What IS Reiki, anyway?

 If you’re someone who practices yoga or meditation or is somehow otherwise involved in the wellness community, chances are that you’ve heard someone mention the word Reiki. And, if you’re like most people, you probably either thought to yourself how cool it sounded or brushed it off as just another placebo effect those alternative medicine cuckoos are cooking up these days.

Perfectly legitimate responses. Those were my responses, too.

I first heard about Reiki from a friend who did her yoga teaching training program with me in 2016. She was also getting her Reiki Master certification, and she asked our group of yogis if anyone would be willing to let her practice Reiki treatment on them. She very briefly explained to us what the concept of Reiki entailed, but I was left confused. Universal energy? What? It sounded like a load of woo-woo nonsense to me, but I was nevertheless intrigued and agreed to let her give me a treatment.

Before I get any further into describing my own experiences with Reiki, let me first give you the most basic of definitions as to what Reiki is. According to reiki.org, “Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.” The idea is that everything is made up of life force energy, and when our life force energy (our “ki”, if you will) is strong, we will be balanced in mind, body, emotions, and spirit. So, if we can channel the universal life force energy (Reiki) and allow it to flow into the places we need it most, we should feel more relaxed, fulfilled, and connected to our own healing mechanisms. Reiki can be used for anything. It can help with soothing physical pain, easing a heartbreak, calming the mind, rejuvenating the body, making decisions, or even improving our timing. It is usually passed through the hands (whether by actual placement or a hovering position), but it’s also effective when transferred from thousands of miles away. Sounds simple, right? Actually, it is!

I showed up for my appointment with Tara and was not at all sure what to expect. She explained to me that my only job was to lie back and relax while she placed her hands in a series of positions on my body, starting from my head and working her way down to my feet. I, of course, wanted to know what I was supposed to be feeling while this whole process was taking place, and Tara explained that every person’s experience is different, even from treatment to treatment. It sounded a bit like a cop-out to me, but I laid back on the massage table anyway and let Tara begin to work her magic.

An hour later our treatment was finished and I was no longer in doubt as to whether Reiki was a real thing or not. I’d kept my eyes shut for the majority of the treatment, but at one point I physically felt as though Tara was rubbing my stomach, which kind of creeped me out. I opened my eyes long enough to see just what she thought she was doing (rubbing my stomach!), only to find that her hands were merely hovering above my forehead. What the–? A little unsettled but still relaxed (because Reiki, obviously), I closed my eyes again and lay still. The other sensations I remember feeling during that initial treatment were tingly limbs, floaty feet, and an all-encompassing sense of serenity.

Yep, I was hooked.

Reiki is interesting because in order to become a practitioner, there’s not much training involved. It is extremely simple to learn and do, and the main reason you go through a training program at all is so that you can be attuned and actually have Reiki. That is, a Reiki Master has to do a sort of initiation for you and attune you to the Reiki energy so that you also can use it. Once that’s done, you’ll have Reiki rushing into your palms every time you intend to use it. You only have to turn it on! I have also found that Reiki knows when it’s needed and I have more than once felt my palms start to buzz and tingle in the midst of a particularly stressful situation. It’s pretty sweet.

While receiving Reiki is a wonderful experience, I am learning that giving Reiki is almost better. When someone is giving Reiki, the universal life force energy flows through him or her and out through their hands into the receiver. So, each time we give Reiki we are also getting it! I originally believed that I would have to try hard to focus my mind while giving Reiki, but I’ve found that a meditative state sort of descends upon me without even trying. (I always enjoy sharing what the experience of channeling Reiki is like for me, but it’s crazy enough that it deserves its own complete post so I’ll curb myself for now.)

Honestly, I think Reiki is one of those things that just has to be experienced. We can sit and dissect it, we can describe it, and we can try to nail it down into one single, concrete definition. The truth is, though, that Reiki is too big and too far beyond our normal sensory vocabulary that most attempts to clearly explain it will be futile. One of the main teachings of Reiki is that it can do no harm–ever. Reiki always works for the highest good. So, that being said, it is 100% safe to try out with no risk at all. Reiki also works whether you believe in it or not, so no worries if you want to give it a go but are a still a tad (or a ton) skeptical.

Reiki is like that fabulous friend you’re not quite sure how to describe, the one you’re constantly telling others about saying, “Trust me, you’ll just have to meet her!” You’ll be glad you took the time.

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