Contributor and Editor: Maril Blanchard
Recently, I was the keynote speaker at the 2012 New York Reiki Conference. The theme was Mainstreaming Reiki.
One of the other speakers was Dr. Sheldon Marc Feldman, who is Chief of Breast Surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/ Columbia University Medical Center and a strong advocate for hands-on healing. Dr. Feldman spoke about Optimizing Surgery with Reiki, which was based on his experiences implementing a very successful program where Reiki practitioners are part of the breast surgery operating room team. He also included statistics about the popularity of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in hospitals. Citing research from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), Dr. Feldman stated that the most popular CAM is mind-body medicine, while the least popular is energy medicine.
According to the NCCAM website (http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam):
“Some CAM practices involve manipulation of various energy fields to affect health. Such fields may be characterized as veritable (measurable) or putative (yet to be measured). Practices based on veritable forms of energy include those involving electromagnetic fields (e.g., magnet therapy and light therapy). Practices based on putative energy fields (also called biofields) generally reflect the concept that human beings are infused with subtle forms of energy; qigong, Reiki, and healing touch are examples of such practices. The 2007 NHIS found relatively low use of putative energy therapies. Only 0.5 percent of adults and 0.2 percent of children had used energy healing/Reiki (the survey defined energy healing as the channeling of healing energy through the hands of a practitioner into the client’s body).”
NCCAM’s research results trouble me. Clearly, NCCAM is classifying the system of Reiki as energy medicine. Why would they do that? Isn’t the system of Reiki also mind-body medicine?
As to why NCCAM would classify the system of Reiki as energy medicine, the answer is simple: Many teachers promote only the hands-on element within the system of Reiki, ignoring all its other elements. This is similar to what happened as yoga became more mainstream and many yoga teachers only taught asanas, while ignoring pranayama and other elements of the rich and multi-faceted yoga system. As to the second question, isn’t the system of Reiki also mind-body medicine, my answer is a resounding Yes! The reasons for my answer are below.
Mind, Body, and Energy Medicine
The NCCAM website states that:
“Mind and body practices focus on the interactions among the brain, mind, body, and behavior, with the intent to use the mind to affect physical functioning and promote health. Many CAM practices embody this concept—in different ways. Meditation techniques include specific postures, focused attention, or an open attitude toward distractions. People use meditation to increase calmness and relaxation, improve psychological balance, cope with illness, or enhance overall health and well-being.”
Let’s explore how the system of Reiki actually aligns with that definition of mind and body practices, starting first with the precepts.
Do not anger
Do not worry
Show compassion to yourself and others
If we look closely at these precepts, we see that each is connected to a state of mind that manifests in our brains, our bodies, and our behaviors. For example, when we are angry our brain’s lateral orbitofrontal cortex is activated; our body’s muscles tighten, heart rate increases, and blood pressure rises; and we are predisposed to engage in either passive or aggressive behaviors in an attempt to deflect or eliminate the source of our anger.
Within the traditional system of Reiki, the precepts are offered as guides for daily meditation. For example, when we meditate on the precept ‘do not anger’ we are instructed to focus our attention on anger as it arises, as it impacts our bodies, as it directs our actions, and as it subsides — with the intention of naturally transforming the mind and body of anger into the mind and body of compassion. Given that, meditating on the precepts qualifies as an NCCAM-defined mind-body practice — it focuses our attention on the interactions between brain, mind, body, and behavior.
But, there are other practices within the system of Reiki that also qualify as NCCAM-defined mind-body practices. For example, there is joshin kokyo ho, which is the practice of deep breathing into the tanden/hara. In this practice, we breathe into the area just below our navel and then expand that energy throughout our body and into the universe.
This deep breathing practice is very interesting, from the perspective of NCCAM. According to their website:
“Several mind and body approaches ranked among the top 10 CAM practices reported by adults in the 2007 NHIS. For example, the survey found that 12.7 percent of adults had used deep-breathing exercises, 9.4 percent had practiced meditation, and 6.1 percent had practiced yoga…”
Hmmm….Deep breathing is one of the top 10 mind-body CAM practices. Which means that joshin kokyo ho, a practice within the system of Reiki, is a highly-ranked mind-body CAM practice! That alone would seem to qualify the system of Reiki as more than hands-on energy medicine!
But, joshin kokyo ho is more than just deep breathing. The practice both grounds us in our bodies and opens us to something beyond our bodies. The result is often increased calmness and relaxation, improved psychological and physical balance, and enhanced overall well-being. Given that, joshin kokyo ho also aligns with NCCAM’s definition of meditation:
“Meditation techniques include specific postures, focused attention, or an open attitude toward distractions. People use meditation to increase calmness and relaxation, improve psychological balance, cope with illness, or enhance overall health and well-being.”
Speaking of specific postures and focused attention, we come to a third practice that qualifies the system of Reiki as mind-body medicine: self-directed hands-on healing. Within the system of Reiki, we teach people how to do a hands-on healing on their own bodies, which requires focused attention in a specific posture of hand positions. Given that, self-directed hands-on healing would also seem to qualify as an NCCAM-defined mind-body practice.
Wow! There are three fundamental practices within the system of Reiki
- precept meditation,
- joshin kokyo ho,
- and self-directed hands-on healing
that qualify as NCCAM-defined mind-body practices! When we look at the whole system of Reiki, and not just at one small element, we see that it is mind, body, and energy practices. Given that, NCCAM’s statement that “only 0.5 percent of adults and 0.2 percent of children [have] used energy healing/Reiki” is not only incorrect, it does a grave disservice to the value and integrity of the system of Reiki.
Call to Action
If we really want to mainstream the system of Reiki, then here is how we can do it:
- We need to make sure that we practice and teach all the elements of the system.
- We need to help people (and NCCAM) understand that the system of Reiki is not just a hands-on healing practice or energy medicine.
- We need to help others recognize that the system of Reiki is a complete system that can affect the brain, mind, body, behavior, and energy.
- We need to teach joshin kokyo ho.
- We need to teach our clients to meditate on the precepts.
- We need to teach our clients to do self-directed hands-on healing.
This is a call to action! Expand your own horizon and let the system of Reiki blossom.
Based in Holland, Frans Stiene teaches in North America, Europe, UK, Australia and Asia.
Frans is also the author of Reiki Insights, it is the continuation of his previous book The Inner Heart of Reiki, taking your personal practice and understanding of the system of Reiki yet another step deeper.