Reiki and the Power of Heart Breathing. An Interview with Reiki Master, Deborah Flanagan

written by Anjula March 16, 2015
Levitating Monkey recently had the pleasure of speaking with Reiki Master, Deborah Flanagan. 
Levitating Monkey: Your unique approach has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show and in O, the Oprah Magazine, among others. As a former ballet dancer, having toured with Southern Ballet Theatre, as well as teaching ballet to at-risk children, how did you first become interested in Reiki, Hypnosis and Reflexology?

Deborah Flanagan: I first became interested in Reiki, and several years later delved into reflexology and hypnosis. I had never had a Reiki session, I didn’t know exactly what it was, and I wasn’t sure it was something I would be able to do, but I signed up for a Reiki I class out of curiosity, little expecting it would be something I would do professionally. I loved what I learned, and continued studying all three levels of the system of Reiki. In my previous career, I was a development director at various arts nonprofits for fifteen years. I continued to work full-time doing that, but started seeing clients for Reiki sessions on a part time basis, later transitioning to doing this work full time. Once I was practicing professionally, I added reflexology and hypnosis to my practice, to add to my toolbox of healing techniques.

Levitating Monkey: What is Reiki?

Deborah Flanagan: Reiki is a hands-on healing technique from Japan and means “spiritual life-force energy.” “Ki” (the second part of the word Reiki) is the Japanese equivalent of the concept of “Chi” or “Qi;” the flow of energy you hear referenced in Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and martial arts. The practice of Reiki guides this “Ki” or energy, enhancing wellness by helping your body bring itself into balance.

Levitating Monkey: What type of Reiki do you practice and how does it differ from others?

Deborah Flanagan: I studied both Eastern and Western traditions of Reiki. As a Reiki teacher and practitioner I blend the two, with special emphasis on the traditional Japanese teachings. I practice daily Reiki self care and meditation. I think daily self care and a strong meditation practice is the most important thing to look for in a Reiki practitioner or teacher regardless of what type of Reiki they practice.

Deborah Flanagan, Reiki Master

Deborah Flanagan, Reiki Master

Levitating Monkey: What has the greatest reward been from incorporating Reiki into your life?

Deborah Flanagan: When I took my first Reiki class years ago, I had no idea how dramatic the impact would be. Reiki has improved every aspect of my life. Some highlights include: overcoming an “incurable” thyroid diagnosis, changing some long-held negative relationship patterns and meeting (and marrying!) the right person for me; and making a big career transition as a wellness practitioner and teacher. None of these things changed immediately the day after my first Reiki class of course, but having this daily practice and way to take care of myself has been profound.

Levitating Monkey: How does Reiki help with healing, (both emotional and physical)?
Deborah and Client - Reiki Session

Deborah and Client – Reiki Session

Deborah Flanagan: During a Reiki session, the body’s nervous system shifts from sympathetic, fight-or-flight mode, into parasympathetic mode, often referred to as the Relaxation Response. Reiki activates your body’s self-healing response—assisting in releasing muscle tension, aiding in detoxification, and improving circulation. In addition to this physical response, Reiki helps balance your emotions—many people I’ve worked with notice they feel more centered and connected to their intuition after a session.

Levitating Monkey: As we gear up for Spring, can you provide your top tips to help relieve daily stress (exercises, breathing techniques, EFT )?

Deborah Flanagan: I recommend figuring out ways to interrupt stress throughout your day. I often share with clients one-minute self-hypnosis techniques such as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and Heart Breathing. If you’re not familiar with EFT, you can read more about how to do it here.  And here’s part two of the article.

Heart Breathing is a technique to balance and synchronize your heart and brain. It creates powerful changes in your heart rhythm, sending signals to the brain to improve how you’re feeling. Here’s a simplified version:

Drop your awareness down to your heart. Imagine you can breathe from your heart. Think of someone or some place you love and imagine breathing this love in and out through your heart for a few minutes. You’ll notice a shift as you do this.

Levitating Monkey: Can you tell us about the work you do with patients at NYU Langone Medical Center?

Deborah Flanagan: I’ve been working at the Initiative for Women with Disabilities (IWD) at NYU Medical’s Hospital for Joint Diseases for the past five years, offering patients Reiki sessions and teaching them Reiki I. Many of the women who participate in the program are dealing with issues such as chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis, and mobility varies greatly from person to person. The need to be flexible is key: some of the women aren’t able to get on the massage table so I do their sessions in their wheelchair. Sometimes it’s too painful for a patient to lie on her front or back and she’s only able to lie on her side. I do the session placing my hands in positions differently and more creatively than normal, and use several pillows to make the person as comfortable as possible. This makes it more of a collaborative effort and is a good reminder that a session should always be collaborative. It’s less about the practitioner as the giver and the patient as the receiver, and more about sharing Reiki the way you dance with a partner. IWD is truly an amazing program and I love being involved with it.

Levitating Monkey: For someone interested in pursuing a career in the fields of Reiki, Hypnosis and Reflexology, can you provide any pointers on getting started?

Deborah Flanagan: Give yourself plenty of time to really take in what you learn in class. Give and receive a LOT of sessions. Work through your own issues (receiving sessions is an amazing way to do this!) and develop a strong meditation practice. I had a teacher who had us perform over 100 Reiki sessions before we could start seeing paying clients. You want to have a strong foundation in place so you can be a grounded practitioner. I’m also finishing up a book for new practitioners about how to set up the logistics of a wellness business: Building a Powerful Practice. It’s another way to be grounded in this work by having the logistics in place for your practice.

Levitating Monkey: You have helped many of your clients with increasing confidence and self-esteem, can you provide one tip that we can incorporate into our day to day to build our self-esteem?

Deborah Flanagan: I love helping clients feel more confident and connected to who they are. Here’s a 10-second daily tip: when you first get up each morning, look at yourself in the mirror and say out loud, “I love you and you’re beautiful.” It sounds silly and easy, but it’s often difficult to say it, look yourself in the eye, and mean it. Do this every day and see how it changes your life.

Levitating Monkey: Can you tell us about your book of poetry, forthcoming from Tupelo Press?

Deborah Flanagan: My book, Or, Gone, is populated by famous historical figures—George Washington, Emerson, Casanova, Houdini, Peggy Guggenheim, Francis Bacon, to name a few—dealing with the struggle between faith and science and our common  challenge to ‘connect the body back to the earth / with the soul’s light.’ I love exploring the hidden, less well-known aspects of these famous personalities and how they inform our own search for meaning. I think poetry allows us to revisit our connections to the past in ways the study of history can’t. It’s funny, I’ve always thought of my poetry being separate from the work that I do in my wellness practice, but in fact, it’s quite connected.

Levitating Monkey: If you could impart three key life lessons to others on their spiritual path, what would they be and why?

Deborah Flanagan: 3 Life lessons:

  1. Say what you need to say rather than holding it in.
  2. Listen to your body—it can tell you wise and wonderful things.
  3. Be creative and find things to do that inspire you.

My favorite Reiki precept (principles to live by) is “to show compassion to yourself and others.” When we’re able to be kind to ourselves we’ll be able to be more compassionate with other people—less angry, worried, judgmental, etc. This is something I strive to practice every day (easier said than done some days!)

About Deborah Flanagan:

Deborah Flanagan established the Center for True Health in 2008 and offers sessions and classes. She guides people through stress, major life changes, and health challenges using a path of empowerment that combines Reiki, Hypnosis, and Reflexology.

Guided by Deborah, clients connect to their intuition, finding ways to make changes and achieve balance that is inspired from within. Her unique approach has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show and in O, the Oprah Magazine. In addition, she’s been a featured expert on national television, as well as in print and online, for ABC, Veria Living TV, Organic Spa Magazine, and, among others. She also works with patients at NYU Langone Medical Center, teaching Reiki classes, as well as giving individual sessions. Deborah previously worked with patients in the hospice ward at Beth Israel Medical Center. 

To learn more, visit her website or her facebook page. Or, click here to purchase her book, Building a Powerful Practice: Successful Strategies for Your Wellness Business.


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Reiki and the Power of Heart Breathing. An Interview with Reiki Master, Deborah Flanagan
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Reiki and the Power of Heart Breathing. An Interview with Reiki Master, Deborah Flanagan
In this interview with Deborah Flanagan, we discuss Reiki, Hypnosis and Reflexology. Deborah specializes in dealing with stress, anxiety or depression.
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