So, the year starts off with a great Reiki session from Melissa Ameika, Reiki Master Teacher and Manager/Instructor for my own Learn Reiki Philadelphia. I’m so glad I could start the year with a session from such a dear friend. Immediately following my reattunement, Melissa and I went to the Philly Community Wellness space, and I was treated in our usual Saturday afternoon group setting-just like any client would. I suppose today’s entry is a great opportunity to talk about the “group setting” I practice in, since it is how I will receive many of my sessions over the next 21 days.
While group settings are not at all typical for any kind of bodywork in this country, throughout Asia they are the norm. Bodywork is a routine part of daily life, with family members treating one another in their home and professionals working in large, open, communal spaces. Chujiro Hayashi, who learned directly from Reiki’s Founder Mikao Usui, operated a school and treatment center that had 8 tatami (floor) mats. Each mat had two practitioners assigned to it, and clients would be treated in this open space by two practitioners at one time. This is how the Mother of Reiki in the US, Hawayo Takata, learned and practiced while studying with Hayashi.
I first became attracted to the group setting while being treated as a client at Philadelphia Community Acupuncture in West Philadelphia. I truly adored the setting. Nothing clinical about it. The practitioners dressed in street clothes, spoke in terms I could understand, and the space was warm, inviting, and…amazingly comfortable, considering everyone sitting around with needles sticking out of them. My acupuncturist was Ellen Vincent, and she sat with me privately for 10 minutes to do my intake. That is at least 8 minutes longer than any Doctor has ever spoken to me. The receptionist, who I later found out was an unpaid work exchanger, was friendly, supportive, and kind. Best of all, the sessions were totally affordable-just $15-35/treatment. I could stay as long as I wanted, and get the same treatment regardless of how much I paid. They really didn’t care how much I paid, they simply cared how much better I got. This was important, as I was earning just $9.50/hour at the time (while I finished up my Reiki training, I worked at a Body Piercing shop near South Street after abandoning my career as a Logistics Consultant in the Pharmaceutical Industry).
I received treatments once per week for a couple of months, and found that my cycle regulated, I slept better, and my back aches had begun to disappear. Even more than that, being surrounded by others who were going through their own healing process, whatever their income may be, was a powerful equalizer. It was the hour of my week where I could feel cared for, be reminded of my value, and over a course of months I finally felt confident to start focusing on my Reiki practice and leave the Piercing shop behind me. I began work exchanging at Philadelphia Community Acupuncture, so I could play more of a role in the healing of the community, and to see a viable business model for affordable yet profound healing from the inside (like Philly Community Wellness, they are NOT a non-profit). The entire experience-from client, to work exchanger, and later to a very part time employee-changed how I view myself as a healer and the process of healing altogether.
The Chinese medicine model speaks of “Community Chi” (Chi = energy). The theory is that the more people are in a space receiving healing, the more the environment becomes conducive to healing. Think of a time you prayed, meditated, or even listened to music by yourself, and then think of a time you did it simultaneously with others. There’s a difference, right? Was the magic in the needles, the room, or both? There is no way to measure it, but I vote BOTH.
Most Reiki practitioners do not know of Hayashi’s group clinic setup. I didn’t at the time. I struggled with how to make Reiki-and maybe other forms of Bodywork-available in this way. I met Vanessa Hazzard-Tillman, a Massage and Thai Yoga practitioner while work exchanging at the Acupuncture Clinic, and we founded the Philadelphia Bodywork Collective, which is now Philly Community Wellness. The business setup is a little different. Practitioners are all members who pay rent, and run their own individual practices along side each other while agreeing to honor the same “no questions asked” sliding scales for their treatments. We literally work along side each other, help each other with marketing, support, self care, and prospective. Coworkers and colleagues are a wonderful thing to have as a resource for ourselves, and for our clients. Clients have commented that they feel they are part of a network of professionals they can trust, since they often see us treating each other.
Best of all, we get to treat people at a price they can afford, while earning better money than we would at a typical spa. The overhead is far lower in a shared space, and this savings gets passed along to the clients AND ourselves…all while enjoying that “Community Chi”. It’s true that income can serve as a barrier or bridge to good health, and seeing barriers mitigated, even in some small way, is simply beautiful. Here’s a shocking statistic-about 70% of my first time clients have NEVER received bodywork before…and out of the 30% who have, about 15% have only received therapies-usually Acupuncture-in a Group Setting. It’s sad that “Communal Setting” and “Group Treatments” are often misunderstood by practitioners as being “less than”, or that there must be a “trade off” to making something more affordable. There’s only something missing if you believe it must be, since we decide the true value of our service. To them I say…don’t knock it till you try it.
My day 1 session was thoroughly enjoyed, right along side another client being treated with Connective Tissue Therapy. I begin my journey reminded of my own fragile nature, and that of every other human around me. It is with great joy that I get treated alongside clients in my own wellness studio, that I earn money alongside other amazing practitioners and friends who are doing what they love, and bringing a valuable service to more and more people who could not afford it before. I find myself again humbled by healing.
Thanks to Melissa Ameika for preforming this session. Melissa is also a graduate of The Reiki School + Clinic of Philadelphia, and teaches classes regularly. She is a gentle, nurtuting soul with a fantastic table-side manor. You can learn more about her on her website, or try a session with her at Philly Community Wellness by clicking here.