A sharp point of pressure began behind one temple and spread, stiff-arming me towards the Cinnamon Toast Crunch as I trudged down the cereal aisle. The floor begin to fall away inside me. I swallowed hard, and tried to focus on my list. Salsa. Is it in the refrigerator section, or the ethnic aisle? And why do we call it “ethnic” anyway? A blue vest sauntered into my periphery, and I hailed her and repeated the first half of my query aloud. She paused, and nodded towards aisle twelve, and I trudged on, squinting resentfully at the lights overhead that buzzed like an apiary, feeling an unexpected kinship with Charles McGill. The red jars hailed me, and I stared blankly at the over abundance of options options—chunky, mild, medium, hot, what the—and closed my eyes, grabbing the first jar my hand touched.

By the time I made it home, it was a full-blown migraine. I brought my groceries up to my loft in a blur, and parked without giving a second thought to the fact that I had no quarters for the meter and would probably get a ticket. My goal for the day was stunningly simple—get up to my loft while I was still upright, and to not throw up.

I rarely got sick these days, but when I did, it was often related to a build-up of stress, and usually directly correlated to emotion I had been pushing away. I threw my groceries in the fridge and texted my friend Jason—Gave myself a stress migraine. Down for the count. Send good vibes.

He texted back immediately. Hey soul sister. I’ve got my reiki table in my trunk. We can do some energy work later, if you like.

Yes. Please. Please. I replied, not really knowing what that would entail, but glad he was coming because being around him was always a healing experience. I’d met Jason doing Acroyoga a month ago, and had been flying with him ever since. He was an incredible base—strong, grounded, fearless—and had only dropped me a few times to date. He was a healer—a reiki master and massage therapist— the one at the gym that the acrobats ran to when things went out of alignment or started aching or twinging. I’ve seen him treat strained shoulders, rug burns, tweaked knees, and hangovers, placing his hands over the offending spot, feeling the muscles, building warmth and intention and moving the bad energy away. It never ceased to amaze me.

We’d struck up a friendship outside of the gym, and gotten to talk about the pieces of life that didn’t involve being upside down. I’d found that he saw energy in a way that made sense to me after all I’d experienced in my life, and especially since Jamaica. My first exposure to Reiki was this past summer on the island, and only through hearsay of a friend who went to do it with a woman named Empress. I gave it a try last month in New Jersey, with a girl who was in the middle of her courses for the first level, and while it was relaxing, it didn’t feel too different from meditating, so I assumed I might not be sensitive enough to respond to Reiki.

It was dark when he arrived, and I was still wincing. He set up the table in my candle-lit living room and sat across from me, giving me all his presence. I forget what that feels like sometimes—being with someone without white noise between. I sat on the arm of my big chair across from him, and waited, not sure what to expect.

“So, what’s going on, Willa?” He asked, pulling his knee up to the barstool and resting his chin atop it.

My throat felt thick. “I don’t know…a lot. So many transitions and—everything hurts. I think I let myself get too stressed out. Everything hurts,” I repeated, dully.

He accepted my words, taking them in calmly without judgement or reaction. “Yeah, I can feel that.” His hand arched lightly through the air, as if he was brushing something away. “What’s stressing you out?”

They weren’t things I was used to having space to talk about, especially with new people in my life. I began vaguely, “A lot of things. I’m trying to understand my life and my direction. I…things that mattered to me once in my career are all changing. It feels like my priorities and what I want out of life and how I want to spend my time has also shifted, and I’m just trying to catch up…” The candlelit flickered patiently against the walls, as I faltered through sentences, following tangent after tangent, circling my feelings, trying to find their center.

His eyes never left my face, his attention never wavered. Few people have the ability to give that kind of presence without making your story about them—I personally know fewer than five. As I talked, I realized I had developed the habit of keeping my stories short as I felt the attention of the other waver—I slowly leaned in to the gift he was giving me, wondering if I gave people that gift.

When the circling stopped, he pondered a moment, then responded, “It sounds like you’re looking for clarity.”

I considered this, and it settled in me. “Yes. Clarity. I’m in so many transitions. I know something needs to pivot, but I’m not sure what that will look like or where it will lead.”

He smiled, and I suspected he was already practicing Reiki on me, already moving through my energy field, sorting through where I was clinging and where I needed release. We talked a bit more, and he decided to do a cranial/sacral massage. I climbed up on the table and lay on my back, closing my eyes.

“Just keep breathing. Ok?” Same thing he said when we did Acro. Same thing I always needed to be reminded to do. I nodded, and he put his hand lay beneath my low back, on my sacrum, and began in tiny movements I could hardly place.

I breathed. And breathed. And breathed. Time shifted, and left—it might have been half an hour, it might have been two hours. I felt my body settling, and became aware of the spinning of the earth, and the pull of the moon. A hand moved behind my head and energy flooded through my body. Heat rose in my throat, the kind of heat that collects just before you say what takes all the courage to say. There was energy, and energy, and more energy, humming through my cells, vibrating through my teeth…

And I breathed: Help me

release everything

that no longer makes me


I felt a presence, Love, within me, and She wrapped around my body. My inner world began to expand. His hands tipped my body tip slightly to the left, and suddenly I saw myself lying at the top of a waterfall—I was the waterfall, and I was the rocks at the top of the cliff. As my body tipped, dark water began to pour out of me and over me, and through me, until it ran clear and turquoise over the side and down into a beautiful ravine. After it ran clear, the earth became level again. I caught my breath, then it tilted once more, and again the black water poured from me, but less this time before it ran clear.

The hands moved from my sacrum to my clavicle, and I felt the intensity of tears there beneath the skin. I wanted the tears to leave me, but they had been stuck there. My throat thickened and burned. The touch moved up my neck and the grief followed. It collected and pooled along my scalp and temples, and his fingers found the spots and pressed into them, massaging my scalp, bringing it up, bringing it up, bringing it up. I felt my heartbeat outside my body, a presence holding me and moving through me. The touch released slowly, and I kept breathing. I don’t know how long I laid there.

When I opened my eyes, I saw him sitting on the couch by the table. So much energy was present in the room that I felt as if I were sitting underwater. The edges of my jaws ached. The air around my face was thick and hot, like someone was exhaling against my cheek. Everything that had been pushed down vibrated on my skin. I brushed at my arms and rubbed my hands together, trying to release the energy. I wanted to cry—but I was out of practice. I felt the energy all around me, coming like waves—again and again.

He watched me from the couch with empathy. “How do you feel?” He asked softly. I knew he knew what I felt—the room was full of how I felt. We were both immersed in it.

I struggled to find words and sat up to stretch my arms above my head. More emotion surged through me, like electricity, needing released. It was overwhelming to feel so much—it’s always been overwhelming. I felt exposed and raw. “I feel so much energy, so much heat in my throat…” I managed to get out.

“What do you want to say?” came the quiet reply.

His response surprised me. I braced myself, and shook my head. “I don’t know…” But I did. “I think I need to let something go.”

“You can.” He answered softly. “One exhale at a time.”

They were shaky exhales. The weight of the emotion sat heavy upon them. After five or so, I started talking, and as I spoke, emotion quivered around me, as I honed in on my grief and allowed another human to see the rawest parts of my soul. I hadn’t done this often enough. My throat swelled and the top of my chest clenched as I spoke. The urge to cry grew. I felt exposed, but I had to speak my greatest fear out-loud: I was afraid I would fall and no one would catch me.

The air was still. He leaned with his elbows on the edge of the table as I barred my soul, listening, taking it in. Sending love. It loosened something in me. I felt the tears rising. I knew what I needed, and after a moment, I risked asking for it. “Can I sit with you?” I slid off the table.

“Of course,” he answered, and made room for me.

I joined him on the couch. He put his arm around my shoulders, and the tears released. They came in waves. We sat there together as they went through me, until I knew it was OK that sometimes I wasn’t OK. I kept crying, and mixed with the grief was relief and gratitude for the life-force that kept guiding me to herself. I heard a whisper behind me as I cried, in a language I didn’t speak. It told me all is well. I exhaled. All is well. I saw the world tip again, until the black water was turquoise, and the energy in the room had changed color and texture. My friend sat beside me, the Universe reached towards me, and I saw that I had been given everything—I was not alone.

I straightened and wiped my eyes. The candles were low, the migraine was gone, and the room was filled with peace.

“How do you feel?” He asked softly, squeezing my shoulder.

I smiled.

It is an extraordinary thing to exchange energy

with a healer—

and they are few.

They are a gift—

The arms of the Universe drawing us near,

whispering in the Light

languages that

We are love and loved

And carry home within us,

and each other, too—

And all is well.

They are here

because we forget

how to bleed

and cry and breathe in love

And how to be


They are here

Because we need them

To help us remember.

It is an extraordinary thing.

photo cred @johnnyacrosseed

photo cred @johnnyacrosseed