Find us on Google+ Blue Mountain Reiki: Can Reiki Cause Harm?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Can Reiki Cause Harm?

Happy new year, Reiki friends! I would like to share with you here the unabridged, original version of an article I wrote that was just published in the Winter issue of Reiki News Magazine: Can Reiki Cause Harm? This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and I am excited to share the full article with you here on my site.

Wintry Reiki blessings to you!




Can Reiki Cause Harm?

From explaining Reiki to a client or student, to Reiki support group discussions, to social media, chat rooms, and message boards, Reiki people far and wide are compelled to address this very important question: Can Reiki ever do harm? I’ll spare you the suspense and tell you that the short answer is, no, Reiki can never do harm. That said, let’s dig a little deeper into the title question here. Let’s look at some of the misconceptions that surround the practice of Reiki on people with certain conditions. Let’s even look at the aspects of our own human nature and personal responsibility and how these come into play when it comes to practicing energy work in a safe and conscious way.

            In my Reiki classes, I make a point of discussing the different forms that energy can take in the world around us, such as the way our body turns food into energy so we can go about our day; the energy of a lightning bolt as it charges up Mother Earth’s grid; the energy of our hopes and dreams when they take the form of desires. These are only a scant few examples of the many forms of energy that are constantly at work around and within us, and not all manifestations of energy are that of pure healing love and light.

Reiki is the energy of pure consciousness, untainted by emotion or desire. It does not depend on our approval, our understanding, or even our belief; it simply is. Reiki is a healing energy that is beyond any explanation of the word “healing”—or even the word “Reiki” itself—that I, or anyone, may have to offer. (And yet here I am attempting it!) Reiki is the energy of life as guided towards its highest purpose by the energy of spirit; it is the energy of the pure source of love and light.

Now, raise your hand if you’ve ever heard any of the following “Reiki don’ts”: Don’t do Reiki on a broken bone; it will heal too quickly, causing the healed bone to be out of alignment. Don’t do Reiki on a cancer patient; you will give energy to the tumor. Don’t do Reiki on someone who has low blood pressure; it will lower it even more. Don’t do Reiki on a pregnant woman. Don’t do Reiki on someone who has had a stroke. Don’t do Reiki on someone who has had a heart attack.

The list goes on. And perhaps you are even someone who has been taught or teaches these Reiki warnings. But let me ask you this: What would you say if I said no, don’t use the source of love and light on that broken bone. Don’t use light on that cancer patient. Don’t use love on that low-blood-pressure patient, pregnant woman, stroke patient, heart-attack patient. Don’t use the spiritually guided universal energy of life on that. It might make things worse. Sounds silly, right?

Here, I want to return to my initial point about how not all energy is Reiki; not all energy is the energy of pure healing from the source of all that is. Here in this physical realm, energy often manifests as electric in nature, so yes, absolutely, if you are practicing energy work that calls on the energy of the earth and its elements, certainly use caution! If you are doing energy work that uses your own energy to transfer to those around you, please, by all means, use caution (and more importantly, reconsider whether draining yourself truly serves anyone). But if you are practicing Reiki, that sacred art of getting out of the way to allow universal healing light to pass through you, the same cautionary notes do not apply.

            There is a story on the Internet about a person whose finger got cut off. As the story goes, there was a Reiki practitioner present who then did Reiki on the wounded individual the whole ride to the hospital. Upon arriving to the emergency room, when the surgeon went to look at reattaching the finger, he found that the injured hand had miraculously already healed up to such a degree that reattaching the finger was no longer possible. The conclusion was that somehow the Reiki was to blame, and that if the injured person had not received Reiki, the finger could have been reattached.

Let me first say that I am not a medical professional, and I do not personally know what conditions must exist in such circumstances for a detached finger to be reattached. I am, however, a Reiki Master. And to that end, I will simply offer the following questions. Do we only accept and validate healing that we can fully understand? If, in fact, the story above is a true one, does that mean that Reiki should not have been applied, and that it harmed the patient? How can we begin to know what would have happened if Reiki had never been applied? Did Reiki prevent the patient from bleeding out or suffering a blood clot that would later lead to stroke or death? Is it possible that we as humans do not typically have the capacity in this physical form to understand the nuances of deep healing on a universal scale? I would venture a guess that the patient in question would prefer to be missing a finger than losing a life.

The point is that we don’t know how Reiki helped this person. We don’t always get to know. It’s not up to us, which is perhaps the hardest truth to wrap our minds around (though our hearts know better). One thing that we do know is that Reiki is not bound by the confines of our wishes or understanding. Another thing we know is that Reiki is not the energy of harming; it is the energy of healing. Can we experience pain and suffering as we heal? Sure. But that is the nature of our human emotions and our physical experience.

Reiki is a healing catalyst that supports all beings in moving ever more towards right relationship with their highest purpose. And as a nice added bonus, current science also shows that it supports stress reduction and improves the body’s capacity for self-healing! As for putting science to the larger cosmic piece, we just aren’t totally there yet (though I highly recommend a fabulous documentary film called I Am if you’d like to learn more about the existing science on this larger cosmic scale).

Can Reiki ever do harm? No. Can we do harm? Yes. Simple, right? Well, yes and no. If we can do harm, what does this mean for those of us who are Reiki practitioners? I will offer you the considerations that I hold awareness of for myself each and every time I practice. See how and if they resonate with you.

1. Take responsibility for getting out of the way.
The key to allowing Reiki to flow through us as practitioners is that sacred transformation into the proverbial hollow bone or hollow reed. We empty ourselves of our “selfness” and ego to make room for the love and light of the universe to flow more strongly and clearly through us. Like meditation, this is a practice.

In the practice of meditation, we are taught to empty our minds, and not to struggle against thoughts or feelings that come, but rather to acknowledge them and allow them to float on by as we return to the meditation. This is also a good teaching for the practice of Reiki. As we enter that sacred space where we are vessels for Reiki to flow through, we can simply notice when we encounter thoughts or feelings that are outside of the Reiki. It is then our responsibility as practitioners to have an awareness that the ego has presented itself, to acknowledge it with compassion (i.e., don’t bother with negative self talk; simply be aware that personal thoughts or feelings have arisen), and then allow those manifestations of ego to simply drift on past as we return to the clear Reiki flow.

I find it very helpful to turn my full awareness to the love and light, basking in the energy of deep healing, smiling with gratitude and residing in that place even as my physical body serves as a tool to transmit healing energy to my client. In other words, I allow my ego mind to be held and healed and experience gratitude in the process of detaching from the physical act of doing energy work. This takes the ego to a safe, healing space so that the Reiki can work through my body to shine out into the world. The idea is not to throw the ego way or to scold it into submission; it is, rather, to allow all aspects that we identify as “self”—our emotions, thoughts, physical body sensations, etc.—to be healed and taken care of simultaneously to, yet separate from, the healing that is being transmitted to those we work on. So don’t beat yourself up for having a thought or a feeling during a session, but do maintain a clear awareness of when it happens so you can best serve yourself and your client.

If we were to do session work without this awareness, it is likely that the energy work being practiced would not be Reiki. Going back to the initial discussion here of how many different manifestations of energy exist in the world, this is where our responsibility lies, and why dedication to practice and awareness is an essential part of being a Reiki practitioner. Reiki can do no harm, but energy work delivered from the place of one’s own personal emotional reality drains the practitioner and may even do harm to the client.

2. Listen.
The practice of reiji-ho entails allowing yourself to be intuitively guided to where Reiki is needed most. Take this seed of thought and carry it over to allowing yourself to be aware when you encounter somewhere, something, or someone where there is resistance to Reiki. In other words, “listen” with your intuition for energetic yeses as well as nos.

To be clear, if you are practicing Reiki and not the energy work of your own emotional reality, you will not do harm. With that said, it is still good practice to cultivate your skill for intuitive listening. As discussed in consideration #1 above, we are human. It is natural for us to encounter the ego self even as we practice Reiki, and it is crucial that we are aware of that so we can allow the constant return to the Reiki flow. Taking the next step and cultivating our intuitive listening helps to ensure that we do not bring the energy of the ego self as healer (rather than Reiki as healer) into a session where there is an existing energy of resistance.

Reiki can never do harm; Reiki never forces or manipulates energy… but human beings can do all of the above, even unwittingly. So, trust the Reiki as healer, cultivate awareness of when your own energy comes into play so you can gently return to the flow of Reiki, and practice your intuitive listening skills so that you don’t unwittingly apply ego-based energy work to a resistant person, place, or thing. (NOTE: I will sometimes silently ask an area of the client’s body if it is ready to receive healing. If I get a clear push back, I will simply hold space nearby for a moment and let the Reiki flow through me to wherever it is needed most, trusting that the Reiki will help prepare that resistant area for healing whenever the time is right. I may check back with that area later in the same session to see if the energy has shifted, and sometimes, it has! If not, I observe with awareness, acknowledge, and continue with the session, returning to the space of being that sacred hollow bone.)

3. Don’t fling energy around.
Last but not least in my short list of practitioner safety tips is this little gem: Don’t fling energy around. I was told a story this past year of a Reiki practitioner who had a tree right outside her treatment room. As she cleared energy from her clients, she always flung it out the window. Well, the tree died. I will say a couple of things here, as I think this has the stuff of Reiki urban legend about it. First off, I do not know this practitioner personally, so I cannot speak to his or her practice of Reiki. I am of the opinion that if one is truly in the place of being the hollow vessel for Reiki as one moves energy, this would not happen, as the Reiki would take care of the energy completely. That said, I think this story also has an important lesson in it that we can all take to heart. No one wants to be the wet, muddy dog that walks in and shakes itself off without a thought, covering the room with mud spatter even as it beams love! Just because the dog didn’t mean to make a mess, doesn’t mean it didn’t.

            What does this mean for Reiki practitioners? Certainly, many of us feel the need to clear our energy field, whether during or after a session, or even out in the world going about our day. We can certainly accomplish this without thoughtlessly flinging energetic crud around. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Consciously give all cleared energy to the light. This doesn’t have to be a big ordeal or take a long time, and you can do it easily even as you work on a client. Simply be aware of giving all cleared energy to the light itself, or to any beings of light who are your helpers, if that feels good to you.
  • Give the cleared energy to Mother Earth. One of the sweetest gifts of this beautiful planet Earth is her offer of transmutation. Earth can transmute negative energy into positive, healing energy, just as she takes death and decay and creates growth and new life. It is always good to do this practice with deep gratitude, a space which you are ideally already in if you are in session!
And as I mentioned, you can do this out in the world, as well. I energetically sweep seats in public spaces, or do the kenyoku “dry bathing” technique on myself whenever I feel called to, and I hold an awareness of moving this energy to the light or to Mother Earth as I do so. Awareness is the key element here. So, be aware. Practice compassionate acknowledgement and release of ego so you can be a clear channel for Reiki energy. Cultivate your intuitive listening skills. Be conscious of clearing energy in a helpful, non-harmful way.

Reiki can never do harm. Our responsibility and commitment as practitioners is to continually cultivate our Reiki connection, our Reiki practice, and our self-awareness to help ensure that we don’t either. Shine on, Reiki friends.

Winter Tree © Haley Steinhardt


  1. I really enjoyed reading this, and it's full of a lot of reassuring, important tips to remember. All of this was really helpful, and I liked the tiny bits of humor that remind us WHO is writing this, so it feels warm and personal (even if someone didn't know you personally, it was obviously written by a caring, informed person rather than someone doing strict copy.)

    1. Thanks, Jessica! I am glad you enjoyed the article!

  2. Great article, Haley! This addresses serious issues and provides helpful insight. Thanks.

    1. Thanks! So glad to hear you found it helpful. :)

  3. Very helpful article! I'm a new reiki practitioner myself, so I needed this advice...

    1. I'm so glad to hear that! Thanks for sharing your voice, Bonnie. :)

  4. Reiki energy does not cause anyone and anything harm.
    The only man able to cause damage to it.
    Too much negative emotion is released (stress) have been.
    When departing the emerging negative emotions of that experience it again.
    A long handled spastic chakra, also this is the result.
    If your heart is csakráról you especially. A panic disorder can then be wrong. So the only man able to harm another person.
    love john

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful words, John. I agree! Blessings to you. :)

  5. Love the article and whole heartedly agree with you.

  6. Thanks, Phillipa! Blessings to you and yours. :)

  7. Hi thanks for the great article. I had a reiki 1 attunement yesterday, however the reiki master was annoyed with me about something that had happened 2 weeks prior (basically she got angry when i'd contacted her for some extra advice after a different healing session, saying she 'wasn't responsible for me and said I was too needy).
    There was a bad vibe from the start of the reiki course - the elephant in the room. And I could feel her own irritation and anger towards me. Plus I felt disappointed by her.
    During my reiki 1 attunement I felt a tightness across my chest and felt very anxious throughout because i was worried about any 'bad' intent or vad energy from her.
    Could she have harmed me in any way?