Reiki is a healing practice based on evoking certain spiritual energies using a hands-on approach. However, the Reiki healer’s hands generally do not make direct contact with the body area being treated. Instead, the hands are held just above the healing target.

That practice was developed in Japan by Mikao Usui, who began administering Reiki treatments in the late 1890s. Usui coined the term Reiki which combines the Japanese words “Rei,” meaning “universal” and “ki,” which refers to “vital energy that flows through all things.”

Western mainstream science long considered Reiki healing to be flagrant charlatanism or little more than fakery used by unscrupulous con artists who prey upon people in desperate need to be relieved of pain or a serious medical condition. But today, prestigious, mainstream medical institutions such as the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic embrace and encourage the use of Reiki.

The Mayo Clinic, for example, does not vouch for the efficacy of Reiki as a medically scientific healing method. Still, experts there believe it can play a vital role in an integrative approach to medicine. In short, the Mayo Clinic policy seems to be that Reiki can certainly do no harm — and if the patient believes it does them some good — that’s an overall positive factor. More than 60 major U.S. hospitals encourage the use of Reiki today.

While mainstream medical science tolerates Reiki, millions of people vouch for the effectiveness of this ancient method of healing. A 2007 survey showed that 1.2 million people underwent Reiki healing from a certified practitioner. A Google search for Reiki brings back about 70 million results. This demonstrates the interest and popularity of Reiki today.

Reiki is said to work by allowing ki energy to flow from the palm of the hand and into an area on the human body that needs healing. It is the Reiki healer’s (or Reiki Master) conscious intent that induces or brings forth the universal ki energy. The patient must also be of a mind to “accept healing.”

It must be noted that Reiki bears similarity to Christian “hands-on healing” methods using prayer. In fact, a form of hands-on spiritual healing can be found in nearly every religion in the world. The concept of “healing energy” is universal and is thousands of years old.

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