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Feeling It: A Closer Look at Reiki

In every issue, we fix our gaze on an everyday photograph and chase down facts about details in the frame.
(Photo: Cassi Alexander)

(Photo: Cassi Alexander)

  • Jocelyn James, a healer, performs Reiki on a patient, Reiki is a spiritual practice and healing technique invented in 1922 by a Buddhist Japanese civil servant. It's a gentle-touch therapy for chronic pain. Practitioners place their palms lightly on or close to the client's skin.
  • Buddhists outnumber mainline Presbyterians in the United States. Scholar Robert Thurman describes Buddhism as an "inner science," a kind of empirical approach to elevating the soul.
  • One in five non-Catholic health-care facilities around the world offers Reiki to its patients, often without informing them of its spiritual origins.
  • While scientific evidence remains thin, two recent surveys of peer-reviewed studies suggest that Reiki therapy provides statistically significant but very low-grade pain reduction, with no known side effects.
  • The word placebo is Latin for "I will please." In medieval times, mourners were hired to chant at death ceremonies, reciting the ninth line of Psalm 116: "I shall please the dead in the land of the living." Since they were paid for their time and services, their grief was considered disingenuous, and people often referred to them as, simply, placebos.
  • In the 1880s, around the conclusion of the establishment of the reservation system, railroads connected white, East Coast Americans to Arizona's Navajo country. The tribe's colorful, geometrically patterned, symbol-laden blankets and rugs became a nationwide craze—conversation pieces for urban parlors.
  • Under 1887's Dawes Act, two-thirds of reservation land—90 million acres—would be auctioned off by the government, mostly to non-natives, over the next 50 years.
  • Research indicates that nature has aesthetic values that trigger reward mechanisms in our brain, an evolutionary legacy of the reproductive success early hominids found when they decorated themselves.
  • A meta-study suggested this is why we decorate with plants, and recover more quickly in rooms with a view—many of us have a kind of biophilia, as the biologist Edward O. Wilson put it, "an innate tendency ... to affiliate emotionally with all forms of life and life-like forms."

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