hypnosis and reiki

Don’t Break My Heart, My Reiki Breaky Heart

Don’t Break My Heart, My Reiki Breaky Heart

Or… The Reiki masters are holding my baseball cap.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a Reiki Master. In fact, one of my favorite stories about Reiki was when I was on an airplane…

I was headed to Belize to do an NLP training with my good friend, Michael Bennett. It was October, 2001–just a few weeks after 9/11. The resort where we’d been planning to hold the training had been obliterated by a hurricane and we’d had to make other arrangements just two days before the start of the training.

Now, a word many people use to describe Michael is “charismatic.”

Truth be told, I was a little jealous of all the “He’s got such presence in front of people” comments. Sure, I get the “You’re such a good teacher” and “I understand things so clearly when you teach” and “You’re so good looking I can hardly stand to look at you” comments (OK, I made the last one up).

But I wanted the charisma comments too!

The New Behavior Generator

So, I started off to do what I usually do when someone has an attribute I would like more of. Typically I run through a new behavior generator NLP pattern. You run a movie of your role model, step into it, etc. Before I do that though, I set my mind in the right direction by asking myself questions along the lines of “How do I want this to manifest in my life” and “What is the best way to create this for myself?” In short, they are not questions that ask if I can accomplish something but how I go about accomplishing it.

At any rate, I get about 10 seconds into the process and a big, deep, booming, reverb-soaked voice comes into my head and says “YOU ARE A REIKI MASTER.” It was so loud, I looked around the plane to see if anyone else had heard it. I thought, “Hmmmm.” I often trust messages from my unconscious mind–and I believe that’s where this message originated. So, I started to explore the idea.

Directing Energy

One way of thinking about Reiki is that Reiki is directing energy, with healing intent. Or, more simply, directing intent. I wondered if it would help me when presenting, to visualize the energy flow between myself and the students in the same way I visualize the energy flow when I’ve done Reiki.

Sho’ ’nuff. It did. I immediately became (in my own, humble estimation), much more charismatic in front of groups.

Hypnosis Does Not Equal New Age

Now here’s the thing…

I sometimes get in hot water because many of the folks in the hypnosis/NLP field are new agey.

I’m not.

I’ve had a lot of folks say something like “You believe in hypnosis, why don’t you believe in ___________ (insert your favorite new age philosophy/technique here)?” But I often wonder why so many folks link hypnosis to things new age. To me, it’s not. Hypnosis does not, as near as I can tell, increase your psychic powers or give you an increased ability to connect with things spiritual-save one thing…

…It does seem to make you more aware in general. Beyond that, there’s nothing other than phenomena that can be explained without going into the new age realm. And me… I’m an Occam’s Razor kind of guy. If there’s no need to go outside of a “normal” explanation of something, it probably isn’t “paranormal.” For instance; when I throw a baseball, I don’t think invisible angels propel the ball into the air. The regular old laws of physics explain it.


I’ll give you an example of the way some people in the field think. A fellow I know (also a Reiki master) tells a story about his Reiki training. In Reiki, as I was taught it, there is some guidance from some energetic beings. Perhaps they’re Reiki masters of old. In the story he tells, he was receiving Reiki on a table, with his eyes closed. He could feel people with their hands on him in various places. One-by-one he could feel the hands leave his body until only the set of hands on his feet remained.

He waited for several minutes and then opened his eyes to see who still had their hands on his ankles. There was no one holding his ankles! In fact, there was no one else in the room. My friend tells that story as an example of how these energetic beings help guide the energy. After all, if he could feel someone’s hands on his ankles and no one was there–it must have been a Reiki being that sensed he needed energy there.

The Reiki Masters Are Holding My Baseball Cap

Well, hey. I think that’s a cool interpretation. I just don’t think it’s likely. You’ve probably had the experience of wearing a hat or glasses, taking them off but still feeling like they’re on your head. I know I do sometimes when I take my baseball cap off after a spell. My assumption is that this is a normal phenomenon–not that Reiki masters are holding an “energetic” baseball cap on my head because I need healing energy there. Occam’s Razor, baby. Adding the element of healing energy is not necessary, in my mind, to explain any of the effects of Reiki that I’ve seen.

I’m not saying that Reiki energy does not exist. I’m not saying Reiki doesn’t work. I’m not saying Reiki isn’t useful. I’m not even saying that I know. It’s just that a simple, valid explanation of the effects I’ve seen Reiki produce is that it is essentially hypnosis. In fact, it’s such cool hypnosis that a Reiki session makes a great non-verbal induction. It works great when combined with other hypnotic elements and it’s wonderful for those who are particularly analytical as there’s not much in the way of verbal content to analyze.

I believe I gave myself an hypnotic suggestion on the plane. It was that directing my intent and visualizing energetic linkages between myself and my students would increase my charisma. I think it worked.

Have you experienced something with Reiki that could not be explained through hypnosis? Let me know…


About The Author:

Keith Livingston is the main instructor for Hypnosis 101. Keith has been studying hypnosis since he was a boy and doing hypnosis & NLP training since 1997.

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  1. Keith,

    I am a Hypnotist and Usui Reiki practitioner too.

    When I give someone a Reiki treatment (though, it’s not really *me*) I feel things……… with my palms.

    I don’t exactly understand your question. “Have you experienced something with Reiki that could not be explained thru hypnosis?”

    Unless what you’re getting at it Mezmeresque? The magnetic fluid theory?

    I dunno??


    1. Hi Miranda,
      Thanks for your input.
      I too sometimes feel things in my hands when doing Reiki. My question is, do you really need the whole Reiki philosophy to explain it? Hypnosis and suggestion are certainly sufficient to explain feelings in the hands. Suggestion, the hypnotic elements of a Reiki session–do they account for all of the effects I’ve seen from Reiki or is there something additional going on?

      What I mean by the question, “Have you experienced something with Reiki that could not be explained through hypnosis?” is this…

      Is Reiki just hypnosis? If not, some one ought to be able to point out something that Reiki can do that hypnosis can not.

  2. Hi Keith,

    I too, am a Reiki Master and a hypnotherapist, as well as an instructor of hypnotherapy (through NGH). I like your comments about visualizing the Reiki energy connection between teacher and student (since I do a lot of teaching).

    Since we know that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis, then it appears that almost all we do is via hypnosis. When doing a Reiki healing, don’t you sort of feel hypnotized? Don’t you find that recipients are somewhat lightheaded? I always tell my new clients that they will feel more relaxed then ever with a Reiki treatment…, isn’t that a suggestion type induction? And since it is all self-hypnosis, and hypnosis is based on belief systems…., well, aren’t we sort of saying the same thing?

    1. Hi Aline,
      I do feel hypnotized when I’m doing Reiki. Totally. Also when I’m receiving sometimes. A Reiki treatment has lots of hypnotic elements to it. Visualization, focused attention, suggestion etc. I guess I’d like to know if it’s all hypnosis or if there’s some other force at work too. I think understanding that will help us to design even more beneficial interventions.

  3. Hey Keith, long time no blah blah blah.

    Lately I’ve been thinking similarly about “hypnosis”, at least as it is often concieved. Most people seek help for resolving some degenerative (symptomatic) trance state. They don’t need to be PUT in a trance, they just need to choose one that meets their needs. I’ve come to see it more as a matter of trance literacy education. Maybe I’m lazy — I like to get things over with — I teach them how to fish. How often or where they fish, what they catch, and whether they kill and eat them isn’t of much interest to me. And I’m not responsible for their outcome. But I like to know they can choose to do it if they want to.

    Perhaps Reiki is just another way to activate a naturalistic healing phenomenon, a pattern interrupt a lot less, um, disruptive and I suppose therefore less potent than, say, a week in ICU.

    I am of the both/and school of ambiguity, among other affiliations. It (reiki) is a lovely metaphor and as you say, it gives form and focus to ATtention and INtention. Covers the necessary and the sufficient. Good to go. And I am inclined to think we all do that all the time, unless we don’t.

    But I’m also a gardener; I’m happy to have my clients share some of their emotional treasure with my plants. It gives them a sense of how big we can make that good feeling and it makes them smile. And that real and important. But I don’t depend on all that love juju to keep the slugs off my collards. For that we use surgical scissors.


    1. Bob,
      Wonderful to hear from you. Nice gardening metaphor. I certainly do agree with you that Reiki is a metaphor. Pretty much everything is, including the degenerative trance states your clients ask your help with (of course you know this).

      I wonder if Reiki is more than a metaphor though…

      Keep keeping the slugs off your collards,

  4. Hi Keith, Margie Anne here. Enjoyed your comments and those of others. Just because Clark Hull declaired “all hypnosis is self-hypnosis” doesn’t necessarily make it true and as I remember Milton really didn’t like studying under him. There is a large difference between hypnosis and other modalities. Hypnosis is clasically defined as by-passing the CF. One does not need to by-pass CF to be a great Reiki Practitioner. I also know your thoughts regarding hypnosis are more in line with Richard Bandler — we are in and out of different trance states all the time — work trance, driving trance, TV trance, favorite friends trance (which does include you btw). Somehow the book “Monsters & Magical Sticks – There’s No Such Thing As Hypnosis” just came to mind. Just a few thoughts on the matter and a Keith “fanatic”. Connie just sent me Reiki and so did her husband. I’m really quite sure neither of them by-passed their CF to do it but it felt fantastic. Hugs~Margie Anne — also CI, Licensed NLP Trainer and RMT of two disciplines

    1. Hey MA,
      Nice comments.
      I do tend to think Reiki is a huge bypass of the CF (critical factor or critical faculty). Imagining an energy flow that you can not see is just a start (hallucination anyone?).

  5. Hey Keith,
    Great subject and Title!!!
    I’ve notice since training in Hypnosis so many similar events when doing Reiki and other energy techniques. Though I have tried to think of a Reiki experience that may not be hypnosis I cannot. The heat others feel in my hands as well as the cold they feel in my lovely wife’s hand was the first to come to mind but even those could be explained even though we never suggest that the will feel anything. I have sent Reiki at a distance to others then asked what they felt to document for myself the experience and most feel the energy right where I intended it to be applied even though I did not share with the recipient ahead of time.
    But really, must we really explain everything? Perhaps some things happen over and above what we care to explain or understand. Can we not just accept them and share them anyway? 🙂 Like an ant carrying an elephant must we really bare the weight of fitting the label within the paradigm?
    OK, just kidding. I’m glad you brought this up!

    1. Hi JT,
      Thanks for chipping in. I agree with you that we don’t need to explain everything. And certainly, not everything can be explained. I think where it’s useful is when we want to get better at something. It helps to understand the reason things work if we want to fine-tune them.

      If we believe it’s magic pixie dust in antibiotics that make them work, we’re not as likely to explore ways to make them better. And we’re not as likely to successfully make them better unless we understand the underlying mechanisms.

      And to me, things don’t get less mysterious and we explore them–they get more so. I feel like hypnosis is just starting to be understood–that it’s a vast area to be explored and we’re the pioneers. I think understanding how hypnosis works will help us tremendously ino understanding other things about how we work.

      Plus, it’s cool.

  6. Hi,
    I am also master teacher, I live and work in Zagreb, Croatia. I am looking at all you wrote here and I am thinking that you as all the educated people wynts to put label on everything you experience.
    I have different experience, for egzample, once I sent energy on distance, while the transfer was taking place we didnot spik, the person had distorted her arm veryx bedly, I just gave her energ and at one point I felt I had to push the part of the arm, so I did id with the energies, and the tratment was over. I was amazed when person called me by phone and told me that everythin is fine, the arm is in wright place, I asked what the doctor did, but she told me that she was waiting the doctor and he did nothing. Thats it, dont think, it is not hipnosis it just works when the person is able and wants to receive the energy. If it is hipnosis, how come, I can sometimes see whats hapening in organs like rontgen picture or something like that. Let us conclude, we dont have to beleive, just let it happen.
    Love and energy to all

  7. Hi,
    I am a Reiki Master, Qigong Master, Taiji Master and hypnotherapist and I believe that all of these practices have a common denominator (that’s why I have taken a great deal of my life to learn them and teach them individually and collectively as well as use them therapeutically).
    I know intuitively that all of these practices are connected at some fundamental level but often find it difficult to articulate exactly how or why that is. True, I also have many colleagues in both Reiki and Hypnosis that are very “new age” in their theories and approaches. Sometimes the dialogue among us is endless and fruitless in attempting to establish a point, however, I usually conclude these conversations with, “Well if it works, why destroy the beauty of the success with confusion and differences?”
    There have been many successes with my clients and students that I am not sure to what technique I may apply the credit. I am certainly using hypnotic suggestions when teaching meditation in Taiji and QiGong as well as preparing a client for a Reiki session. Is not the “Critical Factor” bypassed at some level when a subject, student or client opens and accepts information being presented to them in any scenario? Are not the conscious behavioral patterns altered in those who accept on a subconscious level information that changes behavior? Could we not call that teaching and learning or hypnosis or Reiki?
    I believe that the distance between “new age” and traditional practices are not as great as we want to believe. Maybe, just maybe, there is no distance . . . . at all!
    Thanks for listening.
    In Harmony,

  8. Dear Keith,

    Thank you for sharing your talents and interest with us. I too am an NLP MP and I’ve dabbled in Reiki as well. I have had some ESP type of Reiki experiences to the point where I didn’t know if it was merely a hallucination on my part or truly real.

    So the NLPer in me sought calibration and one night I got my chance as a super duper Reiki master came to town and I purchased a $50 session where she would do her Reiki magic on me!

    Well, turns out she was exhausted but we proceeded anyway. She didn’t do anything other than place her hands on my head… and I could swear I could feel her nodding off… so I decided to test my Reiki talents by sending her energy through my forehead chakra. Can you guess what happened? Each time I sent that energy she’d jump!

    I did it at least 5 times before she caught on and ended the session. I paid her the money and she didn’t have the professionalism to admit she had been asleep, but the experience saved me money as I sure didn’t take any more classes from them.

    I’ve had many other times where I’ve used Reiki energy in an uptime state resulting in both visual and auditory “hallucinations” that were true and verified externally

    Very cool..

  9. ?Occam notwithstanding.

    “a culture that believes that common colds are transmitted by evil spirits, that those spirits fly out of you when you sneeze, can pass from one person to another when they are inhaled or when both handle the same objects, etc., could have just as effective a “map” for public health as one that substituted microbes for spirits.”

  10. There might be an easy way to find out.
    Take two standard petri dishes, put in some water and equal amounts of baking yeast, and maybe a pinch of sugar.
    Label the dishes so you know which one is which.
    Apply Reiki to one but not the other.
    See if you notice any difference.
    Larry Dossey MD talks about the scientifically verifiable difference in the power of prayer, verified in similar experiments.
    I don’t believe yeast or fungus in petri dishes are able to discern whether verbal or non-verbal suggestions are bypassing their critical factors, thereby eliciting hypnotic phenomena and achieving acceptable focus.
    If you see the targeted petri dish significantly better, how will you explain that?
    If there is no difference, then that is a valid result too.
    Repeat to confirm.
    (Just brainstorming here… I’m no biological researcher)

    1. I like your idea Philip.

      The power of prayer is one of those things most people think has been scientifically verified and a lot of people go around saying it is.

      Here’s a quote from Wikipedia on the subject…
      “Determining the efficacy of prayer has been attempted in various studies since Francis Galton first addressed it in 1872. Double-blind studies have usually failed to find any effect, but other, nonblind studies have found both benefit and harm.”

      Efficacy of prayer

      I know Wikipedia is not the paragon of valid scientific information but I think at best, we can say the matter is in doubt.


  11. Since taking the Reiki 1 and 11 course, I have found that my spiritual awareness has been greatly heightened, I too have experienced ‘invisible’ hands during healing. I also have experienced telepathy and extremely interactive dreams including out of body experiences. However I have never had hypnosis so cannot compare the two. Maybe it is all in the power of thought! I was beginning to believe that Reiki can also be used as a tool for witchcraft, what do you think?


    1. Hi Caz,
      I don’t believe Reiki is supernatural in any way and and effects can be explained completely by a combination of the power of touch and the power of suggestion.

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