Season 2 EP#65 Decolonizing Reiki: The Path of Energy Healing with Aki Hirata Baker
In this episode of Your Story Medicine, I welcome Aki Hirata Baker, a multi-modality healing facilitator, teacher and speaker, whose work is based on the anti-racist spiritual liberation principle. She uses various energetic healing modalities, flower essence therapy, Ayurvedic medicine, yogic principles, and lineage practices of medicine way and Toltec tradition to facilitate healing, which she considers to be the basic ingredient of social change and collective liberation. Aki is the founder of MINKA brooklyn, a collectively-run healing space that centers the work to heal from all forms of social oppressions to restore an un-capitalistic approach to the “business of being well.”
Main Topics Discussed:
- Defining “energy healing” and the history of Reiki
- The difference between “cultivated” and “channeled” energy healing
- How to begin the process of decolonization in our energy healing path
- Decolonizing our mindset by ridding ourselves of binary thinking
- Why every energy healing practitioner ought to take an anti-racism or decolonization class
What are you celebrating about yourself today?
Aki: I'm celebrating the fact that I'm going to be a grandmother at a tender age of 45.
How would you describe your medicine?
Aki: I'm a space holder. I'm a healing facilitator. We actually don't heal anyone—we heal ourselves: We rekindle that connection in clients to themselves—the connection to the power that we all have. I’m also a teacher. At the end of the day, I'm here to hold space.
How has your ancestral lineage led you on this path of being an energy healer?
Aki: I was born and raised in Japan. Prior to that, there's a lot of migration that has happened from China and Korea. Those are the things that I bring to my Reiki certification courses. I come from a very matriarchal family, being raised by my great grandmother, my grandmother, my mother, and my sister. We were a caring, nurturing household; so, one of the wounds that I needed to heal was refusing to care for myself because I had to care for others. And I became a mother at a very young age. And as a person of Asian descent, I’m in this position of being oppressed. To be a responsible space holder, I have to always be aware of the power that I hold as a space holder. I have to make sure to constantly remind folks that power is an illusion—that they have just as much power as I do. Power is in the people, in their lineage, in the soul and blood. Those who have been oppressed by the patriarchy and white supremacy simply need to rediscover all of that and bring to the surface that power that is already within them. My job as an energy healer and space holder is to awaken that power.
How do you present Reiki or energy healing as compared to the mainstream U.S. presentation of it?
Aki: One of the things that we have to be aware of is that Reiki has become what I would call a catchall phrase for energy healing. What most people know as “Reiki” is the system founded by Dr. Mikao Usui. He “rediscovered” energy healing and brought it to the masses. There are two kinds of energy healing: cultivated (where energy is nurtured within yourself) and channeled (where we receive energy via a channel). Channeling is “easier”, because we simply receive energy. But what I also try to teach is we are vessels of energy. Our ability to hold energy comes down to how we carry ourselves, because energy doesn't know who's the client and who's not the client. Energy just knows that there is a need for the healing to happen. There are a lot of things that we carry within ourselves that don't belong to us. That puts us in a direction that is not necessarily ideal for our growth or for our purpose.
For people who are feeling called to do energy healing, how is it that we can start decolonizing the ways we are showing up?
Aki: If you are practicing anything that is lineage-based such as Dr. Usui’s method—passed on from one person to the next—then you really want to be responsible in sharing the right information. Do your best to know the correct historical facts and understand the cultural context in which certain information was relayed. We teach this in our class, but there are things in the traditional Reiki manual that clearly is not factually true. The Japanese were looked upon a certain way during and after World War II; so, in order for this healing modality to spread in the world, we need to re-frame our paradigm. Decolonization happens when we stop looking at things from a binary standpoint—that things are either only “right” or “wrong”. This is very important in itself because when we actually look at our diseases or illnesses, we see misalignment as something that's evil: We wanna ostracize it and we wanna push it away. We don't wanna look at it or we curse it. But the thing is, we need to look it in the eye to find the lessons within that misalignment. Disease carries within it gems that we need to tap into so we can become a better version of ourselves. So, you know, Non-binary way of thinking is very difficult to do. By dropping our binary ways of thinking about many issues, we start on the path to decolonization.
You mentioned that you grew up in a matriarchal household. Was energy healing something that was present for you growing up, or was it something that didn't come until your later years?
Aki: In some ways. The Japanese generally aren’t that familiar with Reiki. The concept of herbs and food as medicine was always strong in my household. My mother was a nutritionist. I had to rediscover this ancient Japanese tradition later on, but the aptitude was always there.
As an Asian immigrant, what is it that called you to specifically spark your own decolonizing journey?
Aki: I never fit in, and never understood why people did things in a certain way. At some point when I was in middle school, I picked up this little book which really changed my life. It was a book written by a Japanese photojournalist who lived in Harlem, New York during the sixties during the civil rights movement and she documented her own experience. When I read that book, I said, “Oh, okay. Here's my people.” It’s funny, because I’m obviously not Black; yet, I can understand the resonance of not belonging somewhere, even though you were born there. So, from that point on, my focus was to come here to learn. I didn't have the awareness or language or anyone who could advise me to tell me that the work I wanted to do was decolonization or anti-racism. I'm a firm believer that decolonization starts with tapping into something that's invisible. That's how our ancestors lived: Our ancestors lived and worked with unseen energies. That’s what led me down the path of energy healing and vibrational healing.
What can people expect as your student?
Aki: We answer all questions fully. We have no Reiki “masters”, not that degrees are a bad thing, but I don’t want anyone to be intimidated or afraid of this journey. We don't just attune you and throw you out into the streets and say goodbye. We answer questions that you may not have had regarding energy, regarding safety, regarding space-holding, regarding how to navigate a changing world. We answer the question: How is it that energy healing can actually be a part of our liberation?
What have you learned to release?
Aki: Now that I’m 45, I’m trying not to work too hard even though I still enjoy my work very much.
If you could envision yourself as a future ancestor, what would they say to you today?
Aki: You’re doing your thing, and I love you for it.
Conclusion: Energy healing is one of the easiest practices you can do for yourself and your community. Our ancestors have paid the path and have passed these modalities onto us. It’s all easily accessible. Our job is simply to make sure the practice stays integral. We need to make sure that we will not continue to perpetuate tokenism, appropriation, and the diluting of the richness of the practice.
Action Integration: Every energy healing practitioner ought to take an anti-racism or decolonization class in order to shine a light on their blind spots and make change truly possible.