Saying Yes! to Community Reiki Wellness Days

Paula Michal-JohnsonArticles, English 1 Comment


Last year I received a call from a volunteer planner who asked me to participate in a Wellness Day as a Reiki practitioner for The Clubhouse — about ten miles away from my home. I agreed because friends of mine were doing yoga & Indian chanting. Why not? So I packed my massage table in the back of my car and off I went. I arrived at a nondescript –two-story beige block of a building. We had to sign in at the front desk, which seemed quite official. Then I hauled the table with my wonderful, magical transporter into the space they had allotted for it.

That first year, I heard incredible claims by people who crawled onto the table for Reiki treatments. One woman, absolutely amazed, kept repeating over and over again, “I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it. I didn’t have a thought for 20 minutes.” Clueless, I said something inane like, “good for you!” She countered, “You don’t understand, I have OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder.” Clearly I hadn’t understood the nature of her experience or that I was in a rehabilitation facility for people with relatively severe, diagnosed mental illnesses. Smile. As the light dawned on me, I was even more impressed with what Reiki can do. I entered clueless, without expectation and look what showed up! The humor in this still affirms that the Great Bright Light will help you show up when opportunity knocks.

This year it was a little different. We have a program we call In the Heart of Reiki: A Path of Service as a part of Classical Reiki Pennsylvania. We have many students and community members who volunteer in hospice or join us for wellness/spa days at Senior Centers, nursing homes and the like. I used the handy-dandy Reiki Treatment materials Frans and Bronwen have on the Reiki Tools CD, had my cards out and our consent forms. Our routine for working with people, who signed up at 20 minute intervals, emerged in conversation. We would ask what they knew about Reiki; most knew nothing. We described Reiki, the hand placements, and invited our volunteer clients to breathe into the area below their belly buttons, imagining that their breath would permeate their bodies and move into the space around them. Sound familiar? While they were doing a version of Joshin Kokyu Ho, we began our preparation practices, dry bathing, and setting our intentions and inviting our clients to craft their own intentions for the session. We saw more than 20 people during this 1 day event—18 years and older.

Working in Public Settings- Adapt

Three people from my Reiki community, two students, and a Jikiden practitioner arrived sans expectations– never having done Reiki in a public setting. We set up the room for two tables. Never mind the drumming group across the hall banging out beats with syncopated rhythms or the Tai Chi practitioner next door who was clearly audible through the partition. We just asked our recipients to focus even more on their breathing as they heard the sounds from the other spaces. They would come back into their own bodies and feel their breath coming in slowly through their noses and imagining it moving into their bellies. For practitioners, distractions were just opportunities to use the jumon of Symbol 1 to come back –to focus. In terms of byosen and hibiki, we felt the same kinds of phenomena that we do in typical sessions. But in some cases the intensity of the warmth, tingling, or the pain we felt were signals to stay a little longer and were more pronounced than usual. Uniformly, after each session, no one was ready to get up from their places of quiet and calm.

Expect Reiki will Assist you in Experiencing Nonduality

Humans predictably classify people, places and things creating duality. In most cases, we did not know if people signing up for sessions were from the center staff or client populations. Because we were essentially in the dark and did not know program client from center staff, we were challenged not to judge. It was clear—there is no normal. To quote singer /songwriter Bernice Lewis, “Normal’s just a setting on the washing machine.” Some folks just have more of challenges to work with than others. We marveled at the ability of each person to navigate through the process of receiving willingly. Although curiosities did arise, it was clearly not useful to label people as with a diagnosis or without. We knew that assessing others “normality” was not our reason for being there.

Opportunities to Embody Professionalism with Recipients

It was satisfying for my students/colleagues to experience working in a professional capacity. We learned how to be fully present in an environment that was not our own. We followed the protocols IHR offers in Okuden for professional treatments, insuring that everyone signed their consent forms. Other practitioners who came in for sessions after their shifts were over noticed. “Ah, you have permission slips! I think I will use those next time.” So our preparation, meditations, our focus, and attention to the recipients was apparent to others. As a teacher, I was delighted with the dive into a totally new arena for my crew. It provided teachable moments for my students/colleagues. We learned, in case there was any doubt, that we were capable, and able to transport what often happens in our homes, student practice nights, or in Reiki shares, into a community-based organization.

Receiving Reiki

In this section we just want to offer several examples of folks who signed up for sessions to give a tiny window into our 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. day. A heavy smoker, tucked her cigarettes in her bra and stuffed her keys into her jeans. She didn’t want to leave her keys on the table. A little rough around the edges, she announced abruptly that she wasn’t closing her eyes, she spoke animatedly, loudly and intermittently in the session. Nonetheless, she received so brilliantly. She voluntarily closed her eyes, relaxed, fell asleep, with strangers around her and was deeply grateful for the opportunity to be in a safe space. Before she fell asleep, she was able to say, “I feel too much pressure on my stomach.” Hands went off the body in response. She got that her request had been received. Someone listened.

Our last recipient, a really tall man, whose feet eventually hung off the table. seemed a little reticent to have a session. So I said, “well, maybe you can catch us next year.” He said “Oh, I’d like to do this.” His speech was haltingly slow, perhaps he was heavily medicated, it didn’t matter. He was perhaps our best “breather”. He was able to reach a space of peace in the session that was new for him. He asked what we could tell him to do after the session and we reminded him about the breath, “Focus, In breath –Nose, to belly, out through your body.” In a very basic way, he could see that it made a difference.

The conference organizer of the volunteer wellness day event was happy to experience Reiki. Her body was overworked with the business of the day. Having two sets of hands on her, eased the stress and transported her to that place of deep relaxation. Before the session, it had just been a modality on the list. She felt it, she internalized it, she valued it.

The Student/Practitioner

A newly trained Okuden student, was “very thankful for the experience of practicing Reiki in a public setting and for the positive response from all of the participants (both patients and staff). The power of Reiki was definitely present – even with the challenges of hearing drumming and several conversations from the next room and in the hallway during the sessions! “ She was able to use her symbol 1 jumon to bring her own focus back when her ears were drawn to the thumping of hands on drums or people talking in the halls. She noticed, “the treatment recipients came to the experience frazzled and with questions and left relaxed. Most had questions about how to receive more. The system of Reiki had an impact on them and they were drawn to learn more. Wonderful! 

Equally inspired, one was amazed that practicing Reiki in a noisy public setting with “people unfamiliar with any vibrational modality – still resulted somehow in a cohesive flow.” It was clearly worth the effort. She noted, “Sharing the spiritual energy (Reiki) with others, was so rewarding.” She was grateful for the opportunity to take part in a setting new to her and one that was enlightening on so many levels. 

Another of our volunteer Reiki practitioners said, “Remember when I received my first attunement, I told you I felt I had received a portal? Then I read The War of Art where Steven Pressfield wrote that we are the portals. Our ability to open our own portals through and with Reiki helped two resistant bodies (highlighted above) relax and find their own portals to receive exactly what they needed.”

So feel confident that your training through IHR offers the skills you need to take Reiki on the Road! In this exchange it was great to give and receive. So the best advice for anyone ready to take the plunge is keep the Gokai, the Precepts, at the ready. Just for today, do not anger when drumming starts next door. Do not worry when you witness behavior you haven’t seen before. Be humble, show gratitude for the willingness of people to try something new. Do your work with diligence, say yes and model what you have learned. Be kind and compassionate, stay open and allow yourself the freedom to venture into unknown territory.

Paula is an active Shinpiden graduate of the International House of Reiki and a teacher/ practitioner. She can be reached at

Comments 1

  1. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Paula,

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Doing hands on healing in settings like that is a great way of bringing awareness to people about their own healing abilities.



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