Energy healing (a broad term that includes practices like qi gong and therapeutic touch) is one of those topics that gets the Whole Living health team riled up (and sometimes results in lively debates). On the one hand, Einstein himself pointed out that everything is made up of energy, and it seems to make sense that our bodies' life forces could benefit from tune-ups or injections of good energy. On the other hand, as health journalists, we're trained to look for evidence of the peer-reviewed-study variety, which has for the most part kept its distance from energy therapy.
For the healers themselves, though, there's no question Reiki works. And as someone who's received Reiki from master (and new memoirist) Raven Keyes, I can report that it always leaves me feeling calm, energized, and whole. I chatted with Keyes about her new book, The Healing Power of Reiki, published this month by Llewelyn.
Can you tell me about your book?
My book is a birds-eye view into what it's really like to be a Reiki master, affecting people's lives in a positive way by bringing love to them, and likewise what it's like to be a client receiving that love. My hope is that my book will help to spread Reiki in the world to heal as many people as possible by opening hearts and minds to the infinite possibilities inherent in the love that underlies the healing power of Reiki.
What is Reiki, and what does it do?
"Reiki" is a Japanese word with the English translation of "universal life force energy." I've come to know this energy as pure unconditional love that heals. As a Reiki master, I absorb this healing energy and share it with my clients (who remain fully clothed on my massage table) by gently placing my hands on key spots in a series of hand positions. Everything and everyone is made up of energy. In our modern world, we deal with things that drain our energy on a daily basis, like pollution, electricity, microwaves, upsetting news reports, and even the negative emotions of others. Reiki restores that lost energy, reduces stress, increases relaxation and even induces bliss while bringing balance and wholeness to anyone who receives it. Reiki can help treat anything from a broken heart to a broken leg and everything in between, including serious medical issues and even PTSD.
What do you tell people who are skeptical—particularly those who claim that Reiki defies the laws of science?
Scientists know that everything is made up of energy, so since Reiki is energy, it's already part of common scientific knowledge. Beyond that, since I work with the Chief of Breast Surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, I can simply point out to skeptics that Dr. Sheldon Marc Feldman, a doctor whose work in the field of breast cancer is respected throughout the world, recommends me to his patients. His trust in Reiki is based on his own clinical observations of the beneficial results he see; i.e. blood pressure remains steady on the operating table, less pain medication is needed after surgery, and the patients just do better overall.
Heather Greenlee, ND, PhD, assistant professor of medical oncology at Columbia University, is a star researcher who is leading much of the current investigation into the use of complementary, alternative, and integrative medicine among breast cancer survivors, including Reiki. Admittedly, much more research needs to be done, but the results with patients are so dramatic that there are doctors, led by the example of Dr. Feldman, who wish for their patients to have Reiki, even while we await the research results to further demonstrate its benefits.
You’ve given Reiki to patients during surgeries in New York hospitals. Do the doctors and nurses seem annoyed that you’re there, or do they like having you in the operating room?
There is a huge difference in what I observe in the surgeries I attend today compared to when I first went into the operating room with Dr. Mehmet Oz more than a decade ago. Back then, most of the operating room personnel had never heard of Reiki, and certainly never experienced the presence of a Reiki master in their OR, so I would see many of them sneaking looks at me as if I had three heads. Today, my name as Reiki master is actually written into the surgery log. Since I bring my work to New York-Presbyterian, Columbia University Medical Center, which is a teaching hospital, there are always new doctors and technicians participating in surgeries who have never heard of Reiki before. Mostly they are just curious, and they are likewise aware of the term, "Integrative Medicine" which is what Reiki falls into the category of, so they at least have a reference point for what I'm doing. I think they like having me there, because it's something different. I've also noticed that many of the up-and-coming doctors seem open to learning about things not in their medical books that can help patients to heal.
The chapters of your memoir all end with meditations that readers can do at home. Can you share one here that readers can use to experience a small slice of Reiki on their own?
This can be done any time, and really any where, even in the restroom at work if you feel you need to shift into good energy. It makes a wonderful daily practice either upon waking or before bed, because you can do this for as long, or as short a time that is comfortable for you.
Close your eyes and notice that you are breathing. Pay attention to the air at the very tips of your nostrils, noticing it going in and out—how does it feel? Is it warm, or cool, or neither? Without counting, take about 10 breaths in and out, just noticing the air as you think to yourself, "I wonder what my next thought will be?" This question stills the mind...
When you think 10 breaths have gone by, or when you feel ready, move your attention inside your chest and pretend that you can see, hear, sense, feel or just know (any way you perceive is perfect!) a flame, like a candle flame, glowing in your heart. This is the flame of your life. The flame that grows greater as you inhale, and diminishes a bit as you exhale. Sit with this for about 10 breaths, just watching the flame react to your breathing....
Now, without words, call from your heart to the golden light of the Reiki realm of love. Ask it to surround your body. It comes instantly and forms itself into a ball of golden light all around you. Let the light intensify. Notice how far away from your skin it seems to be, encasing you in the warmth and peace that it is...
When you are ready, ask the golden light to come into your body as you breathe—ask the light to heal you in whatever way you need healing right now. Don't try to direct it, just ask for it to heal you, and in order to make it as strong as possible, keep saying, "thank you, thank you, thank you for this healing."...
Sit in the peace of it all, breathing in the healing golden light, for as long as you wish, then bring yourself back to time/space.