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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Reiki Digest for September 27, 2006: Illness as Healing


Please excuse the sneezing and coughing -- I've been sidelined the past few days with what seems to be a classic case of the common cold.

As colds go, this one has seemed particularly intense, with all the usual cold symptoms plus a fever of 101 Fahrenheit that made it difficult to keep up with my usual routine, not to mention the extra activities on my schedule for the week. Fortunately, the fever has passed, and I trust that the rest of the symptoms will be gone in a few more days.

Before I began studying and practicing Reiki, I might have called it "a terrible cold." Then I had a teacher who told us how she decided to change the way she thought about the colds she gets each winter by changing the way she described them. Instead of a "terrible cold," she decided to start referring to it as "a wonderful cold." Changing that one word immediately made her feel better, even as her symptoms persisted.

As I continued my studies not only in Reiki but in other natural healing modalities, I learned other ways of describing, and thinking about, what I had always considered ordinary illnesses. So far, every form of natural healing I've encountered sees illness, at least some illnesses, as a form of healing. The only healing modalities that don't include that concept are those that focus on suppressing symptoms rather than getting to the root of the problem.

To a natural healer, a cold or other illness can be described as a clearing, or a "healing crisis." As blocked energy begins to move, the body reacts, and so does the immune system. In the short term, it may seem like a bad thing, but ultimately it's a good thing because the body uses the illness or "healing crisis" to rid itself of toxins and get back in balance.

That makes sense to me, but it didn't stop me from repeating the all-purpose New Yorker's mantra when I felt the first symptoms over the weekend: "This is the last thing I need right now. This is the last thing I need right now. This is the last thing I need...." Once I acknowledge my situation, I stopped whining and did my best to think, "a wonderful cold...a wonderful cold...a wonderful cold" instead.

Did I sneeze any less? I can't say for certain. Nor can I prove that I'm recovering any faster than I would if I'd called it "a bad cold." But at the very least, I learned more from the experience by looking at it in a positive light. When I felt I didn't have the energy to do my usual morning qigong workout, I substituted Reiki self-care instead. I let the fever burn calories instead of my daily aerobics, and when I did my yoga I concentrated on relaxing, restorative poses rather than the sun salutations I would normally do. I continued my daily meditations, even though they were frequently interrupted by coughing. And when I realized it would not only be unwise but ill-mannered to show up sick for the appointments on my calendar, I made other arrangements and even asked a friend or two for help. And then I went back to bed, alternating Reiki self-care with sleep. Of course, I also asked Reiki-practitioner friends to send some Reiki my way.

Fortunately I've recovered enough to sit back down at the computer, just in time for this week's edition of The Reiki Digest. Also fortunately, in cyberspace, no one can hear you sneeze, or catch your cold for that matter.

This week's Reiki Roundup begins, sadly, with our first Reiki obituary.

Roseann Kasayka

Reiki Master Sister Roseann Kasayka, Ph.D., of Parma, Ohio, died September 18 at age 65, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. In addition to teaching Reiki, Kasayka specialized in working with Alzheimer's patients and other people with dementia, introducing the use of spiritual and music therapies. Her person-centered care programs spread to dementia-care centers around the world. The newspaper reported that when Kasayka had surgery for endometrial cancer nine years ago, she "performed Reiki on her surgeon's hands before he operated on her."

Kasayka also introduced a method of helping people with memory loss orient themselves by placing personal items and family photos at the entrances to their rooms, so they could find their way home despite their afflictions.

Kasayka studied Reiki in New York while she was earning her Ph.D. in music therapy at New York University.

In other Reiki news this week, we find Rochester, New York, physician Dr. Brian Dailey, who is also a Reiki Master. Dailey recommends, and offers, Reiki as adjunct therapy for patients on chemotherapy, to help with the side effects.

And in Toledo, Ohio, another physician, Dr. Ken Mapes, along with his wife, Kathy, a nurse, have converted their home into a treatment center offering mainstream as well as complementary healing methods, including Reiki.

In Sedona, Arizona, Reiki Master Chris Bein is selling Reiki-infused crystals that she says also contain the powerful energy many people believe is centered in Sedona's red rock landscape.

In Singapore, recovering breast cancer patients are using Reiki to help with their rehabilitation; and in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada, a wellness spa also offers Reiki and other stress reduction modalities to breast cancer survivors.

In India, Reiki turns up in a hard news story about the July Mumbai train bombings, as a suspect being interrogated told investigators that the bombers had considered claiming to be Reiki practitioners so that they could get closer to "important places and people."

In Uniontown, Ohio, Vicki and Ed Caswell are using Reiki as well as chemotherapy in an effort to save the life of their 10-year-old dog, Sadie, who has cancer.

As usual, the International House of Reiki has done another podcast of The Reiki Show. This week, Reiki Masters Bronwen and Frans Stiene talk to British Reiki Master Julie Lian about her work with Reiki in a doctor's office.

Update: Several Master Teachers have volunteered to answer questions for our new Ask the Masters feature, so if you've got a Reiki question, please post it as a comment if you're reading this on our web site, or as a reply to this e-mail if you're a subscriber. Also, let us know whether you want your name included with your question. (It is now possible to post comments here anonymously, although moderation is still in effect to keep out the spam.)

Finally, this week's Celeb-Reiki. Best known for her role as Harry Potter's movie aunt, actress Pam Ferris plays a Reiki practitioner in the upcoming film "Children of Men," the story of a future in which, for some reason, no more babies are being born. When one young woman turns up pregnant, Ferris's character uses Reiki along with other modalities to help her and her unborn child.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Reiki Digest for September 20, 2006: Harvests & Blossoms

There's a refreshing chill in the air today at The Reiki Digest world headquarters in Hoboken, New Jersey,  a reminder that summer here is almost over.

For some of our readers, however, spring is just a couple of days away. So with our global community in mind, this issue celebrates the upcoming equinox, whether it's harvest time where you are, or the blossoming of spring. Whatever your perspective, we've got a bumper crop of Reiki-related news.

In previous issues, we've encountered Reiki for animals, so it's no surprise to find an article about energy healing for plants. Neither the reporter nor the interviewee mentions Reiki as such, but it certainly seems Reiki-related.

Multi-certified Reiki Master Lisa Whatley didn't wait to be interviewed: she wrote her own article, "Why I Recommend Energy Healing," for an online-only news site, Market-Day.Net, which appears to be mostly an aggregator of newsfeeds and keyword-targeted ads.

This week's Celeb-Reiki is our first to receive the distinction twice. Singaporean Actress/model/dancer and now TV host JoJo Struys made the list a couple of months ago for her new television series, "Jojo's Ticket to Wellbeing." She's a Celeb-Reiki again because the show has done so well. Now if only we could see the program here in the United States...

And a Celeb-Reiki update: for those 21st-Century types who have Ipods but not cable TV and therefore didn't get to see the episode of the program "30 Days" that made Jersey guy Tom Collett a Celeb-Reiki last month, you can now find the show on ITunes.

If you'd like to become a Celeb-Reiki, and you happen to live in Syracuse, New York, here's your chance. WCNY-TV is looking for alternative-healing-savvy audience members for a new show, "Evolving Medicine, Emerging Choices: Old Wisdom - New Understanding" -- a long title for a one-night-only program, but you get the idea.

In our mailbox just today we found the latest issue of the quarterly Reiki News Magazine, so far the best issue we've seen. Despite the slogan, "Honoring all lineages and schools," Reiki News still focuses a bit much on its publisher's school and lineage (the only Reiki Training in its listings), but perhaps the goal is not serious Reiki journalism. That said, the articles were so compelling that the entire staff of The Reiki Digest (i.e., your humble editor/publisher) couldn't help sitting down to read them all before getting back to work here.

The pick of the crop for our Reiki harvest is a pair of new items from prolific writers Bronwen and Frans Stiene of the International House of Reiki in Sydney, Australia. It took us a week to deal and heal our way through the Reiki Techniques Card Deck, published in July, and that was just glancing at each card and trying one or two (OK, more like a dozen) of the techniques.

The 45 cards feature techniques from traditional Japanese Reiki as well as nontraditional Reiki, all for Reiki self-care. The cards, and the techniques they illustrate, are useful for non-Reiki practitioners as well, but all the more helpful to Reiki practitioners. If your self-care sessions have become a bit less interesting as you do the same techniques repeatedly, these cards are a great way to break out of that rut and bring some new energy to your practice (and therefore, to yourself). If you don't do self-care as regularly as you'd like, the Reiki Techniques Card Deck can help you get back in practice: just pick a card and make that technique your focus for the day. The beautiful illustrations on the cards are by Lolly Ellena Rados, the same artist who illustrated the Stienes' first book, The Reiki Sourcebook, and the same designer, Stuart Davies. The cards are beautiful, although the type is a bit small for those of us who see the world through trifocals. Fortunately, I can read them just fine with my glasses off as long as I have plenty of light.

But wait: there's more. Not content to rest on their laurels for more than a few months, it seems, the Stienes also have a new book out this week: The A-Z of Reiki:

They call it the A to Zed of Reiki, but to us here in the United States, it's the A to Zee of Reiki. My copy of this little pocketbook is already looking a bit dog-eared because I've been flipping through it a lot. Fortunately, it seems to be of very sturdy construction, so it can probably stand to be thumbed through frequently for years to come. Most any Reiki term you might think of can be found in this book, along with some you've never even heard of or imagined. People, techniques, Reiki terminology in both Japanese and English, Reiki styles and organizations, as the cover states: "Everything About Reiki" has been crammed into this tiny 254-page portable reference book.

Both the Reiki Techniques Card Deck and A-Z of Reiki include information drawn from the Stienes' first two books, The Reiki Sourcebook and The Japanese Art of Reiki, repackaged into even more accessible forms.

Still more: Bronwen and Frans followed up on last week's edition of The Reiki Digest by interviewing Dave Gorczynski, the founder of SPARK, the organization we wrote about last week, for the latest Reiki Show podcast: Healing 9/11 Memories in New York with Street Reiki.

We may or may not be introducing a new feature for The Reiki Digest. You get to decide.

The potential new feature is "Ask the Master Teachers", and the idea would be to put a new question each week to a panel of Reiki Master Teachers from various styles and lineages. So what do you think? Should we add it? If you're a Reiki Master Teacher, would you be willing to serve on the panel and answer readers' questions?

Please let us know by adding your comments -- all you need to do is click on the word "comments" right below this week's post. Or if you prefer to comment more privately, e-mail your comments directly to me: Thanks in advance for any and all comments.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Reiki Digest for September 13, 2006: Healing after 9/11

I didn't have the luxury of taking the day off this past Monday to mark the 5-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I figured the best use of my energy would be to continue working as usual, like most everybody else. There were reminders everywhere, of course, including the sky itself, as clear and blue as it was that morning in 2001. It was a little chillier and a little more windy than that terrible day, and, now as then, I had the windows open. I was busy at my desk when a strong gust of wind suddenly blew through the window at exactly 10:28 a.m., the moment the second World Trade Center tower fell. Across the river from us here in Hoboken, New Jersey, the memorial ceremony at Ground Zero was pausing for one last moment of silence to mark the occasion. With that reminder, I paused, too, and turned on the television to watch a few moments of the traditional reading of the victims' names by their loved ones. Their voices, their tears, their words made it clear that although time has passed, although so much healing has happened, the loss is undiminished.

And when I turned to putting together this week's edition of The Reiki Digest, my attention naturally turned to the role of Reiki in healing the pain of 9/11. Five years ago, I had never heard of Reiki. Last year, as a Reiki 1, I happened upon the annual SPARK in the Park event in Washington Square Park, where Reiki sessions were taking place on tables set up under a tree:

SPARK (SPirited Action, Release and Kindness)was founded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, with the goal of "offering free energy-based therapies to the New York public on the first anniversary of September 11th." In September, 2002, SPARK volunteers treated 650 people over four days.

Here is SPARK's original statement of intent:

"On September 11, 2001, New York and the world awoke with no idea of the events that would transpire. For many, this day of massive change and transition created an emptiness and feeling of tremendous separation. At the same time, it also provided one of the greatest opportunities for people to reach out to one another and connect in an effort to restore balance and a sense of wholeness. To this day, people are still moving toward that sense of completion, and we are here to help. No one needs to suffer. We are here for those searching for a way to release the traumatic effects of a year ago. We intend to help others connect with the beauty and fullness of life.

We are all here for each other."

SPARK and its services have grown since then, moving beyond 9/11 survivors to offer healing to victims of more recent tragedies, such as Katrina, as well as victims of domestic violence.

The inevitable media attention on the anniversary is particularly hard for those who lost loved ones, such as Charles Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, worked on the 97th floor of the North Tower. Since she was killed, Wolf told the BBC, "I have been trying to turn a negative into a positive, trying to do something to help." That work for 9/11-related causes, as well as the passage of time have helped, as has Reiki, he said.

This week's Celeb-Reiki is not just a person, but an entire family, dealing with a different kind of tragedy: Parkinson's Disease. Freelance radio reporter Jesse Hardman has been documenting his father's struggle with Parkinson's for National Public Radio. Bob Hardman, an Episcopal priest, has been battling Parkinson's for more than a decade, and he includes Reiki in his list of the complementary therapies that have helped. Bob's wife Susan says she is proud of her husband and sons for sharing the story.

Reiki healing in a situation like Hardman's doesn't necessarily mean curing the disease: even when there is no cure, patients and their families still need healing.

That kind of healing is the subject of an article in the Memphis Commercial-Appeal this week featuring energy therapies such as Reiki. The article includes a perfect example of the classic straw-man argument that comes up so often with alternative healing methods:

"Some traditional Western doctors, including Dr. Scott Morris of the Church Health Center, are skeptical about the effectiveness of healing touch and discourage relying on energy manipulation as a primary treatment," reporter Alex Doniach writes.

The only time I ever hear the suggestion that anyone believes alternative therapies are a substitute for medical care is from Western doctors arguing against using those therapies at all. In this case, however, Morris goes on to point out that Reiki and similar therapies do have value.

"There is no scientific evidence to show that practices like Reiki or healing touch work better than a placebo," said Morris, referring to treatments that have no known effects on the body. "This should not be used instead of medication."

But when used appropriately, the practice can be a good way to incorporate touch into Western medicine, said Morris.

"The number one complaint patients have against doctors is lack of touch," he said. "We grossly underestimate the healing power of physical contact."

Another major American newspaper, The Detroit Free Press, lists Reiki among other types of bodywork in an article headlined, "Ah, there's the rub." Unfortunately, the article doesn't say much else about Reiki, leaving the reader with the mistaken impression that you have to undress to receive Reiki (no, you leave your clothes on).

Finally, the guest on this week's edition of The Reiki Show podcast is acupuncturist and multi-Reiki Master Robert Fueston, who has done extensive research into the teachings of Hawayo Takata by interviewing and studying with as many of her original master students as he could.

That's it for this week. As soon as I publish this, I'll be getting to work on next week's edition, because a package just arrived, containing the latest book by Australia-based Reiki Masters Frans and Bronwen Stiene, The A-Z of Reiki, as well as their new Reiki Techniques Card Deck. I'll be reviewing them both next week.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Reiki Digest for September 6, 2006: Bedeviled


Reiki is not a religion. It is a natural healing art, practiced by people of all religions, or no religion, all over the world. No belief in Reiki or anything else is required on the part of the practitioner or recipient. Why, then, would any religion, or any person claiming to speak for a particular religion, consider Reiki to be not only in conflict with religion but even -- pardon the expression -- evil?

Perhaps Father Tom Ingoldsby of suburban Dublin, Ireland, can answer that question, since last week he declared Reiki to be the work of the devil. That outlandish charge made headlines around the world, and revealed that Ingoldsby, a member of the Salesian Order, is in conflict not only with Reiki practitioners but also with his fellow Catholics, many of whom not only practice Reiki but teach it and offer it to patients in Catholic hospitals.

Ingoldsby also claimed that he knew of one person who suffered a migraine after receiving Reiki, and was later diagnosed by a priest as having had "evil channeled into him." If that were true, it would be the first case in history of Reiki harming anyone. The only evidence, however, is Ingoldsby's secondhand account of what another priest claimed to have determined.

The priest's claim has resulted in increased calls from the curious public to the Reiki Federation of Ireland, and a flock of new visitors to that organization's web site, which may not have been the result Ingoldsby was hoping for when he attacked this natural healing art.

Unfortunately, Ingoldsby is not alone in his ignorance about and opposition to Reiki. Last year when I was one of several practitioners offering free Reiki chair sessions at a health fair in Queens, New York, one woman jumped ahead of the long line of people waiting for sessions to announce that she was a Christian and consequently did not approve of Reiki. She was somewhat taken aback when I told her that a lot of Reiki practitioners are Christian. I didn't know then that Christian Reiki practitioners have at least one organization with a web site:

Reiki is also practiced by members of many other faiths, including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Shintoism, Hinduism, and Taoism, not to mention atheists and agnostics.

Let's move on from the negative to the positive: Reiki gets a passing mention in the Norwalk, Connecticut, Advocate this week in an article about the benefits of positive thinking. The article also mentions the late centenarian comedian George Burns, but since it doesn't quite connect the two directly, we can't exactly name Burns a Celeb-Reiki.

Celebrities and Reiki also turn up in an article headlined "Celebrities and their unconventional therapies" in The Scotsman of Edinburgh. Although celebrities Sharon Stone, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kylie Minogue and Prince Charles are mentioned, the article doesn't directly connect any of them to Reiki specifically, so that leaves us still searching for our Celeb-Reiki.

By default, then, Father Tom Ingoldsby is this issue's Celeb-Reiki, since he made more Reiki headlines than anyone this past week.

Reiki elsewhere: 

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports on the increasing popularity of alternative treatments such as Reiki at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Integrative Medicine.
A Maltese newspaper article about Reiki begins with the Reiki precepts.

In suburban London, a reporter tries yoga and learns a little about Reiki.

In Tampa Bay, Florida, a retired nurse travels to people's homes to provide massage therapy and Reiki. (In Florida, as well as Utah and North Dakota, only licensed massage therapists can provide Reiki, even though elsewhere it is not generally considered massage, and accordingly, the article calls Reiki "a type of massage.")

And finally, in cyberspace by way of Australia, The Reiki Show podcast this week features a Tendai Buddhist priest who provides some background on the faith of Reiki founder Mikao Usui.

Following up on last week's Digest, the votes are in, and it's official: this publication is not a community discussion forum, at least not yet. Readers are still not only welcome but encouraged to add comments to any post.