Reiki Healing

This is part of a definition essay I wrote for research class while earning my Master of Arts in Transpersonal Psychology.

Humans have practiced various forms of energy medicine therapies for over 5000 years. Feinstein and Eden, (2008) explain, “energy medicine is based on the supposition that illness results from disturbances in the body’s energies and energy fields and can be addressed via interventions into those energies and energy fields” (p. 44). The National Institutes of Health Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) has classified energy medicine into two categories: biofield and bioelectromagnetic. According to the NCCAM classifications, biofield therapies intend to affect energy fields that surround and interpenetrate the human body (Miles & True, 2003). Reiki is a holistic system of subtle energy healing that is believed to balance the biofield and strengthen the body’s ability to heal itself.

Reiki is a form of energy medicine becoming popular in the West as a biofield therapy used in the treatment of psychological and physiological ailments. Pronounced ray-key, reiki works on the premise that a subtle vibrational blueprint is the foundation for everything that happens on the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual levels. Even the subtlest shift on the vibrational level carries the potential to affect every level of our experience (Horrigan & Miles, 2003). The idea that energy fields impact physical development is not new or without scientific evidence.

In 1909, Owen Frazee discovered that passing electrical currents through water containing young salamanders sped up the regeneration of their amputated limbs. In the 1930s, Harold Burr measured the electrical field around an unfertilized salamander egg and found the area was shaped like a mature salamander. In subsequent research, Burr demonstrated that physical illness is preceded by changes in an organism’s electromagnetic field (Feinstein & Eden, 2008). In 1977, Becker found that tiny currents were more effective than larger currents in stimulating tissue generation. Another example of the effects of energy fields on biological expression is shown in the variations of seed germination after exposing the seed to a healer’s hands.

Mikao Usui (1865-1926) discovered, taught, and began the development of the Reiki system in Japan. After Usui’s death, his student, Hayashi (1878-1940), further developed the system as a practical healing technique without the spiritual practices that Usui included. Hayashi opened a small clinic in Tokyo where Mrs. Takata (1900-1980) received treatment in 1936. After her treatments, Takata became Hayashi’s student. In 1937, she returned home to Hawaii with the instruction to bring Reiki to the West. Takata brought Reiki to America’s mainland in 1973 where she taught the system for the last seven years of her life. 

When we break down the word, rei means universal, and ki means subtle energy. Usui taught his students Reiki is a spiritual healing technique and an energy healing technique (Miles & True, 2003). “Spiritual healing brings fundamental healing by helping us to become part of the universal consciousness, while energy healing centers around removing the symptoms of mind and body disorders” (p. 64).

Reiki is usually a hands-on holistic treatment offered through light touch. Essentially, healers act as a funnel for the energy, and therefore do not claim to do the healing. The universal life energy flows through the healer’s hands into the body of the recipient. During sessions, recipients of the treatment become relaxed, allowing the body to heal itself, possibly by resetting the resting tone of the autonomic nervous system. A full treatment generally includes the healer placing their hands at 12 positions on the recipient’s body. Hands can be placed directly over injuries as well. A session usually last between 60 and 90 minutes. Because Reiki is a holistic modality that supports overall healing and well-being, it is not possible to predict how quickly specific symptoms may respond. Generally, in addressing chronic conditions, a minimum of four treatments is advised (Miles & True, 2003).

Reiki provides symptomatic relief without suppressing symptoms. Reiki will relieve pain, but it won’t mask pain. A sign other treatment is needed is if pain returns as soon as the Reiki hand is lifted. The flow of subtle healing vibration from the healer to the recipient is spontaneous and drawn by the recipient, therefore Reiki does not need a diagnosis in order to work. Since it is patient-driven, there is no over-treating or incorrect treatment (Horrigan & Miles, 2003). The same 12 hand placements are used in each session no matter the symptoms because the healer is treating the person, not attacking a disease. Each treatment is customized inwardly by the recipient who draws the quality of vibration needed. Reiki normalizes the circulation of the subtle vibrational body, which can affect any part of the body.

Healing happens at all levels. Since Reiki treats people not disease it can be useful for anyone. Results are often more noticeable in conditions that have a large nervous or endocrine system component. Relief from pain syndromes, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue syndromes, dysmenorrhea, PMS, and diabetes has occurred after Reiki treatments. Reiki can also help relieve anxiety and stress. The earlier in an ailment Reiki sessions are begun, the better.

Reiki is just as effective in self-treatment as it is when received from another person. After practitioners receive the first level of training, they are instructed to do self-reiki for at least 21 days in a row. The more a healer practices, the easier it is for them to feel the subtle vibrations and pulsations of Reiki. In the Horrigan & Miles (2003) interview, Miles says, “We speak as if the vibration or pulsation is coming from somewhere but in fact, it’s everywhere. What we’re doing is zeroing in on it. Reiki gives us access to that level of reality so that no matter what our emotional state or mental health or physical well-being, we can connect with the pulsation of primordial consciousness and bring it forward” (p. 77). “Reiki is as effective used on oneself as received in treatment because the vibration is accessed from transpersonal primordial consciousness, beyond the individual’s limited biofield” (p. 83).

Hands on is not the only way to give or receive Reiki treatments. Healers can also provide distance Reiki sessions by using a distance symbol and intention. Shore (2004) investigated the results of both hands on and distance treatments. She concluded both forms of treatment were effective in reducing symptoms of depression, hopelessness, and stress. Her findings support the Reiki treatment rather than the act of personal touching as the causative factor.

Although Western science hasn’t completely figured out the mechanisms of Reiki, more than half of 150 studies demonstrated significant results. By commonly accepted standards for establishing treatment efficacy, if Reiki were a drug, it would be accepted as effective (Shore, 2004). In 1996, Americans visited more providers of unconventional therapy than primary care doctors. According to Reiki proponents, Reiki is a holistic method of bringing balance and harmony to our physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of being.

Reiki is becoming a popular form of treatment and therapy in the United States. The fact that Western science has a while to catch up to ancient Eastern wisdom when it comes to our biofields and how they affect our mind, body, and soul doesn’t stop people from seeking energy therapy. I am a Reiki level two healer and have been practicing for over a year and half. I can feel the pulsation of Reiki energy in my palms and, at times, throughout my body. I have also personally seen the amazing effects of Reiki on cuts, minor burns, cats, and overall general well-being. The power of experience appears to have begun bypassing the knowledge of Western science when it comes to holistic health and treatments people are seeking.


Feinstein, D., PhD., & Eden, D. (2008). Six Pillars of Energy Medicine: Clinical Strengths of a Complementary Paradigm. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 14(1), 44-54.

Horrigan, B., & Miles, P. (2003). Pamela Miles Reiki vibrational healing. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 9(4), 74-83.

Miles, P., & True, G. (2003). Reiki: Review of a Biofield Therapy History, Theory, Practice, and Research. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 9(2), 62-72.

Shore, A. G., PhD. (2004). Long-Term Effects of Energetic Healing on Symptoms of Psychological Depression and Self-Perceived Stress. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 10(3), 42-48.

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