The way to answer this question depends upon the person’s knowledge and/or openness to Eastern medicine. And as an educator, my technique in answering this question begins at the learners’ level…common knowledge.
In the United States, it is common to see massage and acupuncture businesses offering treatments to soothe, calm, and promote good health. Moreover, it is common enough that select insurance companies now carry coverage for these treatments. This knowledge becomes the foundation of my teaching approach. And as I begin describing Reiki from a simple and common answer, I observe the response from the learner. Their response is key to knowing just how deep I should describe Reiki.
First, the simple answer is, “it is a technique that decreases stress in the body.” I then ask the learner if they have heard about or have ever received a massage or acupuncture treatment. And of course, I am 99% certain the listener has at least heard about them.
I explain that with massage, there are points in the body where tension builds up. Massage practitioners find those points and manipulate the muscle tissues to relieve the tension.
With acupuncture, there are points on the body in which blockages build up that prevent flow within the body. Acupuncturists introduce needles into those points to increase flow.
With the understanding of those two forms of healing, I then move into the description of Reiki. With Reiki, the same idea follows that there are points in the body where blockages build up. But unlike the manipulation of tissues or insertion of needles into those points, Reiki practitioners do not need to physically handle the body. They just place their hands at these points, either on the surface of your body or slightly above, to remove those blockages. And that is usually where I end my description.
If I do go on, I usually say that others find it difficult to understand how Reiki works because there may be no contact on the surface of the body and you cannot visually see anything coming from the practitioner’s hands. But usually at this point, the learner now knows the answer to, “what is Reiki?” And I hope you have, too.