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Reiki: Hands-On Healing

by Amy Z. Rowland


Reiki (pronounced "ray," as in "a ray of sunshine," and "key," as in "this key turns the door") is a holistic health care method that is becoming widely accepted around the world for its effectiveness in bringing relaxation, relieving pain, and accelerating healing. Although the word "Reiki" is Japanese, this gentle, non-invasive natural healing method translates into mind-body benefits that can be appreciated by anyone, with no need of explanations.

The word "Reiki" means "universal life force energy," suggesting that the healing energy comes from the universe or a higher power, rather than from the practitioner’s own physical body or mental intention. Another way to translate the word "Reiki" is "Spirit-guided life force energy." Both translations are accurate, and hint at one of the qualities of Reiki that its practitioners most value: Reiki brings healing to its practitioners, as well as to its clients. Every time a practitioner does a Reiki treatment, he or she receives some healing. Reiki can also be learned by anyone and its benefits can be appreciated by anyone, making it "universal" in another way.

The Reiki natural healing method is so easy to learn that even a child can learn it – and many have. However, of the several million Reiki practitioners in the world, most are adults, of all ages and varied occupations. Many nurses, massage therapists, psychotherapists, social workers, and other allied health professionals have learned Reiki, because of their professional interest in healing, but no medical background is necessary. Most people who become Reiki practitioners simply want to learn an easy way to relax, reduce stress, and bring healing into their own lives; others are attracted to Reiki because they want to bring comfort and healing to someone they love.

However, there is no need to become a Reiki practitioner in order to experience Reiki and to enjoy its healing benefits. Reiki practitioners are everywhere, offering Reiki treatments both formally and informally. For example, if you call your local spa or salon and ask if Reiki treatments are available to clients, there is a good chance that the answer will be "yes" – and for a fee per session comparable to massage. Some local hospitals have nurses who are trained in Reiki available to offer treatments to patients pre- and post-op; others offer a complimentary Reiki session or massage to every in-patient. There are also many Reiki practitioners in private practice, who offer formal client treatments by appointment in a treatment room that is likely to have subdued lighting, gentle background music, and a bodywork table as its main feature.

What is it like to receive a formal Reiki treatment? Relaxing! As you lay upon the bodywork table, fully clothed, the practitioner will place his or her hands very lightly in a series of positions on the front of the torso, the head, and then the back. In each of these positions, you will feel gentle warmth or tingling or other mild sensations as the practitioner "listens" to the Reiki energy, moving only when there is a shift. This shift signals that you have received sufficient energy to begin some accelerated healing. Will you notice this shift? Probably not. What you are most likely to notice is that you feel more and more deeply relaxed and peaceful as the treatment progresses and comes to a close.

How long does a Reiki treatment last? Although you can make an appointment for half an hour or an hour, if you would like to enjoy the benefits of a thorough treatment, it is best to allow a bit longer. Reiki healing doesn’t go by the clock! For this reason, some professional practitioners will ask you to reserve an hour and a half to two hours of time, and then will charge you for a single treatment session rather than by the hour. This makes a Reiki treatment a very good deal.

Reiki is often offered informally as well. Many people who decide to learn Reiki experience it for the first time in this way. A Reiki-trained office worker might notice a colleague struggling with a headache, offer help, and relieve the pain within a couple minutes. A runner may discover Reiki-trained massage therapists volunteering their services at the end of the race who can quickly ease muscle cramps. A friend visiting another in hospice may be surprised that a Reiki practitioner volunteer is at the bedside, offering comfort and relieving pain. There are countless ways that people encounter Reiki, offered out of kindness. Experiencing the soothing sensations, the calming effects, they often decide it is something that they want to learn for themselves.

In the United States, Reiki is taught in three levels. During a Reiki I class, which is usually presented in a single day, the new student learns hands-on healing and receives Level I certification. If the practitioner decides to go further with training, a Reiki II class, typically offered over two or three days, provides instruction in Reiki distance healing. Experienced practitioners sometimes decide that they wish to become teachers themselves: this is the training provided during Reiki III, the Reiki Master course, which may be presented over a single weekend or over several months.

Reiki is practiced and taught in traditional and nontraditional ways, with the latter adding in information and techniques from other holistic modalities. Traditional Usui Shiki Reiki has been available in the United States since 1938, when it was brought to the Big Island of Hawaii by Japanese-American Hawayo Takata, who had been successfully cured of a number of health problems, ranging from asthma to a uterine tumor, during a visit to a Reiki clinic in Tokyo. Reiki originated in Japan in 1922, when Mikao Usui was granted a vision and transformed into an energy healer at the end of a 21-day meditation and fast on Mt. Kurama, outside Kyoto, Japan. Mrs. Takata was treated by one of his senior students, a physician and retired Japanese naval officer named Chujiro Hayashi.

Receiving a treatment from someone who is certified in this traditional lineage assures you that the practitioner is focusing on the healing energy being channeled through his or her hands in response to your personal need for healing in order to decide when to move to the next position. This is qualitatively different from – and superior to – a treatment given by a practitioner who watches the clock or moves when "it’s about time." A traditionally trained practitioner will rely only on the hands to provide you with an excellent treatment that will leave you feeling wonderful and wanting to learn Reiki for yourself.

For more information about Reiki or to learn more about treatments or classes, contact a certified professional practitioner or Reiki teacher. Ask questions. Find out how the practitioner or teacher was trained and how much experience he or she has had with Reiki. Ask for detailed information about what to expect during a treatment or a class. Make sure that the practitioner or teacher is willing to answer any other questions that occur to you beforehand, and, sometimes even more important, after the session or class. You can also find out a lot about Reiki by doing research on the worldwide web or reading some of the many books now available on Reiki. Allow yourself to be gently guided. Learning Reiki may be an important step forward on your spiritual path.

Amy Z. Rowland, M.A., ABMP, is a teaching Reiki Master and internationally-published author. Traditional Reiki for Our Times, published by Inner Traditions (1998) is used as a teaching manual and reference in five languages. Intuitive Reiki for Our Times (2006), was reviewed as "essential reading…for all Reiki healers" by California Bookwatch. A new book on living the Reiki principles is due out in December (2008). For more information about her or her teaching schedule, please visit www.traditionalreiki.com.  You can contact Amy at amy@traditionalreiki.com

Amy Z. Rowland

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