"Reiki (pronounced ‘ray-key') is a healing modality using hands-on," said Annelle` Henson, owner of the Eagles Nest Art Gallery and Healing Center on Main Street.
"It uses the life force of the universe, the energy that holds everything together. It has been handed down for many centuries," she said.
Henson, who is a Reiki master, is carrying on that tradition. She has just finished teaching a group of eight women who are now certified as Reiki masters. They are Viki Farris, Patricia King, Hallie Overman, Zoe Taylor, Sue Robinson, Mary Roberts, Kathy Frierdich, and AnnMaree Thompson. Some of the new masters plan to offer Reiki treatments to the public, while others plan to use their skills to simply help family and friends.
"These ladies have been taught to become a channel of energy, to be open for the creator -- for this energy to come through their hands," Henson said.
King used a metaphor to explain the role of Reiki master.
"When water goes through a pipe, it doesn't come from the pipe," she said. "When the energy comes from God, we're just the pipe that it comes through."
"‘Rei' means universal and refers to energy," Henson said. "‘Ki' means the vital life force that flows through all that is alive. It is a healing, balancing alternative form of health care. It balances the meridian system in your body; it balances the chakra system."
The origin of Reiki dates back 10,000 years into the ancient history of Japan, Egypt, China and Tibet. It was rediscovered in the middle of the 19th century by Dr. Mikao Usui, the president of a small Christian university in Kyoto, Japan.
Reiki treatments can be helpful for any number of conditions, according to Henson.
"If you have a headache, a cold. If you hurt your knee. Anytime you're depressed, nervous or stressed. Anytime your body is out of synch for any reason. You don't really have to have anything."
Clients lay on a table, usually with a cloth over their eyes. Calming music is playing and a vanilla-scented candle is lit. The treatment itself is literally a laying on of hands with gentle pressure.
"We start at the head and try to connect with your spirit," Henson said. "Then we go down the body. Basically our intention is to help that person to feel better. We respect the client's wishes. If they don't want to be touched or for some reason can't be touched, we keep our hands two to three inches up from their body. The healing energy happens anyway."
The new masters want to emphasize that Reiki in no way conflicts with or is designed to replace religion, although there is some overlap.
"This isn't a religion," Farris said. "It doesn't affect any religious belief. You just have to be open to God's love to receive it."
Henson puts Reiki in a historical context alongside Christianity.
"Reiki has been here since before Jesus' time," she said. "Jesus was a healer and he understood the workings of the creator in the universe, so we could say he was the beginning teacher."
Henson, in fact, frequently quotes from the Bible.
"Peter, John, Jesus -- they all laid hands on," she said. "And Jesus said, ‘You can do these things and even greater.'
"My philosophy of life is, ‘Be it unto you as you believe,' and that's straight from the Bible. You can believe you're going to hell and you'll probably go to hell before you die. We all have the free will to choose the way we wish to live. I wish to live and walk in love and beauty."
Neither is Reiki intended to replace or substitute for traditional medical care.
"We do not diagnose," Henson said. "We do not recommend that people not go to the doctor, and if we see something that looks like they should go to the doctor we might say, ‘You should check with your doctor on that spot.' I believe in getting help, because the universe helps those who help themselves."
Reiki is particularly helpful in dealing with ailments that are induced by stress and other mental conditions.
"Our thoughts and our mental attitude affect our body -- our physical being," Henson said.
Like most alternative health care options, Reiki is beginning to gain some acceptance in the medical community.
"Several of the insurance companies will allow a cancer patient or someone coming back from a surgery to either choose a Reiki or a physical therapy or a massage therapy, and a lot of doctors are recommending it," Overman said.
For more information or a list of local practitioners, call the Eagles Nest (468-6021) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.