The practice of Reiki, though popular in its home country of Japan, is still catching on in the Western world. It is an Eastern modality of healing meant to stimulate the body’s own innate healing ability. You may have heard it described as “acupuncture without needles”. Well, yes and no. There are basic similarities and Reiki can be wonderful for people who are needle-phobic, yet there are differences as well.
The name Reiki comes from the Japanese pictograms ‘Rei’, which can translate to “Universe” and ‘Ki’, meaning “energy”. In short, Universal Energy. It is a spiritual — but not religious — practice that promotes balance.
To explain Reiki here, I will use the long and short versions.
In short, the body cannot cope with stress and pain and heal from stress and pain simultaneously. The sympathetic nervous system, which copes with stress, is the usual dominant system in the waking human body. The parasympathetic nervous system is the system responsible for healing. However, if our stress level, sleep patterns and digestion are not in tune with our body, or if we swallow grief from loss or trauma without giving ourselves an opportunity to express and heal, the parasympathetic nervous system can be over-ridden and not be able to heal our bodies. Reiki can ease the transition from the sympathetic system dominance to the parasympathetic system dominance, thereby stimulating the body’s natural healing abilities.
In a typical Japanese Technique — also sometimes called “Medical Reiki” — session, a practitioner will use their hands with a light touch (or no-touch) to stimulate the movement of energy within a client’s body, as well as add or decrease energy where needed.
Some of the common problems that can be soothed or even eliminated by Reiki include:
- chronic pain disorders
- sports injuries
- gastrointestinal issues
- symptoms of illness such as the common cold and bronchitis
Reiki can also:
- lessen recovery times after surgery
- help expectant mothers cope with the mental and physical challenges of pregnancy, labor and post-partum times
- ease the transition of patients in hospice care at the end of life
- allow for monitoring the energy, needs (hunger, thirst, etc.) and pain/stress levels of non-communicative patients, such as those suffering from extreme dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or psychosis. (in these cases I am hired by the family of the patient and report to the family.)
- compliment anti-psychotic medications in cases of severe mental illness such as paranoid schizophrenia, decreasing both the side effects of the medicines and the symptoms of the illnesses themselves.
- allow healthy processing of grief following loss or trauma
My skill set, clientele and case load include all of the situations listed above, but my particular skill is helping clients heal emotional wounds. Since trauma can manifest in our bodies physically as disease and pain, my specialty is to work with victims of abuse, grief, trauma, molestation and rape to process and heal from these tragedies on mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and energetic levels.
Now, for the long verion. The following FAQs may help answer some of the many questions surrounding this wonderful and somewhat mysterious healing practice.
Q. What kind of energy is being stimulated or moved in the body during a Reiki session?
A. The energetic body of the client is being stimulated. Each living thing has a physical form as well as an energetic signature. This is a very subtle type of energy, different from electromagnetic or chemical energetic signatures. Picture the magnetic field surrounding a magnet; our human energy signature is similar.
Q. Where does Reiki energy come from?
A. Reiki energy comes from Source. Each practitioner calls on his or her Higher Power to bring energy into themselves and then channels that energy into the client through their hands. This higher power differs for each practitioner. Some call on religious figures such as Jesus or the Goddess, others simply on the power of nature. The beauty is truly the in the mystery itself — Reiki lives on the edge of wonder. I am consistently amazed by the clarity and closeness Reiki allows me to feel with my clients, and I feel requiring a full scientific explanation would diminish that sense of awe.
Q. How does a practitioner feel what a client needs?
A. With practice and a training component called attunements, which physically expand the practitioner’s core of energy, a practitioner’s hands become more and more sensitive to energy excesses, blockages and deficiencies in a client’s body and chakras. Learning sensitivity takes time and is the single most difficult but effective way to help read what a client needs.
Q. Do I have to believe in a certain Reiki God for it to work?
A. No, you do not have to believe in a certain god. Reiki is a spiritual practice, not a religion or religious practice. The only thing a client needs is an open mind.
Q. What is the difference between Traditional Japanese Technique and other forms of Reiki?
A. Traditional Japanese Technique, or TJT for short, is a more intense, more personalized style of Reiki than other forms being practiced in the US and Canada, which are usually called Western Reiki. Western Reiki consists mainly of placing the hands on a client’s body in a set series of positions. It can be learned in a few hours and the certification process can even be completed online in some cases. TJT, however, takes at least a year of training — mainly because it is more diagnostic. TJT focuses more on finding and fixing specific issues with each client.
Q. What happens during a typical Reiki session?
A. The first session is called an intake session and lasts about 90 minutes. The client fills out a form listing their basic medical history and their wellness goals, then we have a chat about their physical and emotional health. I may ask questions such as, “How are things at home?”, “How often do you drink or smoke?”, “Do you have any past injuries?” and “How is your work life?” I try to gauge the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health of a client first.
After the intake chat, I have the client lay on a table in whatever position is most comfortable and begin what is called ‘scanning’. This involves running my hand over the client’s body, but a few inches away. Unlike a massage therapist who would be feeling for knots or tension, I am feeling for energy excesses and deficiencies, which can be sensed without touching the body.
After scanning for problems, I do a ‘general fill’. This involves pulling Reiki energy from Source and channeling it into the client’s body. I usually do so by holding my hands a few inches away from the client’s solar plexus.
The rest of the session is spent trying to soothe any pains caused by blockages and nurture the client’s own energy and chakras. I also aim to balance the client’s flow of energy, allowing the body’s natural healing abilities to engage.
Q. Can Reiki be used in lieu of medical treatment or medicine?
A. This is a tough question. The answer may be yes for certain simple problems, such as mild to moderate insomnia or something requiring pain relief, like a pulled muscle or headache. However, in the majority of cases, I believe Reiki to be complementary medicine. Other practitioners may say otherwise, but I do not think Reiki should ever be used as a substitute for antibiotics, SSRIs or other mental health medications, chemotherapy, vaccines or any other medication that a client’s physician deems appropriate. A healthy diet and adequate water intake are also important to a client’s overall health — Reiki cannot sustainably erase the problems of nutritional mismanagement.