Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 22, 2000
Reiki touches universal energy
But some are convinced healing technique leads people to the devil
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Across North America, retreat houses are now running workshops using a form of healing touch that some say tunes into universal energy.
Practitioners of the technique known as Reiki, say it is simply a relaxing form of healing. But others are concerned that Reiki may be the devil's playground.
"It's like radio frequencies," said Sister Maureen Conroy, a Reiki master and co-director of the Upper Room Spiritual Centre in Neptune, N.J. "It's all around us, we just have to tune into the right frequency."
Reiki is described as a hands-on technique that can ease everything from illness to stress. For some, it also offers a spiritual growth.
Developed in the mid-1800s by a Japanese monk, it has become a widespread healing technique on both sides of the Pacific.
"The energy of Reiki is very much connected to the healing of Jesus," said Conroy, who recently led a Reiki workshop at Providence Renewal Centre. "It's often referred to as God's power. . . . Let God's healing go through you.
"Reiki is very spiritual in nature, but not in religion. It's really a concrete way to participate in the healing ministry of Jesus."
The idea of Reiki and using the healing powers of one's hands is a natural healing technique, said Glenda Carline, program coordinator at Providence. When we hurt ourselves, instinctively we put our hands on the place that hurts and cover it or apply pressure to it.
"Your nerves are affected by this touch of your hand," Carline said.
It's this touching of hands as a way of healing that Carline says best describes Reiki.
Carline said she knows when her body is feeling depleted of energy. It's not a feeling of illness as if she was coming down with a cold or flu. Rather it's a feeling that her body's energy is dwindling.
And it's through Reiki, she said that she renews some of this energy.
"Energy is not just physical, it's also mental and emotional. Reiki gives back some of that energy that we lose everyday."
She added that giving a Reiki treatment is as replenishing as having one.
"I feel like I'm in an hour-long prayer. That's the best way I can describe what it feels like."
Reiki sessions are gentle and non-intrusive. Soft music often fills the background during a Reiki treatment. Clients usually lie down on a massage table, but can also be in a sitting position.
Rarely do clients feel the Reiki practitioner's hands on their body. The hand placements start at the client's head and work their way to their feet, resting in each position for about five minutes. The practitioner acts as a channel of this energy. They have learned how to tune into this energy.
"It's like they're turning on the tap and that energy is flowing out," Conroy said. A practitioner "knows how to turn on that tap."
Reiki does not require special skills, only the knowledge of tuning into the energy, said Conroy. However, it cannot be learned by simply reading about it. It is learned through familiarizing with a series of empowerments or attunements given by a Reiki master.
These attunements, said Conroy, are simply ways of aligning our own energies to those of the universal energy.
Donna Weston, a critic of Reiki who lives in Lloydminster, says fans of Reiki say they can feel the positive energy flow through their bodies with every Reiki treatment. But those on the opposite end of the spectrum, however, say the energy flow has a dark side.
Reiki has links to Eastern non-Christian religions. But over the years, it has become a secular practice of healing and has been used by Christians, Buddhist and a variety of other denominations. It is this widespread ecumenical practice that concerns Weston.
"They say this is moving energies, what spirit is moving that energy? They say it's a healing power of Jesus, that we work through him. But if a Buddhist can do it, what source are they getting it from? And if Christians can do this, are they getting it from the same source? What energy source are we opening up to?"
"It's not good stuff. There's definitely other spirits involved in it. I think it's dynamite. I wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole."
Weston says she is not on a witch-hunt, but she can't help think that the claims of Reiki are too good to be true.
For the past year, she has been praying with people who have been involved in the technique. Those people are afraid to speak up about the negative effects, "but their lives have been destroyed by it," Weston said. "It has not been a good thing for these people. Once you get those forces working in your life, it's very hard to get them out."
In an article published in Christian Research Journal in 1995, registered nurse Sharon Fish links the practice of therapeutic touch such as Reiki to everything from supernatural powers to the occult.
"Those who say they can practice the technique of therapeutic touch and divorce themselves from its occult associations need to be reminded that apart from the occult, therapeutic touch would not exist," wrote Fish, who also teaches nursing research at the University of Rochester in New York.
"It is rooted and grounded in psychic soil and it bears related fruit.
"Therapeutic touch is not a practice Christians can engage in without seriously compromising their faith and potentially endangering their relationship with God. He alone can teach the true meaning of the laying-on of hands to comfort, care and cure."
Reiki workshops are sprouting up across the country. The Regina Archdiocese, however, decided last year to not sponsor Reiki workshops at its churches or diocesan centres.
"We're not going out of our way to have them," said Father John Prince, the archdiocese's chancellor. "It's not that we're forbidding people to have them, but we're not sponsoring them either."
Prince said his office has had complaints regarding Reiki, but he's also had people comment that they think "it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. So we don't get involved in it. It's to keep the peace."
Like Weston, Monique Martin of Calgary is also skeptical of the technique. Her sister started getting Reiki treatments a year ago.
"She was always feeling sick and tired, so a friend of her's introduced her to it. She's always telling me how good it makes her feel."
But the problem, said Martin, is that "she relies on it all the time. She depends on it. When she's tired, she thinks Reiki will fix that. When she twists an ankle, she gets a Reiki treatment instead of seeing a doctor."
Martin admits to receiving one Reiki treatment last year, "but it really didn't do anything except put me in this relaxed mood. But how can you not be relaxed, you're lying on a bed with nice music in the background.
"I guess my problem with it is the hype. I don't really see the advantage. I think it's something people could abuse, trading real medical advice for Reiki."
Weston, however, is not afraid to say that Reiki puts people in a vulnerable state and could invite the work of the devil.
"This is a chance for Satan to work his ways," she said. "Satan and his forces are going to try and work his ways through this.
"It's something that let's you open yourself up . . . and you're just opening yourself up to all kinds of things."
Conroy said the notion that Reiki could be the devil's playground is raised frequently. She chuckles at the thought, but knows that many people take the issue seriously. Conroy blames a lack of understanding of Reiki for such questions.
"If we're grounded in God's love then it's bigger than any evil," Conroy said. "We can't be drawn into something (evil) simply with a Reiki treatment."
This fear, said Carline, is often due to a lack of understanding. It's the same fear some people have for meditative practices as tai chi and yoga, which were once considered Buddhist-related traditions but have been popularized in fitness gyms and community programs as a part of a well-balanced exercise program.
"What you get from (Reiki) is the feeling of deep, deep relaxation," Carline said. "We live in a very busy world. . . . Very few people ever take time to have that."
Conroy speculates the term "laying on of hands," which is closely related to Reiki, worries some people. But she doesn't see it as threatening.
"It's praying over people with people," she said. "It's this power of the Holy Spirit. . . . It's an energy of the Holy Spirit. It's not my energy or your energy. It's this energy that's put out there for us."
The body, said Conroy, is an instrument by which this energy can flow through. "The energy is permeating the earth and we need to connect with it."