I have often talked about how I came to alternative health. Of how I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and how I turned to alternative methods like Reiki, meditation, and guided imagery to relieve my suffering. How in doing so, my life was changed for the better.
What I tend not to talk about is how I chanced on the concept of contentment and a content filled life. Strange as it sounds, I happened upon contentment in the darkest of places. I found (and continue to find each day anew) my version of a content filled in places that I never imagined possible.
I first experienced the feeling of contentment while getting a Reiki treatment. To me, it felt peaceful, like I was safe all my troubles could wait for a few moments while I experienced unconditional love. Reiki has the unique ability to relax even the most stressed out individual (even me). Come to think about it, at the start, it was only during Reiki sessions that I ceased to worry incessantly.
I believe Reiki taught me about unconditional love. Maybe I had never really experienced that before. Or perhaps it was that during self-healings, for the first time in my life, I was saying to the universe that I was worthy of my own love.
Although I try to focus on the positives of that time, it was a very, very dark place. My body betrayed me. The career I had dreamed of all long as I could remember was crumbling into dust. My children were all leaving the nest, some making life choices that were very difficult to watch and that would ultimately redefine our relationships. My husband and constant companion since I was in high school had suffered a heart attack. Frankly, I wasn’t sure that I could (or wanted to) survive without him.
There I stood and saw my future unfolding. Of course, I saw all the negatives with few possibilities. All my dreams and fantasies of the future came crashing down upon me.
From the frying pan into the fire, within a year of the heart attack, my husband and I adopted our grandson. I walked out of the courthouse knowing that there was a very real possibility that I would raise this child alone. In any case, our life was going to change drastically as we were not so gently thrown back into child raising mode.
At the time, I was finishing up my PhD. Reiki for Fibromyalgia, a bundled Reiki variation that I had created, had become invaluable to me. Except for a few hiccups here and there, I was able to manage my symptoms quite well even during this extremely stressful period in my life. That an international study of other Fibromyalgia sufferers showed similar results made me feel confident that I was on to something worthwhile. Before long, my life and work become completely intermeshed.
While researching transpersonal techniques to use alongside Reiki for Fibromyalgia, I came upon Abraham Maslow’s description of the Plateau Experience. This was a phenomenon that he studied after his first heart attack until his death about a year later. Essentially, he described a feeling of peace, of knowing that everything in this moment was as it should be (not dependent upon any particular outcome). Experiencing and embracing the moment on its own terms and not being distracted by the past or by the things we deem wrong in our lives.
Something in Maslow’s words resonated deeply within me. In my life, things seemed very bleak and difficult. I was exhausted and my heart was completely broken. Yet, at times, there were these odd moments of contentment and a knowing. Strangely, these feelings didn’t happen because the day had gone particularly well or that I had achieved something great. In fact, sometimes it was just the opposite. The best way I can describe it is that something within me just knew I was exactly where I should be and if even for an instant I accepted that possibility then everything I was experiencing (good and bad) was just a part of that.
Powerful, but perhaps the most intiguing part of Maslow theories (and lived experience) was his suggestion that Plateau Experiences were sustainable and that the experience was the birthright of us all. We didn’t have to be smart, beautiful, rich, or especially talented. We all just had to open to that innate knowing (that unconditional love I first experienced during Reiki sessions). Then, even in the midst of the most complex life realities, that unshakable foundation would allow us to see the possibilities and the opportunities that existed in the realities of our life.