REIKI, Simple and Profound – A Balancing Practice for Client and Therapist, Part II

Continued from Friday, August 19, 2011

REIKI by Degrees, or Not

There are three levels of training in REIKI–first degree, second degree, and REIKI master–but you don’t necessarily need all three. First degree teaches hand placements for treating self and others. It involves a series of initiations, in which the REIKI master empowers the student to be a spontaneous conduit for the flow of REIKI pulsations. Students also learn the precepts–Usui’s guides for daily contemplation. Second degree empowers the student to apply REIKI from a distance, using symbols to make REIKI connection in the mind. REIKI master training is for those who have not only committed to a REIKI lifestyle, but also want to teach others the practice. Traditionally, it involves an apprenticeship-type relationship with the REIKI master over time, as well as the initiation and mastery skills. Miles says there are abbreviated training formats available, such as weekend or even Internet courses. But one might question how mastery can be achieved on the fast track. The continued supervision and guidance of one’s mentor, and the experience of grounded practice–not for a weekend but for months or even years–better lends itself to true mastery.

A series of eight or nine hand placements are used for REIKI self-treatment, basically covering areas of the head, neck, and front torso. These, plus an additional four placements on the back, can be used for treating others. Positions are held for several minutes or longer, and can be applied while reclining or sitting. Although daily practice with the complete protocol is recommended, if time or space only allows for one or two hand placements, the receiver will still benefit. Miles notes there are variations encountered in style, both in teaching and in practice, but it’s all REIKI. Some REIKI masters offer weekend trainings for first and second degree students, while others space classes over a full week to allow more time for integration and home practice between sessions. It’s a matter of choice for students, but the more extended process gives them an opportunity to bring their experiences back into the classroom for contemplation and feedback.

Whether for personal or business practice, Miles says first-degree training is all that is needed for most people, even those in healthcare professions. “We develop REIKI through practice, not through more training,” she says. “The training plants the seeds–we receive the initiations and learn how to practice–then our practice nourishes those seeds, and they sprout and bear fruit, again and again.”

Callan agrees: “What you get in first degree is plenty. You can practice a lifetime with just that, and really it is through the practice of REIKI that one learns.” She also suggests auditing an additional first-degree class at some point, just to join in the group energy and receive encouragement for commitment to practice.

Callan says REIKI changed her life. Unhappy and angry, she was willing to try anything when she took her first REIKI class in 1988. “It was enough to whet my appetite and I’ve never turned back from the path it set me on,” she says. She eventually left a business career to pursue her REIKI practice and become a licensed acupuncturist.

That change in Callan’s perspective seems to vividly reflect the basic essence of Usui’s precepts. Daily REIKI practice is enhanced by engaging in awareness and contemplation of these guidelines for life-affirming choice. Translations of the precepts from the Japanese language vary and after delving into much research and consultation with experts, Miles presents this version in her book: “Just for today, do not be angry and do not worry. Value your life and make the effort necessary to actualize your life’s purpose. Be kind.”

“The precepts are simple statements that can be contemplated endlessly,” Miles says. “They are particularly useful for people who don’t have the support of a spiritual code. For me, the precepts were like spotlights on a spiritual practice I already had. If you don’t have a foundation like that, you can think of them as a kind of mental REIKI. It takes no effort to hold them in your awareness and they blossom naturally over time.

“What I love about the precepts is they don’t really tell us what to do and not to do, but rather, they open the possibility of choice.” As in “just for today, do not be angry,” one can decide how to be with one’s anger. Rather than suppressing it, one can step back to study and witness it.

REIKI techniques are simple and easy to learn, the precepts are straight forward, but it’s the daily practice that counts. “Traditionally, the advanced practitioner is not one who has fancy practices,” Miles says. “Rather, an advanced practitioner is one who has had a committed practice of daily self-treatment over time. In this way, we develop from the inside out, instead of being burdened by a lot of ornaments.”

Deepening your practice provides the foundation, and from there you can explore further. “I encourage people new to REIKI to just practice and have experiences for some period of time before they start reading about what others have experienced,” Callan says. After first-degree training, she practiced on herself, with friends, and in REIKI circles. One of her teachers, she says, gave her this sage advice: “To have a complete REIKI practice you need three things: you need to treat yourself, you need to treat others, and you need to receive treatment yourself.” So she did, noting, “There wasn’t a lot of discussion. And what do you say anyway? I sit there with my hands on someone’s abdomen for half an hour and they fall asleep? What is there to discuss in that?”

REIKI Hands in Healthcare

Whether in bodywork or other areas of healthcare, REIKI can benefit both client and practitioner. It’s safe and can be applied as a whole treatment or in brief intervals to relax the client and enhance healing. “Massage therapists who are REIKI students often use REIKI to jump-start their session, perhaps with a few moments of REIKI at the head or solar plexus beginning the massage,” Miles says. “REIKI is often used at the end, or during the session they might come across a part of the body that’s tight or whatever. You just rest your hands until you feel a difference in the tissue or the vibrational flow in the body.”

Bodyworkers and physicians alike mention the ease of establishing rapport through REIKI. “People often describe REIKI as soothing or comforting,” Miles says. “If you start massage from that place, if you take a moment and you give the client that experience of connection, then the client will open more deeply to what you have to offer.” It establishes trust, relaxing both therapist and client, and opens the flow of the moment.

The same holds true in medical practice. Michael Gnatt, MD, who trained in first and second degree with Miles, says REIKI is helpful in exams, and especially in treating patients whose conditions cause anxiety or pain. “They’re so at wit’s end with what they’re dealing with, they can’t just talk about it and receive some understanding. If you can use REIKI, it sort of just shifts communication to a different level. They stop obsessing and deeply relax.” With one particular patient, easily agitated because his Parkinson’s disease made communicating difficult, Gnatt would start the exam with REIKI. “It changed the whole interaction between us. He would totally relax, he would move better and speak better. It’s helpful in all different kinds of situations.”

James N. Dillard, MD, is associate clinical professor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and author of The Chronic Pain Solution. He trained in both first and second degree with Miles and has been practicing REIKI five years. REIKI, he says, has been the final fine-tuning of his three decades of energy work, which also includes qigong, Jin Shin Do, and acupuncture.

“As someone who’s formally trained in three professions–as an acupuncturist, chiropractor, and physician–my experience of REIKI is that it can be a wonderful, deepening enhancement for anyone, but particularly for people in healthcare professions,” Dillard says. “And it can broaden and deepen the practice one already has in ways you will only discover once you embark on that journey.

“Since I was trained in REIKI by Pamela, I feel some kind of energetic connection to the patient. I think on some level I offer REIKI–open a channel for REIKI–with all my patients, whether consciously or unconsciously.” Even when doing purely medical procedures, Dillard says, he’s aware of a REIKI connection. “It seems to happen, whether I want it to or not, which is fine with me. It just flows, and I can feel it flow. I don’t know what all the benefits can be,” Dillard says, suggesting emotional comfort could be one, “but there are things involved in the therapeutic interaction between practitioners and patients we don’t fully understand.”

REIKI can also provide emotional comfort for the therapist, nurturing her while she nurtures others. “The therapist is supported by REIKI as it flows through her, so she doesn’t feel like it’s hers alone to do–she’s not carrying the weight of the results,” Miles says. Having done the work within that shared healing space, the therapist ends the session refreshed, not depleted or burned out. Connecting through the field of consciousness can also enhance the therapist’s intuition, as well as help her stay present in the moment with her client.

A veteran of more than twenty years of energy healing and bodywork, REIKI practitioner Rohma Kellert has considerable experience with subtle energy techniques. “All of it comes from the same place and you can get there many different ways,” she says. “This is just an efficient and safe way to get there. It’s easier to integrate.” The therapist is not forcing movement within a resistant system by frequency-tuning or visualizing a specific light or sound. That type of movement can s

With REIKI, Kellert says, “It’s letting that primordial essence arise from the core of a person simultaneously with letting it flow from the heart of the universe. There’s a real wisdom in that. You’re allowing what’s there to be there at the level and intensity that is exactly right, not trying to force it to be stronger or weaker based on an external desire or judgement.” When the system has what it needs, the flow stops. “Nothing bad would happen if you leave your hands there, just nothing more would move.”

The safe, simple practice of placing REIKI hands fits well into hospital settings, where space and access to the patient may be limited. Through funding from her nonprofit Institute for Advancement of Complementary Therapies, Miles has developed complementary treatment programs for major New York City hospitals, with five REIKI programs now in place. Grazia Della-Terza, a massage therapist and Asian bodywork instructor, provides REIKI to cancer patients in one of those programs. “I often observe a kind of change in consciousness, where their energy is low or they seem tired or distracted or troubled when I start the session,” she says. “Then, at the end, they’re so refreshed and smiling, whereas before they were very down. It’s like a lightness in the body.”

As a part of integrative medicine, REIKI complements the healing process in a variety of conditions and diseases. “Placing a REIKI hand floods the area with grace, with healing, because REIKI is the intelligence of healing,” Miles says. When there’s obstruction, that intelligence is recognized by the body. She calls it remembered wellness. And even when there may be no physical cure, REIKI can provide profound comfort and inner balance for the patient and family.

“Occasionally I hear unnecessary precautions and assumed contraindications regarding REIKI, which really come from a lack of understanding regarding what REIKI is and how it works,” Miles says. “These assumptions come out of the medical model where in order to help, an intervention also has the capacity to cause harm. So this isn’t understanding the way REIKI works, which is not to impose an action, but rather to support the system moving to better integration or balance. There is no real ‘do.’ REIKI doesn’t override the system the way a pharmaceutical does. REIKI is a spiritual practice.”

The Mystical Essence

To embrace REIKI, one need not understand the how or why. REIKI simply is and therein lies a certain beauty and grace, as expressed by those with REIKI hands.

“I like that I feel at some level I’m embracing a mystery that’s larger than I am,” Dillard says. “It’s appealing for all of us. It’s the reason people are interested in spirituality and religion and taking a walk to watch the sunrise. We want to embrace things outside of ourselves. I can’t say I know what goes on. I think it’s larger than just the treatment. It’s a mystery which makes it feel like you are opening yourself up to things that are greater than yourself.”

And as Callan says, “If you let REIKI stand alone, there is this amazing simplicity–nourishing, profound, effective. No need to embellish.”

For more information on REIKI research and application in bodywork and healthcare, visit

By Shirley Vanderbilt
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, June/July 2006. Copyright 2006. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
Miles, Pamela. 2006. REIKI: A Comprehensive Guide. New York: Tarcher/Penguin.


The Hands of Faith Holistic Healing Centers into a peaceful retreat that offers a variety of healing modalities including, Naturopathy, Digestive Health/Enzyme Nutrition, Therapeutic Massage, and Energy Healing. We specialize in Detoxification/Anti-aging issues, and will work with any patient who is looking to optimize their health and get to the bottom on their chronic illness. Whether you are seeking help with a specific condition or unexplained symptoms, we will provide you with a comprehensive evaluation and treatment plan to return you to optimal health. We would be honored if you would allow us to assist you along your healing journey.

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