Why this Skeptic is a Reiki Believer

I’ve always felt it’s a good idea to have a healthy amount of skepticism.

Before being diagnosed with cancer, seeing was believing. In terms of health, I needed tangible evidence, or it wasn’t worth trying (read: studies published in medical journals backed by “sound” science). But for me, a cancer diagnosis was a bright neon sign telling me that I needed to make changes to both my internal and external environments.  While the western approach to health and medicine addressed many of my immediate cancer needs, I felt it didn’t really address these lasting changes I needed to make, like reducing stress, eating nourishing foods and adopting better sleep hygiene. So I’ve taken an integrative approach to my healing, opening up to any supplemental treatment that doesn’t negatively impact the plan laid out my medical oncologist.

Being a classic overthinker, “WHAT IF…” has a constant place in my internal dialogue. At the best of times this makes me highly analytical.  But It can also be wholly overwhelming, interfering with getting things done (like, I dunno, maybe this blog for example) and overall quite tiring. So one of the first areas I wanted to address was finding ways to feel more relaxed and at ease.

Enter Reiki – originating in Japan, this energy healing practice has been around for thousands of years, and meant to help you relax and reduce stress while promoting healing (see Rethink’s review of adjunct therapies to get the lowdown on what to expect in a typical session!). The practice seemed to check all of the boxes. Relaxing – check! Stress reduction – check! Healing – check! Three free sessions available at my local Wellspring cancer center – check, check, check!

When friends ask me if Reiki is worth checking out, I explain it like this: a massage relaxes your body, while Reiki relaxes the spirit. In short, Reiki is a massage for your soul. While I went into the first session expecting very little, I came out feeling completely at ease. I was an immediate convert, so much so that I even started to PAY for services (GASP!).

Here’s why I’ve integrated Reiki into my overall health maintenance plan:

Reiki helps me still my mind

When I enter a Reiki session my mind is racing as per usual – “Be more relaxed” “Do I want an iced coffee on the way home…NO you already had one this morning” “WOW listen to those chants I’m such a spiritual being” “What are you doing you’re relaxing wrong”. But give me 10 minutes and that inner voice quiets. Thoughts are there of course, but they don’t demand my attention like they usually do. They float off into oblivion without my taking notice.  Then I feel truly at peace.

Now I can’t be 24/7 Reiki-ing, but a session helps me carry that feeling of peace with me to my day to day life. Other mindfulness activities like daily(ish) use of a meditation app to journaling help support this work to maintain this feeling until I have another session.

Reiki gives me a moment where I’m not thinking of cancer

Some days are better than others, but cancer has been ever-present in my thoughts since diagnosis just over a year ago. It has almost been more so after active treatment completed and the dust started to settle, a sentiment I often hear from others in the community. A Reiki session gives me respite from that. Once I get into the rhythm of the session, this is a block of time that cancer doesn’t take over.  And I leave feeling calm and centered, putting me in a better place to make sure I don’t spin out into a thought spiral that cancer is suddenly the center of.

Reiki is when I can truly focus on my healing

Cancer really forced me to focus on myself – what I needed more of and what I could do away with in my life. I’ve had to learn to be my own advocate, both in the medical setting and my day to day life. This was easy when I was in treatment. I was clearly sick and so getting “permission” to be hyper focused on my needs and less so on the needs of others joy and contentment.

After active treatment it got a bit harder – when suddenly people perceived me as being “all better”. When the visual cues of any sort of struggle aren’t there and boundaries start to become challenged, being deliberate with my time and energy was even more crucial.

For me, Reiki is a block of time to really check in with myself. You enter the space with the practitioner with the intention of healing so there is nothing to distract you from addressing your spiritual needs. While there are claims that the practice can help with physical healing, I am not concerned about that. I usually leave sessions feeling more present, happy with where I am at now and being simply with myself and that’s enough for me.

Written By: Shauna K Illustration By: Sandrine Djellil

For more stories about self-care, click here.

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