Round and Round: Reiki for Vestibular Disorders

After decades of suffering with room spinning dizzy spells, anthropology instructor Elise Brenner acts on instinct and discovers a powerful cure.

Imagine visiting New York City for the first time in your life, but you are not able to look at thrilling architectural sights beyond the first floor. Imagine accompanying excited children to the playground, but you are not able to watch your own children swoop with glee on the swings or squeal with delight on the merry-go-round. Imagine that everyday tasks, such as dusting and doing laundry, are minefields with disaster looming with each turn of the head. This puzzling set of challenges is what individuals suffering from inner ear balance disorders, known as vestibular disorders, face everyday.

For two decades I battled a vestibular disorder, which interfered with my daily activities and created serious anxiety. I faced constant uncertainty, not knowing what wrong move I might make would set off an “episode.” An “episode” for me went something like this: I either wake up in the morning with the room spinning, or I engage in an activity during the day that sets off dizziness. The dizziness soon induces nausea. The nausea, in turn, causes vomiting. At this point, whatever people or places were supposed to fill my day, were completely over for me. All I could do was to sit completely still, perhaps moaning a bit, between bouts of vomiting. Despite attempts at various medications, the scenario may well end with a trip to the emergency room due to severe dehydration.

Biomedical interventions through the years provided some relief, but were never a guarantee that an agonizing day would not ensue. The anxiety in my life at that time centered not around job or family, but around whether I would get through the day, week, month without a horrifying dizzy-nausea-vomiting episode. I can recall many frantic moments making phone calls, during which I could barely speak, to get a substitute instructor or to otherwise inform co-workers and employers that I was too ill to work. Needless to say, sufferers from vestibular disorders endure chronic and severe physical and emotional symptoms from which most folks are blessedly shielded.

The gift of Reiki and a reprieve from my own vestibular disorder came in an unexpected way, as is common to many Reiki practitioners and clients. My sister-in-law, attuned to Reiki I, offered to treat a back strain I experienced. I was surprised and delighted to feel intense warmth emanating from her hands during the treatment, and elated to walk away with great comfort in my lower back. I sought out my sister-in-law several more times over the next few years for exercise-related knee pain and back aches. I always asked her to put her hands over the injured body part, and was completely unaware that whole body treatments were possible. Each time she treated me I was blessed with relief from the specific pain and my healing time was greatly reduced. I was grateful to my sister-in-law for the Reiki treatments and amazed at the results, but nothing further occurred to me at the time.

I felt curious about how such beneficial results were possible, but had drawn a boundary in my mind between Western science and “anything else.” Although I am an anthropologist and have developed a deep respect for ancient and cross-cultural healing practices, as a Westerner, I felt that such techniques belonged to others and we should not appropriate this knowledge for ourselves. I had drawn a line, which took my own journey with Reiki to erase. With time, and Reiki, I was able to truly know and feel that all peoples and all wisdom are connected. I was able to let go of the feeling that certain knowledge and practices are “owned” by one culture and not available to others.

As a busy anthropology instructor, with many students and piles of papers to correct, I rarely had time to peruse community publications. But one day I happened to pick up a copy of a local newsletter, and there I read about a Reiki 1 class being offered. Without hesitation, I called and registered for the class. There have been only a few events in my life that I undertook without deliberation, and all of these were among the most valuable events in my life. Reiki 1 was no exception. I loved every moment of every hour of the class. The attunements felt natural to me; they felt like something for which I had always been waiting. I began self-treatments immediately, and have not missed a day ever since.

One day, perhaps a month or two later, I stopped short in the middle of an ordinary day and suddenly realized I had not experienced a dizzy-nausea-vomiting episode for quite some time. I thought to myself, “Could it be the Reiki?” I worked out the timing of my Reiki 1 class and the apparent cessation of my vestibular disorder symptoms, and the timing sure seemed about right.

Still, despite the facts that stared me in the face, the scientific “me” was still looming over the Reiki “me,” being skeptical about the whole thing. I persisted in my self-treatments and the months without any symptoms of dizziness rolled by. I thought about the balancing effects of Reiki and considered that the self-treatments had literally balanced me! I did not suddenly flirt with danger, and run outside to do somersaults on the lawn or trek out to Six Flags to hit the giant roller coaster, but my daily trepidation and anxiety had melted away along with the vestibular disorder symptoms.

Months had passed by now, and during that time I was blessed again to take Reiki 2. Still a busy person who rarely read community publications, I happened to pick up the newsletter from my local hospital. On the last page was a list of support groups. What made me read through the list, I do not know, but there was a Vestibular Disorders Support Group! So many thoughts flooded my mind: “Why didn’t I know about this years ago? What a boon to people who suffer in ways that no one else can really relate to! Hey, maybe I have a responsibility to contact the group and share with them my experience with the healing benefits of Reiki!!”

Yet, as a Reiki practitioner with a fledgling private practice, I felt that touting the benefits of Reiki to a Vestibular Support group would smack of self-serving marketing. On the other hand, I was, in fact, actively seeking clients at that time. I went back and forth: should I contact the group? Do I have a real responsibility here? What is the path of honesty for me in this situation? In the end, with the encouragement of Reiki friends, I took the plunge and phoned the support group’s facilitator. She was open and welcoming, with only a hint of doubt and skepticism. She knew how difficult Vestibular Disorders are to treat and that her group members were always looking for help. I discussed my experiences, and how Reiki alleviated my symptoms. I was invited to make a presentation at the group’s meeting in two months.

Prior to the presentation, the group’s facilitator made an appointment to receive a full Reiki treatment from me. She wanted to be able to personally vouch for me to her group’s members. The treatment, she felt, was beneficial, and she felt comfortable recommending Reiki treatment to her members. Given that this was to be my first semi-public presentation about Reiki, I planned everything ahead of time, bringing books, articles, and brochures for people to browse through while I gave sample treatments. I assumed I’d be lucky if two, or at most, three, people volunteered to receive sample treatments.

The presentation went something like I’d imagined and planned for. The major differences were, first, that the members were warmer, more encouraging, and more welcoming that I’d envisioned. Second, every single person sitting around the large table wanted a sample treatment! After checking with the facilitator, who gave me the go-ahead, I gave sample treatments to each of the group members in turn. And, yes, I gave out my business cards. I offered all Vestibular Disorders Support Group members a perpetual discount off each Reiki session, since my heart was inextricably connected to them and their pain.

Now, instead of going round and round with dizziness, I am able to allow the Reiki energy to flow into me and out to others in a healing cycle. So, it does go round and round, after all.


For more information on vestibular disorders, refer to the Vestibular Disorders Association at

Elise Brenner, Ph.D., is a Reiki Master teacher trained in Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki. She works with people of all ages who wish to benefit from Reiki through her practice, Brenner Reiki Healing, in Newton, MA. For more information please contact Elise Brenner at, or visit her website at

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