Reiki Healing, Qigong Exercise, and Medical Qigong

I just discovered this wonderful article by Catherine Calhoun over at the AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine that compares Medical Qigong and Reiki. I probably don't write enough about Reiki on this blog - short of the scant bits of information I've got up on my page on Reiki and Shamballa Healing. Reiki is an amazing thing, as is Qigong, and although I feel that there's a powerful synergy between the two practices, my sense is that those who practice them often come from two different camps and there's a lack of understanding between the two.

First, let's get some terms straight. There are two main branches of Qigong. One is all about using exercises and meditation to move your own chi / energy. This is often called "internal" Qigong because it's all about you working on you

When you want to use chi / energy to help someone else, it's called "external" or medical Qigong. A more helpful distinction I think is Qigong exercise vs. Qigong for healing others. 

The Qigong that I teach is the first kind: Qigong exercise and meditation that you do in order to help yourself. This type of Qigong has profound healing capabilities. In my experience, it helps keeps your joints open, transforms the mind / body into something much more hearty, and generally makes for happy times

I haven't personally studied medical Qigong, but my understanding is that medical / healing Qigong practitioners train extensively in the first kind of Qigong in order to open themselves up prior to learning how to work with another's energy. 

When I started my Reiki training with Carol-Ann Glenn of Roseheart Wellness, I had already been a Qigong and Tai Chi practitioner for many years (fifteen, I think?). I was used to moving chi through my own body, but hadn't had any experience in moving other people's (not intentionally, anyway). In Reiki, a trainee receives attunements from the Reiki Master. An attunement opens up the energy field of the practitioner and allows him or her to draw on the healing aspect of Source (the Reiki "ray"). I believe that Reiki is very similar to medical Qigong, in that the purpose is to move another's energy and facilitate healing.

Here's what Catherine Calhoun has to say about it:

Reiki ('rei' meaning universal and 'ki' which is the Japanese pronunciation of 'Qi') and Medical Qigong have the same root philosophies - the concept that the Qi which animates and enervates everything in this Universe can be directed through the practitioner in such a way that the Qi which flows to the patient can to effect a healing and balancing response in the patient’s body. Master Li emphasized that you let the Qi flow through you so that you are both a recipient of healing and a channel for it. Reiki teaches the same concept, highlighting the need to let Qi flow through the Crown chakra, into the heart and out through the minor chakras in the palms.

My experience with Reiki attunements and using Reiki for healing others is that it is a profound practice with many benefits. Just in case you are in the same boat as I am - you've been doing Tai Chi or Qigong and you want to get into Reiki - I thought I would share some of the experiences I had. I'm hoping this will also give people who have come here looking for healing some insight into how I work. (Go here if you're looking for information about how a Reiki / Shamballa appointment works or fees.)

When I started Reiki, I was no stranger to chi / energy. Some people who start on the Reiki path have no prior experience in feeling energy. There is nothing wrong with that: you have to start somewhere! For me, I found that having already opened my body up to some degree enabled me to start working with Reiki without getting freaked out or feeling disoriented by the physical sensations it produces. Most people have very positive experiences with their first attunement, but for some, the energy movement is a bit strange. Having already felt profound shifts in my own energies from Tai Chi and Qigong, I knew exactly how amazing the Reiki attunements were (really amazing).

I felt bewildered by the nature of Reiki. When you practice Qigong and Tai Chi, you are working with the limitations of your physical form. You're also expanding and removing those limitations, but this is done through hard work that takes lots of time. As things progress, you feel that you're moving forward, making positive changes, and this is a beautiful process. In many ways, Reiki is no different. Once you are attuned, it is up to you to work with Reiki healing in order to integrate it into your life and understand exactly what it can do.

However, there is a huge difference between the Reiki process and the Qigong / Tai Chi process. To use an analogy, learning Qigong and Tai Chi is like slowly building up a car from spare parts. You build the engine. Then you lovingly assemble the body. You paint and buff and polish. At some point, you put on tires and take it for a spin. You continue to work to improve it. Slowly over time, you pimp your ride.

Being attuned to Reiki is like being handed a set of keys to a new Porsche that's sitting in your garage. You probably have no idea how to drive it, and that is a learning process, but you've suddenly got something incredibly powerful at your disposal that you didn't have the day before.

Qigong and Tai Chi are a pilgrimage. Reiki is grace.

I faced snobbism from the Qigong camp.  Because of the way Reiki training works, there is suspicion about it in some Qigong and Tai Chi circles. Reiki is often lumped in with various new age frippery, and in certain contexts it can seem fairly flakey. Because of the perception that you learn Reiki in a weekend, the Tai Chi and Qigong camps have some major questions about how valuable it can be. Like a lot of judgmental thinking, some of this comes from a place that is less than open minded. Glenn Derrick, writing for, remembers having just this attitude when he first encountered Reiki:
when I first heard of Reiki, I fully rejected it as false. The claims of Reiki simply didn't match what I "knew" was necessary for healing energy to freely flow from the hands. My experience had taught me that such abilities came only through painstaking discipline and long-term efforts.
After working with Reiki, Derrick changed his mind - he's now working on ways to integrate Reiki into Qigong in order to accelerate his students' progress.

I felt I had a good model to help me keep working with and develop a better relationship with Reiki long after my attunements. Like I've already said, you don't learn Reiki in a weekend. You get the tools to learn it and the attunement in a weekend, but you keep learning long, long after that. I think without the experience of practicing Tai Chi and Qigong, I might have felt a bit lost in terms of how to keep developing my Reiki. Years of slow, steady progress, understanding how my system deals with new energies, knowing what happens if you take a long break, how to settle back into a practice after a hiatus, how to listen to my body, intuitively connecting with the ambient energies in a room or around a person - many of these subtleties were things I had started developing through Tai Chi and Qigong. I am very glad that I didn't go into Reiki practice "raw."

I feel that continuing to train will deeply enhance the effects of Reiki on my system. This one is speculative / based solely on my experience because I can't find any information on this out there. In Qigong and Tai Chi, you are literally transforming your muscles, tendons, bones, and internal organs by teaching them to allow chi to move through them more abundantly, smoothly, and constantly. When you practice Reiki, you are running a very high quality of energy through your system. Somehow I feel that my Qigong practice allows the Reiki to go right into my cells and muscle tissues on a very profound level. Reiki is supposed to do that anyway, but I guess I feel as though my system is fortified by the Qigong to allow this to occur very readily and in a way that allows the Reiki to stick / helps me integrate the changes that happen because of Reiki healing. It feels as if there is a deep level of integration going on with the Reiki, because of the Qigong and Tai Chi. If you do both, maybe let me know if you feel this is happening to you.

Reiki massively boosted my confidence in my Qigong and Tai Chi practice and helped me understand what I was doing more deeply. Like Catherine Calhoun points out, in Reiki the emphasis is on allowing the energy to flow through you. This is ideally what Tai Chi and Qigong are all about too. You need to relax and allow, surrender your tensions, and let flow happen - really relax for real. Yet, many Tai Chi and Qigong practitioners end up forcing things. Because there is all this detail to learn, and all these milestones to pass, you can sometimes end up thinking that you are in charge and that the point is that you are this amazing person with all these skills. That is so not the point. As great as it is to develop yourself and build up a list of accomplishments, the point is to use what you've learned to forget about ego, let go of pretense, and join with the flow of life itself. The more I learned how to do that with Reiki, the more I felt I could do that in Tai Chi and Qigong.

Reiki is a handy tool I use in my teaching all the time. An ideal way to experience Reiki is to book an appointment for either a full in-person healing session or distance healing. However, Reiki is also wonderful for spot treatments. Because Reiki offers structured protocols (long and short) for many different types of energy healing - including clearing blockages, moving viruses or infections out of the body, balancing the chakras, and grounding - it is something I turn to again and again for helping my students address issues that come up in class, or to enhance their Tai Chi and Qigong experience.

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