Betsy and I had been together for twenty five years when we separated. She was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Although parting from her was the most painful thing I have ever experienced, it was the next best thing.She left me, but we had both come to feel that living apart had become necessary. We had grown to be strangers to each other, but we separated amicably to go our own ways.
It was then I swore that I was going to change my life, that I was not going to continue to do the things that were not working for me. Even though I was self-employed, as I had nearly always been, I felt that I was in a prison without walls, not because of her, but because my life had become a routine of work, eat, drink and sleep, days without end. I have been accused of being a hippy- which I really wasn’t- because my recipe for a bit of parole from time to time was to work until I was a little ahead and then take some time off to write until I was broke again. A way to stay sane, but no way to get ahead.
I have always been an artist. I started out as a writer and have no doubt I will end as a writer, but other art forms had come into my life. Making art, creating things that previously did not exist, was simply something I could not not do. An artist was what I was, not what I did; it was my core identity. Now, alone, I spent nearly all my time, apart from continuing to work on the house and trying to make a living, making art. With Betsy gone, most other things took a back seat to my growing passion for making sculpture. This came with a penalty; I went seriously into debt because I could not earn a livelihood exclusively as a sculptor and began to lean on credit. To make things almost meet I took on almost whatever else came my way. Whenever the phone rang, however reluctant I might have been, I took it on.
I had a lot of irons in the fire, too many as it turned out. Before Betsy left I had started working in ceramics at the Potters’ Guide, first as a student, later as a member. I loved clay; it is closer to the feel of human skin than any other material; no other medium is as plastic and malleable. Although I was a slow beginner, within a year I had a breakthrough and quickly became what I would honestly call a prodigy. One of my teachers said that I could do things with clay, that can’t be done with clay. Another said that if I had started working in clay twenty five years earlier I would probably be a national treasure by then. (Ironically, neither of these teachers liked me.) I made, for instance, an eight foot lifelike dolphin, an eagle, some small elephants and some very large pots. I never cared much for making functional ware like tea cups and mugs and dinner plates. I made some good friends there, though I was regarded with thin courtesy by the general membership whose highest goal would be to make a tea pot.
I couldn’t draw. I was absolutely no good working in two dimensions, but if I could dream or visualize it I could make nearly anything in three. And I could build just about anything I could think up. I sculpted in many media beside ceramics: wood, stone, paper, fabric, glass, found and natural objects. Sometimes I led my materials, sometimes I followed, but we danced.
It was then that my life began to change in ways that I had not anticipated. With greater frequency, synchronicity happened, a situation in which two or more things happen at the same time that seem to be connected, but have no demonstrable causal relationship. I began having a lot of coincidences, like calling someone at the same time as they are calling me, picking up the phone and they are there, without a ring on either end of the line. Getting a letter from someone I have just written. Never having known a Jason or a Sarah in my life, then realizing that over the past several weeks I now knew three Jasons and four Sarahs.
One night while drunk, I had this grim fantasy that world would soon end- boom! All gone! I got really pissed at god and, stark naked in my kitchen, began to scream and plead with him, “Please don’t take the animals! Please don’t take the plants!” I was passionately hysterical that although I considered humans to be expendable, the planet and its better elements should survive. The next day, after playing Frisbee hard with my employees, my German Shepherd, Kali, came home with me and proceeded to get very sick. I took her to an emergency vet and, $1000 later, was told that she had the bloat and should be euthanized. Reluctantly I agreed to let go of my best friend. I have never cried so hard in my life.
Concurrently I successfully bid a job to restore a solid Chestnut library in a mansion being restored for one of the richest men in town. It was a very difficult piece of work. The Chestnut had been “limed”, which meant it looked like it had been marinated in milk. The current architect wanted it to look as much like the natural wood as possible which meant the white stain residue had to be sanded out of it after various paint removers had done their job. It was very messy and time consuming. The library was a large room; every piece of it had to be removed and taken to my house for the stripping and sanding. Then all the smooth, raw Chestnut components were reassembled back in place in the mansion: shelves, boards, paneling and molding. Once back in place, we clear stained it all.
For labor I did what I usually do: recruited bartenders and MICA art students, sculpture majors as a rule. I worked this job with a crew of five, all of whom got very good very quickly at what we had to do. We worked intensely because there was a deadline, which we met. I pushed myself to my limit, and beyond, working day and night. There were problems, but all went well with the job and we solved them.
During the course of this work, however, I developed a medical problem. I was losing the ability to walk without increasing pain and decreasing flexure. I developed “foot lock” on the right side, a condition in which the ankle joint became rigid. I was walking at a hobble, limping, unsteady on my feet. The disability increased rapidly to the point where I had to walk with a cane within two weeks of its onset. Meanwhile we carried on the work in the mansion library.
When I went to a doctor, he referred me to a neurologist. I was diagnosed as having peripheral neuropathy, a term I came to interpret as “nerve death”. He was going to send the results back to the original doctor and have me get the news from him, but I pressed him hard to be candid and honest with me about the prognosis. Reluctantly, he told me that the disease was progressive and incurable; its cause could not be accurately determined. Further, he said that it was likely that I would be confined to a wheelchair within six months or a year- and would not get out. I masked my reaction until I could find privacy.
I did my share of crying, being unable to visualize how it could be possible for me to function in a wheelchair within my house with all its steps, let alone in the outside world. I lived alone; I had no one to help me. My sister was the only one I told; she cried with me. I thought seriously of suicide.
Along with the increasing frequency of synchronicity in my life other things, perhaps related, had been happening, strange things. I believe that most children are born with gifts that do not survive until adulthood because parents, teachers and others convince them that they are figments of their imagination, and so they leave them behind. These are paranormal abilities seemingly outside normal sensory channels, which science is unable to explain; they remain therefore mysterious. Along with clairvoyance, there might also be precognition and possibly even telekinesis, the power to move something by thinking about it without the application of physical force. Broadly, these are phenomena that appear to contradict physical laws and suggest the possibility of causation by mental or spiritual processes. I think also that after the grosser ordeal of growing up is largely finished, these gifts can tend to reemerge in one way or another after the pressure of suppression is over or ignored.
One evening after dark I was driving in my van to Home Depot to buy a list of materials for the library. Still overcome with self-commiseration, a flash of anger, a rage came over me. I thought Bullshit! I’m not going to let this happen! I had had previous intimations of something vaguely felt, but unknown, that I would call a sense of power. It was as if I knew how to do things that I hadn’t been taught and didn’t know how to do. It didn’t have anything to do with anything I had read or seen in a movie. Some memories of childhood and even of the near past came to mind as I began to feel an energy that, although not entirely unaccustomed, was now stronger than I had ever felt it. It began in my right calf, a burning a stinging as if I were exposed to an electric current. I got goose bumps, not just there, but all over my body. The hair on my scalps and arms rose, the way they do when you feel that rare epiphany. It was a feeling of rapture as if my right calf was a portal for lightning to enter my body.
The “foot lock” was in my right ankle and my right leg was the more severely stricken, but there were the beginnings of symptoms also in my left leg. I also, by now, had numbness and tingling in both arms and the left side of my face. The neurologist hadn’t mentioned this; maybe my imagination was inflamed, but I didn’t think so.
While driving in the dark, with a great effort of will I forced, directed the powerful energy that started in my right calf and ankle to now enter and occupy my left leg as well. This was hard work. I was experiencing a sense of something like ecstasy. Then I moved it up my legs into my thighs and buttocks, one at a time. Then into my gut and torso. The feeling was, again, electrical as if I were in contact with a hot wire and couldn’t let go until it had done what it had come to do. Without understanding what I was doing, I seemed to know spontaneously how to do it. I forced it into my arms, one at a time, then into my head. I felt incandescent, as if I were glowing in the dark. Doing this was exhausting, in much the same way that dealing with constipation can be exhausting, but once the energy occupied my entire body it seemed to remain as it was without further input on my part. Gradually it faded and then it was gone except for an afterglow of emotion. The whole thing was over in fifteen minutes or less; I didn’t time it.
When I got to Home Depot and got out of the van my ankle was flexible and I could walk without a cane. I felt good, without pain, without disability.
Later, the doctor who had referred me to the neurologist said that my spontaneous remission was a miracle. He thought my recovery was partial, not full because I did a bit of faking. I didn’t share the details. A perk: He gave me a medical statement that got me a pair of handicap tags for my van.
My interest now was in discovering what had caused this; what was it I had been able to do or what had been done to me? A friend with whom I had worked at the Potters’ Guild had previously taken me to a Reiki Share that she belonged to. That’s a group of practitioners who gather to work on each other and whoever else might want a treatment. I went with her on several occasions and had some interesting experiences. During my treatments I lay on a massage table surrounded by a group of people hovering over me, their open palms extended. Once, I started squirming while I was on the table. When asked why I was doing that, I replied that I was putting the Reiki energy where I wanted it. I don’t know why I said that, but I felt that it was true; it just came out. I don’t remember why I stopped going to these sessions.
Now, I thought Reiki was an appropriate way to at least begin to discover what had caused my remission. I asked my friend if her group still met; she said she didn’t know, but gave me a phone number. They had disbanded, but I was given a couple of other phone numbers. My quest was to find another Reiki group. It turned out that no one I called knew of one, but I was given the name of a book, Essential Reiki, by Diane Stein. I got it and read it. It seemed promising, but also a dead end. It had a bibliography, but that was confusing overkill. I wanted to be able to browse through some books that I could locate near at hand, and quickly. Better yet, I wanted to make connection with another Reiki group.
I went to a local used book store, which had a holistic book section. That area of the store was narrow and taken up by a woman who was browsing through the same material I was interested in. Between us, it was crowded, so I asked politely if we could help each other. If she would tell me what she was looking for I would help her search, and she might do the same for me. She said, more or less, you first and I told her. It turned out there was nothing of specific interest there for me, but she told me of a Reiki Clinic which met every Thursday evening in the basement of a downtown church. I was there the following Thursday and almost every Thursday thereafter for the following three or four years.
Physically, it occupied two large rooms in the basement of the church. The first was the waiting room where, often, we would give Reiju, a “mini-attunement” to the recipients before it was their turn to be treated. Through a door was the treatment room with four massage tables, subdued lighting and low, appropriate music. There were regularly five to ten practitioners in attendance and ten to twenty recipients. Practitioners usually worked two or more to each recipient. Once we had treated all the recipients we would give Reiki to each other. Treatment was by donation to pay the cost of renting the space for an evening: seventy five dollars.
Initially, when I described my experience to the practitioners there, they thought I was a kook. They didn’t know what to make of what had happened to me, couldn’t explain it and probably didn’t believe me. Gradually, however, I gained credibility and their confidence and became part of the membership “family”. I went through the training and attunements for the first levels of Reiki practice and, before long was attuned as a Reiki Master Teacher. In the years ahead I was attuned as a Master Teacher in three other Reiki modalities and also in a few other related energy practices.
During the early period of my Reiki experience I deliberately did little reading on the subject; I wanted to discover what my natural gifts might be, with as little outside influence as possible; I also kept my formal training to a minimum for the same reason. Something was definitely happening to me and I wanted to know what it was and what I could do with it. I kept my original quest very firmly in mind: to find out what had caused my remission.
It is difficult to remember with clarity many of the experiences I had while doing Reiki and working in the company of others doing Reiki. Many unusual occurrences happened to me for years, with no doubt on my part, at the time, of their reality. Certain abilities became available to me for a period of time, then they would fade and others would come on. For instance, whenever I was working on a specific recipient with my eyes closed (I always work with my eyes closed; I “see” better that way.) I would strongly see a color, probably whichever might be related to the specific chakra that most needed the energy. A curious thing about the colors was that they did not seem to be from any familiar spectrum; they were colors I had not seen before; sometimes my dreams would include those uncommon colors. This ability lasted for several months. As it faded from the foreground, another would come into dominance to take its place.
I have always been a highly visual person. As a sculptor I have been able to “see” many of my creations before they were made; as a writer it has been easy for me to see what I was creating as if it were in a movie in my mind. So it became a usual practice for me to see scenes related to whatever Reiki recipient I was working on. With some skepticism I came to believe that some of what I was seeing about that person possibly related to a past life experience of theirs, or, extrapolating, to a distant or even future experience. One example I recall had to do with a friend of a massage therapist with whom I was associated. The therapist I worked with had granted me the privilege of doing Reiki on her clients; I would work on them for an hour, then the three of us would sit and discuss the session afterwards. In this particular case I had “seen” a woman’s throat with a necklace, someone holding an assault rifle and the interior of a long, open wooden boat with something like a fireplace at the far end. It turned out that her friend had brought her a necklace as a gift. He had recently been to Egypt and visited the pyramids; in one of them was a boat such as I had described, a ceremonial barge for the deceased pharaoh. The pyramid guards carried AK-47 automatic weapons.
In Reiki you are taught that each practitioner is assigned a Reiki guide, an entity which assists you in the practice of Reiki. Should you, for instance, make a mistake, your guide will correct it or even step in and do the necessary work if you should forget how to do it. You are instructed that, for you to see your guide, ask and it will appear. When I asked to see mine, I was disappointed; what I saw was in no way what I had expected. I saw an eye, a big eye, filling my field of vision. The eye blinked, so whatever it was was living, but I had no idea what it was. Over time, it could be seen from some distance and I could see that it was a large bird. I saw it head on and then I saw one profile and then the other. It meant nothing to me. Time passed and the image remained much the same, alive whenever I saw it, but of no particular significance to me.
Then one day, while I was working on the massage therapist herself, I saw the bird more clearly than usual. It looked like a Kestrel or a Peregrine falcon; from its relatively bright coloration I took it to be the former. Without scale in my inner image it could be imagined as being any size. Mine was very alert, reddish and blue-gray with a black and white face pattern. As I worked I could see some movement in its feathers and even capillaries in its eyes. It was full body in profile, up close and intimate. I described it to her.
She said, “Wait a minute”, and got off the massage table. She went upstairs, returning in a few minutes with a white cast stone replica of a bas relief figure. It was the figure of Horus, in the Egyptian religion the god of sun, war and protection, the son of Isis and Osiris. I have since read that the early Egyptian universities were such that the sciences were based on one of his profiles, the arts, on the other.
I went,”Whoa! My Reiki guide? That’s quite an honor or something.” My description of what I had been seeing for months was accurate, matching the stone replica. I didn’t imagine it and, other than having run across the name Horus casually, I had had no previous knowledge of who or what Horus was. I had, and still have, no idea how the Egyptian sun god was connected to an animate image of my Reiki guide. After enough time elapsed I stopped seeing it, but only after some other strange, related events had occurred. Those, I will write about later when I describe my unusual affinity with hawks and falcons, or theirs with me.
Once while doing Reiki, I accidentally discovered an ability to work with crystals. I was giving regular treatments to a friend’s elbow over an extended period of time. I had been collecting quartz crystals just because I find them beautiful, fascinating. I began doing Reiki on her with a crystal in my sending hand. She noticed a difference, and so did I. For one thing, when I slowly rubbed the crystal on her elbow with one hand I could feel the effect on my other hand as if I were touching it directly with the crystal; although there was some distance between my hands, the effect was definitely tactile. Later, I found that I could perceive a similar effect while working on other recipients.
Further, I discovered that I could have some effect on crystals with my mind under certain circumstances. For instance, I could keep in motion indefinitely a crystal pendant, a crystal suspended on a chain or cord. It would keep moving until I stopped focusing energy on it. A slight movement of my head in cadence with the crystal seemed to help this phenomenon. It was far more difficult to summon the concentration necessary to get the motion started without a helping hand.
One of the strange things about the strange things that happened to me regarding Reiki or whatever influence was working its ways upon my life during that extended period is the effect of doubt over time. The longer the period of time that passed since each unusual event the more I would come to disbelieve that it had happened in the first place. I’ve never gotten to the point of actually denying that those things had occurred, but it became more and more difficult to remember them with the pungent sureness of freshness, in an almost direct proportion to the amount of time has passed since the event. I remain in a somewhat doubtful state about things that I am sure happened to me or in my presence. That seems to be a built-in aspect of automythology.
When the downtown Reiki Clinic disbanded, another, Spiritworks, opened up in the suburb of Timonium and I began working there. Organizationally it was much the same, but here, besides the waiting room, there were private treatment rooms. Some of the practitioners from the old clinic also gravitated here and it attracted also a lot of new faces, both practitioners and recipients. By the time it closed, about two years later, I was in charge of it. This was also by donation. Here also, once the recipients had all been treated, we would work on one another.
I was then asked to hand pick a practitioner membership of ten to establish a regular Reiki Share, meeting also once a week. This went well, but lasted only about a year. Then I practiced one day a week at a holistic center named Mystickal Voyage, for about a year. Thereafter I did a Reiki trade with one partner and then another for a couple of years. I advertised in Craigslist to trade a Reiki-for-Reiki or Reiki-for-Services exchange and for some years had a steady flow of Reiki partners, recipients and students. It worked well, but I stopped doing it.
Over the years I had been doing Reiki I did a lot of reading and had many teachers and associations, some very influential, others less rewarding. I estimate that I have worked on between 2000 and 2500 recipients during that time. I have also written several drafts, though not yet a finished manuscript, of what I call The Reiki Manual. My intention is to write the manual I wish I had had while I was learning Reiki. I have not run across one that I could wholeheartedly teach from and give my students.
The big question is whether I have discovered what healed my legs. The answer is that, although Reiki has had a profound influence on my life, I still don’t know.
When asked by his students, “What is Reiki?” a Reiki Master Teacher responded, “No one knows. It is a mystery.”
(Present day addendum: I have not and will not finish writing The Reiki Manual.)
®Copyright 2015 Jack Scott. All rights reserved.