What Is Reiki?
Reiki is a complementary wellness support service offered at many hospitals, private practices and community events to help relieve pain, anxiety and other discomfort, and to promote relaxation, healing and general wellbeing. While Reiki is often delivered through a practitioner’s hands gently placed on or just over the patient for several minutes or more, Virtual Reiki (VR) can also be effectively delivered over long distances. Reiki soothes the sympathetic nervous system and engages the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing the effects of stress and trauma and enhancing comfort and calm.
What Can Reiki Help?
Reiki can help with any condition or level of health.
Some of the most common reasons people use Reiki include
relief from pain, anxiety, chronic conditions, stress, depression, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, and other physical, mental and emotional challenges
preventing, preparing for and recovering from illness, injury, surgery and other crises
relaxation and ease during childbirth, end of life care, and other life transitions
calm and comfort along with first aid and other appropriate actions in emergencies
deepening intimacy and healthy connection in couples, families or work teams
aging gracefully, choosing to mature and continue personal growth throughout life
mental alertness, creative inspiration, emotional balance, sensitivity and strength
developing intuition, spiritual connection and guidance, life purpose, outside a formal religion or in harmony with any tradition
supporting holistic wellbeing as a way of life
Who Can Reiki Help?
Everyone can benefit from Reiki, since it's already present to some degree in the Essential life force within us all, including
individuals of any age, gender, health condition or other characteristics
couples at any stage of relationship
parents and families of all kinds
work, sports, project or other teams
caregivers, teachers, helping professionals, community volunteers, clergy
healing arts providers, medical personnel, first responders
people with chronic conditions or acute illness or injury
A Reiki Session
Reiki sessions can be as informal as a ten-minute demonstration at a festival or can last one to two hours, including consultation and transition time. My Essential Arts standard Reiki treatments last sixty to ninety minutes, but can be adjusted to suit the client's needs.
A standard Reiki session is conducted on a Reiki table similar to a massage table, but fully clothed except for shoes. The atmosphere is quiet and serene, either in my professional Reiki studio or at your home, sometimes even in a beautiful outdoor setting when the weather allows.
The comfort of the client is central, so you are welcome to add or remove a blanket, change position, speak or remain silent, and even use the bathroom if needed. Most of the time clients simply relax into the bliss of Reiki and find at the end of the session that time has passed quickly yet they feel refreshed and comfortable.
We discuss your objectives before and after, and your experience with the session, if you choose. Sometimes I receive intuitive guidance which I share with you with your consent.
I am always happy to continue to support you and to receive feedback after the session. It is common for the client to have questions or notice their experiences after a Reiki treatment, as the energy healing continues long after the session.
General & Specific Treatments
Reiki treatments often combine two approaches - general and specific - though each session can focus more on one or the other.
A general treatment includes about a dozen practitioner hand positions covering the main energy centers of the front of the body from head to foot, and sometimes the back. Specific treatment focuses more on an area of pain, injury or illness that needs intensive healing.
In the general treatment, the practitioner's hands usually remain in one position for a few minutes. In a specific treatment, the session may be entirely or mostly devoted to just the area in acute need.
One amazing property of Reiki is that it will "go where it needs to go" as practitioners often say. For example, I have had a Reiki practitioner place her hands on my head and felt the energy go right to the tension in my lower back. For this reason, it is less important exactly where the hands are placed than the fact that contact is made and healing stimulated through the body's natural healing systems.
Reiki is a beautifully simple and powerful technique that can only be passed from teacher to student directly through attunements that activate the student's healing ability. Some classroom information is included in the training, but the main body of learning is physical and intuitive, not intellectual. While there are multiple teaching traditions that differ somewhat, Usui Reiki Training in the tradition I study and teach progresses through four levels.
Level 1 is the initial healing activation and gives an introduction to the history of Reiki and how to do a treatment on oneself and others. Self-practice is emphasized from the beginning, as the foundation of Reiki practice, as well as the Reiki principles and ethics, described below. Practice on one's family and friends also begins in Level 1. Click here for more details on each training level and opportunities to get involved.
I will continue to support students after each level of training to ensure that Reiki is being used and cultivated, honored and explored as widely and deeply as possible. Each Level is taught in a one-day workshop, yet the true education unfolds throughout the life of the student, especially with a teacher's continuing support. There will be questions and observations the student will want to share, and I am happy to witness and guide students' development throughout their lifelong Reiki practice.
Reiki training is a beautiful path that can powerfully benefit anyone who steps into the stream of Reiki healing and lineage.
Principles, Ethics & Spirituality
Reiki is not a religion, yet is compatible with other spiritual traditions and paths. The founder of Reiki, Sensei Mikao Usui, deliberately resisted classifying Reiki as a religion, even under political pressure at one point in its early history in Japan.
Reiki does emphasize certain principles and ethics along with the healing practice, and it certainly does aid in spiritual growth, being a truly holistic healing method. Reiki practitioners learn these principles and ethics from the first level of training and are expected to practice them regularly. Recipients of Reiki healing are also traditionally encouraged to adopt these teachings to aid in every day life and fulfillment as integral elements of good health.
The philosophy and ethics of the practice of Reiki are deeply ecumenical, progressive and empowering, as well as inclusive, gentle and compassionate:
Reiki is consensual. Reiki is always offered, never forced on anyone "for their own good." We trust that each person knows what is best for themselves at any given time, regardless of our opinion, and that respecting the individual's free will is the kindest act of healing and respect we can offer.
Reiki is for everyone ... Reiki helps us to have compassion for others, whether or not we agree with them or approve of their choices or behavior. When we realize we all possess the Divine spark of Life, and we all need Reiki, it helps to break down the divides that we believe exist between us, uniting all in one human family, one family of Earth beings. Reiki practitioners sometimes even notice that Reiki starts flowing through our hands spontaneously in response to a need nearby, without even thinking about it.
... including ourselves. We start by treating ourselves with Reiki, for we are no less deserving than anyone else. In fact, taking care of oneself is a deeply held value in Reiki. We serve the world better when we are well, and the nature of Reiki is that it flows through us to heal another anyway, so we receive a treatment every time we give one. But we also practice daily self-Reiki, helping us to better understand and experience what we are offering.
Reiki treats the whole person. Whether using a general or specific technique, we view all aspects of a person as vitally important to their wellbeing. We understand that physical, mental, emotional and spiritual elements are always connected within each of us, and therefore all aspects benefit from a Reiki treatment or training, just as an imbalance or illness in one area can adversely affect the whole person in various ways.
Reiki can only help and never harm. There are no side effects or risks with Reiki. In the occasional case where a recipient begins to feel worse before feeling better, whether emotionally or physically, it is because the healing is bringing up toxic energies or substances so they can be transformed, dissipated or eliminated. The energy of Reiki only supports wellbeing.
Reiki is a way of life, not just a technology. It can be used for direct physical healing, but its Essence is holistic, and practitioners agree to abide by the principles and ethics for both moral and practical reasons. It is much more effective to be truly compassionate, truly grateful, to release anger and worry as habitual behaviors and to work with integrity, besides being able to generate healing energy through one's hands. By committing to the entire practice of Reiki we empower ourselves and our world so much more.
The Five Reiki Principles
are attributed to the Meiji Emperor,
during whose reign Reiki was founded:
Just for today...
I will not anger.
I will not worry.
I will be grateful.
I will work with integrity.
I will be compassionate toward all beings.
Below are the Five Reiki Principles in Japanese.
Reiki founder Sensei Mikao Usui
Roots of Reiki
Reiki is less than a hundred years old, and yet already several wildly different versions of its founding have spread across the globe, but sometimes for very good reasons. Here's the way I understand it, based on the work of the Western world's foremost Reiki historian Frank Arjava Petter in his books and keynote presentation at the Vermont Reiki Association in 2017.
Mikao Usui was born in Japan in the 1860s to a family of Pure Land Buddhists. He followed several career paths, including journalist and traveling secretary to a Japanese diplomat. In 1922, following a business failure, he sought refuge in a Buddhist monastery, and with peace eluding still him, he set out for a 21-day fast on Mount Kurama, essentially giving up his life to Spirit, or the elements, or a miraculous transformation. What occurred was the latter!
On the 21st day in meditation he experienced a magnificent download of information, symbols and healing power. On his descent from this mountain retreat he performed four miracles through this newfound ability. First, he tripped and injured his toe (understandable when you see the exposed tree roots in the photo above, taken at Mt. Kurama), but was able to instantly heal it with by touch. Second, he entered a small village on his way back to the monastery and ate a full meal at the local public house without any ill effects, which is unthinkable immediately following such an extended fast. While there, he also cured a staff member of her toothache. Finally, upon returning to the monastery, he healed the abbot there of his back pain.
From then on, he developed and practiced this remarkable healing ability, and cultivated the basic culture of the Reiki we know today. In a short time, less than four years, he established this extraordinary healing tradition under dire circumstances, and both preserved it and passed it on to future generations by codifying it somewhat while insisting that its Essence remain ever free to flow and grow as it will. And it has! Sometimes in surprising ways.
During the short time remaining in his life, Usui Sensei was able to serve many thousands with his healing abilities after the Earthquake of 1923, when he also trained hundreds of practitioners to minister to the injured. However, he did not train many to teach Reiki and pass on the attunements that create new Reiki practitioners. There were just thirteen Master-Teachers when Sensei Usui died suddenly from his third stroke in 1926.
One of these was Sensei Hayashi, a Japanese admiral, who in turn taught and attuned Sensei Takata, a Hawaiian-born woman of Japanese descent, following his treatment of her extended illness. It was Madame Takata, as she is often known, who can be credited with introducing this invaluable tradition to the Western world. She practiced her healing art for many decades before training teachers, during the 1970s. From these fewer than two dozen Master Teachers come our entire global community of thousands, perhaps millions or Reiki practitioners. Every Reiki practitioner outside Japan can trace their lineage back through their Master Teacher to Madame Takata, Sensei Hayashi and founder Usui Sensei.
As I mentioned, there are various versions of Reiki's history, sometimes disseminated to protect Reiki and its practitioners from those prejudiced against spiritual healing outside a religion, or energy healing that could undermine the economic advantage enjoyed by pharmaceutical companies and Western industrial medicine. However, Reiki is compatible with any religion, as we have seen above, and any medical practice, as described below, Now that much more than half a century has elapsed since World War II, and purely physical modern medicine is becoming more accepting of complementary therapies, Reiki is now more well-known, and as many wounds heal with the passing of time, some Japanese Reiki practitioners have chosen to work with outsiders, primarily Sensei Petter, to correct the history of Reiki being taught outside Japan. In Japan, the Reiki tradition continues, though little is known about their practice, except that it differs somewhat from the general practices in the West, while remaining true to the Essence of Reiki, which is the universal Divine healing energy in all living beings.
The Global & Local Reiki Community
As mentioned above, the worldwide Reiki community of today can practice its entire history back to one man, Mikao Usui, who discovered Reiki in the 1920s. In less than a century, many different traditions of practicing and teaching Reiki have arisen, some combined with other therapies, others a simplified or more complex version of Madame Takata's teachings, which even varied as she taught through her career.
Member organizations and professional associations have evolved to connect and support Reiki practitioners, to establish guidelines for practicing and teaching various traditions, and to introduce newcomers to the world of Reiki through trusted, experienced Reiki ambassadors around the world. I belong to the Vermont Reiki Association and Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals. Other organizations include the International Center for Reiki Training, International Association of Reiki Professionals, International House of Reiki and Celebration of Reiki. The VRA holds annual conferences that are always enjoyable, stimulating and inspiring.
Many Reiki Teachers also create local community groups for continued learning and practice. I have created a nonprofit program called Integrated Community Resilience, which brings Reiki and other wellness support into the community for the direct benefit of people who are disabled, marginalized or under-resourced, and who may need and appreciate Reiki the most. I also maintain a private practice seeing Reiki clients and teaching Reiki in central Vermont and the Upper Valley, as well as volunteering for several local nonprofit organizations, including Gifford Medical Center, Bayada Hospice Care and WISE, a domestic and sexual violence support center.
Reiki as a Profession
The debate around healing as a profession is very curious to me. I have satisfied my need to serve those who cannot afford regular fees by creating a nonprofit program and by volunteering regularly. Yet I also believe in "good pay for good work" and cannot see any benefit to society or our economy from refusing to accept reasonable compensation for such a profound service. In a money-based system such as ours currently is, it doesn't make sense to me that useful service should go unrewarded, thereby forcing talented healers to take other employment to support themselves. There is certainly ample need for relief from suffering in the world!
I do understand that creating a business is significantly different from finding a job, and that there are not many "jobs" available for Reiki practitioners, so most will need to create their own businesses. Fortunately, there is now unprecedented opportunity for education and support in starting a small business, from state and local organizations to the Small Business Development Council and Senior Corps of Retired Executives, as well as the multiple Reiki organizations that will help practitioners become professionals with relatively little expense, compared to a college education or business startup requiring vast amounts of equipment or inventory.
I think the key is in a powerful change of heart and mind around our beliefs about business and money. There are some who have swung too far the other way on the pendulum of rags-to-riches entrepreneurship, yet many small business coaches and leaders are emerging who together create new models and present new opportunities for healing arts professionals. I know that I myself have undergone an enormous shift from thinking about business as immoral, environmentally destructive, exploitative - and some are - to seeing examples of people serving their communities on a sustainable scale using technologies that are now available as well as good old-fashioned networking relationships and the power of sharing our passions and talents.
Another bridge to cross on the road from poverty to prosperity is examining our sense of worthiness. Many teachings about humility and modesty have become twisted and embedded into people's self-image to the point of denying our natural abilities, our right to pursue our dreams, even our responsibility to answer the calling of our life's purpose. If we believe that money is dirty, people in business are all greedy, charging enough to support ourselves will alienate people, or regular people can't navigate the complex financial and legal waters of running a business, then we won't even try, or if we try we won't get far.
I strongly believe in the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy, even while I paradoxically also acknowledge the innate unfairness in our current economic system. It is still stubbornly true to its medieval roots in too many ways, but now we have the opportunity to change that with our creativity - and with Reiki! Our spiritual Reiki guides will help us with inspiration and motivation to make the changes within ourselves and our own beliefs and behaviors that can help change the world. Reiki is nothing if not a ripple that transmits throughout time and space, passing from one person to another, creating positive change and bringing healing to wherever it is needed.
I can't think of a better vocation, and I am dedicated to the economic success of Reiki in my practice and in my community.
Reiki & Other Healing Arts
Reiki is compatible with any other medical or healing technique. It cannot interfere with medicine, bandages, physical therapy, surgery or other treatments, and in fact, can only enhance their efficacy. Reiki is not guaranteed to instantly cure all ills, but can always add a sense of calm and comfort, and will generally help relieve pain and accelerate healing by supporting the body's own natural healing systems.
Reiki is used along with massage, physical therapy, even chemotherapy, as well as any other healing modality or medical practice you can think of. Mothers in labor appreciate the calm support and relaxation that helps minimize pain. Reiki can often make headaches manageable while waiting for pain medication to take effect, or replace the medication altogether. Reiki is a powerful tool for any medical professional from nursing staff to doctors to other support staff.
Reiki is similar to other energy healing techniques such as therapeutic touch, laying on of hands, shamanic healing, or Christian Science healing, yet is unique in the way it is taught and practice and in the way it works without draining the practitioner's energy or transmitting the illness or anxiety from the recipient to the practitioner as some other healing techniques can.