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There was a kind woman in my hometown, Mrs. Howell, who practiced Reiki, a Japanese healing art performed with the palms, from her home. My grandmother was a regular client and, when I was eleven, offered to enroll us both in a class to become certified in Reiki ourselves. Of course I accepted, though knowing little of the art from the outset, and it was there in Mrs. Howell’s living room that I discovered how to heal with my own two hands.

As she explained to us on the sofa, “Reiki” translates to “spiritually guided life force energy”  (Eastern medicine enthusiasts will recognize “ki”, the same root as chi), and was formally developed into a practice, complete with rigorous certifications, by the founder and master Mikao Usui in 1922. I didn’t particularly care for the historical details, though. I wanted to get to the hands-on training (no pun intended). 

But there were more diagrams and charts to review before Mrs. Howell would let me start practicing with my own “spiritually guided life force energy.” Specifically, my grandmother and I had to memorize something called the chakras, natural energy centers along the meridian of the body. All Reiki masters are well versed in the chakras, since Reiki heals by channeling a flow of radiant energy to revitalize and restore each chakra to vibrant health. Because each chakra controls numerous physical and emotional attributes, Reiki heals the body and soul. 

“Chakra is the Sanskrit word for ‘wheel,’” explained Mrs. Howell. “You can imagine each one as a colored, spinning orb. Depending on your focus, you can make them spin fast or slow, backward or forward. Are you getting this down?”

“Absolutely,” I nodded, scrunching my face with exertion. I wondered if my chakras were speeding up. 

She must have sensed my impatience, because she assured me we’d learn to interact with them soon. But first, like the ABCs of healing, we had to identify each of the 7 chakras:

1. The root chakra is in the base of the spine. It glows a bright red (I always imagined it the shade of a fire engine) and represents our feelings of security and groundedness. We practiced a meditation in which a crimson pipeline dropped from the base of our spines to the center of the earth, connecting us and revitalizing our bodies with the planet’s natural energy.  The root chakra is intimately connected with our body’s ability to eliminate toxins and waste. 

2. The sacral chakra is about two inches below the belly button (but, as Mrs. Howell pointed out, it’s inside your body, not on your skin). Our sexuality and pleasure spring from this tangerine-colored center, and when this chakra needs some love, we struggle to accept other people and ourselves. The kidneys and bladder, our body’s organs of purification, are also ruled by the sacral chakra. 

3. The solar plexus chakra is near the stomach, so it’s no stretch that the digestive organs are under its dominion. With a sunny yellow glow, this chakra rules our confidence. That’s why whenever I’m feeling afraid to stand tall and express myself, I know this brilliant chakra is clouded. 

4. The heart chakra is a verdant green center in the middle of the ribs. When it’s in pristine condition, your cardiologist is happy and you feel peaceful, accepting, and compassionate. An out-of-whack heart chakra, on the other hand, can contribute to codependent relationships and jealousy.

5. The throat chakra lives in, of course, the throat. This sky blue center rules our voice, figuratively and literally: it energizes our vocal cords as well as our ability to communicate openly, honestly, and nonviolently. This is the chakra you want to meditate on before a big presentation for a clear and sympathetic message. 

6. The third eye chakra is a dark blue source between the eyes. It’s the book-smart chakra, connected to the brain and visual system as well as our inner sight. If you’ve ever had a flash of inspiration that illuminated a complex situation, you can thank this energy center!

7. The crown chakra is on top of the head— no, not the forehead, actually over the skull. The pineal gland, which many practitioners believe is the seat of consciousness, is associated with the lustrous purple sphere of the crown chakra, as are our most transcendent experiences of enlightenment and cosmic wisdom. 

After reciting the chakras for Mrs. Howell, I was finally told how to channel energy. My grandmother and I opened our third eye chakras through meditation and visualized a glimmering, golden energy entering our bodies. We could use this energy to heal ourselves or others by laying our hands over a chakra and letting the golden light flow, Mrs. Howell explained. As she went to freshen our teacups, my grandmother and I practiced on one another, moving slowly up the seven chakras and funneling universal energy into each one.

“Great job, guys,” said Mrs. Howell said when she returned. “But I haven’t actually attuned you yet.” What she meant was, there was no energy flowing for my grandmother and I. It was like we’d been placing phone calls on disconnected lines!

In Reiki, only a master can initiate a student into the art. No one is born a Reiki practitioner, but everyone can train to become one. Until Mrs. Howell attuned us, or performed a ritual to permanently open us to the universal energy, we were just going through the motions. The attunement experience is different for everyone, but I can report having a vision of a nebulous violet cloud surrounding me as Mrs. Howell worked. 

When we had both completed our training, Mrs. Howell presented me and my grandmother with certificates. She cautioned me, “Remember, this isn’t something you can show off at a party. Reiki is sacred and should only be used for healing.” I’ve upheld her promise, restricting my practice to friends, family, and clients in need of a holistic recharge. Because Reiki can be performed long-distance (what, you thought universal energy could be confined by geography?), my work is essentially boundless. I’m grateful for my gift, a gift from my grandmother and Mrs. Howell, and one day, if she is so inclined, I’ll pass it down to my own daughter.

Chakra healing is part of holistic wellness. If you think your chakras are in need of some revitalizing or have questions about training in the healing arts, many KEEN Psychic Advisors are qualified to help.