Reiki for Women Inmates

GUESTBLOGGER Suneil Shrivastav saved his weekly allowance to finance learning to practice First degree Reiki when he was 14. I noticed his insightful comments and thoughtful questions on Facebook and here at ReikiCentral, and asked him to share about his experience teaching Reiki in a women’s prison. –Reiki Healing in Prison

“I often wonder what my son looks like now. It’s been more than 15 years since I last saw him,” Shakeela Bi said, her despondence more apparent in her manner and her gaze than in her words.

Shakeela, 43, was serving life imprisonment in the women’s section of the Bhopal Central Jail in Bhopal, a small town in central India. I was there with nine other Reiki masters to teach 100 women inmates to practice First Degree Reiki. We had arranged for fifteen hours over two days.

This was a first for me, but three of my colleagues had already taught over five thousand people between them.

Most of the women came from a rural background, had no formal education, and spoke dialects of my language, Hindi, that are not native to me. Speaking clearly about Reiki can be challenging in the best of circumstances; the language hurdle made it even more so. I had to figure out what exactly the women asked, and answer their questions directly and simply, without getting bogged down with unnecessary concepts.

Thankfully, the group provided instant feedback. As soon as I went off-track, they would either get distracted or question me in a very straightforward way to clarify what I meant.

I experienced the initiations with the usual sense of peace and heightened awareness, and observed the familiar indrawn calmness on the students’ faces. One of the inmates who earlier had seemed defensive and tight-lipped radiated a sense of peacefulness after the initiations. Two others felt heat in their hands and tingly all over, while other women expressed feeling freed of a heavy burden.

Our Reiki classes were silently supervised by prison staff, who were curious about what they were seeing. Whereas the meditation classes given in the prison involved either intensive breathing exercises or stringent sitting schedules, the Reiki class was offered in relative comfort and ease.

Perhaps it seemed to the guards that nothing was happening. However, the effects of Reiki – peacefulness, lightness and a feeling of comfort – were soon apparent. At one point, the staff laughed out loud, asking us afterwards if it were the dullness of the timed flute music and the hypnotic drone of our voices that had lulled the prisoners to sleep. I found out only later that many prisoners suffered a lack of sleep from recurring nightmares.

All the Reiki teachers noticed that the women who practiced Reiki treatments in groups were more chatty amongst themselves, and shared smiles with us as well as the prison staff. This was a significant change from the initial wary, defensive glares we had observed.

At the end of the class, we happily announced that our shiny new students were now able to practice Reiki for the rest of their lives. A student said, “If what you told us is really true, that we can keep ourselves in a better frame of mind and better physical condition just by putting our hands on ourselves, then you are nothing short of miracle-workers!” I had witnessed more than a few tears during the class; now it was my turn.

Based on our introductory session with prison staff, the supervisory teams prepared a brief self-report questionnaire to document physical and non-physical changes. The students were asked to complete the questionnaire three weeks after the class.

Students who practiced Reiki regularly reported a decrease in their levels of physical discomfort and bodily aches and pains. The women also reported feeling calmer and happier. They attributed these changes to their practice sessions.

Photograph by Jesper Wilson.

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16 Responses to “Reiki for Women Inmates”

  1. Eduardo January 14, 2012 10:13 am Permalink

    Yes it is. There are things that happen behind the scene that may be invisible and unseen which warrants us to be observant. That is why I always loved your teaching of practice, observe, contemplate and repeat. It is unbiased observing that we receive a lot of insights for our growth and the growth of the practice.

  2. Eileen Smith January 14, 2012 3:18 pm Permalink

    Really great article. Giving back to the community!

  3. Susan January 14, 2012 4:05 pm Permalink

    It is beautiful.

  4. Patsy Fredricksen January 14, 2012 4:52 pm Permalink

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an inspirational article. I, for one, realized I don’t need to wait for paying clients to practice Reiki when there are so many needy people who would be suffering less if I only took the time to administer Reiki freely.

    • Pamela Miles January 15, 2012 8:04 am Permalink

      Patsy, you raise a good question. Suneil didn’t address whether or not this was a paid program.

    • Suneil January 16, 2012 1:51 am Permalink

      Hello Patsy, Pamela and everyone else on the blog

      Sorry I didn’t get the time to read through the blog – there is a Reiki retreat happening in my apartment at the moment, and I have been busy there. Another branch of our Reiki center is also currently giving Reiki sessions at a cancer hospital, so things are a bit packed right now…

      This was arranged on a non-monetary basis, with the teachers trained at our center volunteering to spend time teaching the women Reiki. Our travel and food were arranged by the prison.

      Regards,
      Suneil

  5. diane January 14, 2012 8:38 pm Permalink

    I do not practice reiki within the prison system, but am very inspired by this posting and am going to look into it TODAY. Thank you!

  6. Sandy Charbonneau January 15, 2012 3:31 am Permalink

    Thank you. I am a Usui Reiki Master Teacher and live a few miles from a women’s prison and have a client/student who is a Corrections Officer for another women’s facility in a neighboring town. These women have dog training programs where the inmates raise service dogs. I am encouraged by reading this article, I would like ask if there is interest and to help establish a Reiki program with them.

    • Pamela Miles January 15, 2012 8:09 am Permalink

      Great idea, Sandy. It always helps to have a personal contact. Please let us know how it goes.

  7. Patsy Fredricksen January 15, 2012 1:05 pm Permalink

    Thanks Sandy you’ve given me an idea. AS I work with dogs who are scheduled for euthanasia, quite successfully, I might add, I will speak with the Humane Soc. to try and set up a foster program with inmates. It has taken time to bring Reiki to the Humane Society but I’m glad I persevered.
    It’s so rewarding to see the rapid behavior change in animals.

  8. Nivedita G January 20, 2012 2:05 am Permalink

    Down the memory lane.. in 2002 0r 2003 when first Reiki seminar happened for Bhopal jail inmates I was the part of that team..Initiating them or interacting with them was a different experience ,which is close to my heart but those small small experience made me a better human being.
    After the seminar was over two of us went again for follow up session that was amazing and touching,otherwise tight-lipped,not so cooperative,very aggressive persons were blossomed like flower with healing touch of Reiki.There were flood of hugs kisses sweet tears of Love,and all sorts of emotions ,some of them were angry why don’t we come daily or in short intervals (we went just after 10 days only)every lady wanted us to eat food cooked by them as a gesture of their gratitude,I tell you I never eat this much in my life..as i eat that day…it was really touching…Thanks Suneil for sharing your story …It is nice that you people are still continuing the Transformation work there..with love and light

    • Pamela Miles January 20, 2012 9:26 am Permalink

      So lovely to hear from you, Nivedita. Thank you for taking the time to add to Suneil’s story.

  9. Elizabeth April 07, 2013 2:30 pm Permalink

    Great article .I would like to offer free reiki to homeless population or women inmates.Does anyone do this in NYC ? I would especially like hear from anyone who has done this. Thanks for your help.

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  11. Eduardo January 14, 2012 8:59 am Permalink

    Simply amazing! Thank you for sharing!

    • Pamela Miles January 14, 2012 9:03 am Permalink

      It’s beautiful work, isn’t it? Transforming for everyone involved, and perhaps even the onlookers.

  12. Eduardo January 14, 2012 10:13 am Permalink

    Yes it is. There are things that happen behind the scene that may be invisible and unseen which warrants us to be observant. That is why I always loved your teaching of practice, observe, contemplate and repeat. It is unbiased observing that we receive a lot of insights for our growth and the growth of the practice.

  13. Eileen Smith January 14, 2012 3:18 pm Permalink

    Really great article. Giving back to the community!

  14. Susan January 14, 2012 4:05 pm Permalink

    It is beautiful.

  15. Patsy Fredricksen January 14, 2012 4:52 pm Permalink

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write such an inspirational article. I, for one, realized I don’t need to wait for paying clients to practice Reiki when there are so many needy people who would be suffering less if I only took the time to administer Reiki freely.

    • Pamela Miles January 15, 2012 8:04 am Permalink

      Patsy, you raise a good question. Suneil didn’t address whether or not this was a paid program.

    • Suneil January 16, 2012 1:51 am Permalink

      Hello Patsy, Pamela and everyone else on the blog

      Sorry I didn’t get the time to read through the blog – there is a Reiki retreat happening in my apartment at the moment, and I have been busy there. Another branch of our Reiki center is also currently giving Reiki sessions at a cancer hospital, so things are a bit packed right now…

      This was arranged on a non-monetary basis, with the teachers trained at our center volunteering to spend time teaching the women Reiki. Our travel and food were arranged by the prison.

      Regards,
      Suneil

  16. diane January 14, 2012 8:38 pm Permalink

    I do not practice reiki within the prison system, but am very inspired by this posting and am going to look into it TODAY. Thank you!

  17. Sandy Charbonneau January 15, 2012 3:31 am Permalink

    Thank you. I am a Usui Reiki Master Teacher and live a few miles from a women’s prison and have a client/student who is a Corrections Officer for another women’s facility in a neighboring town. These women have dog training programs where the inmates raise service dogs. I am encouraged by reading this article, I would like ask if there is interest and to help establish a Reiki program with them.

    • Pamela Miles January 15, 2012 8:09 am Permalink

      Great idea, Sandy. It always helps to have a personal contact. Please let us know how it goes.

  18. Patsy Fredricksen January 15, 2012 1:05 pm Permalink

    Thanks Sandy you’ve given me an idea. AS I work with dogs who are scheduled for euthanasia, quite successfully, I might add, I will speak with the Humane Soc. to try and set up a foster program with inmates. It has taken time to bring Reiki to the Humane Society but I’m glad I persevered.
    It’s so rewarding to see the rapid behavior change in animals.

  19. Nivedita G January 20, 2012 2:05 am Permalink

    Down the memory lane.. in 2002 0r 2003 when first Reiki seminar happened for Bhopal jail inmates I was the part of that team..Initiating them or interacting with them was a different experience ,which is close to my heart but those small small experience made me a better human being.
    After the seminar was over two of us went again for follow up session that was amazing and touching,otherwise tight-lipped,not so cooperative,very aggressive persons were blossomed like flower with healing touch of Reiki.There were flood of hugs kisses sweet tears of Love,and all sorts of emotions ,some of them were angry why don’t we come daily or in short intervals (we went just after 10 days only)every lady wanted us to eat food cooked by them as a gesture of their gratitude,I tell you I never eat this much in my life..as i eat that day…it was really touching…Thanks Suneil for sharing your story …It is nice that you people are still continuing the Transformation work there..with love and light

    • Pamela Miles January 20, 2012 9:26 am Permalink

      So lovely to hear from you, Nivedita. Thank you for taking the time to add to Suneil’s story.

  20. Elizabeth April 07, 2013 2:30 pm Permalink

    Great article .I would like to offer free reiki to homeless population or women inmates.Does anyone do this in NYC ? I would especially like hear from anyone who has done this. Thanks for your help.


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