Reiki: Exploring a tool for healing

I took a Reiki workshop on a beautiful Saturday not too long ago. As I rode my bike there, I felt ambivalent about taking it and was not in the best mental space. A few troubling firestorms had occurred that week and were occupying some mental space, plus I am always reluctant to spend a beautiful day inside.

A friend had taken Terri Sandusky’s workshop and recommended it to me. It was close to where I lived (convenience is a big deal for me in this busy world of mine!) and lately I had been thinking about “what’s next” in terms of work/career stuff. It seemed like a good first step towards seeking clarity. And I’ve always been interested in health and how the body has an enormous capacity for self-healing.

So what is Reiki?

Reiki is a spiritual, healing practice, transmitted energetically through touch. It is great for stress reduction and induces a state of deep relaxation.

The class was small- there were three other folks. I like small classes- they  are more intimate and you get more one-on-one attention from the teacher. The teacher, Terri, was incredibly enthusiastic about what she was teaching and talked quite a lot. But when we got to the actual hands-on practicing of Reiki, that’s when things started to shift for me.

Each person in the class received Reiki at the same time from the others, which was pretty powerful. Imagine 3 pairs of hands gently placed on your body as you lie there in a state of extreme relaxation. The caring energy was palpable- you could really feel it. After my session I felt lighter and calmer, and my preoccupation with the week’s events was gone. The negative energy that had been bottled up inside me had just vanished.

Elizabeth having a Reiki session. Note the two pairs of hands. The third pair are down by my feet.  Credit: Terri Sandusky

Elizabeth having a Reiki session. Note the two pairs of hands. The third pair are down by my feet. Credit: Terri Sandusky

During the last Reiki session on one of the participants, the teacher had me encircling my hands around her head. A few minutes later, my eyes started tearing up.  The participant had been talking about a particularly troubling relationship and I think she had been feeling some sadness/anger/pain. Because my hands were on her head, I was able to sense the painful feelings behind her thoughts. I had no control over the tears that were flowing and actually felt detached from the emotion itself.

This type of intuition is no big surprise to me. I have noticed that when someone I am interacting with expresses grief or tells a painful story, I often find myself also feeling that emotion (which is why I would probably be a terrible therapist!). I think it runs deeper than just feeling compassion for someone– my body actually senses the emotion. This sense of intuition has allowed me to be compassionate as a listener and over the years I’ve been able to learn how to mute my reactions and somehow remain detached from the person’s emotions and feelings, while still being present and caring for the person.

Since I’ve taken the workshop, I have practiced Reiki on myself and my family with positive results. My daughter claimed her cough went away, my squirmy son relaxed quite a bit, and my husband fell asleep. What a great tool for self-healing and coping with stress!


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Bill Gates: Inspiring or Polarizing Philanthropist?

I’m a little fascinated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I’m not sure I can explain it, other than a) I always had a fleeting desire to work there, but apparently it is an intense environment with a high burnout rate and it is really not a friendly environment for working moms; b) it seems like a good area for MPH’s, a tribe which I have belonged to in the past and sometimes think wistfully about returning to; and c) it is funded by the richest man in the world– which kind of makes you wonder what goes on behind those walls? But don’t get me started at how I feel about all that money spent to build the new building.

The brand new Gates Foundation building

The brand new Gates Foundation building

This past Friday, twelve Gates Foundation employees came to spend the morning and part of the afternoon at the nonprofit, FamilyWorks, where I work as part of United Way’s Day of Caring, an annual event that sends employees of corporations and private companies to volunteer at nonprofits. Even Sue Desmond-Hellman, the new CEO of the Foundation, came by for about 45 minutes to help out. Bill Gates Sr. was supposed to make an appearance but couldn’t make it.

The Foundation employees helped to clean our resource center and worked at the food bank packaging food items and helping customers get food. It was fun coordinating the event and wish I had had more time to get to know some of the Gates employees a little better. I felt a little cynical about the whole Day of Caring premise. Sure, it’s great to get people involved in nonprofits, but it’s sort of an in and out approach with no real vision for continuing the relationship. And the fact that Desmond-Hellman was also in and out for her photo op… well, ok, she did contribute 45 minutes of her time.

An article in today’s Seattle Times articulated a lot of my thoughts about Bill Gates and his foundation. Basically, Gates, the richest man on the planet “intends to give away most of his wealth in his lifetime.” He has insisted that other billionaires (ie. Buffett) do the same through this “Giving Pledge”.  He is practically a full-time philanthropist and he has the power to put his money towards his interests (poverty, technology, education, etc. according to the article).

But here is the quote that got me nodding my head:

“Gates has a long running feud with Dambisa Moyo [an international economist], who questions whether billions in aid to poor nations actually deliver their promised results.”

Moyo is an outspoken critic of foreign aid– check out an article she wrote for the Wall Street Journal that outlines some examples of how it has hurt, rather than helped.

I’ve long wondered this myself and feel cynical of the propensity of rich countries like the U.S. to throwing money at programs in less developed countries which can enable them to remain dependent instead of focusing on sustainability.

I had a great conversation with one of my food bank volunteers who had also been in the Peace Corps. For both of us the experience was life-changing, but was it life-changing for the people we served? Probably not. I fully admit in many ways being a Peace Corps Volunteer is self-serving for so many people. It’s just so easy to go somewhere, “make a difference” for two years, then you get to leave the problems there and come back home. I will say though, no matter how self-serving it may have been for me, I still feel a) I made a difference for a few of my students who were able to pass their exams and go on to university (which opens up so many doors); and b) that because of the decisions and choices I’ve made in my career and the way I live my life have made a difference.

I do struggle with the premise that people volunteer to make themselves feel better or because they want to add it on to their resume. Granted, there are people who truly want to help because it is the right thing to do… but I am finding it challenging to find those pearls as I recruit new people to volunteer at my organization.


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Raising Nice Kids- How Can We Do This?

I’m trying not to get overwhelmed by the fear and pessimism swirling around me because of news on ISIS, Ebola and climate change– three things on my mind now.

The monstrous acts of terrorism ISIS is doing makes me go back to the idea (or is it a fantasy?) that we should make it a priority to create kind, compassionate, and caring kids to be the next generation to stop this madness.

I hope I am raising my kids with these qualities.

My almost 9 year-old son came home from school the other day and when I asked him how the new kids in the class were doing, he said one of the kids was really shy and kept looking at his feet.

Me: “So what are you doing about it?”

Son: (shrugging his shoulders) I don’t know. He’s not really making an effort to get to know anyone.

Me: I wonder what he must be thinking, being in a new school, not knowing anyone and not having any friends. Do you think that might be hard for him?

Son: Yeah.

We didn’t get very far with the conversation, but I am hoping I planted in him the seeds of an idea, that maybe he could take it upon himself to be compassionate with this new classmate. I’ll have to check in with him soon about that.


Recently, his teacher shared with me something that he said in class:

“We were talking about class pets and [my son’s] comment was that we should include the other class somehow.  He pointed out how we also have the loft [the kids can climb up here to read or have quiet time] and the other class does not, and that it wouldn’t be fair if we had both a pet and the loft.  I thought this comment was a really nice example of how empathetic [my son] is and how he really sees things from another perspective.”

That really made my day.

A friend shared this article, which really lays it out nicely: 5 ways to raise your kids to be kind and some practical tips for how we can do this. But what got me was this finding from a study:

“The interviewees [youth] were also three times more likely to agree that ‘My parents are prouder if I get good grades in my classes than if I’m a caring community member in class and school.'”

There’s something wrong with that. If we are not teaching our kids to be caring people, but rather focused on success and achievement, what does this mean for this generation’s future?

 “The topic of compassion is not at all religious business; it is important to know it is human business, it is a question of human survival.”  — Dalai Lama

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Yves Béhar: Philanthropist?

I was on a Delta Airlines plane recently and for the first time in forever (I am NOT quoting from the movie “Frozen” here), found myself without adequate reading material. It was horrible. Especially because flights to and from New York City are LONG. I rifled through the seat pocket and found the Delta Sky magazine. In it was an article on the obscure Yvés Béhar, a Swiss-Turkish design entrepreneur.

yves Behar

Yves Béhar (from Index Award website)

I don’t often read about designers who are quietly making a difference in the world and enjoyed learning just a little bit about this interesting man. Béhar started fuseproject, a design and branding firm in San Francisco and New York. He was quoted as saying, “Objects tell stories, so storytelling has been a really strong influence on my work.” which I found intriguing, being I love how storytelling can inspire people to take action.

Then of course the word “Philanthropy” in the article jumped out at me and I had to take a closer look. A few things he is involved with:

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Fitting in at Camp Goodtimes

Boy, this summer is flying by. I have found very little time to focus on my writing– most of my energy has been directed towards spending time with my kids and putting my hours in at work.

But I did have time to write this article about a neat camp for kids who are touched by cancer in some way. Take a look!images


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Talking about Philanthropy with Girl Scouts

I mentioned in a recent post that I had spent some time talking about philanthropy with a group of Girl Scouts. Here is the Parentmap article I finally wrote about that experience.  I’d love to do more of that sort of thing!

Girls Scout badge drawn by Sydney Vernon, 11

Girls Scout badge drawn by Sydney Vernon, 11

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Raising Awareness about Hearing Loss with Seattle Seahawk Derrick Coleman

And heeeeere it is! My post about meeting Derrick Coleman and the fabulous experience helping to run a fundraising event. Read it and enjoy!

ER Pix with Derrick

Elizabeth with Derrick Coleman. Photo credit: Corky Trewin, Seattle Seahawks Photographer

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