What Does Reiki Do?

Sometimes, people ask me “Exactly what does Reiki do?”  I have heard, and used, many of the standard quick answers given by energy workers: it clears negative energy, it aligns the chakras, it balances the body’s natural energy, it relaxes the body, and by so doing allows the body to heal itself.

All these are true.  But I’d like to offer another couple of phrases, that may be useful to those who are trying to understand Reiki, and those who are trying to explain it.

It’s really pretty simple: Reiki both illuminates and empowers the one who receives Reiki. That means for the person who is seeking healing (the client, perhaps), and the one who is supplying the channel for the Reiki to flow, as both are recipients of Reiki.

But what does that mean?

Illumination can mean many things, to different people.  It means, literally, to fill with light. Reiki, the universal life force energy, illuminates us. It fills us with light. That is why so many energy healers who use Reiki, call themselves “Light Workers.” It is easier to find things in a well-lit area, whether you are talking about a child playing hide-and-seek, a hunted rabbit, a spider lurking in your bedroom, or the keys you dropped when you had your hands full coming into your house.illuminated being

Bringing in Light

The illumination of Reiki helps both the practitioner and the client to reveal things that are troubling the client. Maybe it is an emotional issue that has buried itself deep within the heart, sending out tendrils of pain to different parts of the body. Maybe it is physical damage that is small and well hidden, but still causes trouble at times. Or perhaps it is stress and tension from a job, a family situation, social issues, or some other cause, that masks itself as a headache or digestive issues such as diarrhea or heartburn.


Illumination can also mean giving knowledge. Sometimes, the person who is seeking relief via Reiki has issues that they don’t even know about, that cause problems for them. I recall a client once who had a sore back, and didn’t know why. She had not done anything to strain it; she had a good, comfortable bed to sleep in; her shoes fit well (trust me: bad shoes CAN cause a backache!), and she had no idea why her back had begun aching two weeks before.

When I worked with her, I detected what seemed to be a problem with the energy near her heart chakra, a little above it and close to the thymus. The heart chakra deals with relationships with others, and the upper heart chakra, located near the thymus, also deals with relationships, but with those closer to us: family, spouse, children.

We talked about this, and I discovered that she recently had to take on caring for her aging and infirm mother. She loved her mother, but as we spoke, it became clear that the relationship was becoming strained—her mother was very demanding, and took up a great deal of her time. Plus, she was raising her own two children, caring for her household, and working a job to help pay the bills. She refused at first to say anything about resenting caring for her mother, but eventually she began to cry and revealed how she felt like she had so much to do, that she was losing her own identity, and beginning to dislike her mother.

After we spoke, and she admitted these things, she had to leave—she only had limited time for a Reiki session, because of her caregiving duties.  But when she stood up from the treatment table, the look on her face was priceless. “My back doesn’t hurt now!” she said.

In this case, the Reiki really didn’t “heal” her back. But it did help to reveal to her some of her own feelings, and by dealing with them, her body rid itself of the pain. Oh, she did come back a couple of times, but it was mostly for different issues, because after some more discussion later, she realized that she had to deal with her anger and resentment at carrying the burdens of caregiver, housewife, mother, and employee. It was that burden—not a heavy physical load, but an emotional load—that was causing her back pain.


I am not talking about the empowerment of righteous anger that may drive a protester, or the empowerment of autonomy on the job—although these are valid things. Instead, I am referring to the idea of empowering the body to heal itself.protestors

Our bodies do heal themselves. If people required university-trained physicians and surgeons to heal, the human race would have died out eons ago. I am not discounting the advantage of modern medicine—I have taken advantage of it many times.

But our tissue heals itself. Our cells regenerate. Some regenerate more slowly than others, and we can’t, like some animals, grow back a severed foot. But it does not always require pharmaceuticals or surgery to heal, when the body is given appropriate resources of rest and energy.  In fact, the average human body replaces its ENTIRE covering of skin, about every four weeks or so.

Reiki, by relaxing the body and balancing the energy flow within it (that invisible energy that so infuriates some scientists because it is nearly impossible to measure and quantify), gives your body the resources it needs to heal. Scientists have shown that relaxation can aid the body in healing and becoming healthier, in a variety of ways.

Relaxation may seem to be the opposite of empowerment, but think about it: if you were having some yard work done, and were told, “Hey, you don’t have to worry about it!  Seriously, we are going to take care of it,” by some trusted workmen, wouldn’t that empower you?  Wouldn’t you feel empowered to let go of that worry, of that task, so you could focus on other things?

Reiki also empowers us by helping to balance our own internal energy. Compare it to a shopping cart in a grocery store. Have you ever gotten one of those where the wheels on one side drag and pull?  How maddening to have to deal with that imbalance! The heavier it gets, the more groceries are in it, the more you have to strain and pull to keep from running into other shoppers, or knocking over that display of pineapples in the produce section!

When our own internal energy is out of kilter–out of balance–we often struggle to get through the day. We are required to exert more effort in one direction or another, to keep from running off the rails, whether that means drinking too much coffee (or wine!), yelling at the ones we care about, or being overcome with rage about the person who happened to be in just as much of a hurry as we were, and thus barged in ahead of us on the drive to work.

By balancing our internal energies, we are helped to find better ways to deal with the sometimes unavoidable stresses of life. We are empowered to step back in our minds and say, “Wait a minute–maybe I don’t have to make an obscene gesture at that rude driver–he could be late to work too,” or, “Maybe my angry posting on Facebook really isn’t going to do anything to change things, but only alienate my friends.”


Practicing Reiki or getting a Reiki session from a practitioner certainly will not make you a perfectly calm and peaceful saint, filled with the light of all understanding. You will not necessarily become a bodhisattva. But Reiki CAN be a part of finding balance and healing, as you allow the light and knowledge to come into you, and allow your body to empower itself to heal.
buddha face


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