The Gift

Thirty years ago, I was given a gift that truly changed the trajectory of my life in ways I could not have imagined. That gift was Reiki.

As a sensitive person, I was aware of energy but I did not fully comprehend and appreciate its depth until I was initiated into Level 1 Reiki. My Level 1 initiation was a profound experience where I felt a sense of peace I never knew existed.

I deeply resonated with the Usui teaching that you do Reiki on yourself first, then if you are called to do so, you share the energy with others. It’s the old airplane adage: you put your mask on first in a crisis so you can then help others. To this day, I do Reiki on myself daily. It has been my constant companion through many dark times.

The Bend In The Road

Initially, I had no intention of doing Reiki treatments for other people. That all changed when my sister Patty’s cancer came back with a vengeance.

Just shy of her two-year remission from breast cancer, Patty’s cancer spread to her bones. Her pain increased and her mobility decreased. Our trips to the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada became part of our weekly schedule. Throughout this time, I did hands-on Reiki regularly, as it provided relief from the flare up muscle spasms, a side effect of her Tamoxifen medication.

When her immune system started to become more compromised, I decided to take my Level 2 Reiki training so I could do distance healing. I would just imagine her body in-between my outstretched palms and send Reiki. I did distance treatments whenever I could, so there was no set day or time. However, after the treatment was done, I would receive a phone call and all she would say is, “Thank you.”

One of Patty’s appointments at the Cross Cancer Institute was the last one of the day. The doctor was amazed that she was on such a low dose of pain medication with surprising mobility (she was always forgetting her cane). He asked her what she was doing. Patty replied, “Well, I do meditation and Lisa does Reiki.” The doctor looked at me and asked, “What’s Reiki”? I started to explain and he excitedly asked if I could “hold that thought” as he quickly gathered as many people in white coats as he could find. The next thing I knew, the room was filled with medical professionals.

What is Reiki? Boy, was I in trouble!

I struggled to find the words to explain to traditional medical professionals the concept, application, and impact of this energy healing modality. I must have done okay since my words were received with interest and respect.

Our next trip to the Cross Cancer Institute was yet another turning point in my life. As Patty and I sat in the waiting room, I had my hand on her back giving Reiki. She was comfortably sitting in her chair reading an outdated magazine. It was then that I looked around at the faces of all who shared our waiting room experience. I saw young and not so young people with the strained look of pain and exhaustion on their faces and I thought to myself how Reiki could really help them.

I came up with the inspired (and naïve) idea to write a proposal on the benefits of Reiki and present it to the powers that be at the Cross Cancer Institute.

So, I started doing research on the effect of Reiki. Since the World Wide Web (aka, the Internet) was only a few months old, and Google was not yet around, I had to do research the old fashioned way. I scoured libraries and talked to as many people as I could think of that may have some information on Reiki. My phone bill was astronomical from following every lead and calling all over the world. I was sure that there was some statistical Reiki data somewhere I could use for my proposal. I was sadly mistaken.

Building The Bridge

After much frustration and disappointment, I decided that my proposal would contain information from my perspective. The page-and-a-half proposal highlighted the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of Reiki and how I believed that cancer patients could benefit greatly from Reiki energy. When I look at the proposal now, I smile. The paper is yellowing and the text fading, but the significance of that document is unparalleled.

I bravely (and yes, naïvely) made an appointment with the Director of Nursing. I donned my suit (including pantyhose and pumps), gathered my proposal, and entered her office. I’d like to say that my opening pitch was inventive and brilliant but it was actually more like, “Reiki works and you should do something, okay?”

To my utter surprise and delight, she said yes!

She put me in touch with a woman who would come to have a significant impact on my life. Dr. Karin Olson, the then Coordinator of Nursing Research, became my champion in bringing Reiki to the scientific world. Together, she and I would pioneer two scientific studies.

My goal of building a bridge between traditional medicine and complimentary therapies had begun.

The Beginning

Karin and I wrote a funding proposal and it was approved. Our pilot study, Using Reiki to Manage Pain, recruited twenty volunteer participants who met the pain measured criteria for the study, regardless of their type of pain. I had no idea what the participant’s pain was or any of their medical background. Each of the participants received one Reiki treatment from me lasting 1 ¼ hours. Two different scales (Visual Analog Scale and Likert) were used to measure pain. Participants measured their pain before and after the treatment. The results showed that 85% of the participants had less pain after the Reiki treatment, called a “significant reduction” in the results summary. I was thrilled (but not surprised) by the results of the pilot study and this created the foundation for the second study.

Our second study, A Phase II Trial of Reiki for the Management of Pain in Advanced Cancer Patients, focused only on cancer patients who were no longer receiving treatment. The randomized trial compared pain, quality of life, and analgesic use in two groups of cancer patients. One group received standard opioid pain management, plus rest. The other used standard opioid pain management, plus Reiki.

The study followed twenty-four study participants for seven days, measuring medication use, pain rating, blood pressure, heart rate and respiration, and quality of life measures. I would give the patient a Reiki treatment on days one and four, and my research assistant gathered the data all seven days. The same data was also collected from the group not receiving Reiki.

The results showed that the participant’s pain scores, blood pressure and pulse were significantly lower for those in the opioid plus Reiki arm.

From the beginning of this journey, my goal was to show that Reiki increased a person’s quality of life. The second study did just that. The findings showed that the participants in the Reiki arm reported a significant psychological improvement. The summary states, “The improvement in the psychological dimension of the quality of life tool supports our clinical experience and is likely, in our view, at least partly due to an improvement in pain control.

I am proud of the work that Karin, our research team and I did. These studies have been cited many times in subsequent scientific studies on Reiki. It excites me that there are so many Reiki practitioners spreading the benefits of this gentle yet powerful healing modality.

I love everything about Reiki and am still learning about its power some thirty years later. It is truly a gift.