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Massage Board Takes Hands Off Healers

Hands-On Healers Win Round One

First Amendment Rights of Reiki Spiritual Laying On Of Hands Healing At Stake as-- New York State Massage Board Takes "No" Vote

NY Massage Board Meeting-February 22, 1999

    "God doesn't need a license to heal through us. It is entirely presumptuous for any governmental body to seek to regulate His Energy through any licensing board as it comes through us"--Ellen Louise Kahne, Reiki Master.

    The specter of clergy being arrested during religious healing services while practicing laying on of hands healing galvanized and united the New York Spiritual healing community with an interdisciplinary coalition of non massage body/energy/movement practitioners.

    During a meeting of the New York Massage Board, Monday February 22, 1999, held at 1 Park Avenue, 6th floor in the offices of the New York State Education Board of Regents, a majority vote was taken after a brief but heated discussion amongst board members that Reiki laying on of hands healing was not to be considered massage therapy and, thereby does not require a professional massage license and educational requirements in order to be practiced in New York State. According to Dr. Kathleen Doyle, the appointed Secretary of the Board, the minutes of the meeting and the recommendation (vote) of the Board will be reported to the Board of Regents and State Education Boards within two weeks. Dr. Doyle cautioned public observers that "the responsibility falls on the Reiki practitioner to describe the scope of their practice." Dr. Doyle claimed that today's vote reversed a policy of the New York Massage Board which she claimed has considered Reiki as massage over 15 years (although Reiki supporters have never seen hard copy evidence of any minutes or previous NY Board vote from the early 1980s).

    Reiki Masters and practitioners have noted powerful and dramatic healings and cessation of pain, even in chronic cases on a case by case basis which are medically unexplainable. This type of spontaneous healing is characteristic of spiritual laying on of hands healing and issues through many different traditions of laying on of hands healing, including the charismatic healing which comes through Kaballic healing, through ministers, priests, rabbis and lay healers in the traditions of Judaism, Buddhism and Christianity. Dr. Mikao Usui, the nineteenth century forefather of Reiki, sought to recover the empowerment of this type and level of healing and to safeguard it for all people. It must be noted that the healings which come through Reiki are due to the intelligently guided Reiki Spiritual energy which comes from the Universe (Divine Energy). it is felt by the vast majority of the Reiki community that Reiki Masters and practitioners are spiritual healers who derive benefit from connection with higher power. It is their contention that Reiki remains a first amendment right which is outside the regulatory jurisdiction of any branch of the government and needs to remain protected from any encroachment, as it is Spiritual healing.

    Within recent years, over a hundred thousand people of all faiths cultures and traditions have flocked to take Reiki classes for self empowerment, so that they could experience balance, stress reduction and spiritual healing through Reiki laying on of hands. Medical professionals, such as nurses, doctors, chiropractors, physical and occupational therapists and massage therapists have taken Reiki in an effort to help themselves and help their patients in medical and professional settings (see Reiki Energy Medicine by Libby Barnett and Maggie Chambers). Research is currently being done on Reiki in many venues, including at Columbia University in their department of Alternative Medicine.

    There was some concern by a New York Massage Board member that claims for Reiki were being made that it heals and/or relieves pain which would subject this spiritual laying on of hands healing art to further scrutiny by other (professional/medical) licensing and or disciplinary boards which report to the New York State Education Board.

    The Board of Regents meeting room was filled by members of the Reiki community, Reiki Masters and practitioners, some of whom were members of the clergy. Also, present were non massage therapists, reflexologist and reflexology teachers (some of whom were Reiki trained, as well). These non massage therapists were concerned with the encroachment of the massage board and the massage lobby on other non massage practices besides Reiki and came to observe and as a show of support.

What is Reiki?

    Reiki is a system of subtle energy healing using laying on of hands and distant healing techniques which originated in 19th Century Japan. This special Energy/healing technique was rediscovered by a Japanese Spiritualist, Dr. Mikao Usui, who sought lost healing secrets of Buddha and Jesus. Reiki issues from the limitless source of Spiritually guided (intelligent) Energy in the Universe which is responsible for life itself and for all healing. It comes from Divine Source, or Higher Power, that is, the organizing principle of the Universe. Reiki Spiritual healing is available to all people, regardless of belief system and is transmitted through a unique system of training and attunements (Spiritual energy initiations) which open the capacities of the student for passing subtle energies through the hands. Reiki is used by ministers, priests, nuns, rabbis, and lay healers in charismatic laying on of hands healing services throughout New York State, nationally and internationally. It is considered "focused prayer" by clergy and lay religious healers.

    Reiki feels like deeply penetrating heat and/or elevated energy field vibrations issuing through the hands of the practitioner, which rest lightly on or above a fully clothed recipient. There is no pressure and no muscle manipulation utilized in this Spiritual healing art. Reiki can be self- administered by those who are empowered Reiki healers. Reiki can be sent intentionally thousands of miles, as distant healing.

Reiki Regulation Background

    This is a first amendment issue (regarding spiritual laying on of hands healing), and concerns monopoly in restraint of trade, with regard to attempts by the massage lobby to eliminate the practice of non massage modalities (including Reiki) by those who are not licensed (massage) therapists. Additionally, any interpretation by the New York Massage Board of Reiki as massage (which the secretary of the Board, Dr. Kathleen Doyle, claims to have a previous precedent for but which has been unsubstantiated with hard copy evidence of a previous Board vote) clearly falls outside the limited scope and jurisdiction of the New York Board according to the definition of massage under Article 155 of the New York Education Law (which this board is empowered to interpret). Article 155 defines massage as follows: "The practice of the profession of massage therapy is defined as engaging in applying a scientific system of activity to the muscular structure of the human body by means of stroking, kneading, tapping, and vibrating with the hands or vibrators for the purpose of improving muscle tone and circulation." It must be added, that the Joint Council (which is a national lobbying organization of professional massage schools) has proposed changes which would broaden the legal definition of massage to include all subtle energy healing. According to Dr. Kathleen Doyle, the NY Massage Board (composed largely of members who are massage therapists and who have present or past connections to these schools) has a history of recommending changes in the wording of the law for "clarification."

    Reiki Masters and Practitioners are concerned that the "No" vote by the New York Massage Board is just the opening salvo in a battle with the Massage lobby in New York and other states to change the definition of massage to include Reiki and other non massage body/energy/movement and postural modalities as massage. This would create a windfall for massage schools around the country, as the only legally recognized providers of non massage therapies. Also, this issue involves the insurance industry, as new standards and practices of alternative therapies are being examined for insurance reimbursement and licensed professions, it is feared that massage therapists could create a monopoly as exclusive providers of non massage healing modalities.

   Here is the proposed redefinition of massage by the Joint Council: "Massage/Bodywork Therapy is a form of health care, based on traditional Eastern and Western concepts, that employs assessment techniques and treatment, as well as adjunctive therapies for the promotion, maintenance and restoration of health and the prevention of disease. "Massage/Bodywork Therapy is the systematic and skilled manipulation and treatment of soft tissue and/or energy fields of the body. Massage/Bodywork Therapy practices are designed to facilitate relaxation, increase circulation, improve joint mobility, relieve pain, reduce muscle tension and spasm and change the energy flow.

    "Massage/Bodywork Therapy practice shall include but not be limited to the use of lotions, oils, liniments, hot and cold therapy, vibrators and remedial exercise." (italics and underlining added). Thousands who have been connected through website postings, email and mailings are expected to flood the Massage Board, New York State Education Department and state legislature with mail and petitions protesting any regulation, disciplinary action and/or criminalization of Reiki practitioners who are not licensed massage therapists. Ironically, there are no curriculum requirements whatsoever for Reiki training of licensed massage therapists in New York State massage schools, as regulated by the New York Massage Board, the New York Board of Regents or the State Education Department. A decision to classify Reiki as "massage" by the New York Massage Board would have the effect of criminalizing the practice, teaching and advertising of Reiki by non massage therapists and those who refuse training and licensing in unclothed bodywork, while licensed massage therapists (and exempted licensed professionals) who are not required to study Reiki would become the sole legal providers of Reiki Spiritual laying on of hands healing in New York State.

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