Practitioners say the alternative therapy brings relief to broad ailments.
By Claire Barber | Photo by Patil Khakhamian
Inside Suite 100 of a small, homey, grey-and-purple office building, tarot cards fan across a chestnut brown desk. Water brews in a corner while a supply of teabags waits dutifully to steep. Behind the desk sits a woman with short grey-blond hair who interprets the cards: the knight, the hermit, the tower.
“The knight of pentacles can sometimes indicate changes,” she says. “It’s a very dynamic card.”
Welcome to The Reiki Place in Colorado Springs, where plenty of locals believe they’ve been healed. Sciatica, carpal tunnel, rheumatism — these are just a few of the ailments from which clients have allegedly received relief.
The tarot cards set aside, Mary Spohn, a Reiki Master by training, begins one of her latest sessions.
Reiki, for the uninitiated, is an energy healing practice whose popularity in Colorado Springs can be compared to the prevalence of traditional, alternative, and complementary medical practices nationwide. Think acupuncture, meditation, yoga, chiropractic, tai chi, and dietary supplements.
A study by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) found meditation alone increased from 4.1% popularity in 2012 to 14.2% in 2017 — more than a threefold increase. Complementary practices are on the rise, and while growth statistics may be unavailable for Reiki specifically, plenty of practices populate humble offices around Colorado Springs.
As Spohn tells it, Reiki is “being able to channel, through conscious intention, a higher vibration of energy.”
How exactly it works is hard to describe. People who practice Reiki claim it is a process of channeling life force energy to help heal pain. Often, this is done when a Reiki practitioner uses soft touch or places a hand very close to the affected area — where pain, physical or emotional, is emanating. Some who practice it believe that Reiki energy can also be sent over distances to help a person heal.
Those who administer the practice to others will often accompany their sessions with additional alternative or complementary methods. Spohn, for instance, pairs her practice with tarot readings and chakra tuning forks, though many omit the addition of other methods in their Reiki sessions and rely solely on what practitioners call “the healing touch.”
The faces of Reiki vary, but commonly people come from a place of curiosity — and pain — to seek it out.
Andrea Rutledge, a Colorado Springs resident, has been practicing Reiki for two and a half years. Her gut issues have made traditional medicine difficult, she says, and so she has turned to Reiki to help manage her chronic pain, heal childhood trauma, and help with her anxiety.
To Rutledge, Reiki often feels like an “intense calm energy” overtaking her body. She will even sometimes practice Reiki when she’s out hiking or in nature, calling in energy and performing it on herself as she would on someone else.
Reiki Master Spohn has been practicing it full time for four years.
After watching a partner struggle with depression and alcoholism and eventually take his own life, Spohn turned towards Reiki to help others battling depression. One of Spohn’s aims is to help people transition off their medications, and she says she has done so for people taking anxiety medications, sleep aids, and drugs for chronic conditions.
But Reiki’s supposed healing power is not so cut and dry.
According to the NCCIH, little high-quality research has been conducted concerning Reiki. The organization states that Reiki “hasn’t been shown to have any harmful effects,” but it “should not be used to replace conventional care or to postpone seeing a health care provider about a health problem.”
Jeff Noblett, a Colorado College Geology professor and teacher of Reiki for around 25 years, puts it this way: “I always teach that whatever you use for your normal healing, whether it’s AMA [American Medical Association] or other practices, you add Reiki to it. You don’t stop doing what you know.”
In a similar vein, Valerie Brodar from River Moss Reiki in Colorado Springs was once a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs professor but has since become a Reiki Master and teacher. She sees health as a holistic process and Reiki a complementary practice that can work in tandem with traditional medicine. She even pointed to several hospitals that offer Reiki to their patients, including Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
In other words, she says, Reiki and traditional medicine can work in conjunction. Don’t stop your medications or other treatments in place of Reiki, some practitioners say, especially without talking to a traditional healthcare professional.
On the legal side, Reiki remains unregulated so far.
Under Colorado law, Reiki practitioners are not massage therapists and therefore do not need to acquire a massage therapy license. The law states that if “a person provides alternative methods that employ contact and does not hold himself or herself out as a massage therapist,” then they do not need a license. Under such “alternative methods,” the law mentions Reiki directly, as one of several “practices using touch or healing touch to affect the human energy systems, such as Reiki, shiatsu, and meridians.”
There seems to be a lack of cohesion or regulation within Reiki as well. According to Reiki Master Spohn, there are many different styles of Reiki. Spohn is trained in the widely practiced style known as Usui Reiki Ryoho, which was formulated in 1922. She combines Usui Reiki Ryoho with what is known as Holy Fire Reiki, developed by Reiki Master William Rand in 2014.
Yet Noblett sees these divides as arbitrary.
“Since many people use Reiki as a form of income, people want to differentiate themselves with what they do versus what other people do. But I think the bottom line is that there is no difference,” he says. “The right people who are looking for healing need to find the right healer.”
And finding that right healer, some say, can do wonders.
Judi Quinn, a client of River Moss Reiki in Colorado Springs, while struggling with PTSD, anxiety, and Stage 1 breast cancer, sought the help of three different therapists over the course of two years, until eventually a therapist recommended Reiki.
“I was quite impressed that my therapist actually suggested something that was, you know, a little outside the box, not mainstream,” she says.
Now, Quinn describes herself as a convert. While still undergoing her normal cancer treatments and doctors’ appointments, Reiki, she says, has helped her manage her PTSD and anxiety. She started practicing it last February, and by April her panic attacks were gone.
Reiki is one of many complementary medical practices out there. As Noblett says, it is merely one FM station on your radio dial. Each different practice, from meditation to Reiki, has a different frequency, and individual people respond well to different channels.
Maybe you’re figuring out what frequency or frequencies work for you.
Lay back, relax, and let the tuning forks vibrate and ting over your body. Smell the incense as the Reiki practitioner scans your energy for any obvious blocks.
Maybe it’ll be your thing, maybe it won’t — maybe you won’t know until you’ve tried.