Reiki: Real or Ridiculous?

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Reiki, a spiritual practice developed by a Japanese Buddhist in 1992, has developed into various traditions. Some call is palm healing, others label it hands on healing – bottom line, it’s complementary therapy and a form of meditation. That being said, Reiki stands out in the world of meditation – but why?

A traditional Reiki whole-body Reiki treatment would go like this: The Reiki practitioner has the patient lie down and relax on a massage table, and then helps bring the patient to a clear and more peaceful state of mind. The practitioner places his hands either on or above various positions and is kept for a few minutes on each position. The main areas covered by this process are the head, back and front of the upper body, the knees and the feet. A general treatment usually lasts 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

The practitioners believe they are “transferring universal energy (known as reiki) through the palms that allow self-healing and a state of equilibrium.” The process is energizing as a massage and there is a unique emotional/mental level of enhancement that the form of meditation provides. Reiki is unique for having its own array of formats and soundtracks.

A Typical Reiki SessionSome hospitals have adapted Reiki principles in their programs to help cancer patients and other ill-bodied folk. Throughout the country, Reiki has become a regular practice for them. However, according to the American Cancer Society, “Available scientific evidence at this time does not support claims that Reiki can help treat cancer or any other illness. More study may help determine to what extent, if at all, it can improve a patient’s sense of well being.” Backed by the NCCAM (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) on that theory, Reiki has no scientific evidence to help anyone with anything. But then again, the art of meditation and massage has never been backed by science (other than for general relaxation and localized improvements, respectively) – it dates back for centuries and is based on anecdotal results rather than scientific research. There must be something to it; otherwise the tradition would have died down over the years instead of finding its way into modern-era hospitals.  That something is called “the placebo effect“.  Throw in a little confirmation bias, and a dash of  personalized 1-on-1 attention from another person, and you’ve got yourself an “effective treatment“.

The Committee on Doctrine of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops stands strong against Reiki’s practice for Catholics. Issuing a decree stating that, “since Reiki therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it would be inappropriate for Catholics institutions, to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy.” Reiki is not religiously affiliated, but is opposed by religious denominations.

Overall, Reiki seems to stand out in the world of meditation practices with its apprehensive style of practice and controversy in the media. Perhaps the most controversial form of meditation, yet booming and up-and-coming, Reiki practice is growing fast… and who knows? Maybe the great Reiki debates will be fished up in somebody’s net. In the meantime, OMM away!