Hearts & Minds #1

25th August 2011

Hearts & Minds

A catchy phrase, and one that – at least in terms of documented use – I could trace back to John Adams, the second President of the United States of America. Thanks to Wikipedia, I have the following quote: “The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations…. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.” Well, I find this quote useful on two counts: it captures the importance of change coming from within; and that twin drivers – the heart and the mind – power this process. John Adams spoke of the forces that drove history; I cannot claim anything quite so dramatic, however I can speak to my personal (r)evolution and the importance of heart and mind in that process. These posts are an introduction to my own development and how I have ended up working in this field.

The Beginning

In 2004 I started a process of personal development. The first phase of this was at business school, where it is common for business schools to put their students through a barrage of personality tests. This is to encourage reflection on how we see ourselves and others, and how we interact with the people we work with. This was a powerful learning process for me and made me realize how aggressive and critical I could be – in short, a real pain in the arse! The aggression and criticism which I projected outwards was an expression of the internal dialogue I was running, a dialogue of hostility towards myself for not being good enough (despite being an over-achiever!). This dialogue expressed two aspects of me at that time: in my heart there was sadness and fear, whilst in my mind there were negative and destructive beliefs and thought processes. They fed off each other, creating a self-destructive cycle.


Business school was a powerful learning experience on many levels, but it was most beneficial as a catalyst for change. Many people have asked me for advice on doing an MBA, and my answer is always the same: be really sure of your motivation and that you have the support of family and your partner. Both are crucial to getting through a marathon of non-stop work, which can be very tiring and stressful. For me, the experience brought into sharp focus the realization that no matter how much I achieved in my career, it would not change the way I felt about myself or give me what I was looking for. After an exhausting two years at business school, this lesson hit home and I entered a time of personal crisis. It is a very neat phrase – “a time of personal crisis” – but it was a very messy experience and it caused a lot of collateral damage to those around me. These types of revelation are neither pleasant nor easy, taking time to assimilate, however they force us to reassess our deepest beliefs about ourselves and the world which we have created (ie the life we are leading). I was fortunate to be put in touch with a fantastic life-coach, Gloria Thomas. The time I spent with Gloria helped me to excavate and begin to heal those parts of myself which were damaged and holding me back. This was an important turning-point in my life, and put me on a new path. In the past I had been driven to achieve in my academic and working careers, earning external badges of success. From this point on, I focused inwards on developing an understanding of myself and who I was.


In the Summer of 2007, I attended my first Reiki course. I had just returned from a week’s hiking in the Austrian Tirol, and was extremely relaxed after this time in the mountains. Chris Parkes, together with his wife Penny, has been running Reiki courses for over ten years and through a lucky twist of fate I was introduced to him. My first course consisted of a weekend at Violet Hill Studios in St John’s Wood, London. The core of a Reiki course is the attunement, which is the process by which a student is made more sensitive and connected to energy. This is an esoteric concept which, for most people, needs further explanation.

We are all to some extent sensitive to and connected to energy. The purpose of the Reiki attunement is to amplify this sensitivity and connection so that the student can start to work with the energy at a deeper level, both for themselves and for others. What do we mean by energy? Well, fundamentally energy is the substance of everything in existence, from our physical bodies and the physical environment, to our thoughts and feelings, through to those higher aspects of ourselves which we may or may not acknowledge – our souls, for want of a better word. In our every-day experience, we all know and understand energy: we are used to our bodies having a varying degree of energy (ready to go first thing in the morning, tired at night) and feeling different physical sensations (excitement; fear; arousal; hunger); every day we experience a range of emotions from anger, fear, sadness, happiness, joy and love; we may also recognize how houses or spaces have a different energy or feel to us – some are welcoming, others are cold and uninviting. There is also the effect of music on us: the energy of music moves our emotions. Beyond these everyday experiences there are other ways to know energy – meditation for instance, which for some people can lead to profound and unusual experiences. All of these examples, some familiar and some not, are different aspects of energy.

So the purpose of the Reiki attunement is to awaken the latent connection between the student’s body and the energy. It is like starting the process of tuning a piano – the mechanism of the piano is all in place, but it has not been used for some time and so is clunky and out of tune. The Reiki teacher starts the process of tuning up the student’s energy system by giving their system a series of energetic “boosts”.  The student becomes aware of their “instrument” and can then develop the process from there as much as they want to, in the same way that a student of music can chose to apply themselves once a day or once a week. The more that the student practices and refines their connection to the energy, the more they learn about the energy and how to work with it.

My experience at the Reiki attunement was very interesting and it caused a shift in my consciousness by making me aware of a greater part of myself. On the first day of the course, Chris performed two attunements. During this I could feel the energy in the room change as he worked with it – the air became thicker in the same way that the air becomes thick and dense before a thunderstorm. After these attunements we were encouraged to play with the energy by rubbing our hands together and then separating them a few inches. By concentrating on the space between our hands we all became aware of the energy flowing between them. This energy flow is similar to the force you feel when playing around with magnets. One of the other students compared the experience to stirring jam as it cooks in a pot 🙂 On the second day of the course Chris performed the final attunements. It is not uncommon for people to have an emotional release during an attunement and this is what happened for one of the other students. We were sat in a circle with our eyes closed, listening to some very relaxing music and waiting for Chris to work his way round to each of us in turn. I had already received my attunement and after 20 minutes or so was extremely relaxed. Suddenly I heard one of the other students start to cry – I was concerned for them and thought “I should help”. At the exact moment I thought this I felt a surge of energy come into me from above and flow round my entire body. I have subsequently described it to friends as like being struck by lightening, but without any pain! Instead, the energy flowing round me was the most profound and amazing feeling I have ever experienced, and I can also describe the energy as being “blue”. That is an odd thing to write, but it is the best description I can come up with!

This was the start of a new direction in my life. By reconnecting me to a part of myself which I had ignored for a long time, the Reiki attunement started a process which would help to rebalance my approach to life.

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