A look at what reiki energy healing is all about. (Photo: Instagram.com/radicalreiki)
When I signed up for my first reiki session, I had no idea what to expect. Visions of crystals, incense, and white robes danced in my head, but I wasn’t sure if that would be the reality. After a 60-minute session (that felt more like a meditation than anything else) with Shannon O’Neill-Loyola, a reiki master who runs a private practice (Radical Reiki) and also performs sessions at Great Jones Spa in New York City, I left feeling more in tune with my emotions — and my energy — than ever before, but also with about a million questions for her about the world of reiki.
Reiki is a healing method that originated in Japan and was rediscovered in the late 1800s. “What makes reiki different from other types of energetic healing modalities is the process and the preparation,” explains O’Neill-Loyola. “You can read about it and study it all you want, but you can’t do it unless you achieve it. It’s a process of opening up the channels of your body to receive source energy. The healing is coming from you, but you’re really just the vessel for bringing a person energy.” She had her first reiki experience in 2005 after she started working at Great Jones Spa and soon after started the training process. “There are many different styles of reiki. It’s ever-evolving. And it changes with society,” she says. There are three levels of reiki attunements and depending on who you are learning from at the setting you are in, the process can vary. O’Neill-Loyola is at the master level but doesn’t have an allegiance to a specific reiki school, she is more non-traditional.
For O’Neill-Loyola, her practice blends reiki with Shiatsu massage, crystals, chakra balancing, and tuning forks but she still approaches each session in the same way, by not asking a lot of questions. When I entered the didn’t ask me what I did for work, what my personal life was like, she only asked me if I had any injuries (since she is a licensed massage therapist, her sessions are more hands on, while tradition reiki doesn’t involve any touch), and began to work. “I don’t like to know a lot because I want to have a clear slate,” she says. “I like to pick up on things intuitively, I don’t like to know a whole lot in the beginning.” Every session is different since it’s based on the individual’s energy.
My session started without O’Neill-Loyola touching me at all, but I could sense her hands moving above me. A few minutes into my session, she placed a set of crystals and stones in a line from my abdomen through my throat and continued her work. She incorporated tuning forks and Shiatsu massage into the session and afterwards we spent almost two hours talking about what came through to her, what she noticed about my energy, and a variety of practices I could be adding to my daily life (from meditation to yoga) to help better balance my energy. O’Neill-Loyola isn’t a reiki purist by any means, she recognizes the importance of complementary work and places value on Western medicine as well. “I’m more realistic, I’m grounded. I’m not going to come in wearing some white robe and if I think you need to see a doctor, I’m open to that too. That’s a big part of who I am,” she says.
Her grounded approach is what caught the attention of producers of Showtime’s The Affair, who brought her on to consult on a reiki session that was included in season 2, episode 6. She worked to tweak the script to keep the scene realistic, worked with an actress on the proper hand movements, and even supplied some props for the filming. O’Neill-Loyola says there are many misconceptions out there when it comes to reiki and energy work so it was important to her that this scene show a realistic portrayal. “It’s not a dogma, it’s not religion, it’s not a belief system. It’s a practice, like meditation.”
Over the years, she has worked on a wide variety of clients both at Great Jones Spa and in her private practice and today, she spends a lot of her time doing distance work, where she sets up time with a client and performs her service in her mind. “Energy work transcends time and space,” she says. “I do a full hour session and then I call them afterwards to discuss their service and what they felt.” Good news if you aren’t located in New York City because Radical Reiki is your best introduction to the world of energy healing.
I slept like a baby that night and immediately wanted to go back for more — which is common. O’Neill-Loyola tells me that people often get “addicted” to the sessions and she tries to limit the number of times they come in. “I think people sometimes think it’ll be a fixer of everything. You’re working from a holistic standpoint, it’s not about a cure like Western medicine. Curing and healing are different, with healing you are focused on being in balance and being restored.”
For more information about Shannon O’Neill-Loyola’s practice, visit www.radicalreiki.com