In 1922, a Japanese man named Mikao Usui walked to the top of a mountain near Kyoto in search of enlightenment. After experiencing an awakening, he came down from the mountain with a new technique for channeling energy with his hands. His technique, Reiki, has been passed down through generations of teachers as both a spiritual practice and a mode of healing.
Roughly 90 years later, Erika Spring, a Brooklyn-based musician who grew up around “alternative wellness modalities,” witnessed Reiki firsthand when one of her friends performed it on another friend who was suffering from back spasms. The practice caught her interest and she started exploring and learning more for herself. Eventually, she embarked on her mastership and today she works with clients at Maha Rose, a hub of holistic healing and teaching in Greenpoint.
Spring continues to make music—as a member of the bands Au Revoir Simone and Summer Moon, and as a solo artist—but her Reiki practice runs in parallel. As we spend the next few months exploring physical, emotional, and spiritual cures in New York, LA, and Miami, we spoke with Erika about her experience with Reiki and how it connects to her music.
ERIKA SPRING: Reiki is incredibly high vibration, intelligent energy. As practitioners, we channel the energy (it’s not our own), through our hands, and into the client. The Reiki knows what to do, so it will guide the practitioner’s hands to certain places of the body. As opposed to other practices where you draw energy out of the body, Reiki sends the high vibration, the unconditional love vibration, into the body, giving the feeling of inner strength, the feeling that you can handle whatever comes your way. You’ll also find new solutions that you weren’t able to see before. It’s very soothing to the chakra system, so it’s soothing to our sense of safety, belonging, and well-being.
I grew up in Boulder, CO, surrounded by alternative medicine. My mother was a massage therapist, and experimented with lots of different alternative modalities. The first time I ever heard about [Reiki], I was practicing with a friend’s band, and the bass player had a back spasm. The girl who played drums asked, “Why don’t I give you some Reiki?” They went into the other room, and when they came out, the woman who had received the Reiki treatment was totally better. She was beaming and looked so renewed. The woman that performed the therapy said, “It's not me. It's the Reiki!” That stuck with me.
Later, there was a time between tours where there was a yoga studio that was offering a Reiki 1 class, and I felt called to try it. It became this amazing tool for me to connect with my own spirituality in a way I hadn’t before. In the beginning, I mostly just used it on myself, and later that year I took Reiki 2 which is a class where you learn some symbols that enable you to send distance Reiki to people far away, to the past, and to the future.
Whenever I had breaks from my band, I always tried to practice more Reiki and started getting a few private clients. Last year, I decided I wanted to learn how to teach and get my Reiki mastership. I now lead a weekly community Reiki program at a doula center in Williamsburg called a Carriage House Birth, and see clients out of Maha Rose in Greenpoint.
When I first started working with Reiki for myself, it was a spiritual centering practice to help me get quiet, meditate, and connect with my own energy and my own physical body. I also had some digestive problems that were often very aggravated by touring, so [Reiki] was very helpful. I mostly wanted to stay grounded because I was doing so much traveling. Also, one time I had a bad reaction to a medication and I was in total panic. My body was alternating between chills and sweat and the doctor said I was fine, but I really didn’t feel fine. Reiki has been an incredible companion for just being able to feel safe and feel okay in times of helplessness and panic.
There have been some instances of people with old injuries that wouldn’t heal, and I’ve witnessed Reiki being able to help release some of the trauma or wounding that an injury might be holding on. Energy helps alongside other modalities of healing to release trauma or pain the body might be holding onto on a cellular level. I’ve also had people have kind of “Aha!” moments or epiphanies about what they want to do with their lives. People feel the presence of angels or feel visited by loved ones that have passed on.
What other wellness practices do you see working well in combination with Reiki?
In general, my wellness routine is eating really well, staying hydrated, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and having some form of spiritual centering practice every day, whether it’s in the form of meditation or self Reiki. I take a lot of therapeutic baths with essential oils and salt. I’m really getting into working more with crystals, flower essences, and essential oils in practice both with myself and clients.
I definitely feel like there is a huge growth of people taking interest in alternative therapies and treatments. I’m seeing it with younger people especially. Maha Rose creates an aspect of community. You can be around people who are also interested in self care and wanting to support themselves as much as they can so they can go out and do everything that they want to do in life.
There’s definitely a missing link. With medicine, we’re often left without answers. Doctors often say that everything’s going to being fine, but people want to feel amazing and don’t just want to be fine. A lot of times, people come to alternative healing modalities to find that extra release that’s going to make them feel amazing, not just “healthy.”
I would also say stillness. So many people I talk to say, “I really want to meditate, but I can’t!” I think humans in general find it very difficult to be still, especially with so much stimulus going on around us. Sometimes it really does take another person or facilitator to actually help you unplug.
I have some clients that come to me to work on creative blocks and energy work can be really valuable in bypassing our rational minds. Personally, I tend to get very overwhelmed and I have a hard time having that clarity that needs to exist for an idea to take shape. Reiki has helped me be able to have some stillness so I can be able to focus on an idea and be able to understand what a song is supposed to sound like. Also, as a performer, one of my goals is to radiate love and acceptance and joy out to an audience, so the more I can work on that within myself and access that certain place of oneness, the more I’ll be able to offer to an audience when I’m performing.
Do you have any advice for people interested in pursuing Reiki treatment?
Some people who are drawn to Reiki are already the more sensitive types, and as they start working with Reiki energy, they become more sensitive. It’s always important to check in with yourself, especially when living in a city like New York, and just find that quiet time in whatever way that you can.
If you're interested in trying Reiki yourself, The Standard Spa, Miami Beach will be hosting Reiki I and Reiki II trainings from June