East Bay Massage: Reiki

I have to be honest– I am of two minds when it comes to some of the more ‘esoteric’ practices in the healing arts. You could say that I am in the midst of a paradigm shift– or developing one that can hold two points of view simultaneously. By this I mean holding a critical eye to the ways in which things work, wanting repeatable results and a clear explanation on the one hand, and on the other maintaining the capacity to experience new things and the openness to allow new experiences to simply be as they are, trusting my perceptions and the experience I see my clients having.

Reiki fits into this ‘double-mindedness’ for me.

Loosely speaking, “Reiki” means the ‘free flow of universal life energy.’ In Japanese, Rei means spirit, ghost, or soul. Ki means force (which seems related to concepts of ‘chi’ or ‘prana’ in other traditions).

The story goes that in the 1870’s Dr. Usui, the president of a small Christian University in Japan, was asked by his students how Christ managed such incredible healing feats. Truly, anyone who has read of them in the Bible can appreciate how absolutely improbable and miraculous those stories are. This sent Dr. Usui on a quest to discover the mechanism for healing. Dr. Usui meditated and fasted for several weeks and was given the symbols associated with Reiki energy in a bolt of light on the 21st day. He taught these healing symbols to his friend Dr. Hayashi who opened a Reiki clinic in the early 1900’s in Japan. In the 70’s, a Hawaiian woman by the name of Hawayo Takata was very ill and made a pilgrimage to the clinic in Japan. She experienced the powerful healing property of Reiki, decided to study it, and brought the Reiki tradition back to Hawaii with her in the 1970’s. It subsequently moved with her to California, and since, all over the world.

Reiki is a healing force that moves through the practitioner and through the recipient. In order to become a channel for Reiki, one must become ‘attuned.’ Reiki energy has an intelligence of its own and moves as it needs to. It’s impossible to direct Reiki energy– the practitioner simply allows the force to move, trusting in the healing that will take place.

Now, if all of this sounded a little hard to digest to you, you’re not alone. I *am* a Reiki practitioner, and sometimes I have a hard time coming to terms with the story of it. In my Western-oriented mind, that Newtonian-style thinking comes into play: I want to know HOW it works.  Part of me would like a diagram, with arrows, color coded, and labeled, somehow.

But the truth is this: the way that we come into knowing the benefit of Reiki is not the way described above. There isn’t the kind of map for Reiki that dissects it in a way we might like it to. It has to be said, though, that I have been awestruck consistently by the effectiveness of Reiki.

When I was in training for my Reiki practice, we sat in a circle and our teacher came to each of us to help us become ‘attuned.’ When my teacher came to me, I had a powerful response that seemed to come out of ‘nowhere.’ I started to feel a bit dizzy– I closed my eyes and started taking deep breaths in order to regulate myself. But the sensation got more and more intense. I clung to the sides of my chair for fear of falling off. I had the sense that I was inside a twirling, golden tube that shimmered and moved as though it were alive. After about ten minutes of feeling like I was spinning in circles, the sensation subsided. I was breathless. How do I explain this, I wondered. But my Reiki attunement changed my massage practice.

Sometimes, clients request Reiki specifically. I have heard them describe the sensation as a tingling, a warmth, or like liquid flowing through their bodies. How can I justify their experiences? How do I account for it when Reiki has such an obvious effect on a client? What about the client whose spider bite that had been swollen and infected started to go down and heal after a Reiki session? How do I explain it when a client finds emotional comfort through Reiki after a miscarriage? There isn’t a ‘logical’ explanation, but I see it happening in my practice all the time. It seems to embody that mysterious part of life, that space where potential is open to experience, where wonderful, hard to anticipate things happen.

At the end of the day, Reiki is powerful. Studies have shown that Reiki decreases chronic pain, reduces side effects like fatigue or nausea from chemo treatments, reduces anxiety, and can improve depression symptoms.

I have always experienced Reiki as being like a leaf-blower for the soul– but I am grateful that my clients experience it as a calming, clearing experience. If you have experienced Reiki, you probably know what I mean. If you haven’t, maybe it’s time to?

Just today

Don’t get angry

Don’t worry

Show appreciation

Work hard

Be kind to others

–Dr. Usui

Thank you for visiting East Bay Massage!


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