As a Reiki professional, it has become clear to me that most people have never heard of Reiki. I know that many Reiki practitioners struggle to find the words to describe it – and I have definitely had that problem when trying to craft my one-minute introduction for various networking meetings! There is a temptation to step back into “preaching to the converted”, to share who we are and what we do only with those from whom we think we will get a positive response – to describe ourselves as “alternative” and hope that the people we are talking with are not mentally translating that into “flakey”.
In my view, however, Reiki can definitely be described as “complementary” and I hope to demonstrate this through discussion of the experience of three women – Anne, Barbara and Carol (not their real names), who each faced very different challenges and outcomes but all felt that Reiki was beneficial.
Anne contacted me because she was at the end of her tether due to a ten year history of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome that had recently become more acute. The pain had begun in her left knee but following a fracture and dislocation in her left foot which had taken place about a year before, she still could not bear her left leg to be touched from knee to foot. She woke often in the night from pain and was feeling altogether wretched. The stress and exhaustion she felt because of her pain levels were impacting on her fertility and this, in itself, was causing more stress. Anne had previously experienced Reiki and wondered if it might help her. She chose to have a total of seven sessions, once a month at first and then with increasing gaps in between.
Anne’s sessions followed the usual pattern – that is, she remained fully clothed as she lay on a treatment couch, with a pillow under her head and covered by a soft blanket. I followed a sequence of light-touch hand positions, on or sometimes just off her body, covering both the front and back of her head, torso and legs. I was careful to keep my hands just off any area that was particularly painful. Each session lasted for about an hour, during which time Anne occasionally drifted into a soft sleep or simply lay comfortably in a deeply relaxed state. Reiki practice can engender a state of serenity and balance, not unlike meditation, but is much easier to access.
After her first Reiki session, Anne reported that she had felt emotional for a week or two, as though softening her previously tight grip on her distress had allowed feelings and tears to surface. This was more of a relief than anything and her mother’s feedback to her was that Anne had more colour in her cheeks and appeared less stressed. So far, so positive. However, she now also had acute pain in her right wrist due to a fall and was hoping for a GP referral for physiotherapy. She was not able to work at this time.
Following her second session, Anne reported that her wrist was slowly improving. She said she was feeling quite well, her mood was good and she was coping. When we met for her third session, she had decided to see a homeopath whom she had seen previously, in the early days of her CRPS, and who had helped her then. She had had quite a strong reaction to the first remedy he prescribed but was now taking a second and all her pain was improved.
At her fourth Reiki session Anne told me that this was her first day without any pain relief at all – she had begun to step it down after her second session, working with her GP to ensure that there were no side-effects from the reduction of this strong medication. She was back at work and although her wrist ached at the end of a shift, she was no longer wearing the splint. Additionally, her fertility issues appeared to be slowly resolving.
The next time I saw Anne, for her fifth session, the homeopath had reduced her dose and, as a result, she was feeling “a bit of a dip”. Her wrist was not at all painful but she still had issues with her left knee (the site of her original pain) – however, she had been decorating and felt she may have overdone things a bit! At the next session, there was really good news as she was able to report that her hormone levels were within normal range at her last blood test and her foot was pain-free.
The last time we met, Anne had finished her homeopathic treatment. She had virtually no pain in her left foot and had enjoyed a massage (which would previously have been unbearably painful). She and her husband had put their house on the market and were planning a far more active future life than would have been feasible a year ago.
This is what Anne wrote to me recently, when I approached her about writing this article:
“I really do feel that Reiki has helped me and coupled with the homeopathy has completely changed how I can live my life. The homeopathy has been working to encourage my body to heal its underlying causes while the Reiki has been working on how I feel, at least that’s how it feels. Those early sessions, especially, left me feeling so much better as soon as I got off the couch. Some days I felt so ill when you arrived, I didn’t know what to do with myself and by the time you left I felt so much better and that I could carry on with life again.” So, as Anne reports, her Reiki sessions and the homeopathy treatment complemented each other.
Barbara contacted me to enquire about Reiki after enjoying an initial session at a spa. She had recently been told that she had a recurrence of cancer in her bowel and was facing further rigorous treatment. She had found her first experience of Reiki to be so helpful that she wanted regular sessions whilst undergoing chemotherapy and I visited her at home, weekly, over the following three months.
It is illegal to offer any kind of treatment for cancer itself, but many people are offered Reiki and other therapies through Macmillan centres or hospices because these can complement medical treatment, offering comfort and support to people who are very ill. Barbara found that the deep relaxation of Reiki brought her some ease and made the various unpleasant side-effects of her gruelling treatment more bearable. She also found the sessions to be emotionally comforting and after she learned Reiki for herself, she used it often, both in hospital and at home between our sessions. Sadly, Barbara died as a result of her cancer but her husband has given me permission to quote her experiences, saying “(I) am very happy you use them publicly, and I think it’s very important you mention chemotherapy.”
Carol had been having almost daily panic attacks when she came to me. We worked together, using some Neuro Linguistic Programming techniques designed to disrupt the links between the feelings of panic and the visual triggers that were setting it off. This process can work surprisingly quickly and is very effective. However, at the end of her session Carol felt tired, having worked hard and let go of some quite difficult “stuff”. Because she was feeling and looking weary, I offered her a half-hour seated Reiki treatment which she accepted, despite being worried beforehand that she would feel trapped in the chair and that this would set off another panic. She need not have worried as she was fine whilst sitting in the chair and relaxed deeply during the session – although, as she was seated, she did not actually drift off to sleep. This combination of NLP and Reiki was a one-off process and no further sessions were needed as Carol had no further panic attacks – as she says, “I haven’t had one since!”
In each of these three cases, Reiki was a supportive factor – in Anne’s own words “Reiki has been working on how I feel” while the homeopathy addressed long-standing health issues; Barbara’s husband was adamant that Reiki had helped Barbara cope with the chemotherapy; Carol felt relaxed and revived by the Reiki following some deep work with NLP.
There is one other important area in which Reiki can be described as “complementary” and that is that it works to support the body’s natural healing mechanisms. It is documented*~ that Reiki may help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system – that is, the body’s “rest and repair” mode – and to help our bodies shift away from the stressed-out “fight/flight/freeze” mode in which so many of us live our daily lives. Our bodies cannot do both of these things simultaneously. We cannot rest properly if we are stressed but, if we can relax deeply, then our bodies know what to do to repair themselves – wounds can heal, digestion can take place and so on. And Reiki, as I have observed time and again, can bring about that deep relaxation. For this reason, if no other, I believe that Reiki can definitely be called “complementary” rather than “alternative”.
*Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Volume 56, Issue 12, Sept 2010
~The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine Volume 10, Number 6, 2004, pp. 1077–1081
Note: This article is meant for educational purposes only and is not meant to heal or diagnose any disease. Always consult your GP or a health professional for medical attention and advice.
© Lizzie Carver 2014