“Hey, I’ve got time now if you want to do that interview.”
“Oh yeah, ok great, give me one second.”
I amble back into the kitchen, laptop in hand, and slide onto one of the wicker hightops situated at the island, across from my mother. It’s a scene I’m all too familiar with; she stands at the stove shaking a small pot over the flames of an ignited burner. She’s making popcorn, at 4 P.M. in the afternoon. Some people crave a glass of wine or a smoke, but after a long day, or when the mood strikes, my mom makes popcorn. Because of that, the smell of baking oil and freshly popped kernels sprinkled with nutritional yeast (if you’ve never tried it, I cannot recommend it highly enough) transports me from anywhere in the world to the kitchen — white granite countertops, oak cabinets, and a refrigerator that was installed during the Truman administration — in an instant.
However, despite the superficial familiarity of the scene, there is an element of mystery that endures. That is because the woman who stands before me, recognizable as my mother, Diane Campbell, exists also as the purveyor of an esoteric knowledge; a manipulator of unseen forces; a student of energetic fields. She practices Reiki, a Japanese form of energetic medicine that I understand very little about. I’ve had it done on me, and I’ve seen it done on others, but my education doesn’t go much further beyond that. So, in an attempt to expand my own knowledge, I wrote down some questions.
How did you first hear about the practice of Reiki?
Oh, that’s a good question. I don’t really know. It’s one of those things that I saw somewhere— I think it’s been in my consciousness for a long time, but I don’t remember exactly the moment I learned about it.
So you didn’t see it in media or hear about it from a friend, or see it online?
I remember seeing it at the county fair once.
When was this?
A long, long time ago. They had people set up in chairs, and I was like, “What are they doing, they’re not touching them, they’re just standing there.” I’ve seen it on lists when you go to get a massage, like sometimes they offer a Reiki massage. I didn’t really know that much about it until Andrea Marie [a Reiki practitioner and non-Western medicine healer who is my mother’s close friend] said, “Are you interested in learning Reiki?”
Andrea Marie was the first person that introduced you to the idea of learning Reiki?
Yeah, she was the one that introduced me to the idea of it being something I might want to learn. And I trust her — she’s a person I get a lot of information from — and I thought, “Oh, that might be interesting, that might be fun.”
What about it interested you originally?
For those that don’t know, what is Reiki exactly?
I should probably get a book (laughs). So Reiki [consists of] Rei [and] Ki, if you break up the word. Rei is related to source, or heaven, or energy from the universe, whatever you might call it. And Ki — or Chi, or Prana — is the energy that flows through life. [Reiki] is the energy that comes from a greater source and flows through our bodies.
What is Reiki Energy and How does it Work? | Source: Tru-Life (Carla Trujillo)/YouTube
What are you doing with the energy as a Reiki “person”?
As a Reiki practitioner, you are allowing the energy to flow.
Through you, or the person you’re practicing on?
You get attuned to the flow of the Reiki energy [and] it comes through your hands in a way.
Do you move other people’s energy, or do you move your own into them?
The Reiki energy flows through you…
You’re like a medium in a way [in that] you’re channeling it?
Yeah, “channeling” might be a good word. You call to it, and it flows through you, for the good of all. Like most energetic medicines it doesn’t specifically address… You don’t just treat one problem, you’re treating the balance of energy, so it goes wherever it needs to go. You may be having a stiff neck, but it might be a block of energy anywhere.
There are some misconceptions about Reiki, so I’m hoping you could clear those up.
Like for instance, does Reiki allow you to read my mind?
(Laughs) No. It might allow me to be sensitive to how your thoughts or energy…
My state of being?
Yeah, [it allows you to] sort of have a sensitivity [to those things].
Does it allow you to see the future?
(Laughs) I see what you’re saying. No, I would say it’s not prognosticating.
In general, if I say I want to feel “happy,” could it do that?
Oh, yeahhhh. I think so.
So how did you go about finding a place to start learning? Was it through a teacher or a class?
Well, my teacher [was] the one that asked me if I wanted to learn [in the first place].
So then you just started doing lessons with her?
No, you do a course, there’s very specific coursework you do.
Are there stages of learning [Reiki], or is it just one fell swoop, beginning to end?
I think traditionally, the traditional [teaching] lineage is from Dr. [Mikao] Usui. What I do is [called] a Shakti Usui lineage. Shakti refers to cosmic energy, [and] Usui is the name of the creator. But, the traditional training is first — level one — which basically allows you to work on yourself. Because healing always begins with you, right? You learn to work on yourself with level one, and you can work on plants or animals, like you can do [Reiki on] your pets — but you couldn’t, or wouldn’t, or shouldn’t do other people.
That’s just level one?
Yes, level one is self-healing, and then level two [is when] you can begin to work on other people. And then, level three is [the] master [level]. [After that,] you can open a practice.
What was it like at the beginning, learning Reiki?
At the beginning, for me it was… Uhhh, what’s a good word for… It was enlivening in a way, and validating.
You were validated?
I was validating…
Right, something in me that felt comfortable with a sensitivity about energy. I think I’ve always had, but I never really knew what to call it.
Would you consider it an awakening of sorts?
Mmm well, so what you do, it’s actually an ‘attunement.’ So it could be called sort of an awakening. You learn the positions and all the academic stuff, of course, but mostly the training is [about] attunement. I think that might be changing, but the way that I got it was you actually get attuned to the Reiki symbols, to what Dr. Usui discovered in his enlightened moment, which was what got passed [down] to his students.
Reiki Attunement Side Effects (What To Expect) | Source: Reiki Guide/YouTube
So if it is this intrinsic supernatural sense that you’re getting attuned to…
Well, I wouldn’t call it supernatural. I’d call it very natural.
But it is somewhat intrinsic, you have it and you get attuned to it.
So how does one improve at Reiki?
[With] all of these things, everybody has all of it. Anyone with the desire could certainly do it. It’s not magic. It’s magical, it feels magical, but you don’t have to have any special… Here’s the thing, it’s like any skill. It’s like wine tasting, you have to taste a lot of wine to be able to look for the notes. The more Reiki you do, the more sensitive you get. Some people feel heat in their hands, some people feel bubbly or sparkly, or you might just have a sense, you don’t quite know what it is. The more you practice, the more you’re able to tune into how the information comes.
How often did you practice when you were learning, and how often do you practice now?
Oh, when I was learning, I was practicing every day.
What does a typical Reiki session look like?
Well first, you would clear the space. Decide where you’re going to do it and clear the space energetically. Either sage it, use chanting, or do something to clear the energy. And then I would invite the person in. I would first talk to them, and I would say, “Why are you here? What is it that’s bothering you, what is it that brings you here? Is there anything you want me to know about, physically, emotionally?” And I would also ask, “Is it ok if I touch you?” Because I use my hands, but you don’t have to use your hands; some Reiki masters don’t use touch at all. I actually like to touch, so I ask for permission. Then, I would get them comfortable, on the floor, or wherever, preferably laying on their back, covered, so [that] they’re warm, so they’re relaxed and at ease. And once we’ve had our conversation, I might light a candle, or sage, to clear out any energy that got stuck in the conversation. And then there’s a beginning — an actual ceremonial beginning.
Reiki for Clearing Negative Energy from a Space | Source: RestRelaxationReiki/Youtube
And that’s true across every Reiki practitioner?
I think so. I’ve only talked to a couple teachers, but I think so. There are three things; you start in prayer hands and there’s [actually] three layers of the prayers you do: you ask for guidance, you ask for permission, and you actually dedicate [the practice] to the benefit of all beings — yourself [or] whoever you’re practicing on.
So the person is laying down, and you do your opening ceremony, and then you go about it by using your hands to feel the energy?
Right, so you might start with just kind of like scanning them. It’s pretty typical to start at the head. But you might just go, “Oh my god (to a specific place), what’s going on over here;” people are different. So if I don’t sense anything right away, I start at the head and then just see if there’s warmth [there]… In traditional Reiki, there are actual hand positions — like for a headache you do this, for a shoulder ache you do this — that you learn, but that’s not how I do it. I do more of an energetic field; I just sort of get a sense, I don’t know what that means exactly. I might hold my hands here, I might hold my hands there.
Reiki Hand Positions for Treating Others | Source: ReikiYT/Youtube
But then also, there are symbols that you learn, and you draw the symbols into your hand, and each of the symbols has an intention. The symbols move the energy, they might add energy if something’s low, or take away energy if something’s over-energized. You draw symbols in your hand and that directs the energy. And you work to balance the energy.
Reiki Symbols: Reiki Healing Symbols And Meanings | Source: Reiki Guide/Youtube
As a non-Western medicine or practice, is it similar to Tai Chi or acupuncture in philosophy or teaching?
I think its similar, because it’s all energetic. In Western medicine, we deal with just the physical, symptoms of the physical. You have an itch, it’s all about what’s going on with your itchy spot. With energetic medicine, it takes into consideration that you are a spiritual being as well, so you have layers, energetic lines, meridians, layers of physical body, ethereal body, emotional body, and thought body, where imbalance or disease starts out. Eventually, if it doesn’t get balanced, then it works its way in, and the physical symptoms [of illness] show up. It could be due to too much energy, it could be due to not enough energy.
So it’s not always a build-up; it could be a lack of?
Exactly, it’s all about balance. The yin and the yang.
Do you think that someday, this practice of Reiki could become part of Western lifestyle?
I think it’s already started. Some hospitals offer it, it’s offered in clinics. It’s definitely finding its way.
How has this practice changed your worldview?
I don’t think it changed it as much as validated it. This is how I’ve intuitively felt like things work, and practicing Reiki — and being around Reiki practitioners — there’s just so much evidence that this is how things work. I’ve seen over and over — people who are so-called “non-believers”— and I’ve done things on people who are like, “Well yeah, go ahead,” and then have them come back to me and be like, “Oh my god! I’ve tried 27 things and nothing, and now I feel so much better!”
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start learning Reiki tomorrow?
DO IT, JUST DO IT!
Thank you so much for your time!