Ancient art of reiki gaining mainstream popularity

Healing hands: The ancient art of reiki gaining mainstream popularity

Linda Myers considers herself a live wire — in the literal sense.

She likens it to being an electrical cable in which she taps into the energy force of the universe and passes it along to another person.

She does this through performing a hands-on type healing called reiki (pronounced RAY-key). It’s an ancient healing art that more and more people are turning to for relief from everything from a stress headache to major disease.

“It’s in hospitals all over the country now,” Myers says, noting that she’s even part of a new monthly program to introduce reiki to employees of Naples Community Hospital.

“My whole life is dedicated to teaching and healing,” Myers, a four-year practitioner, says of her calling. It’s a calling she practices six days per week and sometimes several times a day, depending on her mood or health or both.

What is it?

Reiki is a combination of two Japanese words: Rei, meaning wisdom of God or higher power, and Ki, which means life force energy.

There are several levels of reiki:

Level 1: Introduction and connection to the reiki energy. Learn to give reiki treatments to yourself or someone else. Concentration is mostly on healing the physical body with hands-on healing.

Level 2: Main focus is sending energy over distance, doing emotional/mental healings and learning other uses of reiki energy.

Level 3: Highest level of reiki energy. Learn to access the maximum amount of healing energy.

Level 4 or master level: For those who want to teach reiki or be able to give reiki ability to others. This is a teacher class.

Source: The Healing Touch, By William Rand

It’s a gentle, hands-on healing technique in which the practitioner places her hands on or near an area of the body. That’s when the energy is supposed to start flowing through the practitioner’s palms.

While reiki sounds like new-age healing, there’s nothing new about it. Hands-on healing has been around for thousands of years and performed by many different cultures.

In Greek mythology, Chiron, the wise centaur, taught Asclepius, the god of medicine, hands-on healing. This practice was so revered that Grecian statues of Asclepius were made with gold-gilt hands, celebrating the power of touch to heal.

In Buddhism, Buddha was said to have a gift for hands-on healing, and in Christianity there are countless stories of Christ’s ability to heal using the laying on of hands.

As the story goes, it was in the 1800s that a Japanese doctor named Mikao Usui became obsessed with healing and extensively researched different hands-on healing techniques from around the world.

It is Usui’s techniques that are used today in a variety of reiki forms.

A calling to heal

Myers is wary at first about discussing her calling to do reiki, as if she is not sure she will be taken seriously. There are many naysayers, she says, and she doesn’t want people to get the wrong idea that she’s a doctor of any kind. She’s a healer, yes, but not of a medical sort.

Dressed in bright purple, she nervously brushes her short, white-blonde hair from her forehead with her hand. It takes a few minutes for her to open up, discussing how she’s a master in seven different reiki “flavors.”

But once she’s comfortable, surrounded by her three dogs on her living room couch, she says simply, “I could talk for days about this. Basically, it’s a matter of sensing energy.”

Her path to reiki healing came rather naturally. She had always wanted to be able to help people and spent decades as a criminologist. “I’m capable of earning a real living instead of living hand to mouth,” she jokes.

Owning her own business out of her Naples home, Healing Hands Reiki, has been anything but easy. But that’s part of her path, she insists.

It started seven years ago when she moved to Naples full time with her late husband who was stricken with Alzheimer’s disease. At first it was a reiki class over the Internet that interested her. It gave her a little reprieve from the daily stresses of caring for her husband. Later, she took a class and realized this was something she wanted to pursue.

The one thing she’s learned is, “Anyone can do reiki,” Myers says. “It’s not how much training … What makes an effective reiki channel is how much you use it — and how you use it.”

And doing the right thing the right way are words that Larry Sellers, co-owner of the Book Trader and The Center of Tomorrow in Naples lives by. A reiki master for six years and trained in two different types — one being a traditional Japanese reiki — he stresses the importance of being up front and honest with clients in search of healing.

“The first thing out of my mouth when I meet someone who wants to have reiki done is ‘Have you seen a doctor?'”

What annoys him is simple. “Too many people who get into holistic healing get a big head,” he says and shakes his head. “It requires a lot of empathy and compassion. How can we help a person if we haven’t walked in their shoes?”

Most of the legitimate people who practice reiki do two things: They don’t tout that they can perform great miracles and they don’t go out and solicit clients, Sellers says. That’s how it is with him.

“I’ve walked into a few hospitals (in Ohio to visit sick friends) and was asked to do it. That’s just how it happens.”

Sellers is an open book about his work with reiki. He’s quick to show his treatment table in the office, tucked in the back of his bookstore. He dispenses philosophical advice here only when asked and listens intently whenever spoken to.

He wears his long white hair pulled back in a rubber band and he’s at home surrounded by dozens of pictures of his children, grandchildren and extended family posted on the walls around his office desk.

There’s a prayer area that takes up a corner of his desk. This is where he keeps knickknacks such as a pair of dice, miniature religious statues — such as one of the Virgin Mary — and dozens of slips of paper. The papers each contain the name of someone requesting long-distance healing, he says, noting he keeps them in his daily thoughts.

What he does is nothing extraordinary, he says. Anyone can do reiki if they apply themselves.

Myers agrees. “Everyone does hands-on healing,” she says. “They just don’t know it.”

For example, she says when mothers rub their children’s backs at night or massage their children when they’re sick, that’s all part of energy healing.

“You know when you bang your elbow and you grab it? Or you have a headache and automatically put your hand to your forehead? You’re doing reiki.” says Victoria Catani-Rossena, a hypnotherapist and reiki instructor at the master level in Naples.

Catani-Rossena is a little different from Sellers and Myers. She began studying Zen Buddhism and other forms of Eastern philosophy at age 13. After years of watching her own mother do different types of healing, she got into it. She now runs her own home business called The Wellness Garden and Southwest Florida Reiki Training. She’s taught more than 3,000 students over the years. And Catani-Rossena — like Myers and Sellers — felt the need to help others, although early on she was quite skeptical that reiki would be the way for her.

“In the beginning, when I was a new student, I questioned it,” she says of the whole reiki healing process. She asked her teacher to tell her what reiki actually was and how it worked. “She gave me an answer which was — at the time — enough for me. ‘If you were to ask me what time it is, I could tell you. However, when you ask me what is time, I can’t.’ “

It was then that Catani-Rossena delved more deeply into energy and its theory. “I’ve always needed answers, have to have proof, although that’s lessening all the time.”

How it works

Every reiki master has a different way of performing what is called a “treatment.” Myers starts by turning on soothing new-age music and then washing her hands thoroughly before seeing to a client.

Her work area is a bright purple cushioned folding table in her living room, just behind her couch. The table looks much like one a massage therapist might use. The patient is told to lay face down and be comfortable and relaxed. She works from head to toe, with only a light featherlike touch over the body. It looks like she’s pushing air down from the top of the head to the tip of the toes. Then she begins to put her hands where a masseuse might on the shoulder area, but only presses gently. There’s no pounding or massaging to relax muscles.

This goes on for anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, sometimes longer if Myers feels the need. The idea is to move the bad energy out and the good energy in.

After the treatment a client is supposed to hopefully feel two things — thirsty and rejuvenated in some way.

Again she mentions she’s not a doctor, but she notes there are several areas on this particular client’s body that seemed to have disturbed energy — the shoulder and the knees. The client nods in agreement with her diagnosis.

Why it works

No one can say exactly why Reiki seems to work on patients.

Sellers says you pretty much get what you put into it. “In some sense it’s like prayer. You create everything with your mind.”

And if a client is able to let go to anger and/or pain and willing to open up to the energy that’s working through him, then it will work on some level.

Catani-Rossena agrees. “I have seen it prove itself over and over with cases that others literally gave up on, such as my autistic client Kimberly, who at 36 learned to do reiki and now holds a job.”

“It’s something you have to accept on faith,” Myers says, echoing Sellers’ sentiments. “It’s a spiritual thing, too.”

At the very least, Myers and Sellers both say that reiki can help with the quality of life for someone.

“There are a lot of good things that come out of this,” Sellers says. “Reiki can help them adjust their attitude.” Or, in the case of someone terminally ill, he says, “It brings them peace.”

And peace is something that people in general are looking for these days.

“We live a life of fear and rush,” Myers says, noting that Americans are in too much of a hurry and don’t take time out to relax and enjoy.

As Catani-Rossena put it, “Our body is very intelligent and designed to heal itself. With the amount of external stresses — be it environmental or emotional — this stress systematically interferes with our natural capacity to heal ourselves.” Plus, she says “We doubt our own abilities.”

All three say each person has the ability to perform reiki on themselves and learn to heal themselves and others.

Basically, it boils down to one thing — “In order to heal, it starts with you,” Sellers says. That’s why he always asks clients, “‘When was the last time you looked in the mirror and said ‘I love you?’ “

Where reiki is going

Reiki healing has become so popular that it’s made its way into hospitals across the country. According to, there are at least three hospitals that have reiki healing programs: Tucson (Ariz.) Medical Center; Portsmouth Regional, New Hampshire; and California Pacific Medical Center. And more are popping up all the time.

“Reiki and other modalities of energy work are actually becoming very mainstream,” Catani-Rossena says. “I have taught many in the health field including doctors. It makes sense to people when it’s explained in a way that resonates with their belief system.”

And Myers is excited about her sharing her knowledge with the employees at Naples Community Hospital through the Arts in Healing program there.

“The program is just finding its way,” says Janet Weisberg, coordinator of the hospital volunteer program that’s been around about 14 months. Arts in Healing is about bringing the arts: be it music, visual art or energy work like Myers’, to those interested.

Reiki is just starting, with a monthly information and hands-on time for employees, but Weisberg says it’s been going well. At this point there are no reiki treatments done on hospital patients. This is all about sharing practices with other healers or interested people in the waiting room.

“It’s cutting edge,” Weisberg says. “I actually think when it’s all said and done it will be a team approach (to healing),” she says of the relationship with medicine and arts and healing programs.

“It used to be that hospitals weren’t a pleasant place,” she says. “We’re changing that.”

She’s proud of NCH for being part of something that other hospitals across the country are doing.

That’s what reiki is all about, Sellers says. “It beaks down those barriers … It’s like a whole new experience.” And the best part? “Anybody can tap into it.”

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