When I first asked my friend Cherokee MacLeod to practice Reiki on me, I can honestly say I knew nothing about it. What I did know is that I had worked with Cherokee on our kids’ school’s parent council, and that she stood out as hard-working and level-headed among a notably dedicated crew. If Cherokee was into Reiki, that alone was enough endorsement for me to leap in without a whole lot of looking.
As it turns out, Cherokee is now a Reiki Master Practitioner, continuously learning and developing her techniques to help others. It made me really want to know: what exactly is Reiki?
Reiki is a holistic therapy developed in Japan in 1922 and later adapted to other cultural traditions. Practitioners use “laying on hands” or “hands-on-healing”, a technique that transfers a universal energy or “qi” through the practitioner’s hands, which are held near or gently on the recipient. This unseen life force can encourage physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual healing, and is aimed to serve the highest good.
The concept of Reiki had newbies Beth-Anne and me both intrigued. Beth-Anne went to see Shelly Burton at Helix Healthcare Group. Shelly’s a full time Samhara Reiki practitioner who discovered Reiki while looking to cure herself. On her way to completing her undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences, Shelly, an avid athlete was sidelined by a serious concussion. When traditional western medicine failed and the prescribed rest did nothing to ease her suffering, Shelly discovered Reiki and the power of healing her entire self – emotionally and physically.
As Beth-Anne and I found ourselves journeying along these parallel Reiki paths, we couldn’t help but discuss our experiences with each other as we went along. We thought we would share some of these conversations with you, to reveal what was similar and different in our experiences, and perhaps to shed some light on Reiki to the curious among our readers.
Did we believe in Reiki before we received treatments?
Carol: I don’t think I knew enough about Reiki before starting to believe in it or not. I was open to believing it though, because the concept of “qi” or “life force” or “energy” seems intuitively very accessible to me. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t know how to use it or channel it or anything. But I can believe such things are possible, and that there are those among us who might know how to do it.
Beth-Anne: I definitely believed in energy but I was a bit doubtful that someone else could manipulate my energy or that energy could be “blocked” or “pent-up”. I was expecting to leave the session feeling relaxed – much like after a massage – I wasn’t expecting to feel an energy shift or anything like that. After my session, I am a complete believer in Reiki and the power of energy. There were times during the session where I could have sworn that Shelly was putting her hands directly on my foot or leg or some place else on my body and afterwards when I asked her she simply shook her head no. Shelly asked me to hold two crystals during my treatment and before she began she informed me that some people experience the crystal pulsating in their hand, and it can become too much to hold. I gently acknowledged this as a possibility but truly did not believe it would actually happen. But it did! I swear it! The tourmaline crystal was pulsating so much at one point I did rest it on the table beside me because the energy it was sending up into my elbow was actually uncomfortable! I do think holding the crystals made me feel more “grounded”. I know it sounds crazy, but I felt a pulling into the table.
What was the most impactful experience we had during our treatments?
Carol: Once, during treatment, I suddenly choked and gagged. During a debrief, Cherokee told me that at that moment, she almost threw up herself. This reflex is referred to as a cleansing crisis – the process of the body ridding itself of toxins and realigning to the flow of qi. Cherokee felt nauseated because she is empathic, picking up on what I was feeling.
Still, for me the greatest impacts of Reiki on me were more subtle. For example, after one distance night session, I woke up perfectly alert at 5am. I am not a morning person and can’t remember the last time I voluntarily woke up this early. I had been suffering from some serious back pain, and that morning I suddenly remembered something my doctor told me that might help, something I had forgotten about. I tried it, and had relief from the pain for a few hours for the first time in weeks. It might not sound like much from the outside, but a relatively pain-free morning at that time was so precious to me, for the hope it gave me that I might actually get better.
Beth-Anne: Well, Shelly has an extensive background in medical anthropology, Tera-Mai Reiki, Usui Reiki, apprenticing as a shaman and studying the Grandmother lineage too so her version of Reiki is quite unique. She is the founder of Samhara Reiki. Samhara is the Hindi word for involution, which evolution by going within. She described it to me as: change happens in the world and we should go with it. Her personal experiences as well we her extensive training with Reiki Masters and Shaman have shaped her own practice into something very special. She uses her training as a guide along with her intuition to personalize each session to each client. It’s not uncommon for her to receive transmissions during a session. Transmissions are voices she hears from her spirit guides relaying messages to her clients. She also draws on music, song and dance to help with the movement of energy.
My first session was anything but restful. During the process, I heard from my spirit guides. Their message was personal and made complete sense to me, although I could tell Shelly had no idea what it all meant. I saw colours and shadows, my arm was pulsating from the crystal and tears were streaming down my cheeks and when Shelly gently closed the session, I opened my eyes and was surprised to see that almost 45 minutes had passed. I felt calm but somewhat disoriented. Like I had just been woken from a dream. Fifteen minutes later, in my car driving home, I started to sweat . . . sweat like I was in a sauna. Like I had just finished an hour-long spin class or hot yoga. I made it into my house just in time before I threw up! I fell into a deep sleep before I could call Shelly to ask her if this was normal. I was feeling spooked by the process but Shelly graciously reassured me that what had happened was actually a wonderful thing – I had experienced a “healing crisis”. When I hear “crisis”, I typically think of bad things but in Reiki it’s the opposite. It’s the beginning of a deep emotional purging and sometimes the emotional purging is accompanied by a clearing on the physical or visceral level. Purging them helps us to “lighten the load”. Shelly insisted that we complete a few more sessions to keep things moving, and as crazy as it may sound, I feel better. I don’t feel as weighed down. The last session we did, was much more calming. I entered a very deep state of relaxation and after felt as though I had been sleeping – a deep, restful, restorative sleep. It was amazing.
Were there any after-effects of Reiki?
Carol: Nothing radical, but I can say that after every Reiki session, I emerged feeling calmly energized, and more centred. There was also something so special about someone taking time to use her body as a vessel to direct positive energy to me. Perhaps because I know Cherokee and was certain of how pure her intention was to use Reiki for the highest good, our sessions took on an almost sacred quality. It was moving. I felt grateful.
Beth-Anne: The feeling of calm after my last session was something that I could get used to feeling. It was longer lasting than the effects of a massage or a workout. For days I felt like my body was quite. It’s hard to explain. Maybe that’s the point. The experience was so personal that it’s impossible to really communicate. In this day and age where everything is shared and dissected it’s nice to have something that’s just mine.
Would we explore Reiki again?
Carol: Absolutely. It’s so gentle, such a kind practice. I do believe this: if we all could end our days this way, our world would be a better place.
Beth-Anne: Yes! I would recommend it to anyone but I would encourage you to keep an open mind. Nothing is going to “work” if you go in with negative energy and a mindset that’s unwilling to shift . . .I feel this way about pretty much everything though.
It’s important to note when looking for a Reiki practitioner look for someone with experience. Ask who their mentor is and how much training they have completed. In Toronto holistic practitioners should have a license. To learn more about Shelly Burton visit her website and be sure to visit Helix for more information about booking your Reiki appointment.
There are Plenty more wondrous experiences at Helix including Sound Therapy. Read all about Beth-Anne’s experience here.
Disclosure: We both received our Reiki sessions free of charge but the opinions expressed are our own.