My Reiki Journey - Part 2: Living As A Highly Sensitive Person

posted on: February 28, 2016

When I signed up for a Reiki 1 class in April 2015, I had no idea what to expect or how I'd be using Reiki in my life.  I felt "called" to be there based on several things that happened to me, even though I didn't exactly know "why."  (If you're interested in Part 1 of My Reiki Journey - Click Here - )

Sunrise in the clouds

I've always had some interest in how energy works because I've always felt sensitive to energy.  For a long time, I didn't know how to deal with that sensitivity.  Occasionally, my sensitivity to certain places, people, or situations would get the best of me and I'd have a hard time moving through that sensitivity.  Meditation helped me deal at a mental level, and sometimes physically- by at least carving more space out of my life to "recenter"- but there were still periods of time when my sensitivity was so strong that even the most subtle changes in space weather could completely drain my energy during a geomagnetic storm or ramp me up with anxiety during a solar flux.  (That's a story for an entirely different post.)

While living in Australia, my sensitivity reached a level I'd never experienced before.  I was eating many more local fruits and vegetables, and almost no high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils, as well as experiencing lower air pollution.  I shed 30 lbs of weight without even trying.  I noticed that as I was eating cleaner foods and breathing cleaner air, I also started becoming even more sensitive, which meant feeling even more energetic "stuff" all at once.  Much like being blinded by the sun after being in a dark movie theatre for 2 hours, or standing right next to an ear-shattering siren.  Until I learned how to manage my increased sensitivity and adjust to it, it was overwhelming and at times even emotionally unsettling.

An explosion of inspiration  (Art by Kim Percy)

I don't remember when I first realized that I was highly sensitive to certain energies- but once I started paying attention, I could better analyze how my own energy was affected by both external and internal factors.  Since Reiki is an energy healing practice, I figured that at the very least, learning more about Reiki healing could help me understand more about my own energetic sensitivity and perhaps give me a few more ways of dealing with it beyond meditation.

Before I even signed up for Reiki training, I'd already started investigating energetic self-care by reading Energy Healing by Ann Marie Chiasson, MD.  Little did I know at the time, this book outlined a lot of what I'd be learning in Reiki 1 - which included different methods of practicing energetic self-care, but the book also included several other energy healing methods, like meditation and tapping.  This book also helped me realize that I'd already started using some basic energy healing techniques and Reiki hand positions on myself before I even knew what I was doing... my hands would just naturally fall into certain places as I'd fall asleep, or I'd notice their interesting arrangement and position when I woke up.

Constellation of recessed light bulbs in various sizes and colors. #design #lighting #interiordesign #architecture #nyc #soho

For me, a full weekend of Reiki 1 training felt like a big warm hug from the universe.  It gave me a community of people who understood my sensitivity to energy- people who had similar experiences in their lives, including the experience of friends and family occasionally labeling these sensitivities as "imagining things".  Even just having one or two other people who could really identify with my sensitivity was a huge source of comfort.  It can be frustrating and slightly maddening when you feel things that other people don't feel, because what's real to you isn't real to them.

The best explanation I've come up with for how I feel energy, is similar to how everyone can feel wind, cold, heat, humidity, and pressure changes- which are widely accepted as very observable and measurable energetic changes that no one questions or attributes to ancient Gods anymore just because they can't "see" them.  Now that we have scientific tools for measuring these large changes in atmospheric occurrences, people have a way of "seeing" them when before they could only "feel" them.  An energetically sensitive person can pick up on more subtle changes in bio-energy that we don't have the best scientific tools for yet, kind of like the way that dogs can smell and hear certain things that humans cannot.  Just because everyone can't observe it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Mooooovie Star #carsharenyc

It's awesome that we're entering into a medical age of understanding some energy movements in the brain with EEGs and in the heart with ECGs, and I'm confident that some day we'll have the tools to better understand how Reiki (or life energy) moves from the environment and through all of the major organs and systems of the body- helping Western medicine better understand Eastern medicine.  Until then- the human body actually has a pretty fantastic capacity for sensing things which cannot yet be scientifically measured.  Granted, the human body is also not a perfect or infallible tool for measurement, because not everyone has equal sensitivity- just as everyone doesn't have equally keen eyesight, hearing, or sense of smell.  However, the more people we have who are aware of things we cannot yet measure scientifically helps us get closer to being able to measure them.

... Have you noticed how your own energy fluctuates after eating different types of foods or drinks?  Have you noticed how changes in temperature, light, humidity, and air pressure affect your personal energy levels?

(Next... My Reiki Journey Part 3: Managing My Own Energy)

My Reiki Journey - Part 1: Skeptical Curiosity

posted on: February 21, 2016

When I first heard about reiki, it sounded pretty "out there", but as I learned more about it, I came to realize it's no more far fetched than meditation or yoga.  The difference is that meditation and yoga are generally recognized as individual practices, and while reiki can also be an individual  practice, many people also experience great benefits when receiving reiki from others.

It's so lovely to wake up and see these poppies perking up to the sun & warmth from the sunrise.

Reiki only came onto my radar after encountering a few different spiritual and energy practitioners along my meditation journey who told me that I had a lot of "energy in my hands" or "healing hands".  Of course I didn't take one person seriously, because I'm pretty skeptical in general, so it took three people mentioning this for me to start exploring what that meant.  I've used the "power of three" often in my life to help me sort out what's a fleeting curiosity from something I need to explore more deeply.

Once I learned about reiki as a hands-on energy healing practice, I still wasn't quite convinced it was a path I needed to explore.  What did I need to do with a hands-on energy healing practice?  I already have a job I love and meditation works great for helping me relax and have more control over my own energy.

As I started to ask around about other people's experience with reiki, the responses from people who actually received reiki or took reiki training were positive and encouraging to check it out for myself.  However, comments from people in the medical field produced the most mixed reviews- and when I asked for more information- it usually revealed that they felt like they didn't understand how it actually worked or didn't have enough training and personal experience with reiki.  Seems fair, and since I was skeptical as well, it seemed the only way to really understand it better was to receive it and/or practice it myself.

Opened my eyes after my sunrise meditation on the beach to find a coconut rolling around on the shore that wasn't there before.  I debated scooping out some coconut to snack on but figured it would probably be a little too salty. 🌊

When I was learning how to calm my mind through meditation, it took me about two years to find a meditation guide who helped me really understand and reach that elusive place of deep meditation, so I figured it might take a while to find a reiki practitioner I aligned with as well.  I searched the web and found some people who I felt like I could connect with, but for whatever reason, I never got in touch.  I was still just curious about it all, and not really committed to taking action on that curiosity.  In many ways, I wanted the universe to decide, and to make it super obvious for me so that I could feel supported in the journey at the highest level.

A good friend had mentioned a reiki teacher at the New York Open Center but the teacher wasn't offering any classes at the time.  However, a few months later, the Open Center had an open house and the same teacher was providing a complimentary introduction to reiki info session, plus I could get a short reiki treatment from a practitioner that evening as well- so it was a double win with no pressure to commit to an expensive training or course commitment.  I could just "feel" out what this whole reiki thing meant in person to see if I aligned with it.

Morning walk on light sands

I attended the open house and reiki introduction event with the teacher and still wasn't quite "getting it" from the short introduction, but I was at least a little more familiar with what it looked like and it made me a little more curious about the experience.  I also received a short reiki session from a practitioner who was providing "mini sessions" that evening at a third of the regular price, which was about 15-20minutes long and felt relaxing, but nothing dramatic shifted during that timeframe.

The practitioner who was giving me reiki did mention after about 5 minutes that it was my responsibility to be open to receiving the reiki energy- which is probably when I realized that I had put up a pretty big energetic bubble to keep a lot of other energy out.  Eventually I felt a little bit of heat exchange in a few areas of my body, but before I knew it the session was over.  I decided to ask the practitioner if she noticed anything, and she mentioned two areas which I frequently experience issues with even though there are no visible signs of those issues on the surface.  The practitioner's recognition of those areas as needing more attention helped give me a small measure of confidence that there was some validity to the practice of reiki.  Yet it still took a couple more pushes of encouragement from the universe to get me to actually sign up for reiki training.

Once Joanna Crespo's reiki training at the Open Center came across my radar for a third time at random, I decided to make a little bargain with the universe as a way to confirm if this was really something I should invest in for myself.  I basically told the universe that I would sign up for the class if I saw a certain amount of money in my bank account by a certain date in advance of the deadline for the reiki 1 training registration.  On some level, I felt a little guilty making a request that made money the defining factor- but I knew how much I needed to spend on upgrades for my business and I felt like having a little more wiggle room would confirm that participating in reiki training wouldn't shortchange other areas of my life.  Sure enough, the EXACT amount of money I asked for was in my account on the deadline- and some of it came from a very unexpected place that hadn't paid out actively for years.

Did I make that happen, or did the universe make that happen?

I've made bargains with the universe before and they rarely panned out so precisely.  Either way, I kept my promise with the universe and that's how I started my reiki journey.  I've been documenting my experiences in reiki ever since I started and plan to share more with you in the future.  It's pretty mind-blowing what I've been able to experience over the last year with reiki.

.... Have you ever been unsure about something and then made a deal with the universe to help you walk that path more fully?

(Next...  My Reiki Journey Part 2: Living As A Highly Sensitive Person)
Each new day is a gift.   To forgive.  To love.  To change.  To try again.  To be more peaceful. To let go. To surrender. To start anew. Make this day a new beginning.

AIANY New York New Design Show

posted on: February 14, 2016


On February 11, 2016 the AIANY New York New Design show opened at the Center for Architecture and it will run until May 28, 2016.  While I love these exhibits as a chance to geek out about architecture, this one is most exciting for me personally because this is the first time my architecture work is being exhibited publicly.  It's even more awesome that it's not just a random gallery, but a gallery curated by architects and dedicated to the architects of New York.  I'm especially grateful that the images chosen represent the New York Aquarium Shark Tank project I worked on with JVC Architects & Stephen M Taylor AIA, LEED, AP.

My dear friend Brian Wright stopped by and grabbed a photo of Stephen and I standing next to my images of the Shark Tank's interior "shark rollercoaster" yellow overhead crane, front exterior with viewing glass and shark, and rear exterior elevation to allow easy transport of sensitive marine life into the tanks.  The Center for Architecture did a great job of curating and designing the exhibit in such a way that I will probably go back a few more times to look at all of the other works as well.


In one of these images, it is so tempting to want to retouch an unfinished paint job on the fencing.  However, when the architects and I were discussing what should and shouldn't be photoshopped in the images, it was decided that that little odd detail helped prove that this was a real photograph and not just a rendering.

You can see a few more images from this project over on my --> Facebook Page.

Happy 11th Blogiversary!!!

posted on: February 8, 2016

Wow!  Eleven Years!!  On the SAME blog!!  I've never even lived in the same city for 11 years, and yet my blog has stayed in the same internet home on blogspot all along- big kudos to Google for keeping up a massive archive.  I started this blog on Chinese New Year in 2005, so it's only fitting that I celebrate this Chinese New Year.  (Never mind that I completely glossed over the 10 year anniversary!)

The people I've met and photographed over this last decade has been amazing.  It's mind-blowing how this work has expanded my world and brought wonderful people into my life.  Many of the older posts in my archives reveal how technology has changed over time- which slideshows disappeared from my blog when Apple closed down their dot mac server and which images remained because they were loaded directly into blogger or Flickr.  Reviewing archives also revealed how much my blogging changed once Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram came onto the market as a place to share personal stories or short posts, and how client image privacy changed dramatically over time.  More than anything, these blog archives remind me of the amazing people, moments, and places that I've had the good fortune to photograph.

I tried to pick one image and blog post for each year- but it wasn't easy, and they were all chosen for different reasons. This is just a tiny sample of what I've shared at the intersection of my business and personal life over these 11 years....

2015: Transitions Are Tricky

2014: My Evolution As A Professional Photographer

2013: Fransisco Family Adventure
Family Photos at the Library

2012: One Minute Vacation: Great Ocean Road

2011: Union Studio Yoga

2010: Honoring Our Veterans

2009: Weddings Sneak Peek

2008: Mary & Matt's Detroit Public Library Wedding

2007: I'm an Artistic Guild Winner Too!

2006: Sally & Rodney's Wedding

2005: Artwork of Franklin Jonas

Some people switch blogs over time or hide their blog archives or history, but nope, mine are right in my sidebar for all to browse.  There's some really revealing and slightly embarrassing stuff in those archives- wooooweee- but looking back also allows me to measure how far I've come.  If you're ever feeling like you're working really hard and not getting far- just look back at my early annual reports and I think you'll feel better!  Onward!

2015 Review: Less is More

posted on: February 1, 2016

Even though I had quite a few professional and personal accomplishments this year, for me it felt more like a year characterized by being present for distant family during loss and love.  Many of the  moments that mattered this year will only live in my memory and my heart rather than in a camera.  Continuing to choose self-employment each year has so often been influenced by the ability to be present for family when it matters.  This year I was able to honor that commitment by spending 60 days with out-of-state family members- which is probably more time than we spent together living in the same state.

(all photos are phone snaps from my instagram feed)
Every minute is a gift.

Professionally, I fully embraced my niche focus of architecture & interiors in New York almost to the exclusion of all other work and finally created a portfolio to represent this.  My workload gradually shifted from hundreds of small fast jobs to dozens of large projects that required multiple days of coordination, shooting, and post-production.  I'm grateful that many of the clients I started working with last year hired me for additional projects this year and referred several new clients as well.  Returning and referred clients mean so much to me because it confirms that I'm meeting and exceeding image expectations, providing service that earns continued trust, but even more than that- getting a chance to grow with clients while supporting them in their professional journeys.

My clients work on some amazing homes!!! A quick phone grab of a beautiful deck build by @houseplayrenovations - check out their profile on Houzz for many of their fabulous renovations.    #anneruthmannphotography #onthejob #nj #newjersey #architecture #r

Since the world of architecture & interior photography encompasses several different types of projects, I decided to get a little more specific in my number breakdown this year so that I could more closely measure the changes in types of projects from year to year:

Photography Stats:
88 Residential Rental Properties Photographed
9 Commercial Architecture Properties Photographed
9 Residential Interior Design Properties Photographed
5 Creative Business Consulting Clients
5 Photo Licensing Only Clients (83 images)
4 Residential Renovation Properties Photographed
4 Residential Real Estate Properties Photographed
3 Portraits Photographed
2 Commercial Real Estate Properties Photographed
2 Historic Properties Photographed
2 Commercial Editorial Assignments Photographed
1 Shark Tank Photographed

Shark Tank Selfie  #onthejob #anneruthmannphotography #sharktank #selfie #nyc

Client Stats:
25 New Clients
9 Returning Clients

Professional Development Stats:
14 Networking Events Attended
6 Architecture & Design Talks/Events
1 Architecture Photography Workshop Attended

Professional Giving Stats:
48 Hours of Photography & Image Production Donated to Non-Profits (284 images)
11 Business Articles Contributed to PhotoLovecat (48 hrs)
1 Marketing Webinar Organized & Hosted (6 hrs)

Bonus Stats:
- Social Media Travel Sponsorship (#carsharenyc)*
(*I've often talked about how cool it would be if someone would just pay me to take instagram pics, and that's exactly what happened with this sponsorship!)
TEDx Talk

Emu Selfie Bomb!  This is why they suggest only keeping your window two inches open at the Promised Land Drive-Thru Zoo.  Hahaha!!! #emu #selfie #photobomb

A few years ago I started measuring how many days off I took advantage of during weeks when business was slow and how many vacations I took during the year as a way to help me measure success beyond the financial numbers alone.  The whole reason we strive for business goals is so that we can have the ability to enjoy more of the life stuff when we aren't working, right?  By measuring the life experiences that make me happy in between the work experiences, I've been able to track how both the personal and business sides of my life have impacted my overall happiness and ability to feel balanced and fulfilled from year to year.  If you're a freelancer or small business owner, I highly recommend keeping some personal stats along with the business stats in order to easily measure how your business is contributing to the rest of your life.  I keep track of mine simply by putting all of my appointments, dinners, production, vacation, etc. right into my calendar.  It's the easiest way to add it up at the end of the year.

Personal Stats:
- 93 Days of Vacation (60 days with out-of-town family)
- 23 New Cities Visited:
Arkansas- Eureka Springs, Marshall;
California- Thousand Oaks, Paso Robles, San Louis Obispo, Napa, Santa Barbara, PCH;
Missouri- Branson;
New Jersey- Asbury Park, Ocean Grove, Sandy Hook, Vernon Twp;
New York- Ithaca, Sag Harbor, Shelter Island, Montauk, West Hampton, Long Beach, Warwick, Amity, Poughkeepsie, Cold Spring, Ulster Park, Finger Lakes.
- 4 New Islands Visited: St. Thomas, St. John, St. Maarten, St. Barths
(2 return visits to Nassau, Bahamas)
- Started Singing with the Chameleonic Choir
- Completed Reiki 1 & 2 

After 10 years of searching, I'm so grateful to have found a choir that I love to sing with.  Chameleonic shares my love of supporting contemporary composers as well as learning and performing challenging music.  I'd love to share this newly commissioned work by Bill Heigen with you from a recording of our concert in December:

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