What is Reiki?
Have you heard about reiki, the energy healing system that’s been growing
rapidly in popularity over the last several years? Curious about getting a session
but not sure what it’s all about?
Simply put, reiki means “universal life energy”. It originated in Japan in the early
twentieth century when Dr. Mikao Usui, a Buddhist monk and spiritual seeker
climbed Mt. Kurama in search of enlightenment. After twenty-one days of
fasting, Usui is said to have felt a powerful surge of energy enter the top of his
head and with it, the ability to heal. There is some speculation, however, that he
was merely rediscovering an ancient healing force known to humans since the
dawn of time by other names– prana, spirit, etc.
Usui returned from Mt. Kurama a changed man, and began offering his healing
services to the poor. He founded a clinic where he taught many students his
healing system of reiki, some of whom brought their knowledge to the west,
which is how we have reiki in America today. It is likely that Dr. Usui was
influenced by traditional Chinese medicine, Qigong, acupuncture, and other
eastern healing arts when he developed the Reiki system. It is channeled from
therapist to client by means of touch to promote both physical and emotional
healing. Despite its roots in Buddhism, reiki is not affiliated with any religion or
religious teaching; rather, it is a universal force accessible to anyone, across
My own journey with reiki began a few years ago. I attended a restorative yoga
class that promised a few minutes of reiki to each student during savasana , the
final resting pose of class. As a graduate student at the time, I was steeped in
rationality and the scientific method and more than a little skeptical about the
mysterious healing energy of reiki. Nevertheless, my curiosity got the better of
me, and I went. When it was my turn, the teacher placed her hands above my
forehead. I felt a burst of heat flow from her fingertips and into me, and a strong
sense of calm ensued. Afterward, I felt like I was glowing. “I think there’s
actually something to this!” I confided to a friend with surprise.
A few months later, I sought out a full reiki treatment to help with knee pain. Two
practitioners worked on me at the same time, which was lovely. I was soon
engulfed in a shroud of warmth, beyond the place of conscious thought. To me,
reiki energy feels like a warm embrace–it is safe, comforting, and
all-encompassing. Other people experience reiki differently– some people feel a
cold or tingling sensation, for example– but that’s part of the beauty of it. Reiki is different things to different people, and it gives us what we need in that moment.
Reiki is still somewhat of a mysterious modality to me, even though I am now a
certified practitioner. I don’t know exactly where the energy comes from,
although I can feel it flowing through me. My reiki teacher says it’s the energy of
the universe, and we as practitioners are conduits. Others say we are simply using
our body’s energy field to help balance others’. No matter what you believe, you
will almost always walk out of your reiki session feeling different and better than
when you came in, and ultimately, that’s what matters.
I received an atonement to reiki, which means I will be able to tap into and share
reiki with others for the rest of my life. Sometimes clients request a full
treatment, although more often, it simply enhances my massage sessions. I
usually recommend it to folks who need something gentle, particularly after a
surgery or illness. However, everyone can benefit from reiki. So give it a try–you
might be surprised.
Contributing Writer: Sarah Grimes