Reiki: Hype or Help?

Have you ever looked for information about the origins of reiki or asked the question, "What is reiki?" Neurosurgeon Clinton Miller viewed Reiki (pronounced RAY-KEY) with skepticism several years ago. That skepticism eroded after Miller experienced Reiki therapy for himself. "I went from high personal excitation to feeling like I was floating in the ether," says Miller.

Today, Miller prescribes Reiki for his patients. And he's not alone. Many healthcare professionals and others are beginning to incorporate Reiki in their treatment of illnesses ranging from asthma to cancer to depression. Reiki sessions are being used for pain management, to accelerate recovery from surgery and reduce medication side effects.

Chaplain Laurie Garrett often performs Reiki on dying patients. "I strive to bring a sense of peace about the dying process and to help patients become less resistant [to death]," says Garrett, a therapist at the Institute for Health and Healing, San Francisco.

What Is Reiki?

Simply put, Reiki — also called energy medicine — is an ancient hands-on healing practice which harnesses what believers call the Universal Life Force — the energy field that surrounds all beings, including humans.

The term Reiki is a combination of the Japanese words "Rei "(spiritually guided), and "Ki" (energy or force). The practice dates back more than three thousand ago to ancient Tibet. In the late 1800s, the healing method was rediscovered by Dr. Mikao Usui in Japan and later introduced into the western world by Hawayo Takata, an American from Honolulu, Hawaii.

Despite its increasing acceptance by the healthcare community, Reiki has its share of critics. Chief among them is Eric Krieg with the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking, whose 150 members include scientists and educators who seek to "provide a rational response to such energy field work claims."

"Reiki practitioners can't seem to prove that this energy field exists," contends Krieg. "Reiki seems to be a cult, and its practitioners are way out there in la-la land." Most diseases go into spontaneous remission, he continues. "Even if you had a witch doctor lay his hands on you, chances are you'd think it worked."