A Skeptic Encounters Reiki

I’m a sceptic by nature, especially when it comes to alternative healing techniques. Perhaps it is because I come from a long line of medical doctors, perhaps it is because I’m a Virgo. But my very first Reiki session was such bliss that I’m tempted to change star signs.

I’ve always been intrigued by Reiki despite my scepticism, mainly because friends swear by it. All I knew about it, was that it is a form of healing and that it works on energy fields. I didn’t know much more because I don’t really understand how energy works. 

What it’s about

Energy medicine posits that living tissues are conductors of electricity, resulting in a biomagnetic field around the body. The heart is said to be the strongest source of electricity, followed by the retina and large muscles.

“Because the blood is a very good conductor of electricity, the whole of the circulatory system pulses with electricity each time the heart beats,” says Dr James Oschman, authority on the scientific understanding of hands-on healing in the Reiki News Magazine.

Any intervention with a living system involves energy in one form or another. Reiki practitioners aim to understand how the body produces different kinds of energy and believe that healing can happen through energy fields emitted from the practitioner’s hands. The practitioner can project healing into a person or remove energy from a site where there is injury or disease.

“One of the ways this works, I believe, is that tissue that is damaged or diseased gives off signals that are induced into the energy systems of the hands that serve to guide you to the right places,” explains Oschman.

Benefits of Reiki

According to my therapist, Markus van der Westhuizen, Reiki:

  • supports the body’s natural ability to heal itself
  • loosens blocked energy and promotes a state of total relaxation
  • strengthens the immune system
  • relieves pain
  • treats symptoms and causes of illnesses
  • vitalises both the body and soul
  • balances the organs and glands
  • re-establishes spiritual equilibrium and mental wellbeing
  • cleanses the body of toxins

My experience

Even though I had done a bit of homework and had a long chat to Markus, I still didn’t know what to expect. Reiki is an individual experience and it is difficult to predict one’s reaction. Markus also mentioned that some people are more sensitive to energy and therefore respond better than others.

I was asked to lie on a massage table – fortunately with my clothes on. He started off by applying gentle, slow, firm pressure to my head. After what felt like ages, I was starting to worry that he might be picking up negative energy radiating from my head. It was only when he started working on the rest of my body, so that I could relax. I expected to feel a tingling or warm sensation, but that never happened. Instead, my experience of this hands-on approach was soothing, reassuring and relaxing.

Because I don’t have any aches, pains or illnesses at the moment, I obviously couldn’t experience any obvious healing benefits.

Markus said that I was welcome to do whatever I liked: fall asleep, just relax or chat away. I chose the silent, relaxed route. As the time went by, I felt more and more relaxed – more relaxed than I’ve felt in months. Gone were my worries about missing the deadline for my tax return, how my child will memorise the G-major scale in time for her exam, and unpaid parking fines.

I was on the brink of falling asleep several times during the session. This is an achievement for someone who can never sleep when the sun’s up. Dignity and vanity were the only things that stopped me from falling asleep – I don’t particularly like snoring in the company of strangers.

The treatment was so relaxing I was pretty disappointed when the session was over. I was in there for over an hour. I guess even Reiki masters need a break.

Spaced out

Afterwards, I was curious to find out whether Markus picked up something I wasn’t aware of. He explained that he had done a general session as an introduction to reiki, using all the different hand movements, and that his aim wasn’t to heal any particular ailment. And I must say, I was pretty chuffed to find out that I “respond well to energy”. Now that’s a compliment I’ve never received before!

A session can last anything between 45 minutes and two hours, depending on the individual and his/her needs and on how long the Reiki flows. Markus charges R200 per treatment, regardless of the length of the session. The price includes pre- and post-treatment consultations. The number of sessions depends on the needs of the client. One can go for a once-off session purely for fun and relaxation (as I did). If you are seeking treatment for an illness or emotional problem, three to 10 sessions may be needed, depending on the severity of the illness.

Reiki is something I would definitely like to try again because it was so pleasurable. I would also like to try it when I do have a condition that needs treatment. I drove back in a state of bliss and felt slightly spaced out. Not even taxi drivers or car guards could irritate or upset me. I think everyone should treat themselves to such a session at least once a month – if nothing else, it will certainly eradicate road rage!

More about the history of reiki

Markus explains that Reiki (“aura” in Japanese) was founded by Mikao Usui in Japan in the late 19th century. Usui trained many people to become reiki masters, who in turn taught others. There was initial resistance to training people who live outside of Japan, so Reiki is relatively new to the West with the first practitioners being trained in the early 1970s.

“Even in the time of Usui Sensei there were many branches or forms of Reiki being taught and being practised in Japan. The term ‘Reiki’ was used to describe any form of energy healing – pretty much like we use the word these days in the West,” says Markus. “I practise and teach Usui Reiki Ryoho also known as Usui Shiki Reiki Ryoho which translates to ‘Usui’s method or aura (or energy) healing’. Usui Reiki Ryoho is the form of Reiki that was first introduced in the West in the 1970s by Mrs Hawayo Takata. This is what most of the more modern branches or forms are based upon.”


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