There has been quite a lot of discussion in the Facebook group recently about just how difficult it is to explain Reiki to others.
People who have never experienced Reiki can be quite skeptical or disbelieving. Sometimes those who have heard of Reiki might not be clear about what it really is. It cropped up in conversation for me recently with one lady who said she knew all about Reiki, although she actually thought it was more to do with Tarot reading.
Explaining can be a minefield. Partly because it is based on Eastern traditions and values, which don't immediately translate well in a Western culture, and partly because Reiki practice is so diverse – what one person understands as Reiki may have nothing to do with how you or I might understand it. We are all different.
I was sad to hear in the group that one lady had experienced people being rude to her. Actually, on reflection, I have too. It can be hurtful and dis-empowering.
So it is timely this month that I share with you my recent experience of some training in this area.
I had the very great pleasure of attending a workshop in Edinburgh with Pamela Miles, of Reiki in Medicine.
I don't live too near Edinburgh, but since I am in the UK and Pamela is based in New York I felt I had to take the opportunity to go and see her speak live. It was just a shame that I had a very trying few days just prior to the workshop and arrived there feeling like a wet rag and far too tired to chat! But never mind.
For those who don't know Pamela's work yet, she is a Reiki Master of international standing who has worked with, and introduced Reiki into medical settings in New York. She has also written peer reviewed Reiki papers and been involved in Reiki research. What a pioneer!
The workshop covered Pamela's Four Step Balance System for Communicating Reiki to Anyone. Of course, having worked alongside medics throughout her career and having therefore encouraged some of the most skeptical people around to work with Reiki, she has a lot to say about this which is really well worth hearing.
I can't share the whole of Pamela's workshop here, it is not mine to share, but I am happy to share some tips which resonated with me and which support, perhaps in different words, some of the suggestions I made in my blog post in June where we looked at my Top 5 Strategies for explaining Reiki.
Perhaps one of the key things when sharing Reiki is to remember that it is an Eastern spiritual practice, rather than simply a treatment modality (which of course is one aspect of it).
People uninitiated with the system, or spiritual matters in general perhaps might not need to be given a lot of information, up front, about Reiki energy or distance healing or anything else that can seem so far out to our rational Western minds.
James Deacon suggests the same, that we perhaps might think about avoiding describing Reiki as an energy healing method with new people and see how this works for us. After all, science cannot yet see or measure the subtle energy field. Our experience tells us that there is one of course, and we make sense of this experience by describing it in the best way we can.
We can however free ourselves of the need to explain Reiki. We can simply say that Reiki is, to use Pamela's words, a “transformational spiritual practice”.
Another way of describing it might be that it is a Japanese self care and wellness practice which one can use or learn as a way of taking care of ourselves, much like one might learn meditation or yoga.
This is a particularly useful one if we are also teachers of Reiki. It reminds us that in order to master Reiki, it is something that we ourselves should be making use of and practicing daily in our own lives. It also starts new clients off with an understanding that Reiki is not a magic bullet for the treatment of specific illnesses in isolation, but rather a lifetime practice which they too can learn.
We can do this by:
We can journal our experiences. That way, we have a record of just how far we are moving and growing. This can be illuminating to look back on.
We can also:
In addition to the huge personal benefits that this will provide, it also allows us to anchor our treatments and teaching in personal practice, a deep personal experience and conviction. As well as embodying Reiki, we will also find it a much easier topic to share, when we can speak from our own authentic experience.
Then, when asked how Reiki works, we are free to say perhaps that science does not yet know. Science can't yet explain it. It is experiential rather than scientific. It can be experienced and the best way to understand it is to experience a treatment. A treatment brings a deep state of relaxation, which is facilitated through light touch.
If asked, we can then go on to explain that a treatment is therefore balancing to our mind, body and spirit. It is our quiet time where we can re-set our internal regulatory mechanisms and begin to steer ourselves towards balance.
We can also reassure our potential clients that Reiki is safe. Clinical trials to date have not shown there to be any ill effects.
There is a small, but growing body of evidence which does suggest that Reiki has beneficial physical and psychological effects.
If you are interested in knowing more about research into the benefits of Reiki check out some of the posts below.
You can watch a recording of Pamela's training here.
I also have a free guide to explaining Reiki to others. It's available below. Some people have found it handy to keep on their phone as an aide memoir.
Many Reiki practitioners (new and experienced) would like to feel much more confident and comfortable when starting up a conversation to explain reiki healing with someone new. After all, whilst we know how wonderful and helpful it can be, there is no denying that it can be a real challenge to overcome the perceptions of others.
This is not really surprising. Reiki is a tradition which originates in the mystical and spiritual practices of the East. Many of its secrets may not have been openly discussed in the past and might perhaps have been revealed slowly to students as their experience and knowledge developed. According to Reiki historians, Reiki began first and foremost as a spiritual practice and way of self healing.
It can be a particular challenge in the West to try to explain the fundamentals of Reiki healing from scratch to a Western audience in a society that values the logical and scientific.
Quite often an individual approach is needed, depending on each person's attitudes, values, preconceptions and previous level of knowledge.
It is therefore quite a good idea to begin with a question, such as:
You can then tailor your response depending on the answers you receive and also dispel any misconceptions or misunderstandings that they might have.
With new people, it can often be a good idea to steer away from anything that might be considered as too “out there” or “woo”. Practitioners often have a fear of being perceived in this way and there is also the concern that too much detail too soon can frighten or turn new people away.
James Deacon has a fantastic approach to explaining Reiki healing. He steers away completely from referring to “energy” with clients until they have experienced a treatment and it is clear that they want to know more. He begins with:
“Reiki healing is a set of 'received skills' which permit the therapist to assist individuals to relax in a very particular way, enabling their body (/mind/spirit) to access and activate its own, powerful, inherent, self healing mechanisms”
So, my TOP 5 Strategies to explain Reiki healing credibly are:
1. Open the conversation simply:
Reiki healing is a Japanese method which involves laying fully clothed on a treatment couch whilst I place my hands either on, or just above you in a series of positions. It is almost always found to be deeply relaxing. As it activates the relaxation response at a very deep level it promotes re-balancing by creating an environment where your mind and body can begin to heal themselves.
Reiki is -
Reiki is not-
Adapted from “Reiki for Dummies” by Nina L. Paul
Reiki is experiential. The best way to understand it is to try it. You could offer potential clients a short free treatment or demonstration. I have given Reiki to new clients for as little as 5 minutes and they have been able to discern the likely effects from this.
2. Be gentle:
It is best to gently guide and inform people who are attracted to Reiki, rather than try to educate or persuade them (however much you feel they would benefit!). If it is for them, they will come to it in their own time. Let go of your wish for a particular outcome for yourself or anyone else.
3. Focus on the benefits (and manage expectations):
Understand that people are really asking you whether Reiki can help them. They'll have legitimate concerns that what they spend their time and money on is safe and will help. Meet them where they are.
If you feel confident to, focus on some of the clinical research into the benefits of Reiki. Although most studies are small, some are beginning to show that Reiki healing might help to reduce pain, anxiety and depression, improve relaxation, feelings of well-being and motivation to look after oneself.
When "selling" Reiki it is also helpful to remember to manage the expectations of your potential new client. Reiki healing is powerful, but it is not a magic bullet which can promise the cure of any specific illness. Paradoxically, a very real and serious part of it's healing potential is enhanced when both the practitioner and recipient can let go and set aside the wish for any particular outcome or intention. Instead, a focus on stopping, letting go and allowing the mind and body to relax and open enables the restoration of balance and harmony. This creates a space where new perspectives and possibilities can be seen - a deeper and truer healing that has the potential to reach the underlying issues and challenges faced by your recipient.
Similarly, as Reiki helps people to relax deeply, in both mind and body it could be beneficial for the symptoms of any condition which is stress related. Relaxing the mind and body also enhances our ability to cope.
Reiki is safe. Reviews of clinical trials into Reiki healing have so far not identified any ill effects, but it should NEVER be used as a replacement for medical treatment.
4. Speak from experience:
Explain how Reiki works for you, how you became interested in it and why. Share any other benefits you feel are relevant, but be sure to mention that your knowledge of this stems from the experiences of yourself and others (and not through clinical research).
5. Embody Reiki!
If you use it regularly for your own personal growth and to self-treat you will ooze a radiance and calmness. Be the best advertisement for Reiki you can possibly be. You own calmness will enable you to speak to potential clients with a clear authenticity. If you can remain still and in the moment this will resonate with people. Remember:
I don't think that any one of these strategies is any more important than the other, but together they can work very effectively indeed.
I have an easy to follow download which summarises these points. Why not download it and keep it on your phone as an aide memoir? It's free.
Have I missed anything? Do you have any questions, or are there other ways you explain reiki healing to your clients? Please let me know in the comments!
Related: How do I handle non-believers?
Angela established the Reiki Incentive for Reiki practitioners who want to see Reiki more widely accepted and to see it reach new people. She enjoys sharing her passion for authentic practice as well as research into the benefits of this wonderful therapy.