Once, while I was in the hospital receiving chemotherapy with my mother by my side, two volunteers came in to my room and suggested performing a Reiki session on us.
Reiki is an ancient Japanese technique that promotes stress reduction and relaxation through touch and near-touch meant to enhance a person’s life force energy. Practitioners also believe the therapy can alleviate pain and muscle tension, promote healthier sleep patterns, increase or decrease appetite, improve the circulatory system, and strengthen the immune system.
Although there was no harm in what the volunteers in the hospital did, at the time I believed its only real benefit was to make my mother laugh. “I opened my eyes and there was this woman flapping her arms around me,” she would tell people later.
I too was skeptical about Reiki until I felt the benefits from a session at the local Cancer Connection center. I actually felt little sparks when the practitioner gently touched my feet. She explained that those sparks were energy moving within my body.
After the session, I not only felt calmer, but a stomach ache and a stress-related knot in my left shoulder had both melted away.
Reiki is based on the belief that energy can be channeled by a practitioner placing his or her hands in various positions on or above a person’s clothed body. The word comes from Japanese terms that translate as “universal life energy.”
At hospitals and clinics across America, Reiki is beginning to gain acceptance as a cost-effective way to improve patient care. It is a very gentle therapy, as opposed to acupuncture or massage.
However, according to the American Cancer Society, there is no scientific evidence supporting claims that Reiki can treat cancer. While training programs and certification are available, Reiki organizations are not regulated by any government agency.
Still, many anecdotal reports attest to Reiki's power to increase feelings well-being and refresh the spirit. Some cancer patients have reported less pain, nausea, and vomiting after Reiki sessions.
However, relying on this type of treatment alone and avoiding or delaying standard medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.
If you are considering trying Reiki, start by asking how long a practitioner has been doing the treatment. For example, the woman I now go to is a Master Reiki Teacher with more than 15 years of experience.
Finding an organization like my local Cancer Connection center is a good way to try Reiki and other complementary therapies for free. A Google search for "Cancer Connection" lists locations in Boise, Idaho; Bethesda, Md.; Austin, Texas; Toledo, Ohio; Juneau, Alaska; and my own center in Northampton, Mass.
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