One reiki session silenced my inner cynic, and I don’t know how

As a self-professed atheist and cynic to all things ‘woo-woo’, the idea of getting a reiki treatment didn’t much appeal. I like science. And facts. And clinical trials to justify the money I spend on my #selfcare rituals (hello Retinol, IPL and regular therapy with an accredited psychologist). If you come at me with your sage sticks or rose quartz crystals I’m likely to terminate our friendship on the spot. Sorry. But also, not sorry. Leigh Campbell knows what I mean.

But Leigh and I are unfashionable like that, because alternative therapies are big business, and are enjoying unprecedented popularity – a fact that we can’t blame solely on Gwyneth and her Goop-y ways as crystal-infused water bottles and chakra-balancing tonics infiltrate the Australian market.

So with the zeitgeist in mind, I thought it my professional duty to try out one of of the most ‘woo-woo’ road-test opportunities to land in my inbox; a reiki session with the Sydney-based Simonne Lee, who was described as “an internationally recognised Life Strategist with over 15 years experience in life coaching, clinical hypnotherapy, NLP, kinesiology and reiki with healing and psychometric reading services.” Was there anything this woman couldn’t do? I guess I’d find out.

Having only the vaguest idea of what a reiki treatment might involve (something to do with energy…and unblocking pathways…), I thought I should do my research before my appointment with Simonne. The US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health defines reiki as “a complementary health approach in which practitioners place their hands lightly on or just above a person, with the goal of directing energy to help facilitate the person’s own healing response. It’s based on an Eastern belief in an energy that supports the body’s innate or natural healing abilities.” Righto, so I would be healing myself? Seemed very DIY, but OK.

Historically, reiki is an ancient Japanese art of ‘hands on’ healing and was discovered by Dr Mikao Usui back in the 1800s. The name is literally the joining of two Japanese words meaning rei (universal) and ki (life force), and is phonetically pronounced as ‘ray -key’.

I also came across this fascinating article on SBS, which terrified me a little (uncontrollable shaking, tingling, unexplainable chest pressure = not so relaxing). But set some scientific parameters, which my cynical side appreciated. Basically, it surmises that there is no conclusive evidence of the therapeutic benefits of reiki, but also that it has shown to cause no harm whatsoever, either.

Putting those nuggets of information aside, I climbed the stairs to Simonne’s small but light-filled Rose Bay office. Her warmth and affable nature immediately put me to ease, and I heard myself talking about myself and my mental state-of-being much more than I intended, as she asked me about my aims and goals for the session.

After the initial consult, which was like a friendly mental-health check-in from a friend, she asked me to lie on a massage bed so she could start the reiki session. She popped a weighted eye mask (like those you sometimes get in really good yoga studios) over my eyes, and then placed her hands on my arm closest to her.

Immediately her hands felt warmer than they should. Although not in an unpleasant way. I felt my body relax into the bed. After what seemed like about five minutes she gently moved her hands to my other arm. Again, warmth. And a firm but gentle pressure. I let my jaw loosen, and my breath slow. Again, after about five minutes she moved her hands to my leg. By this stage I had relaxed into a jelly-like pool on her table, and could’ve happily fallen asleep.

I could hear the birds chirping outside, and my whole body felt warm – like it was at sea, being rocked my the waves. I felt like I was a long way away from that little room in Rose Bay, and I could see my life and all its complexities anew – as if from a distance. I thought about my husband, and my infant daughter, and felt happy and grateful and focused. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was an out-of-body experience, but I definitely felt transported, somehow.

To be honest, I’m not sure how long I was lying on that massage table, or how many times Simonne moved her hands. But eventually she told me that the session had finished, and to only sit up when I felt ready. I felt like I’d just woken up from the perfect night’s sleep. Awake and alert, but relaxed and ready to go.

Simonne asked me how old my little girl was, to which I smiled because I’d made sure not to spill any specifics about my family or friends. She gave me an illustrated ‘spirit card’ to remind me to keep my heart chakras open – which I didn’t really know how to do – but I dutifully nodded and tucked it into my handbag as I thanked her and slowly made my way down the stairs and into the afternoon light. Everything looked a bit brighter, and I noticed myself drinking in the details of the trees and the houses as I toddled home.

Following up on email with Simonne after the session, I asked her explain how reiki works. She replied, saying “There have been many scientific studies on reiki with results showing that the reiki practitioner and person receiving become synchronised in the alpha brainwave state (known for deep relaxation and meditation). During this time, the bio-magnetic field of the practitioner’s hand is at least 1000 x greater than normal. This suggests that the practitioner is drawing on the Earth’s energy/vibration which many call ‘universal energy’. Medicinal equipment based on these frequencies have been built to stimulate tissue repair and studies suggest that reiki pulses have a similar output in regeneration of overall health.”

I asked Simonne how she would she describe reiki to someone who’s never heard of it before. She offered this: “Imagine that you’re in a park on a beautiful sunny day. You’re laying under a tree and the sun’s rays are coming through the leaves on to you. There’s a cool breeze as you have a snooze with the birds in the background. Having a reiki session is like this and truly blissful.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

My reiki session had a surprisingly profound effect on me – I felt calm and centred for days and weeks afterwards, and found a new appreciation for the things (and people) in my life that I might otherwise have taken for granted. I’d say it was akin to a great meditation session, or a ‘breakthrough’ moment that you might experience in therapy. But easier. Less work, somehow.

I’m not a scientist, so can’t speak to the existence of bio-magnetic fields or alpha brainwave states, but I do know I felt renewed, relaxed and refocused. And I can’t wait for my next session.

Simonne Lee is Sydney-based, Level 2 Reiki practitioner and Master Reiki teacher with 15 years experience. She also holds a diploma in clinical hypnotherapy, a diploma in NLP, and a certificate IV in Kinesiology BKP.