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The Reiki Association invites Reiki Masters to their next regional Masters Circle, to be held in Tavistock, Devon, on Saturday 7th April from 10am to 4pm.

This Masters Circle will be hosted by Louisa Booth and Tripuri Dunne.

To book: Please contact Louisa on 07802 863008 or clb@reikiandwriting.co.uk

There will be time for discussion in circle and sharing Reiki.  Please bring food to share for lunch.

Cost: This event is free to members of The Reiki Association and £20 to non-members payable at the event.  Donations on the day to the Reiki Association Bursary Fund are welcomed.

LB_Placebo_TOUCH_AUT2010

This version was edited for publication in Touch Magazine. For the full text, please see earlier post.

Reiki and the Placebo Effect

A few weeks ago, a comment was placed on my website that set me thinking about the placebo effect.  The comment read, ‘Other than putting money into your pocket, and supplying placebo effects, Reiki does nothing.  There is a million dollars waiting for you if you can (sic).’  Well, first of all I had to decide whether or not to accept the comment, or to trash it.  Naturally, being of a decisive nature, I did nothing, so there it sits, waiting for me to moderate it.  The comment made me feel hot inside, because it attacks Reiki, but it also made me laugh.  Doesn’t the writer have any idea just how powerful the placebo effect can be?  Time and again the placebo effect has confounded the multi-million  pound drugs industry, forcing the latest concoction of chemicals off the market because they prove no stronger than a simple sugar pill.  In some conditions, such as depression, placebos regularly induce an improvement of over 80% in symptoms.1 That’s a big improvement,  and if Reiki has that effect,  I’m all for it!

So just what is this ‘placebo effect’?  In trials, a clinician will give a patient either a ‘real’ treatment,  maybe a pill stuffed full of powerful chemicals, or a ‘fake’ treatment, often a look-alike pill containing sugar or some other innocent substance.  To their surprise, over the years, in study after study, clinicians have found that the ‘fake’ treatment provides an improvement in symptoms in an average of 35% of cases.  Now that average is a tricky beast, because it’s variable depending on what sort of trial is involved.  Placebos work better for some conditions than for others, going as low as 10% and as high as 100%.  Some doctors are better at administering them, with their own belief in the efficacy of treatment influencing their patients.2 Furthermore, it has been scientifically proven that taking 4 placebos a day works better than taking 2…3

So what’s going on?  In his inspiring book, ‘How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body’, David Hamilton argues that what doctors are doing here is harvesting the power of the mind to heal the body.  The mind is a mighty tool, and if doctors are sufficiently enthusiastic about a proposed new treatment, then the patient’s mind starts working wonders, even to the point of producing its own chemical version of the desirable new drug.  Is Reiki working on that mind-body link too?  I think perhaps it might be.  Reiki is energy medicine, and a Reiki initiation creates a dynamic link to universal life-force energy, to the power that flows through trees and streams and sky, to the power that Mrs Takata called ‘God-power’.  Once we’ve called in that energy, it can work on the mind-body connection, changing the way we think and allowing us to heal ourselves.  But unlike a placebo, that’s not all there is to it.  Reiki doesn’t only work on the mind-body connection, it works directly on the physical body, and on emotional and spiritual planes too.  We’ve all felt it.  Describing that feeling is difficult, because we all have different experiences.  We may feel it as tingling.  We may feel it as warmth.  We may simply feel relaxed – and what a gift that is.  One of my students, someone the outside world would see as infinitely calm, describes having a Reiki treatment as a process of being ‘combed out’, so that by the end all knots and tangles are smoothed away.  Those of us who treated her were a tad surprised to hear she had knots and tangles to begin with.

The cynical will argue that this is all a figment of our imaginations, but fortunately, unlike placebos, Reiki doesn’t need the patient to believe in the treatment.  I’ve held a tiny, premature baby, whose twin died in the womb, and my hands blazed with heat until they sweated, and felt super-glued to her body, although she, of course, knew nothing of Reiki.  I’ve treated sceptics, who all at once fell into a profound sleep.  These were lively people who didn’t usually fall asleep in the middle of the day, and yet when they woke they insisted that sleep was all that had happened.  As any medic knows, sometimes the most healing thing you can do for someone is let them sleep.  As for myself, I was once a sceptic too.  I had my first treatment to humour someone I liked, and within moments was flicking around on the table, while my mind was still protesting that the whole thing was hokum.

Those of us who use Reiki everyday know that it is powerful.  It can shift big problems.  One of my students recently used an esoteric mix of Reiki, rest and visualisation to heal his broken leg, depriving the local hospital, to their surprise, of the chance to stick metal rods in him.  Reiki can be a major force for change.  Sometimes those changes aren’t at all easy and comfortable.  Sometimes the process knocks us about.  So while Reiki can match the best placebos for efficacy, it has to be said it isn’t ‘just a placebo’.  It’s a fundamental treatment in its own right, but it hasn’t yet been scientifically validated.  So far, our evidence is anecdotal, and anecdotal evidence is not enough.  Reiki is just beginning to be accepted in hospital wards and oncology departments, and the validation will come.  Meanwhile, a little scepticism from the general public is to be expected, even a few aggressive comments on a website.  And that’s just fine.  The general public took a while to accept the magic of electricity, or the notion of evolution, but those who had grasped the new ideas went on playing with them, furthering their own understanding, until both the general public and the scientific community caught up.  That’s our role right now.  We carry on playing with our Reiki, deepening our understanding, learning through doing, until the whole world notices and says, “Oh Reiki, yeah that works and it’s easy too.  You just stick your hands on.”

1.      I.Kirsch et al, ‘Initial severity and antidepressant benefits: a meta-analysis of data submitted to the food and drug administration’, PLoS Medicine, February 2008, 5(2), e45, 0260-68 cited in Hamilton, 2008.

2.      David R.Hamilton, PhD, How your mind can heal your body, Hay House, 2008

3.      A.J.de Craen et al, ‘Placebo effect in the treatment of duodenal ulcer’ British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 1999, 48(6), 853-60 cited in Hamilton, 2008

Louisa Booth June 2010