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East/West Medicine
Reiki-The Ancient Art of Touch Healing

"My first experience with Reiki was a hands-on one, " says Maggie Chambers. " I had a dear friend who came and did Reiki on me right after my fourth baby had been born. I never felt what I felt when she put her hands on me. It's hard to describe. It's almost as if we don't have the language to describe this. Heat is a very frequently experienced sensation, but it's not heat, it's different. It's this deep, liquid, delicious, radiant feeling that goes through you, and certainly relaxation is part of it. But I think probably, truly, it is the experience of being infused with universal life force, and it's hard to describe what that feels like."

Maggie Chambers is now a Reiki Master, so compelling was her introduction to the ancient touch therapy. So, too, is Libby Barnett, and together they conduct Reiki classes at the Reiki Healing Connection in Wilton, N.H., as well as at hospices, medical centers, and medical schools throughout the U.S. They are also authors of the book, Reiki Energy Medicine: Bringing Touch Into Home, Hospital, and Hospice.

Reiki (pronounced ray-kee) is a Japanese word that has no English equivalent but is most often translated as "universal life force." It is a hands-on healing art thought to have originated in Tibet 2,500 years ago and then rediscovered in the 1850s by a Japanese Christian educator in Kyoto investigating ancient Sanskrit texts.

The practice of Reiki involves the laying on of hands along what practitioners often refer to as the body's energy doors or chakras--the Sanskrit word for wheel--to promote healing, manage pain, reduce stress, or to enhance a feeling of well-being.

"When a client comes to receive Reiki, they usually get on a table, and it looks like a typical massage table. They're fully clothed. I'll often cover them with a light sheet. Sometimes there's a temperature change when you're receiving Reiki. But generally there will be this sense, as I move my hands from positions on the head to the side of the body, then gently laying my hands in different patterns on the body, and often down to the knees and sometimes to the feet, there will be this increasing sense of relaxation," says Libby Barnett.

"As my hands are resting on these different places on their body, it's an invitation for their cells to pull in more life force, more of what they're made of, and then that stimulates the natural healing resources of the body and the body moves that being toward more health, toward more well-being."

The concept of universal life force is one that is unfamiliar to most Westerners, and yet the discovery by quantum physicists that all substance is composed of energy fields seems to mirror what the ancient cultures of India, China, Japan, and Egypt understood; that the human body is made up of dynamic--albeit unseen--energy systems that are a vital part of us and our sustenance.

Libby Barnett acknowledges that such energy fields are difficult to talk about, nor are there instruments to measure them, but they are palpable. "The life force is something that's all around us. We are swimming in it. We breathe it. So, even though most of us can't see it, and certainly we can't perceive it with other senses usually, it is there, all around us, and we become conduits for this universal life force when you learn how to do Reiki. That's what a Reiki practitioner is. It's almost like becoming a straw, so that whenever you put your hands on someone else or yourself, it's an invitation for those cells to pull in more of what they're already made up of. It's what you are intrinsically."

Program Description
Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Reiki:The Ancient Art
Harvard Vanguard

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