May the Force Field Be with You
Reiki--a type of energy healing--is gaining ground in the mainstream
by Sarah Mahoney
- The 5-Minute Meditation
- Meditation and Post-Exercise Pain
- The Power of Mindfulness
- Visualize This
- Alternative and Complementary Medicine
- Natural Healing
When it comes to the mind-body-spirit connection, I'm open-minded to a
fault. (I once spent a week in a yurt, juice-fasting and doing yoga with
people who didn't believe in swatting mosquitoes, and loved it.) But the
first time a coworker described Reiki to me, it was hard not to laugh out
loud. I have my very own electrical force field, she explained. No, there's
no scientific evidence that this biofield exists, but that's beside the
What's more, my force field was undoubtedly in trouble, not just because
of my own stress, but also because of all the bad electronic energy coming at
me from my computer, TV, and omnipresent cell phone. A skilled Reiki
practitioner--spiritually guided--would set me straight in no time, my
coworker said, simply by laying hands on my body. Once my energy was
rebalanced, I'd not only feel calmer, but I'd also be healthier, because my
immune system would function the way it was meant to.
Thanks, but no thanks, I said, once I finished snickering. I'll just spend
my $90 on a good, old-fashioned back rub.
Soon after, my coworker had serious surgery, and she credited Reiki
(pronounced "ray-kee," Japanese for universal life energy) with helping her
bounce back fast. At that point, I stopped sneering: She looked great and was
taking the stairs two at a time.
The mainstream medical community has stopped sneering, too: About 60
percent of the hospitals included in the U.S. News & World Report America's
Best Hospitals list offer some kind of Reiki program, if only informally,
reports the International Association of Reiki Professionals. Some studies
have shown Reiki to effectively reduce anxiety and blood pressure in
otherwise healthy people, and government-sponsored clinical trials are
underway to gauge its impact on prostate cancer, fibromyalgia, diabetic
neuropathy, and advanced AIDS. But what really got my attention was that so
many of the Reiki masters I read about were also registered nurses--sensible
women with superior skills, not flaky tarot card readers.
Off to See the Wizard So I packed my skepticism in the car and drove off
to Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA, to meet with Karen Pischke, an RN and a Reiki
master, for my first treatment. Pischke stumbled onto Reiki while trying to
ease her chronic throat problems and was fascinated by how well--and how
quickly--Reiki helped her.
"I said to myself, I can't tell what it is I am feeling, but I definitely
feel something," she recalls, "and I felt profoundly better after one
session." Not long after, she started studying Reiki to promote her own
self-healing. Soon, Reiki had changed the way she saw her job.
"So many of us got into nursing for the hands-on aspect of caring for
patients," she explains, "and that's missing in a lot of nursing settings.
Reiki is a way to get back to that." Just how hands-on? Last year, Pischke
administered Reiki for hours at a time to 12 surgical patients, treating them
during prep, throughout surgery, and in post-op recovery. As a result, they
reported feeling calmer, and they healed more quickly than expected.
In her office, I turn off my cell phone and tell her that the whole force
field thing sounds fishy to me. We don't even know if biofields exist, I say.
True, she replies. Then she points out as an example that only recently, the
brain-measurement technology used in PET scans has demonstrated changes in
brain function that come from hypnosis. Maybe, she says, current technology
just isn't advanced enough to find the proof.
She has me hop up onto the table, fully clothed, and slides a bolster
under my knees as I lie on my back. She asks me about my stress level.
Typical working mom, I respond. Right now, concerns about five or six work
projects orbit random worries about the kids. Did I remember to tell my ex
what time to pick up my 12-year-old from her horseback-riding lesson? Will he
remember that he needs to take our 11-year-old to the band concert? Little
to-do lists clutter my head: We're out of ketchup. The big dog needs a Lyme
vaccine; the little one stinks and needs a bath. I left a flat of flowers on
the porch--would there be a frost tonight? That's my brain: noisy, but
Pischke smiles. Next she explains--as all Reiki practitioners are trained
to do before a session--precisely what she will do with her hands, starting
at my head, working her way through my face, neck, shoulders, abdomen, hips,
knees, and ankles. Pischke uses traditional Reiki, sometimes called Usui,
after the Japanese man who invented it in the 19th century. Other methods
exist, but all involve the practioner's ability, through Reiki, to divine a
subject's troubled energy spots and rebalance them.
Are We There Yet?
I look at my watch as we begin, but almost as soon as Pischke lays her
hands on my temples, I get so relaxed that I'm practically delirious. It's a
drifting, lolling, delicious relaxation--like a Saturday morning before kids.
But I am also very aware, and amazed at how hot her hands seem in some spots,
how cool in others. I can feel the temperature not only when she touches me,
but also when she keeps her hands hovering above me, which is the Reiki
style. When she tells me we are done, I am astonished: An hour and 15 minutes
has flown by.
Afterward, Pischke explains to me what she "found": Mostly, she says, the
heat seems to be in my throat area--a part of the body associated with
thyroid function as well as communication. For a writer, maybe that's not the
best area to have clogged. And there was something weird about my left hip.
(That would be the one that's been making odd clicking noises during yoga
class.) She says this chakra--one of several whirling vortices of energy
found all over the body--is connected to survival; I think about my boyfriend
The long drive home to Maine is uneventful, except that my cell phone
won't turn on, even though I know it is fully charged. Unable to check in
with the kids or my voice mail, my brain is so quiet that it feels like
someone else's. Peacefully, I listen to the Red Sox lose as the miles roll
At home that night, I check my e-mail, but don't answer it. Instead, I
play rummy with my daughter before bedtime. The next morning, my son
challenges me to a game of Wiffle Ball before the bus comes. I start to work,
but midmorning, I wander away from my computer. I notice that my cell phone
has magically sprung back to life and that the flowers have survived. I spend
20 minutes planting my window boxes and sit out in the sun, admiring them.
I remember a little sign Pischke has propped up in her office, the
spiritual precepts the inventor of Reiki wanted to pass on:
- Just for today
- Do not anger
- Do not worry
- Be filled with gratitude
- Devote yourself to your work
- Be kind to all people
At the moment, I'm still so relaxed that my brain is fresh out of to-do
lists. For today, I decide, this one will do nicely.