We don’t diagnose

Medical chart to diagnoseIn every Reiki class that I teach, I say, “We [Reiki Practitioners] don’t diagnose.” It’s an important directive to keep in mind because when we practice Reiki we often notice things about a client’s physical or emotional state. For instance, we may notice that a lot of energy is drawn in at the crown of the head, or that very little energy seems to be drawn in at the stomach, or that the breath deepened when our hands were in the heart region, or that the client was holding a lot of anger or grief inside. Also, a client may ask us at the end of a Reiki session, “What did you notice?” There is a temptation to draw conclusions and make recommendations based on what we sensed and our experience as practitioners. However, it is important not to diagnose for three reasons.

  1. Most of us are not medical practitioners and we are not licensed to provide a diagnosis. This is a legal issue and we must operate within the realm of our profession.
  2. When energy is drawn strongly or weakly in a region of the body it does not mean that there is good health or bad health in that area. We really don’t know. All we know is that a lot of energy was (or was not) moving in that area.
  3. It is much more powerful for a client to come to the diagnosis him/herself. To get there, I often ask the recipient, “What did you feel? What did you notice?”  Sometimes I’ll offer in response, “I noticed that too,” but I always follow the client’s lead.

All of these reasons are important, but I think the third reason is really powerful and potentially extremely radical. Imagine if we were the masters of our own bodies — of our own physical experiences. Imagine if we did not seek the wisdom from others who “know” but, rather we go inside and find that wisdom ourselves. If we listened to our intuition and tuned into the richness of our inner lives, I believe, we would find the answers we seek.

I often say, “You live in your body. Your doctor does not. You are the expert on your own experiences. The doctor is an expert on the experiences of a sample of bodies that lived at a unique period of time and agreed to a particular medical study. He or she is not an expert on your unique experience. Only you can be.”  I believe this can be a radical and empowering perspective. What if I know what’s best for me and act on it and I don’t seek that from someone else? What choices will I make while I’m healthy and when I’m in the midst of an illness if I’m the expert on my own health?

The stopping point for many people in this journey is at the beginning. They want a diagnosis.  They want a name to put on the sensations in their body. They want an identity for their physical selves and their experience that makes them, perhaps, not quite so alone. “Ah, other people feel this. Other people experience this pain and this is what they have done to cope with it. So, then, that’s what I will do too.” It takes the responsibility away from the individual and moves it to someone else. Now an expert provides the “truth” about your body and determines the path to your remedy. Sometimes this works perfectly and there is no reason to even question this approach. However, there are plenty of times when the remedy doesn’t work and we’re left searching for something else.

Perhaps, if we had started off with seeking our diagnosis within ourselves, we would come up with a customized approach that would take into account our unique body and how we live in it. With this remedy just for me, we could create an excellent health experience and make sure it is customized for this unique body that lives this unique life. It’s not to say we don’t benefit from other people’s experiences, rather we blend the potion with the proper dash of “us” to make it work.

What do you think? Could you live in a world where you’re the diagnostician for your own health? What would it look like? How would it be beneficial for you?  Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.


My Reiki teacher, Libby Barnett, often says, when asked to explain how Reiki works, “Dunno.” She invites us to be in this space of “I don’t know,” this space of being, rather than knowing. As a Reiki teacher, I use this approach as well, but it is a dance because one wants to meet people’s minds and gently guide them to the “dunno.”

Like many others, I adore Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day. I often hear in my head these lines:

“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,”

Last night, during a Reiki Session with a client, the following poem came to me.


I don’t know know how to pray,
but I do know how to beg and plead
and get down on my knees
and be . . . silent.

I don’t know what to say,
but I do know I’m here
with you
and we’ll be okay.

I don’t know how to walk,
but I do know how
to feel the earth beneath my feet
and move.

I don’t know how to cry,
but I do know how
to let go and feel.

I don’t know how to grieve,
but I do know how to
feel sad and lonely —
how to pull up the sheets over my head
and want what is not.

I don’t know how to love,
but I do know how to
light up in your presence,
hold your hand,
and listen.

I don’t know how to heal
or me.
Dunno how healing happens.
But I do know it happens.

I know I rode through darkness
and then danced with the fleeting light.

Mind over Medicine by Lissa Rankin

I recently finished reading Lissa Rankin’s book, “Mind Over Medicine.”  There are many insightful nuggets in it. The beginning establishes, through extensive research, the power of the mind to heal what ails us. Lissa then goes on to relay many beautiful stories of her journey and those of others who have used their mind to heal disease. I think many people will find the detailed “prescriptions” at the back of the book to be incredibly helpful.

The part that I keep coming back to is Lissa’s Whole Health Cairn. As I review my own health in each of these categories I notice areas of extreme imbalance. I especially love the way she does not put physical health at the foundation of the whole human system. Indeed it is important, but if the rest of the human experience is out of balance, the others suffer and, eventually, fall (or fail).

Lissa Rankin Whole Health Cairn

Take a careful look at the cairn and notice that the foundation is the “Inner Pilot Light.”  Wow! To me, that’s my intuition. “Wait!,” says my mind, “What about ME?! You can’t trust that intuition! You don’t even know where it is!” Wow, that mind always wants to be in charge! Honestly, it triggers fear in me to build my health there. However, the Inner Pilot Light has never failed me. When I look at some of the wonderful turning points in my life, I see that they were built on my the guidance of my Inner Pilot Light.  I “just knew,” on an intuitive level, that it was right to study Reiki, to marry my husband, etc., etc.

What are your thoughts on the Whole Health Cairn? Do you listen to your Inner Pilot Light and allow it to guide your approach to healthy living in all aspects of your life?  Please leave your comments below!

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“Oh, I could hide ‘neath the wings
Of the bluebird as she sings.
The six o’clock alarm would never ring.
But six rings and I rise,
Wipe the sleep out of my eyes.
. . .
Oh, what can it mean.
To a daydream believer . . .” by John Stewart, performed by the Monkees

Last night, as I was scrubbing the stuck on linguini off the colander, it occurred to me:  It has been years, and I mean YEARS (maybe in the 10 year range), since I last engaged in daydreaming.  I don’t mean a momentary drift off into “lala” land as one gazes at the clouds.  No, I mean, a full daydream of the joyful and involved type, where I dream about a future scenario for myself.  I would act it out in my mind and find the words, responses and situations that would bring me the most joy.

Definitely, in the past few years I have engaged in thought processes that in some ways mimic daydreaming, but they all fall short on one vital component.  They are negative, anxiety-filled musings of the mind.  They are the kind that make me say to myself, “Stop!  Think of something positive.”  I quickly identify the thought as “anxiety” and attempt to fill my mind with comforting thoughts and my heart with Reiki.

However, daydreaming, at least for me, is different.  It is positive, fun and sometimes inspirational.  It can be an anchor to my truest desires and aspirations.  If I can find the time to daydream again, it may be the key to answering the question that I just can’t seem to answer lately, “What do I want for my future professionally?”  I have many general ideas that incorporate my skills and experiences and I know what I enjoy at work and what I don’t.  The clarity of it is missing.  The vision, the mental visual acuity, is missing.  Perhaps I will find it again in daydreaming.

Do you daydream?  Do you find it helpful and empowering?

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Reiki Goes Where it is Needed

In the Usui system of Reiki there is a principle that Reiki goes where it is needed. In practice this can look like a Reiki session where the practitioner has her hands on the shoulders of the recipient for the whole session.  However, the recipient entered the session with a sore knee and a headache.  After the session, the recipient reports that the knee feels much better and her headache has decreased.  This occurs without the practitioner ever placing her hands directly on the knees or the head.  This is the wisdom and power of universal life force energy.  It goes where it is needed.

There are many stories that illustrate this principle.  For instance, my teacher, Libby Barnett, tells the story of one of her clients who came to her with an injured ankle that was healing very slowly.  The day after the Reiki session, Libby followed up and her client said that the ankle was about the same, but the evening after the Reiki session she had written the outline of a children’s book that had been in her mind for years.

Another client I have worked with had only stress-reduction on her mind.  However, after her Reiki session, a cyst in her wrist became enlarged.  She observed this for several days and on the fifth day it seemed to go away.  When she followed up with her physician, who had been monitoring her condition, he confirmed that the cyst was gone.  She was relieved and grateful and saw how Reiki went where it was needed.

As a Reiki practitioner this principle can sometimes guide us in hand placement.  For instance, rather than placing the hands over the recipients ankles, the practitioner may be guided by Reiki and intuition to place the hands on the lower leg.

I welcome your thoughts in the comments section and wonder how you have experienced Reiki’s power to go to where it is needed.

Wishing you light and peace.

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