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Friday, June 30, 2006

The Reiki Digest for July 1, 2006

Welcome to the first issue of The Reiki Digest, a weekly roundup of news about Reiki from around the world.

This edition begins in London, where the "New Ager" column in the Telegraph turned its attention to Reiki on June 3. Columnist Judith Woods covers the main points clearly and succinctly in just a few paragraphs, going on to tell readers that Reiki can support personal change and help with health problems such as eczema, asthma, endometriosis, and migraines. She describes Reiki sessions as "slightly airy-fairy" and warns prospective recipients to check out the credentials of their Reiki practitioners, since, unfortunately, "virtually anyone can claim to be a Reiki practitioner, though they may have only completed one weekend workshop." Woods concludes on a tantalizing note, stating that "American research suggests" Reiki can help lower blood pressure, among other things, but she doesn't cite a source.

Fortunately, our talented investigative team here at The Reiki Digest was able to find some cardiac-related studies involving Reiki with just a few mouse clicks:

A 2004 study at the South Glasgow University Hospital in Scotland divided test subjects into three groups: the first received no treatment, only rest; the second received Reiki by a trained practitioner, and the third received placebo treatments by a person with no knowledge of Reiki who mimicked a Reiki session. The result: "Heart rate and diastolic blood pressure decreased significantly in the Reiki group compared to both placebo and control groups."

The Harvard Medical School's Harvard Heart Letter reported in October 2005 that a study found cardiac catheterization patients at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., felt more confident and relaxed when they received Reiki immediately before undergoing catheterization procedures.

Although the complete Harvard article itself isn't available for free online, a July 2005 Washington Post article, "Light Touch in the Operating Room," about the study is still accessible.

In addition, 13 members of the GWU Hospital cardiac lab staff received Reiki 1 training so that they could better understand Reiki; three months after the study, a follow-up survey found all respondents interested in further Reiki training, eager to receive Reiki, but somewhat reluctant to practice it on their colleagues.

The Washington Post article included a trail of clues leading to other studies:

That led, in turn, to a June 13 Detroit News article: "Alternative Medical Therapies Can Mend Your Body", which then led us to the Valade Healing Arts Center at the St. John Hospital network in the Detroit area, and the Assarian Cancer Center, where Elena Weissman, manager of the institute's healing arts program, told the Detroit News reporter: "At Assarian, we don't treat cancer. We treat patients."

Meanwhile, in Akron, Ohio, the Akron Beacon-Journal reported on the use of Reiki for pets in its June 3 edition.

Reiki elsewhere:

Rhode Island:
“The hospital conducted an extensive research study on the impact of these treatments on customer satisfaction. The survey taken at Kent revealed that there was a "huge boost" - 38 percent - in patient satisfaction from those patients who received the integrative therapies versus those who did not.”

“While scientists and skeptics have questioned Reiki's ability to provide any tangible benefit, believers of the practice claim it can promote fertility, help overcome disease, lower blood pressure and provide a general sense of well-being.”

New Hampshire:
"I don't profess to know all the answers," she said. "I just know the results I get." The same article is loaded with useful statistics about the growing use of complementary and alternative healing methods.

“Reiki is another way patients are trained to help in the healing process.”

Pune, India
“I was advised reiki during my pregnancy and within two weeks of undergoing this, I developed a positive attitude towards life.”

“Reiki healing: Woman mends ‘life force' from Bedford home”

Israel (by way of India)
Reiki Working for Mideast Peace

Reiki Provides Alternative Relief in Reinbeck

Celeb-Reiki: Reports of Reiki among the famous

Boy George's Dad, the late Jerry O'Dowd, became a Reiki practitioner while helping his controversial son recover from a drug addiction.

Whitesnake's David Coverdale travels with a Reiki Master – his personal assistant.

Duncan James, formerly of the band Blue, is now a Reiki practitioner:

Actor Matthew Broderick is a Reiki practitioner, according to several sources.

(Note: If you are a famous person who uses Reiki, either as practitioner or recipient, please let us know. If you are a practitioner with a famous client, of course, you should respect that client's privacy as you normally would.)

But wait: there's more: See the post below for a review of the new book Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide, by Pamela Miles.

And still more: The Reiki Digest is dedicated to serving the Reiki community, so we encourage your comments and hope this site will be used extensively for discussions about Reiki. (Please note that all comments are moderated to filter out comment spam.)

We'll be back next week with another edition of The Reiki Digest.

Book Review: Reiki, A Comprehensive Guide, by Pamela Miles

(Publisher's note: All books reviewed by The Reiki Digest are also available for sale on this site.)

Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide
Pamela Miles
ISBN 978-1-58542-474-0

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.

Janet Dagley Dagley
The Reiki Digest