Just what is Reiki, Anyway?

Article written by
Barbara Fetta-Moniz
July 1999

Reiki is a gentle, non-invasive touch therapy -- a natural method of healing which balances and adjusts your energy through a gentle laying on of hands. All living beings respond instinctively to the power of touch – touch makes babies grow, cats purr and children calm down. Practitioners of these ancient healing arts claim that touch also makes people heal from illnesses and physical and psychic wounds. Reiki is used not only to promote healing, both physical and emotional, but also to relieve stress and calm the body and mind. Some people include regular Reiki sessions as part of their overall wellness regimen – using it preventively to reduce stress and tension.

Reiki is not massage. Though massage is another wonderful form of touch therapy, Reiki is quite different. The Reiki client remains fully clothed throughout the treatment. The client lies on a massage table in a quiet room where the lighting is low and gentle – often candle-lit, soothing music plays softly in the background. The session often begins with the practitioner “scanning” the body for trouble spots by placing hands at various places along the body. Trouble spots can sometimes be detected during this “scanning” process – just by the practitioner’s hands tingling or feeling a little bit different. The practitioner also encourages the client to tell her about past injuries or surgery. She then lays her hands upon certain “energy centers”, or chakras, along the body. The client may feel intense heat from the hands of the practitioner. If there are certain areas of the body that need work, the practitioner very often can sense that and can spend more time on that particular area. Sometimes “trouble spots” are a result of blockages in the flow of energy throughout the body. Reiki helps to clear those blockages and get energy moving freely throughout the body.

The History of Reiki

Reiki is a Japanese word meaning Universal Life (Rei) Energy (Ki). It is a spiritual healing discipline which has its roots in ancient Buddhist teachings. The founder of Reiki, Dr. Mikao Usui, spent many years seeking the knowledge of healing and found information on Reiki in Sanskrit texts.

Reiki is the vital life energy which flows through all living things and which can be activated for the purpose of healing. The Reiki therapist channels the energy through her hands to the recipient, activating the body’s natural ability to heal itself. When a person’s energy is strong and flowing freely, the body and mind are in a positive state of health. If a person’s vital energy becomes weak or blocked, this may lead to symptoms on a physical or emotional level.

A Reiki practitioner will have received “attunements” to open their healing channels. These attunements are performed by Reiki Masters. Reiki practitioners believe that we are all born with the inherent ability to access the energy of Reiki; however, over time we have lost this ability. Our system becomes blocked. The

attunements, or initiations, performed by a Reiki Master open up a channel to this energy and release a continuous flow. Every Reiki master has a direct lineage to Dr. Mikao Usuia. Each practitioner has been opened and connected to the universal life energy by their teacher, who in turn was initiated by their own teacher in an unbroken line of transmission back to the founder. There are three levels of Reiki attunement, or initiation – First Degree, Second Degree, and Reiki Mastership.

Even though Reiki is hundreds of years old and is beginning to attract the attention of individuals and medical establishments throughout the country, many people are still unfamiliar with the concept, and some even see it as being somewhat “hokey”. The medical establishment is beginning to recognize Reiki as an effective, low-tech, low cost way of promoting healing. Many hospitals nationally have Reiki centers or at least Reiki practitioners on their staff. Recent publicity about Reiki being offered in reputable medical facilities around the United States has brought much more credibility to the practice. I believe that once people realize the

benefits of Reiki and begin to feel more comfortable about its “legitimacy”, many more will choose to make it a part of their overall health and wellness program.

In an effort to help bring this awareness and credibility to the foreground, I decided to contact one of the highly respected medical facilities, which I had read, was offering Reiki as part of their health care program. That facility was New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center – and, in fact, they were utilizing Reiki at their facility in a “big way”.

Wendy Miner, Clinician, Reiki Master and Manager of Holistic Health Teachers and Practitioners at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Integrative Outpatient Center, was very helpful and informative with regard to my inquiries.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering was offering a variety of Integrative Medical Services on both an in-patient and an outpatient basis. Integrative medicine combines the discipline of modern science with the wisdom of ancient healing. For people living with chronic or life-threatening illness, it can transform the physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions of their lives. Integrative medicine may also be valuable to those who are not ill but wish to increase self-awareness, enhance well-being and help prevent health related problems.

At the time of my visit, Memorial Sloan-Kettering was offering these services to the general public at their Bendheim Integrative Medicine Center at 303 East 65th Street in New York. My visit to the center was truly a wonderful experience.

The elevator opened up to a very peaceful “sanctuary” – a sitting/waiting area centered around a beautiful stone water fountain. The sound of the water flowing from the fountain was an instant “soother”. There was a selection of reading materials available – books and magazines on yoga, Reiki, and other interesting holistic health subjects. It felt so good to sit down, pick up a book or a magazine, and simply “surrender”. I attended a gentle Hatha yoga class during my visit -- and it was just what I needed after a busy day in the city.

The center was offering not only Reiki, but also touch therapies such as Reflexology, Shiatsu Massage, Swedish Massage and Aromatherapy. Other mind-body therapies offered included Meditation, Polarity, Body Work and Hypnotherapy. In addition to movement therapies such as Yoga and Tai Chi, the center was offering music therapy, acupuncture and nutritional and herbal counseling. It was a full service “day spa”. The people there were warm, kind and caring – the atmosphere a “calm oasis in a hectic city”. I could not help but leave the center feeling inspired and encouraged.

There were 10 massage therapists employed at the center, all of whom were trained in Reiki. For in-patients, Reiki was being offered at no charge. Reiki proved to help them with symptom management – providing comfort and often relieving symptoms. Reiki is a natural fit for patients– and essential for balancing out more assertive therapies. For many, Reiki promotes restful, peaceful sleep and revives diminished appetite. Reiki is not meant to be used in lieu of traditional medical care; its practitioners promote it as a helpful alternative for controlling side effects of other treatments, reducing pain, relieving stress, and speeding the healing process.

Wendy Miner spoke of one patient who has been returning weekly for a Reiki treatment for four years now. This patient had referred many people to the facility to be introduced to the wonderful therapeutic benefits of Reiki.

At the time of my visit, Memorial Sloan-Kettering was offering training programs in Medical Massage and Reiki. These are team-taught programs, with oncologists involved — Reiki Level I training was being offered 3 – 5 times per year, and Level II, 2 –3 times per year. Training is made available to all hospital staff. Doctors are seeing positive results and are beginning to look upon Reiki as a very important addition to health and wellness programs.