I wrestled for quite a while with how Reiki and Christian faith might go together and always, eventually, came out with answers which showed me that they were one and the same. – Rosie Press
I asked Rosie Press who is a school teacher, a Christian, a Reiki Master, a Reflexologist and a Holistic Therapist about learning and healing matters. Rosie has had a lifelong commitment to an unusual combination of physical and spiritual disciplines.
Leslie: You run ‘Folkestone Healing’ and other activities at Spire Lodge. Can you describe the full range of what you do and the creative intention/thinking behind it, please?
Rosie: Spire Lodge is a quirky bungalow with a conical roof, and we hope its rather fairytale-like appearance will attract people to come inside and find healing and well-being. My husband and I aim to share our own experiences, interests and expertise to explore how body mind and spirit go together to bring healing and health. We put on morning workshops on a meditative/creative/mindfulness theme, I provide complementary therapy (Reflexology, Massage and Reiki) Steve provides a listening ear, leads a Tea and Tai Chi session on a Monday morning, and a casual Christian-based prayer/meditation group monthly. Our overriding intention is to help people slow down and become more reflective; and to provide a space where those who feel they are ‘spiritual but not religious’ will find an open place to explore spiritual & religious questions and practices, especially as they relate to health and well-being. For example we tried an Ikebana workshop recently. That became a fun time as people messed around with flowers and foliage, but also a meaningful time as they had some stillness to reflect on the message of the flowers symbolising ‘Earth’, ‘Heaven’ and ‘Humanity’. We always add some interesting wholesome things to eat as well. So we made Japanese sweets made out of soya bean paste to add to the theme, as well as attempting our own version of the Japanese Tea Ceremony with its mindful actions.
Added to that we try to be open to people around us and listen or respond to their needs; that’s sometimes through conversations when we’re gardening (we have a garden open on three sides where walkers often want to watch the garden grow through the seasons and chat if someone is there) sometimes through being welcoming for people to drop in for a chat & cuppa almost anytime, or noticing when neighbours are in need.
Leslie: How do you apply the skills you’ve gained from your experience of classroom teaching as well as your spiritual training?
Rosie: They are largely practical skills so I apply them every time I give a treatment. Actually I often find myself thinking of my teachers when I give a treatment and feel so grateful for the expertise they have passed on.
I apply teaching experience when I teach Reiki; which turns out to be quite a different experience from teaching in the classroom. I have the plan of what I want to do and a schedule of how long to take on each item. However I find the teaching seems to get done by an ‘outside’ force (i.e. the Reiki energy?) which seems to re- sort the order of events in line with the student’s interests, it also seems to guide my words – I don’t stumble around searching for the right expression so much, and it seems to sort the timing so that for instance a suitable break seems to emerge for lunch at just the right time, and the ending of the day comes without any stress of having to hurry things along to fit them in. Having said that the teaching experience of guiding people to work in pairs, and in finding pictorial ways to illustrate something has become very useful in teaching Reiki.
We also use our teaching skills when leading the morning workshops. The sorts of things like planning the timing, a variety of tasks to suit visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners , using a quiz or survey as a starter to set the ideas into play, responding positively to each contribution, setting the room suitably and so forth. Sometimes you do these sorts of things automatically and then realise they are teaching skills that have got ingrained… In teaching I was also part of pioneering ways to teach meditation in schools and I still use some of those scripts with the adult attenders of our workshops today.
Leslie: What’s the story of your spiritual journey from childhood to today? What are the main experiences that have shaped your spiritual perception?
Rosie: I was encouraged to go to Sunday school as a child by my grandmother more than anyone. In fact she was a huge influence on me and I remember staying with her, snuggling up to her in the mornings while grandad made tea and biscuits, and reading the Bible passage for the day. Then she would go on to read a nursery rhyme book with me. The daily ‘Quiet Time’ is something I still try to do each morning. I had some religious experiences as a child which were formative for me. They rooted in me a sense that God is always Love; and I could tangibly feel that love wash over me. As a teenager I joined quite an evangelical youth group. I would find that a bit over the top now but it taught me a sense of deep commitment to the faith, introduced me to the Charismatic movement and led to me being baptised by full immersion in the Baptist church. In fact I realised that if you really wanted to be a Bible-based Christian (interpreting the Bible literally) you should become a Seventh Day Adventist. Making each Saturday your Sabbath and faithfully expecting the second coming any time. So I did…. It also had a little something to do with falling in love with the Pastor’s son… but I remember trying to work things out analytically too! Interestingly the Seventh Day Adventists admire a prophet called Ellen White who had some really fascinating ideas about health and wholeness. I remember being deeply interested by this and adopting vegetarianism as a result. This laid a foundation for a lifetime’s interest in how food should be our first type of medicine. Then I went to College and studied Philosophy and Biblical Criticism. This opened my mind to Thinking! Opening up the Bible and faith to full scrutiny in a genuine and humble manner. I found I could no longer take the literalist approach and enjoyed the questioning and debating. I picked up with the Methodism of the College where I was and joined the Student Preachers’ Group; but was judged ‘doubtful’ by the Christian Union because of my Seventh Day Adventist links. At the same time a Christian lady I highly respected from home wrote to me in dismay about hearing of my dallyings with Biblical Criticism and doubts about the literal 7 day creation story. My faith was in a bit of a turmoil but I never doubted the Love which I had experienced. After College I enjoyed worshipping with the Anglican church that was linked with the students. After 5 years there my husband and I moved to Folkestone where finding a church with the same mix of thinking and vibrancy was really difficult. We latched on to the United Reformed Church with its sense of simple worship, preaching, democracy and political/social concern. That had its ups and downs but was really good for experimenting with worship in a way we had enjoyed in our student days. In fact looking back I don’t think many churches would have been so flexible as to allow us to tangle the church building in elastic and ribbon to make a point, or make candles for a sermon slot, fly balloons as prayers, invite youngsters to showcase their rock skills, draw a labyrinth pattern on the floor in chalk, and establish café church! However some empire building and bullying led to an unhappy time and we left after 30 years. This left us directionless for a while. I had become a Reiki Master during this time, and my unhappiness with church was leading me to find a real spiritual home in Reiki. I wrestled for quite a while with how Reiki and Christian faith might go together and always, eventually, came out with answers which showed me that they were one and the same. In fact the Reiki as a spiritual path opened up my Christianity; and took me back to that first experience in childhood of Love being the root of everything. I remember journeying back from Reiki 1 training in Cornwall. We stopped off at Salisbury cathedral and stayed for a service. As I looked up at the stained glass windows I said to Steve “Oh! There is my angel.” I had a vision of an angel during the Reiki training but it didn’t make much sense to me. It was grey and dingy – not beautiful and floaty as my imagination would have made it or wanted it to be. There before me was a depiction of Archangel Michael in full armour – very grey and dingy! My knowledge of Angelology was extremely limited not really being part of the Christian background I had so far encountered. Here was Reiki and Christianity coming together and it made amazing and wonderful sense to me. However Reiki is often regarded as a dodgy practice by mainstream Christians so I felt out on a limb. We started worshipping with the Quakers where I found a breath of fresh air. They respect the God in everyone, however that God searching is expressed. This was great freedom and I could relax, and I could talk to them about my different experiences without fear of condemnation. Now I have been drawn to a RC church where the priest is amazingly forward thinking (in my opinion). He says what I have felt as a gut instinct that in God there is only LOVE- there are no debts to be paid as all is love. Jesus lived and died to show us this heart of God and that we carry this divinity too. We are sparks of the God essence and through nurturing Love we grow into that divine nature even more. This priest now has some moments of dementia, but this makes him all the more determined to put this message across. I repeated his own message to him the other day and he said, “Ah that brings tears to the eyes!”
Leslie: Who are the key spiritual exemplars for you? Why them?
Rosie: Brother Roger of Taize because of his desire to keep living and faith simple; his ecumenism; his desire to set his brothers in the poorest areas of the world; and because his ‘pilgrimage of trust’ to set up Taize as a community is very like my own pilgrimage in coming to Spire Lodge.
Florence Nightingale because as far as I understand from her (accurate?) biography, she was a feminist, someone who challenged the norms, a theologian, a mathematician and a healer. Similarly I am drawn to Hildegard of Bingen because she too combined healing & theology with a real variety of other skills.
Steve, my husband, because his enquiring mind has led us both into all sorts of areas my own timidity would have prevented. And he has always totally encouraged me even if my path wasn’t his.
A friend called Debbie who despite being plagued with self-doubt still feeds the homeless of Folkestone three nights every week and has done for years.
Leslie: A spiritual journey also involves moment of difficulty and crisis. What have been yours, how did they develop and how did you ‘come through’ (perhaps partially)?
Rosie: Being criticised by fellow Christians who want to say that what I am doing is satanic. It’s hard when people you think are on your side, turn against you. This happened when I was teaching and leading a meditation/stillness course for Year 10, when I led a Leavers Service at school, when Steve and I stood out on the side of LGBT people being accepted for ordination training, when I talked about enjoying yoga. Actually I don’t think I have come through. These attacks leave wounds. However I’ve stuck to what I feel deep down is right, I think and pray through the theological side of the attacks to consider if I’m wrong, and then do daily Reiki on myself. This seems to ground me in what is loving and true and gives me a greater sense of self-assurance.
Leslie: What guides and sustains you today, in small, every day ‘feeling’ ways as well as in the bigger picture?
Rosie: Reiki and Prayer & Silence daily. Without this I go a bit distracted and disorientated.
Some sort of spiritual reading, also each day if I can manage it.
Yoga & Tai Chi
Retreats/ Day courses on spiritual themes, including church services.
Singing; I’ve joined a church choir.
Friends and lots of hugs.
Steve, who I call my guru.
Next week’s post is the inside story of the making of the film Heaven’s Rage. Based on my memoir of the same name, the film explores ‘Burning questions, hidden feelings and pressures to conform’.
ABOUT LESLIE TATE’S BOOKS:
- Heaven’s Rage is a memoir and a collection of lyrical essays. In brief: ‘Heaven’s Rage is an imaginative autobiography. Reporting on feelings people don’t usually own up to, Leslie Tate explores addiction, cross-dressing and the hidden sides of families. Writing lyrically, he brings together stories of bullying, childhood dreams, thwarted creativity and late-life illness, discovering at their core the transformative power of words to rewire the brain and reconnect with life. “A Robin Red breast in a Cage / Puts all Heaven in a Rage” – William Blake. You can read more about/buy Heaven’s Rage here.
- Purple is a coming-of-age novel, a portrait of modern love and a family saga. Set in the North of England, it follows the story of shy ingénue Matthew Lavender living through the wildness of the 60s and his grandmother Mary, born into a traditional working-class family. Both are innocents who have to learn more about long-term love and commitment, earning their independence through a series of revealing and closely-observed relationships. Purple is the first part of the Lavender Blues trilogy. You can read more about/buy Purple here.
- Blue tells the story of Richard and Vanessa Lavender, who join a 90s feminist collective sharing childcare, political activism and open relationships. Boosted by their ‘wider network’ they take secondary partners, throw parties and observe the dance of relationships amongst their friends. But finding a balance between power and restraint, and handling shared love, proves difficult… Blue is the second part of the Lavender Blues trilogy. You can read more about/buy Blue here.