REIKI AND THE MILITARY

Reiki in Kerrville                                                                                                                         

Kerrville is a small town in Central Texas with a population of less than 24,000. Majestic cypress trees line the Guadalupe River running through this area graced by wildlife. Having grown up in Houston’s bustling metropolis I am blessed now to call this peaceful place home.

Ever since attending my First Degree training in 2006, I envisioned using Reiki here at our local Veterans’ hospital facility. Back then, very few people in Kerrville knew what Reiki was (and was not). I found misunderstanding and even fear about Reiki  in the community. And so I embarked on an educational campaign to bring knowledge of Reiki and its benefits to the Texas Hill Country.

Thanks to one of my very first Second Degree students, a retired Marine Colonel and devoted community advocate for Veterans, I received repeated invitations to represent Reiki at many Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) annual events in Kerrville. These included VA health fairs, mental health summits, and events to honor women Veterans.

Healing Hands Unit

A decade later, the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) in Kerrville received a recreation therapist from the VA in New York City. Commenting on the effectiveness of Reiki at the VA facility where he previously worked, the new therapist asked an established Yoga for Veterans instructor “where are the Reiki volunteers here?” The yoga therapist, a friend of mine, referred me to the recreation therapist. That led to my invitation to share Reiki as a volunteer with inpatients here in Kerrville.

The recreation therapist and I met a number of times as we grew to know each other and share our vision for the Reiki volunteer program at STVHCS. I followed up with a formal written presentation, introducing the newly created Healing Hands Unit (HHU)—its mission statement and scope of practice designed specifically for our local VA.

A training period followed for members of the HHU (chosen from among my Second Degree Reiki students), along with a three-month application process for each of us to become approved by the VA as official volunteers. Beginning with six HHU members, we gave our first Reiki treatments to STVHCS inpatients on April 2, 2017.

Our sponsor in the Recreation Therapy Department selects recipients who have agreed to receive Reiki. In the case of those who cannot provide verbal consent, approval is given by staff or family members for the patients to receive Reiki. The sponsor accompanies our volunteers who work in pairs to see the three to four patients selected for each of our visits to the VA.

For two hours on Sunday afternoons the HHU shares Reiki with inpatient Veterans who clearly enjoy the sense of relaxation that Reiki brings, most often falling soundly asleep during their 20-30 minute Reiki sessions. Our volunteer corps routinely witnesses the Veterans’ bodies settling into a place of comfort as their minds find ease during the Reiki sessions. After our sessions, many of the Veterans verbalize the extent of their emotional and physical relief, along with their gratitude for Reiki.

We’ve also shared Reiki with family members who happened to be present in the Veterans’ room when we arrived. These family members, very often fatigued and stressed, respond dramatically to the Reiki—physically relaxing into their chairs and even dozing off—benefitting from this healing therapy as much as their beloved Veterans do.

Expanding Reiki Volunteer Opportunities

Marking another first in 2017, the HHU and a number of my First and Second Degree students volunteered for the privilege of sharing Reiki at STVHCS for national Nurses Week. Invited to return the following year, we shared 30-minute sessions with thirty nurses over a two-day period. These dedicated, hard working STVHCS staff members continue to recognize the value of Reiki as a relaxing therapy, often finding physical relief as well during their brief sessions.

Since 2013, I’ve volunteered Reiki to the Wounded Warrior families coming to Kerrville to enjoy the many wonderful aspects of the Hill Country during a fun five-day event offered through Operation Second Chance and organized by local a Veteran. Some of these Wounded Warriors do not suffer from physical disabilities yet we recognize that their emotional wounds are deeply-experienced challenges. And of course their spouses (and children) bear these wounds as well.

Sharing full-sessions of Reiki (75 minutes of hands-on therapy) at my studio with these Wounded Warriors and their spouses has been rewarding for me and my students. The greatest gifts to us are being able to see them physically relax on the Reiki table and to hear afterwards that the Wounded Warriors experienced a “quiet” in their minds they haven’t felt in their years of dealing with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

There is not significant research data available on Reiki’s mental and physical health benefits. The huge pharmaceutical companies certainly don’t fund it—not surprisingly since people sometimes find with Reiki that they need less medication to help manage their physical and mental symptoms. And in terms of the much-reported opioid crisis, especially among Veterans, I believe Reiki can be used as an effective complementary therapy to assist in recovering a healthy balance of body/mind/spirit.

** Anne has an article on Reiki with Veterans that will be published in the Summer 2018 issue of © Touch Magazine The Reiki Association Community Magazine, with stories and news of events from the UK and across the world.