Reiki Master and author of Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide, Pamela Miles explains how the therapy can be integrated into Western medical practice.
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By Pamela Miles
September 11, 2006
Ralph had been a vital senior citizen enjoying his Manhattan lifestyle until his early eighties. Depression came on suddenly and inexplicably. The insomnia and loss of appetite forced him to stop volunteering at the hospital. Soon he wasnít socializing at all and had no interest in getting out of bed. Friends urged him to see a doctor, and Ralph was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. But after a year of shifting medications and tweaking doses, the psychopharmacologist had not found the right mix to make him feel better. And now it was unclear how much of the problem was due to side effects of the medications.
We all know how stressful everyday life can be even when we are healthy. Now imagine adding the complications of chronic health conditions and side effects of multiple medications. Serious and chronic illnesses can bring an overwhelming level of stress that needs to be addressed to enable the healing process.
On the advice of a friend, Ralph learned to practice Reiki and gave himself treatment every day, sometimes several times a day. While he continued to work with his psychiatrist to balance his medication, the Reiki treatments were helping him to feel better. His doctor, noticing Ralphís improvement, made a point to educate herself about Reiki.
As the mainstream medical community increasingly recognizes the impact that stress can have on patients and the benefits of stress-reducing therapies for quality of life and medical outcomes, stories like Ralphís will become more prevalent.
Reiki is a healing practice that restores balance to body, mind and spirit through gentle touch. People can learn to practice Reiki on themselves, family, friends and pets, in 8-12 hours of class time. Once trained, the practitioner acts as a conduit for subtle healing pulsations that flow when the practitioner places hands on either herself or someone else in need of balance. The flow of healing pulsations, called Reiki, is spontaneous according to the need of the person receiving treatment. Just as a dry sponge only absorbs as much water as it can hold, people will stop drawing Reiki when they have received what they need. Although the experience of Reiki is individual and subjective, recipients often experience soothing warmth in the practitionerís hands, or gentle waves of subtle energies moving throughout the body. Whether they are self-treating or receiving Reiki from another practitioner, recipients typically feel relaxed and centered after treatment.
It is estimated that over two million Americans of all ages have learned to practice Reiki to maintain their well-being; speed recovery from injuries, illness and surgery; support conventional medical treatment; and minimize side effects of medications. Doctors and nurses who learn Reiki self-treatment recognize that Reikiís ability to quickly relieve acute distress can benefit patients in conventional medical settings. They also recognize that Reiki is safe. Because there is no substance to ingest and Reiki touch is light and not manipulative, Reiki can be used safely alongside any medical intervention.
Practicing Reiki self-treatment or receiving Reiki from someone else while undergoing conventional medical treatment can be helpful because many needed medical interventions, such as surgery, chemotherapy, or bone marrow biopsy, are invasive and stressful. Reiki supports the healing process by restoring overall balance and helping the patient feel better. This sense of feeling better contributes to enhanced quality of life and can lead to better medical outcomes. Reducing stress means that the bloodstream is not constantly carrying a load of stress hormones. Deep relaxation brings biochemical changes that help the body to heal. Many patients feel that Reiki shortens recovery time and reduces side effects of medications.
On the strength of observed benefits and the consensus that Reiki poses no harm to patients, this gentle healing practice is increasingly available in hospital care either through dedicated Reiki programs or in broader complementary therapy programs that include Reiki in the menu of services. Portsmouth Regional Hospital in New Hampshire started a Reiki program in 1995. Reiki was originally offered to patients before surgery, but the response was so positive that soon the staff Reiki practitioner was responding to requests throughout the hospital. More than 2000 Reiki treatments are given each year. In New York City, Reiki is offered to patients at Childrenís Hospital of New York-Presbyterian (Columbia University Medical Center), Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and St. Vincentís Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The Institute for the Advancement of Complementary Therapies (I*ACT) has partnered with St. Vincentís Comprehensive Cancer Center to offer Reiki to cancer patients. Some patients make appointments to come for full Reiki treatments, during which they lie fully clothed on a massage table. Other patients request Reiki while they are sitting in treatment chairs receiving chemotherapy because they feel it helps them relax and be more comfortable both during and after the treatment.
A patientís state of mind doesnít just affect his care. Anxious patients are often demanding of their caregivers, and emotional outbursts in the doctorís office or a treatment center put other patients and staff on edge. A brief Reiki treatment can ease the delivery of conventional medicine by bringing a sense of calm and steadiness to an anxious patient, contributing to a positive, caring ambience for everyone.
Research into Reikiís effectiveness is just beginning, but the small studies that have been done support anecdotal reports of Reikiís ability to reduce stress, pain, and anxiety. There are also data suggesting that Reiki may strengthen the immunity. The NIHís National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine currently has four research projects investigating Reikiís benefits for patients with fibromyalgia, prostate cancer, diabetic neuropathy, and advanced AIDS. As these studies continue, Reiki is being used in every conceivable branch of conventional medicine, from infertility through labor/delivery and pediatrics to end of life care, when Reiki relieves pain and promotes peace of mind for both the dying and those being left behind.
When using Reiki, it is important to remember that Reiki does not treat conditions; it balances people. Any benefits that an individual may experience, such as reduced pain, anxiety, or spiritual suffering, or improvements with digestion, depression, insomnia, memory and focus, are the result of enhanced overall balance. This is why Reiki can be valuable in a wide range of situations, and why it is useful not only to address health concerns, but also to maintain well-being.
As long as it is used responsibly as part of a comprehensive medical treatment plan,
Reiki can be a valuable part of any wellness program. However, when someone is seriously ill, donít expect Reiki to be the only treatment needed. At such times, itís reassuring to know that Reiki can relieve physical, emotional and spiritual suffering, restore a sense of wellness, and help patients to better tolerate even the most invasive medical interventions.
Pamela Miles is a Reiki master who has been practicing Reiki for nearly two decades and the author of Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide. She has created Reiki programs in major New York City hospitals and published articles in peer-reviewed medical journals. She can be reached through her website: ReikiInMedicine.org.