It is interesting how language is a question not just of words, but sometimes also of concepts. There is no equivalent in English for the Japanese ki, the Chinese qi (pronounced chi) or the Sanskrit prana. An English term has been manufactured to explain this concept: “life-force energy.”
It is the energy that keeps you alive and healthy. In the early part of the last century, the idea of this energy gave rise to the concept of Reiki, composed of the Japanese syllables rei and ki, and translated into English as “universal life-force energy.”
The Reiki system of energy healing was founded by Dr. Mikao Usui in Kyoto, Japan. Beyond the fact that he was Japanese, very little is known about him with any degree of certainty. Some say he was Christian, some Buddhist. Since Reiki is not a religious process and does not fit into any particular faith tradition, this ambiguity is perhaps quite appropriate.
Reiki teachers agree that Dr. Usui meditated for 21 days on Mount Kurama, near Kyoto, before receiving the Reiki energy and knowledge. Such a period of meditation was not uncommon at the time.
He gave the name Reiki to both the system of healing he founded and the energy it uses. Essentially, the process of Reiki involves the transfer of ki to oneself or another, in order to strengthen the ability to heal from illness, injury or emotional trauma. Although people usually turn to Reiki to heal, the energy in fact also more generally supports emotional well-being, mental stability and spiritual development.
It is the energy of the universe, the energy that is all around us and also within us. Given my Indian background, I understand this energy as prana, which is the force that keeps us alive. In India, when someone dies, you say “he has left his prana,” meaning there is no life-supporting energy left in the body.
The Reiki practitioner simply channels more of this energy to the person receiving Reiki for healing and growth. To become a practitioner, one needs to be initiated by a Reiki Master and taught how to transfer the energy. In the initiation, usually called an “attunement,” the teacher brings the student’s energies into better balance.
All of Reiki is completely non-intrusive. The teacher and the practitioner never use anything other than their intention to help, and their hands.
So what does a Reiki session feel like? This depends to a large extent on what the recipient of the energy needs at the time. At the end of an hour-long session, you may feel totally relaxed, as if you have let go of all the stress you were carrying. Or you may feel like you have received an energy boost that has shaken you out of your listlessness.
Although I never advise my clients to stop medical treatment, I have at times seen quite astonishing recovery from injury or illness after Reiki. When I teach, I tell my students it is not magic – but sometimes it is quite miraculous!
Several years ago, I did distance Reiki for a 19-month-old boy who was in hospital after he had fallen, head first, on a hard surface from the second floor. The doctors were offering no hope. After several hours of Reiki, the boy was well enough to be moved out of the intensive care unit. His doctors were astonished at his recovery and unable to explain it.
This is one of my favourite stories of the “sometimes miraculous” Reiki energy. There are many more.