OFFERING REIKI TREATMENT IN AFRICA IN THE AFTERMATH OF CONFLICT
by Bob Coen
I recently returned from a five-week trip to Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, three African countries that lie in the vast Sahara desert, an area the State Department warns is unsafe to visit at this time.
The entire region has been in turmoil since Islamist extremists and Tuareg rebels overran northern Mali and prompted the intervention of four thousand French troops with the support of other African armies.
Foreigners have been kidnapped and held hostage, with some executed; strict Sharia law was imposed; music was banned; people had their limbs chopped off as punishment for perceived crimes; there have been widespread human rights abuses and retributions against Tuareg nomads; and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee Mali to live in temporary camps until it is safe to return.
I was going there to try to understand the causes of this crisis and document the aftermath for a new film I am producing.
Practicing Reiki and documenting war
Wars and conflict zones are not new to me. I spent more than 15 years as a war correspondent and a producer of films about various conflicts in Africa.
I know war.
I have seen it up close and witnessed what it does to survivors, to children, to families and to communities. Long after the bullets have fallen silent, war zones continue to be stressful places… even for those just passing through like myself.
More than a decade ago, I decided to turn my back on war. I was tired of documenting suffering, having realized that part of me was absorbing it, and it was affecting my spirit in inexplicable ways.
It was time to move on.
But now I was going back, and going back as a different person. I am now a parent, no longer the gung-ho risk taker I once was, older, I hope a bit wiser, and now I am a Reiki practitioner.
I was apprehensive even before I arrived in Africa.
Reiki self-practice on the road
After arriving in Africa, I often felt overwhelmed by the task I had undertaken and the risks that surrounded me. But my daily self-practice sustained me just as it has every day since I became a Reiki practitioner nine months ago.
Throughout the trip, my early morning sessions heightened my sense of calm and balance, helping me focus, assess my surroundings clearly, and make difficult decisions with confidence.
My daily practice helped me cope with the many physical challenges I encountered. Whether it was an upset stomach caused by something I had eaten or the aches and pains caused by a bumpy sixteen-hour bus ride on potholed roads, the placement of hands on my body always brought some relief.
Still, as I have learnt from participating at the monthly JCC Reiki Clinics at home in New York City, one of the greatest joys of being a Reiki practitioner is sharing treatments with those around us.
Offering Reiki treatment to refugees
I was reminded of this early in my trip when I found myself living with the Tuareg refugee community in both Mali and neighboring Burkina Faso. Some were lucky to be staying with friends or families in a relatively comfortable urban setting, while others were surviving in makeshift shelters in desolate and dusty refugee camps with no running water or electricity.
They have been living in limbo for close to a year, but had recreated their communal way of life in exile, gathering in family groups, clans or villages. All had been forced to flee their homes, their beloved ancestral lands with their prized herds of camels and livestock. Some had seen their homes destroyed in front of them; others witnessed loved ones killed or disappeared. Many were suffering from trauma and psychic ailments. Most suffered from anxiety and stress caused by the uncertainty of their situation, not knowing when they would be able to return home.
But they weathered that hardship together, in the way of their culture, gathering together on mats and blankets spread out on the sand or in dusty courtyards, drinking cup after cup of strong, sweet tea, sharing meals and stories, as well as any news from home.
Reiki treatment relieves refugees’ suffering
Listening to their experiences, I was curious as to how they dealt with these difficult circumstances. I mentioned Reiki and gently offered treatment to anyone who was interested. Almost all were enthusiastic to try it, and all wanted to share the experiences afterwards. While each person had a different experience, they were all positive, with many returning the next day for more.
Several drifted off into deep sleep, snoring loudly by the end of their treatments. A few continued slumbering on the mat long after the treatment was over.
One man had not been able to sleep for more than a few hours a night since witnessing his house burnt down by a mob that then beat him and his family. Besides the psychological trauma and stress, he also suffered lower back pain. He returned the morning after receiving his treatment to say that he felt renewed; he had slept through the night, and his pain had subsided.
A woman spoke of being overcome by calmness during her treatment and of having a sensation that she described as the flow of her circulation shifting and improving.
A young boy had been forced to flee with his family and their most important possessions. At some point during their more than hundred mile journey on foot, the donkey he was leading kicked him and shattered his knee. There was no medical care available.
By the time I saw him, his leg had set at a bad angle and he was wracked by pain. The bare-bones clinic at the refugee camp had only ineffective over-the-counter pain-killers to offer. He looked terrified as I placed my hands on him, but by the end of the treatment, he was calm and breathing deeply. He returned with his father the next day, saying the pain was much better, and asking for another treatment.
Another man told me that although he had no perceptible physical reaction, during the treatment he felt the presence of his dead father, whom he had not thought about for many years.
As word got out, more and more people wanted to receive a Reiki treatment. One afternoon, I gave four forty-five minute treatments back to back. When I finished, even though I was tired from the exertion of giving treatment on the floor, I too felt a sense of satisfaction and well-being.
Reflecting on my trip now that I am home, I realize I am still coming to terms with and trying to make sense of my experience and the challenges I faced.
What I do know is that I could not have done it without my Reiki practice, and that sharing Reiki treatment with others was deeply rewarding. Those are the moments that continue to resonate with me.
Let’s stay in touch! Planning to be in Europe in May 2014. If you signup for my email list and give your state or country, I’ll let you know when I’m coming your way.