Read - Energy Work (and my huge scepticism)
When I was training to become a Zenways Meditation Teacher Trainer, I sat in with Daizan as he taught the week long residential course a few times. I remember how he never ever dismissed anyone’s points of view or ideas. There was one person in particular who was speaking to him about ‘energy’, something that I had previously dismissed as being a lot of old hocus pocus. Daizan’s reply to the question was respectful, considered and clearly useful to the questioner. This set me thinking. If Daizan could be so open to all these questions (there was also talk of angels and spirit and all sorts of what I used to think was New Age Quackery), then maybe I could open my closed mind up a little bit and at least become curious as to whether there might be anything in it.
In AA there is a lovely quote: "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
So rather than just being dismissive of other views, I need to investigate.
At the time I lived near Hebden Bridge, a fabulous place that is home to all sorts of alternative views and lifestyles, it’s why I chose to live there, and there was a cafe (long gone) that had all sorts of flyers for all sorts of events and offerings. I had been giving a lot of thought to this thing about energy and had decided that I would see about having some energy healing (imagine a rolling eye emoji). So I went to this cafe, and sat in a chair in the window, put my hand up to the shelf where the flyers were and, without looking, just pulled one down. To my bemusement I had pulled down a flyer for Kate Herbert’s Energy Healing. Bear in mind that on further investigation the other flyers were for massage and counselling and kid’s stuff and other events. Kate’s was the only energy healing flyer amongst a raft of them. I decided to make an appointment.
I turned up to Kate not really knowing what to expect, attempting to remain open but having a very very healthy dollop of scepticism about the whole thing. The first thing I thought was that Kate seemed like a genuinely caring and friendly person. I took to her. She exuded peace which was very compelling. She sat me down and asked me some questions and I basically said that I was in her hands to do with me as she saw fit. I can’t actually remember what she did on that first visit. The only thing that I remember was that I was significantly underwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, I love being the centre of attention on a massage bed, knowing that someone is giving me all their focus, I absolutely love it. So that was great, but I didn’t feel significantly better or worse afterwards. But here’s the thing, I felt as though I wanted to make another appointment, so I did. I was surprised at myself. Normally one visit without 'getting something' would have been enough and I would have written it off and I'd be able to say that I’d had a go but that it wasn’t for me. But I didn’t, something in me (my trusty inner sat nav, although I didn’t know about it at the time) was making another appointment.
The following week or whenever it was I turned up for my appointment. I remember once again that Kate sat me down and listened as I spoke about whatever it was that was going on for me. I think I got a bit emotional at one point, I remember she took hold of both of my hands and really looked at me and listened. That, in and of itself, was helpful.
I then climbed up onto the massage bed and as I’d said to her before, I was in her hands. She could do whichever practice she thought would be most useful. She swathed me in blankets. Really, I was wrapped up almost like a mummy. Not so much that I felt constricted, but enough that I felt safe. Then she started to freak me out a bit. She started to do some weird sort of chanting and some odd breathing and I remember thinking ‘uh oh, here we go, weirdo energy crackpottery going on’, but equally I was definitely being held in her attention and I distinctly remember thinking ‘oh well, I’m here now, I’ll just relax and let her do whatever’ and so on she went with her strange mutterings and breathings, first sort of generally over my body (if memory serves) and then down my left leg. All the time doing this weird breathy/chanty thing. It wasn’t offensive, it was just far beyond the scope of anything that I’d done before and I was out of my comfort zone. But I felt safe and I was cocooned in my blankets and actually it was okay. So, on she went down the left leg, to the ankle, around the foot, with the weirdo breathing, over to the right foot, to the ankle, up the calf - and I burst out crying! I had no idea it was coming! But I lay there and sobbed and sobbed like I haven’t cried for years. Great big body shaking sobs. There wasn’t a memory arising to go with the sadness, there was no apparent reason for it, I was just crying. Kate took this very obviously in her stride and made the occasional calming ‘yes, that’s it’ sort of comment and just continued to do her thing, remaining by my right leg until the crying subsided. I have no idea what that was about and, one of the great gifts of my mindfulness practice, is that I had no desire to try to rationalise it and get to the bottom of it. I just let it be. So, there I was, crying subsided, Kate doing her thing up the remainder of my leg. And then she said ‘I’m coming to the stomach now and I’m going to go very gently’. I remember thinking ‘Why is she going gently at my stomach?’ And then... Waaah! I was off again, great huge convulsing sobs, coming from God only knows where and about God only knows what.
My opinion of energy practices was changed from that point onwards. I might not understand them, and I might not be able to explain them, but the evidence of Kate’s skill and my own life showed me that maybe there was more to this New Age hocus pocus nonsense than I thought.
It was an important watershed moment for me. I stopped thinking that just because I didn’t have the evidence for something didn’t mean it wasn’t true. I realised that we all use different language and different avenues to talk about the same things. That’s not to say that there aren’t any crackpot ideas out there - you only have to look at any extreme wing of any religion or political affiliation to know that there are plenty of those around, but that when it comes to energy, angels, spirit, God, the Divine, I no longer turn my nose up. My heart opened a bit and I felt so much freer for it.