Why I learned Reiki: A Story of Spiritual Growth

Why I learned Reiki: A Story of Spiritual Growth

Why I learned Reiki: A Story of Spiritual Growth“Many of the people who talk about spiritual growth, spirituality, or spiritual will often draw a blank when you try to pin them down for a definition of it. I was one of them. I used to think it had something to do with miraculous happenings, telepathy, synchronicity, a feeling of oneness with god/universe/spirit, etc. Then I heard the best definition of spiritual growth and intuitively realized it was correct. The definition is this: Spiritual growth is emotional growth, being spiritually advanced is being emotionally mature.” — Steve Gray, Tien Shan Chi Gung

What is “Spiritual Growth”? Why do we need it?

It’s true, there is no firm answer for this question. And yet, many people have an intrinsic knowing of the need for it. It’s as if they find an inner calling that says, “Hey! Get moving; we’ve got work to do!” I really appreciate Gray’s comment that spiritual growth is emotional growth, as this has been my experience as well. However, I would not limit it to this.

Most of my Reiki students find my classes because they either (1) recognize they are ready to grow spiritually (e.g. to pursue greater truth, release perceived limitations, or deepen connection to Spirit/God, etc) and have been searching for the right springboard, or (2) have found managing their boundaries and emotions (whether their own or those of others) challenging if not overwhelming and exhausting. These folks are the ones looking for an energy work practice that will help them feel safe and learn to manage healthy boundaries. You could say that I came to Reiki for the latter. So, while I didn’t intend to learn Reiki for spiritual growth at first; I can definitely say it was the inevitable outcome of this practice!

What does it mean to be “emotionally mature”?

The inescapable nature of emotions

up against a wallGrowing up I had recurring nightmares of drowning– for decades. It became so bad over the years I would start to notice in the dream what was about to happen. There I’d be approaching the beach, no matter which town I was in, and I’d know. “Oh boy, here we are again.” I’d turn around and I’d see the wall go up — 40 or 60 foot brick wall, inescapable. Suddenly there’d be no one else on the beach, and I’d see the waves starting to swell higher and higher. With no where to go, no escape, all I could do was wait to be consumed and drown. It was a helpless and hopeless feeling. Here were my fears coming at me: overwhelming, massive, drowning.

As you might imagine with that experience, I had learned nothing of how to deal with my emotions — how to *feel* emotions. It was simply either feel nothing, or be annihilated. This may seem hyperbolic or ‘dramatic’ for those who don’t have this experience. But, I can tell you from my practice, *many* people have this challenge — of learning how to feel their emotions, without feeling paralyzed at the (perceived) terror of what might happen if they do:

  • What if I allow myself to really feel my anger, and I can’t control it?
  • What if I allow myself to feel my grief, and the crying never stops?
  • What if I allow my emotions to matter, and others get upset at what I have to say?
  • What if I allow my emotions to matter, and I have to start making real change in my life?

For sensitive folk (like empaths, Indigos, Blue Rays, etc), the pain of these considerations is real, and the weight of the possible consequences, heavy. So how do we deal with it?

Learn to Surf

I can remember the first time I had a different experience in the water. In the dream, I was in the ocean, just off the shore. I was with a friend who said to me, “I’m going to teach you how to surf.” This was the start of a whole new way of relating to water (and to my fears). It was Spring 2004, and I had just become friends with the woman who would be my Usui Reiki Master, Shoshannah Beck. After two quarters of qi gong training, my extrasensory perception was opening up. I was becoming yet more sensitive to energy – and still had no real resource to feel safe with it. Working with Shoshannah, I learned many things that helped give me the confidence to be in and with my emotions.

How Reiki can help

Reiki level oneFor me, Reiki has helped my emotional maturity in what it has revealed to me about my truths, and about what can come out of the practice of presence, surrender and trust. I often describe Reiki as the great illluminator — shining light on the areas in our life ready to be transformed. The more I practice, the greater my ability to surrender to love and peace in my inner world, and see that reflected in my outer world. Each time I receive an attunement (this is a raising of your energetic vibration, much like resetting your body’s natural frequency) I find more is revealed to me about where I am not in alignment with love. As any good guide or teacher, Reiki doesn’t do the work for me — it says, “Here you go! Now run with it!” It’s always up to me how to respond: I own my growth at every step of the way. It’s a powerful thing when we experience ourselves as the agent of our change!

What’s your experience?

Have you had a Reiki attunement that’s powerfully impacted your life? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! If you haven’t had an attunement and are interested in learning more, I encourage you join us for the upcoming 7-week Reiki and Energy Work class, Reiki IA: Awakening (register by 10/11/16).


Hand energy center: Lao Gong
Acupuncture, Reiki

New Study Shows Yoga Has Healing Powers (Article/Study, National Geographic)


While yoga is not a Chinese medicine practice, I found National Geographic’s piece, “New Study Shows Yoga Has Healing Powers” interesting in light of what we East Asian Medicine Practitioners know and believe about the body’s acupoints and energy gates. The author cites a recent study, “Impact on Inflammation, Mood, and Fatigue in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” in which they found poses like the downward-facing dog (see above image) can reduce inflammation in patients fighting cancer.

Physical Benefits of Yoga

While some think yoga is subjectively pleasant and/or helpful, its wonderful to be able to say its effects can also be objectively measured. National Geographic reports, “Blood tests before and after the trial showed that, after three months of yoga practice, all three markers for inflammation [proinflammatory cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), and interleukin-1β (IL-1β)] were lower by 10 to 15 percent.”

Energetic Benefits of Downward-Facing Dog

If you’ll notice, in the Downward-Facing Dog, a person connects with the ground at the palms and soles of the feet; these locations match to what is considered in Chinese medicine four of the body’s major energy gates. An energy gate is where the strength of the body’s energy, or qi, is regulated. At each palm center, we find the acupoint, Lao Gong (“Palace of Toil”); and under the ball of each foot is Yong Quan (“Gushing Spring”). From these points we can draw energy into the body or send energy out of the body. It’s no surprise to me then, that in connecting these energy gates to the earth (as is done in Downward-Facing Dog), individuals naturally release pathogenic energy into the earth for recycling and draw in healing earth energy into their body. Want to be more mindful of this exchange? Imagine breathing in earth energy through your left-hand side, and breathing out stress and inflammation from your right palm and sole.

Want to learn more about using your energy gates? Come join us this March for a 9-week course in Reiki energy work! Deadline for registration, 03/15/14 (limited to 6 students). More at BlackPineHealing.com.

Practice Updates



“Intuition, not intellect, is the ‘open sesame’ of yourself.”

–Albert Einstein, Einstein and the Poet (p16)

In the world of energy work, everything is alive; everything is energy vibrating at its own speed. As an agent in this world, we have the privilege to discover ourselves through our experiences and our exchanges. Each step is a self discovery through mutual co-creation, an opportunity to redefine how we know ourselves and others through our relationship to ourselves and others. Why not take a leap? Why not suspend, then, for a moment what you think you know and open to what is possible for you in this life. Allow your deepest truth to emerge. Let love dissolve your fears.

You intuitively know more than your mind would have you believe. All this kind of knowing takes is… practice!

Black Pine Holistic HealingWelcome to the Reiki blog of Melissa Dana, Reiki Master/Teacher and East Asian Medicine Practitioner (aka acupuncturist), founder and owner of Black Pine Holistic Healing here in Seattle, WA. Since 2007, I’ve made it my mission to help those seeking self-awareness, acceptance and ease. Over the years I have fielded many questions as about the nature of energy work, the Reiki ‘difference,’ and role of self in healing. May my services as Reiki practitioner and teacher serve as a guide for those of you still seeking answers and guidance along your path. To learn more about me, my background and services, visit BlackPineHealing.com.

Have a question about energy work?

Leave me a comment; I’ll be happy to answer as directly and honestly as I can.

Concerned about your health?

Contact me via a secure form on my website.

Has energy work touched your life in a positive and meaningful way? Share your story with others!


Melissa Dana
Reiki Master/Teacher, EAMP, LAc, Dipl OM


picturing the true form

The Secret to Self-Cultivation and Longevity

Exploring the visual culture of Daoism

Thank you so much to everyone who has so far submitted your preferences for future articles! (If you haven’t already, you can poll your suggestions here.) As per your request, I’ll be sharing some book reviews and alerts for interesting finds. To start us off, let’s go to Song Dynasty, China…

I recently came across news of Shih-shan Susan Huang’s book, Picturing the True Form: Daoist Visual Culture in Traditional China. Wow! This looks like some pretty cool stuff!!

Daoism forms the backbone of Chinese culture (along with Confucianism), and is the root of Chinese energy work, qi gong. In fact, today’s commonly practiced Microcosmic Orbit can be traced as far back as the early Warring States Period (481-221 BCE), with the inscribed artifact, “Circulating Qi Inscription (行氣銘).” Not only do the concepts of Daoism directly inform the oldest methods for self-cultivation and longevity, but also color today’s Chinese (traditional) medicine practices. So, it’s of particular interest that Huang illustrates the visuality, meaning, and function of Daoist images during China’s golden years, the Song Dynasty.

In her book, Picturing the True FormHuang (a professor at Rice University, with a PhD in Art History from Yale) focuses on the visual culture of the Daoist practice as developed between the 10th to 15th C CE. “Huang used numerous historical drawings from Daoist texts to explain the complex imagery that depicted the inner and outer worlds, as well as the relationship of these images to Daoist visualization meditations, rituals and artifacts. Images of inner landscapes were, for example, visualizations imagined by a Daoist adept, whereas landscapes were understood as the outer reflections of the inner world of the body.”(1) Included in this work are images from paintings, diagrams, drawings, and woodblock prints. For sample images of the Daoist Chart of the Inner Realm or of the Body as Microcosm, see UCLA International’s news.

As a visual learner, I find this kind of work very exciting–imagine being able to look into the minds of folks living centuries ago! From 960–1279 CE, China was experiencing a ‘golden age’–the Song Dynasty. The first paper currency was introduced in China during this period, as well as the compass and typography invented. Can you imagine what freedom the mind can find in magical and creative thought when inspired by such advances!

If you’re interested to deepen your understanding of how your health is a bridge between the inner and outer worlds, or if you’re just interested to look upon beauty or history, consider giving this one a read! Interested to learn more? Join us for a class in Reiki and energy work fundamentals!

(1) Daoist visual culture: Images of the inner and outer worlds. (2013). Retrieved October 22, 2013, from http://international.ucla.edu/news/article.asp?parentid=134650

Reiki, Self-Care

True Greatness

The Long Road Ahead

How do we define greatness? When we strip away the praise or blame of others, defining ourselves outside of what is liked or disliked, how do we define personal greatness?

I was just reading a bit on Scientific American about “The Complexity of Greatness“; and it brought up an old issue I see everyone battle with – the yearning to be great. The author goes on to explore the many possible cofactors to greatness (citing talent, practice, genes, rearing, and environmental factors, to name a few) in addressing the question, “Can greatness be crafted, or is it innate?” And yet, inherent to the discussion, is this assumption about the definition of greatness as being rooted in doing. In the author’s words, to talk about greatness is to talk about “the heights of human accomplishment.” This is where I hear the words of my dear friend popping up, “Ruh roh!”

Why is this a problem? When we tie our greatness down to what the world might consider an exceptional accomplishment, we set ourselves up for the rack — pulled by our craving for outside validation and yanked by our aversion of seeming mediocrity. This constant assessing, reassessing, and addressing the outside world’s response to us further reinforces our need to stay in a reactive mode. In turn, we limit our greatness.

So what would it look like to unleash such greatness? Can you imagine a life in which the possibility of our personal exhilaration, joy, and unique expression would be free to expand beyond likes and dislikes? What if, instead of focusing on doing, we focused on experience?

In every moment there is an arising of experience; and when we connect — when we hear, see, taste, know, feel, and smell — this life-happening, we start to become greatness. All seeming difference disappears. We are with and can appreciate every unfolding, in nature, in man, in mind. I love this piece by Francis Weller, psychotherapist and soul-activist, that echoes this same sentiment:

The self that appeals to me is the self that has not been conditioned solely by culture, whether family, religion, education, or economics, but rather the one found under these systems of domestication–the wild self, the self at once sovereign and entwined with the living world. It is this self that can extend its reach into the surrounding rings of connection–with vacant lots, watersheds, returning salmon, with children and struggling communities–and sense its intimate bond with all of them. This self is co-mingled with all the others that share this shining planet. When we step into this wider and wilder state of identity, our isolation falls away and we return to a state of participation and belonging; we return to the living fabric of which we have always been a part.

Lately, in preparing for my upcoming Reiki II class, I’ve spent quite a bit of time contemplating this subject of what it means to live a life well-lived, as the course focus shifts from relationship to self (Reiki I) to relationship to the world and its other inhabitants. Specifically, we start to look in greater detail at the ways in which we co-create and define each other. It would seem practicing gratitude has been revived and held as an essential piece to our cultivating/creating personal greatness in the realm of energy work ever since The Secret was released. But lately, I’ve been thinking (and this, of course, is always subject to change 😉 ), is perhaps “appreciation” a better choice?

When feeling ‘gratitude’ it’s almost too easy to turn inward, reverting to a quality not dissimilar to coveting (I think of Uncle Scrooge rolling in it) or a tightness in ‘counting one’s blessings.’ And if we are truly going to live in our greatness, would it not be about opening outwards — opening ourselves to greater and greater experience, finding appreciation in every manifestation of this life-unfolding? In expansion, there is nothing we cannot be, nothing we cannot do. We are the exhilaration of every triumph, the joy of every surprise. And in the spirit of true greatness, our freedom encourages others. By living greatness, we inspire each other to leave the reactive mode and awaken to the realm of Creator.

How many things can you say you already noticed, experienced, recognized and appreciated today? How big can you get?

. . .

Interested to notice more in life? Come see what unfolds when you learn energy work. Join us for fall classes in Reiki I and II!

Energy Work, Reiki, Self-Care


The different 'faces' of confidence.

Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about confidence. What is it? How do we get it? How is it dashed? How is it different from self-esteem, if at all? Even searching for a photo to go with this post, I was struck by wide range of images people associated with confidence on Flickr (see above): children, smiling faces, knowledge, and sexual body language. Shouldn’t be too surprising, really — Merriam-Webster cites confidence as everything from a “quality or state of being certain,” to “faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way,” to even simply the “feeling or consciousness of one’s powers.” Still the fact that a child’s face and a topless man’s bicep can be used to impart the same sentiment is kind of mind-blowing to me, in this case.

Alright, so we’re starting to get a sense that confidence can range from a quality of being, to faith in one’s ability, to a feeling or awareness of one’s own power. And when don’t we feel our own power? When we give it away! Even in the dictionary we find opportunities to lose our sense of self: What does it mean to be right, or proper? To be effective? Right here it would be easy to insert, “what other people deem” before any one of these assessments. For example, confidence is “a faith or belief that one will act in a [way that other people deem is] right, proper or effective.” Yikes! That looks like a recipe for disaster. We could spend our whole lives running around trying to be and do what we thought other people viewed as right or effective. Obviously, I’m not encouraging anarchy here – everyone for his/herself!! No, there is a way to be one’s own self and yet remain harmonious in our actions; we can always find and choose strategies that are effective in getting everyone’s needs met.

Is confidence the same thing as self-esteem? Some people talk about confidence as the facade, and self-esteem what exists under the veil. But I think we find something much more interesting when we go back to good ol’ Merriam-Webster; they define self-esteem as “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself,” a synonym for “self-respect.” Wow!! Alright, now we’re talking!! Here find the sense that “I know my strength, my power; and I am enough.” Powerful stuff! I suppose it would be completely possible to be in touch with one’s power [read: confident], and to still have the false belief that it isn’t enough [read: low self-esteem]. So, how can cultivate a sense of abundance, a sense of our own subjective-and-harmonious strength and effectiveness as we navigate our way through the world? We can work with our physical, mental and emotional bodies.

Our Navel or Solar Plexus energy center holds our sense of Self.

Our Navel or Solar Plexus energy center holds our sense of Self.

In energy work, personal power is associated with the 3rd chakra, or ‘Solar Plexus’ energy center. This center is located between the umbilicus and the lower rib cage. It makes sense, then, that when we feel most ashamed or disempowered, we feel “hurt in the gut.” We also tend to gain weight when we feel vulnerable in this way, especially around our abdomen, as a way to physically create distance between us and the world. (This is not to say that everyone who is overweight has these feelings; this is simply an example of possible outward expression for what we feel internally.) This is our physical body reflecting our emotional experience. We can work to build confidence right here, from the outside-in. Simply strengthening our abdominal muscles can help translate to a stronger sense of one’s own power.

From the inside-out, we have to work to release old stories of how we’re not enough, how we’re undeserving of the very best in life, how it’s not safe to be our self. And we have to find confidence [read: certainty] in the knowing that we can create conditions of safety for our self; that we are deserving simply through our being, not our doing. Ultimately, we must come back time and time again to the unwavering truth that we are enough. Affirmations are very helpful for this practice.

Louise Hay talks about anger and fear as the root of ailment. To cultivate true confidence and self-respect, we must let go of these energy drains. We have to forgive and to step into our truth. Return the center of power to your person; be the active agent. See how it feels to know you are enough; how do you perceive people differently? Do you find your interactions with others reveal more about how they are feeling than about your worth?

In going back to the Flickr photos, do you see self-satisfied confidence differently now? Which images convey “I am enough, just as I am;” and which convey, “I am just what you want me to be”?

ps. Want to learn more about your energy body and how to support it? Join us for our next Reiki I class April 17 – Jun 12, 2013.

Energy Work, Reiki

Exploring Reiki I: Awakening

Rainbow bokeh

How do you teach the experience of Cosmic Consciousness through the human senses? This has been the question on my mind as I prepare to teach Reiki again this Winter. In teaching, I find it’s important to stay open to further developing and re-developing material– to keep asking the questions, “Why?”, “How?” And Reiki is such a big topic! There are so many whys and so many hows: Why does it work? How does it work? How do I know it works? Why do I need to know how it works?”, etc.

It’s been almost 10 years that I have been practicing Reiki; and it’s wonderful to see that my perspective on the work has evolved over time. This shows me I continue to learn, continue to question. Lately, I’ve been seeing the practice of Reiki more like a relationship, for example, that between a spider and its web:

Spider web with fog droplets

Yes, there is this ‘thing,’ this amorphous entity, called Reiki. Through an insight experience, Mikao Usui in the early 20th C. became aware of this “Reiki” (i.e. “spiritual energy”), and found he could channel it through his body and out his hands; and that by channeling this energy, he was able to heal people. He also found he could pass on this knowing, this ability to access Reiki, through empowerments or what are now called attunements. Through raising the awareness and energetic vibration of those willing and intending to channel Reiki, Mikao Usui started a lineage of practitioners. This we can imagine is the spider: A lineage and the embodiment of Reiki practice. But what is a spider without its web?

A web stabilizes and supports a spider; a web is how the spider gets its nourishment. A web is also unique to the spider that builds it, and the time and place in which it is built. What’s more, I recently learned that a spider’s web actually grows stronger when its threads are broken. What does this say for us, Reiki practitioners, the spiders of this web?

To me, it says our life context is important–really important–for how we move in this world and how we find nourishment in this lifetime. It says to me that equally important to teaching the logistical practice of Reiki, is teaching perspective; we have to examine how the practice is supported (or not supported) by how we view the world and our place in it. With so much fear fueling people’s decisions, it is more important than ever to teach and uncover a love-based paradigm– a world in which everyone’s needs can be met, with skilful strategy. I feel super excited to share this perspective with folks and see just how far they can fly with it!

“How do we teach the experience of Cosmic Consciousness through the human senses?” I think we look at the spider, but we remember the web. Perhaps we mindfully break those threads we built out of fear, anger, and ignorance–knowing that, sometimes, breaking down builds us up. Perhaps most importantly, we sit back and enjoy feeling supported in our every movement, knowing that our mindful efforts are rewarded in profound nourishment!

Want to join us? Classes run January through March at the Seattle Buddhist Center and the Seattle Center for Structural Medicine. Registration deadline is 12/15/12. I look forward to seeing you there!