Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reiki and Manna

What do these two things have in common, Reiki, a form of healing which comes to us from Japan, and Manna, a type of food consumed by the Israelites in the desert, after they escaped from Egypt?

First of all, this Blog reflects meditation on a question that people are asking me, why don't you slow down? Aren't you worried you are going to exhaust yourself? Someone your age should take it easy!

And it is true that I have many days come to a realization that in hospice, half the patients I treat now are younger than I am - and so one would ask, what SHOULD I worry about? And it made me think of the story of the Manna in the desert. At least in the Bible as written in Hebrew, it appears that the "energy" in the Manna is not just "nourishment," it is a "food" that is spiritual and energetic as well as "material." And this food comes from Heaven and lasts only for one day - it cannot be stored or "saved for tomorrow." It appears that the lesson here differentiates between material food, grain and the like, that earlier in Genesis Joseph was able to store in warehouses, and save for the "rainy day" (or more likely in this case for the years of drought). Manna came as food that was "spiritual" in nature, and the energy needed to be consumed, more importantly, one needed to use the gift with the faith that more energy (or Manna) would come tomorrow.
So it seems to be for a Hospice worker. We are gifted with a certain amount of energy, and perhaps that is for a purpose, if we hold back and do not use that energy to assist others than it will spoil and do us no good. Holding back isn't playing it "safe" at all.
I am recurrently seeing people eager to move ahead in Reiki, attain more attunements, and accomplish more levels. And I am seeing people have concern that these leap forwards can be exhausting, and no doubt at some point clearing blocks and opening up can come with a need to rest and to integrate energies, to "rearrange the garden" if you will.
More and more for this reason I am tending to teach people over a longer period of time, and provide attunements at a point when I feel they are "really ready." There are benefits to "curriculum," and certainly standardization has its value and its place, but learning to perceive and work with "energy" is a long term commitment and an ongoing process. It seems to me more a journey than an attainment - and approached in this way I have found helping other people exhilirating, and long days rarely "exhausting."
For those who say I have a lot left to learn, I have tended to say I second that, or perhaps just a simple "thank you." In the meantime, I feel an obligation to continue to work hard and expend the spiritual energy I am gifted with "just for today." If we are doing a mission of kindness, we just need to have faith that the "Manna" will continue to fall - one day at a time.
And whether we use a curriculum, or attain a level, if we simply use the spiritual energy that is gifted us to give compassion to others, we ourselves will continue to grow.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reiki and Transition

Last week I was having a meeting with a family in hospice. Superb specialists had told the family that his cancer could not be cured, and that he was near death. Everyone had fought as hard as they could. The patient as so often is the case, could no longer speak for himself, and fortunately, he was on a unit where relief of pain was a primary goal. Although further aggressive meaasures such as CPR (cardiopulmonary rescusitation) would no longer be useful, law still placed a burden on me to ask the family the ritual questions about doing or not doing CPR, and gave the family both the power and the emburdenment of deciding on whether to have something done or not, that in this circumstance would not be expected to work absent a celestial miracle.

Familes so often in this situation think they are deciding whether or not someone "will live." For them, to not do CPR implies to "let someone die" - and yet - they have already been told that medical treatments would not work in this circumstances.

We sometimes try a new approach - not directing the discussion at the technical aspects of CPR or why it wouldn't work - but rather, guided by a Reiki perspective focused on the moment, asking questions focused on the moment. Thinking in this moment of the five basic Reiki principles.

And the question I ask then is directed to the reality that is being lived "just for today." "You know him best, if he could speak for himself right now - what would he say he believed would happen to his spirit when his body ceased to function? Does he believe that death ends it all, or has he believed that a spirit continues after the body dies?"

Although no one knows what actually happens after death, and we cannot test or measure or have certainty, many many people think on this question. And as they approach "transition" - what they have believed in their life should matter - do they believe that the end of mortal life ends life, or do they believe they are moving forward to an exciting journey? Are they afraid or do they have faith?

While it is not for a health care professional to ever convert or convince at end of life, neither is it for a health care professional to silence or rebut faith - and so often, if patients and their families are not told that we are willing to listen to what their faith is, and accept their sharing, they think we are not interested, or do not care, or would judge.

Asking simply "what would he believe" can be a powerful act of respect. We can at the least learn a lot more about our patients and their families - and at the point where we cannot cure, demonstrating in this way that we care, at least enough to want to know about the life, can be important.

One day I was telling a friend about my plans to give a talk at a medical meeting on "end of life" care, and this gentleman who was a religious leader for many souls, perhaps tens of thousands of souls, told me as respectfully as he could that, "you young doctor are not an expert on life, only on mortal life. The life that happens after death is beyond doctors training and expertise."

And so, I was told, that if we used our skills to cure, at the point when we could no longer cure, we could at least have the humility to care to listen to what those we were caring for believed.

I have treated many patients who have been near death, and at least for a time returned to us. Almost every one described an experience of perceiving a bright light - like the brightest light they had ever seen. And here is a description of Mikao Usui's vision on Mount Kurama, in a classic version as told to Amy Rowland as told by Beth Gray, as told by Mrs. Takata ("The Complete Book of Traditional Reiki")- this occurs on Mount Kurama after a 21 day fast: "too weak to move and powerless to block the light, he surrendered to it, and he had his vision. He began to see that the intense bright light flowing into him was made of hundreds and hundreds of bubbles of light, like a river is made of droplets of rain. Each of these bubbles was one of the colors of the rainbow and glowed with iridescence."

When we were in Japan, and traveling to Kurama, we had the opportunity to talk with many people, and intentionally we did not simply ask about Reiki, but about Mount Kurama, and we found it had a deep spiritual meaning to many Japanese people - for generations, indeed for centuries, the remains of "noble souls" who might serve as examples and protectors to their families and villages, even in death, seem to have been brought there as a final resting place.

For many people's, places become "holy" based on the memory of the spirits who have gone before - the examples of their lives and joys and tears that went before us.

If we see Usui Sensei in Japanese terms, perhaps we can see the "bubbles of light" as Kami - noble spirits - intending to guide and give compassion to those of us still in mortal life.

There is simply this - Reiki method gives us a non sectarian structure for looking at a situation and a time we cannot control with science. It allows us to connect with people of different backgrounds and different religions and different cultures in a very simple way.

And what of my patient's family last week? I listened to their story of his life, and of what he believed, and of his faith, and his oft stated words that he was going to a "better place" - and they added, "he would not want to be on a machine and he would not want CPR."

Away from worry and in a place of gratefulness for his life, they had found a path to an easier way to face this moment. I had said very little, had asked a simple question, and sat and listened to a story.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On the NIH 5 year plan

This weekend I attended a continuing education meeting (CME) for conventional physicians, and while neither Reiki nor energy based healing were discussed, I could not help but reflect that the comnents of some of our speakers were, advertently or inadvertently, supporting the integration of complementary medicine into what we do in "evidence based medicine." The plain fact is, everyone wants access to the best of evidence based medicine when it works, but much of what we utilize every day is extremely expensive and has fairly high side effects.

I also cannot help but reflect upon the ill advised, poorly thought out, and regrettable decision by the NIH to focus research within its next 5 year plan of complementary medicine on pharmaceuticals rather than energy based medicine.

Here is what a highly prestigious speaker quoted to our conventional group of physicians this weekend" "Far too large a section of the treatment of disease is today controlled by the big manufacturing pharmacists, who have enslaved us in a plausible pseudoscience."

Well - what is shocking is this quote was not from 2010, but rather from a contemporary of Usui Sensei, the quote is from Dr Osler, the founder of the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins and one of the father's of Modern Scientific Medicine.

And what does that mean in todays terms? The speaker went on to discuss the over usage of sedatives and antipsychotics in nursing homes today. In terms of sleep, scientific evidence was quoted that a major class of sleeping pills "decrease the time to onset of sleep, prolong the first two stages of sleep and shorten stages 3 and 4 (deep sleep) and REM sleep." (Medical Letter 1999)

Now deep sleep and REM sleep are what really "refresh" us, and the speaker went on to encourage us not to prescribe these medications adding, that for people having sleep induced by sleeping pills the report of daytime fatigue (next day) is "3.8 fold increase" compared to people not given a sleeping pill and continuing to report sleeplessness.

We were informed that in one recent case "the government charged that executives" (or a company which i will not name in the blog) "planned and executed schemes to illegally market (varying medications for pain and sedation). The fine in this case, "$2.3 billion amounts to less than 3 weeks" of the alleged companies sales.

These comments above, which I am reflecting on, are from a highly respected conventional teacher speaking at a very conservative and conventional physician meeting.

Conventional physicians are struggling to be "evidence based" - this is the best way for us to be, it is how we can best assist patients - but in the case of conventional medicine, we need more evidence about what complementary techniques can do and what they cannot do, especially - energy based and spiritual techniques.

The simple fact is that, complementary techniques like Reiki, Acupunture have very low costs and very low side effects.

I had a patient come in last month wishing a prescription for sleeping pills. I quoted the evidence to him, and tried to convince him that a medication was not a best option - it would take far less time to write a prescription! In the end, we agreed i would do a Reiki treatment on him, and not so surprisingly, he fell asleep. Now I have a conventional practice, not a Reiki practice, and except for terminally ill patients who I am treating in hospice, I am not day to day doing Reiki therapy - and so I offer options of colleagues who have Reiki practices.

In hospice we see cancer patients every day. And to make myself perfectly clear, if there is a chance that surgery and chemotherapy and radiation therapy will cure a patient, I am 100% supportive of educating to this option. "Cure" is a wonderful thing. Sadly - we do not yet have a cure for all cancers - and what happens when the conventional treatments are in fact not curative, and the patient is worsening in the face of such treatment? That is the dilemma. Can we "care" (or even as some say "heal") when we cannot cure?

This past week I was treating a patient whose oncologist had given up hope. Nonetheless, she wanted to continue aggressive treatment that would clearly not cure her and might well shorten her life. She came to hospice perhaps to die. We spent some time discussing the options, and she was very focused on what would happen after she died, what would her family do after she died, and in talking with her family we said to her, "please live the time you have. Please focus on the time you can share with your family now. Please don't give up the time you can live now."

She changed her focus - and went home. We do not know for how long. We only believe that each day someone can enjoy and share with loved ones is a precious day.

I can remember very early in my conventional practice, many years ago, having a very tough week. I had two patients with incureable brain tumors. I had long discussions with my neurosurgical colleague who did the biopsies, and he was clear that aggressive treatment would not succeed. In both cases, i had long discussions with the patient and with the family. One patient went to another surgeon, entered a hospital, had aggressive brain surgery and died that week in an intensive care unit. The other patient declined aggressive care, went on a vacation with her husband that they had always wanted to take together, and eventually, months later, died with hospice support and surrounded by her family at home.

It seems to me that a good physician is evidence based, and holistic - and isn't committed to forcing the use of one type of care or treatment. Medications can be lifesaving, i wouldn't want to have pneumonia and not take an antibiotic!

If conventional and complementary approaches can work together, and both be evidence tested, - care can be more sensible, and more holistic.

There was a recent article in the New York Times (10/2/10) quoted by our speaker this weekend, "For decades anitpsychotic drugs were a niche product. Today, they're the top selling class of pharmaceuticals in America, generating annual revenue of about $14.6 billion, and surpassing sales of even blockbusters like heart protecting statins."

The NIH should have had the wisdom to realize, the dollars spent on pharmacologic research is already extremely high, and the five year priority plan should have had the wisdom to be more balanced. More evidence based research on Complementary Medicine, especially energy based, should have been included. Osler. I think, would have understood that.