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Is Energy Healing a Bad Idea?

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

Woman receiving a Reiki treatment.

When I first came across a couple of videos on YouTube from 2012 and 2014 of the Indian mystic and entrepreneur Sadhguru criticising the practice of energy healing, I had to smile. What he had to say surprised me and delighted me. Here was a well-known spiritual teacher, going public and criticising the practice of energy healing.

I’m a teacher of Reiki. From time to time, I also give other people Reiki treatments. And I loved what Sadhguru had to say. As a teacher of Reiki not only do I stand by Sadhguru’s words but promote the same views in my Reiki workshops. Sadly, those YouTube videos were deleted some time ago, but not before I had written down exactly what he had to say. This is a composite of the two videos:

“(Energy healers) meddling with another person’s life process without knowing the whole of it is irresponsible... Any kind of meddling with other people’s energies is very juvenile. It’s coming out of a certain immaturity and a certain egoistic state of wanting to play God… Any problem in the body or in the mind is coming up only as an indication of a deeper situation… All chronic illnesses are like this. They’re just indicators of a deeper problem which exists. If you erase the indicator, it will find expression in some other way. They are only erasing the effect. They are unable to remove the cause. Just manipulating energies and erasing the effect is not good for you in the deeper sense of life. And for many people, their disease is not a curse. All this healing is a very juvenile thing.” (Sadghuru, 2012/2014)

I totally love that! Why? You might think that doesn’t square with my work as a Reiki teacher and practitioner. Let me tell you, because Sadhguru’s comments don’t in any way contradict the basic philosophy of the system of Reiki and the mechanics of how the system works.

When I’m teaching a Reiki class, I make it clear to my students that I am not going to be teaching them how to be healers. I also tell them that I am not a healer, have no aspirations to ever be one, and that I absolutely do not like to be referred to as a healer. I have never healed anyone.

I have, however, facilitated many healings and seen incredible and often miraculous healings take place over the years. My role in that was not to ‘make something happen’ or to ‘fix a problem’ but to be a neutral observer and witness of events. My role was to simply be still, to flow, and to merge with the energy. To become one with it.

You see, the core teaching of the Reiki system is that you cannot ‘give’ someone Reiki. We all know this from our 1st Degree training. It’s one of the most basic teachings of the system. Reiki is drawn in by the person in need of healing, through the practitioner, who is just a channel or conduit for the energy. In twenty-five years of teaching and practicing Reiki, I have never once ‘given’ someone Reiki. And this is as it should be. If it were possible to push Reiki into someone, to make them take it based on my own limited understanding of their energetic needs, I would probably be best to abandon the practice and do something much more socially responsible, like get my ego in check.

Thankfully, as we all also know from our 1st Degree training, Reiki is an intelligent energy and knows exactly where to go and what to do without any input from the practitioner. As I tell my students, in a sense, once their hands are on the client, the treatment process is really none of their business, at least in terms of the healing that is taking place, which can often be happening on very subtle and imperceptible levels of being. I ask them to keep out of the way and let the energy do what it needs to do. They don’t need to guide it, try to manipulate it, force it or do anything else that comes from a ‘doing mode’ perspective.

The more we can just ‘be’ with the process and embody the qualities of an empty channel, which means staying in a meditative state of awareness during the treatment process, the better the treatment will be for our client.

When we can just ‘be’ with the process, with the treatment, we start to embody the true nature of the universe, we start to connect to the true nature of reality, and this can have a profound healing effect on those around us. All of this goes right to the root of what Sadhguru was saying. To call oneself a healer is inaccurate. Not even Jesus, as far as we know, referred to himself in this way. A Reiki practitioner is not healing anyone. This was summed up beautifully by Bodo Baginski and Shalila Sharamon in their book Reiki Universal Life Energy:

“... do not be disappointed if your expectations are not fulfilled immediately. With Reiki, nothing is to be achieved by pure willpower. Our egos have to take second place instead, which is not bad for our development. As Reiki channels, we do not do the healing ourselves but are simply neutral observers and witnesses of events. For this reason, we should never disapprove of a patient’s symptoms. It is not our task to fight against an illness but to pass on Reiki energy and await the results, which will always be the best ones possible." (Baginski and Sharmon, 1988)

As a practitioner of Reiki, we don’t necessarily know what the true problem is with our client. We may know the symptoms, but can we say for certain that we know the original cause of the problem? Almost certainly not!

A tree standing in a snowy landscape. Nature.

What happens when we give a Reiki treatment, and this is a unique aspect of the Reiki system as far as I’m aware, is that the energy first encourages an acceptance of the state of being of the client, including whatever physical or mental/emotional issues they have.

Acceptance is the first step on the journey of healing. Acceptance must be followed by love and compassion and as Mikao Usui (the founder of Reiki) indicated, Reiki IS love! Bringing love to a situation is actually what the whole process of giving Reiki is all about.

Once we can bring love and acceptance to a situation, rather than denial, suppression or aggressive removal, the energy will encourage the client (or ourselves in the instance of self-treatment) to learn from the situation whatever it is they need to learn to move forward. This is a very sophisticated approach to energy healing and not at all of the sort of practice where ‘negative energy’ is removed and replaced with ‘positive energy’.

Other energy healing disciplines that put this concept into practice will have their own variations on how that is done but it has no relationship to the way that Reiki works.

If we look at how Reiki approaches this, we can see that it doesn’t remove or obliterate the so-called negative energy. It recognises the lesson that is to be learned within the experience. Therefore, we really need to remove the label ‘negative energy’ and replace it with one that is a lot more helpful (and accurate): ‘lesson’ or ‘opportunity’.

If the lesson is removed, it’s possible it’s going to come back again if it hasn’t been learned. It will keep returning until it is finally learned, regardless of how many times it is removed. This is why Reiki doesn’t work this way. Love is never in a rush and love never aggressively removes anything.

It’s helpful to view the practice of working with Reiki as a process of simply going with the flow of the universe, like a reed in a stream. We can either learn to flow and bend with the eddies and currents of life, or we can try to resist and insist that life should be ‘our way’, in which case we can cause all sorts of problems for our clients and ourselves.

The energy of the universe, the universal energy field, this powerful manifestation of the oneness of all existence, knows better than us. In a treatment context, it’s best to get out of the way and let the universe flow and not meddle with things that we know very little about.

There is a lot of wisdom in the words of Sadhguru. I personally do indeed keep away from energy healing practitioners, but I am happy to be working with Reiki!

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