What is Reiki? Energy Healing, Skepticism & Holistic Health

So, what is Reiki? If you’re anything like me, you have a vague idea it’s something to do with energy…and healing…and that’s really all you know.

I’m getting more and more interested in the idea of holistic health – that being healthy and living well is more than just eating right and exercising, so I was intrigued when I found out I actually know a Reiki Master! My friend Kristin Deiss, who has an MFA in Dance and is also a Certified Yoga Teacher, told me and a few other friends not so long ago that she was launching her own Reiki practitioner business, Deiss Energy Work. I peppered her with questions and we ended up meeting up for lunch a couple of weeks later so I could interview her properly and find out more about Reiki to share with you guys!

What is Reiki - Energy Healing,  Skepticism &  Holistic Health

Kristin, pretend I know very little about Reiki…actually, assume that most of what I know I actually read on your website. Can you give us a succinct explanation of what Reiki is, exactly?

Reiki is something that is completely natural and everyone has the ability to both give and receive it. It can be thought of as something kind of “in the clouds”, or difficult to understand, but at its most basic, Reiki is the transference of healing energy from one human to another. So, in a Reiki session, one person has the intent to heal and one person has the intent to be healed. It’s a two-way street, which is an important aspect of a Reiki session that I think a lot of people miss. If you try a Reiki session and are totally closed off to the prospect of being healed, or completely skeptical, no practitioner in the world will be able to do much for you. Then those skeptics can walk away, saying, “I knew it, I was right, Reiki doesn’t work.”

It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What is Reiki?

The lovely founder of Deiss Energy Work, Kristin Deiss. Photo by Samantha Siegel

Right. Because the thing is, your thoughts become your energy. So if your thoughts are closed off and not willing, then that’s all a practicitioner will pick up on. As well, it’s a cyclical relationship – if your thoughts become your energy, then your energy becomes your thoughts and you remain closed off to the energy transference. It’s a catch-22.

And what’s your background with Reiki? How long have you been a Reiki practitioner?

Well, my Aunt actually certified me through all the levels and she was practicing on me from when I was young. It was always just part of my life. It’s actually one of those funny things, where it took me a while to realize that Reiki wasn’t part of everyone’s regular everyday life. It’s not exactly something that comes up in casual conversation, like, “Great weather…How’s school…What came up in your Reiki session today?” So Reiki was always just part of who I am and I guess it took me a while to recognize that this was something I could pursue professionally.

You were like, “I’m Kristin, I’m a student, I’m a dancer, I’m a yoga instructor,” but even though you were certified, you were never identifying as “I’m a Reiki practitioner”.

No – it was just part of my upbringing. I was certified in Level 1 young – 16 years old, I think – but I didn’t identify as a Reiki practitioner. It was so ingrained in my everyday. For example, I would bump into something, and my mom would say, ‘Come here, sit down,” then she would place her hands on me and do Reiki to heal the bump.

That’s actually something I read on your website, when you’re describing how people instinctively use touch to heal. We rub our elbows when we bang it on something, you get a kiss on your knee when you’re a kid and you fall down and scrape it. 

Exactly. And for me, it was like that, but on a more elevated level. And it wasn’t until I fully realized that Reiki wasn’t something every single person had been blessed by growing up with, or in some cases may not even have heard of it, that it began to be clear that I could make a career out of my ability.

I had already been certified Level 1, 2, then 3, just because there’s no reason not to – the certifications are based on study and number of hours spent practicing and I was already just doing that as part of my family life, so why not get certified? But when I realized I did want to use my talent and make a business from healing through Reiki, that I got my Master certification, which actually means I can certify others to become Reiki practitioners. That’s definitely something I plan to offer as part of Deiss Energy Work.

So would you say your family was very alternative, or was there a sense of pragmatism to the practice which it seems like you bring? I mean, was there a lot of tie-dye and incense growing up?

Ha! Yes and no, I guess. I mean, my Aunt, my mom’s sister who certified me, is a total hippie, but she used to work full-time for an insurance company. But she was also a Reiki Master, so you can get a sense of the dichotomy going on. My mom is a total pragmatist, my dad is a total pragmatist, yet my mom practices Reiki, and my Dad gets practiced on, so there was always a good give and take between the pragmatic and the alternative. My Dad definitely thought my Mom’s family was kind of crazy when he first met her, but over the years he’s been exposed to it, he’s really changed his view on what Reiki is and what it does.

What is Reiki?

Photo by Samantha Siegel

What’s the origin of Reiki? It seems similar to the idea of chi energy.

Reiki’s origin is Japanese. So the energy is actually called “ki” in Japanese. Even so, some Reiki practitioners use the Chinese ‘chi’ energy meridians in their practice. For example, if someone’s right knee is bothering them and you looked at a chart of Chinese meridians, you might find the energy origin of the problem is actually the left shoulder.

That’s so interesting, because in personal training you learn that if someone has an issue with a joint, where the pain is felt is usually not the origin of the injury. So if your knee is bothering you, a trainer might look to see if there is something going on at the next joint away from the knee – the ankle or the hip.

So it’s similar, yes. In Reiki, though, it goes beyond the level of the physical. When I treat someone, I’m actually picking up on their emotions, or things they’re carrying around in their energy field that they don’t even realize are there.

For example, feelings of resentment are the most unhealthy feelings to carry around with you AND the most common. Feelings of resentment are the most deep-seated energies I come across. Most of the time, people who I see are maybe just starting to deal with their resentments, or more likely, are aware of them but don’t know how to address them. That kind of energy affects not only your thought process, they also really strongly affect your body. That’s a concept that a lot of people find hard to accept and I don’t blame them. I mean, most doctors, if you go to them and say you have some kind of pain, their first question is not going to be, “Well, how are things at home?” So the idea of emotions affecting us physically is not something that’s mainstream to our culture.

Do you think there’s somewhat of a turnaround happening in that area? I mean, I feel like it’s more of an accepted idea now that there are definite physiological effects of emotional stress, for example.

Yes, that’s definitely something pretty much accepted. But I still feel like the correlation between emotional (or mental) health, and physical health, is often overlooked. And I don’t mean it’s dismissed as a concept, I actually mean the idea that there is a connection between emotional energy and physical health is such an ancient idea and so actually ingrained in us that we totally overlook it, like not seeing the forest for the trees.

For instance, take the heart. It’s an organ. It’s a muscle. Its role is to pump blood throughout your body and oxygenate your blood. Yet when you think of love – an emotion – the heart is always referenced. Your heart gets broken, your heart aches, your heart swells with love. That’s just a given, to relate the heart to the emotion of love, it’s accepted. So that idea, that there are areas of energy flow in your body that do relate to different emotions -that is what Reiki focuses on.

That’s a fascinating example. So, despite there being skeptics, you feel like most people have the ability to tune in to that energy flow?

Everyone has the ability. All living things emit energy. And energy has an effect. So, even if you are mentally closed off from skepticism, or whatever, it doesn’t change the fact that the ability to tune in and feel the energy flow is there for everyone.

Have you done a session with a skeptic? Can you break through their closed-off energy at all? Or do you just pick up nothing?

I have done a session with someone who was totally a non-believer. When she arrived for the session, I felt the energy that she was somewhat closed-off, but at the same time, I rationalized, she was there. So there had to be some small part of her that was open to the experience. But the moment I placed my hands on her, I could tell she was completely closed off.

Okay, back up a bit. This is where I don’t quite understand how it works. When you say you could feel the closed-off energy from putting your hands on her, what do you mean? How do you feel that?

Well, it’s different for every Reiki practitioner. But for me personally, I feel energy coming out of my palms, almost like little hoses. When the energy from those hoses has nowhere to go into the recipient, it’s almost like the faucet for the hoses is shut off. My job, as a practitioner, is to work at releasing those blockages so the energy can flow again.

Now, I’ve had sessions where the person was really blocked, but if they’re open to it, you’ll always get through. But for this one session, it just did not work. It was like a drip of energy and then nothing. And I knew pretty early on that it wasn’t going to work. What probably didn’t help was that I barely knew this person – for example, I have a good friend who I do sessions for, who was a total skeptic, but because she trusts me and loves me, that energy, that trust and love, helped me to unblock the energy blockages she was putting up mentally.

It does make sense, given your assertion that emotional energy is so strong it affects a person’s physical wellbeing, that it would affect their session as well.

Sure. You have to realize, it is a very vulnerable position for someone to be in. They are lying down and letting you place your hands on them. It’s not like a massage, where you already know the therapist is manipulating your muscles to release stress and tension. Even though you’re fully clothed for Reiki, because you know your practitioner is trying to tap into your emotions and thoughts, it can be scary. A lot of people just assume I’m psychic, which is actually terrifying for people. And just for the record, I can’t read minds!

And it’s not commonplace – you know what you’re getting when you go for a massage. You may need to do some research to find out exactly what’s going to happen in your first Reiki session.

What is Reiki?

So, since you bring up massage therapy – lots of athletes use massage during training. Do you think Reiki is something that athletes would benefit from as well?

Yes, definitely. And actually, if an athlete is already getting massage therapy, it would be so beneficial if they had a massage therapist who was also Reiki certified. They can combine their two techniques and I mean, it’s great for regular people, so for athletes who rely on their bodies and keeping themselves healthy and injury-free, it would be amazing. And you know what? There are probably so many massage therapists who aren’t necessarily Reiki certified who are already practicing it without even realizing.

But for athletes who are open to trying Reiki as a totally separate therapy from massage, when you take away the manipulation of the physical body, they can be more attuned to the emotional energy blockages going on that could affect their training or performance. Sometimes athletes are so in tune with their physical body, that to focus on their non-physical energy instead during something like a Reiki session can be incredibly beneficial to their performance.

And what about the idea that Reiki is like a religion, or some kind of new-age spirituality?

Well, there are practitioners who definitely lean in that direction. I mean, when you think about healing, about energy transference, about tapping into peoples’ emotions and feelings, I get that it can be quite evocative of a religious experience, or a spiritual experience. But I try to stay away from that, because religion is so personal and so individual, that to try to turn it into that is too difficult and honestly, it just turns a lot of people off.

That’s why I’m really excited about certifying other people, because I want to teach Reiki at its most basic level, that you’re tapping into someone’s energy and using touch to heal, regardless of your or their personal religious or spiritual beliefs. What I’m attracted to is the more scientific side of Reiki and I feel like if people could see it that way first, they would be more open to it as a whole.

Okay, so give me the nitty gritty for people who might be interested in taking a session with you. How long does a session last, how often do you go, that kind of thing.

A session can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes. My sessions usually tend to be on the longer side, so I can discuss with people afterwards what came up for them, what came up for me.

In terms of how often to go, it totally depends. I see some clients every month as a regularly scheduled session. I’ve had clients come to me for a lot of sessions in a short period of time because they’re working through something. Sometimes a single session is enough for one person.

And for those who don’t know anything about Reiki at all, it’s just me laying my hands on your clothed body, there’s no manipulation or pressure, or anything, just a light touch. Even so, it takes a lot of trust because you do feel vulnerable sometimes when someone is touching you, even in your everyday life, so you need to be open and trusting of your practitioner.

Thank you so much for your time and for talking to me about Reiki, Kristin! I’m excited for your new venture and I’m sure it will be a huge success.

You can get in touch with Kristin, or follow Deiss Energy Work here:

Website & blog: deissenergywork.com

Facebook: facebook.com/deissenergywork

Twitter: twitter.com/DeissEnergyWork

Instagram: instagram.com/deissenergywork


  1. I am a believer of all holistic ailments. But Reiki is one thing I have yet to try. I have had my soul cleansed by a shaman, and that has a similar principle. So I believe in the benefits Reiki is said to offer. Lovely post by the way.. Your blog is so clean and easy to read.
    what is reiki recently posted…What is Reiki?My Profile

  2. Reiki is not a very well known healing technique till now. People yet to learn about it and it’s effectiveness. It seems very much similar to meditation.

  3. Wonderful article! The practice of Reiki is life changing in so many ways. I’d recommend anyone to give it a try and experience the benefits for themselves!
    Reiki Definition recently posted…Reiki Attunement Side EffectsMy Profile

  4. The interview was very good, as was said “your thoughts become your energy” perfect! The reiki needs to become more known to people.

  5. I love giving and receiving Reiki. It’s the reason I became a Reiki Master/Teacher. It is such a gift to be able to teach this art, and meet so many wonderful people. Thank you Reiki!!
    Melissa recently posted…Reiki for Ears*My Profile

  6. Reiki is something that is completely natural and everyone has the ability to give and receive. Reiki changes our life completely. Congratulations. Thank you!!

  7. Reiki therapy is nothing but natural healing involving the laying on of hands. Its been more than thousands of years old. This read gives one more insights who are completely unaware of it. Had a Reiki therapy London since then i am experiencing lots better, clear mind and body make me do what ever i want to.

  8. Reiki therapy definitely works being the mortgage sector as a Mortgage Broker i loose control of both mind and body at times. But after taking reiki it all changed and never been such a low life then after. Like most agreed above and from this wonderful read, reiki works.

  9. I love Reiki. Ever since I began my initiation and started practicing every day my turn turned completely, in every way. Gratitude!

  10. Hey, I live in South India. My grand-mom used to practice Reiki everytime I got sick. It always worked, but I partially thought it was the medicines that helped. Didn’t know it was commonly known and actually worked. Thanks for the information Carly.


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