The Hard Side of Volunteering for Hospice – it’s Not What You Think

Before I moved to Maryland from Ohio two years ago, I volunteered giving Reiki at The Cleveland Clinic, and The Gathering Place (a support center for people touched by cancer). Adding volunteer time to my life has been a wonderful and fulfilling activity. I get to know people, and do something really helpful, for which I feel so grateful. 

After moving to Maryland, I sought out volunteer opportunities where I could offer Reiki. I found JSSA Hospice, and they welcomed me. I’ve been a volunteer at for JSSA for a year now. I am assigned patients, go to them where they are living, and give them Reiki once a week. It’s been a very meaningful experience, and I’m really glad to have the opportunity to do this work. 

Lately, though, in my hospice volunteer position, I’ve been seeing patients who are, basically, “in limbo.” They’re not actively dying. They’re not really “living” either. It’s a tougher experience. 

See, some of my patients before were basically ok, considering their diagnosis. They’ve been diagnosed with 6 months or fewer to live, and are still capable of having a conversation, and telling me where it hurts, and how the Reiki helps. We’ve laughed together sometimes, and really enjoyed our time. 

Other patients, (or eventually, the same ones) were actively dying. I know how to help these people with Reiki too. The Reiki energy helps them feel more peaceful, breathe deeper, have less pain, and relax. Even if they can’t tell me, I can observe that the Reiki is helping.

My current patients are not in either situation. They are caught between worlds. They don’t speak, and rarely open their eyes. Their care and feeding are 100% done by the nurses and other staff. They don’t seem aware of my presence, and don’t respond to my words. I can’t tell how the Reiki is helping. I come, greet them, give Reiki, search their faces and bodies for signs of relaxation, or anything at all. It doesn’t usually seem evident.  

I’m struggling with this, because part of me is berating myself for wishing for some sort of reaction. “This isn’t about me,” my inner voice tells me. “I don’t need to observe a reaction or receive a ‘thank you’ to know that I’m doing something that matters. This is for my patients. It’s not important whether it’s a nice time for me.” 

I have given Reiki to many people with cancer, and wished that the Reiki could make them better. I have learned that it’s not about what I want. However, I do see that the Reiki is relieving pain and bringing a sense of peace and relaxation that is very helpful for them. So, in that way I can see some benefits happening, which helps. (Helps who? The patient, of course, but I think I’m really talking about it helping me. Helping me what? Helping me be reassured that I’m doing something that matters. Why do I need this? Don’t I know that I matter? Isn’t that an interesting chain of questions!)

This experience is different though – I can’t tell that it’s making a difference. I need to rely on my trust in Reiki, and my experiences giving Reiki to people who can tell or show me that it helps, to reassure me that what I’m doing is helping. This time, it’s about having faith. Faith has always been difficult for me without the direct experience to confirm it. Even years of being a Reiki practitioner, and getting tons of positive feedback doesn’t prepare me well for this. It still requires me to “just believe.” 

I know that my past experiences have proven to me that Reiki works. I don’t need to know how it works. I don’t need to know what it’s doing. I’m past that. 

I remind myself that I make a difference, every day. I matter. My words of love, my giving of time, my gifts of healing, they matter. 

Even by doing nothing, I matter. We all matter. Living matters because we all matter. Every life matters, and I know this. I know it in my soul. So, I do find it interesting that I need to sit and type this out to remind myself of what I’ve been teaching.

So, at these hospice visits, I take a deep breath. I show up. I say hello. I offer Reiki. I ask for peace and healing, for the highest and best, and I thank the Universe, my Guides and Angels, and Spirit for the ability to be of service.

And so it is. 

Reiki Awakening Reiki blog by Alice Langholt

Stigma and Cred

I first learned Reiki in person from a teacher, and took the Master/Teacher level in a class, in person. It was traditional Usui Reiki training. I found that my training left some things to be desired. There was no instruction on intuition, for example, or chakras. I was not taught how to feel and experience energy, just taught traditional hand positions, symbols and ritual that “had to be” done in order to give a Reiki session. 

Three months later, I learned Kundalini Reiki, by distance, online from the founder of the system. I felt my attunements more strongly than I had felt any other, ever. I also learned that symbols, hand positions, and ritual are not needed in order to practice Reiki. Although this conflicted with my Usui Reiki training, it made more sense to me. I spent lots of time pondering and practicing after this. And the pondering and practicing really helped me the most in developing my understanding about Reiki, and how it can be effectively taught so that people can learn to feel the energy and understand what they are doing. 

Since that time, I’ve taught over 500 people Kundalini Reiki or Practical Reiki. I’ve written two books about Practical Reiki, to help those who want to learn get a more thorough education in energy healing. I have received only powerful, positive feedback from all of my students and clients. 

I’m proud of my work and am committed to being a dedicated and approachable teacher for all who learn from me. My students share the love of Reiki, whether they were previously Usui Reiki trained or not. 

At times, I’ve been informed (and even involved) in online discussions about what’s “better,” in person or online training. As I’ve said there and will say again, it depends on the teacher. It also depends on the student’s comfort level, but I do my best, even with online teaching, to provide the most personal experience possible for my students. Not all online training is equal, just as not all in-person training is equal in quality. It depends on the teacher being of high integrity, knowledge, approachability, and dedication.

Now there’s another issue that my students are facing, as well as others who receive training online. Some hospitals and other organizations who accept volunteers to provide Reiki will only accept individuals who have received training in person. Others will only accept individuals who have received Usui Reiki training. Practical Reiki (and other methods) are not treated with the same respect. So what are my wonderful students to do when they want to go out and dedicate their precious time to sharing Reiki in these places?

I guess we need to start a grass roots movement to establish cred and overcome the stigmas held by those who think that Usui Reiki is better than Practical Reiki, or that in person teaching trumps online learning. Yeah, we’ve got our work cut out for us. 

So here’s what I suggest.

If you’re faced with a challenge such as this, don’t give up. Politely request a meeting to discuss your training and demonstrate your expertise. Show the person in charge my book, and encourage them to read it. Offer to give the person a Reiki session. Talk clearly and confidently about your understanding and love for Reiki. 

If that doesn’t work, don’t worry. Send in your students, your friends who have learned, and others to do the same. Eventually, we’ll get a second look. 

If you want, have the person you meet with contact me. I’ll be happy to talk about my year at The Cleveland Clinic, and my two years at The Gathering Place (a support place for families touched by cancer). I’ll also be happy to talk about my Practical Reiki for Nurses course, which is approved to offer 8 CEs by the Ohio Board of Nursing. 

We are the change we want to see in the world. Reiki is healing energy, and the practitioner is the one who has the ethics, experience, and attunement to share it.

Let’s move the world with our light.

Reiki Awakening Reiki blog by Alice Langholt

The State of Wait

I feel like I live in a perpetual state of waiting. I’m waiting for registration to come in for classes scheduled soon, for checks to come in for work I’ve done, for packages to come with things I’ve ordered, for new opportunities to crystallize from the dream-seeds that I planted. I’m waiting.

I’m getting better at waiting though. I think I’m getting used to it maybe. I don’t get as anxious as I used to, and feel less stressed out. I have more faith that things are being arranged, and I see signs that things are developing to make them happen. That helps me have patience.

Today I had a powerful and profound day. I was at The Cleveland Clinic, where I volunteer as a Reiki practitioner on Tuesdays. I go around with one of the Healing Services staff, either a clergy or a staff Reiki practitioner, and give Reiki to patients who have put in a request for a visit. Sometimes in the afternoons, I go to nursing stations and offer the nurses Reiki. They usually accept if they have a few minutes, and they are enthusiastic and appreciative. It’s a fulfilling opportunity, and I look forward to it every week.

So, today I was going on patient visits with a Healing Services staff person. We went to visit and give Reiki to two patients who were in the stages of dying. There was no more that could be done (medically) for them, and we had been called to offer them Reiki to ease their transition. We also offered and then gave Reiki to their family members who were there with them.

Giving Reiki to these patients brought back intense memories of being with my mother-in-law at the end of last summer as she was going through this transition. I recognized immediately the way these patients were in and out of consciousness, the way they seemed between worlds.

Most of all, it brought back memories of the waiting that we all did as we were with my mother-in-law, during her final few days. The family members of these patients today were also waiting, providing comforting presence to their loved ones.

I could feel as the Reiki flowed that these patients were going to pass soon. The energy was different, slower, more gentle, than when I give Reiki to a person with an illness, wound, or post-operative procedure. Both patients acknowledged the energy. One said it was wonderful. The other nodded when we asked if it was okay for her. They both knew what was happening.

Their family members who we gave Reiki to afterward were appreciative. The energy helped them relax and feel cared for.

All day today, I’ve been reflecting on this experience. I understand the waiting they were all doing.

I asked the angels to be with them all, especially the little 4 year-old son of one of the patients. The waiting they are doing is a stronger, more emotionally intense kind of waiting than the waiting that’s part of my daily life. Their waiting is their job right now.

My daily waiting is something I have to monitor, though. It’s not my job. My job, I remind myself, is to live in NOW. Because waiting all the time takes away from what I’m doing now, and I forget to enjoy the present.

My kids are on winter break. I took them to the playground yesterday, despite the 19 degree temperatures outside, to slide down the icy-fast slide and then get some chocolate mint hot cocoa. It was my birthday. That part of the day was the best part of the day. We had a good time. Tonight, after dinner, we played a game together. Game night is one of their favorite family activities. When I’m distracted from the waiting by doing something fun with my kids, I am enjoying life a lot more.

Waiting can lead me to worrying. I’m going to be more mindful of that process, and make the effort to stay focused and present. Then the angels can do their work of making things happen, and they can line up the steps I’ll take toward getting me to my goals. This is a much better way to live.

Being in that waiting space again with the families of the transitioning patients today reminded me of the difference between necessary waiting and unnecessary waiting.

Reiki Awakening Reiki blog by Alice Langholt