Healing at your fingertips
Weaving through the wonderful world of healing arts, we often come across the exotic looking word "reiki." How exactly do we pronounce that strange word? "Ree-kigh"? Or is it "rye-key"? How many syllables is it, anyway? Is it "ree-eye-key"? Well, the answer is simple and determined by convention. Would that the way reiki works or what it does were as easy to explain.
The word reiki is of Japanese origin. While the word follows Japanese rules of pronunciation, the accepted sound of the word is more by agreement than by phonetics. A composite word, or portmanteau, it combines the two meanings it embraces. The first syllable is the word "rei" and is pronounced "ray". Almost a homonym, the translation has sometimes been loosely defined as "ray of light" or, more often, as "divine spirit". The second syllable, "ki", is pronounced "key" and is a commonly used Japanese root word. It means "life force". Ki is the universal energy that flows through all things. It is the same energy of life that is utilized or enhanced in such recognized therapies as acupuncture and qi gong.
Japanese culture calls that energy ki. The Chinese use the word chi. They refer to the same thing. Other cultures use words like prana (Indian), hana (Hawaiian), or num (!Kung). Chi is described in over 30 variations by the ancient Chinese Emperor Huang-ti, known as The Yellow Emperor, who ruled China about 2500 B.C. His medical teachings form the Huang-ti Nei-Ching or The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine.
While reiki is a word with Japanese roots referring to very ancient principles and knowledge, it was coined in the modern era by an American-trained, Japanese doctor of theology named Mikao Usui. Reiki as a healing art is much more likely to be found in Western society than in Japan or China.
With reiki, a practitioner utilizes the skill of manipulating and strengthening that life force or ki to help a subject experience healing. While the long-accepted therapy of acupuncture does the same thing using needles and herbs, the reiki practitioner uses only hands and awareness to channel and interface with the subjects life force. In reiki, the practitioner is guided by rei, a "divine consciousness", to manipulate ki, the acknowledged "life energy".
A nice touch
Reiki began its current popularity in the United States in the mid-1970s. Since then, people have used reiki to treat everything from serious illness to minor injuries. In application, a reiki practitioner uses the hands to help orchestrate this healing event.
Reiki is a therapy that is complete in itself. A session typically lasts for about an hour. It is not massage therapy, though many massage therapists list it as an adjunct. In a reiki session, the hands are passively or lightly placed on various parts of the body. Some practitioners even keep the hands just slightly off of the body surface. The subject of the therapy need not remove any clothing and the surroundings are usually kept quiet and subdued. The hand positions are changed about every five minutes. Often the patient feels a warmth or a sense of energy from the practitioners hands.
At the very least, reiki instills a sense of deep relaxation in patients. That in itself is a healing property. Different levels of experience report relief of pain, such as accompany chronic diseases ranging from cancer, arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus and even acute injuries. Some emergency room nurses use reiki to help in trauma cases. In other experiences, people attribute complete healing of diseases to the practice of reiki. At the very core of the practice is the belief that the body has an innate healing ability that can be marshaled by the use of reiki.
The actual origins of the practice itself are believed to be in ancient Tibet, even before the time of the Yellow Emperor. Indian and Tibetan medicine are experiencing a resurgence of interest in the West as Americans in particular turn to alternative therapies to establish and maintain health. The healing modes similar to reiki made their way into the various cultures of the Orient thousands of years ago. They transformed to include the use of herbs and acupuncture and foods and medicines but all were still linked to the basic system of working with the life force. In its original form, working with the life force itself was reduced to using sounds and symbols. In the true root of reiki, drawn symbols and archetypal sounds are crucial in the practice of the healing art. Modern practitioners, however, often do away with the ancient forms and use only a means of touch and awareness.
The founder of modern reiki, Mikao Usui, was born in Japan in 1865. He was a child prodigy of sorts, entering a Buddhist monastery at age four. He studied esoteric spiritual and medical practices as a child, even learning kiko, the Japanese variation of what the Chinese call qi gong. He finished his education by traveling to Europe and China, which was a rare path of study for an Asian. Eventually he earned a doctorate of theology from Chicago University.
Usui had a well-rounded basis in the sciences that extended into mystical and spiritual realms. As an adult, he began what seemed to be a mundane career in business in Tokyo. As a government employee, he made a number of important contacts in what was known as the Health Ministry. Usui was also a member of the Rei Jyutu Ka, a metaphysical group dedicated to developing psychic abilities.
In 1914, Usui felt restless and returned to the Buddhist temple of his childhood to further his monastic studies. During this time, it is believed that he had a revelation and the complete idea of reiki came to him. He had studied the esoteric and the healing arts for most all of his life and one thing that he found in many of them was that the practitioner was often drained energetically when finished. Usui wondered why. He reasoned that if life force were infinite, the healer should be able to tap into it and communicate with it in such a manner as to help the patient and also not deplete it in himself. This internal questioning is believed to have led directly to his own mystical revelation. Usui felt the life force energy and began using it to help and heal others.
At this point, the healing art of reiki existed only as a mystical ability that Usui had experienced and began to use. In the tradition of the Master/Student relationship, Usui began training others. One student, named Chujiro Hayashi, became an initiate. He learned directly from Usui, eventually opening a clinic in Tokyo. Hayashi became a Master and the leader of the reiki tradition. He introduced the specific hand placements involved with reiki and the regimented idea of initiation by a Master. He also began the idea of three levels of study and accomplishment. It was from his ideas in formalizing reiki instruction that we get todays notations of first, second and third degree level reiki masters.
A first-level practitioner is one who has received reiki instruction and healing from a Master. First level recognizes that the practitioner has experienced reiki and learned to attune to the ki energy. The ki energy itself will help guide the practitioners learning. A first-level reiki can use the therapy to give full body treatments to himself and to others.
In second-level reiki, the practitioner is given the sounds and symbols that guide to greater understanding of the reiki practice. These are used in advanced reiki work and absentee healing.
Third level reiki teaches the practitioner to use the ki energy to teach others at level one. It is intended to help the practitioner increase personal growth and awareness.
American woman - from a grass shack to the floor of the House
In the 1930s, an American woman born of Japanese immigrants living in a grass shack on the island of Kauai traveled to Japan. Hawayo Takata was ill and when she arrived in Tokyo the situation worsened to the extent that she was hospitalized. A large abdominal tumor was found and an operation scheduled. She never had the surgery. Instead, a mystical experience led her to Dr. Hayashis clinic. She was healed through reiki and within a few years, became the 13th and final initiate of the Grand Master Hayashi.
In 1938, Takata became a Grand Master herself and before her death, initiated 22 more. She is credited with bringing reiki to the United States.
Since the 1970s, reiki has grown in acceptance. Takata died in 1980 but her legacy of teaching and initiation has expanded.
It is not uncommon to find the nursing profession at the forefront of therapies that help the patient feel better. Many nurses have begun to incorporate reiki into some of their other, more conventional, therapies.
Yale University School of Nursing and George Washington University Medical School are just two of the dozens of teaching facilities offering classes in reiki. The Yale University brochure describes reiki as "an ancient, gentle, hands-on energy healing art that health care givers can incorporate easily into their medical practice. [It] stimulates the bodys homeostatic response, encouraging a return to wellness."
Last year, speaking before Congress to thank them for funding studies of "Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Womens Cancers" at George Washington University, Susan Silver noted that there is a need to investigate "unproven" therapies, while differentiating them from "disproven" therapies. Reiki is one of the therapies Silver described as providing documented proof of relief for cancer patients in the care of George Washington Universitys Center for Integrative Medicine.
People have reported that reiki has been effective in varying degrees in helping people with cancer. So-called "hard science" hasnt proven that reiki cures cancer. No one is willing to, or should, claim that it does. What we do know is that in almost all cases of cancer, the standard treatments of radiation and chemotherapy eventually fail.
If the idea of reiki as a healing therapy seems mystical and spiritual it is because it is mystical and spiritual. Reiki uses a form of energy that is unseen and unheard. Even the most devoted practitioner would be hard-pressed to describe it in Western terms. It is beyond the ken of the Western mind. That doesnt mean it does not work. As with other forms of energy, our science is lagging in the ability to measure ki. However, as Einstein said, "Not all things that count can be counted."
100 years ago, no one could measure infrared energy. Now you use it every day to change the channel on your TV. Your grandparents struggled with the concept of voices coming out of a box after being broadcast through the air as invisible, inaudible, tasteless, touchless radio waves. In time, maybe mundane Western science will measure ki. Maybe not. Maybe it doesnt matter to those who have been helped by it.
by Michael Braunstein
For more articles visit HeartlandHealing.com