Reiki for Brain Injury

What It Is

Reiki (pronounced ray-key) is a gentle and natural system of energy healing. One of the most ancient healing methods known, it originated in Tibet and was rediscovered in the 19th century by a Japanese monk named Dr. Mikao Usui. The Usui System of Natural Healing is named after Usui and has been passed down by Reiki Master Teachers since that time. The Japanese word, “reiki,” consists of two syllables: “rei,” which means “universal,” and “ki,” the “life force energy,” corresponding to Chi in the Chinese system of Qigong and acupuncture, and to the concept of prana in the various Indian systems of Yoga. Thus, Reiki refers to the healing qualities of universal life force energy.

Today, people practice Reiki worldwide. Many hospitals, clinics, and hospice settings now offer Reiki as an adjunct therapy given by volunteers or specialists trained in multiple modalities. Reiki is a wonderful complement to massage therapy, cranio-sacral work, and psychological therapy.

What It Does

Reiki works on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. It engages a precise method for combining this universal energy with the body’s own, innate powers of healing. Reiki is not meant to replace professional medical advice but rather to complement other treatment modalities by encouraging very deep relaxation. When the body relaxes deeply, it can begin to heal itself.
Reiki practitioners do not diagnose or prescribe medication. Instead, they allow healing energy to flow through their hands. Recipients often perceive this energy as warmth or tingling. Many fall asleep during treatment sessions, further allowing the body to relax and regenerate.

Reiki works with the human energy system, which consists of meridians (energy channels) and chakras (energy centers). Traditional Chinese Medicine identifies twelve main meridians-plus a governing and functional channel-that run like roads up and down the body. Although acupuncture was once considered completely “alternative,” research has shown correspondence between major acupuncture points and scientifically discovered nerve pathways and trigger points. Similarly, chakras-seven major energy centers that run from the base of the spine to the crown of the head-seem to connect via nerve clusters with endocrine glands whose function or malfunction result in feelings and physical states associated with those energy centers. The study of meridians and chakras spans thousands of years, with Western medicine only recently confirming what Chinese and Indian scholars professed so long ago.

A Reiki practitioner does not need to understand the human energy system in order to support it. Through mechanisms most people find mysterious, Reiki flows wherever it most needs to go. In this way, it acts like what herbalists call an “adaptogen”-energizing weak areas while decreasing areas of overstimulation. This makes sense, considering Reiki’s status as “universal life force energy.” Nature always aims for balance. A concentrated saltwater solution placed in fresh water results in a slightly saline combination. Yin balances yang. As Reiki flows through the body, energy redistributes itself in a balanced and natural way.

Why It Works

As previously mentioned, Reiki works by allowing the body to relax enough to heal itself. As a gentle, adaptogenic form of energy, it integrates and reconnects all levels of healing: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. This is important for all healing, but especially so for TBI survivors. In some ways, TBI provides the ultimate illustration of the need for multi-level healing. A physical injury affects mental processing and emotions. Depending on the location of brain damage, someone might lose the ability to feel sad, or forget how to do sequential tasks. Synapses become so jumbled that survivors often answer questions “randomly,” drawing upon whatever connections the brain happens to make at that time. Rational thought (mental level) becomes a challenge. Depression (emotional level) affects a majority of TBI survivors, in part due to neurochemistry and certainly due to chronic pain and loss of lifestyle. In order to stay positive during recovery, many survivors find themselves turning to spiritual pursuits.

This spiritual questioning naturally follows an injury that destroys one’s sense of Self. If a physical injury can strip away all the things we think we know about ourselves, then what remains? What is that underlying Awareness? Does the universe really deliver random blows, or did this injury happen for a reason?

If everything happens for a reason, then what might TBI carry as its message? Returning to the idea of chakras, TBI is a 7th chakra issue. The 7th chakra sits at the crown (top) of the head and is associated with the hypothalamus and pineal glands, spirituality, oneness consciousness, and the colors violet and white. Tradition says that whenever an illness or injury strikes a particular chakra, the spiritual issues connected with that chakra will aid the healing process. Well, the 7th chakra is THE spiritual chakra. The crown of the head provides our closest connection to “God Consciousness” or “Universal Love.” This chakra also controls all the other chakras, in the same way that the brain influences the entire body. For most survivors, TBI presents challenges in the form of finding one’s life path, opening to a greater sense of connection and service, embracing traces of Divinity in everyone and everything, and coming to recognize an underlying order in the universe.

Because Reiki addresses all levels of healing, it also helps balance the spiritual elements so crucial to recovery. Unlike other forms of energy work, however, Reiki does so in a very gentle way. Kundalini energy, for example-also known as the human potential that lies coiled at the base of the spine-does not present itself as gentle. Powerful, strong, and potent-yes, but if awakened too quickly, Kundalini energy can actually cause TBI-like symptoms. Reiki, by contrast, always works as an adaptogen. It does not force rapid change. Instead, it allows healing to unfold and reveal itself in its own time and in its own way. Given that the 7th chakra represents a culmination of all the other chakras, we might extrapolate that TBI and other neurological problems demand compassion and respect. These are extremely complex and dynamic health issues. Attempting to force recovery never works, because that would require superseding something we don’t fully understand. Ultimately, TBI offers a chance for integration in the deepest and most profound way. Many TBI survivors actually possess strong spiritual, creative and healing gifts, so their soul retrieval and healing offer potential to effect dramatic differences in our world. Reiki honors this mysterious process and creates a safe space for transformation.

Where to Find

As Reiki continues to gain recognition among health care providers, you can increasingly find it alongside other modalities like massage and psychological therapy. Many hospitals and hospices also offer Reiki to help patients feel nurtured and gently supported. You can look for flyers or business cards at Health Food Stores or in local alternative magazines, or ask for referrals from friends and family members. The International Association of Reiki Professionals (IARP) offers an online practitioner and teacher search via zip code:

In general, you want to choose a Reiki practitioner with whom you feel comfortable. A standard Reiki treatment lasts one hour; however, Reiki integrated with other techniques may take more or less time. You can also receive Reiki from a distance, since Reiki Level 2 and higher practitioners have learned how to “send” Reiki through Distant Healing. The process of Reiki Distant Healing is too complex and involved to cover here; however, it does not differ in effectiveness from an in-person session. That said, some people prefer in-person sessions because they enjoy a human connection and/or spa-like experience.

A few words about the different levels: Someone with Reiki Level 1 knows all traditional hand positions for treating people on the body (with a light touch) or above the body. (Unless combined with massage or some other modality, Reiki never involves tissue manipulation.) Reiki Level 2 practitioners also know special techniques for increasing energy flow, creating mental/emotional balance, and healing past traumas. A Reiki Master or Reiki Master Teacher has studied advanced energy techniques and can offer something known as a Healing Attunement, a potent technique that encourages the recipient’s Higher Self to take a more active role in recovery. Many people experience dramatic shifts after a Healing Attunement.

How to Learn

Reiki Certification requires completion of required coursework for each level, along with Initiation Attunements from a Certified Reiki Master Teacher. The attunement process clears and opens the meridians and chakras in such a way that Reiki begins to flow through the hands. After an attunement, students can provide Reiki treatments to others and themselves. Thus, Reiki classes offer an economical way to receive ongoing treatment. Instead of paying others for sessions, students can treat themselves as needed. Reiki classes empower survivors and even offer a chance to earn income while disabled. When selecting a Reiki Master Teacher, students should look for someone with whom they resonate. TBI survivors would also want someone who understands their different learning style and individual needs.