By Garvin McCurdy
I was finishing up the day’s paperwork in the small Reiki office at the Portsmouth Regional Hospital when the phone rang. It was from the Ob/Gyn unit on the top floor (the ‘happy floor’ where new people still arrive) and the Pediatrics unit which had recently been moved up there. They had admitted a small child who had been bitten on the face by a dog – would I come? She and her mother had been taken up there instead of to the busier Emergency Room. When I arrived, I saw the little girl curled up in her mother’s arms, still terrified. Two nurses were waiting for me, the Ob/Gyn duty nurse who had placed the call and a Lab nurse who waited to draw a blood sample to test for the rabies virus. The small patient would have none of that!
I began by explaining – talking over the head of a very interested little girl – that, with soft music going, I would move my hands around her head and shoulders while she was still in her mother’s arms. She would feel some warmth, become very relaxed and, likely, she would go to sleep. This we did, and then I went back to my office for a Reiki session report form that I had forgotten to take with me. I took a little time to fill it out and returned to the top floor.
There, all was joy! The small patient was up and smiling; the nurses were smiling; Mom was smiling. So, in the spirit of the occasion, I got down on my knees and asked the little girl for a high-five. She ran up and gave me one. I added, “I need a hug. May I please have a hug?” We had a proper hug, gently firm but not squashy and parted, both quite happy.
I had known that what she had really been in danger of was not rabies, but PTSD. Using Reiki, we had broken the flashback’s neural chain before it had a chance to self-reinforce, possibly in the future to be triggered by hypodermic needles or snarling dogs.
“Boffin,” the word in the title, was coined during the Second World War and boiled down it means something like “useful nerd.” This particular boffin had an epiphany about the nature of reality in 1997, when I was 67. I had been an Air Force officer for most of my adult life and before that I was an M.I.T. guy steeped in standard science and technology, its quirks and capabilities. In 1997, inspired by Father Pierre-Teilhard de Chardin’s late-in-life call for a science of human energetics, I searched for ways to learn more about that field. I joined the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine (ISSSEEM) and began to study how the views of standard and subtle energies might be integrated. At ISSSEEM I met many extraordinary people including Melinda Connor, Ph.D., a scientist and the most advanced energy healer I know, who greatly expanded my view of subtle energies.
Reiki is a specific way to work with life force energies. It’s an ability transferred, not taught, by a Reiki Master during an “attunement.” My attunement to the first level of Reiki opened an entire new reality for me. Within the year I became a Reiki Master-Teacher and participated in the pilot program at Portsmouth Regional Hospital that opened Reiki to use all across the U.S.
1) an evidence base that Reiki worked very reliably to relax patients, and
2) a set of administrative procedures (practitioner credentials, required records, yearly demonstration of Reiki techniques, etc.) required by the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations for any in-hospital activity.
Later, when no satisfactory way was found to charge for Reiki in for-profit Hospital Corporation of America’s organizational structure, I was one of the first to respond to the need for volunteers. There followed fourteen years of organizationally precarious but objectively very positive Reiki history at PRH. I essentially became the Reiki staff for Fridays, arriving at surgical prep at 6:30 to assist with the first wave of patients going into the operating rooms, then later to check the list of recuperating patients who had requested sessions. Then I’d further canvass department control desks to see if any patients seemed likely to benefit and then see those so identified to explain what a session would entail. Most of the volunteers were women who could not devote a full workday, and with time open before me in retirement, I became known as ‘that man.’
Staff nurses, subject to strict standards of performance and often overloaded, benefited fairly often from Reiki treatments. My very first client of this kind, a floor duty nurse whom I convinced to take a fifteen-minute break while another sat in for her, told me when I saw her the next week, “I thank you. My husband thanks you. My children thank you.” I hadn’t thought that there might be a multiplier effect, but there it was.
Humans vary in the ways they experience the subtle energies of the life force. Reiki is one modality, and different practitioners experience it in different ways. The various healing disciplines represent broad categories of capability that have much in common. Reiki energy is not in essence different from similar techniques like Healing Touch or Therapeutic Touch. The various healing therapy groups differ mostly in how they standardize their practitioners’ intention and procedures.
In Reiki, Level I operates “in the room” and Level II adds “at a distance.” Level III in my training was learned in two stages: Master and Teacher. The Master stage increases mental control of the flow and swirl of energy, whether nearby or distant. The Teacher stage goes deeply into the meanings of four sentences originally written in classical Chinese characters that are to be absorbed into the initiate’s own individual psyche. Then by following ritualistic sequencing appropriate to each level, the teacher can energize the student’s ‘etheric body’ to permanently imprint those capabilities into the student.
There are different ways to experience healing energies. As an example: I did a pre-surgery session on a young woman with her mother present to provide what mothers provide – support. When I had finished, the mother told me that she had the ability to see auras and that as the session had progressed, my aura had expanded to entirely envelop not only me but also her daughter. My own observation was that the daughter had gone into a deeply relaxed state and fallen asleep. Thinking in the vocabulary of Elmer Green, one of the founders of ISSSEEM, I had induced a deep Theta brainwave state visually perceived as an aura by the mother’s inborn ability.
As a boffin, I’ve been trying to find a way to describe what subtle energies are in a way that can at least begin to communicate an understanding to a conventional scientist who is willing to listen. Most go into deep denial. I’m moving to frame such a discussion in David Bohm’s language, which is that reality has two basic components: explicit and implicit. Explicit reality is the everyday reality that we all engage, like it or not. Implicit reality is that which mostly bypasses the senses but is equally real since it enables the explicit side. I’m still working on boffinish refinements to my approach to the complex field of subtle energies.
All told, while I was a volunteer at PRH, I gave over 3,500 sessions in all wards and departments, typically giving eight sessions a day with patients in all stages of life from the birthing room to end-of-life gatherings with the family in attendance. Reiki clearly demonstrated its ability to dissolve fear – either of pain or of death itself.
In closing, this boffin’s experience is best summed up in my poetic version of the Reiki ethic. It reveals, I think, something of the old Cold War warrior that I was, but changed by the Japanese monk Hideki Usui, who founded the discipline called Reiki. (Ki means Life Force Energy.)
Today I forgive
Beyond ken, beyond Ki
For the arbitrary cruelties of life.
Today, I shall trust
Beyond ken, beyond Ki.
Today, I shall live honestly,
In trust, the only way.
Today, I shall respect all life,
Even that which would harm me,
For life is mystery of
Today, I shall be at peace,
Flowing from forgiveness, trust, honesty, respect…
Today, I shall thank,
Beyond Ki, For Ki, within Ki…
For the privilege of life,
Its joys and trials…
… And its duties.
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Garvin McCurdy, born and raised in Venezuela, rose to Colonel as a Cold Warrior, and became a Reiki Master-Teacher. He won HCA’s Frist Humanitarian Award in 2011.