What is Reiki?

According to reiki.org, “Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.” The name consists of two Japanese words, rei and ki, rei meaning ‘God’s wisdom’ or the ‘higher power,’ ki being ‘life force energy.’ This energy is usually used through a technique known as palm healing or hands-on healing. The theory is that while many people can manipulate ki to heal, Reiki is guided by a higher intelligence and merely channeled through the practitioner.

There are conflicting opinions regarding details on the origin of Reiki, but it is generally agreed that the technique was developed in Japan, sometime between 1915 and 1922, by Mikao Usui, a teacher, spiritual leader and, by some accounts, a Buddhist monk. Many details are obscured by the fact that Usui’s followers became very secretive about all aspects of Reiki. William Lee Rand, on his web site, reiki.org, states that “after World War II, the U.S. government had complete control over Japan for a time and banned all Eastern healing methods in Japan and required that only Western medicine be practiced there.” As a result, Usui’s followers effectively went ‘underground.’ Earlier, in 1937, Mrs. Hawayo Takata reportedly brought Reiki from Japan to the western hemisphere, where it has undergone many changes from the traditional Japanese methodology creating, in effect, two different forms of Reiki. Again, details are sketchy, but it seems that both schools recognize three levels of competence, the highest being master or teacher. Both also adhere to the five Reiki Ideals listed further on in this article. The major difference is reportedly the actual placement of hands, the traditional Japanese method being intuitive and the western practice being a more systematic hand placement.

Motivated by a need for guiding principles, according to Rand, Usui stated that “healing the spirit by consciously deciding to improve oneself is a necessary part of the Reiki healing experience.” Said to be inspired by the Meiji Emperor, the Reiki Ideals are:

  • The secret art of inviting happiness
  • The miraculous medicine for all diseases
  • At least for today:
    • Do not be angry
    • Do not worry
    • Be grateful
    • Work with diligence
    • Be kind to people

* Every morning and evening, join your hands in meditation and pray with your heart

* State in your mind and chant with your mouth

Reiki practitioners are expected to repeat these ideals morning and evening to keep them fresh in their minds.

The ki, or life force energy used in Reiki is the same energy referred to in traditional Chinese medicine as chi, and in Ayurvedic healing as prana. It flows through the chakras, or meridians and is the force that animates us, that animates all living things. This flow is restricted or disrupted when negative thoughts and emotions become attached to the energy field. We may allow these negative attachments either consciously or unconsciously. The flow of Reiki energy is believed to charge the channels with positive energy causing the negative thoughts/feelings to break apart and fall away. Practitioners also maintain that Reiki can never cause harm and cannot be depleted. Because the flow is directed by a higher intelligence, it is always applied only where and as needed. Since the practitioner is not the source of the energy, only the conduit, he need not store energy. All that he needs is available at any time.

While both traditional and western methods recognize the use of chakras and meridians in the application of ki, western practitioners are said to focus on these chakra points on both the front and back of the body and then may continue to work in a more localized fashion. According to James Deacon and others, Usui used only five ‘formal’ hand positions that focused on the head, neck and palms. He would then move on to those sites on the body which were injured or otherwise in need of healing.

While there is little to no established, accredited body for oversight, Reiki technique is taught by the master/teachers to first and second level students. However, the ability to use Reiki energy is not taught in the usual sense of the word. Instead, the master/teacher actually transfers the Reiki energy directly to the student, allowing “…the student to tap into an unlimited supply of ‘life force energy’ to improve one’s health and enhance the quality of life.” (Rand) This process is called an ‘attunement’ and during the procedure the master opens the crown, heart and palm chakras, creating a link from the source of ki to the student. The experience is said to be very intense with reports of visions, past life experiences and healings accompanying the event. Some adherents have noted an increased psychic sensitivity and an opening of the third eye. Once attuned, it is simply a matter of placing one’s hands on or above the subject. The energy flow is automatic.

Although to date there is no medical or scientific data to prove that the technique is effective, there have been no reports or studies showing any harmful effects from the practice. The most common concern expressed by members of the mainstream medical community is the possibility of patients foregoing traditional treatment in favor of such alternatives as Reiki. In cases of more serious conditions, this may be a legitimate concern. According to Wikipedia.com, “Cancer Research UK says that -”there is no scientific evidence to prove that Reiki can prevent, treat or cure cancer or any other disease.”- It does, however, continue on to say that – “many healthcare professionals accept Reiki as a useful complementary therapy that may help to lower stress, promote relaxation and possibly help reduce some types of pain.”

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