LC12-Reiki and Holding Space

This post will weave the concepts of Reiki (pronounced ray-kee) and holding space. The Japanese word, “Reiki” translates to universal spirit (rei) and life force energy (ki or chi). Reiki has been an important component in my personal and professional life for decades. It has become more important while dealing with recent health challenges. The symptoms I experience are numerous and lab reports confirm abnormalities within multiple biological systems. Some of the adjunct diagnoses include myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), and dysautonomia. This trio gives way to internal systems dysregulating with resultant symptoms that are at least annoying or uncomfortable, and at most, anaphylactic and life threatening. In addition to holding space for my own healing, Reiki is the practical daily action I take to ease discomfort and restore balance.

My Reiki master-teacher training spanned three years in the early 1990’s. My teachers emphasized that Reiki is not a religion or a religious practice. Rather, it is a universal energy (aka LOVE), and that consciously engaging Reiki increases the capacity for giving and receiving unconditional love. I learned how to engage Reiki for my massage clients and for myself. Reiki can be offered directly, as a hands-on therapeutic treatment (for self or others), or sent to a receiver over distance, time, and space. When offering Reiki, practitioners experience a deep meditative state that is shared with receivers. Treatments provide comfort, healing, and relaxation that spark the receiver’s own resilience. There are specific, focused mantras and symbols practitioners use during a session of either type. I observe that Reiki, like yoga and meditation, can establish homeostasis and balance while reducing stress, pain, and other uncomfortable symptoms for both practitioners and receivers. Reiki is sometimes called “effortless effort” and requires a selfless attitude that is caring and compassionate, yet not attached to a particular outcome.

Unlike Reiki, holding space doesn’t require specific mantras, envisioning symbols, laying hands on, sending thoughts, prayers, or energy. Consider the dictionary definitions for holding (to bear, sustain, or support, as with the hands or arms, or by any other means); and for space (the unlimited or incalculably great three-dimensional realm or expanse in which all material objects are located and all events occur). Taken together, this indicates that when we are intentionally holding space, we are supportive of an unlimited expanse of possibilities, beyond the capabilities of our limited mortal imaginings. This appeals to me, as one who embraces the incalculable universal mysteries.

The following four concepts were developed as part of Further Shore’s pre-hospice training:

  1. Holding space acknowledges suffering without judgment or pity and is supportive of the recipient’s dignity. It is witnessing and walking alongside, as companions on a journey. This requires respect, allowing, presence, and humility. It allows for organic unfolding and for grace to enter wherein there is suffering. We can hold space for ourselves, for others, for the environment, and for various situations.
  2. Holding space has the intention to relieve suffering. It does not intend to fix, save, cure, or rescue. It doesn’t request, suggest, insist, or demand a particular approach, philosophy, remedy, strategy, or outcome. It does require letting go of personal agendas and the ego’s desire for things to be a certain way. Holding space doesn’t mean to give up hope; rather it is holding hope to relieve suffering.
  3. Holding space encompasses attitudes of non-attachment, nonjudgment, and non-expectation. When caregiving, ask the recipient before offering suggestions, guidance, opinions, or practical assistance. Offering should be done with gentle respect and the understanding that a recipient may refuse or make different choices than what is being offered.
  4. Holding space and compassion go hand in hand and have intention to relieve suffering while maintaining personal inner peace and balance. Capacity for compassion ebbs and flows. At times, it will be difficult or impossible to maintain compassion in the face of tremendous suffering. Knowing when to remain and when to step away will take practice.

These concepts are applicable to situations and transitions of all kinds, including during serious illness and in final days. In 2015, I came across a beautiful blog post about holding space by Heather Plett. She is an author, and co-founder of the Centre for Holding Space in Canada. This statement from the Centre’s website offers more perspective: Holding Space is a practice that equips you to be with uncertainty, uncomfortable conversations, and gives you tools to navigate change, conflicts, and other challenges in relationships, community, and – perhaps most importantly – Holding Space deepens your capacity for self-reflection and personal growth.

Holding space for my own health journey has certainly contributed to my capacity for self-reflection and personal growth! It is as important for my well-being as any supplement, treatment protocol, medication, or wellness strategy. Reiki is my constant companion, providing ballast, peace, and a sense of agency alongside these physical and social limitations. I see both holding space and Reiki as valuable navigation tools. Feel free to comment or message me with questions about these and other tools for coping with chronic conditions.

Thank you for reading! Next time the LC Series will address radical acceptance

Please Note:  The Long Covid series is intended to be both a memoir and an educational resource for the “living well” aspect of our mission. It is hoped that the content will increase empathy, support, and understanding for those living with chronic conditions.

Blog post commenting helps to build community and spark important dialog. All comments and questions are reviewed prior to public posting. If you prefer to have a comment remain private, please indicate that clearly and provide an email address if you desire a reply. Comments about Aleia’s personal circumstances are gratefully received but will not be posted for public viewing. All site content is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. Always consult with medical professionals to address new or persisting health concerns.

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