If the idea of alternative healing, or the healing power of energy, seems farfetched to you, you may want to stop reading here. The same holds true if “holistic healer as conduit” plays your keys the wrong way.

This is about Reiki, a form of alternative healing also known as a laying on of hands. Its name is derived from two Japanese words for “universal life force energy.” The Reiki practitioner claims to have developed her intuitive understanding of where to place the hands on the body in order to facilitate the flow of its healing energy.

It’s similar to acupuncture in that its goal is to facilitate the balance of the body’s energy. Yet different in that, besides the lack of a domino-like arrangement of pins, the practitioner transfers energy into a patient’s body.

Chestnut Hill resident Kezia Renée Lechner has been alleviating the stress, sores and pains of friends with acute and chronic illnesses through the practice of Reiki for more than a decade. Now, she is beginning to expand her work base and offer her services to the public. She launched her website,, in January.

It all started when the love of her life, a man she was with during the 1980s and apart from during the ‘90s, was dying of cancer in 1999. Her practice of Reiki on her ex-partner, John Irion, relieved some of his pain. It was around that time Lechner herself was introduced to Reiki by a friend’s wife who taught the modality.

Irion’s illness catalyzed Lechner’s pursuit of various alternative medical options, but it was to a friend that she ultimately went to learn. She studied and became a Level I, II and III Usui Reiki Master all in that same year.

According to Wikipedia, Reiki was developed in the 1920s by a Japanese Buddhist, Mikao Usui. Practitioners maintain that by placing the hands on certain parts of the body, generally the “chakras,” or intersections of the body’s energy system, universal energy is transferred through their palms, in the form of “ki,” to the patient.

The claim is that the body’s energy becomes balanced and adjusts the flow of the endocrine system. Advocates claim it can help one relax, reduce blood pressure, improve sleep and boost the immune system, among other benefits.

While accompanying Irion to his death was a revealing and profound experience, Lechner maintains her path as a healer really crystallized with a personal illness of her own in 2004. “It gave me an ability to express myself as a healer,” she said. “You learn about healing because you’ve experienced it yourself.”

Experience teaches you that healing is a multi-layered process that delves into more than the physical, she explained. Lechner has practiced the technique in various capacities, from hospice to working with individuals suffering from cancer, attracting patients via word of mouth.

You might say that the use of her hands to heal was a natural progression for Lechner. She graduated with a degree in sculpture from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in 1970. That program was part of a University of Pennsylvania collaboration, which means she also has a degree in fine arts from the U of P.

“As an artist and healer, my hands are important to me, and they already felt energized,” said Lechner. “I knew how to use my hands.”

Through the years the Hill resident has made a living teaching art part-time. During her 30s she worked as a sub-professor teaching sculpture at the Maryland Institute of Art. She has overseen many projects at numerous schools such as a 725-student ceramic tile mural at Jacksonwald Elementary School in Reading, and another mural for the Red Cross. She also had a seven-year residency funded by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, at the Center in the Park in Germantown, in which she taught art to senior citizens.

Before coming to Philadelphia, Lechner, who will be 65 this year, spent one year at Scripps College, a private liberal arts all-female school in Claremont, California. In 1966 she came to Philadelphia. She married when she was 21, still in school and living with her husband in Mt. Airy. (They are no longer married.) Her first job as an artist was at a psychiatric hospital in Roxborough.

Kezia grew up in a medically oriented home in Buffalo, New York. Her father, a German Jew who escaped from Nazi Germany in 1938, was a physician, and her mother was a nurse educator.

And over the past 12 years she has furthered her Reiki education, studying different forms such as Reiki Tummo, as well as Integrated Energy Therapy, Reconnective Healing and the Bengston Mind Technique.

In addition to making house calls, Lechner also practices “long-distance Reiki,” as well as Reiki on pets. The practice of long-distance Reiki is almost like prayer. She might use a photo of the person or pet she is working with, or write their name down on a piece of paper. Then she thinks about the person or pet and envisions healing light  going to the recipient.

It sounds farfetched, and perhaps it is. Yet perhaps to some, the science and philosophy of quantum physics, a field that could be said to encompass some of the ideas of Reiki, may also seem farfetched. Lechner admits Reiki is not for everyone, but rather for people “who think they are looking for a gentle and powerful healing.”

At present, she is also writing “Close to the Bone,” a memoir about her experience accompanying Irion to his death. She plans to make it an eBook.

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Ed. note: According to Wikipedia, “The concept of ‘ki’ underlying Reiki is speculative, and there is no scientific evidence that it exists; a 2008 systematic review of randomized clinical trials concluded that ‘the evidence is insufficient to suggest that Reiki is an effective treatment for any condition. Therefore the value of Reiki remains unproven.’”