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Reiki, in a Nutshell

{written by : James Deacon}

Article word count : 2610 -- Article Id : 1827
Article active date : 2009-03-18 -- Article views : 9656

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Article is about :
An introduction to the Reiki system of healing and self-development created by Mikao Usui.

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What is Reiki?

Essentially, "Reiki" (the proper Japanese pronunciation is somewhere between "Ray-Key" and "Lay-Key") is a term used to refer to a system of healing and self-development created by Mikao Usui (respectfully referred to as: Usui-Sensei) in Japan in the early part of the 20th Century.

While commonly referred to simply as "Reiki" or "Reiki Therapy", the system of healing and self-development is more formally called "Usui Reiki Ryoho" - that is: "Usui Reiki Healing Method" or "Usui Reiki Treatment".

Reiki Therapy was introduced to the West under the title: Usui Shiki Ryoho (Usui-style Healing Method [/Treatment])

At different times, various expressions of the system have been known as:
Usui Do (the "Do" refers to a spiritual or philosophical "path", or "way")
Usui Teate ("Teate" - means "treatment", "therapy" or "hand-healing" )
Usui Reiho (Spiritual Method) [some people seem to think Reiho is a
contraction of "Reiki Ryoho"]

Simply stated, Reiki Therapy can be said to be a synergistic combination of "spiritual healing" and "energy healing" techniques, and self-developmental practices.

While the system has been influenced by spiritual and therapeutic discipline, practice and ideals found within Shinto, Buddhism (and possibly Taoism), Reiki itself has no specific religious affiliation.

Reiki - a generic term

Of latter years, however, the word "Reiki" has, it seems, achieved generic status. Much as the word: "Biro" has, in many places, come to mean any ball-point pen, or: "Hoover" is used to refer to the vacuum cleaner in general - no matter what particular form or style or manufacturer - so, the word: "Reiki" has (erroneously), at various times, been applied to all manner of forms of "energetic" healing.

It has been used to refer to the hands-on practices of certain South American Shamans, to forms of western Spiritualist Healing, to high-level Chinese Chi Gung healing practices (and has even been cited by some as the means used by Jesus, Buddha, and many other religious figures to enact healing miracles).
Admittedly, many people - having undergone Reiki training - have taken the essential phenomenon that is at the very core of Reiki Therapy and successfully integrated it into various spiritual, cultural and esoteric belief-systems and practices. This has resulted in the manifestation of numerous viable and effective new "styles" of Reiki, or what at least may be referred to as "Reiki-derived" or "Reiki-influenced", therapeutic modalities and systems of personal development.

Reiki - Energetic Radiance

However, technically, the term "Reiki" is properly solely used to indicate the therapeutic and self-development system created by Mikao Usui (i.e. "Usui-Sensei").

More specifically, the name "Reiki" identifies the wonderful therapeutic energy radiance, or phenomenon, which lies at the heart of this natural healing system.
The "Rei" part of the name is often translated as "Universal*", and in essence, it refers to something Spiritual or Sacred, and can mean "Soul".
"Ki", is often translated simply as "Life-Force Energy", yet also implies "Spiritedness" or "Feelings". Thus, depending on ones perspective, Reiki can be understood as: "Universal* Life-force Energy", "Spiritually-influenced life-force Energy", or even as "Charismatic Healing Radiance".

* "Universal" in this sense, originally being a contraction of: "the Universal" - an alternative (and intentionally less religious) term for "the Divine", "Numinous", "God"".

Reiki - a gentle therapy

Reiki is a gentle, yet profound, non-invasive therapy, which can facilitate stress-reduction and relaxation, support effective immune-system function, enhance the body"s self-healing mechanisms, and replenish and nurture vitality.
Reiki can be effectively used in combination with other therapies - both allopathic and "alternative" - and has been shown to effectively stimulate the relaxation response.

Rather than acting solely on a physical level, Reiki is holistic in its effect - eliciting a healing response across the entire spectrum of ones being - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. It can prove beneficial in the resolving of physical disorders, nervous conditions and emotional issues, and help nurture a greater sense of balance, well-being, and wholeness in ones life. The gentle Reiki phenomenon has no negative side effects, and does not require any concentration on the part of the client.

The Reiki Principles

Central to the Reiki system of wellness and self-development, is a set of 5 guiding Principles or Precepts - referred to in Japanese as the gokai.
These principles - affirmed morning and night, and kept in ones thoughts throughout ones daily activities - are intended to assist in transforming ones attitude to life, and bring the soul/self into balance, enabling one to respond with compassion in all situations.

There are many slightly different translations of the Reiki gokai, yet they all express the same sentiment. One version reads:
"The secret method of inviting blessings, the spiritual medicine of many illnesses:
Just for today ...
(1,) Do not rise to anger
(2,) Do not succumb to worry
(3,) Express Gratitude for all your blessings
(4,) Apply yourself diligently
(5,) Manifest compassion to all beings
Mornings and evenings sit in the prayer position and repeat these words out loud and in your heart, for the improvement of body and soul… "

Reiki - Receiving Treatment

The person receiving Reiki treatment remains fully clothed, and sits in a chair, or reclines on a therapy couch - whichever is most comfortable. The only participation required is a desire to let oneself relax and be open to the positive effects of the Reiki healing energy.

In its simplest form, treatment is given primarily by means of a structured series of touch-based interventions at specific points on the body (- a process sometimes referred to as "laying on of hands"). The Reiki session usually lasts between 45 minutes and I hour, during which time, the recipient may experience heat, or become aware of tingling or pulsing sensations, as the healing Reiki energy radiates from the therapist"s hands and begins to effect positive change, and restore balance, throughout the recipient"s whole being.

The therapeutic influence of the Reiki treatment continues to manifest for some time after the session ends. For this reason it is desirable (where possible) for the recipient to take things easy for a day or so, in order to gain the full benefits of their Reiki session.

How does Reiki work?

While there are various theories as to how Reiki might work, there is no clear answer to this - all that can be said for certain is that it does.

Dis-ease, dis-harmony, un-wellness is believed to occur due to disruptions/inhibitions in the flow of vital life force within our being.
Many believe that the specific radiant energy-pattern which we call Reiki, emanating from the practitioner"s hands, simply assists the body to "correct" and re-balance the flow of our life force, thus returning us to a state of wellness and generally enhancing the quality of our experience of our life.

Reiki Training & Attunement

For people wishing to learn to work with Reiki directly, training is commonly (though not always) structured in a series of three Levels or Degrees.
The ability to "do" Reiki is not something that is learned in the normal sense.

Rather it is something which is activated or awakened within the individual through a process of Initiation ( also referred to as an "Attunement")

This Initiation or Attunement - the central focus of each Level or Degree - involves a special energetic transfer technique whereby the Reiki Teacher ("Master") essentially "re-patterns" or "recalibrates" the student"s etheric field & subtle energy centres. To use an I.T. analogy, its a bit like having someone who possesses a very specific program, which enables them to interact and work with the Reiki phenomenon, download a copy of that program into your being, thereby enabling you to also interact and work with the Reiki phenomenon.

Level 1 Reiki

At Level 1, the Initiation/Attunement opens the student to the flow of Reiki (some would say: opens them to the awareness of the flow of Reiki).
Traditionally, in Usui Shiki Ryoho, the "outer" focus of Level 1 Reiki is on hands-on therapy at a purely physical level [both for self-treatment and for treating others]. However, the "inner" focus of Level 1 is about learning to become "a clear channel" for Reiki.

Level 1 is about learning to "let go and let the energy flow" - about learning to "step out of the way" - learning to override the desire of ones conscious mind to interfere in the therapeutic process, and instead, simply let the Reiki phenomenon "happen".

The attitude should be one of almost Zen-like, compassionate, detachment:
"Sitting quietly, "not doing", not seeking after outcomes, Reiki Flows. If healing happens, it happens, if it doesn"t, it doesn"t - either way it"s no concern of mine." Developing this attitude early on will greatly enhance the quality of ones journey with Reiki.

Level 2 Reiki

Where Level 1 opens the student to the (awareness of the) flow of Reiki the Level 2 Initiation/Attunement deepens the quality of that flow. Having developed the attitude of "compassionate detachment from outcomes" at level 1, the Level 2 student is provided with a number of symbolic tools enabling them to "set" intentions - and broaden the scope of their therapeutic interventions.

With Level 2 training, the student is introduced to three sacred symbols, and is instructed in their use as a means of:
enhancing the effectiveness of physical level treatment (both hands-on and
non-contact - i.e. in the clients aura)
carrying out treatment at deeper psycho-emotional levels
and performing "distant" or "remote" treatments - i.e. for people not physically present.

Level 3 Reiki

Level 3 is commonly referred to as the "Master" level, but is more properly the "Teacher" level, being the level at which the practitioner will manifest the ability to impart Initiation/Attunements to others.

This level"s Initiation/Attunement brings yet a greater deepening of connection to the Reiki phenomenon. The practitioner is introduced to a fourth sacred symbol - the Master symbol, and is instructed in its uses, including its significance in the Initiation/Attunement process.

While many people will choose to progress to Level 2 (- with its deeper energy connection and expanded healing techniques -) and eventually to Level 3 (the "Master" /Teaching Level), Reiki Level I training will provide all the basic awareness required to practice this special therapeutic art - primarily for self-healing, and also for treating others - family, friends, pets - even household plants.

For those attuned to it, the phenomenon that is Reiki can, amongst other things, be utilised as a form of body-centred meditation. It can also, especially at the higher levels, prove an invaluable tool for spiritual growth, having a subtle yet profound effect on ones personal development.

Reiki"s Founder

Mikao Usui (Usui-Sensei) was born on the 15th of August 1865 in Kyoto, Japan, in what is now the prefecture of Gifu. He is believed to have been sent to a Tendai Buddhist monastery school in 1869. At the age of 12 began martial arts training. He would progress to the highest levels of proficiency in his particular art, achieving his "Instructors Licence" in his 20"s

In his late 30"s Usui-Sensei married Sadako Suzuki. It is known that they had at least 2 children: a son, Fuji (born 1908) and a daughter, Toshiko (born 1913). It is said that in March 1922, as a result of undergoing arduous spiritual discipline (shugyo) on Kurama Yama (Mt Kurama) near Kyoto, Usui-Sensei experienced the phenomenon that is Reiki, and gained an intuitive understanding of how to work with Reiki as a medium for healing and self-development.

Originally Usui-Sensei did not have a formal name for his system, simply referring to it as "the spiritual medicine of many illnesses" (Apparently he did not call it "Reiki"). In time it came to be known as Usui Do, or Usui Teate, and eventually Usui Reiki Ryoho.

In April 1922 Usui-Sensei opened his first Training Centre in Harajuku, Aoyama, Tokyo. His "motto" for the training centre was: "Unity of self through harmony and balance".

His reputation grew rapidly, and people came from far and wide to study with him. In fact the demand for training became so great that in February 1923, Usui-Sensei had to move his Centre to larger premises in Nakano, outside of Tokyo.

On the 9th of March 1926, in Fukuyama town where he had gone to meet with his creditors, Usui-Sensei died as a result of a stroke (he had apparently had several previous ones). After Usui-Sensei"s death, some of his students formed the "Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai" (Usui Reiki Healing Method Learning Society/Association), posthumously honouring Usui-Sensei by naming him as the first kaicho (president or chairman) of the society; and in Feb 1927, they erected a memorial stone commemorating his achievements in a graveyard at the Saihoji Temple, Tokyo. The following month, a family tomb (containing some of Usui-Sensei"s remains) was erected on the same plot as the memorial by his son, Fuji Usui.

Reiki in the West

The person responsible for introducing Reiki to the western world was Mrs. Hawayo Takata, a Hawaiian-born American citizen of Japanese parentage.
Having been cured of an illness by Reiki while visiting Japan in 1935, Hawayo Takata (Takata-Sensei) herself underwent Reiki training (both first and second degrees) from retired Naval Officer and Doctor, Chujiro Hayashi (Hayashi Sensei), before returning to Hawaii (in 1937) where she set up her own Reiki practice.

In 1938 Hawayo Takata received her certification from Chujiro Hayashi as a Master of the Usui Reiki system of healing, and with it, the authorisation to teach the art of Reiki to others.

It was in the early 1970"s that Hawayo Takata brought Reiki to mainland America.
In a relatively short time, the gentle healing art of Reiki - or Usui Shiki Ryoho (Usui Style Healing Method) as Takata-Sensei called it - became very popular, with numerous people seeking treatment and also seeking to learn the art for themselves.

While over the years she had trained numerous students, it was not till 1976 that Hawayo Takata conferred the first Reiki master certification on one of her students. Virginia Samdahl is formally recognised as being the first of 22 people who would eventually receive certification as a master of the Reiki system from Hawayo Takata before her death in 1980. (However some sources now suggest that one of Takata-Sensei"s own sisters: Kay Yamashita, was the first person on whom Takata-Sensei actually conferred Reiki mastership)

Reiki after Hawayo Takata

Gradually, after Hawayo Takata"s death, several of the Reiki Masters she had certified began to modify elements of the way in which they practiced Reiki, and also, the way they taught it to their own students. These modifications were essentially a matter of personal preference, and the results of experimentation with independently evolved techniques, and practices "adopted" from other therapeutic disciplines.

Over the following years, the number of Reiki practitioners grew exponentially, with Reiki spreading to the U.K., Europe and many other places around the globe.

Hawayo Takata"s teacher, Chujiro Hayashi, had committed suicide in 1940, and after that, it seems, all contact with other Reiki practitioners in Japan was lost. The general concensus amongst Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki practitioners was that, partly as a result of W.W.II, the practice of Reiki had actually died out in Japan, and that (up to 1976) Takata-Sensei had been the only remaining Reiki Master alive.

However, in 1985, a journalist named Mieko Mitsui who had studied one of the modified forms of Reiki ( known as "the Radiance Technique", or "Real Reiki") while living in New York, went back to Japan to see what she could discover about Reiki"s origins.

She started teaching Reiki there and in the process could be said to have been responsible for single-handedly sparking a "Reiki Revival" in Japan.

In addition to promoting the style of "western" Reiki, Mieko reported that, contrary to previous belief, Reiki had never actually died out in Japan...

Author Bio :
Deeply involved in ongoing research into the history and development of Reiki, James Deacon has a strong background in 'vital-energy therapy' disciplines - having worked primarily with SHEN®, Therapeutic Touch, Mesmero-Magnetic Healing, Tenchi Seiki Te-Ate, & specific aspects of Qi Gung, prior to undertaking Reiki Master-level Attunement & Training in 1998. He also runs the (non-commercial) web site: James Deacon's REIKI PAGES - a comprehensive Reiki-resource site, with over 300 pages of Reiki & other Energy-Therapies info.

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