This article was originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of Therapeutic Thymes Magazine. http://therapeuticthymes.com
As a child growing up in a small town, I remember days filled with playing outside, spending quiet time amongst the trees in the woods and going for Sunday drives with my parents. The stores in our town closed early on Wednesday afternoons and were never open on Sundays. Those days were mostly spent in downtime with family and friends, perhaps reading a good book, sitting on a swing or just spending time in nature. That was fifty years ago and much has changed. We frequently have each minute of every day over-scheduled without time for rest and relaxation. This has created a world where many people are chronically stressed, anxious, depressed, worried, fearful and angry.
Creating a space of balance and harmony within our lives can be challenging, however more and more people are intuitively seeking out complementary modalities in order to nurture their souls. Nine years ago I was fortunate to come across the system of Reiki and it changed my life path forever. I had recently started a new job as a registered nurse at a local hospital and the nurse manager, who was very forward thinking, brought in a Reiki Master to teach those who might be interested in learning about it. It seemed quite foreign at the time and I had never heard about energy work of any kind. However, I began to do Reiki for myself, my family and my friends and started to notice a subtle shift within myself. A little bit more calming and a little bit more peace. Feeling more comfortable, I started using Reiki for the patients that I cared for and noticed that within a few minutes they were gently dozing and frequently their pain was dramatically reduced. I was so impressed with the results that I knew this was a practice I needed to know more about. I began taking additional Reiki classes and within a year’s time I was teaching Reiki and sharing this beautiful and simple system of compassionate, loving energy with others.
So, what is Reiki? The word Reiki can be broken down into two parts, the first one, “rei” translates as spiritual/life force, and the “ki” represents energy. Although various cultures use different terms for this energy, such as chi or prana, Western culture sometimes struggles for a word to define it and the concept can be difficult to grasp. However, quite simply, it is the life energy of everything that surrounds us. The sun and moon both radiate energy, as well as the stars in the night sky. We know the tree is alive and thriving when its leaves are blooming and it bears us fruit. We know the relaxing benefits of sitting in nature and absorbing the earth’s grounding energy. All of us have the innate ability to tap into this beautiful and loving energy. Despite that, the stressors of life frequently shadow that capacity. Worries and fears take over which impedes the natural flow of energy through the subtle energy systems of the body. There are a plethora of scientific research articles that attest to the detriments of stress, which can lead to significant illnesses due to high blood pressure and a lowered immune system response. Reiki helps to return the body’s flow of energy to its intended state of harmony and creates a state of peacefulness and calming.
The Reiki practitioner is trained to connect to this loving and compassionate energy and facilitates the energy to flow through them to the recipient. The practitioner only needs to set the intention that the energy goes to wherever it might be needed, whether that be on a physical, emotional or spiritual level. The recipient also sets an intention to be open and receptive to the flow of energy. Because the energy has a unique intelligence and is unlimited, it knows exactly where to go to achieve a return to balance and wholeness. This is traditionally done through a series of hand positions that are gently placed either on the body or slightly above it. The Reiki practitioner does not manipulate the energy, but merely facilitates the healing process of the client. During a Reiki session the client often experiences deep relaxation and feels more balanced, refreshed and may express a deep sense of inner peace.
One of the greatest benefits of learning Reiki is the self-care aspect. A daily self-Reiki practice helps to keep practitioners well-grounded and balanced. Setting aside time each day to care for the self allows us to decrease stress and worry and generate feelings of wholeness and well-being. We can then increase the compassion we give to ourselves and are better able to share that with others. Additionally, this practice may help us to let go of attachments, judgments, expectations and fears that no longer serve us well. This, in turn, leads us to be better practitioners for those we share Reiki with. My practice has allowed me to overcome an intense fear of public speaking, which was so paralyzing that I could barely say my name when asked to introduce myself in a group setting. I am now able to confidently speak at presentations on Reiki and integrative health at conferences and meetings. It has also helped me to over come a life-long struggle with depression and anxiety. Of course, this did not happen in one day, it took years of dedicated self-practice and learning self-compassion.
An abundance of health care institutions are now recognizing the many benefits of Reiki and are offering it as part of patient services. Not only does it help patients to relax, but it also has the potential to relieve pain, anxiety and fear. When a patient is peaceful and free of stress, the body’s natural healing process may be more easily facilitated. I have been practicing Reiki in the hospital setting since 2007 and I see its benefits on a daily basis. Frequently patients fall asleep within the first few minutes of a Reiki session and report a feeling of deep relaxation and peace. In my private practice, I also see hospice patients and Reiki often provides comfort and tranquility for end-of-life transitions.
Additionally, Reiki is an excellent tool for nurses and health care workers to use to avoid burnout. I am frequently asked if I am tired or depleted after a day of Reiki sessions at the hospital, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Why is this? Because when you are giving Reiki you are also receiving it. Spending 15 minutes quietly at the bedside sharing Reiki not only helps to form a trusting, caring and compassionate relationship between patient and caregiver, but it also allows the practitioner to go out in into the rest of their day feeling centered, focused and grounded.
Reiki is a very simple practice that anyone can learn. It is typically taught in three levels, Reiki I (Shoden), Reiki II, (Okuden) and the Reiki Teacher class (Shinpiden). During a class the student receives a series of Reiju, also known as attunements, which help to clear and balance the energy fields and helps us to remember the connection that we have to the universe and with our true being. In Japan, this was not a quick process and much time was spent before moving from one level to the next. Mikao Usui, a Tendai Buddhist Monk, founded the system of Reiki in Japan in the early 1920’s after 21 days of intense meditation and fasting.
Although Usui was a Buddhist, he never intended that Reiki be affiliated with any religion. He was a student of many religions and philosophies and intuitively knew that this was a practice that should be shared with all people. There is no dogma in which you need to believe in order to learn it. However, there are five simple precepts which are the foundation of the system, which are as follows: For today only, do not anger, do not worry, be humble, be honest in your work and be compassionate to yourself and others. Any person from any culture or religion can benefit greatly from focusing on these five basic principles. If we are able to let go of anger, we will be less worried. If we are less worried we can be more humble. If we are more humble, we can be honest in our work. If we can work on all of those together, we are then able to be more compassionate to ourselves and thus be more kind to our friends, families and co-workers.
When I first learned Reiki, I had no idea how life-changing it would be. Not only did it open up a door for me to be able to share this loving energy in a hospital environment, but also it helped me to gain the confidence to start a community Reiki clinic. After setting the intention that someday it would come to fruition, a few months later I shared this idea with a new friend and he generously offered me his second floor conference room space free of charge. Then several friends who were Reiki practitioners said they would be interested in volunteering their time once a month to share Reiki with the community. That was three years ago and we are now a thriving non-profit organization and see 24 clients on the third Thursday of each month from 6:30PM -8:30 PM and have over 25 volunteers. The Lancaster Community Reiki Clinic is an all-volunteer organization and is donation based. There is no set fee for a 25 minute Reiki session and whatever we gather in income each month, we give 30 percent back to a charity of a practitioner’s choice. Thus far, we have donated to over 30 organizations. Reiki is very experiential and offering it in a clinic setting is an excellent way to share how beneficial a session can be in improving overall health and wellness.
Reiki is a beautiful gift and can help one to achieve a state of peacefulness that so many of us so desperately need. During my own self-treatment I sometimes envision myself under the trees and by a small stream that my parents had on their farm. I feel humbled and grateful for the practice and encourage everyone I know to give it a try. You won’t be disappointed and who knows, you might even want to learn the practice for yourself!