True Confession Time

Alice Risemberg Articles, English 10 Comments


As part of a recent Brave Blogging Link-up (before the Reiki Pulse blog was up and running), I published “This I Know: You are Whole and Complete Right Now,” a piece on my history of depression and the way Reiki helped me deeply transform.

It was, indeed, a courageous leap to share this part of my story to convey an important message. And your responses were humbling in their kindness, generosity, and shared truth-telling of your own.

But it is one thing to share a personal issue that has been safely moved to the “past” category. It is another thing to share what is still happening right now.

So here is My True Confession (not, I’m afraid, as deliciously titillating as those in the old magazine): I have ulcerative colitis, and I am in the midst of what is often called a “flare up” right now.

Yes, I am a Reiki practitioner and teacher. Yes, among other things, Reiki is a healing art. Yes, I still get sick. At the moment, pretty darn sick (though thankfully not life-threateningly so).

My feeling that this information is something to be confessed is exactly why I am sharing today. Shame or hiding can be a big signpost that reads: Your wires are crossed! You are deeply misunderstanding something. Dig into the shame and uncross your wires to let go of needless suffering.

In my case right now, my misunderstandings are stacked one on top of the other, it seems.

Many times we understand a truth intellectually, but in our whole being, we don’t really understand. We don’t know it to our core, and we can’t live it (yet!).

Our heads get it, but it’s like experiencing a piece of fruit, say a luscious strawberry, through a pretty painting of the strawberry. The painting gives the illusion of three dimensions, but we can’t really pick the strawberry up and look at it from all angles, taste the sweetness on our tongues, or feel the squish and burst of juice in our mouths.

So what is keeping me from fully tasting my fruit? What ideas am I clinging to that keep me from understanding holistically what I intellectually know to be true?

Well, let’s start with an old favorite, the idea that there is something wrong with me that I need to hide. That my body’s imbalance and unwellness are a sign that I must not be a “good” Reiki practitioner and teacher. That I “shouldn’t” be sick at all.

And under all that, I find lurking the idea that there is something inherently “better” about being healthy.

Or even that there is truly such a thing as “healthy” versus “unhealthy.”

Whew, we’re digging deep here now!

In “The Deepest Acceptance: Radical Awakening in Ordinary Life,” Jeff Foster writes:

“In every label, there is an implicit judgment. In creating the opposites beauty and ugliness and then seeking beauty, we go to war with what we call ugly. In trying to be beautiful, in trying to feel beautiful, in trying not to feel ugly, we end up going to war with this present experience and trying to reach its opposite–even though it actually has no opposite! No wonder we suffer.”

So it is with “healthy” and “unhealthy.” Aha!

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have seen and experienced many specific stories of incredible physical, emotional, and mental healing through Reiki practice and support. I don’t mean to dismiss the potential there. Nor do I wish to dismiss the complexity of what “healing” might look like versus “cure” (a big topic for another blog post).

In fact, the system of Reiki is ultimately a completely holistic engagement through spirit that requires absolute openness in terms of desired outcome. In Reiki practice, as in life, we cannot cling to our expectations. We must allow whatever is holistically required to emerge, regardless of what we think should be true.

This, to me, is the single biggest challenge in practicing Reiki: to let go of expectations and get out of the way so that true healing can unfold, unhindered. And so that suffering can be shed, no longer needed, no matter what is happening internally or externally.

Personally, I have gotten better and better at letting go of expectations. But clearly I have plenty of letting go yet to allow, especially related to my own life and body.

Part of me just plain wants to Not Be Sick. I admit it. Seems reasonable, right? My Reiki practice helps me see this part of me clearly for what it is.

But part of me also knows – KNOWS – that what I am experiencing as “sick” is just life right now in this moment. And it’s ok. My Reiki practice helps me experience this part of me clearly, too.

Which “part” of me do you think is suffering more? Is the suffering helping me get what I want anyway?

Ironically, my best chance for the “health” I seek is to stop grasping at it. This does not mean to roll over and passively give up on action. It means to choose action from wisdom, not fear or grasping or shame. The wisdom that comes from remembering our inner light that is radiating right in this moment, not some imagined “better” time in the future.

My shame about sharing this part of my current life openly shows that I am operating from fear. The fear is understandable but ultimately not helpful. Better to take the curtains down and just live openly as who and what I am in this moment.

Even better to take the lessons of the shame and also the experience of unwellness in as part of the richness of this embodied existence. As it is.

And best to just be. No labels, no working at finding lessons, no fighting. Allow life to unfold, moment by moment.

May each of us recognize shame as it arises and look for the named ideas within it that are limiting. May we gently let go of labeling and clinging to ideas and rest in the light of being that is beyond any distinctions and names.

No matter what we might be feeling, may we accept our experiences as true and right for the life that we inhabit, right here, right now.

Image Credit & Appreciation: Thank you to David of Remarkably Retro for this dynamite photo of a vintage magazine cover.


Alice is a Shinpiden graduate of the International House of Reiki. Her website is Reiki Pulse.

Comments 10

  1. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  2. Avatar of Kelly McDermott-Burns

    Thank you Alice for this honest and thoughtful blog. I certainly relate to feeling like I shouldn’t be sick because that is somehow a reflection of how well my practice is going. Healing happens on so many levels. Who knows what is in store for us as we move through illness?  The Jeff Foster quote is excellent!  Lately, I have been thinking about how I label things and how limiting that is.
    “Ironically, my best chance for the “health” I seek is to stop grasping at it. This does not mean to roll over and passively give up on action. It means to choose action from wisdom, not fear or grasping or shame.”  Wise words indeed.
    Keep up the writing!  I always enjoy your blogs!

  3. Avatar of seema

    Thank you Alice for sharing and openly talking about this. I think before we can open to these we need to be open to ourselves . I myself I have suffered from Depression number of years ago when I found out that my daughter has autism and is non verbal and she wont be calling me “mom “, I wrote about this a little in my web site in my intro to Reiki and incidently one person came to learn from me reiki after she read that. She felt a connection there, I think being open is a great healing tool and it does not stop it is a ongoing thing as it can have many layers. We might think we are done but if the healing is not complete it keep coming back . Tahnk you again for sharing

  4. Avatar of Sundar Kadayam
  5. Avatar of Mary Murray

    Thank you Alice
    Reiki also helps with me with depression.
    It has shown me over the years that when I get the feeling to pack my bags and leave or leave the planet it is not about leaving the situation but old habits, old thinking patterns.
    Also it had shown me that it is ok to things that I want to do when I want to do them.
    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Avatar of Elly

    Thank you, Alice, for an open and beautfully written post! First, I’m so sorry you’re suffering from ulcerative colitis. I hope the flare-up ends soon, and pray that it may be the last. I agree with you, when we’re in the midst of physical or emotional pain, the healthiest response is just to bear with it and accept that this is where we are right now rather than pitting what strength we have against it and wearing ourselves out. And I also agree with “not rolling over”—-accepting where we are doesn’t mean not researching a problem and trying solutions, it just means living in the now and cherishing each moment as it arises rather than postponing life for some “better” future. (I think of this as the “I’ll start dating/going to the beach/working out at the gym when I’ve lost 15 pounds” syndrome.) We are what we are, where we are, and our hope for happiness lies in accepting ourselves as we are. As for the “I’m not well so I’m obviously not a good Reiki person” business, Usui Founder himself died of a stroke in his 60s. I would hope that no one would presume to claim that he wasn’t a good Reiki teacher and practitioner! The truest measure of our worth, as Reiki people and as human beings, is how we play the hand we’ve been dealt and use the time we’ve been given. It’s clear you’re making the most of yours!

  7. Avatar of Elly

    I came on this quote today, and thought it might be relevant in terms of pain, suffering, shame, and the like:

    “The object of Zen is not to kill all feelings and become anesthetized to pain and fear. The object of Zen is to free us to scream loudly and fully when it is time to scream.”
          —-Francis Harold Cook, How to Raise an Ox: Zen Practices as Taught in Zen Master
              Dogen’s Shobogenzo

  8. Avatar of Paula Michal-Johnson

    You tap into this dynamic dilemma. While there is much talk about the “Wounded Healer” in us that opens doors, if we are the wound we lose the beauty of being in the moment much of the time. I honor your journey and what it inspires in us all.

  9. Avatar of francine

    Your   old buddy from new york   remembers   the 101 things that are wonderful about you. The thoughtfulness,  deep examination, sharing   are a few of them.  So often our illnesses call us to go deeper than we ever wanted to or even thought possible.  I know you are meeting this challenge and opening to   qualities of being that you might not have exercised so much.  Finding internal and external resources to meet the challenge of our circumstances is a frequent and ongoing   activity,especially when I go to a new place or a new place in my life.Finding self-love or being kind to oneself is often harder than loving and being kind to others.  Let the responses nourish you as you do the tasks that help you meet your present situation as it unfolds its teaching.  hugs

  10. Avatar of Susan

    Alice, thank you for sharing so openly about personal issues we often hold ‘close to the vest.’  Here is a quote from Natalie Goldberg that has given me solace and I hope it provides the same for you: ‘Be tough the way a blade of grass is: rooted, willing to lean, and at peace with what is around it.’
    Holding you in warm regard,

Leave a Reply to Susan Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *