Last fall, someone walked into my studio and asked, “Do you flow Reiki energy through your paintings?”
It surprised me that he saw the energy in my work, that he looked at the paintings and thought, Reiki.
Of course, the answer was yes - whether you call it Reiki or something else - my artwork is intentionally infused with healing energy.
There was a time with Reiki was the heart of my business.
In a way, it still is, but the shape of my work shifted.
Instead of meeting with clients in a treatment room, I make paintings.
I haven’t used that word, however, when talking about my work.
There are several reasons for that, but before I explain, I’m aware that you might not know what the heck I’m talking about.
What is Reiki?
The word Reiki means universal life force energy.
It really is that simple.
The system of Usui Reiki healing has a whole history, and layers that I won’t go into here, but in general, what you really need to know about Reiki is this:
Reiki healing is the focused channeling of the energy that moves through all life.
It’s not faith healing, magic, or psychic work.
It’s completely natural, it causes no harm, and it is not in conflict with religion or allopathic medicine.
My REiki Story
I was probably in high school the first time I saw a book with “healing hands” on the cover and became minor league obsessed with Reiki.
It was something I was drawn to, something that called to me. I wanted to know about it and I wanted to be able to do it.
At that time, I didn’t know anyone who practiced Reiki.
I read books. For years. And talked about Reiki with anyone who would listen. For years.
Is at in my apartment in New York and shaped energy balls with my hands. Even there, I didn’t know how to find a Reiki practitioner, or teacher. I’d never had a treatment, but I kept reading about energy and trying out these experiments on my own.
It wasn’t until I was living back in Kentucky that I finally found my person. Interestingly enough, I spied her business card on the front desk at an art gallery.
I booked an appointment as a birthday gift to myself.
The minute I walked into her space, I knew she was the right practitioner and teacher for me. It was an incredibly inviting, lush, and slightly mysterious space. I felt comfortable there despite my incredible excitement at finally getting a Reiki treatment.
I don’t remember what, if anything, I felt physically during that session, but I remember that my third eye lit up. (Not literally.)
I continued to work with her and attend her workshops and I’m grateful for the relationship we had, for the way she taught, and the fact that she could see me.
Reiki is passed from master to student through a process called attunement. During attunement, your energetic pathways are opened so that the Reiki energy can flow freely through your body.
I was attuned to Usui Reiki I, II, and III, which technically makes me a Reiki Master, though I dislike that term.
If attunement sounds a little too woo, I can tell you, I experienced the moment of my Reiki III attunement physically. I felt energy rearranging inside my body. It was powerful and undeniable.
For weeks afterwards, my hands would randomly “turn on” and get hot and I would put them on Tracy or Woody.
My first professional session
After practicing on friends and family and giving away lots of sessions, I decided to start offering Reiki sessions professionally.
My first paying client came to see me in a little healing space I’d set up in my house.
Interestingly enough, guess who else showed up?
As soon as I put my hands into my client’s aura and starting flowing the energy, a clear image of Jesus appeared in my third eye. To be clear, I am not saying I had a vision of Jesus or that Jesus was there. I’m saying that I was aware of an iconic image, an image that I recognized as Jesus. Was this image being shown to me or was it something I was picking up in my client’s energy field? I leaned toward the former, but it certainly could have been the later.
I wasn’t sure what to do with this information.
I didn’t know this person, and didn’t know what her feelings about Christianity might be, but in the debriefing portion of our session, I decided to tell her what I had seen.
She began to weep.
It turns out she had left the church of her upbringing, which had caused her family concern. They, to put it mildly, cautioned her that straying from their church meant she had separated herself from God.
She found the presence of Jesus during her session to be not only a comfort, but also a confirmation that she was on the right path, that she was loved by God, that it was okay for her to be forging a new spiritual path for herself.
So even though Reiki is not psychic work, it does, at least for me, have a mystical and intuitive element.
There were almost always messages of one sort or another flowing through my sessions with clients.
I have no idea if this is something that is necessarily a part of Reiki, or if it is simply a part of me that is activated when I channel Reiki energy.
The Dream opportunity
I grew my Reiki practice in my little healing space and then by renting time in other spaces. I had wonderful experiences and I loved doing the work but there was also something not quite right about the arrangements in which I found myself.
I told myself the reason I wasn't ecstatically happy doing this work, the way I thought I would be, was because I didn’t have my own office.
I truly believed energy healing was my purpose, my dream job, and all I needed was a dream place in which to do it.
The dream place would be beautiful and inviting and it would be within walking distance of my house.
This place, amazingly, was offered to me.
A good friend, who was a massage therapist, was going away for a year and needed someone to sublet her space, about two blocks from my house. It was lovely and I loved working there.
I met and developed relationships with clients who are now my friends.
I developed and grew as a practitioner.
It was perfect, except that it wasn’t.
At the end of the year I knew.
I didn’t want to see one-on-one clients anymore.
My Problems with reiki
I loved working in the healing arts, but the more I did so, the more I felt sort of one foot in and one foot out with Reiki.
When I listened to other practitioners talk, I increasingly felt I wasn’t doing the same thing they were doing.
For one thing, there was an allegiance to Mikao Usui and Hawayo Takata that never quite resonated with me. It wasn’t that I had any negative feelings about them, I just didn’t feel connected to them. I felt like Reiki was a word that referred to something actually much larger, much more inclusive, than the Usui history.
I also felt uneasy about the fact that Reiki involved the use of symbols kept secret from non-practitioners.
I found myself in more resonance with people like Echo Bodine, who practices a hands-on energy healing technique she doesn’t identify as Reiki.
Most importantly, working in person drained and exhausted me.
This isn’t supposed to happen. Everyone will tell you, if you’re grounding your energy and doing this thing correctly, you - the practitioner - will feel no energy drain from giving Reiki. I grounded myself. I protected myself. I shielded and cleared and did all the self-work, but was still left depleted.
I didn’t feel drained by distance work - in fact, I felt like my distance sessions were even more effective - but I found it difficult to convince people that distance Reiki “works” just as well as in-person.
So, I stopped.
My Take on Energy Healing
I believe energy healing, whether Reiki or another modality, works because of quantum entanglement.
While there is no need for the recipient of energy work to adopt a belief system - no need to believe in “spirit guides,” etc., for me, there is a spiritual/mystical element. Energy healing for me is a lot like prayer. Actually, it is exactly like prayer. I know that I am assisted by spirit - by God - perhaps by that which we call angels, when I practice.
I believe flowing healing energy through ourselves and one another is completely natural. It’s a part of who and what we are. There is a reason why you naturally reach out your hands toward someone who is hurting.
Even though I believe in the great medicine of laying on hands, as I mentioned before, Reiki is not faith healing.
I don’t believe you can be healed or cured of anything by having a strong enough faith, and I don’t believe illness is the manifestation of not having enough faith.
Bringing Reiki Back In
I begin each painting I create with prayer and intention. I lay my hands flat on the canvas and flow energy while praying for the highest good of the recipient.
In this way, I haven’t stepped away from Reiki, simply re-oriented my practice.
And as I said, I haven’t used the word Reiki in explaining or promoting my work.
But recently, I attended a two hour workshop that involved holding restorative yoga poses while receiving Reiki. It was incredibly nourishing.
I was reminded of how powerful and beautiful and easy energy healing is.
I had a profound experience, and realized that I missed this work.
Art & Energy
So if Reiki didn’t actually go anywhere, how do I bring it back in?
If I’ve already been infusing my paintings with healing energy, is there some reason to use the word Reiki?
I don’t know.
I do know that at the end of that two-hour yoga workshop, I felt a clear spiritual presence on my left side. What I felt from that presence was pure and unencumbered love.
I am uneasy with language like spirit guide. I back away when teachers begin to explain, define, and list a hierarchy of spiritual beings.
And yet, I know there are such beings.
Intuitively I understood there was a connection between the two beings I felt standing next to me and the Reiki healing I had just received.
And I knew that it was good.
Where I am Now
So, I no longer see one-on-one clients for energy work.
My work, in general, is an organic moving morphing sort of thing that springs from the very center of me.
I also no longer feel the same conflict or stress around the language of Reiki or whether or not I’m doing Reiki “correctly” or angering the Reiki gatekeepers.
I’m glad energy work is becoming more mainstream and is offered now in hospitals and hospice centers and I do understand why there are practitioners and teachers who hold tight lines about defining Reiki for this very reason.
But I am not a part of that.
Neither do I believe Reiki is something special for special people.
While I think training is wonderful and I’m grateful for mine, and while I know for sure that I was changed by attunement, I believe, as I said, it is a natural gift, a gift from God, something everyone can do.
You, as you are right now, can lay hands and be a vessel for the healing energy of the divine.
When I work with sacred healing energy, I am the vessel for that energy. The energy is flowing from God but it’s flowing through me, so it’s going to pick up a bit of my flavor, my essence.
In other words, I do what I do the way I do it.
Using the word Reiki can be helpful because more and more people know what that is and can therefore jump into an understanding with me.
As I said, Reiki is not faith healing, but for me, it is a form of prayer.
I sometimes go to the healing service at my church or other Episcopal churches. This is a deeply moving, beautiful service of unction - the anointing with holy oil.
Once, I went to such a service and after the priest anointed the person in front of her, she asked that person to stay with her. As we each came up one by one to be anointed, we stayed and lay hands on the next person until what remained was a whole group of us, our hands on one another, praying for wholeness.
It was tender and powerful, this prayer.
On my night drive home I asked myself, how is that different from the hands-on-healing of Reiki?
The obvious answer is that we were praying in the name of the Father and Son and the Holy Spirit, in a church, adhering to the doctrine of the Church.
There was a priest, of course, ordained in the apostolic line.
But after that, when we were just the group of us, physically touching one another, praying. Wasn’t that much the same thing, much the same energy that I tap into when I tap into the flow of Reiki?
The structure is different.
The practice is different.
But isn’t it all God?
My answer is yes.
It’s all prayer.
As part of the ongoing process of shedding what isn’t true for me, dedicating to what is, and integrating all the pieces of myself and my past into one, I have begun giving self-treatments again.
I do it at night before falling asleep, or sometimes during the day while I’m at my desk.
I’m letting this Reiki be what it is and do what it does without clinging on to or trying to define it or shape it in any particular way.
I trust in the love of it, the great cosmic love.
If you have ever received a Prayer Painting from me, then you have been recipient of this love as it flows through the work. What’s on your canvas is, quite literally, an energetic prayer.
Perhaps that’s all I need to know right now.
Perhaps there is no big shift or change coming from all of this.
Perhaps you just read this excessively long post only to get to the end and discover, I don’t the answers to the questions I’ve posed.
You are loved; you are love
Perhaps my point is simply this.
God is love and we are physical extensions of God in the world.
We are vessels of God.
And we need- if we are going to survive, if we are going to thrive, if we are going to truly live the lives we came here to live-to touch one another.
We need to form the connection, be the chain of light that flows from God through our bodies into one another.
The language we use, the methods we use, are only important in that we find that with which we are in alignment.
The love for ourselves and one another. The love for God and the earth. The acknowledgement that we are all here together and that we hold medicine for one another - that is what’s important.
My heart holds medicine.
So does yours.
May we allow it to flow in abundance.