I had briefly heard of Reiki in the therapeutic community, but I had not had any personal experience with it, let alone did I truly understand what it is until this past weekend when I got to participate in a Reiki session myself. As I am a strong believer in all methods of healing, and advocate for connecting the mind, body, and spirit in wellness, I was intrigued by what energetic powers this ancient practice had to offer. I entered the experience with a “blank slate”, adopting no preconceived notions or judgments about what I was to learn during my session.
My good friend Audrey has completed her level I and level II certifications in being a Reiki practitioner, and she currently does Reiki on patients at the Denver Hospice. She graciously offered to come to my house and practice on me — a practice that she said, “I could do on myself, my dog, my husband, or anyone who is interested and willing”. Wow, I thought, how great that this healing practice is accessible to us all on an everyday basis if we make the effort to use it. For an ancient healing force, it is surprisingly simple and relatable for many types of people and situations. The patients at Hospice that Audrey works with report feeling more relaxed, and have often opened up to her about favorite memories and experiences of their lives as she gives them positive energy through her touch.
So what is Reiki? According to the International Center of Reiki Training, Reiki is a “Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing”. It is administered by a “laying of hands” and is conceived from the notion that unseen life force energy flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If our life force energy is low or negative, we are more likely to get sick or depressed, and if it is high and healthy, we are enthused to be happy and impassioned. The practice was developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui, and through this alternative approach to medicine, healers can transfer positive energy in the form of ki through their palms. The word “Reiki” is made up of two different Japanese words — “rei”, which means “God’s wisdom or the Higher Power”, and Ki which means “life force energy”. Combined, the Reiki tradition means “spiritually guided life force energy”.
How does this actually work? When Audrey arrived to perform the session, she asked if I would like to put on any music or burn any candles or incense — anything that might help me get in a relaxed state. Then she asked if I would like to be laying down or sitting up; you can be in either position but it is more effective if I am laying down. She explained that there are two types of Reiki — one which is “hands on”, and one that does not use touch. She was trained in the hands-on technique, which is more common and I think contributes to a deeper healing experience.
Before we began, Audrey said a silent prayer to the higher power that invited her to channel positive energy. She then laid her hands on my forehead — one of the chakras that holds energy. She explained that typically both she and the patient can feel a warmth radiating from her palms, which signifies the process of positive energy flowing from her hands into my body. She asked me if I had a particular part of my body to which I would like to send more concentrated healing energy, as sometimes she focuses on a body part like the knees that might have pain. She kept her hands on my forehead for a couple of minutes and then moved to my cheeks, neck, and chest, and further down my body in slowly paced and gentle movements.
I was instantly put into a relaxed state. I felt warmth coming through Audrey’s hands in many places, but most significantly on my feet and on my knees. We discussed that I was sore from exercising the day before and that those areas were in need of healing. I was shocked by how warm and comforting her hands were; “aren’t your hands already warm?”, I asked her. “No,” she said, “the warmth is the energy radiating from them.” She explained that she was moving unwanted energy out of my body and replacing it with positive and warm energy — and in turn, helping me to relax tension and release stress.
After Audrey had put me into a relaxed, almost hypnotic state, and had performed healing touch on my back and shoulders, she “brushed away” the negative energy that was released, and “zipped up” the positive energy into my body.
What was the effect? I can tell you that I did not feel like doing much of anything for the rest of the day! I was very relaxed and slept well that evening. The next day, I had bounds of energy to perform my work in an effective, positive, and authentic manner. Maybe that was due to having a good night’s sleep, but I like to think that the Reiki session helped to hold that positive energy inside me that often slips out.
As a psychotherapist, I help people heal emotional wounds and strengthen themselves to live a full and vibrant life. I believe that incorporating practices such as Reiki, massage, acupuncture, and other alternative healing methods contribute to the “whole being” health philosophy that I believe in so fully. I am grateful that I got to experience this for myself, and will continue to explore and practice methods of promoting peace and happiness for myself and others.