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There were five people gathered in our teachers living room for the Reiki Level I class: my girlfriend and myself, a middle aged woman and her former daughter in law, and a thirty-something male lawyer.

We all had our reasons for being there. The lawyer suffered from stress-induced migraines. The middle aged woman was there to support her former daughter in law, who was there in the process of emotional healing from an abusive marriage. We were all on different paths: the lawyer was interested in sacred geometry and new thought, the women were both Oprah fans, my partner was voudou-curious, and I had recently become fascinated with Witchcraft. We were an odd assembly, but we shared an atmosphere of mutual interest and support almost immediately. I suspect much of the credit was due to the way our teacher created a serene atmosphere in her home, perfect for learning and sharing. I think we all knew we were in a safe space.

She began the class by telling us the story of Reiki's beginning. Then she led us through a few very simple exercises to help us understand some of the ways we might sense and manipulate energy. The exercises were especially valuable to me, because I knew almost nothing about energy work (or anything else metaphysical, for that matter). I felt more confident when she taught us about proper breath: I'd sung in choir and played the flute in high school, so I understood the importance of breathing from the diaphragm.

We also went over Reiki basics, including hand positions, ethics, and self care; and finally it was time for attunements.

We each received our attunement privately with our teacher in her treatment room. I remember it was dim and candle-lit, just like when I received my first reiki session. Today, however, there was a low chair instead of a massage table.

The attunement happened in stages. During the first stage, with my eyes closed I saw a cluster of spheres in shades of indigo and magenta, floating up like bubbles. During the second I saw flames, like a small campfire, and an older person with long, white braids (though I couldn't see him or her clearly enough to distinguish his or her gender). And in the final stage I saw great, towering pillars that were also, somehow, living beings. They were neither trees, nor totem poles, nor sphinxes, but they had a little bit of the energy of all three. They were silent, and they watched, and they stood behind me to either side. Each sight surprised me: I'd never had visions of any kind before. After the attunement my teacher discussed the visions with me; we concluded that I might have met some spirit guides or guardians.

There were more surprises to come. After my attunement, I rejoined the others in the living room. As I sat on the hardwood floor waiting for the last two students to have their attunements, the palms of my hands began tingling, and then burning. The sensation wasn't exactly painful, but it was intense enough to make me place my palms on the cool floor to alleviate the heat. I had to laugh, thinking about how worried I'd been that the attunement somehow wouldn't take, that I would feel nothing and be the dunce of the class.

And when we finally started practicing together as a group, I was shocked at how clearly I felt the energy when giving reiki to another person. I sensed it as hot or cold sensation on the palm of my hand, and sometimes I could feel vibrations like I was touching a very faint electric current. None of these sensations were as intense or overwhelming as my burning palms had been, but it was exciting to discover this whole new way of engaging with the world.

The class lasted two days--the first day was mostly learning and attunements, and the second day was mostly practice--and when the weekend was over I was seriously excited about metaphysical healing.

I've learned a lot about healing since then, but nothing so far rivals that first class and those first few faltering months of learning about magic and healing.