Touch

I am always a bit melancholic as summer gives way to fall, and this year has been no exception. The change of season reminds me that the first anniversary of a dear friend’s death is looming. The boys have gone back to school, I have a birthday around the corner, a deadline to meet, a season’s worth of commitments made long ago that are now upon me.

A week ago, I could feel my own personal dark cloud settling over me like a cloak. And then, almost on a whim, I enrolled in a two-day course on Reiki healing. Last fall, hanging out with my friend Diane, sipping tea on the couch and chatting through the early autumn afternoons, I often found myself wanting to put my hands on her – as if the simple power of touch might somehow bring some small solace to us both. Sometimes, I gave in to the urge and rubbed her feet, or held her ankles in my hands as we talked.

But we are a hands-off culture, and to reach out in this way, human to human, hands to body, almost always means crossing some kind of barrier. We may feel free to talk about anything, but to lay our hands on another person is not something most of us do regularly or casually. For me, the impulse to heal through touch has always been there; what I lacked was any belief that my touch might actually be helpful or welcomed.

Two days of hands-on Reiki and I still don’t know if my hands are of much use to anyone but me. But I have learned this: simply settling into a quiet space with another person and allowing our hands to speak for us, to say to a friend or loved one, “You matter to me,” invites a sense of well-being. There is nothing quite like the gift of time and a loving touch to communicate caring and compassion – that became clear as I took my turn upon the table on Sunday, while my fellow students laid their hands upon my body and invited their Reiki energy to serve the highest healing good. It was so simple. So quiet. So practical. So wonderful.

And you know what? That elegiac case of “the blues” that visits me like clockwork every September has pretty much vanished into thin air. I’m not certain I’m cured, but it certainly seems as if some sort of healing has been going on here. Out for a run, I inhale the soft scents of the late-summer woods and give thanks for the fleeting beauty of the season. Each time I pause and put a hand upon my own heart, I’m almost absurdly pleased to feel it in there, beating steadily away. Laying Gracie out on the bed and laying my hands on her old arthritic haunches, I am filled with gratitude for all the years of walks we’ve shared, for all the mornings she got me up out of bed and out the door. She thumps her tail upon the mattress: could it be that she’s grateful, too? Sliding my palms against my husband’s sore back and breathing with him, I think how lucky we are, to have known and loved and shared one another’s bodies for a quarter century now. “That was nice,” he says, “thank you.” His back may not be better, but we are, reconnected by touch. Out in the garden, my hands at rest on my neighbor Debbie’s shoulders, I watch a hummingbird hovering over the petunias and am struck by the way this tiny, vibrating being embodies words we heard in class: “An invisible but palpable life force energy infuses and permeates all living forms. This energy is infinite, limitless, and pure.” Visiting a sick friend, I can tell she has no energy for conversation. But we can still spend time together in companionable silence as she reclines on her porch, my hands gently cradling her aching head.

I am a beginner, with four days of Reiki experience under my belt. Sitting with my hands cupped in my lap, drawing Japanese symbols in the air in my imagination, whispering strange words to myself, envisioning the highest healing good, I’m not quite sure whether I’m praying or meditating, or just opening myself up to forces already at work in the universe. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe what’s important is simply to live in a state of awareness, and to give ourselves and others the opportunity to take a few moments each day to move back into balance and harmony with our souls, our bodies, our environment, one another.

for my reflections & inspiration

your comments

  1. September for me has traditionally brought opposite feelings – a sense of energy, happiness and contentment. Until last year, when the bottom of my world fell out. I’ve spent almost 12 months digging myself out, 12 difficult and wondrous months, and finally this year I feel it again. And now, through this wholesome post, you remind me of the beauty of life. I don’t think we can ever be reminded enough. So thank you.
    xo

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      We are here to remind one another, I think, through our words, our actions, the small gestures of goodness that arise from our own gratitude to be alive. Thank you.

  2. My best friend spent three weeks with me just before and after Abra was born. I was so frayed when she arrived, having barely slept most of my last trimester. Every night Heidi massaged my feet, and I slept the first sound nights in month. What a gift to have a week of rest before my baby was born! I took an Intro to Reiki course a few years back and was really intrigued by the system of healing. I am someone who really responds to touch, and definitely see the value in it. I love that painting you posted, by the way.

    • Katrina Kenison says:

      What a gift! I think we all respond to touch — but sometimes we forget how vital it is. And then, when we remember, we can pass the gift on.

  3. I truly feel you on this one, Katrina. My heart feels the earthy love of awakening energy, tears of recognition for haunches that have loyally loved so wordlessly and with so much Grace, friends “gone” but not really.

    Perhaps our bodies themselves are metaphors, crystalizations of otherwise invisible energies.

    XO

  4. I was surprised to feel tears pricking my eyes when you mentioned Gracie. How often and well we communicate through touch with our canine and feline friends! So sad that it is more tentative and laden with ‘meaning’ when it is shared with humans. I am grateful for my children, small enough and always near enough that I have someone to touch, or who needs my touch, sometimes constantly. And my dear husband too, whose bad back always needs attention. Thank you for this lovely post!

  5. I feel the same about autumn. I think it makes sense if spring is the rebirth, and winter is the death, that autumn would bring a sense of melancholy as we look back and also anticipate the months ahead. It holds so much beauty you can’t help but be grateful for life.

  6. I love this. I discovered the power of touch when I was newly married, and struggling. I had heard that I was a bad idea to go to bed angry, so I would force my husband to talk about whatever had come between us and caused our (frequent) arguments. One night, at a loss for how to reach him, I, well, *reached for* him. I touched him. And I instantly softened and felt him soften, too, and resistance melted away. Our bodies knew we still loved each other, even if our thoughts tried to convince us otherwise. That was 16 years ago, and it’s a lesson that has kept us strong and supple ever since.

  7. I am calmed just reading about your experience. And, as you know, I need to borrow some of your calm right now.

    I can’t express how much your encouragement in the past few days has meant to me. I am fighting the sense that I’m feeling more ‘alone’ than ‘content in the quiet’.

    I ache to reach out to my life partner, the one who I trust so fully to care for my children when I cant be there. Reading your words, and your commenter Allison’s words makes my heart ache for him. That’s a good thing, right? :)

    For now I’ll just say thank you.

    “But I have learned this: simply settling into a quiet space with another person and allowing our hands to speak for us, to say to a friend or loved one, “You matter to me,” invites a sense of well-being.”

    Indeed, my friend. Indeed.

    judy

  8. I loved this so much. I echo Bruce’s sentiment that our bodies are metaphors. For years you have been healing with your words, and now you are healing with your hands. It’s a beautiful circle.

  9. I am so excited that you are learning Reiki. I have taken several classes of Reiki and Healing Touch and find it very healing for myself and the healing of others. The first time I had Reiki, I felt so much love and Peace. I had the priviledge of taking care of one of my good friends until she died of cancer. What a blessing for me. I love it the you are doing Reiki on Gracie. I have a massage theripist that does massage on animals also. What a gift touch is.
    Peace be with you.

  10. This summer I read two books that really enhanced my perspective on life – and yours – The Gift of an Ordinary Day – was one of them. Such fine and beautiful perspective you gave in your writing, and I am grateful. And now I have these lovely writings you are sending out to keep me going, and I thank you.
    Blessings for a a joyful fall season!

  11. We share this too… that somber feeling that predictably enters my heart and mind just when the air begins to get crisp.

    I have found that over the years, details of that melancholy have changed and so it always provides me with an opportunity to examine my current state of mind, my fears and worries and my current path. Essentially, a way to calibrate my personal compass to gain a bit more of the balance you talk about.

    In a strange way, as a result, I have been thankful for the feeling. Of course this is because I can usually find my way through and out quickly.

    I am so glad you found your way through and out in this way.

    X
    Meredith
    P.S. Just finished my book, so it is on to your recommendation tonight. Can’t wait!

  12. I can relate to much of what you express here. There is beauty and melancholy in this time of year – for me, today, the anniversary of the loss of our beloved family dog; other “human” losses around the corner. And still coming to grips with empty nest.

    Yet the morning brightens with a piercing sky and cooling air. A gift, though bittersweet some days more than others.

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