Reiki is a system of natural healing that originated in Japan. Rei means “Universal,” and Ki means “Life Force Energy.” In its most simplistic form, Reiki is source energy channeled through the practitioner to the receiver to elevate the vibrations of the energy field in and around the physical body, clearing energy blockages and allowing the life force to flow naturally to restore physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.
For many decades, Western society had been skeptical about energy healing modalities from the East. Fortunately, in recent years, many studies have shown Reiki’s healing effects. Reiki is now offered at many hospitals as a complementary treatment that helps with pain relief, reduces stress and anxiety, induces relaxation, and speeds up the body’s natural healing process.
A quick search on Google will turn up many articles on Reiki’s healing power. In this post, however, I’d like to share my own journey with Reiki and how it has touched my life in profound ways.
My First Experience with Reiki
The first time I ever heard of the term Reiki was at a yoga retreat center in Costa Rica. “Rey-what?!” was my initial reaction. Despite my heritage, my knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine was tangential at best. Growing up in a secular household in Hong Kong, my family rarely went outside of Western medicine for treatment. The mentality was: If there’s pain, there’s a pill. And if the pain is not physical, it’s not real. The concept of qi was something I had come across in Chinese movies set in ancient times but it had no relevance to my life in the modern world.
Over the years, through the practice of yoga, I came to learn about prana. But I experienced it as a form of physical energy, through the tangible movement of in-breaths and out-breaths. I knew it existed because it was something I could physically feel moving through my nostrils to other parts of my body. And just like the asanas, it was forgotten once I left my yoga mat.
So, the first time I heard of Reiki, I couldn’t wrap my head around what it was. It sounded fluff. Is it like a massage? Will you be touching me? Your hands are just going to hover over me and I’m supposed to feel something? With a sense of adventure and a healthy dose of skepticism, I signed up for a session.
During the session, my mind was very active. The energy shifts in my body were subtle yet palpable. The over-analyzer in me was trying to figure out what was going on. At some point, I dozed off. I woke up, a little dazed and confused. What just happened? Just like many other important moments in my life, I walked away with not the slightest idea of how that one hour would later change my life trajectory.
Reiki’s impact was initially subtle. For the rest of the week, I had more energy. My mind slowed down. I walked around feeling lighthearted, curious, and connected with my body, my emotions, and the world around me. When I interacted with people, I looked deeply into their eyes, and truly listened to them, as opposed to talking over them. I felt a sense of peace that I had not experienced in a long time, if ever. I went to bed early and got up at 4:30 in the morning to meditate and watch the sunrise, and then walked up and down the hill before doing morning yoga, something unthinkable to a night owl. I didn’t know what had happened to me but I liked it.
When I got back home to New York City, I was still feeling the residual calm. I was inspired to learn more about Reiki so I could share the healing experience with friends and family. I didn’t know where to start, but I was determined. I went on meetup.com and found Reiki circles to attend. I was that annoying person who pestered people with questions on how Reiki worked. Inevitably, I was always told that, it just does.
On my journey to understand Reiki, I met some interesting folks who introduced me to esoteric spiritual concepts. I read books, attended more events, and found a whole wide universe of people and ideas that I somehow missed in my narrow existence. I began meditating consistently and started viewing my life from different perspectives. I accidentally signed up for a spiritual retreat in Peru that exponentially expanded my consciousness (perhaps another blog post topic!). There was no turning back at this point. And they say the rest is history.
A year after my first Reiki experience, I began studying Reiki. Like a good student, I would sit in the front of the classroom, listen attentively, and ask lots of questions. I thought Reiki was all about hands-on healing, so of course, I had lots of technical questions about the hand positions, how much pressure to apply, what to visualize when I’m transmitting Reiki, etc. etc. etc. My teacher often responded with cryptic answers, and most of the time would just say, “You’ll figure it out.”
My ego was trying to understand Reiki from a linear perspective so that I could be in control of how it worked. But Reiki was unlike anything I had learned up until this moment in my life. The more I approached it with my rational mind, the less it made sense. So, I stopped asking others so many questions and started seeking answers from within. Once I let go of trying to understand it with my mind, a new world opened up where everything was experienced as vibration and energy. Even when I couldn’t explain what I was doing, I could still feel that I was moving, shifting, and transforming energy.
My Relationship With Reiki Continues to Evolve
I practice Reiki as a ritual every day. Yes, it is a form of hands-on healing for myself and others, but it is so much more than that. At its core, Reiki is a way of being. It shows us how to live in simplicity, harmony, and gratitude, if only for one moment at a time. Practicing Reiki means embodying it in every way you relate to yourself and the world – how to see without judgment, how to set the intention for the highest good, how to speak with honesty and compassion, how to act to as to minimize the harm for all involved, and how to conduct our lives with grace and dignity. Of course, as humans, there are times we feel petty, selfish, angry, or fearful. But what Reiki does is to constantly remind us to come back home to who we are and the equanimity of the present moment. The ultimate truth is you could be a healing presence by embodying the teachings of Reiki, without ever laying hands on anyone. Just like how light can eliminate all the darkness in a room, simply by being exactly what it is.
My relationship with Reiki is like a form of modern dance – it flows freely with rhythm and at times delivers some surprising twists and turns. As a practitioner, I have witnessed and have been continually amazed by the wide range of possibilities of what Reiki can do. Some clients shift energy by physically shaking their bodies involuntarily; others release through tears that come in waves. Some experience a deep trance and travel to other realms where they receive messages and visions; others simply feel a deep sense of calm and peace. Some people feel the effects in the moment of receiving; others gain insights days or weeks after the session. In my own case, I felt the subtle physical and emotional shifts right away, but the experience also set me off on a new path of profound healing and spiritual awakening that has forever changed the course of my life.
Earlier this year, I was working with a client who had a terminal illness. I would visit him at the hospital and transmit Reiki to him for over two hours at a time, maneuvering around the beeping machines, leaning awkwardly over the bed, until my back was hurting and I was physically and mentally drained. In my egoic mind, I thought more was better. Or maybe there was a part of me that hoped, if I only tried harder, perhaps his cancer would go away. But his soul already had a plan for him. As I held his hand, both he and I knew that his cancer had advanced too far to be reversed, but he was grateful for the temporary relief from pain that Reiki had brought him. In the end, Reiki didn’t save his life, but it gave him the physical and emotional peace for him to cope with the next part of his journey, if only for a few hours at a time.
One thing I am certain about is that Reiki delivers exactly what the person needs and is ready to receive at the moment, for the person’s highest good. The practitioner is simply a conduit for this infinite source of energy that is pure and loving. This realization is humbling and liberating at once. It is humbling to know that I’m not the one doing the healing, but rather a channel to facilitate healing for those who are ready to heal themselves. It is liberating that my ego has no place in this sacred work – I simply open myself up, let go of any expectations, let myself be guided by a higher wisdom, and trust that whatever outcome arrives is perfect as it is.
The more I work with Reiki, the less I need to understand how it works. I have a deep faith and knowing that it just does. In my early days of practicing Reiki, I transmitted Reiki exclusively through in-person sessions. Even though we had learned to send Reiki across time and space, there was a part of me that was doubtful of whether it could really work. But during these months of social distancing, I hung up my skeptic's hat and leaned in on my trust. I have been sending distance Reiki to loved ones on an almost daily basis, and whether the recipient lives in the same city or halfway around the world, they could always feel its effect. Even though it works like magic every time, I still get excited as if it’s the first time I’m witnessing a miracle. Ultimately, being in the flow with Reiki is about deepening our relationship with the unseen, surrendering our mind to our heart, and trusting there is a force greater than our own. This is a lifelong journey, one that continuously evolves, and is full of delights and surprises every step of the way.