Before I get into why a naysayer like me tried Reiki, I’ll begin with a statement of fact: I am hopeless at yoga, pilates, meditation and all the rest of it. If I don’t sweat, I don’t consider it a workout. And if I’m not able to tip the contents of my mind into a mental landfill, I don’t consider myself meditated.
I’m not your prime candidate for anything related to holistic healing, energy tapping or the mindful movement. I am a mile-a-minute kind of person; slow for me is still a reasonable jog.
This year however, my life-long, rapid-fire pace caught up with me. I experienced burnout, an eating disorder, career confusion and then some. Traditional therapy was my first port of call, then life coaching and a few sessions of eating psychology coaching to boot. All well received. Points were absorbed, action taken. I am now a better version of myself than I was at the beginning of 2019, by a long shot.
However, mental health isn’t a race with a finish line. As every professional in the well-being arena has echoed, the mind is a muscle that needs to be exercised continually in order to work.
During the UAE National Day break I purposely stayed at home for a proper and meaningful bit of ‘me time.’
Joining me on one sun-soaked afternoon was a Reiki therapist. Reiki, for the uninitiated, is a therapy claiming to harness the healing power of “universal energy” to rebalance the body. It’s said that Reiki masters can restore vitality in mind, body and soul without even needing to touch a patient.
We didn’t go headlong into it. First, my Reiki therapist wanted to know first my backstory and how I got to where I am today. Then she asked me to lay horizontal on the couch with my arms and legs in their most comfortable position, which for me is one thigh crossed over the other.
She didn’t ask me to clear my mind. All she prefaced the session with was “I’m going to touch your shoulders, feet and maybe your face.” No more words were exchanged for just over an hour.
Being the relentless thinker that I am, my mind raced with lists, food, friends I haven’t seen in a while, funny moments that happened the previous week and then anxiety that I shouldn’t be thinking at all, about any of it.
I could sense her moving around my body, despite having my eyes shut throughout. I got a burning sensation on my forehead every time she came northwards. It felt like a heat pack was placed between my temples. The moment she migrated south, room temperature was restored.
Eventually my mind slowed down, but my heartbeat went into double-time, coupled with psychedelic colors flashing in my mind’s eye – again, when she was up top near my head.
Towards the end, I felt her hair drape around my feet (I made a mental note to ask if that was intentional or not). My sense of timing was shot. It could have been 10 minutes or 10 hours that passed, as far as I was concerned. I almost fell asleep at one point.
At the end she asked if I was alright in velvety tones. As I strained to open my eyes, there she was beside me, a model of soothing calm.
My head-to-mouth speed was considerably delayed. I simply blinked upwards, becoming aware of the splitting headache I’d acquired. “Me too,” she said. Had I transferred my ills to her? “I feel what you feel,” she replied.
She said she had tuned into blockages of energy and channelled the universal energy through her hands on to me. I also recalled some electric shock moments, too.
What about the hair on the feet? “That wasn’t intentional. As I touched your feet, I folded into your energy because it was so strong.”
But how to carry this odd zen – headache included – forward? “Carry on the healing,” she told me, “Don’t strain yourself for the rest of the day.”
I cooked and went to bed at 09.30pm and I went to sleep instantly. I didn’t even put on a podcast, which I normally do.
I woke up several times, and I don’t know whether that had anything to do with the headache I had acquired while she was doing her Reiki, but I wouldn’t call it “disturbed” sleep, because every time I woke up, I fell asleep again quickly.
I think I was more present for a couple of days after the session, but then life takes over. Many moons have passed since I went to sleep that early. As with any therapy, there’s so much more to be discovered. But after my first taste, this sceptic wants a second helping.
Georgie Bradley is a British/Greek editor and journalist based in Dubai after being bred in Bahrain. She's been published by The Guardian UK, The Telegraph UK, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post UK, Buro 24/7 and Harper's Bazaar Arabia. Most recently she was the deputy editor of Emirates Woman. You're most likely to find her in the aisle seat.