Rejuvenating Humbly Through Reiki

Sometimes we all just need a mental and physical reset.

For those who find themselves lost connecting with their inner selves, the practice of reiki will help them intuitively rediscover who they really are as individuals.

Reiki is a nonverbal healing technique that focuses heavily on channeling and understanding energy through connection. Reiki seeks to align and restore imbalancing energies from everyday life, cleansing the patient of negativity and reinstills empowering universal life forces in the patient. 

Reiki is a nonverbal healing technique that prioritizes channeling, cleansing, and resetting energies to give patients peace. (Photo by Julie Marasco).

Ashley Sullivan, 20, is not just a typical senior at SUNY New Paltz. She is president of the female weightlifting club on campus, Girl Gains, and beyond that, she is also a certified shamanic reiki practitioner in levels one (practicing on yourself) and two (practicing on others). 

After taking just two yoga classes in Kingston last winter, Sullivan met a mentor who she felt energetically connected to, and sought to have her as a guide in her life. She would later on introduce Sullivan to the practice of reiki. It was this event where Sullivan found her true calling. 

Over the summer, Sullivan spent four days at the Arts On Site Residency & Retreat Center in Kerhonkson, N.Y., about 30 minutes west of New Paltz. At this retreat, she not only earned her certification—she learned the benefits of plant medicine, chakra healing, and metaphysical anatomy.

Four days. No internet. Living in a yurt with strangers of all different ages while being the youngest one there. She was there with ketamine therapists, social workers, artists, herbalists, and more.

Mornings were filled with yoga, hiking, waterfall swimming, meditation, and getting attuned to reiki in the woods from a reiki master. Nights were occupied with campfires, enjoying meals together, more yoga and reiki, and plant ceremonies that specialized the use of Hapé and Sananga, which originate from the Amazon and are legalized in the U.S. The experience with these plants was so life changing that it inspired one of Sullivan’s several tattoos. 

Sullivan entered the retreat on an antidepressant and left off of it, without any withdrawal symptoms and also stopped going to therapy. “Working with these sacred medicines, meditation, doing yoga and reiki, have made my life overall. I’m in the best mental place I’ve ever been in my entire life.” Sullivan says. 

The various tools Sullivan uses in her reiki practices to open up the different chakras such as the throat, heart, and sacral. (Photo by Julie Marasco). 

In reiki, you work from the top of the head to the bottom of people’s feet. Sullivan likes to start with using singing bowls to help open up the throat chakras and letting the energy flow through. Oftentimes, people struggle to find the courage to speak out, which can transmit as a heavy and dehydrated sense to Sullivan. “People have a lot of energy that’s stuck in the throat because we’re not always speaking our truth all the time,” Sullivan says. 

“Our body stores all of that distress, more than we are even aware of.”

At the retreat, Sullivan learned about the emotional intelligence of the body, where certain energies are stored in different places, some areas more prominent than others. “The body is very emotionally intelligent, and our physical body stores all of that mental distress, more than we are even made aware of.” This is why Sullivan works with the hips a lot, especially for women. For survivors of sexual trauma, this massage therapy element can be very powerful and releasing. 

When it comes to practicing, the most important part to Sullivan is making sure to cut the cord between the patient and herself at the end. “You have to make sure that you open the book, do the work, and close the book.” Sullivan says. It’s imperative not to hold on to it, since it would be detrimental for both parties involved. This kind of work is meant for someone to take home with them and reflect on their own time and for Sullivan to be able to “help them in the moment, and then I kind of move on with the day with a huge feeling of gratitude.” 

That’s not to say she never thinks about her patients after a session is completed. There have been times where she thinks about someone or things come up and when that occurs, she chooses to sit with it and sends them the unconditional love and protection they may need sent their way. 

I had the pleasure of getting to watch Sullivan practice reiki on her good friend and roommate, Claire Lindsey, who had never done it before. 

During an intense, 45-minute quiet session, the feelings and aromas that surrounded the room were almost indescribable. 

“I remember being like, “what even is this stuff?,” and just confused by it, but wanting to support Ashley.” Lindsey says. “I recall when she performed it a few times at the beginning of the semester and was like, ‘it just smells really good in here.’”

Sullivan and Lindsey talked beforehand, and Lindsey was prepared to release the negativity she had been holding on inside of her. “Everyone has things they want to change always, and that was my approach going into it.” Lindsey shared.

For some people, it’s hard to sit and relax in complete silence and focus on being present for 30-45 minutes. “I wasn’t prepared for the emotional aspect of just sitting with your soul and having someone else also sitting with you like that. At times I caught myself drifting into my own thoughts and not being super present in the meditation at some points.” Lindsey shares. 

“I feel like as a woman too, we’re just in our heads so much.” Lindsey reflects on trying to unwind during the reiki process. (Photo by Julie Marasco). 

However, Lindsey felt that she was able to sink right into it since Sullivan, to her, is a comforting person. “It was really easy to open up like that.” Lindsey says. 

To Lindsey’s surprise, their connection would go beyond a deeper level. It’s like Sullivan and Lindsey were “on this synchronous emotional wavelength” where Lindsey felt that Sullivan could also feel what was going on inside of Lindsey’s mind and body simultaneously. 

At the end of it, Lindsey woke up, feeling relief and like “a real person again” since it felt like she stepped out of her own body. Overwhelmed with disbelief and heavy emotions, Lindsey started to tear up with gratitude and was held graciously by Sullivan.

Releasing emotions and energy has never felt so powerful to Claire Lindsey. (Photo by Julie Marasco).

After the session was over, Sullivan and Lindsey chatted outside to recap their individual takeaways from the experience. 

One thing that came up was heavy feelings in the hips, which checked out since Lindsey mentioned “carrying a lot of tension on the right side of my body that just got released.” As an observer of this practice, while watching Sullivan perform on Lindsey, I myself even felt tension in my hips despite having no role in the ritual, which left me astonished by the powers of this session. 

Most notably, Lindsey felt the most energy released from her chest, hips, and feet. When reflecting on this, she realized that “it’s no joke when they say you hold the energy in different parts of your body; because where else am I going to store all of it? It’s not going nowhere, since energy cannot be created or destroyed.” 

As college students, it’s normal to get caught up in stressful school work to the point of reaching burnout and forgetting to take time for yourself. Doing this practice in the midst of midterms and finals, we struggle to realize that there needs to be “time where you need to be out of your head and within yourself. Maybe we all should really be taking a step back more often.” Lindsey says. 

As for Sullivan, she is looking to extend her certification to level three reiki, where you can attune and teach others how to do reiki. But that’s not all. Sullivan also has plans of getting her integration license, yoga teacher certification, and massage therapist certification to expand her resources. She wants to have various assets to provide for people who need help that may not prefer talk therapy. Despite the lack of verbatim in reiki, she loves making sure her patients are heard and seen. The ultimate dream is “to be able to have a space to do reiki.” 

For people inclined to try reiki, Sullivan says to “have an open mind. Don’t be so judgemental. I feel like I am very good at listening to people and holding space for their experiences. And I think that’s not really something you can get from everyone.” Sullivan advocates. 

Reiki is a cultural practice where people have the freedom to take away whatever they wish to from the experience and resonate with what they feel connects most to them, or what doesn’t. At the end of the day, Sullivan says, “with everything going on in the world, human connection is such a beautiful, powerful, and important thing.” 

To schedule a meditation or reiki session with Ashley Sullivan, you can reach out to her via @practicingpeace_

Julie Marasco

Julie Marasco is a 21-year-old journalism major at SUNY New Paltz, originally from Oceanside, New York. She previously copyedited for an internship at The Culture We Deserve. Having been published in WFNP, The Teller Magazine and The Poodle on campus, she hopes to become an editor or a writer with a beat in arts and entertainment.

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