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Thursday, April 30, 2009

In this week's edition. . .

There's so much news in the world of Reiki these days that we're spending twice as much time putting together The Reiki Digest. So we're now publishing the weekly edition on Friday, with a sneak preview on Thursday.

Here are some of the stories we're working on this week:

For today only, do not panic: How Reiki can help with the fear that's spreading even faster than the global flu pandemic.

No longer welcome: A month after a US Catholic bishops group denounced Reiki, programs and practitioners are continuing to disappear from Catholic health care facilities.

Cherry contemplations: In order to recharge my energetic batteries by contemplating the cherry blossoms, I had to let some other batteries run down first.

A Celeb-Reiki correction

Plus: Waka Fest continues with the other half of last week's unfinished waka, we catch up with recent reader comments and discussion (including a note from a reader who says the late Pope John Paul II was a Reiki fan). Look for our next edition on our web site or in your inbox on Friday.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Holistic nurses group responds to Catholic bishops: 'Denying Reiki is unethical'

Is it ethical to deny Reiki treatment? Or to prevent a nurse from administering Reiki?

The AHNA statement quotes Midge Murphy, JD, PhD, a professional liability risk management consultant:

"One of the essential core principles of health care ethics is respect for patient autonomy. Autonomy refers to the patient's self-rule and the opportunity to make meaningful choices. . . Disrespecting autonomy means ignoring, insulting, or demeaning those choices by not honoring the decisions and preferences of the patient . . . The [Catholic bishops'] Guidelines in effect would violate the ethical principle of patient autonomy because the Guidelines would deny a patient in a Catholic hospital or health care facility the right to choose Reiki as part of the patient's treatment plan." 

The statement goes on to point out that the bishops' guidelines also conflict with the AHNA's Standards and Scope of Practice. It also cites five studies "that support the efficacy of Reiki in reducing anxiety, reducing pain, facilitating wound healing, creating a sense of well being, increasing hemoglobin levels, and decreasing free radicals." The AHNA statement concedes that "studies involving Reiki are not conclusive and the exact mechanism in which Reiki healing occurs is unknown. . . 

"Not all natural phenomena are understood by science -- new discoveries are first ridiculed, then argued against, then accepted as obvious," the statement concludes.

Many thanks to holistic nurse and Reiki Master Teacher Lilia V. Marquez for alerting us to this news.

Animal attunements, revisited

Last October, Reiki Digest contributor and animal Reiki practitioner Beth Lowell posed an interesting question: Should Reiki attunements be offered to animals? We got a few responses at the time, but in recent weeks that conversation has really taken off. 

Reiki practitioner Rose de Dan came across Beth's question, and posted a reply on her blog, Wild Reiki. Beth replied to that on her own blog, other animal Reiki practitioners joined in, and soon the discussion was in progress on several sites at once. Rose mentioned it last week in a comment here, but we wanted to make sure we called attention to the discussion as well. 

And since we have so many new readers since then, we're asking the question again: What do you think? Should animals be attuned? Add your comments to this post on our web site or email them to

Calling all Reiki-practicing Catholics

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is looking for Catholics who practice Reiki. If you fit that description and you're willing to talk to a reporter, click here.

See you at the Japanese garden on Saturday for our cherry-viewing event

(Photo by Michael Dagley)

If you're in the New York City area, we invite you to join us Saturday morning, April 25, at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden for a cherry-viewing gathering.

We'll meet at 10:30 a.m. at the small ampitheater-like area between the Japanese pond and the Celebrity Walk, where there are some convenient stone benches. It's nearly in the center of this map of the garden. From there, we'll take a stroll around the pond and then visit the Kuramayama cherry tree, which just began blooming. That's as close as we can get to Mt. Kurama this year, but one of these springs we hope to visit the birthplace of Reiki and see the cherry blossoms there.

Although cherry blossom viewing in Japan usually involves a picnic under the trees, picnicking is prohibited at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, but there is a very nice outdoor cafe there.

If you need more information, or if you get to the garden and can't find us, call 917-512-1330. This is not an official Brooklyn Botanic Garden event, just a gathering there.

Is your Reiki training up to date?

Wow! We got a flurry of responses to our announcement last week about our new Reiki Training Update class coming next month. Although we've been trying to correct the record here at every opportunity for nearly three years now, there are a lot of Reiki practitioners out there who still hadn't heard that new information coming out of Japan in the past decade contradicts some of what they were taught. That confirms the need for this training, especially for those who studied Reiki more than a few years ago. 

Has it been more than a few years since your Reiki training?

Did your teacher tell you Reiki founder Mikao Usui was a Christian minister, university president and medical doctor?

Were you taught that Reiki was an ancient Tibetan Buddhist practice that Usui "rediscovered" while studying sutras in Sanskrit? Or that Reiki wasn't practiced in Japan after 1940?

Or, for whatever reason, has your personal Reiki practice become something you used to do?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, it may be time to update your Reiki training with this new refresher course from The Reiki Dojo and The Reiki Digest, open to all who have completed Level 2 or above in any lineage.

It's not your original Reiki teacher's fault if what you learned back then turns out not to be the case -- a lot of new information about Reiki, and about Usui, has come out of Japan in recent years. But some of that turns out to be misinformation as well. So what's a Reiki practitioner to do?

You may not have time to keep up with all the news and research about Reiki, but we'll be glad to share the highlights of what we've learned from our ongoing research to bring you up to date. And we'll work together on some ways to get your Reiki practice going again.

Continuing education and training updates are a normal part of most respected healing practices. We believe it's time Reiki practitioners had the opportunity to keep their training current as well.

In this class, you'll learn:

* The documented history of Reiki
* The truth about the most common Reiki myths
* Where to find credible information
* How to keep yourself informed on further developments
* Highlights of the latest Reiki medical research
* Traditional Reiki meditation techniques
* How to get the most out of your personal practice

. . . and much more.

Each participant will also receive the energetic blessing of reiju, as traditionally practiced in Japan.

This course will take your practice, and your understanding of Reiki, to a new level, and you'll receive a certificate of completion to confirm that your training is up to date. The course is an update only.

And if you're a Level 2 practitioner thinking of advancing to the next level, or a Reiki Master looking to retrain in another lineage, or considering other advanced Reiki training, we can share the benefit of our training in multiple lineages to help you find the advanced training program that's best for you.

All students who complete the course will become eligible to attend the private advanced meditation group at The Reiki Dojo in New York.

Saturday, May 9, 2009
11 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Reiki Dojo (at the Classical Wellness Center, 214 W. 29th St., New York City)


Prerequisite: Reiki Level 2 or above
(We'll need a copy of your certificate)

Click here to register:

For more information, contact us at or call 917-512-1330. Advance registration required. Spaces are limited.

Lisa Oz: Reiki Master, health advocate and re-Celeb-Reiki

Lisa Oz is best known as the wife of Oprah's favorite doctor, Mehmet Oz, but she's also a health advocate in her own right as well as a Reiki Master. She's been named a Celeb-Reiki before, but since she's in the headlines again this week, she's now a re-Celeb-Reiki: The Palm Beach Post interviewed Mrs. Oz when she came to town to talk about one of her favorite health causes.

Waka Fest continues: 16 (and a half) more waka

Waka Fest is now in its third week. We've got 16 new ones here, plus half a waka that we're asking you to finish. 

From Beth Lowell:

under tangled roots
and moss, down at the bottom
where no one can see
is both the scariest place
and the most beautiful one

I woke up today
and saw the sky filled with clouds
an interesting reflection
of dogwood petals and cement
cotton, bones, grubs, angora

From Michael Swerdloff:

I am alone here
Alone need not be lonely
Trees stand tall rooted
Compost takes hold of Earth’s breath
The force of love is relentless

A vision with eyes
Staring like the owl at dusk
Full moon sighs tides rise
Reflections of love and desire
Nothing quells The Golden Mind

The sand bleeds parched soles
Emptying clamshells at midnight
The shoreline is full
Hermit crabs at home anywhere
Moments wash away forever

Camel humps desert
The cactus knows no limit
Needles poke through flesh
The answer is not questioned
The question is not answered

The night sleeps again
Sunrise lifts human blindness
Hands stretch across time
Seeing is not believing
Rumi speaks sunset arrives

River almost still
A heart beating quickly
Mind needs to slow down
A breeze tickles the tall grass
The grass returns to its post

I breathe a half breath
Confusion breeds illusion
Dry tears shake my grip
The river does snot know lies
Cool tranquil waters refresh

What is the next step?
I can’t wait and do nothing
Tadpoles scurry about
The frog sits home unmoving
Speed takes much time and effort

And then it was Beth Lowell's turn again:

3 a.m.
the dogs are barking
I can’t fall back
a thousand nagging worries
death, at the top of the list

a thousand birds are singing
hot coffee or warm bed
sleep... not on the table

at the feeder,
starlings, mourning doves, grackles
all shooed away
I didn’t speak up but...
are they not birds?

in my mailbox
that dreaded white envelope
I’ve been waiting so long
for a red letter day

forgetting my keys-
exactly what I needed
right at this moment
avoiding the accident
only two blocks up the road

I felt let down when
I finally reached the end
but I turned around
and was pleasantly surprised
to find my perspective changed

And finally, from your humble editor, half a waka. I've written the first two lines, and I hope you'll write the other three. The pattern is 5-7-5-7-7, which adds up to 31 syllables. I've used 12, so that leaves 19 more:

Pink blossoms rain down
gently guided by the breeze
[5 syllables]
[7 syllables]
[7 syllables]

To finish my waka or to add a waka (or two, or more) to our ongoing poetic conversation, just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of this post on our web site, or email your waka to 

And for those interested in learning more about waka, we also found this great resource from Columbia University's East Asian Studies program.

So far no one has taken advantage of our 24-hour waka hotline to call in a spoken version of their waka, but we're still hoping. 

Click here to use our 24-hour waka hotline:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jikiden Reiki training in NYC September 2009

Registration is now open for Jikiden Reiki training with Shihan Amanda Jayne at The Reiki Dojo in New York City, September 12-14, 2009.

Amanda Jayne spent four years in Kyoto, Japan, and studied with Chiyoko Yamaguchi (student of Chujiro Hayashi) and her son Tadao Yamaguchi. We are very excited to have her as a guest teacher at The Reiki Dojo.

Level 1 - Shoden
September 12-13, 2009

Level 2 - Okuden
September 14, 2009

Spaces are limited.

For more information, visit Amanda Jayne's web site, email or call us at 917-512-1330 or toll-free (in the US) at 888-316-5853.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A personal note

Dear Readers,

I'd like to take a moment to welcome the hundreds of new readers who've subscribed to the Digest and/or visited our web site in recent weeks, to say thank you to our longtime readers, and to note a couple of significant milestones for us.

Three years ago, as I was finishing my initial Reiki master training, I had a revelation that surprised me -- even if it didn't surprise anyone who knew me. All during my first year of Reiki training, I thought I was making a career transition, from journalist to natural health practitioner. The surprise was when I realized I wasn't making a leap from one profession to another. Instead, as I learned to focus my energy with Reiki, I was distilling everything I'd ever done, studied, or experienced into a new, more cohesive way of living, working, and being. 

At the same time, eager to learn as much as I could about Reiki, I began searching through the news once a week or so for items about it. As a veteran journalist, I was curious as to how Reiki was portrayed in the news media. Sometimes I shared what I found with my Reiki classmates, and others began asking me to share it with them, too. I realized that I was still a journalist, and I assigned myself a new beat: Reiki. From that, The Reiki Digest was born. 

My regular research also led me to gather more and more information about this valuable practice, and that led me to books I hadn't heard of and teachers who gave me a brand new perspective. That, too, grew from my journalistic roots. I was trained in old-fashioned newsroom values, where you didn't have a fact confirmed until you had it from at least three sources. Following that path led me to begin sponsoring advanced training by some of those teachers, and two years ago today, at the conclusion of the first such class I organized, I announced that I would begin renting space to host a weekly practice group for advanced practitioners. And thus The Reiki Dojo was founded. 

Now I'm happy to announce that I've found some new ways to be of service to the global Reiki community.  

First, on Saturday, May 9, I'll be sharing what I've learned from my ongoing study, research, and practice of Reiki in a special Reiki Training Update course at The Reiki Dojo in New York, open to anyone who has completed Level 2 or above in any lineage.

Soon we'll be introducing another channel for our ongoing discussions, with a chance for us to interact in real time as well as asynchronously, no matter where in the world we might be.

Beginning this summer, we'll be launching a quarterly print version of The Reiki Digest. 

And in September, my new book, Reflections on Reiki, is scheduled for publication. More on that in the coming weeks as well.

Meanwhile, the cherry trees are in bloom here in our area, and we're pausing to savor the moment. If you're in the New York City area, we invite you to join us for a cherry viewing event on Saturday, April 25, as well as other exciting events during our first annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

Many thanks to all of you for your kind attention and all the comments you've contributed to our discussions. Thanks to all the writers who've been kind enough to let us share their work with our global audience, thanks to our advertisers for their support, and thanks especially to each of my Reiki teachers so far: Margaret Ann Case, Frans and Bronwen Stiene, Hyakuten Inamoto, Pamela Miles, and Susan Mitchell. And many, many thanks to the readers who've clicked on the "donate" button on our web site to give The Reiki Digest your tangible financial support to help cover some of our costs. Thanks as well to Google for providing so many free services to help us keep those costs down, especially our ace reporter: Google News.

We hope to keep this service, and the community that has formed around it, going strong for many years to come. 

With humble gratitude,

Janet Dagley Dagley

P.S. To our new readers: don't be shy about joining in the ongoing discussions here. Just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of any post on our web site, or email your comments to And if you'd like to write an article for us, contact us at that same email address.

Our Cherry Blossom Festival has begun!

We're celebrating the arrival of spring, the second anniversary of The Reiki Dojo and the third anniversary of The Reiki Digest with our first annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

Event Calendar:

April 9, 2009: Waka Fest begins
April 15: Reiki Dojo founding members' private meditation group 

April 22: Special Guest: Jikiden Shihan Amanda Jayne speaks at The Reiki Dojo  7:30 p.m./$20

April 25: Cherry Blossom Viewing at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden 11 a.m. (Free, open to all including non-Reiki practitioners)

April 29: Pink Slip Special: No job? No problem: get a Reiki mini-session for just $1
(pink slip or other proof of unemployment required) 5-7 p.m. Reservations required. Call 917-512-1330.

April 29: Revive Your Personal Reiki Practice 8 p.m./$15

May 6: Reiju offering: You give us $10 and 10 minutes, and we'll give you reiju, the "energetic blessing" of the system of Reiki. 5-7 p.m.

May 9: Reiki Training Update Course 2009 (open to Level 2 and above) 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. /$165

May 12: Special Online event (stay tuned for details)

May 13: Community Reiki Clinic: Mini-sessions (by appointment only) 5-7 p.m./$10

Advance reservations required for all events except Cherry Blossom Viewing. Email or call 917-512-1330.

The Reiki Dojo is part of the Classical Wellness Center, 214 W. 29th St., Suite 901, New York City (between 7th and 8th avenues). Both The Reiki Dojo and The Reiki Digest are part of Healing Movement LLC.

Update your Reiki training

Has it been more than a few years since your Reiki training?

Did your teacher tell you Reiki founder Mikao Usui was a Christian minister, university president and medical doctor? 

Were you taught that Reiki was an ancient Tibetan Buddhist practice that Usui "rediscovered" while studying sutras in Sanskrit? Or that Reiki wasn't practiced in Japan after 1940?

Or, for whatever reason, has your personal Reiki practice become something you used to do?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, it may be time to update your Reiki training with this new refresher course from The Reiki Dojo and The Reiki Digest, open to all who have completed Level 2 or above in any lineage. 

It's not your original Reiki teacher's fault if what you learned back then turns out not to be the case -- a lot of new information about Reiki, and about Usui, has come out of Japan in recent years. But some of that turns out to be misinformation as well. So what's a Reiki practitioner to do? 

You may not have time to keep up with all the news and research about Reiki, but we'll be glad to share the highlights of what we've learned from our ongoing research to bring you up to date. And we'll work together on some ways to get your Reiki practice going again.

Continuing education and training updates are a normal part of most respected healing practices. We believe it's time Reiki practitioners had the opportunity to keep their training current as well.

In this class, you'll learn:

* The documented history of Reiki
* The truth about the most common Reiki myths
* Where to find credible information
* How to keep yourself informed on further developments
* Highlights of the latest Reiki medical research
* Traditional Reiki meditation techniques
* How to get the most out of your personal practice

. . . and much more.

Each participant will also receive the energetic blessing of reiju, as traditionally practiced in Japan.

This course will take your practice, and your understanding of Reiki, to a new level, and you'll receive a certificate of completion to confirm that your training is up to date. The course is an update only.

And if you're a Level 2 practitioner thinking of advancing to the next level, or a Reiki Master looking to retrain in another lineage, or considering other advanced Reiki training, we can share the benefit of our training in multiple lineages to help you find the advanced training program that's best for you.

All students who complete the course will become eligible to attend the private advanced meditation group at The Reiki Dojo in New York.

Saturday, May 9, 2009
11 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Reiki Dojo (at the Classical Wellness Center, 214 W. 29th St., New York City)


Prerequisite: Reiki Level 2 or above
(We'll need a copy of your certificate)

Click here to register:

For more information, contact us at or call 917-512-1330. Advance registration required. Spaces are limited.

'I am not a healer'

Our correspondent in Korea, Michael Swerdloff, has checked in again with a new essay he's titled, "I am not a healer."

By Michael Swerdloff

It has been forty minutes in an altered brain rhythm. We have slipped from below ordinary consciousness, below psychic all the way down to spiritual healing. It is a state where words, thoughts and actions are not ruled completely by the ego. The shadow has quieted down enough to allow the True Self to speak and be present. The answers are usually simple, a word, a phrase or maybe even just a syllable. In this case, very simple: “Yes”. This is life as a Reiki Practitioner for me.

I am not a Healer. I am fortunate to get to participate in healing experiences but not the Healer. At times I am passed information intuitively but not a psychic. Have facilitated many spiritual counseling session but am not The Counselor. Teachings have spilled out of mouth initiating growth and development almost on a regular basis, often daily, but I am not The Teacher. There have been more situations than I could possibly count when I “read” someone’s spiritual history at first glance, but am not a telepath. I have no particular skills or talents of a supernatural nature. I am not anyone special, at least not anymore so than the next man or woman. How could I be? Why would the Divine give one child any more gifts than another? Arrogant I am; but not that arrogant, at least not at this moment.

I have been noticing lately how many folks claim to be Healers, Shaman, Teachers and a host of other grand positions. If so, why are they still working with the people they have “healed”? More importantly, why would anyone want to be “healed”? If a Shaman or Healer rids them of their symptoms, how will they know what to do next time they encounter a similar obstacle?

Where did this concept of such demonstrations of Grace begin to be labeled as talents and/or skills? What extreme arrogance I would need to think these are something I am in charge of or belong to me. Like Healing and auto maintenance are both skill sets that can be memorized or categorized similarly. One can learn how a Suzuki Samurai works and have complete mastery over returning it to its homeostasis when trained properly, at least in most cases. But Healing is not that way, or should I say, my experiences have been contrary to that. So what skills or talents do I posses that contribute to me in working with others? I Pray a lot. If I was to grasp on to one skill it would be that I Pray a lot. Not because Prayer is required as a Reiki Practitioner, because it provides strength, courage and willingness to go where I would not otherwise. Clarity, calmness and peace are very supportive of the healing process. Another one that comes to the surface is I am relentless. I push and push and push rarely accepting defeat or limitations. I barrel through without allowing fear to trump the possibility of Healing, mine or someone else’s. I have great Faith in Healing. Although I am not sure Faith is an honest portrayal. I have experienced and witnessed time and time again the Will and Courage rise up from within us for greatness to really call it Faith. Faith implies believe, I do not believe in anything. I wait till I have enough evidence and that is what I exist on- evidence not Faith.

After fifteen years of laying my hands on people, holding their hands while they shared their deepest fears and suffering, witnessing their first Prayer since childhood and seeing that look in their eyes that can only be sparked with the Divine, I would not be honest to say I have Faith. I once had Faith, I once believed in healing and there was a time a when I thought I was “special” or “gifted”. When asked, I will respond to the question, “Are you a Reiki Master?” with hesitation and a flinch. The answer I offer that grates me inside and out is, “I am a Reiki Teaching Master.” Why does this make me cringe? Master implies something I have not acquired yet: mastery. I practice Reiki; I do not feel qualified to claim mastery. This is not much different than a medical doctor who practices medicine. We practice. There are too many variables and unique situations to have mastered all of them. I hope I never reach the point when I think I know all the answers without treating each individual and circumstance as unique and in need of empathy, respect and compassion. We have all seen enough of “the treat like cattle method” employed by many emergency centers.

I used to live with a guy who was divorced and shared custody of his 11-year-old daughter who was a Downs Syndrome kid. She was a bossy kid but loved to sit and watch me Pray and complete Reiki self-treatments when she stayed with us on weekends. She would watch me sometimes for several hours riveted. I remember before meeting Katie, I heard people talking about how being around a “special needs” child teaches us many things. I did not know they were talking about what she taught us about patience and compassion was her patience and compassion, not ours. I learned from her how hard it must be to live in a world where those around you can easily understand each other but have no clue what I am trying to tell them. How much patience it must take to watch us fools try to get her to be something she is not, but still love us. What love and healing her presence brought to others and me. Not because a “special needs” kid could tie her shoe or cut her own noodles. Because she put up with our lack of understanding her world relentlessly and loved us in spite of our ignorance. At times it was unbearable to me the gap between her willingness to love and accept me versus mine to her. Katie was one of the few Healers I have known in my life.

I remember the first “miracle” I experienced with Vibrational energy. It was 1993 and I was a Radio Shack manager. I ran many stores but this one was located in a little mall. They sent me this young woman to help out since I was low on staff. She was attractive, fashionable and friendly but didn’t have a clue what a capacitor or integrated circuit was. Hey, I needed the help. One day I was in my office doing some paperwork and she came in crying uncontrollably. I asked, “Hey what’s going on?'

“I just left the doctors office and they confirmed I have cancer in my liver.”

I was stunned. She may not even have been 21 at this point. I didn’t know what to do but somehow this spilled out of mouth without thinking, “I have just begun receiving training in some kind of Vibrational healing through touch. I have not tried it on anyone yet but I would be willing to try it with you.” Just like that manager became human being.

“Oh my God! I was up all night last night watching TV because I couldn’t sleep. I saw this show about people that do that and was wondering if there was anybody in New Jersey who does it. YES! I would love to try this if you would be willing”.

I put my hands on her shoulders and Prayed for about five minutes or so, maybe longer. I was nervous; it helped. I saw colors and felt warmth. It was eerie, in a good way. I didn’t know how to stop the session, so I just sat back down at my desk. She was crying but with different tears this time. A week later she came back to work, ran in and hugged me. She had just left the doctors office and there were not traces of cancer. Nothing. They ran the tests several times and found nothing. About a year later I received training in Reiki, and have practiced some form of Reiki daily since January 26th, 1995. I have witnessed many miracles. It is humbling every time. It lets me know my place in the grand scheme of things. Not very big for the record.

I am not a Healer. I have no special skills or talents. My name is michael. I like to Pray.

More comments on the Catholic bishops' guidelines on Reiki

Our discussion continues on the US  Conference of Catholic Bishops' recent denunciation of Reiki. If you're just joining us, you can find previous comments on this topic here and here.

Before we get to this week's comments, I'd like to sound a cautionary note about what we're doing here. While all comments are welcome as long as they are on topic and civil, I'm becoming concerned about the tone some are taking. I believe we should be focusing on speaking for Reiki, rather than criticizing the Catholic church in general. For one thing, "dissing" the bishops or the Catholic church is probably the least effective means of getting them to reconsider. Also, Reiki practitioners who are Catholics can speak for themselves within the organization. Those of us who are not, IMHO, would be more effective concentrating on correcting the misinformation on which the bishops' decision was based. Thanks!

Lilia V. Marquez wrote:

I was disappointed with the announcement made by the Catholic Bishops. I was raised as a Catholic and attended a Catholic school during my grade school years.
Each one of us has an innate ability to heal ourselves and Reiki is one of the many tools that we can use for ourselves.

Reiki is a Japanese healing technique that utilizes deep relaxation to calm the mind, reduce stress, relax the body, and ease the spirit. Reiki can be combined with other healing modalities. Reiki is NOT a religion. . . .
“The mission of Usui Reiki Ryoho (Healing Art/Method) is to enhance mutual well-being for oneself and others, on one hand, by fulfilling a peaceful and joyful life mentally and physically and, on the other, healing the sick”. –Usui Sensei
Reiki is such a Blessing in my life and one of the reasons why I'm enjoying life to the fullest.

Michelle wrote:

I am blown away every day at how our religious leaders attempt to 'control' the many sisters practice this healing technique, will they be banished! The Pope has not yet given his blessings either way, how did it get this far without it! But then again, a Pope who has no time to visit with victims from an earthquake in the most holy of lands shouldn't be expected to think about peoples healing....

Rose de Dan wrote:

As I wrote in my blog article Reiki Attunements for Animals (the writing of which was inspired by the very same ruling of the Catholic Bishops), it was this history of persecution that caused me to break away from the Catholic Church as a teenager, a decision I have never regretted.

As a former Catholic it saddens me to see that the Catholic Church has once again chosen to act from the emotions of fear and segregation, rather than choosing to embrace the true teachings of Christ which teach love and acceptance. What are they afraid of?

Their stand does not seem to offer healing or Christ-like compassion to those who are ill and who need it most. Many people who could have benefited from the complementary modality called Reiki may now suffer for the Church's narrow-mindedness.

It is my intention to send Reiki to the situation. Hopefully other "healing" institutions that have their focus on the true benefits of complementary health care for their patients will expand the programs that they offer.

John Coleman wrote:

It is encouraging to see that the Bishops are aware of Reiki. It is disappointing to see that they appear to fear Reiki for what it can facilitate (self empowerment for one and why would they fear this, I wonder!!).

Some years ago in Ireland a leading Catholic Priest came out with a similar stance on Reiki. The result was a growth in the use of Reiki by many Catholics. I trust the same outcome will come as a result of this sad publication.

Interestingly they are guidelines only, surely if they felt so strongly about Reiki they would make it compulsory not to use it, or do they simply usual.. to spread fear in the minds of the laity who still respect them.

Alice Norris wrote:

I am Alice Norris, an extraordinary Reiki Master. My beliefs are Christian to some, and atheistic to others. I no longer adhere to many concepts that the church supports. The state of the church saddens me. I left the non-Catholic church I was in due [to] belief disagreement. It seems that Christ's teachings have been completely lost in today's church. The love and power that Jesus spoke of is no longer in the church. The church I attended was completely against any form of healing, while Jesus said we would do greater things than he was doing. He was a healer, and if I want to follow him, I should be doing similar things. I am (although it may sound horrible to some of you) hoping that this further church dogma will shake some great people into realizing the truth beyond their familiar authority figures.

Book review: Opening the Kimono

Opening the Kimono
A Woman’s Intimate Journey Through Life’s Biggest Challenges

Reviewed by Beth Lowell

Theresa Rose writes: “A kimono is an exquisitely adorned, multi-layered garment that completely covers one’s nakedness, one’s essence.” She contends that all of us wear a kimono of sorts that takes the form of “propriety, calculation and protection” to protect what’s inside, our vulnerabilities, so that we can present a more acceptable, socially correct face to the world.

In writing this book, Theresa, a Reiki Master, intuitive healer, meditation facilitator, and motivational speaker, removes her kimono to expose every dirty secret of her inner life; a process she says that has liberated her. By speaking the truth and confronting what scares her she found that life became not scarier, but as she describes it, juicier.

Speaking of juicy, some of the secrets she shares with readers are:

her lifelong struggle to accept her body – including her challenges with weight and binge eating, an excruciatingly detailed description of her first experience with colonic irrigation, and a closet smoking habit
an intimate look at her love and sex life
her child-raising experiences in which she freely admits feeding her daughter junk food after plopping her in front of the boob-tube
her self-destructive journey up the corporate ladder, out the corporate window, and her unorthodox entry into a healing career
an exploration of her mother’s death
why at midlife she decided to change her name

Theresa describes her book as a rant, a confessional and a tell-all, and the book lives up to her description. Confronting her demons means being frank and detailed about what she did and why she did it – including tackling taboo subjects. I’m not talking about weird sex here. I’m talking about admitting really ugly behavior, like throwing tantrums, reading her daughter’s diary, or becoming so angry that she’s felt like resorting to violence.

She chronicles her life from childhood and demonstrates how easily the demands of society can influence anyone to develop self-destructive coping methods, even at very early ages. Not all chapters pertain to every reader’s life, but each contains lessons that Theresa learned along the way and that readers can apply to almost any challenge they face in their own lives.

This book is addicting because of its conversational tone, the honesty with which it’s written and its universal themes. It exposes what most of us would rather brush under the rug. Despite much of the dark subject matter, it’s funny, it’s irreverent and it’s inspiring.

The end of the book includes a section of discussion starters, developed to encourage readers to tell their own stories. I applaud Theresa Rose’s bravery in documenting her life struggles and opening her kimono in this soul baring act of self-healing.

Martha Stewart, Celeb-Reiki

Martha Stewart spoke the word "Reiki" on television Monday as part of a very nice feature on her recent visit to New York's Animal Medical Center -- where Reiki is among the modalities available to patients. As she spoke, viewers saw a chihuahua named Zsa Zsa happily receiving a hands-on treatment. 

So now Reiki is officially "a good thing." And Martha Stewart is officially a Celeb-Reiki.

You can watch it yourself here -- Click on "Animal Medical Center" (it's the small image of Martha in a green jacket,  surrounded by people in white coats). Reiki is mentioned at about 4:20 in that segment. The whole program is available there as well. 

Say, Martha, The Reiki Dojo is right around the corner from your studio in Chelsea, and we'd be glad to talk to you about Reiki for humans as well.

April 22: Amanda Jayne talk on Jikiden at The Reiki Dojo

Register here for Jikiden Shihan Amanda Jayne's talk at The Reiki Dojo in New York City

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
7:30 p.m.

Advance reservations required -- only a few spaces left!

Event details:

Chiyoko Yamaguchi was only 17 years old when she learned Reiki. The year was 1938, the place was Daishoji, Ishikawa, Japan, and her teacher was Chujiro Hayashi, one of the original students of Reiki founder Mikao Usui. Many members of Mrs. Yamaguchi's family also practiced Reiki, and it was her uncle, by then authorized by Hayashi to teach, who trained and initiated her as a master. Mrs. Yamaguchi didn't start teaching Reiki until she was in her 70s. After she died in 2003 at the age of 82, her students, including her son Tadao, have continued her lineage, now known as Jikiden Reiki.

Amanda Jayne was one of Mrs. Yamaguchi's students during her four years living in Kyoto, and she now travels the world as a Jikiden Reiki teacher. On Wednesday, April 22, 2009, at 7:30 p.m., her travels will bring her to The Reiki Dojo in New York, where she will tell us about the origins of Reiki, Mrs. Yamaguchi's legacy, and show us rare photographs of Usui and Hayashi from the 1920s.

Spaces are extremely limited and advance reservations are essential. Click here to register:

For more information, email or call 917-512-1330. Admission is $20 for this special Reiki Dojo event.
Amanda's talk on Jikiden is only one of the special events coming up in The Reiki Dojo's First Annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

The Reiki Dojo is the home base of The Reiki Digest. Both are divisions of Healing Movement LLC.

The Reiki Dojo (Classical Wellness Center, 214 W. 29th St., New York City) 

The weekly waka, waka, waka, waka . . . . Waka fest continues!

Welcome once again to Waka Fest. While we're waiting for more readers to join the poetic conversation here, let's take a look at the waka submitted so far, as well as an article on waka, the hara, and the sword. Waka Fest will continue officially until May 13, but even after that we will be happy to see new waka added.

The first reader to add a waka was Colin Powell:

I have written several Reiki Waka on my website (click My Reiki Waka button)

Here is an example:


Reiki energy:
Atmosphere of the Divine.
How I wish I could
Experience its Great Light
In all aspects of my life.

Janet, you are welcome to use any of these if you like, as long as you keep me attributed as the author.

Thanks, Colin! 

Beth Lowell has done a yeoman's job of writing this past week:

drifting in the bay
I got a call long distance
a clear connection
my dog told me a story
happily ever after

on my way to work
one stormy April morning
walking through the snow
of fallen blossom petals
I remembered winter’s chill

under weeping trees
the river kept on running
carving into stone
the differences between us
and what drew us to its banks

tumbling on the trackbed
and singing rails
the wind, it blew them home

full moon
an empty sky
I stir my coffee
and hope for waka

and chilly breezes
and I'm contemplating:
ashes...or dust?

a weedy lawn
and a sink full of dishes
my life
what better way to spend it
than with poetry and dogs?

another day
another waka
life's too short
to worry about perfection
won't you join the party?

smudge on the doorjamb
where the cat rubbed against it
and when the light hits
just right in the afternoon
you can almost see her there

a neglected patch -
its fruit, fallen and rotten
throw it on the heap
choking on bitter nettles
the argument, unresolved

hurrying Spring
I bought a flat of pansies
their cheerful faces
were promising better days -
the deer enjoyed them too

crazy mutterings
hackneyed phrases and cliches
a one woman show
I want to be a poet
I'll never be a poet

Thanks, Beth! We used one of these waka for our meditations at The Reiki Dojo last night. Please keep going: you'll have a book's worth before long. And we share your hope that more readers will join in.

In the dark it sleeps
a fire, bright as the sun,
settled down, like snow
or a Mountain Cat's paw prints.
It is the fire of my heart.

Lilia V. Marquez quoted one of her favorite waka:

Hi Janet :-)

One of my favorite waka written by Emperor Meiji himself

My Heart
Asamidori sumiwataritaru ohzorano
Hiroki onoga kokoro to mogana

As a great sky in clear light green
I wish my heart would be as vast.

- Reverential composition by the
Emperor Meiji

Thanks, Lilia!

And Michael Dagley has these waka to offer this week:

The flower’s sweet sap
Lures the eager fly to death
In its graceful bowl,
As the timid friend's false praise
Poisons both truth and friendship.

Master of the tides,
Illusion, madmen, poets,
Even woman’s womb,
The moon is ever changing,
A trick of reflected light.

A single seedling
Boldly breaks the frost-bound earth
Seeking the sun’s light –
Fragile sprout of unknown fate,
Fearlessly demanding warmth.

Golden chains adorn
Slaves captured by the devil,
All of whom could free
Themselves by sacrificing
Guilt, hatred and jealousy.

Anger points backwards,
The mind blindly nursing ire –
Worry points forwards
The fearful heart lacking faith –
Flowers bloom in the present.

Arigato gozaimasu, Michael-san!

To contribute your waka to Waka Fest, add it as a comment to this post on our web site or email it to Or call our 24-hour waka hotline by clicking on the "call me" button on our web site to read your waka directly into our voicemail.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The weekly waka

Waka Fest

What is a waka?
And what does it have to do
with Reiki practice?
Waka Fest, we hope, will help
us explore this ancient art.
(By Janet Dagley Dagley)

Waka Fest

Welcome to The Reiki Digest's first annual Waka Fest, a celebration of the ancient Japanese poetic art that is an unheralded part of the system of Reiki.

For more than a year now, we've been publishing a weekly waka, usually written by one of two Reiki practitioners: Michael Dagley or Beth Lowell. Both of them have particularly enjoyed working, and playing, with the waka form, and I've contributed a few of my own as well. Now we're hoping to get some more poetic voices into the mix. We've issued a few low-key invitations to our readers from time to time, but we haven't gotten much response. So we've decided to celebrate the art of waka writing as part of our Cherry Blossom Festival.

Here's how it works: We invite you to write a waka (or several) and post it as a comment on our web site. We invite other readers to respond to any waka they wish with one or more other waka. Or if you prefer, write the first three lines of a waka, and let someone else finish it. We hope to get a waka conversation going -- not as it was done in ancient Japan, of course (they didn't have computers back then) but in the spirit of those evening gatherings hundreds of years ago in which all conversation was literally poetic.

And since, with all types of poems, delivery can make a huge difference, we've set up a special waka hotline so that you can read your waka aloud and let us post the audio on our web site.

So, what's a waka, and what does it have to do with Reiki? Structurally, a waka is a 31-syllable poem, divided into 5 lines in a 5/7/5/7/7 pattern of syllables.

Reiki founder Mikao Usui included 125 poems by Japan's Meiji emperor in the original Reiki manual, to be used as focal points in meditation. But since the manual was unknown in the west until the 1990s, Reiki practitioners who trained before then (and their students) may not know about the waka.

For more about waka, we turn to our waka writers. First up is Beth Lowell with "Waka Rules!"
followed by Michael Dagley with "Following the waka into Japanese history."

Waka rules!

By Beth Lowell

If you’ve ever considered writing a waka you know there are a lot of rules. Here are some of them:


Contains 5 lines
Follows a syllable/line pattern of 5/7/5/7/7
Contains 31 syllables
Is written so that each line can stand alone yet the group of lines creates a feeling of cohesiveness
Uses the middle line as a bridge or turning point
Uses poetic devices like simile and metaphor
Expresses emotion

I had read about the poetic form of tanka in the past but quickly dismissed it. I already knew how deceptively simple haiku look and the reality of how difficult to pull off they really are. So why would I want to try something longer and probably more difficult than a haiku? But after practicing Reiki, I discovered the waka, forerunner of the tanka, and I decided to take the plunge.

Waka literally means Japanese poem. Waka encompassed two forms, a long form, choka, and a short form, tanka. The long form fell by the wayside somewhere back in time and the tanka was what remained.

I started researching tanka to see how a really good one was written. I dissected tanka after tanka, looking closely, trying to see what lay underneath the words and structure that made them each so wonderful. But I had a problem. None of them were the same. Yes, they all followed the 5-line rule, but the syllable count was wrong. Some attempted a pattern of short/long/short/long/long, but others did not. Some were purely conversational and none of the lines stood alone. So, I decided I would go back to the source …. the Meiji Emperor.

Waka was written well before the Meiji Emperor was born but since his were the poems used for contemplation in Reiki, I used his poetry as my example. Most of the translations of the waka, which were traditionally written in one line, dutifully followed the 5/7/5/7/7 rule. But just as I had read in English tanka, some of the waka were conversational, and the translations often didn’t contain a bridging line.

When I read the phonetic version of the Japanese, I broke the words down into syllables as best I could, and indeed most waka contained 31 syllables, although some contained fewer. In delving deeper, things became even more confusing when I learned that Japanese language uses what is called a mora as a sound measurement, which is not equal to the syllable that we use in English. In Japanese, the word “cat” has two mora, where in English it contains only one syllable. Further, when I looked at one Japanese phonetic version and the English translation, the waka grew from one Japanese line into a small English Paragraph:

Ten wo urami hito wo togamuru kotomo araji waga ayamachi wo omoikaesaba

I have consecutive unhappiness and pain that I cannot control. Easy to think that there is no God, I tend to think that the other person is to blame for it. Is this really blamed on other person? Am I always right without any fault? No, I can remember that I also have many faults. This is blamed on me, I know that this is the result I bring, and now I am free from ill feeling.

This was all interesting but it wasn’t helping me get any closer to the answer I was looking for. Back to the present I returned for a second look into tanka. My hunch about all these rules was confirmed in a series of articles on the ‘Aha’ poetry website. Rules for tanka writing were created to help English writers achieve the sound and emotional quality of a Japanese poem. The challenge lies in the differences between both culture and language.

In an article called “Five Years of Tanka History in America,” Editor Jane Reichhold described her surprise when reading the differences in tankas submitted for an annual contest as the years passed. What she discovered was a beautiful parallel to the practice of Reiki. The rules were like mantras and symbols – tools; the training wheels for writers to begin to get into the tanka space. As their confidence and ability grew, they discarded the rules and were able to continue to create better and better work.

What made each of the tanka I researched so beautiful was not in the adherence to form or rules, but in the individual voice and purity of intention of each writer. So most rules aside, if it’s five lines, under 31 syllables and comes from the heart – it’s a waka!

Here’s an open invitation to all readers to try their hand at a waka/tanka, either following the traditionally established rules for English writers, or not, and submit it in the comments section – go ahead, it’s fun!

For examples of some modern tanka, visit:

Following the waka into Japanese history

By Michael Dagley

I came to the writing of waka almost accidentally: my wife, a strong believer in intellectual property rights, wanted to use the meanings of many of the Emperor Meiji’s waka for The Reiki Dojo in New York, but without violating any other translator’s or poet’s copyrights. So when I began writing waka, all I knew about the form was that it consisted of five lines with the pattern of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. I had a selection of poetry in Japanese (which I am studying but cannot read) and English equivalent meanings as well as translations. I was amazed that the equivalent meanings sometimes ran for a long paragraph, while the translations always adhered to the 5-line, 5-7-5-7-7 form.

From the beginning, I adhered to the form without questioning it. I found, however, that the waka I was reading made me want to know more, first about the Emperor Meiji, hoping to discover the secrets of his poetry. Thus began a long study of Japanese culture that continues (and likely will for the rest of my life!). I began by reading Donald Keene’s biography of the Emperor Meiji, Emperor of Japan, which led me to Marius B. Janssen’s The Making of Modern Japan.

After that, I simply could not get enough, reading book after book about Japan, non-fiction, books of short stories, novels, books of poetry, realizing through my reading that despite his place in Reiki, the Emperor Meiji as a poet was not considered one of the great Japanese poets. I could find no book on his poetry in English, for instance. When I visited Kinokuniya Bookstore in Manhattan, a wonderful place to find translations of Japanese classic and modern literature (and other materials on all things Japanese), I asked the very knowledgeable staff there whether they had a book of poetry by the Emperor Meiji or perhaps a book of criticism of his poems and was met with a surprised response: not only were there no such books in English, there were only very few in Japanese. One woman asked me why anyone would bother with such a book, the clear implication being that despite his historic significance, his poetic work was not considered of such great importance.

Perhaps something was lost in translation since it was hard for me even to make myself understood when I said “Emperor Meiji.” I had to repeat it several times before I was understood, and in response, she suggested I read Donald Keene’s biography.

But perhaps her reaction can be explained by the role waka played during the Emperor Meiji’s time: waka were most commonly used to send messages to others, almost as if they were letters or short notes. The Emperor and the Empress Shoken exchanged literally thousands of waka, and the Emperor is believed to have written as many as 100,000. Could such exchanges actually result in great poetry?

As I was to learn, the answer is a definite yes: in fact, such was the purpose of waka for nearly 1,000 years by the time the Emperor was born. I learned this by discovering what for me is the sourcebook for understanding and appreciating waka: Murasaki Shikobu’s The Tale of Genji (how it has made me wish I could read Japanese, both ancient and modern!). I read Royall Tyler’s translation, and reading (and re-reading) this amazing book has led me to the following conclusions:

Form matters: while it is common for modern poets to ignore the strict rules of the form, particularly the syllables, no self-respecting character in Murasaki’s amazing book would ever consider a poem to consist of anything else. On several occasions a character will say, often after a bad poem has been quoted, that not everyone who can string together 31 syllables is a poet.

Each line need not stand alone: in The Tale of Genji, lovers exchange poems at daybreak, just after the man has had to scamper off to avoid being caught. He is then expected to send a “letter” consisting of his poem, often with an appropriate flower. His lover then responds with a waka of her own, and such exchanges could occur several times in a day. In these cases, the poetry is used as a code, a method of sending a message to the loved one that the bearer (who could not be trusted not to read the letter he or she carried) could not understand. Thus many waka were a single sentence that carried the lover’s thoughts in elaborate metaphors.

Metaphors matter: since the poem in Murasaki’s time had to be a code, everything had to be conveyed through the use of metaphors.

Nature matters: the brevity of life, the constant changing of the flora and fauna, the phases of the moon, the rising of the sun, fog, rain, snow . . . almost all metaphors used in waka are taken from nature.

Japanese is not English: the 5-line, 5-7-5-7-7 form works very well in Japanese due to its being a language that does not consist of stressed and unstressed syllables. Instead, each syllable is given roughly the same weight, though it might differ in duration. At waka writing contests, then, it was possible to read a waka aloud with a drumbeat precision, slowly stressing each syllable and holding the last of each line an extra beat. It is not possible to duplicate this in English, leading many to decide that the 5-7-5-7-7 form need not be followed, or that it should be replaced with a form using stressed syllables with a 2-3-2-3-3 form.

Good waka have a “turn”: good waka, like good sonnets, contain a turn, usually after the second or third line, the introduction of a new idea or metaphor that deepens the meaning of the poem.

When I write waka, I almost always adhere to the 31-syllable form. As is the case with most forms, having to fit one’s message into such a strict form leads to “lucky accidents” that produce surprising results. In fact, it lets me “play with words,” which I sometimes think is the whole purpose and magic of poetry. Most importantly, some of these results of this play with form are good!

One other point I would make about waka in general and the Emperor Meiji’s writing of them in particular, which is something a high school creative writing teacher quoted, from whom I can’t remember (American poet Karl Shapiro?): “You have to stand out in the rain for a long time before lightning strikes.” Anyone who writes 100,000 waka is bound to have written a number of truly great ones (lightning striking), and from the examples I have seen, the best of the Emperor Meiji’s waka are as good as any.

The lesson for us is not only to contemplate the waka he wrote, but to write our own . . . many of them, on many topics, using good metaphors taken from nature and adhering to form . . . where possible. For me, form is important, but I have read many fine English waka that do not adhere precisely to the form. Most importantly, keep trying, keep writing, keep testing yourself against the form: you never know when magic might happen!

Here are three examples of such waka, the first two mine, the third Beth Lowell’s (you’ll notice that she does not adhere strictly to the form, yet the result is still amazing):

Lightning strikes the tip
Of the forest’s tallest tree,
Snuffing out its life,
Its dried leaves drifting to earth,
Sunlight pouring through the breach.

None can view the sun
Directly lest they go blind,
The fiery white beam
Unwilling to be seen yet
Illuminating our world.

I knew nothing
and I knew everything
as soon as I forgot
where the dog left off
and I began

Bishops denounce Reiki: our discussion continues

Our readers are continuing to comment on last month's denunciation of Reiki by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.


This news pushed quite a few buttons for me last week and I found myself deeply disappointed. As I was raised Catholic and then left the church in my adult life, I have found Reiki a magnificent tool for connecting more deeply with my faith and coming to terms with some of the issues I've had with the Catholic church. Just recently I returned to the church where I grew up, after over a decade had passed, only to find myself in a completely different environment. I was amazed at how Zen the interior looked. The dark altar with all the heavy furniture had been replaced with a simple altar and a couple of chairs and a beautiful skylight had been installed. The baptismal in the back had a beautiful running fountain with stones and plants, inviting a touch of nature into the space. There was a beautiful lightness throughout the building that I had never experienced growing up. I wondered to myself if perhaps a subtle shift was happening within the church as a whole or if it was simply my own perspective that had shifted. I thought about my own spiritual journey over this past decade and how I've come to feel more deeply connected to my Catholic faith than I ever did when I was practicing, and I attribute much of that to Reiki. Just as Dennis mentions in his commentary, the teachings of Jesus in the gospels are filled with the idea that we are here to be channels of love, compassion, peace and healing for each other. Reiki has given me an outlet to practice these teachings in my daily life and to see where God speaks to us through the simple blessings we experience every day. Whether one believes in a God, the Universe or nothing at all, Reiki brings us more deeply into the journey of self discovery and that is indeed where Jesus was leading his followers - down that path of finding our own sense of God within ourselves. I have come to recognize for myself that I can have faith in these teachings without buying into a political structure that doesn't empower me to evolve spiritually. A great debate that has arisen from the different gospels ever since they were written is the argument of whether God is an external, enigmatic entity that we are here to serve, or if God is that great force that lives and breathes in each and every one of us. Reiki guides us in the direction of the later belief and I saw that belief represented by many of the Catholic teachers I had over the years. I also witnessed the former being taught and always found that to estrange people from the church instead of bringing them closer. Jesus did indeed teach his followers that it is possible to heal human suffering and every one of the Reiki principles can be found in the gospels. I do hope that some day the shift I had so gently and beautifully experienced that day when I returned to my hometown church manifests on a greater level. If everyone keeps the faith, it will indeed happen someday.

Peace & Light, 

From Graxwarrior:

I state a vested interest: I am a Reiki practitioner and a failed agnostic.
Statement of Fact.
Reiki is a Complementary Therapy. Not an "alternative" to anything!
Personal opinion
From the title onwards the "Bishops" have got it wrong, but the Roman Church has never been hot on truth; only "The Truth" - as they want everyone to believe it.

As for "Reiki lacks scientific credibility"; Have these people ever sought any scientific credibility for the events that they celebrate on the Friday of Holy Week? When they do, perhaps they'll be better qualified to comment on things they evidently do not understand.

Perhaps they should stick to astronomy.

The next item isn't a comment: it's a news story on a development that seemed inevitable in the wake of the bishops' statement. Two Catholic hospitals in New Jersey and New York will stop offering Reiki to patients. 

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Reiki's ambassador to medicine

By Janet Dagley Dagley, Editor

Integrative Healthcare Symposium, New York City, 2009
 — In a darkened hotel conference room filled nearly to capacity with doctors, nurses, chiropractors, nutritionists, psychologists, and other health-care professionals, a woman stands next to a projector screen larger than she is, speaking in rapid-fire polysyllabics — intervention, therapeutically, clinician, protocol, nonmanipulative, anticipatory anxiety, parasympathetic — as she clicks through her presentation. Those trying to follow along in their notebooks scribble frantically to keep up with the torrent of information coming at them. Otherwise, the room is quiet: no conversation, not even an errant cellphone interrupting.

I’ve seen this presenter before, but not like this. I've seen her do much less technical slide presentations, teaching Reiki practitioners what they need to know to work in a professional medical environment. But this is a professional medical environment, and even though she is not herself a medical professional, she blends in perfectly, using the format, language, presentation tools, standards, even the pace and cadence of the medical culture as she talks about her field of expertise: Reiki. And she has the rapt attention of every person in the room. In fact, she's had their attention since she and some of her students offered each audience member a 30-second sample of hands-on Reiki to begin the presentation.

After that brief chance to discover what Reiki feels like, the recipients were asked to describe what the experience felt like:

"Deep relaxation."
"Opening up."
"Hair standing on end, otherwise relaxed."
"Waves of energy cascading down."
"My headache has subsided!"
Meet Pamela Miles, Reiki’s ambassador to medicine.

Reiki Master Pamela Miles

That’s not what she set out to be, not as a young girl intrigued with yoga and meditation, nor as a young woman living and studying in India, not even when she received her first Reiki treatment as a mother-to-be with the pregnancy blahs back in 1986. She was hooked on Reiki from that moment, signing up for training almost immediately and eventually going on to become a Reiki master. The medical connection came shortly afterward. There was a new disease making headlines then, one that was considered a death sentence because at that point, no one had ever survived it. The people who got it were called “AIDS victims,” and many other people were afraid to touch them or even be in the same room with them, since panic was in the air and it wasn't yet certain how the virus was transmitted. With conventional medicine offering these "victims" little hope, many of them turned to alternative therapies. New York’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis, an organization that sprang up in response to the epidemic, asked Miles to set up a Reiki program. She not only touched those afflicted with AIDS to offer the comfort of Reiki, she taught them to practice Reiki themselves, even though some of her students “were so sick that they practically slept through the entire class. But they still were able to practice on themselves,” she told her audience at the Integrative Healthcare Symposium

And then, she dropped a bombshell: “I have no medical credentials.” She repeated it, just to make sure. “I have no medical credentials. But enough doctors who were doing HIV treatment saw that their patients who were doing better than they would have expected kept mentioning Reiki, Reiki, Reiki, Reiki, Pamela Miles, GMHC. And from that connection, when Beth Israel started their complementary therapies program at their outpatient AIDS clinic, I was asked to be part of that.”

Since then, sans medical credentials, Miles has given Reiki in the operating room with Dr. Mehmet Oz and others, even during heart transplants, and published numerous medical papers about Reiki in peer-reviewed scientific journals. She has written the only Reiki book to come out so far from a major U.S. publishing house, and has been called back again and again to make presentations to medical audiences, even the National Institutes of Health. She not only has introduced Reiki to numerous health-care professionals, she has also taught Reiki practitioners of all lineages and styles how to communicate with medical professionals and work alongside them.* 

Many would consider those accomplishments to be “medical credentials,” but Miles knows better. She may work side-by-side with health-care professionals, even speak their language, but she doesn’t present herself as one of them. And she makes it clear that while Reiki can be practiced in medical environments, it isn’t medicine.

“Reiki is a spiritual or vibrational healing practice,” she said in her symposium presentation. And she was quick to point out that, “I’m not talking about religion here. Religion involves dogma, a belief system. Reiki does not.”

And a healing practice, she explained, is ongoing. “It’s a continual process. And I often say to my students that it’s no longer sufficient to have a healthy lifestyle. We need to have a healing lifestyle. We need to find, or create, moments of healing in our life every day.”

Interestingly, the notion of finding or creating moments of healing in everyday life has a particular appeal to stressed-out health-care professionals. “As Pamela says, the care of the patient begins with care of the caregiver,” says Sarah Nowlin, a nurse who attended Miles’s presentation that day and went on to sign up for Reiki training. 

"After Pamela's presentation, I felt validated in my suspicions about the positive powers of Reiki. With the 30 seconds of Reiki treatment given to members of the audience, and Pamela's calm but passionate presence, I was inspired to take her First Degree class. I am doing my part and practicing Reiki every day to enhance my abilities as a caregiver," Nowlin said. "Eventually, I hope to use Reiki as an adjunct therapy for my clients.

"I can honestly say that every colleague I speak to about Reiki is just as excited about it as I am," Nowlin said in an e-mail interview. "However, there is still quite a bit of false knowledge floating around concerning how and when Reiki began and what it is now. I would love to see more integrative practitioners using Reiki in primary care settings and in acute care. The medical and nursing communities are aware of the healing effects of Reiki, but with the health care community's focus on evidence-based practice, more research is needed for Reiki to be incorporated into practice."

Miles knows the kind of evidence medicine needs in order to give Reiki scientific legitimacy, but she also knows that "we need to reconsider the standards for evidence. The randomized controlled trial is inappropriate for the kind of complex and multi-level action of complementary and alternative medicine," she said in her presentation. "A systems approach is a better match for outcomes research: let's offer Reiki to people who just had a certain surgery and don't offer Reiki to a matched group of patients, and see, who gets out of the hospital faster? Who takes less medications, etc.? The challenges of Reiki research in particular — duh — we have no scientific evidence that Reiki exists! So if we start thinking in that way, we're not going to get very far."

Dr. James Dillard, a physician, chiropractor, acupuncturist, and Reiki practitioner who specializes in treating chronic pain, studied Reiki with Miles and was her co-presenter at the symposium.

 "If somebody says to me, as a Reiki practitioner, 'Do you believe in this?" I say, you know. I'm not sure," Dillard said. "I use it. I practice it. It seems to make my patients feel better. Do I believe in it, the way someone would have a religious belief? No, I don't."

Dillard said that, "If I've got somebody who's in tremendous pain and anxiety, Reiki is an invaluable tool, because not only does it allow me to get still and quiet in the presence of that distress, and that person being totally stressed out, but it also gives an opportunity for that patient to get still and quiet."

Miles listed numerous situations in which Reiki can be helpful, careful to point out that she was not citing studies but speaking from her own experience. 

"The mechanism of action for Reiki is as yet unknown," Miles said. "Science does not know how Reiki works. But remember that aspirin was used for 70 years before science understood its mechanism of action. I think of Reiki as the resting cure. And there is growing research documenting that Reiki treatment seems to gently influence the system toward balance. A side effect of balance is a reduction of stress. A hundred years ago, people would be sent to the mountains. Fresh air, maybe running water. They would rest. Nowadays, if we were sent to the mountains, and there wasn't a casino there, we'd probably just get more stressed, right? Because we don't know how to rest. We've lost the capacity to shift back into parasympathetic nervous system dominance. So I propose, and this is just my theory from my clinical observations, that Reiki enables the body to shift to parasympathetic nervous system dominance through vagal nerve stimulation. And in that state, the body resets its self-regulating mechanisms."

Miles and Dillard agreed that much more research is needed, and they have some suggestions for how that might be done. "Let's include an experienced Reiki master in all phases of the research, from design through the interpretation," Miles said. She also hopes researchers will be able to "study Reiki like Richard Davidson at Madison is studying meditation."

Miles has given Reiki to clients dealing with many different health issues, but she makes it clear that a Reiki practitioner does not treat illnesses per se. "When people call me and say, 'Have you ever treated cancer before?' what do you think I say? NO! I don't treat cancer. Reiki doesn't treat cancer. Reiki balances people, and that can help their bodies address whatever symptoms or conditions, or support the conventional approach to cure."

This coming weekend, April 4-5, Miles will be teaching "Practicing Reiki in Medical Setting: Part II Medical Reiki" at the New York Open Center

*(So far, she hasn’t authorized any of her students to teach her "Reiki in Medicine" course, but unfortunately that hasn’t stopped some from claiming that their own classes are “according to the teachings of Pamela Miles.”)

(Editor's note: Even though Pamela Miles is one of The Reiki Digest's advertisers [and we thank her for her support], she did not see this article in advance and had no control in the writing, editing, or placement of it.)

Catholics and Reiki in the wake of US bishops' ruling

Greetings to our many Catholic readers. We know you're there even though we've only received a few comments. We know because our web traffic has quadrupled in the past week, ever since the US Conference of Catholic Bishops officially denounced Reiki. We know because while we can't see all the details for each visitor, we have noticed quite a few who've surfed in from a particular convent or church or Catholic hospital. And we know because we've had the biggest one-week jump in subscribers since this publication began nearly three years ago. 

Here are the comments we've received so far on this issue, and a couple of interesting items we've found on the web this week.

Kaddu wrote: "Ha ha ha! Religious leaders are simply hilarious... all across the world! :-D"

Lori Wilson wrote: 

"Because I write grants for a Franciscan group and am a Reiki volunteer at a local Catholic medical center, I felt compelled to respond to this article. While I am not Catholic and may not have an entirely unbiased perspective, it does seem as if there is a disturbing trending away from Reiki and other forms of alternative healing since Pope Benedict XVI replaced Pope John Paul II.

But here's the interesting thing: the leaders of my Reiki volunteer group at the medical center are also lay Catholic ministers and perform pastoral functions for the patients. They are passionate about Reiki and their ministry in equal parts.

And, if the Catholic-based corporation that runs the medical center did not approve of our band of Reiki volunteers (which includes at least two nurses and one nun), it would have never let us offer Reiki in the cancer center, in med-surg, in pain management, or the ICU. We are expanding into other different departments of the medical center because Reiki works: it does no harm and can only help at physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. A few of our patients and their caretakers are leery of the offering of Reiki, but so many more are glad to receive it because they realize that it just might be another avenue to recovery or comfort might support their healing in other ways.

I might add that the other major hospital in our city, which is secular, does not have a Reiki volunteer program. Thus, we offer a unique and helpful service, regardless of whether it's Catholic or not.

After reading over the Bishops' guidelines, I suspect that they may be purposely clouding the concepts of both Reiki and healing that can be otherwise translated across any belief system (or no belief system, for that matter). That tells me that, at the very least, Reiki is starting to make inroads in places that we might not have seen it in as few as five years ago.

So, while I'm definitely concerned about witnessing a kind of fear and suspicion that faintly echoes back to the Inquisition and earlier, I am heartened to know that Reiki is becoming more and more visible and accepted as a healing system by the public and that there are many, many liberal Catholics who will take their own counsel about Reiki and not the Bishops', as they have with other controversial issues in the Church."

JoAnne Robinson wrote: 

"I realize that this document is considered "The Word" according to the US Catholic church, but note which particular bishops signed the actual document, not one is from a major metro area like New York, Los Angles, Chicago. I just have to wonder why such a controversial topic did not get enough backing from the major areas of the country to warrant their signatures?

In my opinion, all publicity is good publicity. Reiki certainly is getting people to take a look and think about many things. It saddens me that many will suffer as a result of this document."

Dennis Dupuis wrote:

"Hello. I just want to share an email that I sent this morning to the “webcoordinator @”, the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It probably isn’t the appropriate address, but it IS the only one that I could find listed on their website.

Dear sir,

I must take a moment to share with you my disappointment in the recent guidelines from your organization regarding Reiki. The point I most wish to share with you is that Jesus did this. He did not call it “Reiki”, but it was the same thing. I am a Catholic who has a deep belief and desire that I should live my life as Jesus lived his. “What would Jesus do?” is a wonderful approach to every life situation. The laying on of hands and wishing to be an instrument of God’s love in the healing and comforting of another living being, especially our fellow humans, especially when this fellow human is suffering, is how Jesus lived and how I believe he would have us live now. How can this not be in accord with our Catholic faith and practice? I think our Bishops got this one wrong and pray that God will guide them to further consideration, information, and understanding.

In Peace,

Perhaps The Reiki Digest could provide its readers with an address, email or otherwise, where we could share our thoughts with the bishops? Especially those of us who are Catholic. Thanks for the heads-up."

Peace, Balance & Joy, (PB&J!)

Barrington, NH"

The bishops didn't seem all that open to input on the issue, but in any case, here's their snail mail address and phone:

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20017
(202) 541-3000

Sue Routner wrote: 

"Dear Janet,

It is very sad that the bishops feel the need to denounce Reiki and feel justified to do so publicly. I also find it very odd that they argue on the basis of scientific proof, as they have up until now not provided any such proof that God exists.

I found out not so long ago, via a programme on EMTV (now called Controversial TV (!)), that the Inquisition still exists, and its name is something along the lines of Symposium of the Doctrine of the Faith, and it's headed by the current Pope, Ratzinger!

The bishops' attack on Reiki finds a parallel in the Codex Alimentarius which is currently being hotly debated and aims at curbing people's right to access vitamins and minerals, as well as to abolish univerity degrees in complementary medicine. The culprit in this case is the pharmaceutical industry aiming to eliminate the competition, but seen from an overall perspective, in both cases it's the establishment working hard on eliminating freedom of choice and freedom of belief.

Although it sounds odd to say so in the 21st century, the witch hunt is far from over and we need to remain alert and stand united to prevent the attacks on complementary therapies from getting worse.

Sue Routner
Reiki Practitioner"

At, we found this thoughtful post, and we hope the author doesn't mind our quoting it here: 

". . . The Bishops offer these as guidelines only. I don’t see any thing that requires a change in belief.

While it is a carefully thought out work, it’s done from an outside view, not one that’s experienced the connection with God through Reiki. With the very many views on what Reiki is, I can’t really blame the bishops. We don’t really have one voice as to what Reiki is. In some ways this is good as we must internalize the message of what Reiki is rather than following a message from a Reiki central authority. . . ."

Click anywhere on the quote to read the whole post.

Meanwhile, we thought The Guardian in the UK had fairly high standards, but unfortunately it repeats some of the most common misinformation about Reiki. Can you point out the mistakes about Reiki in this article?

Thanks to all who have contributed to this discussion. To share your thoughts on this issue or let us know about a news item or commentary on it elsewhere, just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of this post on our web site, or email