Reiki Basics


Rei translates from Japanese as spirit, sacred, and/or divine, while ki translates to energy, power, and/or consciousness. When we combine rei and ki we create the word reiki, which could be translated as divine energy, divine consciousness, spiritual power, etc.

Reiki energy is the energy of creation, which we also call universal love or unconditional love. This universal love is the inherent goodness of all creation, and it constantly works within us throughout our lives; we are constantly being pulled out of our ignorance, pain and dysfunctional behavior toward something that feels better, more authentic, and more harmonious. We are all on the journey of living and acting from self-interest, fear, ignorance, and separation to living and acting from love, truth, clarity, and unity

Reiki energy is the essence of our inherent goodness and the movement from stress to relaxation, from confusion to clarity, from unconsciousness to sensitivity, from chaos to harmony, from dysfunction to function, from self-centeredness to compassion. Wherever Reiki energy flows, this process is enlivened and quickened, and can never work for anything but the highest good of ourselves and of all creation.

The Birth of Reiki as a Healing Art

Reiki, as a system and lineage of natural healing, came into being through a powerful and unexpected spiritual awakening in the life of Mikao Usui in March of 1922.

Mikao UsuiWhile there have been many stories and myths about Mikao Usui and the birth of Reiki, what we know is that Usui was born in Japan on August 15, 1865. Usui had a life-long love of learning, and throughout his studies and various career positions, Usui was always exploring our deepest spiritual questions and searching for their answers. This eventually led him to Zen Buddhism, and he was accepted by a Zen teacher with the intention to experience Anshin Ritusmei, or enlightenment, for his own benefit and the good of all beings.

After 3 years of intense meditation and training, Usui still had not reached his goal and sought further guidance. It is generally understood that Usui felt his life was not going well at this point, and, in response, Usui’s teacher encouraged him to undertake a more rigorous practice of fasting and meditation. In February of 1922, Usui climbed Mt. Kurama, a sacred mountain to Buddhists and a well-known power spot, in search of guidance.

Mt. KuramaAfter 21 days of intense fasting, prayer, and meditation, Usui was very weak and felt that death was near. At close to midnight, a lightning-like bolt of energy suddenly poured through his head and he fell unconscious. Upon awakening at sunrise, Usui discovered that he no longer felt weak and near-death, but revitalized, restored, uplifted, and filled with a potent spiritual energy. In addition to this new-found vitality, he also experienced himself as being the energy and consciousness of the Universe, and that the enlightenment he had sought had been given to him as a gift.

The traditional story continues as follows: When this happened, he was filled with excitement and went running down the mountain. On his way down he stubbed his toe on a rock and fell down. And in the same way anyone would do, he placed his hands over the toe, which was in pain. As he did this, healing energy began flowing from his hands all by itself. The pain in his toe went away and the toe was healed. Usui was amazed by this. He realized that in addition to the illuminating experience he had received, he had also received the gift of healing.

Whether or not this last part is true, it soon became clear to Usui that he had indeed been endowed with some kind of special healing energy. Usui practiced this new ability with his family and went on to develop his healing system through experimentation and by using skills and information based on his previous study of other spiritual practices and disciplines.

Reiki Attunements and Development

Reiki is passed from teacher to student by a series of special attunements. An attunement is a symbolic gesture performed by a teacher that directly opens a student’s energy system to receive Reiki energy. Once attuned, a student can channel Reiki for themselves and others, for the rest of their life, simply by intention. No special techniques must be learned or practiced, and the ability can never be lost. Just to silently ask the Reiki energy to flow is enough to begin channeling it for yourself or another.

The more you channel Reiki, take classes, and work on your own personal and spiritual development, the more open your energy system will be, the more you will be able to sense, and the more Reiki you will be able to channel.

There are traditionally 3 or 4 levels of Reiki training. The first level gives you the ability to channel Reiki for yourself and others, and each successive level opens your system more and gives you new ways to work with the energy. When you are ready, the 4th level initiates you into the role of teacher, and you learn how to give Reiki attunements and pass this healing gift to others.

Channeling Reiki

Again, once you are attuned by a Reiki teacher, you may channel Reiki at any time simply by intention. When you begin channeling, Reiki energy flows down through your crown chakra, into your heart center, though your arms, and out your palms.  The Reiki energy will flow through you, into your intended receiver, and will be guided by it’s own intelligence and the wisdom of unconditional love; it is enough to place your hands in the area of an imbalance and begin channeling – the energy will work in whatever way is most needed.

The healing Reiki brings may appear as physical restoration and relief, or it may be working on the root of an issue at the mental or emotional level. Or, Reiki may be working on levels beyond our own understanding and sensing ability. This is OK. The more fully we can surrender and trust that Reiki is doing what’s most needed, the more deeply Reiki can work and the more clearly we will sense what is actually happening.

 Usui’s Wisdom

Our challenge today, however, is that with Reiki’s world-wide evolution has come the dilution of Usui’s original wisdom. Usui was not a fully enlightened master, but a normal, simple, sincere human being who devoted his life to personal growth and the betterment and his world. Along the way, a profound realization and a great healing gift unexpectedly came to him, which he spent the rest of his life sharing.

Like any good teacher, Usui taught that our first goal must be the healing of our minds and hearts. With a clear mind and heart, physical healing and vitality naturally flow. When our consciousness is raised, the functioning of our entire being is more harmonious and our presence alone becomes healing. Though not absolutely necessary, with a clear mind and heart it is easier for us to advance spiritually and discover the deeper truths of our being. Usui knew this, and made it clear that this was Reiki’s most important contribution to our lives.

Along with simply channeling Reiki, Usui offered additional spiritual practices, energy sensing techniques, and moral guidance to his students. It was understood that a student’s healing ability went hand-in-hand with their personal and spiritual growth, and the two were always addressed equally.

While Usui made these guidelines the foundation of his teachings, he also understood that the healing of the body, mind, and heart are inseparable; giving care and Reiki to the physical body first will help correct imbalances in the mind and heart as well. Rooted in the essence of his teachings, he also made the healing power of Reiki available to anyone for any reason, and encouraged it’s use for any and all situations. Such is the nature of compassion and the essence of Reiki.

It’s important to keep these points in mind as you continue developing your healing abilities; the more you work on yourself, the better healer you will be. No matter how much Reiki you can channel, the clarity of your consciousness and the warmth of your presence are far more important.

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