The Reiki community honors the founder of the system of Reiki—Mikao Usui- on the anniversary of his death, coming up on March 9. The occasion of any anniversary inspires the mind to reflect on themes of milestones and achievements, as well as continuity, firmness, and strength. As such, anniversaries are times for remembering the foundation upon which we build. This article honors Mikao Usui with a humble overview of the foundational principles of the system and practice of Reiki.
When the heart-mind (kokoro) is healed, the body can be made sound.
At its root, the system of Reiki changes the story we tell about health and wellbeing. With Reiki practice, we strengthen and stabilize body and mind. From this state of equilibrium, our emotions become more balanced, allowing the heart to open for loving energy and harmony.
With Reiki practice, we are not focused on trying to “achieve something” or “change something” external to ourselves. We are, instead, concerned with cultivating a clear and healthy body-mind by becoming aware of, accepting, and shedding, impediments and hindrances (sometimes called “blockages” or “stagnation”) to wellness. In this way, we offer ourselves and others a peaceful, healing presence. The only way to bring about these gentle inner transformations is diligent and honest practice with all of the components of the system of Reiki.
Although in the US Reiki is known primarily as a hands-on healing practice, it is much more than that in both scope and depth. Originally, Reiki’s Japanese founder, Mikao Usui, conceptualized Reiki as a practice and a path to “invite happiness” into our lives, as well as being the “spiritual medicine for all ills.” As such, Reiki is a practice of self-development and growth on all levels—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. With Reiki practice, a process is sparked that allows us to cultivate inner and outer balance. We connect to our inner selves in a warm and aware manner, and we connect to the outer natural and social world with a compassionate attitude of gratitude and non-judgment.
Foundational Practice 1: The Reiki Precepts
The key foundational tool for this process of body-mind self-development and connection are the 5 Reiki Principles (or Precepts). The 5 Reiki Precepts provide a guideline for living our lives;
When we work with the Precepts daily, we make an impact on the kind of energy we carry and give out to others. We create a world that we get to live in and share with others. The health of the heart-mind (kokoro in Japanese) is primary here. The following three teachings--one from Usui Sensei; one from Hawayo Takata, the woman who brought Reiki from Japan to the US; and one from the Dalai Lama—reveal that the heart-mind is crucial and primary to our wellbeing.
Consider that not only do negative thoughts and emotions destroy our experience of peace,
We know that what we rest our consciousness on becomes how we think, speak, and act in the world. The thoughts in our minds, the words we speak, and the actions/behaviors we put forth, are the products of what our inner consciousness rests upon. The Reiki Precepts provide guidance, assistance, and support with what we rest our consciousness on as we move through our daily lives.
The Precepts demonstrate that Reiki practice entails more than hands-on healing of others. It is, indeed, a practical, accessible, egalitarian, user-friendly self-growth, self-development spiritual practice. When we focus on improving our inner environment by working with the Precepts, troubling and distressing outer environmental situations become easier to respond to. As a result of a more solid inner state of being, every external challenge does not have to feel like we are being walloped. When our consciousness rests on gratitude, inner calm, compassion, patience, and honesty in our endeavors, as opposed to our consciousness clinging to anger and worry, we cultivate a state of mind and a state of being more conducive to healing of others.
“I’ve been thinking about the precepts this week, especially the ‘don’t worry’ precept. I’ve found that I’ve been more in the moment, which has felt really good. I think I’ve been missing out on the little things because I’ve been moving too fast and worrying too much!” – Reiki Level 1 Student
So we always say that the mental and the spiritual together are the number one, number two is the physical then we put it together and we're all a complete and.. when you can say that (we are a complete whole) it means that you have given Reiki and Reiki has worked well for you.
Foundational Practice 2: Reiki Meditations
“In order to share Reiki (spiritual energy) with someone, I would have to first re-discover spiritual energy within myself” (Frans Stiene, 2012 copyright, International House of Reiki)
The system of Reiki brings us another foundational practice that is, again, less immediately related to hands-on healing of others, but related nonetheless. The Reiki meditations are a second component of the system of Reiki that provide us with wisdom teachings and practices that differentiate Reiki from other energy healing systems.
An essential Reiki meditation is a breathing meditation, called Joshin Kokyu Ho, to harmonize body and mind. During this breathing meditation the practitioner inhales through the nose, filling up the inner lower belly space (the hara, in Japanese), and gently and slowly exhales out again, expanding the breath out through the nose and through all the pores of the body. This seemingly simple practice has the profound effect of grounding the practitioner, allowing a connection to his or her inherent inner strength. The reason for cultivating a solid inner self is in order to bring that firm, secure, steady energy to all of our endeavors and relationships, including hands-on healing of others.
The other Reiki meditations are equally accessible to the Reiki practitioner, and will not be described here further, in the hopes that you will feel inspired to discover these from your Reiki teacher. The diligence, honesty, and patience with which Reiki practitioners work with the meditations determines the experience they will have. As a whole, the Reiki meditations, when practiced daily, bring peacefulness, non-judgmental awareness, and inner strength to the practitioner. Even if we just speak more kindly to one person on a particular day; even if we are alert to just one moment of gratitude on any day; even if we recognize only one time the suffering that our worry or anger brings, we have experienced the benefit of the Reiki meditations. This is the frame of mind we wish to cultivate for hands-on healing with Reiki for our own selves and for others.
Foundational Practice 3: Hands-On Healing of Self
“When you lose touch with your inner stillness you lose touch with yourself;
when you lose touch with yourself, you lose yourself in the world.” – Eckhart Tolle
Many people assume that Reiki practice means hands-on healing of others. Yet, one of the foundations of Reiki practice has always been self-practice…hands-on healing of oneself every day. As such, Reiki becomes much more than a therapeutic intervention for relief from troubling symptoms to be used as needed, although that is one of the well-known gifts of Reiki.
Sometimes hearing other peoples’ experiences is the best way to shed light on Reiki self-practice. Below are examples of statements I received from my own Reiki students:
“There were some things, personally and professionally, that were really getting to me, but now I can just let go or feel differently about them. My self-talk has changed a bit, and I’ve found that I’m far gentler with and less critical of myself. I feel more present at certain times of the day instead of just going through the motions. I even feel more connected with what I want and feel.”—Reiki Level 1 Student
“Reiki has been life changing. I hate making statements like that, but it's the god's honest truth. I do a full or almost full Reiki self-treatment every night after I shut my laptop down when I'm chilling out on the couch. Then I do a little more when I get into bed if I feel like I need it somewhere. It's amazing. I'm calmer. I'm more focused. I feel GREAT. It's so easy to do on the couch at night. And when I have a rough day at work, I walk outside, park it on a bench, and do self-Reiki. Totally helps me disperse stress and get grounded...and release any ‘pissiness’ I'm building up.” –Reiki 1 Student
The themes in these quotes are repeated by hundreds of Reiki students and practitioners who take the time for self-Reiki. The benefits of self-Reiki reverberate through the practitioner’s life at all levels. A sense of calm and peace are common themes. And once one is in a state of calm and peace, mental clarity follows. This means, too, that decision-making is improved, including the decisions we make about our own health. We may discover that certain behaviors no longer serve us and we are strengthened to clear them out and replace them with more skillful ways. With mental clarity, we may better access much needed answers and guidance regarding areas of difficulty in our lives. Further, when one’s state of mind is calm and peaceful, one can more effectively weather the storms that inevitably arise.
Since Reiki treatments (on self or other) are cumulative in their effect, most Reiki practitioners find improvement in any distressing physical, mental, and emotional conditions they have been experiencing, whether acute or chronic. For example, following my very first Reiki training, with diligent self-Reiki, I experienced dramatic improvement in a vestibular disorder with which I had suffered for decades. Self-Reiki is also preventative. By maintaining a self-Reiki practice, the individual’s system moves into a state of balance whereby the body’s own self-healing mechanisms improve and can be effectively sustained.
In a self-Reiki treatment, the practitioner serves his/her best interests by setting aside a designated time and space. It takes discipline for anyone to carve out the time for a practice that may not “look productive” in a culturally validated way. Fortunately, as the benefits accrue they serve as the perfect motivator!
Once the time and space is set, the practitioner needs no specific ritual or ceremony, he or she simply begins placing the hands on the body, usually moving from head to toe, and staying in any one place on the body for 3 – 5 minutes for an overall treatment; longer, if desired. Of course, we need not be “Reiki robots,” setting our clocks for 3.5 minutes as we follow the standard hand positions. But the hand positions are reassuring and allow our minds to take a break from planning and organizing everything in our lives. After just a week or so of daily practice, Reiki practitioners learn the hand placements well enough to not have to be vigilant about thinking ahead to the next one; the hands will simply move there while the mind can rest. In this way, self-treatments bring on a meditative, healing state of being for the practitioner. Many Reiki practitioners may adopt a more personal approach to self-treatments and may eventually shed the hand position protocol.
Foundational Practice #4: Reiki Healing With Others
As a healing practice with others, Reiki differs from other energy healing practices.
In the end, to me, what is valuable about Reiki as a practice and as a healing system is that it is a practical, user-friendly resource for ordinary people with everyday challenges, both big and small. We can lower stress, promote mindfulness, improve our health and well-being, grow into calm and harmony, and care for others.
With hands in gassho (prayer position), I humbly express gratitude to Sensei Usui for his teachings.
Elise Brenner, Ph.D, Reiki Master Teacher, is a strong advocate for Reiki outreach, education, and empowerment. The owner of Brenner Reiki Healing in Newton, MA. Elise provides all levels of Reiki training, offers in-depth mentoring for Reiki professionals, operates a monthly low-cost Reiki Clinic, and is Chair of the annual Celebration of Reiki Conference in Massachusetts. As an anthropologist, Elise Brenner has researched cross-cultural healing practices, thereby enriching the scope and depth of her Reiki practice. www.BrennerReikiHealing.com