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Thursday, June 9, 2005 01:31 am

health wise 6-9-05

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Reiki practitioners Jean Ferratier (seated) and Mary Kay Hinkle
PHOTO BY BECKY AUD

In a home on the west side of Springfield, I recently met with a group of five local reiki practitioners. Their walks of life vary, but one thing they have in common is a passion about how the practice of reiki has changed their lives and how it can positively affect others.

Reiki (pronounced “ray-key”) is a Japanese word meaning “universal life energy,” the energy found in all things. Hawayo Takata, the Japanese woman credited with bringing the Usui system of reiki natural healing to Hawaii in 1938, has described the power of reiki as “unfathomable, immeasurable, and being a universal life force . . . incomprehensible to man.”

Reiki involves placing the hands on areas of a client’s clothed body, allowing energy to flow through the practitioner to the client. The transfer of this energy, reiki, may be felt by the client as a variety of sensations: heat, cold, tingling, vibration, or heaviness. Reiki may bring a physical response of relaxation of stressed muscles, accelerated healing, and decreased pain. According to the Springfield practitioners, it also holds tremendous power to relieve stress.

These local practitioners meet monthly to discuss news within the reiki community, provide consultation and support to each other, and recharge by taking time to reflect, share intentions, and engage in reciprocal reiki practice. All five agree that giving and receiving reiki have equally positive effects.

All five members of this informal group were “initiated,” or trained, by Sister Ann Mathieu, a member of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, a Franciscan community of women. Mathieu has her own practice of massage and reiki, called Wholistic Touch, at St. Francis Convent. Some of the others in the group have home practices; others practice reiki only on family members and pets. The practitioners were introduced to reiki by finding their first treatment a profound experience.

Partially because of the difficulty of explaining reiki to a general public that is largely unfamiliar with the practice and partly because the concern about the responses of people who may not be open to this idea of healing, members of the group avoid publicity. Two of the practitioners, both schoolteachers, expressed concern about what their students’ parents might think if their reiki practices became public knowledge. The practitioners do not advertise; referrals come by word of mouth.

But be on the lookout for this unusual word, reiki. The medical field in Springfield is beginning to take notice. Locally, Memorial Medical Center is starting to use volunteer reiki practitioners in their hospice program. Mathieu provides her initiations through Prairie Heart Institute’s Mind Body Services at St. John’s Hospital.

Is it possible that our medical community in Springfield can learn from the rest of the nation? Tucson Medical Center in Arizona has had a reiki clinic since 1995. Twenty staff members at Portsmouth Regional Hospital in Portsmouth, N.H., routinely offer reiki as part of their services in the surgery department. At its Health and Healing Clinic, the California Pacific Medical Center, one of the largest hospitals in Northern California, provides care for both acute and chronic illnesses using a wide range of complementary care that includes reiki, Chinese medicine, hypnosis, biofeedback, acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal therapy, nutritional therapy, and aromatherapy. The clinic is staffed by two physicians, Dr. Mike Cantwell and Dr. Amy Saltzman. Cantwell, a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases, is also a reiki master with training in nutritional therapy. Saltzman specializes in internal medicine but has also undertaken training in mindfulness meditation, acupuncture, and nutritional therapy.

Mathieu is careful to distinguish between her religion and the practice of reiki: “Reiki is not a religion; it’s a gift we received.” She describes a process of giving the client the opportunity to communicate his or her intention for the reiki treatment.

“For me it’s a prayerful time,” she says. “Intentionality is powerful.” And if a client does not have faith in this energy or the process? “My faith is so sufficient that you don’t have to.”

This is the fourth in an occasional series of profiles of area holistic and alternative health-care practitioners.

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