Reiki and Hospice

by Janny E. Adkins

It has been more than ten years since I took my first Reiki class, and I have used Reiki in all aspects of my life, every day since. My life is so much richer for it that I simply cannot imagine my world without this valuable life tool. I used Usui and Karuna Reiki® in a very specific way over a period of two years in my professional role with one of the largest and oldest hospice programs in Florida. I am a Registered Nurse, and I functioned as a Community Educator for hospice.

As a community educator I provided hospice information to physicians, nurses, patients and families. I discovered Reiki could be used in many situations to assist me in meeting job requirements and in creating a more peaceful and compassionate environment for the patients and their families. Reiki also helped me function as a good colleague and hospice team member.

Understanding Hospice 
Unless you have been involved with hospice, it is difficult to imagine the level of complexity, the depth of emotion, and the degree of stress associated with it from both the patients and families' perspective and that of hospice staff. The importance and usefulness of Reiki becomes highly significant in such a climate.

Often I was the first person from the hospice team to meet and talk with a patient and family after the physician had informed them that cure of the disease was no longer an appropriate goal. One of my responsibilities was to determine if the patient and family were appropriate for admission to hospice. I then gave them the information they needed so that they could decide if hospice care was appropriate for them. I also assessed the patient and family’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs. As you can imagine, switching goals of care from cure to palliative (controlling symptoms and focus on quality of life in lieu of cure) is often viewed as a failure. It was critical that I be a good listener, observer, and problem solver.

From a nursing perspective, anything that can help me be fully present, provide excellent nursing assessment skills, and be more compassionate and caring is invaluable. I wanted families to understand the unique hospice goals of care, allaying fears, and offering hope, albeit a redefined kind of hope. This redefined hope was extremely important, and required a sensitive balance. Sometimes it seemed a daunting task. But with Reiki it became easier for me.

Reiki in the Parking Lot 
When my hospice colleagues in the admissions office dispatched me to see a patient, I always spent a few minutes in my car before going into the hospital. Sitting quietly, I would close my eyes, say my prayers and align with Universal Light and Love. My intention was to be of service. I activated the Power symbol to increase the power of Reiki and to focus energy on the upcoming visit. I placed the Power symbol over each of my chakras. This increased my energy of light and love. To clear my mind, I used the Mental/ Emotional symbol. This symbol helped me be more mindful of resources, a more accurate observer and more effective communicator, all crucial to the quality of experience for the patient's family and to all involved in the patient's care.

The final step before leaving my car was activation of the Distant Healing symbol. This sacred symbol carries the energy of divine consciousness. It can be expressed with the familiar statement, “ We Are All One.” I used this symbol so that the Reiki energy would go ahead of me into the hospital room and help create an environment conducive to the best outcome for the visit. With this final step, I was then ready to go into the hospital for my scheduled time with the patient and family.

Reiki Boosts Confidence:
Before I entered the hospital room, I would stop for a moment to again consciously activate the Power symbol to focus my presence in the moment. When I entered the room, I was confident that I could be fully present and available to look, listen, and provide appropriate hope. Reiki gave me confidence that I could support the patient and the family, have unconditional regard for them, be more compassionate and kind and help them to begin the process of redefining hope.

In healthcare today, it is relatively easy to become distracted, overworked, and overburdened by the volume of paper work and the sheer number of patients and families assigned. Sometimes we forget that there is always something we can do, even when a cure is not possible. In Reiki I discovered an invaluable tool to assist my focus and awareness, mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually...

End of Life and Reiki 
I have been with many patients when they have made their transitions. The majority of those death experiences were through my professional work with hospice. As a nurse I was always mindful of informed consent and lack of policy and procedure to support using Reiki as a nursing intervention. Even though in most instances I was not able to give the patients the experience of Reiki, I learned early on the value of using it on myself.

Nevertheless, I was gifted with other opportunities to use Reiki to support someone experiencing the death process. Harry was one of those gifts. He called me to come to his home to do a Reiki session. He had experienced Reiki while he was stationed in Hawaii and several other times recently. A friend of the family who was a client of mine had given him my name. I visited him as a Certified Holistic Nurse and a Reiki Master.

Harry told me that he was ready to die. He believed he had lived a wonderful life. He had no regrets. He was concerned about his family watching him slowly deteriorate. Harry asked me to come and help him “slip away” as he phrased it.

I talked with him about his expectations and his family’s expectations. I shared with them that Reiki would bring a sense of peacefulness and relaxation at a minimum. Beyond that no one can really predict. I also shared with them my belief that healing always happens at some level with Reiki. When the body cannot be healed, the mind, the emotions and spirit can.

I arrived at Harry’s home and performed my parking lot ritual in the driveway. I activated all the Usui and Karuna Reiki ® symbols that I had learned, prayed and asked for the highest good to be manifested. Again, I used the Power symbol on my own body.

Harry's hospital bed was in the living room, looking out over the Gulf of Mexico. He had a breathtaking panoramic view of white sand beach and emerald green water. The sun was preparing to set, creating a surreal light that streamed through the floor to ceiling windows. Many family and friends were gathered around him.

I pulled a chair up to his bedside, and Harry and I talked a bit. He was very weak, but aware. He said he had no pain. I put some soft music on the little portable CD player that I had brought with me and lit a candle.

I explained the logistics of the session to Harry and told him not to worry about falling asleep. I encouraged him to go ahead and allow the Reiki energy to flow into him. This was his time to receive. I thanked him for the honor of sharing this time with him. He squeezed my hand.

The energy of that Reiki session was intense. A few seconds after I began the session, in my minds eye, I saw one of the Karuna Reiki® symbols. This symbol is associated with the flow of life and the process of letting go. It brings peace into the now moment and helps free one from worry. It is about trust. It was as if the room were filled with rainbows. Harry drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face.

The session lasted about 40 minutes. I still recall the presence of peace that permeated the room. I left Harry still smiling with his eyes closed. The family was eager to speak with me. I spent another 30 minutes talking with them. They loved Harry very much and were grateful for the visit.

I arrived home around 8 PM. I was walking in the door when my cell phone rang. It was Harry’s daughter telling me that Harry had died about ten minutes after I left. Harry's original request for Reiki to help him "slip away" had happened. I believe the Karuna Reiki® symbol that I saw helped create the peace and trust he needed. And the smile? Who knows what Harry was seeing in his mind’s eye, or thinking, or feeling that brought a smile to his face at that particular moment. How blessed we would all be to make our transitions with a smile when the time comes.

This is an excerpt from the complete article that appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of Reiki News Magazine.