When BJ Babcock of Ridgefield was facing an open heart surgery 18 years ago, she was seeking comfort and healing during the worry of the procedure and the complicated recovery that followed. She turned to the Japanese healing art of Reiki, and in the process she found her life’s work.

Through her massage practice Healing Hands Bodyworks, Babcock has been practicing Reiki now for 18 years.

Babcock first experienced the practice 20 years ago when she was a student in massage school. Her classmates were experiencing stress over their approaching final exams, she said. When a Reiki practitioner placed her hands on Babcock’s feet, she felt instant relief.

The experience made such an impression on her that when she was facing her heart surgery the next year, she wanted to learn Reiki to use for her own healing and comfort.

“This was something I could do for myself that was very powerful,” she said.

The benefit, she said, “was like night and day.” Along with feeling more calm and peaceful and having less pain, she said it changed her in other ways.

“I felt a deeper sense of compassion, and a deeper appreciation for life itself,” she said.

The beginning of learning Reiki is an experience called an Attunement, an initiation with a Reiki master. Along with learning about the history and purpose of Reiki and how to incorporate it into one’s life, the Attunement focuses on connecting with the spiritual energy that is already within oneself, said Babcock.

“Reiki does no harm,” said Babcock, an important aspect of the practice for her.

She uses the practice alongside massage.

“I use Reiki to extend the work I’m already doing,” she said.

Her clients describe Reiki as calming and soothing, and say they experience a feeling of well-being following a session.

Reiki is a spiritual healing art which was developed by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui in 1922, and has been adopted by people of various cultural traditions around the world. A Reiki practitioner uses gentle placement or touch with their hands to “channel” energy through a patient.

During a 60- to 90-minute Reiki session, the client lies comfortably on a massage table or reclined chair. They are fully clothed, removing only their shoes, and no oils or lotions are used. Babcock likes to drape hot towels over a person to help them calm and relax, and tucks a pillow under their knees for comfort.

Babcock brings the spirit of Reiki into the massage room anytime she is working.

“When I go into the massage room, it’s like the rest of the world is gone and I’m there for that person,” she said.

Sometimes people seek Reiki for emotional healing. They may have experienced an injury or a loss, and Reiki is a safe way to “untangle” their inner experience.

Babcock is a Reiki 3 practitioner, which means she has completed her training in Reiki through three levels and is qualified to both practice the healing art and teach it to others. There is no formal certification, but rather the tool is passed down through practitioners to those who want to learn.

Reiki is seen as learning to use something that you already have, a universal life energy.

Numerous health systems have incorporated the use of Reiki and similar healing touch modalities for patients who are in hospice, or who experience chronic pain. It does not replace medical treatment, but adds to it. Babcock has worked with people who are “passing over.”

“What you’re doing is totally different” than medical treatment, she said. “It brings calmness. There’s fear, sometimes pain. We do anything we can do to calm them.”

“I will do Reiki for the rest of my life,” said Babcock. “It’s a passion, it’s who I am. It’s integrated into all aspects of my life. I don’t believe I’d be the person I am today if I hadn’t become a Reiki practitioner.”

Babcock displays a framed print of the Reiki Principles, which seem like good principles for anyone. It reads, “Just for today, I will not anger. Just for today, I will not worry. Just for today, I will be grateful for all my blessings. Just for today, I will work with honesty and integrity. Just for today, I will be kind to all living beings.”

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