Philadelphia is catching on to an art form its audiences can only see with its eyes shut.
Reiki is a way to heal the body through an instructor channeling energy into their client through touch over their chakras. It’s meant to holistically heal the body and mind emotionally through whatever anxieties or pain the person might be experiencing. The process is meditative, so instructors perform the treatment on clients who are encouraged to close their eyes and focus on their inner-being.
“Reiki creates space,” said Briel Driscoll, a Temple graduate and the founder of the Community Reiki Project. “We spend a lot of time going and going, we don’t take the time [to relax]. We don’t process what we’re dealing with, whether it’s emotional, physical, spiritual, whatever it is. Reiki brings peacefulness to the mind and body.”
Driscoll said she realized many services such as Reiki, acupuncture or yoga are not affordable to everyone. After hearing about a place in Portland, Ore., that offered acupuncture for a sliding-scale rate, Driscoll was inspired to pursue a similar idea with Reiki in Philadelphia.
Driscoll said finding teachers for the project was a slow process, but it eventually started to pick up. She said her students wanted to “jump on the bandwagon” and help out with the project. Justine Haemmerli, who is one of the guest practitioners, said her appreciation of Driscoll and what she stands for drew her to the project right away.
“Too often things that are very vital and necessary, especially things to deal with healing, are at an unattainable price point,” Haemmerli said. “It doesn’t need to be that way. What I appreciate about [Driscoll] and the concept of the project is it’s not about making money, but helping people out in their lives and helping to sustain folks who are practicing this.”
Temple intellectual heritage professor Susan Bertolino is a guest Reiki teacher for the project as well, and is considered a master teacher of the art after completing her Reiki 1, 2 and 3 classes.
“[Driscoll] wanted to bring Reiki to everyone, and I think the same about yoga,” Bertolino said. “How can we make yoga and Reiki both affordable and available to everyone, regardless of finances and location? So it was a meeting of the minds.”
Roslynn Posley, who runs Temple’s yoga club, said she sees a strong correlation between yoga and Reiki in a mental, instead of physical, sense.“I think that a lot of people hold in negative energy – if we hold in negative emotion, there’s no release,” Posley said. “Negatively, when there’s so much inside of a person, we see them do ridiculous things in their lifestyle. These kinds of acts are releasing that energy and that emotion. Things can be released now in a positive way.”
Bertolino said she has started to see people in “multidimensional” ways because of Reiki practice, and believes that physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies must all align and be in balance in order for full health or healing.
Bertolino said she has seen Reiki heal in extraordinary ways, like in her friend who was struggling to conceive.
“[Her body] was silently telling her that she would never have a baby and it was all her fault,” Bertolino said. “I began sending Reiki to her ovaries and reproductive organs. She is now almost seven months pregnant with a little girl. Reiki brought me in touch with her sense of blame and self-sabotage. I don’t know if my sending her Reiki helped or not, but I knew it and I told her that she was not to blame. I also sensed that there was a child that desperately wanted to be born, and somehow she needed to heal that wound so that this new life could assert itself. I know how wacko this may sound, but I stand by my words.”
Driscoll said one of the biggest rewards of starting the Community Reiki Project is “giving the gift to help people deal with their day-to-day lives.”
In Reiki, there is a lot of silence and stillness. Driscoll said she has found she can really become close to a person within the silence and that there’s a lot to tell by the energy that each individual gives off.
Driscoll said Reiki is noninvasive and isn’t meant to be intimidating. Haemmerli said she encourages people to try it.
“If you’ve ever felt comforted by someone putting a hand on your shoulder, you’ve already experienced Reiki,” Haemmerli said. “It’s getting something kind of beneficial for yourself. By being a person, you’ve probably already experienced it.”
The Community Reiki Project takes place in studios around the city where people can join Reiki, but more information and locations can be found at TheCommunityReikiProject.org.
Bertolino encourages newcomers to experience Reiki.
“Go with your gut,” Bertolino said. “Trust your intuition. If you hear a still, small voice saying, ‘This is something I want to do,’ then follow that sound. We often second-guess our intuition. Reiki helps with that. It gets you to trust that you know what is good for yourself, so trust the process. Just by coming to a clinic and receiving Reiki, you are taking an important step toward wholeness in your life. Embrace it.”
Chelsea Finn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.