Saturday, June 27, 2009

Reiki Time!

Almost a decade ago, my husband, Mike, was turned on to reiki by a friend of his. He said that over lunch one day, this friend -- Christy -- put her hand over his on the table and said, "Just keep talking, don't pay attention to your hand." At some point during the conversation, Mike began to feel a strange sensation. It was the feeling of a hot, swirling energy on his hand. "It was very distinct," he said. And that got him hooked.

He took a reiki level I class with Christy and started to develop his reiki skill with meditation and focus exercises and practicing healing others. He told me that he had once worked on someone's headache and said that he could sense a "ball of energy" in her head. Experimenting, he began to move his hands around, trying to move the energy ball. He said that it felt like it was moving with his hand, from one side of her head to the other, and then finally, he drew it away and out of her.

When the session was over, she said that her headache was gone. And, although she could not see or feel what Mike's hands had been doing, she commented on how strange it was that the pain was moving around her head before it disappeared. Very interesting!

Over the years, however, Mike lost touch with reiki practice, focusing on other things. Every once in a while he would bring it up to me though, wishing that he hadn't "lost" the power. Then he met Gretchen at work and began talking reiki. She has been practicing for a while now and offered to help Mike rediscover his own power. Mike and I met up with her at a health food store and ate good sandwiches and talked for a long time. Gretchen offered to come to our home and do reiki treatments on us and we took her up on it.

I had a lot of mixed feelings on the sessions. To me, reiki looks like a guided meditation, with movement and proximity guiding the subject's thoughts. If you're not familiar with reiki, it is an ancient healing art originally from Japan. Reiki is said to be universal life force energy that flows in through the crown chakra and out through the healer's palms. So the practice of reiki involves focusing on creating this "flow" and then holding your hands either on or over different parts of the subject's body in an effort to direct healing energy to them.

Reiki disclaimers typically state that reiki is for fun and relaxation, but reiki devotees (and increasingly, medical practitioners) consider it a genuine supplemental medical treatment. And while the benefits of relaxation and meditation are well-documented and support the idea that our emotional states have profound impacts on how well our bodies work, studies done on reiki and other "spiritual healing" arts are showing measurable, physical benefits in laboratory and hospital settings.

There are a number of studies whose results you can find online with various kinds of disease models and different kinds of tests. A good listing of articles can be found here. Several studies use "sham" healers as a placebo group and pit them against reiki masters and measure results. Since people can not tell which are attuned reiki masters and which are just pretending, the fact that the results on the reiki side were better suggests that it's not just a mental benefit. And readings of the biomagnetic fields (essentially our body's natural electricity) has been found to be much stronger around the palms of trained healers than in people who do not practice healing touch.

Gretchen told Mike about a usui reiki healing series of courses held at Lakeland Community College. So we signed up. Last Tuesday we took Reiki I and received our first attunement. On Thursday, Reiki II. After a week's break, we'll be going back for two more classes -- one focusing on chakras (eastern medicine's energy centers of the body) and finally Reiki III, the master class, on July 9.

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