I wonder about astronauts. As they hurtle into the airless void of space thrusting their chins at one another, doesn't a little commonsense voice ever whisper inside one of their heads something like...
Look, if it's all the same with you, I'd rather get off now please.
Perhaps this voice distinguishes the common or garden wuss from hairy-chested man (or woman) of action.
Personally I can't stop the little voice piping up from time to time.
And this is about one of those times.
I was in a stranger's living room. I'd met the man some ten minutes before, and he was now lying on his dining table. And for the last five minutes I had been holding his knees. Despite his tracksuit, I felt I knew his knees more intimately than I knew any other man's knees on earth. Was I not, after all, sending them loving energy?
With me and the man were two women, who were resting their hands his shoulders and the area just under his ribcage.
Suddenly the little voice spoke up.
Kenny! What the HELL are you playing at now?
It's obvious isn't it? I am using the Usui Reiki method of life energy renewal.
It had all started a few weeks earlier when I attended a three-day course to learn about Reiki. I arrived with a headache, and bumped into an friend as I arrived. I started whinging about my head and without hesitation she pressed her palm on my stomach.
I wrote in my diary that night that it felt if she had pushed a bag of frozen peas on me. I felt a soothing coolness, as my friend explained the Reiki energy was targeting my liver, which was connected with headaches. Her hand felt freezing but when she touched my arm and her hand was warm.
To my surprise the headache soon began to abate. It was an auspicious start. Was there something in this business?
For three days I went through three stages of initiation. There were dozens in the group and I happened to be sitting next to Brian May, the famous Queen guitarist. We spoke a little as we both had lost a close friend to Aids. At one point perky Reiki Master Barbara McGregor asked us individually what we did as a job. When my turn came I said hello my name was Peter and I was a copywriter. Barbara nodded sympathetically, saying that the job was highly creative and drained energy. Next was world-famous Brian who said, hi my name's Brian and I'm a musician. Barbara moved on without comment. Barbara was once a copywriter and valued junk mail above Queen.
Put simply, Reiki is the channelling of chi energy which is, it is claimed, all around us. The Reiki sessions were supposed to tune us into this energy as if it were a radio station and we were radios. Once we were tuned in, we were taught that this energy could be directed onto other people in a way that promoted energy renewal, and in some people spontaneous healing.
The days consisted in guided meditations, strange initiations such as being ritually tapped on the skull by Barbara. After such as session attendees would sit in a centipede of chairs, each with their Reiki channelling hands on each other's shoulders.
After three days of this sort of thing, I got hot hands. I could feel them when I touched myself, and I was keen to try it out on others. I felt as if I had been given a special power. I imagined the front of the Reiki Man! DC comic. And thought about Reiki Man's alter ego, mild-mannered scribe Peter Kenny.
First I tried it on Mrs Kenny. Disappointingly she said she felt nothing. Despite a repeated and detailed description of how it ought to feel. Perhaps, I thought, she was fine and had no need to absorb extra Reiki energy.
One of the things you are told as you leave the course, clutching your certificate, is that an opportunity will soon present itself to apply your Reiki healing skills. Imagine my delight when only a matter of days later my pal Rosie who sat opposite me at work suddenly slumped onto her desk looking pale.
She was helped into the first aid room, and I eagerly followed, like some kind of ghastly insurance lawyer, to volunteer my healing services. As we waited for the ambulance to turn up, I laid my hands just below her ribcage in the approved manner. The embarrassing scene with the first aider was brief, but left me feeling indignant. For the bounder had made me feel positively eccentric and a bit of a pervert.
Next there was the power of Reiki to stop watches. Fumbling in the bowels of a photocopier a few days later I burned my finger on a hot bit. This was another chance to apply my new found Reiki power, so I clasped my finger tightly. Miraculously no blister or burn resulted and I returned cheerfully to my desk. Twenty minutes later I noticed with a delighted shock that my watch had stopped. Clearly this was the result of directing Reiki power onto my finger. I showed my pal Reuben and explained excitedly about the amazing force I had unleashed. Slightly wearily, he pointed out that the watch's winder had been pulled out (probably caught on one of the photocopier's innards) and so stopped it.
Undeterred I kept in touch with the Reiki people and this led me to visit a series of dreadful hypochondriacs (like myself) in their homes. After a couple of weeks of having my hands on people, or having their hands on me -- and generally feeling little either way it was time for the little voice.
The little voice was brutal. It said that Reiki was rubbish, and that it didn't work, and that my experiences of feeling "something" were brought about by wishful thinking.
Since that time I have never tried Reiki healing on anyone. I tried it on myself several times on my bad knee with no result. However I remain open to the possibility that it may work for some people. Unfortunately I don't seem to be one of them.
Reiki did, however, have a profound effect on me. Spending three whole days thinking positively about healing was a marvellously healing thing in itself. Before the course and due to personal circumstances I had spent a great deal of time thinking about illness and death.
Instead, it gave me a chance to focus on the fact that healing exists. It let me experience touch and reassurance. And, ultimately, it forced me to think that there may be something beyond my tiresome self that can be connected with. For me this was money very well spent.
You know, if it wasn't for that damned little voice I might be some kind of a healer right now.
(c) Peter Kenny 2002