Energy channels

Reiki had initial problems gaining acceptance, but users find a healing energy, writes Clodagh Mulvey

Reiki had initial problems gaining acceptance, but users find a healing energy, writes Clodagh Mulvey

REIKI IS a spiritual philosophy and complementary hands-on healing technique, during which a therapist channels universal life-force energy through their hands into a patient to bring about mental, emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Sound a bit out there? Well, according to reiki therapist Mary Anderson, it is anything but.

A registered nurse for 26 years, reiki therapist for three and treasurer of the Reiki Federation of Ireland (RFI), Anderson says reiki is based on science and insists it is not necessary for a patient to "believe" in it in order for healing to occur.

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"Your body heals itself," she explains. "When we go to the delta state of sleep, the body does its own healing, which is why when you're ill or have surgery, the doctor tells you to get plenty of rest. It's been proven through various studies that reiki will help induce a delta state in the brain.

"In reiki, we learn how to access a higher energy. We channel it and use our hands to bring it to the client. During a treatment, we're connected to the higher life-force which then passes through us so that the client's energy can take from it what it needs to heal.

"It's based on quantum physics theory, all energy interacts with all energy. There's energy everywhere and everything interacts with everything,'' Anderson says.

Renowned as a relaxation therapy - where it is not uncommon for a patient to fall asleep during a typical one-hour treatment session - reiki originated in Japan in 1922 when founder and Tendai Buddhist, Mikao Usui claimed to have received the spiritual power to apply and "attune" others to the practice, following a 21-day retreat on Mount Kurama.

Translated from Japanese, rei means energy/spirit and ki means life force - the therapy has been handed down, teacher-to-student, via spiritual attunements or energy awakenings ever since, with people seeking out the therapy for the relief of emotional and physical ailments.

Office worker Sandra Payne (35) has used reiki on a number of occasions to alleviate stress, and says it helped her cope better at work while going through a difficult time.

"I first came across reiki at the RDS Mind, Body and Spirit show and had a 30-minute taster. I didn't really believe it would do anything for me, I just thought I'd try it out, but afterwards - during the week - I felt like a weight had been lifted off me and I felt less confused about my situation and had more energy.

"It helped me to relax and I started sleeping better. So I went back a few more times and felt I was getting the support I needed to cope with what was happening at home," she says.

Criticised in some quarters for being nothing more than an example of the placebo effect in action and in others as a pseudo-religion which invites evil spirits, reiki has nonetheless taken hold in Ireland with nearly 270 practitioners now registered with the RFI - one of two national membership organisations for reiki therapists in Ireland.

Along with the Reiki Association of Ireland, the RFI is affiliated with the Federation of Irish Complementary Therapy Associations - an umbrella group which lobbies for the formal recognition and advancement of complementary therapies in the Republic.

RFI-registered practitioners complete two levels of reiki training and master/teachers a third. They are insured to treat the public and work according to RFI practice guidelines, devised by the RFI as a first step towards regulation of practitioners, Anderson says.

Such regulation, when it does arrive, may go some way to alleviate a widely held fear that reiki invites unwelcome spiritual presence - a concern Anderson says is totally unfounded.

"A woman once came to me and said she was scared of reiki because she had been told by her church that reiki therapists were 'inviting spirits in from other dimensions'. But, I told her, 'no, that's not reiki'.''

Although clairvoyant and clairaudient, Anderson says her gifts are not necessary for the practice of reiki - rather, good intention is key to her work.

"It's all about intention. I intend for the highest good, the best things that can happen for my client, that's what I intend to happen. Some people think you have to go into this mystical state and sometimes you do get very quiet and intuitive, but I've worked with clients who want to talk the whole time, so we talk the whole time while I do the therapy. It doesn't diminish the effectiveness of the energy,'' she says.

Regulation alone, however, is unlikely to persuade the public that the placebo effect is not simply at work, rather than any spiritual intervention.

Anderson agrees that "maybe sometimes it is a placebo effect", but stresses that scientific research carried out in the US and in Britain - where reiki is now being used in some hospitals as a relaxation technique - has also shown that during reiki there is a physiological effect on the body of the patient.

"Scientific research has shown that when a therapist starts providing energy, there is a place at the base of their brain - at the hypothalamus - that starts to vibrate with a higher vibration and the same thing happens in the client's brain in the same place and they begin to vibrate in unison," she says.

But reiki is a healing therapy in the end, Anderson admits, and is not all about science. The key to a good reiki therapist, she says, is "somebody who's willing to be open, willing to listen and willing to just channel energy".

The facts about Reiki

Founded in 2002, the Reiki Federation of Ireland provides a comprehensive list of practitioners and reiki masters from across the Republic.

Level 1 reiki is for use on friends and family - level 2 is for the reiki practitioner - level 3 is for teaching others. It is possible to become a reiki master in three months, while weekend course offer beginners the basics for personal use. Anderson says the attunements open the student up to different portals of energy relating to power, emotional wellbeing, distance healing, peace and harmony.

"You're introduced to different sorts of energy to use - it's all one energy, but sometimes you need a higher strand of energy than another strand,'' she says. To become an RFI member, therapists must hand in an insurance certificate and show proof of education.

Mary Anderson practises at the Blackrock Market and in Walkinstown, Dublin.