What Is Reiki?

I never know what to say when people ask me what is Reiki. I don’t have an elevator pitch — you know, the kind where you say one sentence which will make your listener want to know more. I used to start out by giving a translation of what Reiki means in Japanese (rei = sacred, ki = universal energy), but I doubt the translation gives any information about how Reiki feels or what it can do. Reiki Master Pamela Miles suggests sitting the inquirer down for a sample treatment, but a Reiki treatment can easily last longer than an elevator ride between the first and fourth floors. Instead, I wonder if I can simply say that, for me, Reiki is about love, about filling myself or someone else with love. As the Beatles so aptly said, “Love, love, love. All you need is love.”

The popular legend of the origin of the system tells that Mikao Usui, the founder of Reiki, discovered Reiki while meditating on Mount Kurama, a spiritual mountain in Japan. Like most of us searchers for meaning, Usui too probably wanted to find answers to life’s questions: Who am I? What is my life’s purpose? Am I living up to my potential? Am I worthy of love? This was back in 1920. He fasted and meditated, and, while sitting there, he suddenly perceived above his head the Reiki cure. The legend doesn’t really say what the Reiki cure was, but this insight must have been the answer to Usui’s questions.

Usui came down from the mountain and founded a spiritual system that combined palm healing (moving energy with the palms of the hands), meditations, mantras, precepts and a spiritual blessing ceremony which he began teaching to students and used in treating clients. In this system he brought together elements of Buddhism, martial arts, and other spiritual practices. Any student of Reiki can be grateful to Usui for taking often obscure practices, which novices had previously spent most of their lives studying, and simplifying them so that we lay people can learn them in a weekend workshop and start applying them in our lives.

Some people say to me, how can touching someone with your hands help the person to heal or feel better? Palm healing has existed long before Usui incorporated it into his system. Medical Qigong, for example, is a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine which uses hand movements to move the energy in the body, displacing stagnant energy with healing without even using touch! In the New Testament, Jesus performs many miraculous healings by touching his patients. According to Frans and Bronwen Stiene of the International House of Reiki, “Palm-healing has a global history that extends throughout the ages. Religious groups and even monarchies (using their ‘Royal Touch’) have often claimed exclusive rights to these gifts, yet the truth is that each person has his or her own innate ability to heal.”

I love the emphasis the Stienes put on the idea that we each have our own innate ability to heal. The phrase really has a dual meaning: we have the ability to find healing, an inborn ability, but this inborn ability is not simply to heal, but to heal ourselves! The healing and the ability to heal truly come from inside us and not from some outside source. What we often see as the divine power to heal really exists inside each of us.

An innate ability to heal can be difficult to believe in our day and age. Sometimes, when I’m unwell, it seems to me that a headache won’t go away without pain medication or that an antibiotic treatment is necessary. And this, in fact, may be true. Reiki is not a substitute for medical attention. In a way, while Reiki can be used to improve our physical wellness, I see it really as a spiritual system meant to integrate our body, spirit and soul, or, if you prefer, our body and mind. It is a spiritual system whose purpose it is to heal our whole self, not just the physical body. Heal this whole self, and physical wellness may very well follow.

My purpose in teaching Reiki is to give you the tools to take yourself to the next level spiritually, to feel that your spirit and soul reside fully in your body and that you begin to accept and integrate all the aspects of yourself as one. I want you to believe that healing, true healing, is possible and comes from inside of you, to transcend the smaller ailments of the body and seek an alignment with that divine power which I believe exists inside each one of us.

In the Reiki I workshop we learn about the five elements of the system of Reiki: the five precepts which Usui claimed were the secret to happiness (kindness, trust, humility, honesty, and compassion), palm healing, meditations; and we receive the initiation ceremony, which is also a healing experience or a spiritual blessing. The mantras that belong to the system are taught in the second and third levels of Reiki. The workshop is mostly experiential with several guided meditations and practice sessions in which you will experience giving and receiving palm healing.

One of my favorite parts is teaching people the self treatment, or giving love to yourself, as I called it earlier. Many of us find it much easier to give love to or care for our children, for example, than to take care of ourselves. But Reiki is really first and foremost a system of self care, for how can we truly give others love if we don’t love ourselves? I love watching people accept their right and freedom to give love to themselves, accept their right to become their own best healer, in all aspects of the word.

To find out more about my classes, please check the Workshops page.

In the writing of this blog post, I used the following online articles:
http://www.ihreiki.com/blog/article/was_mikao_usui_a_yamabushi/ — This article by Frans Stiene gives some insight as to the spiritual practice of Shugendo which seems to have influenced Usui’s teachings.
http://www.ihreiki.com/reiki_info/five_elements_of_reiki/hands-on_healing  — This article from the IHReiki website describes the history of palm healing and includes a video of the five positions taught by Usui to begin a treatment.
http://reikiinmedicine.org/daily-practice/what-is-reiki-what-to-do/  — This article by Pamela Miles discusses the difficulty in explaining what Reiki is.
http://www.reiki.org/reikinews/reikin16.html  — This article by William Lee Rand discusses the Christian history of palm healing.
http://www.ihreiki.com/blog/article/119/  — This article by Bronwen and Frans Stiene gives a chronological history of the Reiki.
http://www.ihreiki.com/blog/article/eguchi_toshihiro_and_palm_healing/  — This article by Bronwen and Frans Stiene gives the history of one of Usui’s students, Eguchi, and his take on palm healing.

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Sigal Tzoore (650) 815-5109