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July 17, 2019

From Science to Magic: the Alchemy of Reiki.


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“Light comes from the sun. You cannot touch it. Does that mean it is not real?” ~ Ani Windhorse Woman


I have practiced Reiki for 27 years and have a good vantage point from which to share my experience.

I have first-hand, anecdotal evidence from clients, as well as my own stories of vibration, heat, light, and even the occasional ephemeral presence—a fleeting apparition, or a feeling of pressure and touch.

When I decided to write this essay, it was supposed to be about whether Reiki and other forms of energy medicine work. I just needed to hit the internet for some useful articles to reference, and then balance it with a bit of scientific evidence and debate. I was even willing to include reports from scientific journals that refute the validity of Reiki—ones that basically say, “This is bullsh*t” or vice versa.

But then it happened, the deer in the road.

No, not the proverbial deer in headlights—a literal deer lying in the road.

Driving home last night, I saw a flashing movement on the dusk-lit roadside. A doe was lying in the gravel. I stopped and knelt beside her, aware that another car was across the street and hoping that person would also help.

I could see no injury, but the doe could not get up, and it was clear she was suffering. I yelled to the other driver to call the police, fearing they’d need to come and shoot her.

I also did Reiki and stroked her gently. Within a few minutes, her rapid heartbeat slowed, her struggling stopped, and she took her final breath. It was quiet, the sun was setting in the distance, and a light breeze made the air cool and sweet. Her last moments were gentle—she in my arms and me holding her in a circle of love and light.

For me, this is Reiki. It is not just energy—it is alchemy.

Energy is real. When we split the uranium atom and generated heat and then steam (fission), lo and behold the birth of nuclear energy. We also know that the sun produces energy which, even though you cannot see or touch it, can power a house. Why would we assume that we too, as living energetic beings who also generate heat (and our own steam—sweat), would not have access and use of this power as well?

Science still claims there is no evidence to support energy medicine. Maybe there isn’t, or maybe there isn’t—yet. But how do you define evidence? Science is just one model through which to view the world, and because it emphasizes observable outcomes, it restricts so much of what makes life not only real but meaningful. As theologian and writer John O’Donohue says:

“The decisive presences in our lives—soul, mind, thought, love, meaning, time, and life itself—are all invisible.”

And it is my experience, too, that this invisible world—from which energy, spirit, and all things unseen come—exists, interacts, and affects us.

People come to a Reiki session for healing. They want to feel better. As a practitioner, I do what I can: I open the door, set the stage, invoke the light. I create and hold sacred space. And somehow, something always delivers.

My clients report a sense of well-being which they can’t define, though they try: “I feel relaxed, peaceful, better. I don’t know how to describe it, wow, oh my God…” There are no adequate words for it, and yet linguistic philosophy has made us aware that we shouldn’t approach the essence of a thing by trying to get a hard definition of it. I encourage them to sit in the nameless, to move from analysis to transcendence, science to magic, speech to silence.



I am convinced that Reiki is not just the channeling of light, but can be a practice of presence and silence. Clients are transported to the liminal space of being, the place meditation and other forms of contemplative practice seek. That’s what a Reiki session does—it draws the client into the shelter of their own being.

Soon after the deer died, a security officer from the school nearby stopped, and the man from the other car approached as well. I told them she had just died and the other driver said he was so relieved as she’d laid there suffering for 20 minutes or so before I’d arrived.

I do not know if my presence, the prayer, and the infusion of healing, loving energy helped her cross, or just scared her more quickly to death. But I will stand, or kneel, on the side of faith and believe that energy work, when done with reverence, invokes the power of shelter and blessing, and the harvesting of the invisible world’s kindness and wisdom.


“There is a special shelter around every person. One of the things that all children should be taught when they are growing up is that there is a shelter around them, but that they won’t feel the shelter if they don’t expect it and if they don’t know that it is there. That shelter is the shelter of your soul, and it is the shelter of your God, and it is the shelter of your angel.” ~ John O’Donohue


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