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What is Reiki?


When someone asks me this question, my answer is usually to ask, What do you think it is? That sets the ground for beginning a conversation. The word "Reiki" is used in many different ways, has different understandings for different people. This is only to be expected. We bring all that we are to the Reiki experience, our understandings, our beliefs, our identifications, and these are overlaid on the experience. This is the way our minds work, fitting the new into the frameworks of what we "know".


Reiki is a Word and a Concept

Kanji1
At its simplest, "Reiki" is a word, derived from a Japanese kanji character (shown on the left), for which the most common western translation has become "universal energy".

While that’s a perfectly good translation, the interpretations of "universal energy" are often quite creative. Other translations of the Kanji character carry different nuances of meaning, and when put together, help to discern an interpretation perhaps closer to one that Mikao Usui, the founder of this system of Reiki healing, would recognize.

Mikao Usui used the word "Reiki" to describe a concept. His memorial stone records that he felt "a great Reiki over his head" before an experience of an awakening of consciousness, that led to the beginnings of his system of healing. That is a description of a sense of presence, perhaps even a mystical one, a not uncommon description used all through human history to describe experiences of awakening, of grace, of the presence of something we might consider a higher power, Source, the Divine, name it what you will.

Every single person who has had this experience of an awakening of mind has sought to bring that experience to others, to create a way that others can use, that will lead them to that same experience. The system of practice that Mikao Usui created, is such a way, and at the same time a way that is experienced and conveyed through a physical hands on healing practice.


Reiki is a System of Practice

If you have a reaction to the words system and practice you are not alone. The desire for freedom, to do things our own way, is a very human response.

Mikao Usui created his healing system in the form of a folk healing art,
a self healing system, with a practice for the everyday person to use in their everyday life. The system acknowledges both a physical and a non physical basis for a balanced, and healthy life, it acknowledges the very human desire to be happy and to avoid suffering.

The physical element is held in the simple hands-on healing practice used on oneself, and given to and received from others. This practice is the visible part of the system and for many people is identified as being "Reiki".

This focus on the physical, the hands-on-healing practice easily leads to the perception and presentation of "Reiki" as a physical therapy or a modality, which then leads into all that goes with that identification. While that is a valid and beneficial use of the hands-on practice, it is an extension of the basic personal practice.

The non physical aspect is addressed with five simple precepts (or principles) for daily living, described on Mikao Usui's memorial stone as "the secret method to invite happiness". The precepts are a touchstone for our everyday life choices, guides for a way of being. Happiness comes from within, is held in our moment to moment choices. The precepts are in fact a "how to" for being in the now moment.

For many people healing is something that has taken place mostly in an unconscious way, seemingly outside of ourselves and very much with a physical focus. Entering consciously into the process, into what its is to “heal” or even to become “whole”, is a journey into a very different way of living life. When the experience is an unknown, a system serves as a guide, a familiar reference point, something to lean back into for support. A regular practice builds a gentle self discipline.

The system of practice keeps us real. In essence it asks us to “Do it this way. Let go of needing to know a reason or an explanation. Be present in the unknown, to the experience of the moment”. The nature of the practice teaches the art of stilling the mind, of being present in the moment. This simple everyday practice of stillness becomes our experience, shapes our way of being, flowing into our everyday life and relationships.

Cultivating this way of being, of being truly present in the midst of our "doing", leads us into conscious "awakened" living, making choices that create no further suffering, which is the very essence of “healing” and the purpose of the system.


Usui Shiki Ryoho

The word "Reiki" was introduced into the English language by Hawayo Takata, the first teacher in the western world of the Japanese healing art that she taught as "Usui Shiki Ryoho" or "the Usui System of Reiki Healing".

Hawayo Takata translated this Japanese healing art into a form that could be received by westerners with no connection to the culture and the way of life in which it had originated. It is no surprise then that the subtleties of the translation went largely unrecognised by western minds.

This lack of awareness resulted in people changing the practice, mostly with good intent, adding what were considered improvements or leaving out what was not understood. These altered forms of practice, although clearly different, often continued to be taught under the name Usui Shiki Ryoho.

After Hawayo Takata's death in 1980, her granddaughter Phyllis Lei Furumoto was acknowledged as her successor by many of the masters initiated by Hawayo Takata. One of Phyllis Furumoto’s great gifts to the practice has been a description of the form of practice known as the "four aspects and the nine elements of the form”.

This description makes it possible to be clear about what is and what is not the practice of Usui Shiki Ryoho as held in the Takata-Furumoto lineage, and to allow students to able to make a conscious choice about the form of practice selected. This implies no value judgment of other forms of practice, only that they are not the same.

Usui Shiki Ryoho is the Reiki form that I teach and practice.