At the beginning of this year Cristina Ortiz, a local Yoga teacher, and I started an important conversation. I shared my idea of accessible Reiki services, called the Reiki Clinic, for the community with her and she offered the space and assistance in setting the program up. We ran the Reiki Clinic from March through May at First Baptist Church in White Plains, N.Y. It was a pilot project and a great experience for everybody involved, on and off the tables.
In April, Cristina founded her non-profit, Create QuanYin Institute, a grass-roots organization to promote the healing arts and making practices, like Yoga, meditation and Reiki, available for underserved individuals of the community.
My focus as a Reiki practitioner and teacher is to grow credibility for the practice so that people are not scared of Reiki anymore or label the practice as “woo woo.” The partnership with Create QuanYin has thrived and we are now bringing mindfulness practices into the Westchester Correctional Facility in Valhalla, N.Y. The Westchester Correctional Facility is a 990,000 square foot local jail and penitentiary complex that can house up to 1,821 inmates. As part of the C.O.R.E. (Community Oriented Re-Entry) program Create Quan Yin is providing weekly Yoga and mindfulness sessions to a selected group of inmates for a trial period of three months.
Today I had the opportunity to introduce Reiki-based breathing and meditation techniques to 11 participants. Cristina co-lead the hour-long session and guided us in movement exercises at the beginning and end of the session. We practiced focusing the mind on one breath (Joshin Kokyo Ho) and connecting to our Earth ki for grounding and centering. After explaining why we were doing these exercises and how they help us build resilience and strength from within, the men understood the value of deep breathing and meditation more. The participants were very respectful. It was like facilitating one of my Reiki or mindfulness programs at the local library. One man approached me at the end and thanked me for introducing him to these practices. He is older, maybe in his late 50s, early 60s, and shook my hand. When I encouraged him to keep practicing, especially the deep breathing, he nodded. Based on his reaction and the way some other inmates participated in the session, I know that they will apply what they learned today.
C.O.R.E. has been supporting inmates with support and education in life skills, cognitive behavorial therapy, mental health programs and various related activities since 2014. It is exciting that Yoga and meditation practices are now being offered too. These practices, Reiki included, help foster the mind-body connection, promote relaxation and as a result a sense of balance and well-being. Peace starts from within. One breath, one mind, one individual at a time. How this relates to society is summed up by Matthieu Ricard, the French scientist turned Buddhist monk: “If the individual doesn’t become more peaceful, a society that’s the sum total of such individual will never become more peaceful either.”