Book Review: Reiki, A Comprehensive Guide, by Pamela Miles
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Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide
Best known for the work she has done to bring Reiki into hospitals and other medical settings, Reiki Master Pamela Miles now ventures into the mainstream of publishing with a book that is thoughtful, informative, enlightening, but perhaps misnamed. It is, as Miles explains in the introduction, “not The Reiki Gospel According to Pamela, nor is it The Reiki Rule Book, but simply a Reiki companion.” As such, the book is a valuable introduction for those unfamiliar with Reiki, although the average person thinking of becoming a Reiki client or student might not begin that quest with a 265-page book. If so, that potential Reiki client would find one and only one Reiki organization mentioned, and a controversial and exclusionary one at that. Unfortunately, that is all too typical of the Balkanization that still inhibits Reiki's credibility. A true comprehensive guide would be more inclusive. Ultimately, that is an issue that all of us in the world of Reiki must deal with: Reiki itself is by definition universal and transcendent, not limited to any single lineage.
As a practitioner of Reiki and other natural healing arts, I am profoundly grateful to Miles for all she has done for Reiki, and for integrative medicine. Not only is she a master at Reiki, she is a master of the politics of health care as well as scientific research. Miles has made herself a strong, graceful bridge between Eastern and Western medicine, and I hope she writes many more books about whatever aspects of healing she would care to address. I would read them all, just as I've read as many of her scholarly articles as I could find.
In covering the history of Reiki and describing its uses, Miles weaves in the kind of vivid, personal anecdotes that journalists love, the same kind of anecdotes that tend to be ignored by hard science. She deals deftly with the unfortunate but undeniable fact that much of what we learned about the origins of Reiki from Hawayo Takata, who brought the practice to America, was untrue. Whatever aspect Miles addresses, she always brings us back around to what really matters: Reiki works. Even if it can't be explained, it works. Reiki also meets the most important qualification of the Hippocratic Oath: it does no harm.
Much of the book seems directed at a reader with no prior information or conceptions about Reiki, who presumably would be curious enough to read more than 50 pages before reaching an extensive section on choosing whether to become a client or a student, and then choosing a practitioner or teacher. As Reiki does no harm, even when practiced by the relatively inexperienced, the recommendation that in seeking a professional, “it's reasonable to look for someone with years of experience” seems a bit unnecessarily cautious. After all, even Reiki founder Mikao Usui had only four years from the time he developed the Reiki method until his death, and Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, the student who carried on Usui's legacy, had but a year of study and practice before Usui died in 1926, so during that time, they were the most experienced practitioners available. There is, of course, no substitute for experience, which is why more experienced practitioners understandably charge more for their services. Miles's list of questions clients might ask of practitioners is a good one, though it seems unlikely the average prospective Reiki recipient would screen potential practitioners so carefully. Her admonition against practitioners who combine Reiki with other modalities also seems overly cautious, particularly in light of the anecdotes she presents in later chapters about physicians and nurses using Reiki in their practices. It's certainly true that if you want only Reiki, you should specify that, just as you should make it clear that you want plain steamed rice if that's your preference. If you've never had rice before, that's probably the best introduction to it. But that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with other rice dishes.
What sets Miles apart as a practitioner is her emphasis on Reiki in the medical environment, so when she turns her attention to that realm in the final four chapters, the reader is rewarded with the solid grounding and authentic voice of a top expert on the subject who is clearly in her element. Miles could, and perhaps should, write an entire book focused on Reiki at the intersection of Eastern and Western healing arts. She urges patients who combine Reiki with conventional medical care to let their doctors know about their use of Reiki, making a strong argument for such disclosure. She presents a thorough overview of the scientific research done so far on Reiki, and goes on to offer some realistic suggestions for how further research might be done without much expense. Miles outlines the simple steps any practitioner could follow to track client demographics and their response to Reiki, primarily with the use of a simple visual analog scale for clients to use before and after each session. That may sound complicated, but not when you see how simple a visual analog scale is:
No Pain _______________________________________Worst Possible Pain
0 ___1___ 2___ 3___ 4___ 5___ 6___ 7___ 8___ 9__ 10
(In case the scale I've typed in here doesn't come through correctly on your browser, it's basically a line with "No Pain" on one end, "Worst Possible Pain" on the other, and the numbers 1 to 10 below for clients to use in describing their level of pain.)
That's all there is to it. Miles goes on to explain how the data collected using such basic measurements could be compiled by a neutral third party with complete anonymity for the clients involved and reliable, unbiased records. All practitioners of complementary and alternative healing methods, regardless of modality, should give these suggestions a try.
Another very do-able experiment Miles suggests is offering Reiki chair sessions to patients in the waiting room before they see their doctors or other health practitioners. That would be not only an interesting study, but one that could be done without major funding.
If you've read this book, please add your own review as a comment to this post.
The Reiki Digest