Updated: Jul 22
What is Reiki? (pronounced Ray-key)
Reiki is a healing technique based on the principle that the Reiki therapist can channel energy into the patient by means of touch, to activate the natural healing processes of the patient’s body and restore physical and emotional well-being.
Nearly two years ago, I was working for a mental health group practice here in Charlotte, NC when I was introduced to Reiki .
With both a Bachelor’s in Science as well as a Master’s in Science, saying I was a skeptic of such a outlandish concept as Reiki was an understatement.
What is this stuff? Certainly it must be some kinda woo woo witch craft. It has to be another gimmick that claims to “cure cancer” or be a “miracle remedy” that demonstrates just enough effects on the surface to be convincing but really when it comes down to it, it’s total BS.
However, I like to think of myself as a pretty open-minded person so I gave it a try. When I learned that it didn’t have any adverse side effects and was completely safe I thought: what do I have to lose? If anything I’ll get to lie on a comfy table for an hour and get a good nap.
So there I was, lying on a cushy massage table wrapped in soft blankets, listening to some music that sounded like I was in an ashram. The air smelled of natural, burning wood and the air was cool. My Reiki practitioner walked me through what to expect for the session and I was instructed to just relax.
Easy for you to say lady, good luck calming this overactive, overthinking brain!
My Reiki practitioner began to engage in what seemed like ritualistic, ceremony-like behavior, repeating certain phrases in a different language, drawing imaginary shapes in the air with her fingers, and turning to each wall of the room as if she was praying to each of them.
I kept my sarcastic comments to myself and continued to judge in silence. What the hell did I just get myself into?
As I lay there and closed my eyes, I began to feel increasingly more relaxed; however, this was no surprise. Most people have a general understanding of the power of ambience – creating an environment that appeals to the senses is inevitably going to relax you…big whoop!
My Reiki practitioner gained my permission to lay her hands on my body prior to proceeding with the next phase of the session. I really liked being offered the option of having either hands laid on my body or to have them hover above my body. I thought to myself, “hmm, this would be especially appealing to my clients who have suffered sexual assault who are looking for ways to relax and experience intimacy without having to be touched.
Wait…was I starting to buy into this stuff? What. Is. Happening???
Nah…back to the comfort of my sarcasm and deflection!
My Reiki practitioner guided me through some simple breath exercises that helped bring relaxation to another level. I had done yoga classes before so I was familiar with the concept of deep, purposeful breathing but I’d never practiced it in an environment such as this.
Suddenly, I noticed that the rate of my thoughts began to slow and I began to experience a warm feeling deep in my chest.
“What the heck is that?” I thought. Then it dawned on me, “oh yeah, this is what it feels like to TRULY relax.”
My legs felt like jello and my arms felt heavy. It felt as though the entire weight of my body was heavily pressed against the massage table and it began to feel as though I was floating in air. I had felt a similar type of relaxation during massages but it never felt this all-encompassing.
So there I was…floating in mid air (in my mind, of course) and completely content. I noticed that I was still having thoughts and feelings as I normally would but they didn’t seem to bother me as much. I felt like I was an observer of my own thoughts instead of having to be in control of them. It was nice.
“Could this be what meditation is actually like?” I thought. I had tried meditation before but it always wound up frustrating me more than anything so I gave up on it a while back. Maybe it was time to give this whole mindfulness thing another try.
As my Reiki practitioner made her way around my body, I felt her lay her hands in different positions that didn’t seem to make much sense to me but by this time I really didn’t care. Her touch felt so nice, so pleasant, so warm, so intimate. Her touch communicated that she really cared about me, that she had no malicious intentions and it was safe to let my guard down (and Lord knows I do NOT let my guard down easily)!
It reminded me of the relationship one has with a dog – unconditional, nonverbal, a “just knowing” type of love, affection, and acceptance. This state of being redefined what it meant to relax.
Suddenly, I began to experience this warm, tingling sensation that began at my feet and began to grow up my legs. It continued up into my legs, then to my torso, filling my arms and hands, neck, and head. It was as if someone had just injected a warm, dye into my feet that progressively enveloped my whole body.
This was the game-changer. This was like nothing I had ever experienced. It felt surreal. It felt impossible. It felt supernatural. And yet, it felt very real. I soon realized that the warm feeling that had encapsulated my body was what I recognized to be pure love.
I had always heard hippies talk about this kinda stuff and I always thought “well of course, you think it’s love, you’re high!” Then it hit me, I was high. A natural, beautiful high. I was flabbergasted. I HAD to know more!
While I did not realize it at the time, this first Reiki session significantly changed my life. I had never had so many questions, so much excitement, so much I just had to learn.
The most substantial difference that I noticed was that I began to desire to make better choices without having to try as hard. Over the course of the next year, I began to eat better, exercise, cut off toxic relationships, and improve troubled relationships.
At present, I have lost 65 pounds, ended a terribly toxic long-term relationship, and I have a better relationship with my father than I ever have.
Yes, you read that right – I am a therapist and I was in a toxic relationship. I am human – I have baggage like everyone else. Thankfully, I’ve learned some really great ways to manage it and I’ve found strength that I’ve never known.
While it wouldn’t be fair to completely credit Reiki for all of these improvements, Reiki takes the credit for creating the path that has led me to make these improvements.
It cannot be overstated that the path has definitely been far from perfect and honestly it has not really been all that pleasant. I can easily say I’ve never been challenged nor pushed to my limits in the ways that I have over these past two years. It’s been awful, beautiful, painstaking, enlightening, catastrophic, and incredibly healing all at the same time.
As I tell my clients all of the time “this healing stuff ain’t for the faint of heart!
My relationship with Reiki is ever-evolving and I am learning from Reiki everyday.
No I do not meditate everyday. No I do not exercise everyday. No I do not eat healthy all of the time. Yes I still struggle with anxiety and depression. Yes there are still problems in my relationships.
But how I perceive these struggles, the level of responsibility I have and continue to take for my actions, and consistently trying to be better is what keeps me going and has made me successful. Quite honestly, it’s also my clients who inspire me the most.
Rei, meaning spiritual or supernatural, and ki, meaning vital energy, was the warm, encapsulating energy that overtook my body that day of my first session and I have been able to replicate this feeling several times since then. However, it important to remember that this rush of life force energy does not visit us each time we practice Reiki.
I have learned over time that Reiki is extremely intelligent, far more intelligent than any of us humans, and it will simply show up more ostensibly when it recognizes that it is needed. Do not misunderstand, Reiki is running through us at all times, it is simply a matter of when it will be felt by the conscious senses. and the when is ultimately out of our hands.
As a Level II Reiki practitioner, I offer this service in addition to mental health therapy as an add-on or standalone service. It is my personal opinion that participating in mental health therapy is not the only means to self-improvement; using Reiki alone or in conjunction with mental health counseling are both very viable paths to self-discovery and healing.
If you’re on the fence about either of them, I always suggest to start with the modality that you’re most comfortable with first then we can explore adding on another service if necessary.
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