“Distance Reiki: An Open Reply to Skeptics” (Part 1)

Part 1: Opening Move

Let’s start with a loaded sentence: Reiki is a Japanese ki (気) or qi (Chinese, 氣) healing practice.[1]


Ki (pronounced like Key, or, more typically like Chee) is life energy, or universal life energy, and it is a fairly common word given the prevalence of martial arts training in the U.S. and in the cinema, but for many native English-speakers the Asian words might seem so foreign on the page that they become alienating. Add to this feeling the ambiguity[2] of the word “healing,” and this simple definition of Reiki quickly becomes unwieldy. I can make matters even more complicated by telling you that one of the aspects of Reiki practice is distance healing, which means not only the ability to perform Reiki on someone who isn’t in the same room, or city, or country, but also someone living in a different time!

How is any of this possible? What the hell is universal life energy? How is Reiki, generally, something more than a New Age sham and Distance Reiki more than fantastical nonsense? Well, I have plenty to say to the skeptics, and in this post I’m going to reveal the historical and philosophical ground that supports Reiki practitioners like myself who believe in the benefits of this Japanese art.

My rhetorical strategy unfolds along three lines. First: typically, attacks on Reiki presuppose the dominance of Western medicine and its underlying ideology.[3] When utilized in an unreflective manner, this presupposition completely cripples the arguments of those who attack Reiki because to dismiss difference is to abandon reason, and I will show how this is the case. Second: once we open to the Buddhist philosophy underpinning the practice of Distance Reiki, we start to sense the sincerity of the Reiki art form. Reiki is a healing art, but the word “healing” might have more in common with philosophical healing than medicinal healing. I’ll show you what I mean by unpacking the phrase 本者是正念.[4] Third, the benefit of opening our mind to Reiki is not only “epistemological,” which means that the benefit reaches far beyond an expanded intellect. I argue that Reiki presents an opportunity to rediscover non-sexual intimacy in a world that desperately needs it. The path to this intimacy leads, not surprisingly, through Self Care, and I’ll end this blog entry by explaining what I mean by that.

[**Check out the image below the footnotes that explains the different parts of the Ki character and see below to read Part 2!]

[1] I’m intentionally using foreign words to force an active reading posture. I do this in a spirit of critical generosity. Please refer to my recent post on pedagogy to understand where I’m coming from.

[2] Meaning, “uncertainty, doubt, indecision, hesitation." See this for more info.

[3] “Ideology ... is usually taken to mean, a prescriptive doctrine that is not supported by rational argument. [D.D. Raphael, "Problems of Political Philosophy," 1970].” Source.

[4] Here again are those foreign, destabilizing words.

Ponder the three elements of the symbol for Qi...

Ponder the three elements of the symbol for Qi...