Reiki in the garden

Readers of my weekly column, "Gardening Spirit," which appears in a local newspaper, suggested I post last week's column on "Green Reiki" on the blog site. Hope some visitors here find it helpful!

The Power of Prayer
I have a million tricks up my horticultural sleeve. In the pursuit of plant propagation, nothing is out of bounds, too scandalous, or too weird.
I wonder how many times my neighbors have glanced out their windows and asked themselves why I’m hunkered over a square of snapdragons, hands spread wide, eyes closed, fingertips drawing sporadic, enigmatic symbols in the air.
Maybe I’m standing several feet away from the herb patch, one hand raised, palm forward in their direction, while I hold a running hose in the other hand. Why is there a large chunk of amethyst in the vegetable garden? Why am I breathing on the hydrangeas? What strangeness is this?
Here in the 21st century, virtually everyone has at least heard of Reiki, although many don’t know very much about it. Few know about its origins. Fewer still know of its application to plants.
Here’s a quick Reiki tutorial.
“Reiki” is a generic word in Japan, used to describe many types of healing and spiritual work in practice there. A system of healing that evolved from Dr. Mikao Usui's method – the one in which I apprenticed – acknowledges a basic element of life energy that exists in everything. The practical application of this energy is at the heart of this healing practice.
Culturally here in the West, we know little, and discuss even less, this omnipresent element of life energy. It’s an unfamiliar topic, hence, considered peculiar. But in many cultures and throughout time, the principle of energy therapy has been a part of mainstream healing.
Reiki is simple while comprehensive. It is a method of healing in which the Reiki practitioner channels existing healing energy to another individual. The basis of the practice is self-treatment and treatment of others.
There has been a lot of speculation about where Reiki “came from,” including that Reiki originated from Buddhism or that it contains Buddhist concepts or techniques. Many believe that Reiki is religiously neutral. While Dr. Usui may have been a Buddhist, he had also studied Christianity and had lived with a Christian family for a time.
Dr. Usui originated this system of healing he taught and practiced based on personal experience, and by making use of his studies in many different areas of knowledge. Some say Dr. Usui discovered Reiki in a Tibetan sutra. Some say not.
Usui Reiki has evolved over time. In its current state, it is much more organized and structured than the simple, flexible, intuitive method practiced by Dr. Usui.
The initiation of Reiki Masters began in earnest in the West in the1980s, when Hawayo Takata “attuned” 22 Reiki Masters. Reiki has spread quickly since. It is now practiced throughout North and South America, Europe, New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the world. There are now an estimated 500,000 Reiki Masters throughout the world.
I was initiated as a Usui Reiki Master in early 2007, after years of study and progression through Reiki’s practicing “ranks” (first degree attunement, second degree attunement, and so on, up to Reiki Master certification and the final attunement).
Soon after my first attunement, I understood Reiki’s widespread applications. But one function in particular revealed itself to me.
Plants, like humans and animals, are energy systems. It stand to reason, then, that if Reiki is a method of channeling energy to assist in balancing an organism (energy system) and that the result of this balance is healing – since imbalances usually create illnesses – then Reiki impacts plants as it does humans and animals.
Reiki for plants is steadily gaining acceptance for practitioners with green thumbs. Feel free to read on with a bit of healthy skepticism.
Experiments of interest of Reiki’s effect on plants are widely documented. One of the most familiar among those interested is the sunflower existence test. Twelve pots are planted with two sunflower seeds each. Once a group sprouted, it is divided into a control group and a Reiki group. Reiki is administered to one group, once each day, to determine if they grow differently under the influence of Reiki.
The “Great Tomato Test” involves splitting a tomato in two, placing the halves in sealed jars, applying Reiki to one and documenting the result.
A grid effectiveness test also uses sunflower seeds to determine if creating a grid pattern will direct Reiki energy continuously. Twelve sunflower seeds of the same type using potting soil from the same bag are potted up and cultivated under identical conditions. Half the plants are placed within the grid and half outside the grid. A daily record is kept, following each sprout, and the developing height of each plant every day.
The results of these controlled experiments repetitively confirm what Reiki practitioners have known for a long time. Reiki energy keys in to plants as effectively as with other entities. Channeling healing energy into plants produces stronger growth and a greater profusion of flowers. Germination is quicker, development progresses with less disease and fewer plant pathologies, height and girth is amplified, production is increased, and the plants live longer.
Stefanie Hart, a Reiki Master from Boulder, Colo., performed a study on the effects of Reiki on plant growth. She used the data she collected for her master’s thesis on environmental leadership at Naropa University. Using bean plants with experimental and control groups, she was able to demonstrate how Reiki treatments enhanced plant growth.
It’s been stylishly dubbed, “Green Reiki,” but by any name, it has been observed that plants, like animals, are especially sensitive and receptive to universal Reiki energy. Though seemingly inanimate, plants clearly manifest life. They give and receive healing energy. But any dedicated gardener can tell you that.
I often give Reiki to trees. In return, they channel their powerful, healing energy to me. It’s always a matter of reciprocity. Energy never flows just one way. When I take a handful of seeds to be planted, holding them in one hand while giving them Reiki with the other, I know that the plants that they will become will give back, ten-fold, what they received.
When I water a plant that’s weakened by disease or insect damage, I hold one hand over the plant, allowing the water to flow through it. I may place my palms on the soil, channeling Reiki to the plant’s roots. Even cut flowers and herb cuttings receive Reiki in my house.
Gardeners are folks who have been led to work with Mother Nature. We look to our gardens for healing, food and beauty. We know that we get from our gardens what we put into them. Whether Reiki resonates with you or not, if you are a gardener, it’s a foregone conclusion that there are great forces at work in the garden. They are in the plants, water, animals, insects, and even the stones.
So if you pass by the garden and catch a glimpse of me standing over the dahlias, palms outstretched, inscrutable symbols being drawn in the air, water flowing over the hands, don’t be troubled. It’s just me and Mother Earth herself, swapping good vibrations.
Editor’s note: Barbara Douglas of Guilford is a UConn Certified Master Gardener and a certified HortPro. She is a certified Usui Reiki Master, specializing in canine Reiki. She gardens privately, as part of an organic collective, and as a service/labor of love to those who want gardens but for reasons of their own, cannot produce them. Visit her gardening website at E-mail her at

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