My friend Mark, an ER doc, sat across the table from me and finished his Coke, making that disgusting slurpy noise when the straw hits the bottom of an empty glass. “I really liked your book, but, geez, why Reiki? It’s so, so –”
He laughed and nodded. “Out there. Definitely.”
I shrugged. “Why not?”
“Because, like I said, it’s out there.”
“Look, Mark, you’re equating ‘out there’ as ‘not viable,’ and while my book doesn’t set an agenda, it is an entertaining invitation to think outside the box. I think docs who integrate alternative forms of healing to their practice is an intriguing idea. It’s controversial, to be sure, but it also gets people talking on both sides of the aisle about the future of health care and the various paths that care might take. This sells books, and, as an author, this makes me happy.”
“So it’s all about sales.”
I toss my straw wrapper at him. “Well, yeah, it’s about sales, stupid – I’m an author. But it’s also about making the reader go, “hmmm.” Integrative medicine is happening, as you well know. The first rule of writing is to write what you love and what you know. I love the whole doctor thing – what makes you tick, how you handle controversial ideas, and how your biases or personal journeys affect your patients’ care. What better idea than to bring two explosive ideas together – docs and integrative medicine? I’m very good at getting under the white coated curtain to humanize docs. I chose Reiki, in particular, because it’s one of the least understood forms of alternative healing options but produces some of the most interesting results. It’s also easy for docs and nurses to do while they’re working.”
“Yeah, I know, I know,” he said, rolling his eyes. “The old laying of the hands bit to spread energy around. So what’s it accomplish for the patient?”
“Let’s put it on a simpler level. It’s been cold lately, right? And we humans work better when we’re comfortable. So rather than heating empty rooms in the entire house, I close vents and doors and trap the air in the rooms where we’re occupying. That means the guest room is freezing, and so is the library. Our bodies are the same way. Energy surrounds every living cell, but energy gets trapped and doesn’t flow properly. It affects our health. Reiki goes in and opens the doors and lets the warmth flow in all the rooms.”
Mark stared at me. “Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound?”
I thought of some of the internet docs I know and seminars I’ve attended. “Yeah, Mark, I know how ridiculous I sound. I felt the same way when I first heard about Reiki. My original manuscript had Reiki as a mere footnote. Through my research phase, I encountered it on a more personal level and became intrigued. The more I learned, the more curious I became. After a few shots of this energy stuff, and I had to know more. It took my book in a whole different direction. The fact that I was an ardent skeptic shouldn’t be ignored. I made them prove it to me.”
“Yeah, but that’s the point. You can’t prove Reiki works.”
“I know how I felt. I saw verifiable changes through how relaxed I felt. I nearly soiled myself to realize I no longer needed my meds. That strikes me as fairly compelling proof. And no one could explain it.”
“But you can’t guarantee results.”
“You can’t guarantee results with hypnotherapy, either, but it’s been widely accepted for years. And now I’m hearing that guided imagery is being elevated beyond the X-files category? I’ve seen some great things happen with guided imagery on cancer patients, but come on, no one can guarantee its efficacy. Even so, you guys have decided to give it its due? It’s selective. And it’s like you say; Reiki is ‘out there.’”
He shoved his drink away and folded his arms. “Okay, fry me.”
I blinked. “Huh?”
“Fry me. Go on, give me a Reiki treatment.”
I looked around the crowded restaurant. “I can’t do it here.”
“We’ll go back to the hospital.”
So we went to the hospital where he found an empty exam room. I had him lie on the exam table and relax while I took some deep cleansing breaths. It took mere seconds to feel the trademark warmth pulsating through the palms of my hands. I placed my hands on his forehead and the top of his head.
“Why there?” he asked.
“Beats me. Seems to be where my hands want to go.”
“Feel gooood,” he said, sounding slightly mushy. “Oh wow…”
Within minutes Mark was snoring. I zoned out, too, which is common. It’s not falling asleep, but rather, going into a meditative state where you’re semi-aware of your surroundings.
The energy subsided, and I woke up. Half an hour had gone by. I removed my hands from Mark’s head, and he woke up slowly.
“I feel like a freaking million bucks,” he said, stretching. “I also feel like I’m on another planet. Will I be able to do my job?”
“You’ll do just fine. I promise.”
He called me later that night, after his shift. “Um, so, like, when can you do this Reiki shit again? I had the shift of my life.”
“Are you kidding? We had our usual pile up of death-defying teens driving Daddy’s expensive cars, drug seekers, sniffles, flu, illegals – the usual. But none of it bothered me. I handled my cases and dealt with the usual administrative crap that prevents me from practicing medicine the way it should be practiced – and it rolled off my back. I flew through my shift with a smile. A freaking smile! I never smile. Not anymore. Whatever you did to me, I want it again. Yeah, yeah, I know what I said earlier today, but I’d like to see if my shift was a fluke or whether you really got something here.”
“So now you’ve answered your own question,” I said.
“You asked me today, ‘why Reiki?’ for my book. Now you know. Now go forth, young Grasshopper, and tell your colleagues that we aren’t to be feared, but embraced.”
“Yes, Great Yoda…”