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Wake Up Calls

seeking glimpses of spirit in every day life

"... cherishing yourself in order to be who you are. This is the basis of all healing.”
Barbara Brennan, energy healer, author of Hands of Light

We’re not in Kansas anymore

Reiki is fun. People feel great whether they’re on the giving or receiving end. As you practice more you may start to get intuitive hits. That’s even more fun! It’s cool seeing Angels and dead people.

Then one day things change. We are thrown off balance. This is when real healing begins. People get emotional. They cry. They talk a lot. They take up too much time. They say you saw the wrong dead person or they start demanding answers. Suddenly Reiki doesn’t seem quite as fun. Suddenly we feel ourselves in unfamiliar, unsettling territory.

This is when it starts to get real. When we are ready, a difficult sessions will present itself. We will be reminded of our responsibilities in providing Reiki. We will be reminded that the world of Love and Light includes experiences that might make us uncomfortable. Here are some basic concepts to keep in mind as you enter the world of healing.


Keeping firm boundaries is important so we don’t become overwhelmed by the needs of others. Recently I had a client come in who was overwhelmed because she was taking her daughter to a birthday party after her massage. The party was for a girl that her daughter wasn’t particularly close to.

My client knew she would spend time in the kitchen with other moms who she also didn’t care to spend time with. Yet they were going to the party because the birthday girl’s mom had sent an extra invitation by text and my client didn’t feel comfortable saying they wouldn’t be attending. This party was taking up the last few hours of an already busy weekend and my client really just wanted to spend time at home with her own family. Saying no is Boundaries 101.

In healing situations, the work of saying no may come in the form of ending a session when the client doesn’t seem ready. Psychotherapy appointments are famous for ending abruptly at the 50 minute mark. Time’s up! whether you are still crying or not.

I remember hearing that, in the traditional form of the Hawaiian healing art of Lomi Lomi, the treatment can go on for many hours. There is no time limit. The treatment ends when it is “done.” Although it may be more effective and thorough, this system wouldn’t really fit into the structure of our modern society, governed as it is by the clock. Most healing professionals, then, follow the example of the psychotherapists. They offer their services on an hourly basis. I do this as well, but with one exception:

Emotional Release

There are times when bodywork and other healing modalities cause what is commonly known as “emotional release.” Usually this means that the client begins to cry, or talk about a painful event. Sometimes the body will begin to shake uncontrollably. These all have a cathartic effect of “throwing off” stored emotional energy and are generally assumed to be healthy.

They can be uncomfortable to watch if we are not accustomed  to doing so. Rest assured, however, in some uncanny way, we attract clients who are appropriate for our experience and skill level. People usually will not release strong emotions when they are not in the presence of someone they feel to be grounded and trustworthy.

I remember a time long ago when a practitioner of some obscure breathwork technique encouraged me to “really let go and get into my emotions.” I did not feel safe with this person, though. Although the intense breathing had initiated some emotion and I was crying a bit, there came a moment when I knew I trusted neither this process nor the practitioner. Within 30 seconds, I regained my composure and calmly stood up and walked out the door.

During my hypnosis training with an expert and extremely reputable hypnotherapy teacher, I witnessed many extreme catharses when the hypnosis was performed by this teacher. People were on the floor screaming, pounding, regressed to the age when they had encountered certain traumas. This did not happen when we, as students, tried out the regression techniques on those same subjects, who were our classmates.

It is important to practice only the techniques for which we have been trained and to stay grounded and out of the ego. When you practice Reiki and other energy work, this means to know how to, and to be well practiced in meditation and grounding. It means to remain humble, to always ask Reiki for guidance in situations where your client is getting emotional (or any other event occurs that you are not familiar with.)

Holding Space

If a person does become emotional, the notion of holding space becomes important. Holding space means that we keep the environment safe for our client while she goes through the process. This means that we don’t judge or try to fix whatever she is experiencing. Don’t offer advice! We simply be there with her. We stay calm and sympathetic, but detached. All we need to do is keep breathing, keep grounding, keep asking for Guidance.

Needing to Fix

Recently I was in a group Reiki session where the client became emotional. She was talking about a life dilemma, going over possible solutions, pros and cons. Everyone in the group started chatting with her, offering suggestions, giving their own accounts of similar situations. This is what we are used to doing and how we naturally react in order to feel helpful.

But think about what it meant for the client. It caused her to need to attend to their stories, and forget the importance of her own. She had to take into account their suggestions, which were being given based on their experience in relation to what they felt was at issue.

The “healing” session devolved into a friendly chitchat that would have been fun and helpful if we’d all been at someone’s kitchen table having tea. Reiki was not invited. In fact, She was shown the door.

I believe this happened because the people in the group were not used to holding space. They felt bad for the client and the painful decision she had to make. They wanted to reach out, to offer advice. They felt the need to DO. Really they needed to just let the client BE. Honoring the BEING of another is what healing is all about, wherever she is in any moment, no matter how uncomfortable it seems. When she is allowed to BE in the presence of Reiki, amazing shifts can occur.


A better choice would have been to notice that the emotional release was starting to occur. (The client’s body was shaking a bit as she held back from sobbing. Then she began talking, and continued to do so even after it was announced that the session was ending.) After making this realization, we could have simply made sure we were grounded by planting our feet and feeling for the root chakra. We could have made sure we were breathing and opening our hearts to receive whatever occurred with love and compassion.

Asking Reiki for help

We could have asked Reiki for help in remaining grounded and open. We could have asked Reiki to guide us if we needed to shift whatever we were doing. We could have listened as best as we were able to hear the Guidance. And we could have done nothing else until we’d heard the answer.

Extend the session? End abruptly?

I was taught in massage school that, if a person was experiencing an emotional release, that we were not to move our hands from the area they were in until the person’s affect had shifted. This is another way of letting the person feel safe and in control. They feel that the practitioner is “with them” and respectful of their needs.

I have made it my policy to schedule healing sessions further apart than massage sessions. I allow the time to “go over” if the person is really emotional. I don’t allow the session to go on indefinitely, but I help them to gently return to equilibrium before they need to leave the treatment room.

This is my own personal choice and everyone in the helping professions will have to decide their own policy. It doesn’t happen often, and there are ways to manage the session so it ends on time.

It can be helpful to begin letting them know the session will be ending soon, and to continue advising them of how much time is left. You can ask Reiki silently or out loud to complete the healing for today in the best way possible for the client’s best and highest good. You can ask the client to begin to come back into the room, to take some deep breaths, to open her eyes.

Don’t give up and don’t hold back!

Reiki and energy healing ARE fun and wonderful practices. When we enter into a healing session, we never know what it is going to bring up for our client. We must be ready to safely handle any situation that comes up. Even if we lack self-confidence, we can feel confident in the power of Reiki to guide us. Even the more challenging sessions can be joyful learning experiences instead of uncomfortable moments that make us doubt our decision to invite Reiki to flow through us. Don’t be afraid to let Reiki flow through you and out to the rest of the world!

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