What is Reiki?

What is Reiki?

Posted by Dacier Iglesias on


Reiki is a Japanese word that can be translated as “universal life force energy”, “spiritual energy”, or simply stated, it is a form of energy work. It is a holistic healing modality that nourishes our mind, body, and spirit. Learning this system can transform our lives on a spiritual and personal level. Although many people learn Reiki to give to others, the real magick lies in the transformative power it has on us personally.



Reiki originated in the 1920s in Japan by Dr. Mikao Usui. It is said he spent twenty-one days meditating and fasting in the mountains of Kyoto on a spiritual quest in search of enlightenment. There are different accounts of the event, but most sources state he was struck by lightning on the 21st day. It was then where he was initiated with Reiki and saw the symbols we use today. He went on to heal himself and others. He then taught a Japanese navy captain named Hayashi Chujiro who became a shihan, or Reiki Master Teacher, in 1925. Reiki was brought to the West by Madame Hawayo Takata, who studied under Hayashi Chujiro. She trained twenty-two Reiki Masters who continued to spread the teachings in the West.


The Reiki Masters




Today, there are different styles of Reiki such as Usui Reiki Ryoho, Usui Shiki Ryoho, Karuna Reiki, Holy Fire Reiki, and Angelic Reiki, just to name a few. Because there are different schools, the training varies but is typically split between 3-4 levels. In each level, the student receives what is called an attunement. This is an initiation where the student is attuned to the energetic frequency of Reiki.

  • First Degree or Shoden: the foundations of Reiki are taught. Students are attuned into Reiki and can heal themselves and others.

  • Second Degree or Okuden: level one students learn three symbols they can use when giving Reiki. Additional attunements are given which allow the practitioner to perform distant Reiki sessions.

  • Third Degree or Shinpiden: this level is sometimes split in two: Advanced Reiki Practitioner followed by Reiki Master Teacher. Additional attunements are passed on which allows the practitioner to teach Reiki and initiate others in Reiki.



Dr. Usui left us with five simple principles to live a more joyous life; they are called The Gokai.


The Gokai


Just for today, do not anger.
Just for today, do not worry.
Honor your parents, teachers, and elders.
Earn your living honestly.
Show gratitude to every living thing.



An in-person session can range from 45 minutes to an hour. Distant sessions are usually shorter. Reiki may be given using either a hands-on or hands-off approach. This is a preference of the practitioner, or in some cases, the client’s. The receiver lays on their back, fully clothed except for shoes. The practitioner scans the body for byosen, an energetic sensation that indicates the area has accumulated toxins, which can be physical or energetic (or both). The practitioner places their hands at the crown of the head and Reiki starts to flow to the recipient’s body. This is repeated until the feet are reached. The same is done to the backside of the body. Extra attention may be placed on those areas where byosen was present.



During a session, the energy will flow where it is needed the most; this could be on a spiritual, mental, or physical level or all the above. Although you may be receiving Reiki for a headache, what may need to heal is something on an emotional level. After the emotional issue has been processed, healing on the physical level can follow. Penelope Quest explains this perfectly in her book, The Reiki Manual:

“…healing doesn't always happen on the physical level first. Reiki works holistically, so it may be that healing needs to happen first at the emotional level, releasing anger, guilt or hatred, or at the mental level, releasing negative thoughts, concepts or attitudes, before the physical symptoms can be addressed…”

It is important to understand the difference between curing and healing. If the recipient is open to receiving Reiki, healing will always take place but that does not guarantee a physical cure. Under no circumstance should a Reiki practitioner claim they can cure any disease or ailment.

Suggested Reading:

  • Foundations of Reiki Ryoho by Nicholas Pearson

  • The Reiki Manual by Penelope Quest

  • Essential Reiki by Diane Stein

References: Quest, P. (2011). The Reiki Manual.

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