What is Reiki?

Reiki is a holistic health and wellness system developed in Japan in the 1920s by Mikao Usui.

Here in the United States, the origins of Reiki have been exaggerated, debated, fuzzy and regrettably contentious for a long time. The story of Reiki may have been deliberately altered to protect it from anti-Asian bigotry especially during Japanese internments and World War II. The history may have gotten blurred from language and cultural differences. It might have been generally misunderstood and miscommunicated like an outsized game of telephone. Gradually, accurate information is becoming more widely available.

Arguably, only Dr. Usui’s system can be called Reiki, but Reiki has evolved to be a blanket term for any esoteric energy therapy. It’s like when we call any tissue a Kleenex or calI any sticky bandage a Bandaid. True to the times and culture in which it developed, Reiki was first taught to select students in a formal, traditional way. As time went on and Reiki practice spread around the world, different methods and schools of thought developed. Other similar energy healing practices like Jo-rei also gained popularity in the west. I was trained in the Usui style. Out of respect for Dr. Usui’s work, in my books and this blog I use Reiki to refer to Usui Reiki specifically and use the term “energy” or “energy system” for all of those other wonderful, perfectly valid practices out there.

The Japanese word Reiki is often translated as “universal life energy.”

The universal part describes the way that Reiki energy is everywhere, all of the time, all at once. Think gravity. Gravity is everywhere on Earth, all at the same time. Life energy is everywhere too. Reiki is a way to improve and strengthen your connection to this ubiquitous life energy.

Ki from Japanese is essentially the same as chi or qi in Chinese (like Tai Chi martial arts or Qigong exercises) or the prana energy in yoga. That same ki life energy was called life force or vital force by early western physicians like Medicus, Asclepius, Paracelsus and others have called it. Modern science has yet to fully define life and consciousness. Even the most advanced modern technological health care cannot artificially create life or healing. Even now, in the twenty-first century, all healing comes from within. Even with every benefit of modern medicine, is still the innate reparative ability of life itself that heals.

Reiki is 100% natural. Just like being alive is 100% natural.

Reiki works with our connection to the universal life energy that makes each person a living being instead of an inanimate object. Reiki simply strengthens and clarifies your individual connection to that vital energy in order to help your innate, natural, living, healing processes work a little better. Reiki is deeply holistic, working with the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of life just as much as physical processes. Reiki supports existing life and inner healing abilities, so it also supports modern medical and mental health treatments. It is truly a complimentary healing method.

If you strip away all the fuzzy, unconfirmed parts of Reiki’s origin story, it’s really very simple.

Mikao Usui went to a mountain and meditated.

During those meditations he comprehended how the vital force could be used to improve health along with various kanji-like symbols to facilitate the energy’s work. After returning from his meditation retreat, he worked with people in need to improve their health and refine his methods to the point where it could be taught to others.

There are three or four levels of Reiki training, depending on the individual instructor. My teacher uses four.

  • Level 1: touching, hands-on sessions
  • Level 2: distance sessions (more on that another time)
  • Level 3: Master-practitioner who has received the master level training and attunements but chooses to practice Reiki without teaching it. (Like me)
  • Level 4: Master-teacher: Reiki master who has learned the techniques of teaching Reiki and giving all levels of attunements. (Like my teacher, Thom Beardshaw)

Stay tuned to the blog. I’ll explain more about Reiki as we go along.

For more information about Reiki’s effectiveness in non-medical settings, please see my Ph.D. Dissertation Reiki and Relaxation (available here) plus the following bibliography sources for this page:

  • The Complete Reiki Handbook by Walter Lubeck
  • Reiki: The Legacy of Dr. Usui by Frank Arjava Petter
  • Reiki Fire: New Information About the Origens of Reiki Power by Frank Arjava Petter