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REIKI - ENERGY AS MEDICINE

With such a broad categories as "energy" and "medicine" it's not surprising that the Wikipedia definition has two different meanings: energy medicine that is known to humankind - "veritable" (by this they mean energy that science has verified) and energy medicine that has not been confirmed by science - "putative". Energy such as electromagnetism would fall in the former category while Reiki energy and those of other complementary alternative medicines (CAM as defined by the National Institutes of Health) fall in the latter. There's no doubt that science defines our lives for us and helps us to make sense of the seemingly inexplicable in our lives. We need science and its smarts to keep us discovering the as-yet-undiscoverable as we continue to evolve as a species on this planet. At the same time, one of my favorite quotes by one of the world's most famous scientists leads me to believe that humankind needs to take a leap of faith where as-yet-unverifiable energy is concerned:

"It is better to believe than disbelieve; in doing so you bring everything to the realm of possibility." - Albert Einstein

Before science laid bare the intricate workings of the human body we treated ourselves with techniques such as leeches (still used today) and blood-letting (thankfully a thing of the past). We used plants and their properties to treat our illnesses and injuries: honey for burns, birch bark for salicylic acid, compresses of arnica for healing bruises...the list is endless. Although some of these are still used today their use was subjugated by the emerging pharmaceutical industry and traditional medicine - more on that later. The amount of knowledge we have today about how the physical body works is staggering and yet we may be moving our own selves towards extinction as a species due to things like obesity. The World Health Organization offers these facts:

*Key facts

  • Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980.
  • In 2008, 1.5 billion adults, 20 and older, were overweight. Of these over 200 million men and nearly 300 million women were obese.
  • 65% of the world's population lives in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.
  • Nearly 43 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2010.
  • Obesity is preventable.
  • How is it that we are so much smarter than our ancestors yet so dumb at the same time?! It seems as if the plethora of choices we have has succeeded in removing and insulating/isolating us from the very essence of ourselves. This essence coupled with the wisdom of the physical body has been removed from us when these two things need most to be kept near and close at hand.

    At the same time we were exploring and exploding certain myths about the human body - how does reproduction occur, what purpose does the brain serve if it's the heart that keeps blood circulating and the body physically functioning, why do we have two of something (kidneys, lungs, ovaries, testes) and only one of other things (stomach, heart, liver) I have a hunch we were moving further away from the essence of the physical body. That as-yet-unverified form of energy upon which the body depends to heal itself after an injury or illness remained elusive from our most probing scientists and tests although that may be changing. Depending upon what culture you prefer this essence or life force energy has different names: ki, chi, or prana to name a few.

    I think it's fascinating that the more something is invisible to humankind the more we resist its existence. We are so dependent upon our own five senses and science to explain to us via those five senses that which we cannot see, hear, smell, feel, or taste in our world. Heaven help something that isn't perceived through those senses - such as ki - because we doubt its existence. Moreover, when something profound and relatively simple is discovered there's a rush to "technologize" whatever it is and make it complex. When science was able to unlock the mysteries of why certain plants worked to aid the physical body in recovery from illness or injury there was a rush to isolate a very small piece - sometimes one or two cells - of the active part of the plant and artificially replicate that part. The result being that we began treating our symptoms of disease via non-organic means and with drugs that could be mass produced with a large profit for drug companies along with unintended side effects. This is the not-so-nice part of science - if it works in this small way let's make it bigger so that it can work in a bigger way - better isn't necessarily part of this equation.

    Fortunately, we are coming full circle although not quite back to blood-letting when it comes to science and medicine. **A 2007 study by the National Institutes of Health Complementary and Alternative Medicine states that over 38% of adults in the US had tried some form of CAM. That translates to 1.2 million people who have awakened to the idea that the physical body is capable of assisting traditional medicine with the self-healing process and in fact, the self-healing process begins and ends with the physical body. We would be foolish to disregard the amount of knowledge gathered over the centuries about science and medicine and what works/what doesn't. That being said, it's time for science to once again train it's microscope on the most elusive of all physical traits - life force energy - to verify for humankind what we've already sensed and experienced: this self-healing energy is just as real and valid as any medicine given with a syringe and most times, much less painful. Certainly, energy medicine techniques such as acupuncture have been around for thousands of years yet still haven't made it into Western medicine as a viable treatment modality. Again, because of the allegedly invisible energy pathways - meridians - that are the foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the majority of scientists choose - yes, choose - to dismiss both the substance and effect of acupuncture on the physical body. Those times are about to change in a big way, gentle reader.

    There's so much research going on in this area that it's impossible to list it all here. Suffice it to say where Reiki in particular is concerned the US Army has made it part of its Warriors Resilience Program at Fort Bliss. Yale studied the effects of Reiki on heart attack patients and found that Reiki improved heart rate variability -time between heart beats. Reiki is used in over 800 US hospitals today and the International Society for the Study of Subtle Energy and Energy Medicine has developed entire academic programs around the study of life force energy.

    These advances in both the use of and research of "energy medicine" will bring us full circle and back to our own essence and wisdom of the body. It's only a matter of time before "ki" is verified by science and one more as-yet-undiscoverable item has been believed and moved into the realm of possibility. I fear that once science gets hold of this effervescent spring of energy it may try to clone it, develop alternatives and/or drugs that replicate its effects. Is it truly impossible for science to simply discover a lynchpin of humankind and then leave it be?

    I can't help but wonder, though, if we'll have a harder time relocating the trust that we once had in our own bodies and its inherent wisdom. We are so conditioned to finding the answer outside of ourselves and through less than authentic means many of us stopped searching inward for the answers we as individuals seek as well as healing paths for our cultures and world. I do have hope that through individual Reiki sessions this trust will surface once again. As many more people discover the life tool that is Reiki I have hope that this rising tide of energetic body-centered medicine will swell and gently sweep away all that does not serve our highest purpose. In its place will be peace, love and compassion for ourselves and for the rest of the world.

    * http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/index.html

    ** http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam

    http://www.theanimalsiview.com