Reiki is a time-honored healing art originally practiced by Buddhist monks over two thousand years ago in mountainous Tibet. Although called by a different Pali name at the time, the Japanese word (pronounced ray-kee) literally translates to “spiritually guided life force energy.” It has parallels to the concept of Chi from traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. The current practice of Reiki therapy was developed in Japan by Mikao Usui starting in 1922, and it was brought to the United States by Dr. Chujiro Hayashi and Hawayo Takata in the 1930s. Today, the two most predominant forms of Reiki are called Karuna and Usui. Individuals acquire the ability to administer treatments through the process of attunement given by a trained, certified Master. The practice itself consists of various hand placements positioned over the body and the use of specialized symbols, each with their own frequencies and healing properties. Patients commonly report a significant reduction in stress and pain levels along with increased relaxation following a typical session. Although it originates from Eastern schools of thought, Reiki itself can be practiced by individuals of all faiths, and the practitioner serves as a channel or conduit of universal healing energy for the patient undergoing a treatment.
My journey with Reiki began three years ago when I completed the level one Beginner Course and then went on to receive Masters Training in both the Usui and Karuna forms. Wanting to put my newly-gained skills and abilities to good use, I started working as a volunteer practitioner at a shelter for domestic violence survivors with the Oklahoma City YWCA. The experience for me was incredibly humbling and rewarding. I would often see the patients enter the exam room for a session feeling tense and in pain from the trauma they had endured and leave with a renewed sense of mental and physical well-being.
My interaction with one specific patient, a young woman in her 30s, was particularly meaningful to me. When I first met her, she apprehensively walked into the exam room and remained largely silent as I explained the treatment to her. Once the session was completed, however, she surprisingly opened up and informed me that her partner had recently shot her in the upper chest and left arm over a domestic dispute. The surgeons had been able to remove the bullet fragments from her wounds, but she was still in considerable pain from her injuries. I expressed my sympathy, told her I was glad she was receiving proper medical care, and commended her for showing admirable courage as a survivor. She thanked me and left soon afterwards. A couple of weeks later, she returned for a second session and seemed a completely changed person. Greeting me with a smile, she walked briskly into the room and informed me the doctors were surprised to see her wounds healing much more quickly than expected and that she was now regaining full sensation in her left hand. I congratulated her on her recovery and, to this day, she remains an inspiration for me to continue offering Reiki therapy in order to make a positive impact for my patients as a future practicing physician.
Historically, Western allopathic medicine has had a dismissive attitude toward complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). As a good friend of mine and OU college of medicine graduate specializing in psychiatry once put it, the West’s distrust of CAM often reflects deep political, cultural and economic biases that tend to focus exclusively on physical symptoms through a biologically reductionistic perspective. However, Reiki’s popularity and acceptance among the medical community has steadily risen over the past few decades in the US. At this time, over 70 medical centers nationwide offer it as a complementary treatment to their patients, including Boston Children’s Hospital, Yale New Haven Hospital and the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Clinical research studies have shown that it significantly lowers pain, anxiety and memory impairment while effectively stabilizing vital signs. Randomized controlled trials have been conducted on patients receiving chemotherapy, diabetic treatment, and post-surgical care. Although the current research offers promising results, more studies and trials are needed to confirm Reiki’s therapeutic effects using larger sample sizes with more rigorous data collection procedures. My hope is that one day, we will be able to bridge the gap between traditional allopathic medicine and alternative energy-based treatments in order to offer patients the most holistic, compassionate care possible.
For anyone interested in learning more about Reiki itself, please visit the website for the International Center for Reiki Training at www.reiki.org. I’ve also included a list of some research studies showing the beneficial effects of this energy-healing treatment. Last but not least, I personally would love to hear from readers, so feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to share your own experiences and perspectives on holistic, integrated patient care.