What is Reiki?
The lack of standards in practice and education has created a lot of confusion and misinformation about the practice of Reiki. Search the internet or read any books or articles on 'Reiki' (pronounced ray‑kee) and you may find definitions ranging from a 'hands‑on healing technique' to 'spiritual energy work' to an 'ancient Tibetan or ancient Egyptian practice.' Or you may be lead to believe that a Reiki practitioner 'transfers energy' into a recipient and/or has been 'given' the ability to 'heal' others. Seems pretty mystical and magical, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it's also pretty misleading. So what IS Reiki?
The truth is, the practice of Reiki is an individual experience and therefore it cannot be definitively explained or defined, however it can be described. Simply put, Reiki can be described a non-religious, individual spiritual practice of stillness and quietude, like yoga or meditation, created by a Japanese man named Mikao Usui in 1922 (see photo at right).
Founder of Usui Reiki Ryoho
Reiki practice promotes balance throughout the system, setting in motion a self-healing process on many levels. This non-invasive practice helps to ease discomfort both in mind and body, allowing people to function better without the need to manipulate muscle tissue, physical structure, or with the use of any outside agent, supplement, or pharmaceutical. When people feel better, they function better. When they function better, they are able to make better life and lifestyle choices, which in turn allows them to feel better, creating a cycle of health and wellness.
Reiki is an adjunctive, complementary (not alternative) practice that is generally applied through non-manipulative touch, however non-touch (above the body) can also be effective if needed or desired by the recipient. For both the practitioner and the recipient, a Reiki session is more of an offering and does not involve any 'doing' or intervention. A Reiki session is 'offered' by the practitioner and is accepted or rejected by the recipient. Reiki is a recipient responsive, not practitioner directed, innately holistic (whole person) practice that initiates a balanced state in which self-healing on many levels can begin. Since belief is not a requirement for Reiki to be effective, any religious or belief system based ideology cannot be conferred on to it.
How can Reiki help me?
This versatile spiritual healing practice can be given to anyone, anywhere, whether hands-on in person, or distantly. Regardless of the issues you face, Reiki can help you to meet those issues with more clarity and greater peace of mind. Reiki treatments have been reported to be help people cope with a wide range of health conditions including:
Cancer, and side effects from cancer treatment, including nausea and fatigue
Digestive issues including Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome
Grieving, especially in death and dying issues
Major life transitions
Rehab after illness, injury, or surgery
The most commonly reported benefits of Reiki treatment and Reiki self-practice are relaxation, pain management, reduced anxiety, and reduced depression. However, an expanded sense of self-awareness, better communication and satisfaction in relationships, increased intuition, and a general experience of enhanced well-being and happiness has also been reported.
How does Reiki work?
The truth is, no one can definitively explain how Reiki works. Reiki is, after all, an individual spiritual practice, like yoga or meditation. Since spirituality is a subjective experience, there's really no way to objectively measure how it will or will not affect a person.
Doctors recognize that patients who are more spiritually inclined seem to be able to more consistently access some kind of inner resource and therefore recover more quickly and are easier to treat. This is especially true of people with trauma issues. Spiritual practices, like Reiki, can help us connect with the innermost core of our being. And while the benefits of that can’t be measured in scientific terms, anecdotally it seems to be vital to our overall well-being, which helps facilitate our own innate healing abilities.
Administered through gentle, non-manipulative, non-invasive, hands-on touch, Reiki helps to restore balance to your whole being. Balance (homeostasis) is necessary in order for the system to self-heal. When you feel balanced, you feel better, calmer, more centered, and less anxious. When you feel better, you function better, and can make better life choices.
As we mentioned above, a Reiki practitioner does not 'transfer energy' or 'heal' anyone. In truth, nothing heals the body except for the body. If you cut yourself, what heals you? You do. Or rather your body heals itself. You may help it along by keeping the wound cleaned and covered, but the bandage does not do the healing. Rather it simply helps facilitate the innate healing that already exists. The ability has always been there, inside you. You already have it. We can explain the manner in which the epithelial tissues reconnect, but no one can truly explain what is the impetus, or programming, that triggers the mechanism to tell the body to self-heal. So again, we can't really definitively know how Reiki works. But here’s what we do know:
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCAM) Reiki is a "part of complementary and alternative medicine" and "is based on the idea that there is universal (or source) energy that supports the body's innate healing abilities." While some people have reported spontaneous 'healings' after a Reiki session, those experiences are few and far between. Most sessions simply restore the being to a relaxed and balanced enough state so as to facilitate or 'jump start' the body's own natural ability to heal itself. Reiki is not a magical cure and is never intended to take the place of professional, medical care, but is instead a powerful tool to support the overall wellness of the individual.
Conventional allopathic medicine addresses symptoms and conditions using an oppositional approach with interventions that directly oppose the problem. Reiki is different. It does not target or even take notice of symptoms or conditions directly, but rather places importance on treating the whole person from a spiritual perspective, helping to bring balance to the entire being in order to help facilitate self-healing.
Although it may 'feel' like a Reiki practitioner is 'healing' you or 'giving you energy' during a session, in reality when the practitioner places their hands on any area of the body, it simply helps to shift the system into a parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) dominant mode. The recipient may or may not experience some kind of response to this. The most commonly reported response to PNS activation is that the recipient feels like 'heat' is coming through the hands of the practitioner. When the PNS response is prevalent, it helps to put the body into rest-and-digest mode. This means the body's priority is to recover, heal, and restore itself on a deep level. This is why many people fall asleep during a Reiki session. Sleep is one of the most restorative states a body can be in.
However, our stressful, busy lifestyles tend to keep us in reactive sympathetic nervous system (SNS) dominant response mode, where the body’s priority is just to get through the day, survive and cope (fight or flight), not heal. Our bodies are not wired to be in survival mode and heal at the same time. It’s either fight or flight, or rest-and-digest - not both at the same time.
While conventional medicine with its opposing any problem head-on approach can be life-saving (if you've been hit by a bus, please go to the hospital!), it can also bring unwanted side effects. In contrast, a Reiki treatment is balancing to your whole system and there are no known unwanted side effects. And when your body and nervous system are balanced, you feel safe. It is only when you feel 'safe' that the body can enter into the PNS response mode and your own self-healing mechanisms can function at their very best.
So if you've been hit by that bus, please go to the hospital and get treated first. Then when your life is no longer in danger, seek out a Reiki professional to help you heal more quickly and thoroughly.