General information about the Phenomeno called REIKI

What is so mysterious about the phenomenon called REIKI.

Those who approach Len about the Usui Method of Reiki Healing are given a few minutes of light healing touch before being instructed in this method of self-development.

The first level of the practice is freely given.

There after, students have to earn other levels through disciplined practice and meditation. Each student is instructed/taught according to his nature, dedication, and accomplishment.

Usui’s philosophy was non-dualist, and he stressed spiritual unfolding through regular practice of techniques which included the use of symbols in ways reminiscent of Taoist talismanic healing images.

His teaching was a system of practice; any physical/emotional, or mental healing that might occur as seen as a natural byproduct.


Reiki is practiced at the First, Second degree and Third/Master level.

With each level having a defined scope of practice.

At the core of the instruction/training, and unique to this practice, is a series of initiations, also called empowerments or attunements, which connect the student to the increased vibrations of the spiritual Chakra vibrations of the energy centres and the primordial consciousness, the intelligence that permeates creation, maintaining life-sustaining functions and directing complex cellular processes and the sub-consciousness.

This connection is believed then to be available at any time, regardless the student’s health, mental state or intention.

Self-treatment is viewed as the foundational practice for all levels.

It is considered that the practice of Reiki is self revealing, and students are not taught Reiki as much as they are instructed/taught how to be curious and to understand what the system is.

Initiation at each level marks the beginning of study at that level, not the culmination of learning.

First degree Reiki is easily understood/learned and is appropriate for students of any age after puberty or state of health who have the desire to practice.

First degree students are able to treat themselves and others using light, non-manipulative touch to precipitate a cascade of healing vibration. The effectiveness of the treatment and the recipient’s ability to discern the energy do not seem to be related.

It is advisable to practice a minimum of 3 months or for as long as the recognition of an awareness of peacefulness a sense of Calm, before proceeding to Second degree.

Second degree practitioners are instructed in the use of specific symbols and their associated vibrations to access Reiki mentally for distant healing.

There are 4 initiations in First degree, and 2 initiations for level 2.

At all levels, Reiki understanding develops through committed practice.

It is not necessary, nor is it advisable, to take higher initiations to improve one’s practice. The reason to study another level is to acquire that particular skill—distant healing at Second degree, or instruction/teaching and initiation at the master level.

At any level, students can only advance through diligent self-treatment. In this way, Reiki masters have not mastered Reiki; they are simply students who feel called to teach, and who continue to learn through teaching.

True mastery, in the sense of Usui, Hayashi, and Takata, is not just a matter of receiving an initiation, but rather a life committed to practice to the living energy.

Practicing Reiki for 3 to 10 years creates a reasonable foundation for teaching. Master training is an apprenticeship of at least a year.

When teaching at any level, it is the Reiki master’s responsibility to consider any unusual circumstances and use his or her discretion in customizing the training to fit the individual.

Reiki is learned through direct transmission from a Reiki master and cannot be learned from a book. Traditional Reiki levels do not include training in either professional treatment or the dynamics of the therapeutic relationship such as massage. However, many Reiki students have received such training .

Today, it is common for new students to receive less than a weekend of training and leave with the misguided impression they are now Reiki Masters.

Spiritual healing brings fundamental healing by helping us to become part of the universal consciousness, while energy healing centers around removing the symptoms of psychic/emotional body disorders.  Advanced practitioners of biofield Energy Therapies, including Reiki, conceptualize the biofield as a continuum from the vibrational, at the deepest and subtlest level, to the bioenergetic, closer to the physical realm. While this distinction has not been scientifically tested, it is important within the system of Reiki healing and essential to the theory behind Reiki, as will be discussed below.

The term Reiki refers to both the healing system and the vibrations accessed.

Nearly all Reiki practitioners outside of Japan today trace their lineage to the 22 masters trained by Takata. There are also two other teachers, Hiroshi Doe and Premarital, who offer disciplined practices descended from Usui and Hayashi. This paper uses the term Reiki to refer to the traditional technique as taught by Takata, unless otherwise specified. In accordance with the philosophy of Asian spiritual practices in which the practitioner is always seen as a student of the system and a “master” properly thinks of himself as a “master student.” I use the terms “practitioner” and “student” interchangeably.


Hands-on Reiki treatment is offered through light touch on a fully clothed recipient seated in a chair or reclining on a treatment table. A quiet setting conducive to relaxation is desirable but not a necessity,

A full treatment typically includes placing hands on 12 positions on the head, and on the front and back of the torso. Hands can also be placed directly on the site of any injury or pain if desired, but the technique is neither symptom nor pathology specific. When even light touch is contraindicated, as in the presence of lesions, the hands can hover inches off the  body. A session can be as short or as long as needed, with full treatments typically lasting 45 to 75 minutes. The receiver need not be conscious and Reiki can be offered during surgery.

The practice of Reiki is primarily passive, embodying the Asian philosophy of non-action.

Offering Reiki is refreshing to the practitioner as well as the recipient.

Practitioners believe Reiki has the potential to rebalance the biofield at the deepest emotional vibrational level,  thereby removing the subtle causes of illness  while enhancing overall resilience. Because Reiki is a holistic modality that supports overall healing and well-being, it is not possible to predict how quickly specific symptoms may respond. Generally, in addressing chronic conditions, a minimum of 4 complete treatments is advised before evaluating clinical benefit.

Although there are several professional organizations for Western Reiki masters, there has been no practical method developed to examine the alleged connection or ability.

It is important to note that no certificate conveys reliable information about quality of training. Thus, it is useful to include a number of factors when considering a Reiki practitioner’s credentials, such as consistency of self-treatment, extent of clinical practice, and length of time between training at different levels.


There is no agreed upon theory for how Reiki might work, and its mechanism of action is still unknown. For this reason, Reiki is subject to the criticism leveled at other C.A.M modalities by skeptics: it cannot be efficacious because it lacks a known biological mechanism of action. Implicit in this view is the belief that C.A.M claims will be proven to be ‘true’ or ‘false’ on the basis of present scientific knowledge, and that “the acceptance of any theoretically implausible claims would require the abandonment of current scientific knowledge.” This of course ends all inquiry before it begins, leaving no room for making connections between theories underlying energy healing practices such as Reiki, Therapeutic touch, or Qi gong, and those emerging in various branches of the conventional sciences.

The concepts underlying energy therapies such as Reiki have theoretical commonalities with a variety of models in physics, none of which have been experimentally linked with medicine or clinical outcomes. Models in bioelectromagnetism, quantum physics, and super string theory are consistent with Asian scripture in suggesting that very subtle vibration may be the substratum of reality as we know it, and therefore such vibration may have a role to play in health and disease. For example, Jan Walleczek and Abe Liboff in the field of bioelectromagnetism, offer credible scientific support for the potential role of the forces of subtle bioelectromagnetic fields in physiological processes. Walleczek in particular has convincingly demonstrated that subtle magnetic fields can have measurable interactions with biological systems in the area of redox potential and hydroxylation reactions. Although this area of research is in its early stages, these connections suggest that the theoretical underpinnings of Reiki and other energy therapies may not be in direct contradiction to scientific models.

Reiki vibration is understood to be drawn through the practitioner according to the recipient’s needs, and within the ability of the practitioner to carry the vibration. Beginning students often find it difficult to grasp that non-doing can be so effective. The flow of Reiki is believed to increase as the practitioner becomes inwardly more still, an understanding acquired only through prolonged practice. The fact that the vibrational flow is drawn by the recipient allows for great flexibility and ease of delivery. 

A practitioner’s ability to be a conduit for the vibrations may vary. Reiki’s self-regulatory mechanism precludes “overdosing”—even a dry sponge only absorbs to saturation. Experienced practitioners claim to notice when the healing vibrational flow decreases, at which time they move to the next hand placement or in some cases are guided.  Recipients often sense a vibrational flow, sometimes feeling heat or coolness, or waves of relaxation throughout their body, or in specific areas that may or may not correspond to where the practitioner’s hands are placed. Such experiences may be evidence of a subtle entrainment effect, similar to that of sound healing, whereby Reiki vibrations attune the recipient’s biofield to greater harmony.

Reiki is believed to rebalance the biofield, thus strengthening the body’s ability to heal and increasing systemic resistance to stress. It appears to reduce stress and stimulate self-healing by relaxation and perhaps by resetting the resting tone of the autonomic nervous system. Proponents of Reiki believe this might lead to enhancement of immune system function and increased endorphin production.

There are 3 tiers of Reiki practice:

1. Individuals who use Reiki for themselves, family, and friends;

2. Licensed or unlicensed health care professionals either offering full Reiki treatment or combining Reiki with other modalities (such as a massage therapist starting/ending treatment with a few minutes of Reiki, or a physician using Reiki to ease the discomfort of an examination);

3. Hospital-affiliated and community-based programs offering Reiki treatment or training.

Reiki appears to be an effective stress reduction technique that easily integrates into conventional medicine because it involves neither the use of substances nor manipulative touch that might be contraindicated or carry unknown risks, and because the protocol for Reiki treatment is flexible, adapting to both the need of the patient and of the medical circumstances. Reiki can be used to support conventional medical interventions. In addition, when used on a conscious patient, the experience is relaxing and pleasant, increasing patient comfort, enhancing relationships with caregivers, and possibly reducing side effects of procedures and medications. Staff report they enjoy giving Reiki treatments. Caregivers who routinely have to hurt patients in order to administer needed medical care express gratitude for a tool that minimizes patient discomfort and quickly soothes distressed children. There is limited but promising preliminary research evidence for the use of Reiki.


Even in the absence of a large body of standardized research, clinicians and hospital administrators are including Reiki into patient care. With this in mind, we outline some of the challenges and issues that are being faced. There are 3 avenues through which Reiki is being incorporated into conventional medical care:

1• Medical personnel are learning First degree Reiki, using it for self-care, and integrating comforting touch into routine medical care;

2• Reiki practitioners are offering treatment to patients and staff;

3• Although Hospital-based education programs are training patients, family members and caregivers in First degree Reiki, it is a challenge to locate and identify Reiki practitioners who have the training, clinical experience, and professionalism necessary to be part of a health care team.

There is currently no licensing for Reiki, nor, given its diversity and apparent low-risk, is there likely to be.

The first step when bringing Reiki into clinical settings is the decision to offer treatment or training or both. A competent Reiki Master is needed if Reiki training offered, and a traditionally trained Reiki master who has taken training over several years and has additional years of clinical experience is best equipped to set up or supervise a program. A First or Second degree practitioner who has adequate training and clinical experience, who values integrative medical collaboration, and who has references from medical practitioners is qualified to give treatment. An otherwise qualified Reiki practitioner may need guidance on how to work in a medical rather than a private practice environment.  Once expectations are communicated and agreed upon, there may be advantages to using non-medical Reiki practitioners rather than Reiki trained medical professionals when offering Reiki to patients. Integrative medicine calls for the incorporation into medical settings of dedicated and experienced lay C.A.M practitioners even when their particular expertise lies outside the conventional academic paradigm. There are no professional standards in the practice of Reiki and therefore certificates have little meaning. Discussion of the following questions can be useful when evaluating a practitioner’s expertise and appropriateness for collaboration in a medical setting:

1. When did you complete each level of training and how many hours of training did you receive at each level?

2. Do you practice daily self-treatment?

3. What clinical experience have you had since your training?

4. How do you describe Reiki?

5. How would you respond to questions about the meaning of various sensations a recipient might have during or after treatment?

6. How do you feel during and after giving treatment?

7. What role do you see yourself playing as part of an interdisciplinary health care team?

The standard of care should be followed for any patient who is receiving Reiki therapy in a clinical setting, including close monitoring of medications. Individuals with diabetes, in particular, have been reported to require less medication once beginning treatment. Outpatients with HIV/AIDS have been able to reduce psychiatric medications under medical supervision when using Reiki self-treatment. It is of interest that people with HIV/AIDS also report greater openness to availing themselves of the benefits of conventional pharmaceutical treatment and increased ease of compliance after using Reiki self-treatment.


The preponderance of Reiki studies reported in the literature to date consists of a limited number of case reports, descriptive studies, or randomized controlled studies conducted with a small number of patients.

This is in keeping with much of the current research on complementary therapies.

For example, I have reviewed C.A.M studies from 11 American Medical Association journals, and found that one third of the studies were traditional or narrative reviews and one fifth were randomized, controlled trials.

Although few of the published studies of Reiki are randomized controlled trials, it is important to review this literature in order to understand the context of current practice patterns of Reiki and to plan future research from health services research to randomized controlled trials. Because of parallels between Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, and distant healing such as intercessory prayer, these modalities have sometimes been studied together, further confounding the ability to evaluate the separate effects of these therapies.

Len Thomas




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