In late 2017, Nathan Chang, the author of the Seven Interviews book series, interviewed me for his latest book, Reiki Healing. I’m happy to share the full interview transcript with you here, but you’ll have to buy the book to read the other six interviews.
Nathan: What is Reiki?
Molly: A gentle energetically based technique, Reiki uses light touch and hovering to facilitate energy transfer from practitioner to the recipient, promoting healing on physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual levels. Due its promotion of general well-being, Reiki helps move the body into a state of balance in which true healing can occur.
The reason why hovering can be effective is we actually are made of energy from top to bottom –that’s not a disputed fact. Specifically, we have electrical energy in our bodies, which is what makes our heart beat and our muscles move. There’s a law called Ampere’s Law which states that anything which has an electrical current creates a magnetic field around it, so human beings actually have our own biomagnetic fields that surround our physical bodies.
Reiki is a wonderful way for people to begin feeling the subtleties of their own energy field, as they begin to feel energy move through their bodies, whether manifesting as heat, tingling, buzzing, wavelike sensations or any number of other sensory experiences. Some people see colors or images, others gain clarity about a challenging issue, others feel emotions move through them, seemingly out of nowhere. All of this is simply an experience of energetic movement, which means that the Reiki is having an impact.
Nathan: What can Reiki be used for, and how effective is it?
Molly: Reiki boosts the recipient’s own healing potential, so it can truly help with anything. Reiki practitioners can send more specific intentions based upon the recipient’s goals and requests, but the highest intention (what I call the “trump card”) in all Reiki sessions is that the Reiki energy work toward the recipient’s greatest good, whatever that may be. The underlying concept is that there is something within each of us that knows best what we need, even if we are not consciously aware of it. Interestingly, the limited scientific understanding that we have regarding Reiki backs this up, showing evidence* that Reiki boosts the immune system and calms the autonomic nervous system, generally setting the recipient up for better health on all levels – physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
If someone is interested in treating a specific issue, the only way to know what will happen in any given instance is to try it. I always explain the above concept to my clients who have specific goals because ultimately, Reiki will do what is needed in that moment. Much like Western medicine, the outcome is never guaranteed; the difference with Reiki practice is that this tends to be better understood and accepted by people who seek it out as a healing modality, and they tend to enter the treatment with an open mind.
The most often reported effects of Reiki are pain relief and stress reduction. Here are some other issues that Reiki can help with.
- Pain (acute or chronic)
- Pre- and post-operative pain/stress
- Chemotherapy’s side effects
- Addictions & compulsions
- Low libido
- Feelings of fear, grief, loss, sadness, isolation
- Disconnection from body
- Separation from Spirit or self
- The list goes on….
Nathan: There are different levels of Reiki practitioner. What’s that all about?
Molly: There are four levels of Reiki training, and each level can be learned in a one- or two-day course, followed by regular practice to hone students’ skills. Each level includes an attunement to Reiki energy, which opens students up to be a channel for the Reiki energy. Once each attunement has been received, the student carries it with them for life.
Upon successful completion of a Reiki Level 1 class, students are able to practice Reiki on themselves and others. Because the focus of Reiki Level 1 is self-healing, students are instructed conduct a 21-day cleanse upon completion of training, which means they conduct a daily practice of Reiki on themselves.
After the Level 2 attunement, students become Certified Reiki Practitioners and can charge a fee for providing professional Reiki sessions with clients. Level 2 students learn new protocols, including how to send Reiki across time and space (distant Reiki), as well as how to energetically clear space. They also receive instruction on the use of three sacred Reiki symbols that foster physical and emotional healing, as well as distant Reiki. Finally, students receive instruction and guidance in establishing a professional Reiki practice.
Level 3 training, or Master level, includes instruction in advanced protocols; for example, in my lineage we teach extraction techniques, which is a pulling out or removal of stuck or unhelpful energy. Students are also trained in the use of a Reiki grid for continuous transmission of Reiki energy and are taught additional Master healing symbols.
After the third attunement students have reached the highest level of Reiki channel attunement. With continued practice of Reiki students will experience increased levels of intuition and other forms of energetic awareness.
Level 4 trains students to become Reiki teachers. It includes a special attunement to provide the Reiki Master to the attunement symbols and instruction in the use of those symbols to attune others to become Reiki channels. The course material focuses on how to facilitate Reiki training classes for levels one through four. A deep healing protocol is also introduced and practiced. After this training the student has become the teacher. They are also encouraged to apprentice a Level 1 class in order to further prepare to teach students of their own.
Nathan: What are the most common misconceptions about Reiki?
Molly: A few common misconceptions are:
- Reiki is a religion. Although Reiki was discovered by Dr. Mikao Usui, who was a Buddhist, it is not a religion but rather a practice that is spiritual in nature. Anyone of any religion – or no religion at all – can give or receive Reiki, and it may connect the giver or receiver to their own innate spiritual nature or their connection to the divine.
- Only certain “gifted” people can do Reiki. While some people may gravitate more strongly toward hands-on healing and energy work, anyone who desires to become a Reiki channel can do so. We are, at our most basic, energetic beings, and each of us therefore has the innate ability to channel energy, including Reiki energy. Of course, the more one practices, the more skilled and confident one becomes, but it is most definitely not a gift bestowed on the chosen few.
- Reiki is nonsense, and any results are just the placebo effect. While further research on Reiki is needed, there is some evidence to indicate that it is not simply a placebo effect. For example, there have been studies of mice with a form of cancer predicted to be 100 percent fatal and, after receiving Reiki for thirty days straight, 87.9 percent of them went into remission, as opposed to 100 percent fatality among the control group mice. Even so, what if Reiki really is just a placebo? My thought is, is that really such a bad thing? If the practice of Reiki leads to healing and deepening of spiritual connection, then I am all for it, even if there is a chance that some of its effectiveness is due to the placebo effect.
- Giving Reiki depletes your energy. When someone is giving Reiki, they are simply serving as a channel for the frequency of energy that is Reiki, using intention to direct the energy to the recipient. Because the energy is passing through the giver’s crown chakra, through their heart, down their arms and out their hands, they are also able to receive some Reiki as it moves through. In addition, Reiki channels should set protective boundaries and engage in cleansing practices before and after each session.
- Reiki will fix all my problems. Reiki can help free up energetic blocks and imbalances, helping to put the body, mind and spirit in a place where true healing can occur. Our energy fields and physical bodies are reflections of our core beliefs about ourselves, and Reiki may shake things up and inspire changes in habits and behavior, as well as initiate a healing journey. Not everyone is ready to make the changes or walk the path required for true healing but instead may be looking for a quick way out of pain. In these cases, Reiki can provide comfort and some relief, but until the person is ready to let go of old patterning, the “fixes” Reiki can provide are only temporary.
Nathan: Do you enjoy working as a Reiki practitioner? What are the highs and lows of doing this line of work?
Molly: I work as a Reiki practitioner and teacher, as well as a massage therapist, and I am grateful to be in this line of work. My favorite thing is to work with people who have taken, or are beginning to take, responsibility for their own health – physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. With these clients I am able to be a true partner rather than be looked to as a “fixer” or “healer.” I also love working with people who, having lost their faith or their way in the Western healthcare system, are interested in trying more natural healing modalities as a way to improve or maintain their health.
Another part of my work that I enjoy is pursuing new avenues of interest and incorporating them into my work, whether it be additional Reiki trainings, yoga teacher certification, essential oils or advanced massage techniques. The wellness field is expansive and growing, and it is an exciting time to be a part of it.
That said, of course there are challenges. My work is hard work by definition, both physically and emotionally. I have had to learn the ins and outs of being a one-woman business as I go. It can get a little lonely, being in business for yourself and by yourself. Thankfully I’ve had a lot of support along the way from mentors, colleagues and a wonderful networking group. I have also established a self-care regimen that keeps me healthy so that I can keep doing the work that I do, and I have met a wonderful network of providers as I have sought out services for myself, from acupuncture to chiropractic to massage therapy to yoga and beyond.
Nathan: Do you have any particular success stories from your work you can talk about?
Molly: One client came to me in search of both Reiki and massage therapy to support her during a very aggressive chemotherapy regimen. She came in for her first session about two days after her first round of chemo, and she was exhausted, nauseous and overwhelmed. When she returned home after her Reiki session, her mother was struck by how much better she looked since she’d left the house just a couple hours before and told her to call me immediately to make another appointment. I saw her weekly for the duration of multiple rounds of chemo, usually two days after a chemo session because that was when she felt the worst. She would come in feeling stressed and exhausted and leave feeling hopeful and refreshed. The type of chemo she was receiving usually resulted in neuropathy (numbness in the extremities), and many people struggled to maintain a high enough white blood cell count to receive the full dosage, often having to skip weeks due to a weakened immune system. My client missed only one session, and she continued to work full time and care for her two daughters throughout the chemo. The doctors were incredulous when she told them she believed it was the Reiki and the massage that allowed her to do so.
Another client came in complaining of a persistent cough, which she thought she’d picked up during a trip to Morocco five months before. She had tried herbs, over-the-counter medication and even antibiotics, but the cough kept returning. I spent almost the entire 60-minute session working on her energy field above her heart, where I could feel a magnetic force pushing my hand up away from her body. Energy began moving out her mouth and down her right arm. After the session she explained to me that she had been in a state of deep relaxation and made a connection between her cough and unprocessed grief over her cat, who had died the year before, at about the same time as her husband was diagnosed with cancer and her daughter left for college. Her cat used to sleep on her chest every night and had always been her rock. As a result of her Reiki session, she realized she had been a rock for her family over the past year and had never allowed herself to grieve the loss of her cat. She left the session feeling ready to do so.
Another interesting story is a great example of how Reiki will go where you need it most, which is not necessarily the thing that is top of mind. A new client came in and explained that she had recently gone through a divorce and was having trouble bouncing back. She used to have an active social life and a very good sense of humor, but since divorcing her husband, she’d felt alienated from their community and just didn’t feel like herself. We began the Reiki session, and I felt called to place a rose quartz crystal on her heart, even though I don’t often used crystals in my work. About halfway through the hour-long session, I felt as if a flash of light passed through the room. It felt very powerful, but I wasn’t certain what had occurred. Afterward my client shared that her mother, who had passed away years before, had appeared to her as an image and reassured her that everything would be okay. Due to immigration issues, my client had never gotten to say goodbye to her mother when she was sick back in Poland, and she had always regretted this. Further, she had always wanted her mother to come to her in a dream or to show herself in some way, but while this had happened for her sister, my client had not had that healing experience until she came in for her Reiki session. I gave the rose quartz to her, as it seemed a gift from her mother, and she left my office with a newfound sense of peace.
Nathan: What’s your advice to someone looking for a Reiki practitioner to help them with a problem?
Molly: In the United States, Reiki is not a regulated trade, so there is no licensing nor minimum standards in place. However, within the Reiki community, it is understood that one should achieve a minimum of Level 2 training in order to practice professionally.
In addition to meeting the minimum qualifications, it would be great to receive a personal recommendation from a trusted source. If that is not possible, I would recommend calling the Reiki practitioner, asking them about their training, what to expect in a session and anything else you’re curious about. The key thing is to make sure you feel comfortable with the person. I would also recommend looking around to see what the standard rates are – usually it’s about the same as the local market rate for a massage – and work with someone who charges an appropriate amount. It may be tempting to go to someone who is charging lower rates, but this may reflect lack of confidence in their training and skills and a discomfort around energetic exchange, which includes financial exchange.
In some areas the you can find Reiki shares or events offering Reiki mini sessions, which could give you a chance try Reiki out, which could be a good way to connect with one or multiple practitioners for a lower initial investment. However, Reiki shares are sometimes open only to people already attuned to Reiki as an opportunity to practice on one another, but the group which I co-founded (The Midwest Reiki Community) recently opened our Reiki shares up for non-attuned people to come one time to check it out. Just be sure to double check before going to a local Reiki share.
Nathan: What’s your advice to someone considering becoming a Reiki practitioner? Is it a viable career choice?
Molly: I became a Reiki practitioner and a massage therapist simultaneously, and both are key components of my professional practice. If you have another related skill or interest, consider offering that in addition to Reiki, for example, teaching yoga, providing massage, incorporating essential oils and so on.
That said, there are plenty of people whose primary occupation is solely as a Reiki practitioner and/or teacher. Depending upon the market you’re in, you could deal with two opposite issues – either a saturated market in areas that are more open to “alternative” modalities, or a lack of knowledge and familiarity in markets that are less open to such modalities. Consider this when planning your marketing efforts, i.e. should you invest more in setting yourself apart, or simply pound the pavement to seek out opportunities to educate the public, for example at yoga studios, gyms, community centers, health fairs or local festivals.
Be prepared to invest a lot of time up front either way. You might consider offering mini sessions as part of your promotional activities, or offering new client discounts. If someone asks you about Reiki or shows interest, pursue it. If you are invited to offer free services at an event, accept with enthusiasm. If someone offers to feature you as a guest blogger, write the blog. In short, say yes to everything – until you are too busy to do so.
If you are making the transition from another career, be patient and make sure you’re really ready to do so. It will probably take longer than you would like it to, but your patience will pay off. You should feel confident and well practiced in your skills, financially sound and ideally have already established a client base when you take the final leap. Not only will this will give you the confidence to charge a fair rate and will help you remember that you are offering something of value that can benefit your community, but you will enter this new and exciting venture with a sense of abundance rather than desperation. Your clients – and potential clients – will feel that energy and respond to it by trusting you or running for the hills.
*Here are a few studies in case helpful.