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  • Reiki: Not Waving but Drowning November 7, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite , trackback

    An autobiographical post. Six months ago  I detailed some experiences in Shiatsu. In the last eight weeks the same practitioner gave me a series of treatments in Reiki as part of her training. Reiki for the uninitiated, in which I would still include myself, is the laying of hands on or, for the most part, over the body. The hands of the Reikist travel up and down transferring energy in and out supposedly restoring balance to the reclining body: sessions lasted about 40 minutes, I think. I was a shiatsu enthusiast because I like the idea of massage. I was skeptical about Reiki and did not have high hopes but I tried to go into it with an open mind. And then I started drowning…

    I noted no changes in health connected to Reiki, but from the third or fourth session I had strange experiences of dropping into a state of semi-consciousness. I want to say that I fell asleep but that isn’t quite right. In these states I felt that I was floating on water. One of two things would then happen. In some I would have short image flashes: these were photographs or runs of photographs not films in my head. Plates from my childhood, peas, a face… In others I would have the, I found very unsettling sensation, of ‘drowning’. In fact I would surge back to consciousness breathing for dear life. (Interestingly when I asked her after the treatment the Reikist had not noticed any panic.) The closest analogue experience I have had to this is the sensation of falling, when you surge back to consciousness while trying to go to sleep.

    As regularly noted on this blog I’m fascinated by the tricks and exploits our brain can get up to. After having done about eight sessions of Reiki I’m convinced that something happened to me. I would be inclined, though, to blame this on the rhythmic breathing. While the hands are moving over my body I find that I fall into a very regular, very rhythmic breathing and that this goes on for, at least, half an hour: something that I’ve never managed with yoga or any form of meditation. Perhaps it is the sense of being the focus of attention for someone else, perhaps it is even a form of communication and solidarity with the Reikist. I was so convinced by this explanation that I tried to recreate the deep breathing myself with images and drowning, but I failed. Slightly worryingly the sense of drowning has passed over, a couple of times into my bed when I’m falling asleep…

    I call Reiki ‘witchcraft’ when I speak to my wife: it scares me a little bit. I think of Shiatsu as a dear aunt who drops by and gives me cakes and twenty pound notes.

    Anyone else had drowning experiences with meditation or reichi or can you offer a physiological explanation? Drbeachcombing At gmail DOT com

    Janet, 30 Nov 2017: Your experience of “drowning” is probably due to falling into a hypnagogic state – that transition world between sleep and waking which can involve all manner of strange experiences. As a Reiki practitioner myself I have seen this phenomenon before. During a Reiki session you typically become very deeply relaxed and begin to drift on the edge of sleep; then maybe something suddenly recalls you to the fact that you’re NOT at home, you’re NOT in your own bed at night, you’re in a room with a comparative stranger – whatever, you might well “wake up” in a sort of panic state as if your basic security was being threatened and you had to take immediate action.
    Cathy, 30 Nov 2017: That was a very interesting post! I’ve had Reiki a couple of times, and it’s sometimes very relaxing, other times not much of anything, and I’m still open but not convinced. But your response reminds me a lot of what happens to me with the ASMR videos. If you haven’t heard of those, it stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, which is not a scientific term, but one created by a group of people who all felt “tingles” and deep relaxation from a variety of sensory inputs, most often soft sounds or voices, but also sometimes the physical experience of someone’s hands on or very near the body (like some haircuts,or gentle head massage – or Reiki). Only some people respond, but apparently they “found” each other online and have created hundreds of trigger videos. Perhaps you already know all this, but your “drowning” response sounds a bit like the sudden relaxation as if warm water is pouring on my head and down my back, but relaxation rather than water. (Very hard to describe if you haven’t felt it.) Best way to find out is to check out some ASMR videos (sample links below) and see if you get anywhere near the same response. For me it’s sounds, but look for the visual ones as well, to see if they work for you. [Note: anyone for whom this doesn’t work finds it very hard to believe it’s doing anything for the rest of us]. So far, not enough research to discover the reason, but thousands of people can’t all be hallucinating. Cathy M

    Ruth in OK, 30 Nov, Beachy, sounds like you managed to get into a very relaxed state that you cannot get into otherwise during meditation, etc. I would say fewer distractions during these sessions allows that where at other times you are distracted by them even if they are below your basic consciousness. It could be described as a “twilight” state, possibly. That fleeting time between awake and sleep, but not a regular between awake and sleep state, sort of like a suspended state, if that makes sense? My parents were into meditation, etc. in the late 60’s, mostly just bull crap, frankly. I went to a session once, and managed to hit that state you mention for a brief time. The group was attempting to meditate into levitation. I don’t know if anyone did actually manage it, but I certainly felt somewhat weightless, probably too close to going to sleep. I can fall asleep at the drop of a pillow most of the time so it’s hard to do anything like that, even then. My sensation occasionally when falling asleep is different from yours. I feel like I’m falling down a staircase and it scares me. I do wake up breathing hard for a few seconds before I can calm down and go on to sleep. Maybe you had something happen as a child that involved water and feeling like you were drowning, a swimming lesson maybe? Freud would love to get ahold of you! I think mine is because the school I attended the first 6 years had dark staircases with steep risers. I’m a klutz and those staircases would really scare me at times. Or perhaps, if you subscribe to the theory of reincarnation, you drowned in a past life and your experience with the Reiki brought it to the surface. Meditation can bring certain benefits, but it can also cause serious problems if you aren’t prepared. You really ought to be more careful how you go about it if you intend to continue. Personally, I’d stick to the massage treatments and let the rest go by the way. Religion aside, letting yourself get in that state can allow other things to enter your “consciousness”. Things you may not want and that can be hard to get rid of, call them by whatever name you want.