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Reiki is one of the most popular, yet least understood, healing modalities. As a Reiki Master, I find myself educating people on Reiki and clearing up many misunderstandings. On a whole, people know Reiki practitioners are involved in a form of healing, but beyond that, most people don't understand what they do. And because Reiki is such a flexible healing system, many people add to it with personalized techniques and other healing methods.
Reiki translates to "universal life force," and refers to a system of healing that channels subtle energy (what is termed ki in Japanese) to aid the healing process of yourself and others. Reiki is a relatively modern system, and although many speculate it has an ancient origin, it can be historically traced back to a single founder in Japan named Dr. Mikao Usui, who was born in 1864. All traditions of modern Reiki have branched off from Usui's own pioneering blend of deep study and divine inspiration.
Because Reiki heals with energy and a treatment is often administered through touch, many claim to be doing Reiki with no training. I come across a lot of people who tell me they don't need to take a Reiki class because they already do it naturally. Many other forms of mysticism offer training in hands-on and distance healing, using a variety of techniques. Some are just natural healers. They, too, use life energy. What is different between these healing modalities and Reiki?
To practice Reiki, you must be trained by a Reiki Master. There is a difference in the system of Reiki and reiki the energy. I use a capital R and lowercase r to differentiate. When anybody does energy healing, they are using reiki, although it is known as chi, prana, mana, pnumen, or rauch in other traditions. When doing Reiki, you are using a specific system, with specific training and techniques, to access this life force. Reiki training is fairly simple, as the Reiki Master "attunes" the student to the reiki energy. The Reiki Master acts as an expert radio technician, and when the student is attuned, her inner radio is now able to "pick up" the frequency of reiki, of pure universal life force. They do this through a special attunement ritual, like an initiation ritual for those who join magical orders, but this ritual joins you to the tradition of Reiki. Once someone is attuned to Reiki, the pure life energy is readily available anytime, primarily through the hands. Hands-on, reiki energy flows. Hands-off, the reiki stops flowing. There is not a lot of concentration, focus, or will involved other than starting the flow. A practitioner simply observes the flow in a detached manner. One can never be un-attuned. It never wears off or goes away. It is a lineage-based tradition, as each practitioner can trace individual lineage back to Dr. Usui.
The system comes with its own built-in safe guards, one of the incentives of being trained in it. These prevent a practitioner from taking on the illness of the client. The energy flows ones way. Though some perceive sensations from the client through their psychic ability, the practitioner will not take on the illness and doesn't have to exert any effort to shield him or herself. The energy is based on a system of offering. The practitioner is "offering" the life force to the recipient, and the recipient decides how much or how little energy to take, either on an unconscious level, or what some would consider to be a super-conscious or higher-level self. The practitioner cannot overload or short circuit the energy system of the client. The energy is pure life force, tapped from an untouched source. Unlike other forms of pranic healing, it does not need to be cleansed or refined through intense concentration before being offered to the client.
Reiki energy flows to wherever the imbalance is. Reiki practitioners learn that the energy flows to "wherever it's needed for the highest good." Reiki is guided by the body wisdom, or soul wisdom, of the recipient. Though you can focus on a healing intention, such as healing back pain, if the energy is needed someplace else in body, or needed on another level (the emotional, mental, or spiritual body), then the energy will flow there. It may eventually solve the back pain, if the energy is flowing to the emotional/mental/spiritual root of the back pain, but there is no guarantee it will go where you intend. Reiki can often bring pain relief, speedy recovery, emotional release, and spiritual insights. It can bring amazing miracles, but they often manifest in ways that we don't expect.
Reiki teachings are divided into three levels, with the third entitled Reiki Master. Reiki Master refers to a Reiki teacher. Master means teacher in Japanese, not a spiritual master or enlightened being. Some Western Reiki traditions, but not all, have divided the Reiki Master training into two halves. The first half is called a Reiki Master, who has some of the knowledge of the third level, but not the knowledge to attune others. The second half is called Reiki Master-Teacher, which is the full training, with the ability to attune. To the traditionalist, that title would be like saying Reiki Master-Master, leaving people confused. My training only has one complete third level, but I’ve had people ask if I'm "only" a Reiki Master, and not Teacher, so now I just prefer the title Reiki Teacher.
If you decide you want to study Reiki, you will have to find a Reiki Teacher willing to teach you. Some teach one on one; others work with small or large groups. Some simply perform attunements, without a class or apprenticeship format, of which I am not a big fan. Even though it's a very simple, intuitive system, particularly with training at level one, I think it's best to have some guidance and education about the system you are training in. David F. Vennells, in Reiki for Beginners, outlines some tips before receiving an attunement:
Though these are great guidelines, Reiki attunement will still work if you can't fulfill these suggestions. I have given attunements to people in crowded hospital waiting rooms in the midst of crisis and they still worked quite well.
Vennells also tells us what to expect after an attunement, as there is often a cleansing of the body and mind. Though these seem like minor unwanted symptoms, after this type cleansing greater health and clarity are reported on all levels. It's good to be aware of these potential symptoms, since many receive Reiki attunements without any training, and become alarmed when experiencing the cleanse.
Reiki for Beginners includes a variation of the five Reiki principles. There are many forms of the principles, but this simple version is easy to remember and integrate into your life.
Reiki for Beginners gives a thorough overview of Reiki, its teachings, how it is used and where it comes from, including a thorough look at the history of Reiki, its relationships to Buddhism, and personal stories of Reiki from people's lives.
For a less traditional view on Reiki, my own book, Magick of Reiki: Focused Energy for Healing, Ritual and Spiritual Development, looks at the Reiki system, where it's been and where it's going, particularly in the magical communities of pagans, witches, magicians, and New Age mystics. I realized that many magickal practitioners were getting involved in Reiki to enhance their magick and healing work. They were using Reiki to infuse candles, crystals, herbal potions, and ritual.
My book looks at how Reiki has been combined with ritual for protection, healing, and manifestation. Reiki was also linked with the concept of spirit guides as the tradition expanded into new areas. In level two, many practitioners learn that after the Reiki attunement, they have attracted a Reiki guide. This healing spirit guide, possibly the spirit of someone who has done healing work in a past life, guides their Reiki work. In meditation, some see guides from the Eastern traditions, but others have also seen healing gods, angels, ascended masters, and ancestors.
Magick of Reiki also explores the modern Reiki systems in detail, which include modern symbols shared freely among Reiki practitioners in various traditions. The traditional system of Reiki has four symbols used to direct energy. These symbols tune into the universal life force. The first three practitioner symbols are learned in level two, while the master symbol, used in both healing and in the attunement process, is revealed in the third level. For a very long time the Reiki symbols were kept secret, as a sign of respect to the symbols and the tradition. As Reiki spread throughout the Western world, practitioners and teachers began to receive "visions" of new symbols, and created new systems. The original Reiki symbols, and modern symbols, have subsequently been "revealed" online and in books. Practitioners of magick have noticed the similarities of using symbols in Reiki and other forms of magick, to guide and direct energy. Reiki symbols can be used like other magickal symbols, drawn in the air, drawn over objects, carved on candles, and used in artwork. The possibilities are endless.
Reiki is a fast-expanding tradition of healing. Although its roots are in Japanese Buddhism, Reiki welcomes all traditions and faiths. While we expand and add to Reiki, it's important to understand what is traditional and what is a Reiki "add on" (what some call a "New Age add on"). All of these techniques are wonderful and compatible, but it's also important to understand the simplicity of the original system.
If you are interested in experiencing this healing modality, I highly suggest you get a treatment and experience it directly. Most communities have Reiki practitioners now. Read about it online and through books. There are many Reiki views. Educate yourself about it. If it's right for you, add this energy into your own life and healing practices by getting Reiki training and an attunement from a qualified teacher.
Christopher Penczak is a Witch, teacher, writer, and healing practitioner. He is the founder of the world-renowned Temple of Witchcraft and the Temple Mystery School, and he is the creator of the bestselling Temple of ...