People come to Reiki at different times and for different reasons. Obviously, the reasons for pursuing a life of Reiki are as varied as are the individuals. I would like to share with you why I came to Reiki.
For months I suffered from an incapacitating pain in my right shoulder; normal movements were impaired. Sleeping comfortably was a challenge and rarely achieved. The cause of the pain went undetected so as a last ditch, my boyfriend took me to a Reiki Share group, which was made up entirely of Reiki practitioners. I had heard of Reiki but was utterly clueless as to what it was and what to expect.
As I was seated, four practitioners gathered around me as I described the debilitating pain I was experiencing. I was told to close my eyes, relax and breathe deeply. Each practitioner then put both their hands on me; one placed his hands on my left leg, a woman placed her hands on my knees, another woman placed her hands on my right arm and another man stood behind me, hands on my shoulders.
I sat still, eyes closed, and tried to focus on my breathing. Soon I felt a fifth set of hands, these on my stomach. These hands felt large, I knew it was another man and they felt very cold.
During the session, the first woman moved from in front of me and walked behind me, but I never felt her hands on me again. I continued to focus on the remaining four sets of hands. Soon I entered into a deeply relaxed state.
When the session ended I realized I was completely pain-free and I had full mobility in of my arm. I was ecstatic and in awe. I learned, first hand, the amazing power of Reiki.
I also learned that Reiki practitioners are energetically sensitive and intuitive people. The woman who had removed her hands from me during the session had a message for me. She told me that she had walked behind me and, rather than touching me, she felt compelled to place her hands on the back of the gentleman who had his hands on my shoulders. She said that she felt the hands of someone on her back and turned to see a long line of people, all supporting each other, hands on backs. She told me that they wanted her to tell me that many people who loved me, including my mother, who had previously passed, surrounded me.
Included in this discussion were only the four people who I saw before the Reiki session had begun. I asked who the fifth man with the icy cold hands had been. I was informed that no other person had come into the group and no one else touched me. The second woman in our group told me that those hands had belonged to Archangel Michael, who protected me and cared for me all my life.
Needless to say, for my first Reiki session, this was an overwhelming amount of information and incredibly moving. I had a great deal to try to comprehend.
Not long after that amazing experience, I began to feel a sense of power inside me. I felt drawn to the energy and compelled to learn more and to study Reiki. I then began my journey into this spiritual life and I have been blessed since. I have become a Reiki Master/Teacher and have studied Pranic healing, Shamanic Energy Work and other modalities; I continue to learn. I am grateful and honored to be a teacher of Reiki.
What Is Reiki?
It's not meditation, massage or prayer. But practitioners and clients say reiki heals in ways that are hard to explain.
Terri Reynolds, 56, knows the exchange well. She says, “Reiki.” They say, “Huh?” She says, “Energy healing.” They say, “Hocus-pocus.”
But for Reynolds, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011, reiki is anything but. The practice – which usually involves a practitioner placing his or her hands on or above a client to facilitate that person's healing energy – taught her how to quiet her mind after surgery and six months of chemotherapy.
"When you have a very stressful job and four children, and you get a diagnosis like that, it kind of really slaps you around,” says Reynolds, a certified medical assistant and managed care educator in Springfield, Illinois. “And when you’re grabbing everywhere for anything that makes the littlest bit of hope glisten, you’re apt to try anything.”
Reynolds is now cancer-free but continues to see a reiki practitioner weekly. “I’ll never stop,” she says.
According to the National Institutes of Health's National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, reiki is a healing method based on an Eastern belief in an energy that supports the body’s natural ability to heal. There’s no evidence, the center says, that such an energy exists. Plenty of people disagree.
The word "reiki" is a Japanese term meaning "guided life force energy," which reiki practitioner and teacher Alice Langholt likens to water: Both are in and among us, she says, and take on different forms – some heavier and some lighter. Reiki can shift this energy into balance "so that our immune systems aren't fighting the sludge, but can keep us healthy and help us heal faster," says Langholt, author of “Practical Reiki: for balance, well-being and vibrant health.”
Health care settings including the Simmons Cancer Institute at Southern Illinois University's School of Medicine, where Reynolds was treated, are increasingly offering complementary treatments like reiki to help patients relax and “prime them for healing,” says Pamela Miles , a reiki master in New York who has served as the lead reviewer for the National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s page on Reiki. It also may reduce anxiety, improve sleep and simply help people feel better so they make healthier decisions, Miles says. That was the case for Reynolds. "I've lost weight because of being able to calm my mind and my spirit and promote this harmony in my body," she says.
Independent reiki practices exist, too, appealing to people seeking balance, clarity or relaxation. At Introspection: DC , a reiki and crystal healing practice in the District of Columbia, owner and reiki practitioner Tara Olowoye says a lot of her clients are young working mothers “trying to make it all work.”
And you don’t even have to go to a practitioner to try reiki. Anyone can learn to practice it on themselves, experts say.
“This is something that potentially could benefit anyone – it’s really a matter of whether or not they’re interested,” says Miles, who wrote the book “Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide.” “In my experience, when people experience the benefit, they become interested. If you try to explain to them what it is [and] how it works, then you lose them.”
Science or Hype?
Reiki is one of several therapies based on the biofield, or a type of energy field that “regulates everything from our cellular function to our nervous system,” says Shamini Jain, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California–San Diego.
While the biofield itself is generally accepted – it “consists of things that we can measure like electromagnetic energy that actually emanates from us,” Jain says – biofield therapies such as reiki and therapeutic touch are more controversial because they’re based on the idea of a “subtle” aspect of the biofield, which is harder to measure.
“It’s difficult for our Western science to wrap its mind around” because it’s not about popping pills, injecting needles or otherwise altering the body’s chemical composition, says Jain, a clinical psychologist who studies integrative medicine.
Indeed, reiki has its fair share of critics, who point to research that discounts the effects of reiki and other similar alternative therapies as a placebo effect. One study this year in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, for example, evaluated the effect of energy healing on colorectal cancer patients and found the therapy did not improve depressive symptoms, mood or sleep quality. Only study participants who already had a positive attitude toward complementary and alternative medicine practices showed a boost in mood.
Another 2008 study in the International Journal of Clinical Practice analyzed 205 previous studies on reiki and found mixed results for its efficacy. It also noted that many studies on the topic aren’t well-designed.
Others worry that the practice is unethical, fraudulent and deceptive. “One can easily see that deception – even if not intentional – is involved in representing that a particular therapy sold to the public is effective, when there is no evidence that this is true,” says Jann Bellamy , a retired attorney in Tallahassee, Florida, who does pro bono work for organizations that educate consumers about science-based medicine .
Still, a small body of research shows promise for reiki and other similar therapies. In a 2010 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, for example, Yale University researchers including Miles found that patients who received a 20-minute reiki treatment within three days after a heart attack had better moods and heart rate variability – a measure linked to post-heart attack outcome.
Another 2012 study in the journal Cancer found that fatigued breast cancer survivors who received four weeks of biofield healing therapies showed “highly clinically significant” reductions in fatigue, says Jain, who led the study. Survivors who received a fake therapy improved too, but not as much; both groups were less exhausted than participants who received no treatment. Notably, Jain says, the study showed that biofield healing improved cortisol variability – important for regulating immune function – while fake and no treatments did not.
The results suggest that “common sense things” such as rest, touch and being cared for matter, but “there’s something about the healing that seems beyond that,” Jain says.
The most compelling support for reiki, however, may be anecdotal – and a reason for more research funding in the area, experts say. “What we’re just beginning to understand is that, if we want to move forward with science, we can’t assume one philosophy is correct,” Jain says.
A ‘Buyer Beware’ Market
Langholt , who lives in Gaithersburg, Maryland, knows the exchange well. It happens at stoplights, when other drivers notice her window magnet advertising her practice. They say, “What’s reiki?” She says, “It’s an energy healing method for pain relief, stress release and better health.” They both drive away.
Langholt has a longer answer too. In fact, she teaches a whole course on what reiki is and how to explain it to others in terms they understand. That’s how complicated it is.
To make things more confusing, there are no standards for reiki practice or training, “which means that reiki certificates are essentially meaningless,” says Miles, who teaches the practice to medical and nursing students across the country. “People may have become reiki masters in a weekend or half an hour, they may have clicked on a website or they may have decided for themselves that they’re reiki masters.”
That’s why it’s a “buyer-beware” market, Miles says. She suggests prospective reiki clients judge practitioners by their demeanor – they should be “walking products of their practice” and not bad-mouth conventional medicine. It's also important to ask about practitioners about their experience and whether or not they practice reiki everyday on themselves, to which the answer should be yes, Miles says.
Finally, it’s key to recognize that, although reiki has no known medical risks, it's not a substitute for conventional medicine.
“What we see is that reiki practice brings to people what we find so elusive in our culture: peace of mind,” Miles says. “And once we have peace of mind, everything else is a lot easier. Reiki practice may not be the only thing that’s needed, but it’s a great place to start.”
When your day seems like it's imploding and taking you with it, here are four ways to hit the "reset button" to clear your mind.
We've all had "one of those days"; we've all been there. The boss schedules an emergency meeting on top of an already stressful, jam-packed day. A client calls with a last-minute project. You missed the cable company by three-minutes and they've rescheduled for a week from Tuesday, again! You've suddenly developed a case of dropsy and can't seem to take a sip of your coffee without spilling it (or wearing it) or you keep dropping everything you try to pick-up. Or for some reason you're running late all day.
Rather than letting yet another automated phone call or series of unfortunate events set the tone for the rest of your day, try one of these tips to help you step away from the stress and move on.
1. Get up and move.
Removing yourself from the situation, even for 10 minutes, is helpful. If you're at work and begin feeling stressed, overwhelmed or frustrated and you feel the need to take a few minutes away, go walk the stairs or around the parking lot. Going for a walk will not only clear your head, but the exercise will be good for you, too.
It's always healthy to change your mental state or "get your head together" after a stressful event before continuing with your day. Go outside and observe something in the environment, such as the color of a flower petal or the feel of the breeze. It's harder to continue to hold the stressful event in your mind when you're focusing on something pleasant. And you'll feel more grounded by being outside.
2. Indulge in a soothing treat.
Whether it's a piece of really wonderful, rich chocolate or a cup of herbal tea, treat yourself to a little luxury.
It's always helpful to unplug for a few minutes. So if you're having a little chocolate, let the chocolate melt in their mouth without chewing it. Enjoy it. Revel it and totally abandon yourself to the deliciousness of the moment. When the last of your chocolate has finally melted away, your breathing will be deeper and your mood transformed.
This works with any little indulgence you enjoy
3. Perform a positive act.
It might not seem like the most logical thing when you're buried under work, but taking the time to do something nice for someone else can really shift your mindset and improve your mood and outlook. For example, if you haven't properly thanked a colleague for their help on a project, go down the hall and thank them. Or do a small favor for your neighbor like picking up their newspaper and taking it to their door or pay them a compliment on how nice their yard appears.
Altruistic behavior gives you the "Helper's High" and there are many ways to do something generous or kind in a few short minutes.
4. Write it down.
If all else fails and your mind keeps returning to stressful thoughts, write them down. Provide a brief description of what's stressing you out, why and how you plan to follow up when you have more time, such as having a conversation with your boss or a call to an angry customer.
Then make yourself a promise. Now that you have developed an action plan, you are making a conscious choice to set aside the stress and focus on other projects for the time being.
5. Meditate and breathe.
Take a few minutes to go some place quiet like an unused conference room, your car or if you're home, your bedroom or even the bathroom. Sit in a comfortable position with your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap. Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing. Feel the air rush into your nose and your ribs and stomach expand with each inhale. Then notice how your body feels upon the exhale.
Soon, your breathing will begin to slow and you'll feel calmer. The situation that was causing your stress will begin to fade into the past. Just continue to focus on your breathing until you feel the calmness envelope you like a cozy blanket.
Now you can see that the stressful situation isn't as important or as horrible as it seemed when it was occurring.
Now don't you feel better?
And for the record, if doing one of these tips doesn't work, it's okay to try a second one. There's no shame in needing more help, only in not getting it! Besides, it's your day so don't let other people take away your enjoyment.
So, have a good day!