. But to counter their belief, I didn’t offer to demonstrate the various Reiki positions on them—I felt defenseless against their skepticism; this most recent act to sabotage their “please-just-do-the-right-thing” campaign.
On top of it, my dad mispronounced Reiki. No pun intended, he called it “wreck-ee.”
The whole notion of “healing energy,” however, must have taken up residence in my mother’s mind. For a week later, as we were getting out of the car, she asked me to do Reiki on her.
I panicked. Slithered down the driver’s seat like Bugs Bunny doomed in fighter aircraft; blurted some excuses. “I can’t do Reiki on you, Mom. I don’t have my massage table.”
“That’s okay, I’ll lay on my bed.”
“But I don’t have my Reiki playlist.”
“We’ll do it without it.”
“But, I don’t have my sage candle.”
“I don’t need a sage candle.”
“But, Mom, I don’t—”
“Let’s try it anyway.”
We entered the house; Dad is visiting the pharmacy. I tagged along after Mom, up the stairs and to my parents’ bedroom—a charming and spacious room painted robin egg blue (makes me think of Tiffany’s every time), decorated with Victorian furniture and “delicate things.”
Sunlight pours through the dressed window; beyond it, birds chirp, fountains burble. Mom’s lying on her four-post bed and I’m splaying out my hands. Here’s the rare opportunity to impress her with these healing hands.
I tell her to relax, a strange thing to say to my mother. She closes her eyes and her expression softens. I rub my hands together to warm them. I study the features of her face and describe where I’ll be placing my hands.
I take a deep breath as I lay my hands in a V on the crown of her head, crushing her frosted, poofy hairdo and pray her skepticism will melt away. That she’ll leave the room having experienced peace and healing.
She is instantly receptive to my touch. Her body sinks deeper into the 500-thread Egyptian cotton duvet. I feel grounded in healing light, my hands growing warm with the energy. The moments elapse, lengthening, slipping us into a realm of peace.
I the giver, and my mother, the receiver.
Love and light…
It emerges from a great distance away, perhaps all the way across the Atlantic, an outer, invasive stimulus. It repeats, drawing closer, skimming the surface of the sea, its frequency pricking up the hairs of my inner ear. It’s tearing a hole in the veil of peace, popping it stitch-by-stitch up the middle, bringing me back to the place I left several minutes ago—the sunlight, the blue bedroom, the depiction of my mother’s body pressing into the duvet.
I shake it away—my higher self resisting it, swatting at it with my tail as if I were a horse with a fly on my hindquarters—my head writhing, my lips bristling.
“Hello?” The source of the invasion sounds from the bottom of the stairs. “Helloooooo…?”
Dad, I scowl in my head, please occupy yourself elsewhere. You seem to enjoy spending a great deal of time in the bathroom. Why not do that now?
He keeps calling helloooooo—as if my mother has gone beyond the 900-square foot perimeter of the second floor and escaped into some magical fairyland through the guest room crawlspace.
I lose patience at the sixth iteration and shout, showering my mother with spit. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph! We’re up here doing Wreck-ee!!!”
Things quiet down. Dad is mostly likely smoothing his balding head with his open hand in a gesture of acknowledgement. His loafers walk the rest of him down to the family room.
I hone my concentration back on Mom, breathe. She has, despite the disturbance, remained still and relaxed: a state of being that is the typical response to my father’s elaborate greeting and any of his inquiries, for that matter.
I continue doing the Reiki, envisioning golden energy entering and circulating in my mother’s body. When I squint an eye open to read the bedside clock and whisper that the twenty minutes are up, Mom awakens as if from a deep sleep. She begins to speak about her experience. Excitedly. A surge runs through my insides.
Was the Reiki a success?
I squeak out a smile. She isn’t aware of my nervousness; the punch of credibility her testimony could bear.
“Oh,” she begins, speaking softly. “When you placed your hands on my forehead, my mind quieted—the thoughts just scattered. I felt so peaceful.”
That’s totally what Reiki’s supposed to do, Mom! I want to say, clapping my hands together in praise.
Mom’s blinking at half-speed, astonished. “When you placed your hands on my stomach, your hands felt hot, almost too hot.” She sits up, her brow lifts. “When you held your hands around my ankle, a wave of energy radiated at my knee, shot down my shin and out my big toe!”
Yes, yes, Mom! That’s the healing energy of Reiki, not Wreck-ee! I want to say but afraid I’ll lose her in its mysticism. As I gaze at her poofy hair listing to one side and her incredulous grin, I feel something heavy disintegrating: a mountain crumbling.
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What Happened When I Performed Reiki on My Conservative Mother was published in Elephant Journal, 1/15.
Lisa has been publishing essays for five years on the writing life, sex and relationships, and her love for horses, dogs and cowboy country. One of her essays appeared in the IPPY-award-winning anthology Unmasked: Women Write About Sex and Intimacy After Fifty, published in 2017. She lives near Boston, where she rides horses and commutes by bike to her job writing and editing technology blogs for Dell Technologies. She is currently pitching her memoir Calamity Becomes Her to literary agents and is at work on the sequel. You can contact her at lisa dot demasi at gmail dot com.