This time of year, we promise to strip inches off our waist, build muscle on our upper arms and paint our teeth white. But Sister Claudine Picard, a small woman with fairy-grandmother curls and gentle eyes has a different New Year’s resolution suggestion: attend to your “universal life energy,” otherwise known as Reiki.
After 55 years of ministry as a math teacher, AIDS counselor and parish pastoral associate, Sr. Claudine may seem like an unlikely advocate for a healing technique based on the existence of a “spiritually guided life force energy.” But this Catholic Religious Sister of Mercy has witnessed firsthand the benefits of this ancient hands-on healing ministry and has such deep faith in its power that she became a Reiki Master herself.
Reiki was founded by a Christian minister in Japan in the late 1800’s. Dr. Mikao Usui lived in Kyoto where some Christian students asked him if the healing power of Christ still existed. This question sent him on a spiritual journey to find an answer. Knowing that Buddha was also known to have healing powers, he studied ancient Sanskrit writings, visited meditation centers and came to the realization that these religious figures of our past were drawing upon the same source of universal energy. He began teaching a hands-on healing technique to draw upon this life energy.
He first practiced Reiki in the slums of Kyoto where people were desperate for healing and peace. Before he died, he passed along his teachings to Dr. Chijiro Hayashi who, later, handed down the teachings to Hawayo Takata, a young woman in Hawaii who is responsible for bringing Reiki to the Western world.
Religious adherents may call this “God’s energy,” others may label it “energy fields” through the eyes of science, but whatever one’s terminology, it has helped thousands across the globe with, as Sr. Claudine puts it, “stress reduction and relaxation that may bring about physical, emotional and spiritual healing.”
To channel the energy, a Reiki practitioner places his or her hands along the chakra system above one’s own or another’s body (see sidebar below). Then, says Sr. Claudine, the “energy passes through the Reiki practitioner” to the body and “brings about a state of deep relaxation and peacefulness.”
Sr. Claudine found herself immediately open to the practice when she first learned of it at a Catholic AIDS Conference. Reiki was seen as a holistic healing practice to use with AIDS patients to help them manage pain, depression, and other symptoms of the disease. After the conference, she began training in Reiki and has now made it her full-time vocation. For seven years, Sr. Claudine has shared her practice with hundreds of AIDS patients, elderly sisters in her religious community and fellow parishioners and has taught Reiki to approximately 125 students.
Sr. Claudine acknowledges that there are many misconceptions about Reiki. She is quick to declare that it is not a religion and acknowledges that some misinformed people even consider it evil. “The first rule of Reiki is that it can do no harm!” she says emphatically. In fact, it does a lot of good. Though it is not a practice that yields miracle cures she says “it brings about…balance and helps the body to cure itself.”
When you are feeling tired during the day, here’s a simple exercise you can do to renew your energy:
- Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down.
- Put one hand over your Solar Plexus Chakra [otherwise known as the area between your stomach and upper chest].
- Place the other hand directly underneath, touching your stomach.
- Just relax your hands and fingers together, close your eyes and let your mind drift or rest. No special effort is needed.
- Stay in this position for 10 to 15 minutes. Afterward you will feel rejuvenated and refreshed with vital energy.
(from The Power of Reiki by Tanmaya Honervogt)
It does a body good
A few years ago, she shared the practice of Reiki with a fellow Religious Sister of Mercy who had broken both her elbows. After being told that it would take three to four months to heal, she practiced Reiki everyday and was back to work in four weeks. When the woman visited her doctor, he kept saying “This is marvelous! This is wonderful! What have you been doing?” The sister told him that she had been practicing Reiki. He responded doubtfully, “Whatever.” Claudine laughs as she recalls his disbelief.
One of Sr. Claudine’s students’, Joan Hobbs, a 48 year-old mother, recalls her first encounter with Reiki. Joan’s teenage daughter was enduring painful cancer treatments and would receive Reiki sessions at the hospital. Joan says she had never heard of this technique, but “I knew that after a Reiki treatment, my daughter was not vomiting or feeling pain” so I knew that “something was going on.” Later, Hobbs trained with Sr. Claudine so that she could help other people suffering from pain, cancer and other diseases. As a Catholic, Joan also appreciates the time and peace that
Reiki sessions offer. “In this world where we rush around and our schedules are just so tight, it’s a good time for prayer,” she says.
“The only resistance I ever felt is that some people are not too sure what it is and they are nervous, but after they get accustomed to a couple treatments, they are open to it,” says Sr. Claudine. “I use it every day on myself” she says. “I am always amazed at how Reiki has changed and healed people of all walks of life…I feel it is a gift of God to God’s people.”