Reiki: energy medicine
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Reiki: energy medicine

Reiki, a non-invasive, hands-on healing method, is thought to restore and balance the energy in your body.

When you think about it, hands-on healing is as familiar as rubbing a stiff neck or having Mom plant a kiss "where it hurts." Human touch has always conveyed comfort, caring and healing.

Reiki (pronounced, "RAY-kee") is a system of natural, hands-on healing that utilizes universal energy the same energy that pervades and powers everything. The Chinese call this energy Chi. "It is the primary activating energy of life and the underlying creative intelligence of the universe that organizes our world and everything in it," write nurses Libby Barnett and Maggie Chambers in Reiki Energy Medicine: Bringing Healing Touch into Home, Hospital, and Hospice.

The practice of Reiki is a precise method for connecting this energy to "the body's innate powers of healing," according to Barnett and Chambers, who call it "a powerful adjunct" to conventional medicine.

How Reiki originated

Reiki has nothing to do with spiritualism or the occult, nor does it employ hypnosis or any other psychological technique. Yet there is a definite metaphysical element to Reiki, because the practitioner has been trained and attuned to channel universal life energy.

First used by Tibetan monks 3,000 years ago, Reiki was rediscovered in the mid-1800s by Dr. Mikao Usui, a Japanese monk educator. Usui found Reiki to be holistic, non-invasive, and life-affirming, supporting optimal well-being and fulfillment.

Why try Reiki?

I was referred for my first Reiki treatment by a colleague who had undergone her own Reiki training years earlier. An ache in my knees, presumably caused by the arthritis that harasses almost everyone in my family, was steadily increasing. I was (and still am) determined to avoid knee replacement surgery if at all possible. This coworker heard me talking about what appeared to be inevitable major surgery and suggested that I try Reiki.

"You just lie there under a blanket, fully clothed, while the practitioner places his hands in different positions," she said. "Most people sleep through it."

The wisdom of energy

I made the appointment, but wanted to do a little research first. I learned that Reiki is about restoring balance to the body, allowing the body to draw in universal, healing energy. I also learned that, while something would change and be healed within me during a Reiki treatment, the change might not be what I expect.

"You think the pain in your knees is the highest priority," my friend explained later, "but the healing energy might take another direction. Instead of feeling your pain diminished outright, for instance, you might decide to start doing muscle-building exercises that would address the pain in your knees and keep the arthritis from advancing so quickly. There's wisdom in that energy."

The Reiki principles

And, since the object of Reiki is a healthy balance, the practitioner, too, commits to personal improvement every day by affirming the Reiki principles, which are:

  • Just for today, I will let go of anger.
  • Just for today, I will let go of worry.
  • Just for today, I will give thanks for my many blessings.
  • Just for today, I will do my work honestly.
  • Just for today, I will be kind to my neighbor and every living thing.

The best way to learn about Reiki is to experience it firsthand. During a standard treatment, the client lies, fully clothed, on a padded treatment table. According to practitioners, energy is transferred to the client through the hands of the practitioner in a sequence of standardized positions where the hands are placed. Treatment starts with the client's head, then the neck, torso and abdomen from just below the ribs to the lower belly.

The client turns over, and the practitioner then works gradually from the top of the back to the tailbone. In each position, the hands are simply rested on the client for three to five minutes. A full treatment usually takes about an hour.

My own first treatment, however, wasn't quite so cut-and-dried. After I took my place, the practitioner began the treatment by placing his hands over my closed eyes and the sensation was like nothing I had ever felt in my eyes. The heat from his palms was intense and somehow prickly, and I couldn't stop my eyelids from fluttering. He kept his hands over my eyes for nearly twice the normal time period, until the heat abated.

As he slowly made his way through the other positions, I drifted off to sleep and was awakened when he put his hands on my knees not a standard Reiki hand position, but, he said later, "I just felt as though your knees needed Reiki." (I had not mentioned my knee pain to him.) Again, I felt warmth from his hands for several minutes.

As I got up from the table, I noticed that my knees didn't hurt at all and they didn't hurt, in fact, for about another six months.

The treatment

Since that first treatment, I have undergone Reiki training and attunements to become a First Degree Reiki practitioner a level that enables me to treat myself and others. Some students go on to train for the Second Degree, in which they learn special techniques for enhancing the amount of energy transferred during treatments. Those who complete Third Degree training are qualified to teach Reiki to others.

As Reiki has grown in popularity, qualified practitioners are easier to find though they are yet to become a "Yellow Pages" category. If your community has an alternative newspaper or alternative medicine directory, it should list Reiki practitioners, who often advertise in such publications. Or try the resources listed below. Reiki practitioners worldwide set the fee for a one-hour treatment at $35 to $50.

Who can practice Reiki?


International Association of Reiki Professionals

International Center for Reiki Training

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Reiki Energy Medicine: Bringing Healing Touch into Home, Hospital, and Hospice, by Libby Barnett and Maggie Chambers. Healing Arts Press, 1996.

Reiki: Universal Life Energy, by Bodo J. Baginski and Shalila Sharamon. Liferhythm, 1998.

Last reviewed November 2000 by HealthGate Medical Review Board

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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