“The vast intelligence that orders the cosmos is available to all. The beauty of life, the wonder of living, is that we share creativity, intelligence, and unlimited potential with the rest of the cosmos.
If the universe is vast and mysterious, we are vast and mysterious. If it contains innumerable creative energies, we contain innumerable creative energies. If it has healing energies, we also have healing energies.
To realise that we are not simply physical beings on a material planet, but that we are whole beings, each a miniature cosmos, each related to all of life in intimate, profound ways, should radically transform how we perceive ourselves, our environments, our social problems. Nothing can ever be isolated from wholeness..." (Vimala Thakar).
I came across the above quote by Vimala Thakar in her essay 'Awakening to Total Revolution: Enlightenment and the World Crisis' on the state of humanity and the need for a revolution. Written in 2001 it is a poignantly written meditation on our fragmentation and isolation from one another; on collective politics versus the individual; on our inner versus our outer worlds, and the need to abandon superficiality and prejudices to transform society, and expand our understanding on a global scale - "to become aware of the wholeness of which we are a manifestation" with love and compassion leading the way.
What I love about Thakar's world view, and especially the passage quoted, is the beautiful potentiality of each and every one of us, that she suggests, if only we can realise our inter-connectedness and our capacity to heal. For me, this encapsulates how I feel about Reiki. Reiki allows us to feel and better understand our connection to something greater than ourselves, that also dwells inside us (whether that be the universe or humankind as a whole). Reiki fills me with hope, confidence and the courage to fully step into my potential.
But let me first explain a little about what I have been taught Reiki is and means. Reiki is a Japanese word that translates as 'universal life force energy'; Rei meaning 'spirit, life-force, divine' whilst Ki means 'breath of life, vital energy, consciousness'. According to the Oxford English Dictionary Reiki is "a healing technique based on the principle that the therapist can channel energy into the patient by means of touch, to activate the natural healing processes of the patient's body and restore physical and emotional well-being". Okay good, but what does that mean to you and me, and what can Reiki actually do for us? Well, Reiki can help bring you back into balance when life seems to be spinning off its axis. It can offer a spiritual, emotional and physical journey towards healing, and can also help with self improvement, relaxation, and clearing the path so you can keep moving forward, thriving, living and loving.
Energy medicine has been around for centuries and every culture or spiritual tradition more or less has its own form - Acupuncture, Qigong, Ayurvedic medicine and Shamanism for example. In some cultures disease was seen as a disconnection from the spirit and reconnecting to the source was an essential part of the healing process. Reiki was developed by Mikao Usui in the late 1900s, born into a wealthy Samurai family he was set to inherit the family fortune but fate had other plans and all was lost when his grandfather couldn't pay back a debt. Mikao's life took many twists and turns: he studied spiritual teachings such as Zen Buddhism, Taoism and Shintosism; worked for an eminent politician and travelled the world; he married had children; and started various business ventures, experienced bankruptcy and a subsequent period of depression and life questioning. Without this fall, Usui would not have started his journey of reflection and spiritual development. He would not have spent weeks in isolation on a holy mountain, he would not have had his moment of enlightenment, or in Japanese, 'satori' - "a moment of sudden understanding, of looking beyond the illusionary veil of problems and seeing the world as it really is" (Reiki: Heal your body and your life with the power of universal energy by Torsten A. Lange). Usui had found the light. It is said that on his return from the holy mountain Usui stumbled and injured his foot tearing off a toenail. He placed his hands on the wound and to his surprise he was able to stop the bleeding and the pain through the meditative touch of Reiki.
Usui developed Reiki as a system for connecting with a universal energy and using it to care for people. His hope and intention was that Reiki could reach everyone that needed it and he was able to do so by creating a way to transfer these healing powers from individual to individual so they too could spread the knowledge. Traditionally, in Japanese culture a moment of enlightenment such as Usui had would have been something passed on only within families and not the wider public. Usui wanted to share Reiki with the world. "In modern [times] we have to live together. That's going to be the basis of happiness, earnestly wanting social progress" (Mikao Usui qtd. in Reiki: Heal your body and your life with the power of universal energy by Torsten A. Lange).
I appreciate that not everyone is comfortable with the work of complimentary therapies let alone the language sometimes used to describe what we do. The word energy is used a lot, so perhaps let me give you another way to understand Reiki.
Very simply, energy is everywhere. Relativity revealed that energy and matter are the same. In the words of American Comedian Bill Hicks "all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration". Matter is made up of molecules which in turn are compromised of smaller particles. Even solid objects like the human body, an apple or a tree, for example, are at their base made of particles that are vibrating strings or loops of energy. Energy can be transformed or changed, but never created or destroyed. Research has shown that our cells and tissues also generate tiny electrical currents and magnetic pulses creating a bio-magnetic field around each of us. In the 1920s and 1930s scientists at Yale discovered that some diseases could be detected in the body's energy field before symptoms started to appear, suggesting the question of whether they could be prevented or treated by altering the body's energy field. We know that stress has a tangible effect on our immune systems so if it is possible that positive thinking can change our mindsets and thus effect our realities, is it possible that we can treat imbalance and restore our systems by changing our vibrational energies or bio-magnetic field?
For me Reiki is about creating and holding space; space for the love, joy, pain and beauty of each other. It is about a journey of connection and love. Allowing ourselves to connect to our bodies and each other better, and to love ourselves and each other more. If you're anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, physically or emotionally drained, a Reiki session can help to restore some much-needed balance and to support you through the tough times, it can even boost your mood when the going is great! Reiki isn't a one-hit wonder, and shouldn't be something that you turn to when life has pushed you to your limit. Integrating Reiki as a regular part of your wellness routine will help improve your physical and mental quality of life. We all experience Reiki very differently, and what you experience is right for where you are in that moment. You may feel nothing at the time. All that Reiki asks of you is to have an open mind and be willing to begin on the journey of reconnection with ourselves.
"There is much unexplored potential in each human being. We are not just flesh and bone or an amalgamation of conditionings. If this were so, our future on this planet would not be very bright. But there is infinitely more to life, and each passionate being who dares to explore beyond the fragmentary and superficial into the mystery of totality helps all humanity perceive what it is to be fully human. Revolution, total revolution, implies experimenting with the impossible. And when an individual takes a step in the direction of the new, the impossible, the whole human race travels through that individual" (Vimala Thakar).
Humility. Gratitude. Generosity. Kindness.
** Important disclaimer **
It is important to mention that Reiki is not a substitute for conventional medicine or psychological treatment. I repeat, Reiki is not a substitute for conventional medicine or psychological treatment! Let's be real, if you've broken your arm then you need medical attention!
Also, Reiki cannot harm you or your practitioner in any way, and don't worry you can't pass on your bad vibes either.
Reiki is a complementary therapy and works in conjunction with any medical care you may be receiving. The non-physical aspect of health and healing often is overlooked, though more and more healthcare providers are seeing that spiritual practise, meditation, yoga, dance, visualisation and or positive thinking can boost a patient's health and healing. When the body is in a relaxed and stress-free state we're able to restore our natural healing abilities, which leads to greater harmony and balance within ourselves and in our daily life.