As Black History Month comes to a close, Well+Good introduces Wellness in Color, a new series highlighting prominent wellness practitioners of color who are doing healing work in their communities. Featuring conversations led by Latham Thomas, a Well+Good Council member and the founder of Mama Glow, these stories will shine a spotlight on energy workers, nutrition experts, sexuality doulas, and other wellness luminaries. The series kicks off with Daoud Abeid, a Level 4 Reiki master in Brooklyn whose philosophies will inspire you to be more in tune with your own energy.
Latham Thomas: Daoud, to start: What is it that you refer to yourself as, in terms of your life's work?
Daoud Abeid: I do healing work. I don't really consider myself a healer; I consider it more of creating opportunity for other people to activate their own healing and embrace the possibility of healing themselves. I do spiritual work, helping people through advice and holding counsel for them.
A lot of what I do is helping people get to the root of the things that are causing the issues that they have—as opposed to just treating the symptoms, which is generally how Western medicine works. My goal is that, hopefully, people don't have to keep coming back to see me.
Beautiful. If someone were to ask what Reiki is, what would you say to them?
Reiki is really love energy. It's life-force energy. It's a person who is attuned to channel their energy or facilitates the energy, to different degrees, so it enhances what people already have…From what I've taught and from the years of doing this, I believe it's something that everyone has the natural ability to do.
How do conduct your sessions?
My Reiki sessions are a little different from a lot of other people's. First off, I won't work with anybody who hasn't chosen to work with me. I don't take people who have just been referred, because I believe the choice is really important. I ask people what they believe Reiki is going to be for them and why they're choosing it. We talk about that, and when I meet with them, we usually sit and talk for an hour, sometimes two hours. I want to work with them to start to really analyze whatever the issue is that they feel has brought them to do this energy work. I'm hoping to create a mirror for the people to see their truth in what is bothering them, with the root of whatever disease they're experiencing. That's where I believe the healing really starts.
When we start doing the actual Reiki, I use a massage table and I cover the main seven chakras as well as various points on the body for three to nine minutes, each point. Through that process, the energy shifts and different reactions happen, which let me know where they may have a blockage or where they may be holding different energy that's causing problems.
Afterwards, we have a check-in. I ask them to explain to me what they experienced, and then I share what I experienced. I realized early on that if I go into telling people what I experienced, then I'm putting myself in a space of authority. I like people to explain what happened and what they experienced, so that they can start learning how to self diagnose. People who come to me a lot—I usually end up teaching them how to do Reiki on themselves because to me, that's the point.
It's beautiful to hear all that your work encompasses. What inspired your personal journey into healing work?
A couple of things. I'd be lying if I said Star Wars didn't inspire me to some degree.
As a kid, when I saw the Jedi stuff, something in me was like, "That's real." It just seemed too familiar and I was infatuated with it. That's the external pop-culture influence, [but another influence] was family. My great-grandmother was a midwife and she worked with herbs and things of that nature. She was known for what they call "laying of hands" to heal people. My family has people who do different types of healing work as well as practice traditional spiritual modalities. And I've always been drawn to alternative history and just knowing that there was more to being human than we're generally taught, and that we definitely have more ability to heal and empower ourselves.
I grew up around the mentality of 'We have to uplift our community.'"
Was there a point when you realized that you were meant to serve as a practitioner?
Well, I say that my family were revolutionaries. My parents were political activists. My grandparents were dealing with the unions and more socialist-type stuff. I grew up around the mentality of, "We have to uplift our community." So at first, I was focused on radicalism and revolution. As I got older, I started studying different forms of spirituality—reading about Buddhism, studying Jesus, and looking at people who were activists in a spiritual way.
Once I got into Reiki, it shifted my awareness of how to help. At one point, I was very oppositional—seeing that there was an enemy or something of that nature. Then I realized that it's really all personal and spiritual. And if, in some way, I could help people to see their higher selves and embrace the light in themselves, that's really what was going to shift things.
Let’s flip the focus on your personal practice for a second. I'd love to know what helps you to take care of yourself when you're so busy.
I drink crystal-charged water first thing in the morning every day. I have a plant-based diet. I really limit my media stimulation. At this point, I'm more of a hermit than anything. I go out and I do stuff, but I've become more sensitive to energy. It doesn't really feel good to be in a lot of spaces. That helps me keep my peace of mind, because all of that normalized dysfunction is no longer normal to me. It doesn't feel good to be on a subway train with hundreds of people who are upset right now because we have to go to work. I ride my bike a lot. I walk a lot. I go to nature as much as possible. I try to really be mindful of the company that I keep, the music that I listen to, because all these things impact what we're experiencing.
Can you talk more about that sensitivity to energy?
For me, Reiki has heightened my sensitivity. When I was younger, I used to be really aggravated by a lot of things—even angry and annoyed—because I was aware of what I didn't like, but I hadn't realized that I just needed to not expose myself to it. Now, a lot of my self-care is just using myself as a compass and paying attention to how I'm genuinely feeling about things and then responding to that feeling. So if it doesn't feel good, I don't do it.
That's my mantra, too. Actually, let's talk about what your wellness mantra is. What are the words you live by?
It's not really one specific mantra. It's more of a way of thinking. Really, it's about the power of choice. Healing is a choice. Happiness is a choice. We co-create our experiences. Life is a blessing and everything we're experiencing in this physical life is for us to learn, for us to become better, for us to do work, for us to expand. Understanding that choice has led to all my different outcomes and circumstances and just embracing the fact that I chose myself to this place, and then I can choose myself to something else.
"Anyone who has done great things has chosen to do so."
And what do you think people have trouble with, or that they misunderstand about self-care?
At a young age in this society, we're taught to forsake ourselves and our dreams and our passions and live for these external reasons and the external conditions of validations. Somewhere along the line we lose a connection with our inner compass. Many people are struggling and suffering with an inability to harness their truth because they've been lying to themselves for so long—for a job, a relationship, or whatever. We sacrifice a little bit too much, too often. That puts people in this space where they no longer understand that they have the power to choose powerfully for themselves. We shouldn't apply logic to our inner feelings and our choices. It's just kind of like: Trust them and let them guide us. Once we lose that, it makes life really difficult.
Yeah... Can you share with me any ancestral practices that inform your work?
Reiki is what I use the most with people, but I do use a healing drum at times. I have a Native American drum that was created by a drum maker with a lot of prayers. I was trained by a woman who does a lot of healings from the North and South American mentality—how to use the drum to create energetic clearings. There are, if necessary, plant medicines that I use occasionally.
If you have a piece of advice that an elder shared with you, that'd be really great to close with.
One of my favorite quotes is, "Many come but few are chosen." The secret I was taught is that the chosen choose themselves. We're all faced with similar conditions and challenges, but for those who overcome it, it's a choice that they've made. Anyone who has done great things has chosen to do so. The practice—the discipline and the dedication—is the part I hold on to a lot. The more we work on something, the more we focus on it, we can overcome anything. It's just that we have to position ourselves and focus ourselves to do that. So in truth, the chosen choose themselves, and I apply that to everything.
What—or whom—should Latham write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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