RBH: How to Practice and Share Reiki When Ill

Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes

Reiki Blog Hop: How to Practice and Share Reiki When Ill

I wrangled this session of the Reiki Blog Hop. I posted a comment in our Facebook group pondering the complexities that surround the question of whether to practice Reiki when you’re physically ill, mentally ill, or chronically ill. The question stirred up a lot of response. We teach that the Reiki energy flows regardless of our own stuff. That’s why it’s so healing for the self as well as others. But many of us also found ourselves setting limits around when we felt too sick or out of sorts to practice on another person, or, by extension, when we might hesitate to recommend another practitioner or teacher due to their tumultuous life style. After considering the variety of opinions shared in our group, I returned to my original belief that Reiki can do no harm. None of us is perfect. Perhaps the question is not how to practice and share Reiki when ill. Perhaps the question is why are we sick.


Physical Infirmity and Reiki

The first Reiki Share I attended was held at a metaphysical store. I had just received my Reiki Master Practitioner and Teacher trainings in Usui Tibetan/Usui Shiki Ryôhô, so this was around 2005. There were probably eight or ten people in attendance at this event, with one table set up. They pushed an old woman in a wheelchair up to the head of the table. Did I go first? I don’t remember. I maybe watched them work on someone else, then it was my turn.

They didn’t practice like I had learned. First of all, everyone was talking, non-stop, multiple conversations at once. Most of them were not doing palm healing, which is the heart of the practice of Reiki, but were making this weird pulling motion above people. I found out later they were pulling “strings.” I got on the table and the old woman put her gnarled hands on my head. WOW! So much amazing energy from her. The others were just annoying with their weird string pulling. When my session was done I raised my head from the table and looked at the old woman and said thank you. Then I managed to elbow my way through the throng and pull up a chair to the foot of the table. I just sat there quietly the rest of the night working on each person’s feet.

At the end of the night, some random string-pulling woman came up to me and told me I needed  to repeat my Levels 1 and 2 with her. I don’t think I even said anything in response, just walked out. Perhaps she needs to repeat her Levels 1 and 2 with me!

I never went back to that group. But the intensity of energy that I felt from the wheelchair-bound woman has been an ongoing reminder that able-bodiedness is not a pre-requisite for healing.

Psychic Connection and Reiki

Years later, in 2012, after I had trained in traditional Japanese Reiki, regularly participated in several different Reiki Shares groups, and had taken on the leadership of one of them, I had an interesting experience.

It was the end of the night and either only two of us had shown up to the group or everyone else had gone home. But only one person was working on me. The Reiki felt great! And then I was overcome with a feeling of purpose and the satisfaction of accomplishment. I was going to go home and do a load of laundry and then go to bed. What an awesome plan!

But wait, I thought, I have never in my life done laundry at night. I always do it in the morning. Why would I come up with this plan? Then I remembered — the woman who was working on me had told me once that she loved doing a load of laundry every night before bed. It rounded out her day and made her feel productive. I had received her thoughts about her plans for the remainder of the night!

Do We Share Our Stuff in a Reiki Session?

I use these two stories in my Reiki classes to open up a discussion about the idea of whether our stuff, our personal imbalances, diseases, imperfections, and instabilities come through in a Reiki session. We’re taught that no, the Reiki energy can never harm and only heals, that it works on us as it flows through us whether we work on ourselves or others, and that none of our messed-up-ness can be transferred to another, just as we can’t pick up discarded psychic/emotional junk from someone we work on. This is a very important foundational principle of the theory of this type of energy work.

However, we are also taught to keep our own channel clear through the practice of the five pillars of Reiki: the precepts, the breathing meditations, hands-on healing for self and others, working with the shirushi (symbols) and jumon (mantras), and receiving reiju whenever we can from our teacher or from colleagues. Was wheelchair woman a clear channel? Absolutely! Was the laundry lady clear? No, she was not focused on the session but thinking about something else. Did this harm me in any way? Only if feeling a strong motivation to do laundry is harmful, which to me it was not! Plus, I was able to immediately recognize it for what it was and, sadly for the state of my laundry, dismiss the notion. The actual energetic healing component of that session was great.

This much makes sense. I mean, you can’t catch arthritis from someone. So it’s logical that such a type of physical infirmity would be beside the point when working on others. But what if my other colleague was not thinking about laundry, but instead going down a dark mental tunnel of worries, stress, and despair? I don’t want to be on the receiving end of that! But is it even possible to be in that space when practicing Reiki?

A Theory About Picking Up Stuff When Receiving Reiki

Let’s crunch some numbers and develop a theory. I participated in one to two Reiki Shares a month for eight years, between 2007 and 2015. Let’s say I worked on three people at each meeting and had three people work on me (it was frequently more). And this doesn’t include practice sessions in classes I have taught or taken. Or the many trades I have done with friends and colleagues in the past. Just from Reiki Shares alone, I received, conservatively estimated, 288 (12 months * 8 years * 3 sessions a month) Reiki sessions from other people.

I can guarantee you that not every person was the perfect picture of mental and physical health. But aside from the laundry incident, I had no other experience of receiving stuff from the people who worked on me. I have had plenty of blah sessions where I didn’t feel anything–but that’s not to say the Reiki wasn’t working! And I had curious experiences, from the string pullers and other people who were not trained in Reiki but a different healing modality, in which the energy felt very different. I never caught anything from anybody in eight years of Reiki other than the urge to do a load of laundry. In fact, that eight year period included some of the most stressful times of my life, but was also the period in which I advanced the most in my personal and professional practice. It was only beneficial to me.

How to Practice and Share Reiki When Ill

“So if I’m sick, depressed, stressed, or harried, it’s okay to do Reiki? Honestly, I would feel better if I sat this one out this time. I’m just not feeling that great.”

If you’re contagious, stay home, take care of yourself, and do self-Reiki. Don’t come to a group or work on other people. Most practitioners are taught a simple tactic of washing hands before and after each session. It’s just good policy to keep the germs at bay. And removes weird odors from your hands.

If you’re not contagious, but some physical or mental illness is acting up and not letting you feel your best, go to the Reiki Share. You’ll feel better. Both giving and receiving Reiki will help you. When you practice tenohira, palm healing, you will find yourself relaxing, centering, grounding, become more compassionate, and entering a place of healing. What a great thing to do if you’re not feeling up to it!

If you’re not social, if you’re an introvert, a highly sensitive person, or have social anxiety, find a Reiki Share that discourages talking during sessions (each Share will have its house rules). If the feel of the Share is low-key, relaxed, quiet, and mindful, just being there will feel healing.

For heaven’s sake, I don’t know who introduced the policy of listing everything that you “felt” during a session, but to conclude a lovely, meditative, healing practice session with a long list of all the imbalances, blocks, off-color chakras, wrong-way meridians, and, yes, I have heard it happen (from a non-Reiki practitioner), dire predictions to see a doctor immediately (she said this at least once a night at every Share she attended — we finally instituted a rule that only Reiki-trained practitioners could participate), is, simply, counter-productive. When you dip into diagnostic mode, you are taking the reins of the session instead of letting the Reiki do the work. Don’t undo the positive work of the Reiki energy by switching the focus to what’s wrong.

One of the great things about Reiki is that you can use it on yourself. This is not true of all healing modalities. In fact, when we decide that we are not in a good place to share Reiki with others, it is because we recognize our own limitations and see our own disability. We realize we need to work on ourselves, and we know that we can. One goal of the practice of Reiki is anshin ritsumei, absolute inner peace. How can we bring that experience into more parts of our lives? My suggestion is to cultivate anshin ritsumei by trying to experience it daily during your practice of the five pillars.

A lot of the time we put up a fight against healing. We can’t relax. We can’t slow down. Our thoughts go a million miles a minute. Meditation is impossible. I don’t feel what I think I’m supposed to feel when I practice. We put the blocks in place. Maybe getting sick is Reiki’s way of showing us how to get better. The sicker we get, the less of a fight we can put up. The less energized we feel, the more the spiritual energy can find an opening and drip in like an impossible to locate leak. We might have to tear down the walls to fix the fortunate leak. And that opens us even more to Spirit. Broken down, in disrepair, lost, hurting. Empty, we are now ready to be filled with Spirit. Sick, we are at last ready to heal.



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Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.

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  1. Thank you for the depth of description of reiki share experiences and how varied they can be. Do resonate with the comment that illness is a time to shed ourselves of things and then allow the resting to be about spirit filling us up again. Thank you xx

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