What is Reiki? (an interview)

I was interviewed by Holistic Health Luminary, an e-zine, about the practice of Reiki, and I’d like to include the interview here as my responses may be helpful to those who have questions about Reiki.  Here it is in its entirety:

Can you tell our readers what Reiki is?

The simplest explanation is that Reiki is a gentle, hands-on healing practice that originated in Japan in the 1800’s.  In a typical Reiki session, the recipient lies, fully-clothed, on a massage table, and the practitioner goes through a sequence of hand placements to balance and stimulate energy flow in the body.  It is highly relaxing and therapeutic to both the practitioner and the recipient, and many feel that it allows a deep release of blockages, both physical and emotional.  In turn, healthy, rejuvenating energy comes in to the body, leaving one feeling rested, relaxed, more grounded and at peace.  In my opinion, Reiki’s benefits are similar to the benefits of sleep – the body has time to rest and return to its natural state of health.

Additionally, though it is known most for its health benefits, it is beneficial in a “spiritual” sense to those who practice it regularly.   Donna Eden, renowned energetic healer from Oregon, defines Reiki as “a system of healing and spiritual development that has enjoyed substantial popularity and success worldwide.”   If one follows the Reiki principles and works with Reiki energy on a regular basis, one will become more grounded, centered, and strong in body and mind.

How does a Reiki session improve energy flow?
The sequence of hand placements facilitates opening and clearing of the
body’s energy centers; additionally, the sequence covers all of the major organs of the body to maintain the health and balance of each.  When you understand the body as an energetic system, you understand that on a subtle level, a healthy body is in constant movement.  If, for example, an emotional obsession is causing an energetic blockage in the fifth chakra, the throat area, and nothing is done to clear it, eventually it may manifest physically as a sore throat or something more serious.  Reiki and other forms of bodywork give the recipient the space and unified focus to allow the body to clear stagnant energy and renew itself as it is wont to do naturally.  Our fast-paced society full of stimulations and distractions gives us little time to pay attention to the subtle nuances of our body’s health; a Reiki session gives someone the energy, time, and space to do just that.

What is the most important thing you learned from your Reiki Master Mrs. Hawayo Takata?

Mrs. Takata is the woman who brought Reiki from Japan to Hawaii in the
1930s, and my direct teacher, Mary Mooney, learned from Virginia Samdahl, who was Mrs. Takata’s student, and also from Karen Cameron, who was in Mrs. Takata’s lineage.  Mrs. Takata was a renowned healer, and she is a role model for me in that she cared about each person who came to her for help, and she trusted her intuition, her training and her nderstanding of Reiki to facilitate healing. She might treat someone for one week, one month, or perhaps for two hours, it all depended on the nature of the illness and her intuitive understanding of what was needed.  For animals and very young children, she found they were so receptive to the energy that she needed a very short amount of time to facilitate healing.   If someone with a significant illness lived on another island or somewhere she was not able to travel with frequency, she would often attune his/her family members or friends to the Reiki energy so that they could continue the treatments for the necessary length of time.

Mrs. Takata taught people how to live a healthy lifestyle and she demonstrated this lifestyle herself by her devotion to Reiki as well as to nutrition, exercise, grounding and a peaceful outlook.  In terms of Reiki, she stressed the importance of using it in your life and connecting with the energy to facilitate health.  One of my favorite maxims from her was “Better some Reiki than none at all.”  If one doesn’t have the time for a peaceful, relaxing hour-long treatment, it is better to give five minutes of Reiki in a chaotic situation than none at all.  Just connecting for a brief amount of time to the energy can make a powerful difference.   I appreciate Mrs. Takata’s model of the healer archetype, which was in no way static as she met each situation with innovation and intuition, intent on doing everything possible to help someone regain his/her natural state of health.

Can anyone learn to be a Reiki Master or are some people just born with these special healing talents?

Being a Reiki Master is not about becoming some grandiose energetic being, like upping your voltage from a AAA battery to a D battery, it is about becoming empty so that you can be as clear a channel as possible for the healing energy.  It helps to be committed to a healthy lifestyle yourself, to exercise, eat healthfully, meditate when possible, connect with nature, be creative, and live peacefully. The less stuff you clutter your body and mind with, the more able you are to be a clear channel.   In terms of Reiki, it helps to practice it daily – to give yourself Reiki and to work with the energy.  It helps me to be out in nature – I feel grounded and guided by the natural world, and I am also able to perceive the energy more strongly when I spend time in nature.   As Pamela Miles, Reiki Master and author of the book Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide, stresses, “With Reiki, the only mistake you can make is not to practice.”

So, yes, anyone can learn to be a Reiki Master!   However, you only need level I Reiki to be able to practice it on yourself and others.   This is the basic Reiki class, and I wish that everyone would have the opportunity to become initiated into Reiki in this fundamental way. From this one class, you receive the four basic level I attunements, you learn to feel and work with the energy, you learn to give someone else a Reiki treatment and you learn how to channel it to yourself for a self-treatment.  People who take Reiki level one and who continue to work with and practice Reiki over time typically experience significant changes in their lives.

For those interested in working with Reiki on a deeper level, the level two course covers how to transmit distant Reiki with the intention and use of the distance symbol, how to intentionally bring the most energy possible to the moment with the use of the power symbol, and how to positively connect with someone’s subconscious with the intent and use of the the  mental/ emotional symbol.  Two attunements are given at this level.   It is important to work for some time as a level I practitioner before moving to level II, however.

I would recommend the Reiki Master level if you want to become a professional practitioner or if you want to teach/transmit Reiki to others. Traditionally, this is a much more extensive course in terms of time and training.

I believe that if people give Reiki a try, in a session or by taking a class, they will feel drawn to the right level.  All people are able to transmit energy, and, in fact, we do transmit energy all the time.  It’s not really something covered in our traditional education, but we all know it and feel it.   Working with Reiki is a glimpse into this world and a reassurance that what we feel is quite real.    It is a strong reminder that we are not isolated individuals; we are actually connected to all of life. shutterstock_26592898

Learning to keep your energy at its optimum level is a big responsibility!   I believe one of the most important things you can do is to have the courage to live your most authentic life.  In this way, the “energy” you are transmitting and the effect you will have on the world around you will be the most vibrant, and you will contribute to the on-going self-healing of your body, your community, and the world.  Reiki is one avenue for authenticity.  One client, for example, who is an artist, had been so bogged down by work and the other stresses of life that she had not painted for years.   After her first Reiki session, she went home and painted a gorgeous mural for her office.  It inspired me when she showed me a picture of it, and I still sometimes picture that painting when I need inspiration in my own
creative efforts.

What types of people can benefit from this form of alternative medicine?
Reiki is beneficial to everyone.  If you are healthy and thriving, Reiki will be a time of relaxation and meditation, and it will serve a preventative function in that it will balance areas that have become somewhat stagnant.  It will inspire creativity for those who are artistic, and, like the dreams you have during sleep, the feelings, memories, and images you experience during the session will give you guidance deeper than that which you concoct with your rational brain.

Those who have health issues especially benefit from Reiki, and the list of diseases and conditions for which it helps is extensive.  Dr. Hayashi, Mrs. Takata’s teacher (and the student of Dr. Usui, the founder of Reiki), had a list of recommended Reiki treatments for hundreds of conditions – eye diseases, ear diseases, diseases of the digestive organs, respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, neurological diseases, and the like.  He even lists a section of unclassifiable problems, some of which are intriguing, for example, a “cut by a sword,” stuttering, period pains, splinters, and burns.

Pamela Miles’s Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide, a more modern version, is very similar though backed by our stronger understanding of medicine in this century.  She lists insomnia, weight management, nervous system disorders, hormonal imbalances, inflammatory conditions, autoimmune conditions, cardiac disease, cancer, infectious disease, and mental illness.

Reiki is now accepted and practiced at many major medical institutions (for example, here in Durham at Duke’s Integrative Medicine Center and at other well-respected medical facilities like Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic),
and, though as Miles says, research on Reiki is “in its infancy,” she notes that, in general, studies have found Reiki to be associated with:

-decreased levels of stress hormones
-improvement in immune indicators
-improved blood pressure
-subjective improvements in anxiety, pain, and fatigue
-decreased heart rate
-improvement in mood and functioning of depressed patients
-overall enhanced will-being and increased vitality

In my personal practice I have been most impressed with Reiki’s effect on insomnia, depression, speed of healing for cuts, bruises, muscle pulls, and other injuries, and its effect on overall vitality/creative inspiration.  In fact, I cannot think of anything that is not positively affected by Reiki!  It is absolutely safe, non-invasive, gentle, yet powerful as a means to let the body do what it does best, balance and heal.

As a professional Reiki Master Teacher, I am constantly humbled by a connection to this energy that has a wisdom and effectiveness far greater than anything I could ever imagine or rationally create, and I tend to trust, each time I am able to teach Reiki or give Reiki, that the recipient will be helped in the way that is most beneficial to his/her highest path in life.  The health of the earth’s environment is in a tenuous position at this time, and healing modalities like Reiki bring us to a closer understanding of our deep connection and equality with all of life.  If my practice of Reiki brings us a little bit closer to healing the earth, then I will breathe a little easier and my heart will beat a little stronger as I walk in gratitude through each moment of life.

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