We’re a Touch Starved Culture

stack of hands

During my Reiki 1 class at Kripalu Center, my teacher, Libby Barnett, when asked whether we directly touch the recipients of a Reiki session or hover in their energy field, responded,

“We’re a touch-starved culture. There are benefits from the direct touch in addition to the Reiki.”

She went on to talk about how touch is regulated and minimized in schools, for instance, and how that impacts connection between students and teachers. She discussed how touch relates to emotional intimacy in our families. As a social worker, she knows a lot about this subject and her authority and wisdom became deeply ingrained in me and all of her students that auspicious week in October 2001.

But now, here we are in isolation. I haven’t seen a client in person in 17 days. I shut down my in person practice a week before the shelter in place orders for Illinois in order to practice physical distancing.

I’ll make an assumption here, that you, as someone interested in, or a practitioner of Reiki, dearly miss the hands-on practice of Reiki.

My heart is with you.

My heart grieves with you the loss of touch.

I invite you to put your hands on your heart.

To feel the energy that is in you and all around you.

That is Reiki.

Do this every day, multiple times a day. Notice your breath. Notice the warmth from your hands. Appreciate the physical touch.

You are safe.

You are calm.

You are Reiki.


Please know that my daily distance Reiki is being sent to you and the wider world for healing and peace.

Photography Exhibit: Touching Strangers

Jessie and Michael, New York, NY, 2013, Photograph by Richard Renaldi
Jessie and Michael, New York, NY, 2013, Photograph by Richard Renaldi

Last week, I was thrilled to visit the photography exhibit, “Touching Strangers,” at the Loyola University Museum of Art with my dear friend, Nancy Paul. When I first saw an ad for the exhibit I thought to myself, “Touching strangers! That’s what we do!” If you’re a Reiki practitioner, I’m sure the title resonates with you too.  Of course, as with the subjects in the photographs this is touch based on mutual consent and the highest level of respect for each individual.

When you view the images in the exhibit, which I highly recommend, the power of human connection is palpable. (The exhibit is at the Loyola University Museum of Art, LUMA, in downtown Chicago through August 2nd, 2015 and travels to many other locations through next year.) You’ll find in it heads gently titled toward each other, the equality of touch between two individuals, and the kindness of body symmetry or facial expression between those being photographed. One of the powerful aspects found in this collection is that many of those photographed come from different ethnic, racial, or age groups. In our minds, we “know” that, perhaps, they are indeed strangers to each other, but that they have found a commonality that they are presenting to the photographer.

The opposite is found in this group of images as well.  There are images where the discomfort between the subjects is vibrant. Where a subtle clenched fist or body slightly tilted away depicts an emotion of resistance from at least one of the individuals. Most of the images were taken in outside settings and the photographer, Richard Renaldi, does an amazing job composing images with backgrounds that enhance the overall image and work so powerfully with the humans in his portraits. There are at least two images at the LUMA exhibit that were photographed inside. This internal environment lends a layer of greater intimacy to the images which in one instance adds warmth to the experience of the photograph and in another instance creates a discomfort over why these strangers are inside together.

The exhibit is accompanied by a video documentary that includes interviews with some of the individuals photographed. It shows Renaldi’s process for approaching his subjects and how he pre-screens them — looking for those individuals who may be receptive to being photographed with a stranger. In their experience those photographed recount feelings of awkwardness and uncertainty at the beginning of the photo session, then a transformation occurs. By the end of the session, they feel a strong connection and concern for the other person. In the video they are shown hugging and the bonds of a human relationship are formed through this experience of being photographed while touching a stranger.

In Reiki sessions, we touch in order to connect with a subtle and unseen energy that infuses and surrounds us. Through this touch we relax into the connection with each other and the universe and we find the power to heal ourselves in mind, body, and spirit.


Please share your thoughts in the comments below:  What do you think of Richard Renaldi’s series of photographs, “Touching Strangers”?  What is your experience with respectful human touch and the human relationships that it forges?

How does Reiki work?

There is a certain amount of mystery around how Reiki works.  As Reiki Practitioners and Masters, we believe in universal life-force energy — the energy that is in us and all around us.  The energy that is universal and infinite. We believe that this energy is channeled through us and offered from our hands to another being who takes that energy and uses it for his/her highest healing good on a physical/mental/emotional or spiritual level.  However, for many people, that might be too much to wrap their minds around.  It may be too abstract and esoteric.  We can still have a discussion about Reiki and still reach area of agreement about how Reiki works.

Here are some possible areas of common ground:

  1. Reiki brings on the relaxation response. When the body is relaxed, it enters a place where healing can occur.  When the mind relaxes, it sees possibilities and ways of being that it can’t see when it is experiencing stress.  Relaxation heals.  Reiki heals.
  2. Touch heals.  Just the act of being touched in a kind and selfless way is healing.  At the very least, Reiki works through the power of touch.
  3. Reiki is a placebo.  It brings on the placebo effect in the same way that many medications do. We believe that it is going to work and therefore it does.  (See, for instance, the work of Ted J. Kaptchuk.)
  4. Through the experience of Reiki, one “knows” how it works. To know Reiki, is to have experienced it.  It is difficult to explain at times, however, the experience of it is unmistakable.

How do you think Reiki works?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Wishing you abundant health!

[twitter-follow screen_name='u_r_reiki']

Is Self-Care Selfish?

As a Reiki Master, I have a confession to make:  Sometimes I am hesitant to engage in self-care.  My concern for the care of others often overrides making self-care a priority in my day-to-day activities.  As a healer, is my care of others more important than the care of myself?  Do others need me more than I need me?  Is self-care selfish?IMG_0177

I’m certain that many of you are confident that the answer to these questions is, “no”.  I appreciate your certainty but I believe this deserves some exploration.  My first step was with a definition of the word, “selfish”:

“1.  concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others

“2.  arising from concern with one’s own welfare or advantage in disregard of others <a selfish act>”


The words that stand out for me here are: “excessively” or “exclusively” and the concept of putting oneself ahead of others.  So self-care that is balanced with the concern for others and that is not done to indulge oneself is not selfish.  My second step was to explore the balance between care of self and care of others.  How does one know when the balance is struck?

For instance, with a Reiki treatment, the practitioner receives the benefit of the Reiki at the same time as she/he is offering it to another.  However, her/his concern is for the highest healing good of the other person.  The Reiki that is received by the practitioner is a benefit but not the intent of the session.

In this month’s issue of Psychology Today, the cover article addresses the power of touch.

“Every evening at bedtime, DePauw’s Hertenstein gives his young son a back rub. ‘It’s a bonding opportunity for the two of us. Oxytocin levels go up, heart rates go down, all these wonderful things that you can’t see.’ Moments like these also reveal the reciprocal nature of touch, he says: ‘You can’t touch without being touched. A lot of those same beneficial physiological consequences happen to me, the person doing the touching.’ In fact, when we’re the ones initiating contact, we may reap all the same benefits as those we’re touching. For example, Field’s research has revealed that a person giving a massage experiences as great a reduction in stress hormones as the person on the receiving end.” http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201302/the-power-touch

As Reiki practitioners, in our giving we receive.  The need for self-Reiki still exists, however.  We still need a mature evaluation of our physical, emotional and spiritual needs as a whole person.  Are we balancing the care of others with the care of the self?  Have we filled our emotional bucket through the connection with friends and family?  Have we supported our physical health with nutritious food, exercise, fresh air, and plentiful water and sleep?  Have we connected with our spiritual selves through self-Reiki, meditation, time in nature, and quiet reflection?

There is a specific Reiki self-care habit that I am developing. I am doing an absent Reiki session for myself in addition to the times I’m sending it to others.  I find this to be very supportive and uplifting and often filled with deep insights.  It is one of the ways I find the balance between care of others and care of myself.  I give and I receive.  It is balanced, and, certainly, not selfish.

How do you practice self-care?  How do you balance your needs with the needs of others?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please share them in the comments.

Wishing you abundant love and light!

[twitter-follow screen_name=’u_r_reiki’]