work-harden — to increase the strength or hardness of (a metal) by a mechanical process, such as tension, compression, or torsion. (the free dictionary.com)

Are there places in your body that feel work hardened? Does your mind feel hard, dense, after a few hours on the computer? Does your spirit feel brittle after listening to the news? A student in my recent ‘Just Reiki’ four day treatment intensive, had the insight that when we do reiki, perhaps we are addressing ‘work-hardening’ in our bodies. Coming from a background of a metal working family, with a husband who is a metal sculptor and myself having made jewelry with my daughter for years, this analogy made immediate sense to me.

Work-hardening, is a term used in metal work to describe a the state of a metal that has been hammered, bent and in general worked, until it is strong but also brittle and less flexible or more readily broken. The crystal structure of the metal is changed by the working. When a metal has been work-hardened, in order to bend or shape it, it must be annealed. Annealing is a process of heating the work-hardened metal to change the crystalline structure of the molecules, and then cooling it, to again render it pliable or workable.

During the recently completed 16th Annual ‘Just Reiki’ Intensive, a five day retreat here in our home on Pender Island, one of the participants, a former metal worker and jewelry maker, had the insight that what she was doing, by applying reiki, was much like annealing in metal work. Feeling the heat under her hands when treating someone whose body had been physically ‘worked’, this student envisioned the molecules re-positioning themselves so that the tissue was more flexible…workable. Wikipedia describes annealing: ‘Annealing can induce ductility, soften material, relieve internal stresses, refine the structure by making it homogeneous, and improve cold working properties.’

Perhaps this is a way to explain the heat we often feel when we practice reiki? Softened, relieved of internal stresses, refined…this is so descriptive of what we experience when we receive reiki. Reiki might be described as annealing  body mind and spirit. With reiki we can be very strong and very flexible.