Tall trees overhang the winding road of Maple Street in Ellington, Connecticut. Tucked behind the big white house at 52 Maple sits a cottage with a big purple sign reading: Thistle Glass Crafts. Crystals, Minerals, Stone Jewelry, and Reiki Energy Sessions. Approaching the cottage, metallic wind chimes twinkle near the entrance. That soothing sound is the first of many charms in Mary Thompson’s shop.
At about five feet tall, short haired and rosy cheeked, middle-aged Thompson pets her tiger-striped cat that’s sprawled out on the counter while talking to a customer. Thompson’s forearms are lined with bracelets made of stones resembling a mossy blend of colors, and they clatter as she holds up a stone wrapped in wire. She tells the long-haired brunette with drapey black clothing to rub the stone and give it some love. Her voice is sweet and calming, but you can sense how serious she is that you should rub the stone. Her little giggle after “give it some love” lets the woman know she understands how funny the instruction sounds.
Reiki originated in Japan. According to the Oxford Dictionary, reiki is, “a healing technique based on the principle that the therapist can channel energy into the patient by means of touch, to activate the natural healing processes of the patient’s body and restore physical and emotional well-being.” There are many myths and legends as to how it truly came to be, but most healing practitioners credit the discovery of reiki to Mikao Usui. Reiki researchers, Hiroshi Doi Sensei and Toshitaka Mochitzuki Sensei, trace reiki to before Mikao Usui. “In 1914, Matiji Kawakami, a Japanese therapist, created a healing style he called Reiki Ryoho and in 1919, he published a book titled Reiki Ryoho to Sono Koka, or Reiki Healing and Its Effects.” Many reiki masters refer to reiki as being rediscovered, but it’s impossible to know when it truly all started.
Reiki really came to life for Thompson in 2000. She went to an astrological fair in Manchester, Connecticut where she saw reiki done for the first time on her sister, Marge. Marge said that she was extremely nervous the first five minutes and then everything just calmed down.
Thompson has a calming effect on her customers. A woman browsing her shop received a phone call. After she hung up, she started to cry and said that she was sorry but had just gotten news that her rabbit had just passed away. Thompson went to her as she wept and told her that everything happens for a reason, he’s in a better place, and that she must take a stone for some healing. Thompson offered a box filled with stones. The lady picked a blue heart shaped stone and said she would put it in the box with her rabbit. They hugged, and leaving with her new stone, she turned and thanked Thompson again for her kindness. After the woman left Thompson let out a sigh, “People I can do, but animals…” her voice trailed off with the small shake of her head.
Reiki can be used in a lot of ways: to relax, treat depression or anxiety, to locate an area of pain, or to cleanse bad energy. Thompson had a rather extraordinary experience providing reiki in one of these cases. A young high school girl came into the shop not feeling well, not too sure what was wrong. Thompson insisted on administering reiki to figure out what may be going on. She used the tingsha also known as a “singing bowl.” This is a bowl that when one strikes the two metal pieces together it creates an echo of sound. It is known to clear space of negative energies, and heal or balance auric fields. She rang the tingshas over the girl’s body, looking for any sign of negative energy radiating off of her. She went past her stomach, heard a slight change in the tone, went over her stomach a second time, and the tingshas stopped ringing all together. Thompson asked if her pain was in the stomach area and she answered that yes, it was, and that she had recently seen a doctor who believed she may have a stomach ulcer but nothing had been tested. Thompson suggested she get it checked out right away because something was definitely wrong in her stomach area.
Reiki healing has been characterized as a “voodoo” practice that have lead people to believe it’s all nonsense. Reiki is not just a placebo, it can be effective. According to Thompson, the entire process is spiritually based. “It is very spiritual. It is a spirituality type which is the Great Spirit. Life force energy.” She points upwards with her index finger and a raise of her brow. “I always tell people when they come into the store, I say look, “For me things are just culturally different. When you start learning about religions and healing and everything, around the world typically they are all the same. They’re just culturally different. The root of the religion comes down to the same fundamental thing.’”
Whether a person is spiritual or not, reiki can be used as an antidepressant to help heal the mind. Creating a relaxing and stress-free state of mind does much for a person when treating depression. The International Association of Reiki Professionals believes, “One of the most common symptoms of depression involves withdrawing from friends and family or feeling disconnected from others. Reiki provides depressed clients with the opportunity to connect with a caring, compassionate practitioner.” Reiki treatment for mental health may be covered by health insurance if it is employed as a medical necessity. If the insurance company does not approve the treatment, one may also set up an FSA (flexible spending account.) Through any healthcare, an FSA allows you to use pre-tax dollars to pay for eligible health care expenses.
Complementary Health Practitioners in the Acute and Critical Care Setting: Nursing Considerations published in the journal Critical Care Nurse by nursing professor, Debra Kramlich, examined the integration of complementary and alternative medicine. These are any range of medical therapies that fall beyond the scope of scientific medicine. A 2010 survey of complementary medicine found the top six alternative treatments included “pet therapy, massage therapy, music or art therapy, guided imagery, relaxation therapy, and Reiki and therapeutic touch.” Patients are requesting alternative medical practices. “Hospitals are increasingly integrating CHA (complementary health approaches) with their conventional medical practices to create healing environments.” Reiki and other CHS treatments are in demand. And they are showing results. Kramlich concludes, “There is growing evidence to suggest a biological basis for the reduction in pain and anxiety reported by patients receiving CHAs in acute care settings.”
The medical world is driven by data and testing to explain how something happens and why. If reiki is showing tangible results for patients, perhaps it’s time Western medicine takes a step back and appreciates the good that can come from reiki, rather than questioning the science behind it. Thompson said it best, “If there is a strong enough belief that the reiki is doing the healing, I don’t care how it works.”