This is the story of Christopher Tellez, Reiki practitioner in San Francisco, as told by Antal Polony.
At the time of my mother’s death I’d been in the social work field for over a decade. I’ve always been drawn to service. Prior to my mother’s passing away, I didn’t spend that much time with her. In a way, even before she died I was already grieving her loss. This might have been part of the reason social service called to me, as a way to give others what I never got. This has always been something of a spiritual journey for me, a process of finding my place. My spiritual mentor was a man named Brian Brunius, a Usai Reiki Master. I’d been working with him on prayer, meditation, ways to handle grief — partly for myself, but also to inform my social services training, my ability to give back.
Well, this is not an easy task. There’s a lot of stress and intensity, and I started experiencing burnout. Physical ailments due to high and consistent levels of stress. Then, on the plane flying back home to New York from a visit with my girlfriend, I received a phone call — my mom had been hit by a car. I didn’t know how serious it was. It was just this anonymous call from some doctor. She was in a coma and she wouldn’t live through the night. By the time I arrived in my hometown, her condition had improved, relatively — she might not have died, but if she’d survived she would have been brain dead, totally paralyzed. But my family had made the decision to pull the plug on her. She was already dead when I got to the hospital.
So, now I was back at home, experiencing all these emotions, these stresses, this loss that didn’t make any sense, and I sent an e-mail to Brian, my spiritual mentor, who was in India at the time, and he said that he would send me Reiki. Brian had told me about this before, had suggested that I take his class, but I was always skeptical. He swore by it, but I was never convinced. But that evening, after he told me that he would send me Reiki, I experienced this sudden wave of calmness. This feeling of becoming centered, like knowing everything was gonna be okay, and all of my responsibilities, dealing with my family, worrying about who’s gonna pay for what — all of that became secondary. That was Brian’s Reiki. You can relate it to yoga, to that feeling after a really good yoga session when you’re in corpse pose, when you’ve achieved that feeling of complete peace and relaxation. It comes from without and it comes from within. It’s a falling into yourself.
I’m still going through the grief process about my mother. Before I discovered Reiki I consumed life through my mind. Worrying about today and tomorrow. I’ve always been drawn to discovering my connection with the universe, it’s why I was attracted to social work. Reiki, which is in essence giving and sending and sharing peace and calmness amongst persons, Reiki helped me to find a transformation within my body. It helped me to begin to handle my grief, to enter into the process in the first place, rather than fear and repress it.
After my mother’s death, and still even today, I sometimes have feelings and emotions at random times, feelings that I can’t explain. But it’s okay, it’s okay to have these scary sensations — Reiki helped me to acknowledge them, but also to feel safe around them.
So in a way my loss experience has allowed me to understand my fellows in a way I didn’t before. Brian sending me Reiki helped me to feel connected. Every single person on this earth goes through loss, but it’s such a devastating and personal experience. None of us could ever fully understand what another’s loss is like. We don’t live in a culture that allows you to grieve, to take time off and meditate, celebrate, to just be with yourself and what you’re going through. We always have to keep moving, producing, providing. All of us feel this pressure. But all of us grieve. At one time or another, and all the time also. We all suffer in the same and different ways. It just depends on how you choose to deal with it. Because even when it seems like it’s not, it really is always up to you.
- Read our Review of a Pulitzer-Prize nominated account of a very different grief experience
- How rituals and ceremonies can help in the grieving process
- Read about the Hospice Foundation’s take on caregiver burnout