I’ll confess. I tend to be a stress case. I think what makes me a stress case is that I’m not Type A…I’m Type A Minus. I need to achieve, I like to win, I relish the kill…but I do not relate to those true Type A folks who say they “cannot relax.”. I’m great at relaxing. I have no problem finding my way around a spa or sinking into a big chair and just sitting for a long long time. I’ve worked hard to perfect this skill, the ability to do very little and feel good about it.

However, the other day I met my match. I got reiki.

Oh it started all nice and zen-like. I arrived at a lovely spa, got my comfy robe, settled into a lounge chair next to a waterfall (in NYC!) and drank a cup of tea (I almost never drink tea…too whimpy**). After a few minutes of channeling my inner peace, I made my way to the reiki treatment.

It starts like a massage. There you are on the table, someone is talking to you about chakras and massaging your fingers and toes. But don’t be fooled – it’s a tease…all of a sudden it stops and damn if they don’t spend the next 55 minutes trying to make you crazy. Reiki, see, is the “gentle laying on of hands”…or not even…really, it’s the “let the reiki master move his /her hands just above your arms, legs, belly, head all the while moving your energy around.” Yes. It’s maddening.

After a few minutes of this you restrain yourself with all your might from shouting “Oh Christ, let’s just make this a massage and get on with it!”

And then you come back to the happy place.

See, people pay for this. And you know what, it’s worth every penny. What happens over the balance of that hour is you realize how all over the place you are. Or at least I realized that. Try thinking about very little in a dark room for an hour. It ain’t easy. But wow, when I was able to be fully present and just breathe it was enlightening. One hour like that shows you the power of focus and how easy it is to lose it. It was a great (and expensive) reminder of how nice it can be to be where you are rather than replaying the trials and tribulations of the day or doing nothing but fret about tomorrow.

I walked out feeling relaxed (after all, I had just spent an hour listening to monks chanting) and present. Reiki is not for everyone – some people would actually shout at the buddha zen reiki master to just “get on with the freaking massage!” but for me it was a shocking reminder of how easily we can waste time in places that don’t matter – yesterday or tomorrow rather than today. How interesting that being present takes work.

**I am trying to like tea. It’s no fun to be a hater.