What is Reiki and how can it help our modern day health and healing? Read below to hear one person’s journey to learning about this ancient healing method.
Learning About Reiki for the First Time
Most people have heard of Reiki, but are not aware of its origins and how useful it can be as a tool to support the ups and downs of daily living. I first came across it fifteen years ago, when a Reiki Master stayed at my parents’ home in Scotland for the weekend. Rose was introduced to the family by my Aunt Margaret, a Catholic nun who had become good friends with her. As a thank you for the hospitality shown to her, our esteemed guest offered to initiate the family in Reiki One.
Only my mother and I took the opportunity to learn the profound healing technique that was unknown to us at the time. From her nursing background, Mum was fascinated by any convention that could help the body to heal itself. I had recently started reading books on energy medicine, and a growing curiosity towards this field was emerging in me. The two days spent studying the first stage of Reiki passed uneventfully. We worked together in an upstairs room that had a scenic view over the Scottish Cumbrae Pass between Little Cumbrae Island and Great Cumbrae Island. Rose asked us to close our eyes whilst she drew the ancient Reiki symbols. I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen, but I felt that no change had taken place. We spent most of the time learning where to place our hands on our own bodies to give self-healing, and then Rose taught us how to heal family and friends. We practiced putting our hands on each other, at specific points on the body with closed fingers, pausing long enough for the Reiki energy to flow from the universe, through the healer’s hands, to the body of the receiver. She explained that we may feel tingling in our fingers or heat when carrying out a treatment, and that the receiver might experience hot, cold, or tingling sensations. At the time, when we were practicing giving and receiving healing, the Reiki flow of energy was subtle and I could barely feel it.
Unexpectedly, the true nature of Reiki manifested in me that evening when I dreamt about my life over the previous twenty-five years. Every hurt that I could recall was released in the form of an old movie, where I was the observer watching myself react to the words and actions of others. I awoke the next morning with more questions than answers about this unique encounter. My conscious mind sought to consolidate the experience over the following years. It was the beginning of living with mindfulness and compassion, a complete change of heart from my previously hedonistic lifestyle.
Much later, through the wisdom of Buddhism, I learned I had been given a lesson in self-cherishing, which means viewing oneself to be more important than anything or anyone else. Not something we are consciously aware of in our day to day lives, but after quiet reflection the motivation behind our everyday actions can be a little surprising. In his book, How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life, His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, “All beings are united by the desire to gain happiness and to avoid suffering.” He suggests we use our body, speech, and mind for the good of others and to abandon an attitude of just taking care of oneself.
This way of being is aligned with the essence of Reiki. I was very grateful when another opportunity came along to help me understand this more clearly after attending a Buddhist teaching in a Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) Center. I laughed until I wept when a skillful lama shared his insight into how we categorize people as friends, enemies, and strangers. He explained with gentle humor how people can become friends, then enemies, and possibly return to friend status in the space of a few moments. Even strangers can be labeled as “enemies.” I was suddenly and painfully aware of the criticisms, judgments, and blame one’s mind can place upon others and in hindsight how exhausting and ridiculous this can be. However, it was only after another encounter with Reiki that I was able to hear and then accept this wisdom.
The Foundations of Reiki
Jigme Lingpa, the founder of the Longchen Nyingthig tradition of Tibetan Buddhism said, “For a person who does not have diligence, neither intelligence, power, wealth, nor strength will help him. He is like a captain with a boat but no sail.”
We often need guidance to help us find the diligence and motivation to take charge of our lives and to become the best possible version of ourselves. It is only then that we are truly able to sail our ships through the calm and stormy seas of life. They say when the student is ready the teacher will appear. When I was living in New Zealand ten years after the first experience with Rose, I met an Indian Reiki Grand Master. I recognized the gift being handed to me when I was introduced to Puneet, and I adopted a more disciplined approach towards understanding Reiki.
Initially, I wanted to learn how the system of energy healing had been established. I found out that its roots are firmly planted in ancient Tibet, and Reiki had almost become a forgotten art until the 1800’s when Dr. Mikao Usui from Japan re-discovered it. He spent many years at a Zen Monastery reading Sanskrit texts to obtain a deep understanding of the method used by the Buddha to heal others. From the knowledge gained he established Reiki, and with the guidance of the monastic community, he developed five Spiritual Principles to be followed by individuals practicing this system for healing. The principles are “Just for today I will not worry, I will not be angry, I will do my work honestly, I will give thanks for my many blessings and I will be kind to my neighbor and all living things.” The word Reiki is often translated, in its simplest form, as “universal life energy.” Some practitioners go one step further to describe Reiki as a way for the purest form of universal love to be transmitted to others.
Three Levels of Reiki
Over a one year period, I was initiated in the three levels of Reiki that lead to being a Master. My teacher was a patient and humble lady who was very keen to pass on her extensive knowledge about this subject. At the beginning of teaching each level, my teacher carried out an attunement, which opened up my chakra system to receive the Reiki symbols being used at each stage. In doing this, it meant that I would always have the ability to give and receive Reiki. The second level of Reiki taught me how to give distance healing, and learning this technique was a wonderful gift to share with my family and friends who were not living in the same country. There are two parts to the third stage of Reiki, and Puneet dedicated herself to preparing me for healing others, as well as conducting an attunement with the last of the Reiki symbols. I chose not to continue with the final stage, where one is given the knowledge to train and attune others in Reiki, as I wished to consolidate what I had been exploring in levels one, two, and three. But I knew I would return to this in the future, when the time was right.
I recently asked a friend suffering back pain what she felt when I gave her a treatment and this was her response: “Receiving Reiki is extremely relaxing, but at the same time you can feel the power of it going through your body. It’s like the cells are repairing themselves during the process.” I am often told that people sleep more peacefully and soundly after a treatment. My mother had an acute ear ache for three years which came on intermittently and caused her to stop several times on her drive home from work, waiting for the pain to ease. The doctor linked the condition to her thyroid problems and could offer no remedy. After one session of Reiki the ear ache completely disappeared and has never returned.
From the perspective of the giver of Reiki, I unconsciously remove myself, so it feels like only the receiver and the Reiki energy are present in the room. The room infuses with a respectful and loving energy that naturally arises during the treatment. It is a very humbling experience to observe the receiver trusting the process and accepting the healing energy flowing from the Universe. At the start, I anchor myself so I am grounded and ask that the person will receive what they need during the session. I focus on my breathing so that it becomes slow and deep, coming from and returning to my stomach. I place my hands on the receiver’s body working methodically from the head to their feet. I know when to stay longer in an area because the energy flows more abundantly through my hands. When it is time to move on, my hands are gently pushed upwards by an unseen force. Intuition plays an important role in guiding me to parts of the body that need the most attention. At the end, the client can feel dehydrated and “spacey.” By holding their feet and giving them a glass of water, they become grounded and able to face the world again. The physical, emotional and spiritual healing that takes place is personal to the receiver. Usually I am made aware of some guidance to share. Although it is unclear where the messages come from, they are always filled with compassion. Sometimes emotions are stirred up or colds and flus surface after a session, and this is a blessing. It means the receiver is letting go and releasing what is no longer needed within, and this can be replaced by what will now serve them most.
Reiki and Modern Day Health
How does Reiki fit into modern day health and wellbeing? The University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing analyzed what the research says about Reiki and found, “With respect to safety, there have been no reported negative effects from Reiki in any of the research studies. This is understandable given that no substance is ingested or applied to the skin, and Reiki touch is non-manipulative (and can be offered off the body when needed).” They also highlighted that research into Reiki is just beginning, and it is still being established how best to study healing practices. Some of the published studies they looked at reviewed the effect of Reiki on stress hormones, blood pressure, heart rate, immune responses, anxiety, pain, and depression. Evidence showed the positive impact Reiki had in reducing anxiety, pain, and depression and improving overall wellbeing. The Center also found that clinical research had focused on how Reiki can benefit chronic health issues such as cancer, pain management, pre/post-operative conditions, HIV/AIDS, stroke rehabilitation, cognitive disorders, and fibromyalgia. They acknowledge that aspirin was being used for seventy years before we really understood how it worked, and given time, we will have more robust data regarding Reiki. It is worthwhile noting that when the Center studied the regulation of Reiki, it discovered that the majority of state boards of nursing in the United States supported the use of Reiki and integrative therapies within the scope of nursing practice.
Being a Buddhist, I find Reiki strengthens my spiritual practice. I try to start each morning with healing, and then offering it for the benefit of all beings. Afterwards, my mind feels more open and spacious and ready for meditation. On the way to work, I picture the ancient Reiki symbols and often dedicate these so that everyone will have clothing, shelter, medicine, medical treatment, water, food, and love. When giving Reiki treatments, I chant the Medicine Buddha and Chenrezig mantras to awaken the innate inner healing energy of the client. On meditation retreats I use Reiki when I am alone with a dharma book, and somehow the wisdom of the written words becomes more meaningful. Buddhist teachings are clearer when I use Reiki to tame my wandering mind. My doctor was very surprised during a short stay in hospital when no operation was required following visualization of my Guru, repetition of healing mantras, and self-healing with Reiki.
Shantideva said, “If you are trained, there is nothing which will not become easy, first by training to tolerate minor problems, later you will become able to tolerate great problems.” Reiki helps me to work towards greater tolerance of problems that arise from time to time. I am truly grateful for being awakened to the healing benefits of Reiki in this life. I look forward to learning the final stage, when I can begin to train others in this ancient Tibetan energy healing technique.