An Ancient Technique for Releasing Trauma

An Ancient Technique for Releasing Trauma In part two of our four-part Mystical Careers series,’s Jesse Sposato talks to Washington, DC-based reiki master and yoga instructor Jessica Mahler about what exactly reiki is, what a session is like, and how it can empower us to make peace with our pasts.
 ~ The dictionary definition of reiki is “a form of therapy in which the practitioner is believed to channel energy into the patient in order to encourage healing or restore wellbeing.” How do you describe reiki?  
Jessica: It’s a very hard thing to explain because you can’t see it. Reiki translates from Japanese as “universal life energy.” So, there’s energy all around us at any given moment, and [when a practioner is working on someone,] we’re not necessarily doing anything—we’re just acting as conduits for the energy that’s all around us to come in through us and out through our hands, a little bit more concentrated and more powerful, to help whoever we’re working on release whatever it is they need to release. What is a reiki session like?
Jessica: It totally depends. Sessions are typically anywhere from an hour to 90 minutes, and I have a massage table that I use, both in my home and in the places where I practice. When people come in and they’ve never had reiki before, I let them know that they’re going to start on the table lying down on their backs so they’re facing upwards. I’ll do a couple of physical adjustments to help them start to relax—adjustments that you would get in Shavasana at the end of a yoga class, just to help them soften and start to let go.
There are 20 traditional hand placements, both hands-on and hands-off, and they basically go along the chakras. If they seem to be holding on to something super tight, or if I intuitively feel like something else could help them release, maybe I’ll have them do some breathing techniques, or maybe I’ll add some body work in to help them physically start to shake something out. What do you like about reiki, and why do you do it?
Jessica: I do it to help people, and to help people heal. I’ve been through a lot of trauma in my own life, and there’s been a lot of self-work and things that I’ve had to move through, and I know from experience that there are a lot of people who are bypassing the trauma, and bypassing the stuff that has affected us. So I’m really trying to help empower people to own the feelings that they have. What does one need to do in order to become a reiki master?
Jessica: In the school that I learned in, which is Dr. Usui, there are only three levels: reiki 1, reiki 2, and reiki master. So, when you become a reiki master, you’ve learned all the symbols and you learn how to teach other people. And with each level, the reiki itself gets more powerful. So, you get your reiki 1 atunement, and you’re feeling the reiki move through you; you get your reiki 2, and you start working with symbols and healing through space and time, and the power of the reiki is so much stronger—you can feel it. Then after reiki 2, there’s reiki master and that, too, feels so much stronger. I think that there should be a little bit of time in between 1 and 2 and master just to get a feel for it and understand your relationship to it. I really needed the time in between each level. Did you start practicing after you became a reiki master?
Jessica: I had been practicing the whole time. Now I can really feel where they need the reiki the most, where they’re holding on to things, and where there are blockages in their body. Whereas [before] it was just a sensation that I would notice in my hands, now I can feel where they need it. Either my mind is like, “Go to their belly,” or I feel something tight or uncomfortable in my belly. And that’s one thing that has shifted. Sometimes I actually see things; sometimes I feel things on a much deeper level. How often do people go?
Jessica: It’s different for everyone. People ask me that all the time and I tell them, “I’m not trying to make you poor, I just want you to feel good, so if you go home and you notice you’re feeling really great right now, and then in a couple weeks or months you feel like something isn’t right or you can’t get back to where you felt after the session, come back.” For those working with really deep stuff, I recommend, at first anyway, doing weekly sessions. Is there anything you want to add that feels important for people to know about reiki?
Jessica: One thing is that reiki is intuitive itself, and it goes where it needs to go. So, if I have my hands over the person’s head but their heart is what needs the reiki the most, it will go there. There will still be reiki going into the spot where your hands are, but if it’s needed more elsewhere, it will go to where it’s needed. Also, you don’t have to believe in reiki for it to work.

Above: Reiki master Jessica Mahler.

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