Reiki healing and therapy history - reiki and well-being, reiki self-development and life-balance - reiki and the seven chakras
Reiki (pronounced 'ray-kee') is commonly perceived to be (only) a form of spiritual healing. However Reiki is more than this: Reiki is now also increasingly regarded as a belief and behaviour approach towards personal fulfillment, whose principles and philosophy can explain and achieve better life-balance and well-being ; enable the furthering of self-development and discovery, as well as being a remarkable healing and recovery treatment . Based on very ancient Eastern teachings, Reiki methodology and history has given rise to confusion, speculation and mystery, although in recent years, happily, the consistency and detail of information about Reiki has progressively improved, to the point today where Reiki is an accepted form of 'alternative therapy', available and practised widely, including its recommendation and provision by many 'mainstream' hospitals and clinics across the western world.
Reiki information and principles are particularly worthy of inclusion in this online resource because of their relevance to personal development, well-being, to our understanding of mind and body, and how our minds are connected with the universe around us. Within which, the connection between mind and body , so central to Reiki principles, is significant in our understanding and developing of self , and in helping others . The Reiki concept and its underpinning philosophy therefore provide an excellent perspective for improving appreciation of the mind-body link, and the principles of life-balance and well-being . The majority of the content of this article, and the prompt for me to focus on this fascinating subject, has been provided by Reiki Master and author, Katharina Van Gend, which is gratefully acknowledged.
introduction to reiki - what we see is not necessarily what we get
As young children we do not question that the world we perceive through our senses is the whole thing. Later we learn that our senses are actually inadequate to know the world. In terms of total perception you actually get a lot more than you can just see, hear, taste or touch! A look down a microscope will soon convince you that normal eyesight fails to detect all manner of things. Until the invention of SONAR (sound navigation and ranging technology), we had no idea how bats could 'see' in the dark. How homing pigeons or migrating birds operate is still something of a mystery. It is clear that just about every animal has a superior olfactory sense (of smell) compared with humans; and who knows how keenly other animals taste things?
Other natural phenomena we have come to have some understanding of include: gravity, magnetism, plate tectonics and quantum physics, not to mention huge advances in physical brain function and psychology.
So, to return to our 'inadequate' senses: although our world appears to be motionless and solid, we now understand that in fact everything is moving, and at a sub-atomic level, everything is far from solid . In fact everything has great gaps in-between the particles. The nucleus of an atom is the only truly dense part of it - incredibly the size of the nucleus in relation to the size of the atom is like a pea in a concert hall. Electrical charge is actually responsible for solidity, not density or solidity of atoms, which are mostly empty space.
And everything vibrates at its own frequency. Through the dedicated work of scientists in many disciplines we have come to a scientific confirmation of what psychically sensitive people have long-time held: There is more going on in the universe than our limited senses can perceive, although some people seem pre-disposed to tune into and in some way, comprehend this energy. Perhaps it is due to this scientific rigor that complementary forms of healing and alternative ways of understanding our world, are increasingly being given recognition as being worthy of serious attention.
Reiki is now part of a worldwide movement of people who are properly concerned about their welfare and their loved ones - and indeed the planet. People are seeking to take responsibility for their own health, working with conventional medicine but extending those boundaries. Admitting that humans are just part of a natural system might seem diminishing at first, but in fact it is empowering because understanding the rules of the game (how the system works) enables one to use it to personal advantage and to help others. It behoves us to educate ourselves; challenge the 'received wisdom' (with generosity of spirit); explore new ideas; accept the consequences of our adventures; and treat every experience as potentially something from which we can grow.
Related to this it is helpful to consider a Japanese concept known as 'tatemae' which (although on a literal level is a ceremony for putting the framework in a Japanese house) also, and more pertinently, represents the maintenance of a harmoniously balanced society . This philosophy of 'promoting good for all' is found in other cultures and beliefs too, and as a positive, giving, all-embracing approach serves both as an important driver, and context, for Reiki's values and aims.
So let's look at how Reiki fits into this philosophy.
origins of reiki and the 'reiki' word
Understanding the Reiki word to its fullest and deepest meaning is more complex than the common literal translation.
At a simple level, Rei (pronounced 'ray' - this first syllable is stressed) is generally considered to signify 'Soul or Spirit' and Ki (pronounce 'key') is generally regarded as meaning literally 'atmosphere, air, universe' and more philosophically: 'Life Force', hence, Reiki assumes a typical translation meaning 'Universal Life Force' .
At a deeper level however it is helpful and worthwhile to consider the meaning in a little more depth, and why modern language struggles to carry all of the original meaning:
Rei would originally have been written by Dr Usui as an old 'kanji' character or symbol, the sort (in its modern form) that we commonly associate with Chinese and Japanese 'pictorial' writing. Kanji characters often visually represent their meaning, and so are also known as pictograms, pictographs, ideagrams or ideagraphs. These words in themselves suggest how much more meaning a kanji character conveys compared to a written word - just as 'a picture tells a thousand words', so a kanji character carries more meaning than a single word or syllable. Kanji characters are originally Chinese, and were adopted by the Japanese into their own language many hundreds of years ago. Over time, due to the complexity of the Chinese kanji system, the Japanese characters have changed, notably during the 1940's grammar reform by the Japanese government to increase language simplicity. Some loss of subtlety and depth of meaning inevitably results from such simplification (bear in mind that Usui would have used an older kanji character than today's equivalent). There is also some difference between the appearance and meaning of brush-drawn (older) and pen-drawn (modern) characters, which likely contributed to the narrowing of the modern translation. According to reiki.org (the International Centre for Reiki Training), when the Japanese kanji character Rei is more deeply interpreted in Reiki context, the meaning is 'supernatural knowledge' or 'spiritual consciousness' . This in turn represents the wisdom that comes from (one or other) God or the 'higher self'; an 'all knowing' consciousness that understands each person completely. This deeper meaning underpins, and hopefully makes it easier to appreciate, the central principle of Reiki healing, whereby the 'universal energy' naturally knows and focuses on the ailments or imbalances existing for anyone.
The word Ki equates to 'life force' in the same way as the word Chi in Chinese (Chi forms a central aspect of Acupuncture, which uses needles to unblock and free the flow of Chi), and other similar sounding words in Sanskrit and Hawaiian, for example, Ti. According to Reiki theory, and others besides, Ki is the life force present in all living things. When blocked, health and well-being suffer. When a person's life force is at a low level, or its flow is restricted, there is greater vulnerability to ill-health and emotional anguish.
Thus Reiki signifies the energy that vitalises and unifies everything, and connects the person with the universe and its forces. Whether or not you believe in a personal God or hold to a particular religious doctrine is immaterial to Reiki's effect. Many people find a Reiki treatment to be a spiritual experience - others prefer to interpret the experience using different concepts.
the mind-body connection
The idea that all life is somehow simply various manifestations of a great life force can be found in religious and philosophical texts from all ages and cultures. Psychologist Sigmund Freud's protégé, Carl Yung wrote of a 'collective unconscious' as did Boris Pasternak (famous Russian author of Dr. Zhivago), and this tract from a Buddhist text is another example:
Feathered birds and fishes finned
And clouds and rain and calm and wind
And sun and moon and stars declare
All life is one life everywhere.
It is no longer controversial when scientists from various disciplines claim that every thing vibrates and despite appearances to the contrary, is interconnected by some as yet incomprehensible force and so, to some degree, everything has an effect on everything else.
Since this 'every thing' must include thoughts, and thoughts are an emerging quality of the brain, and the brain is part of the body/person - (can you see where this is leading) - it stands to reason that modern medicine too, is looking again at complementary therapies and spiritual/natural healing to see how it reconciles with this new understanding.
That 'the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind' has long been accepted in the world of alternative/complementary therapy. It seems that this ancient concept is being confirmed by today's science.
And this is where Reiki comes in. Reiki simply taps into this infinite energy for the mental and physical well-being of both the practitioner and recipient. The Reiki practitioner is merely a conduit through whom the energy flows into the recipient, and the practitioner has the happy advantage of benefiting from the session too...
reiki treatment types
Reiki can be given as a 'hands on' treatment or at distance (any distance). Please note: By 'hands-on' we can mean literally that the hands of the 'channeller' actually touch the (clothed) recipient or that they hover over the recipient. Also, and fascinatingly: anything can have Reiki channelled into it: animal, vegetable or mineral.
'hands on' reiki
A Reiki treatment is given fully clothed. The Reiki recipients' privacy, modesty and dignity are always respected. For enhanced relaxation, the recipient is usually lying down, but could be sitting or even standing. There are seven classic positions where generally the practitioner will place his/her hands on or over the recipient. These positions equate to the seven main 'chakra' areas of the body, which feature in various Eastern mind-and-body and spiritual concepts. See the chakra definitions below. (The word is sometimes spelled 'chakra' - it means the same thing). However, since a basic tenet of Reiki is that the Reiki (healing energy) will flow where the Reiki 'needs to go', strict adherence to the chakra positions is not vital. Chakras are certainly an aspect of Reiki treatment, but not an absolute rule.
Feelings experienced by the recipient during Reiki treatment vary between individuals, and also from session to session. Treatments are typically very relaxing, and recipients often fall into a lovely drifting state, or actually fall asleep. These states may be accompanied by dreams, floating sensations, warmth, tingling or a general sense of security and peace. Sometimes, if the healing is on a mental level, the recipient may shed a few tears as the emotional pain is released. This will be followed by calmness and later by a sense of increased energy as the body is freed from the weight of the stored distress.
Sometimes the benefit from a Reiki treatment is obvious and at others little seems to be happening. Trust and patience are needed. Healing may not always manifest in the way the recipient wanted or expected. For example a 'patient' presenting with an ear problem may simply leave the Reiki session with some vague idea about listening to someone's complaints more sympathetically.
The position on the body of an ailment or complaint can be a good clue as to its underlying mental and/or emotional cause. Addressing the cause is where healing begins.
reiki 'distance healing'
Reiki distance healing can be performed at any distance from the recipient.
A mutually convenient time is normally arranged, although a Reiki Master can send healing to anyone at any time, which is a fascinating and intriguing aspect of the concept.
reiki healing - its effects and optimising the benefits
Reiki simply taps into the natural force that 'vivifies' (quickens and enlivens) everything. Reiki treatment raises the vibrational frequency of the recipient and clears blockages that disrupt the energy flow, allowing healing to begin at a cellular level. The energy supply is limitless. It is unaffected by the channeller and flows through him/her to wherever needed in the recipient. The nature of Reiki is that it can only be beneficial.
As healing proceeds, the recipient may (probably will) start to look at areas of his/her life that have been difficult in some way and take practical steps to address these issues. This of course will affect the people around the recipient who might prefer the situation to remain unchanged.
Apart from the direct healing from Reiki, an important tenet of Reiki is a commitment to ones own health. The recipient should accept, indeed embrace his/her responsibility for his/her own well-being.
The Laws of Nature still apply. Reiki will not render you immune from the vagaries of life and it will not secure you from Natural Law. For example: if you cut yourself and don't wash the area, apply some form of antiseptic and keep it lightly covered, you are inviting infection. If you abuse your body with smoking, drugs, alcohol, poor diet and inadequate mental and physical exercise, you will, sooner or later, suffer the consequences. We are part of a natural system and as such we are subject to its laws. Our bodies are part of the system. We ignore our biology at our peril.
Reiki is not an insurance policy against living in an unhealthy manner. Rather, Reiki will support you in actively promoting your general improvement.
In short, you will make the most of Reiki by following the other accepted principles of healthy living too.
learning to practise reiki
Given the fact that Reiki can be 'self-administered', and also the personal benefit felt from practising Reiki, many people deciding to learn how to practise Reiki do so after initially seeking Reiki treatment.
Learning the '1st Degree' of Reiki enables the student to give themselves, and others, 'hands-on' Reiki healing at any time.
Although we use the word 'learn', it is really more a matter of having the ability passed-on from a Reiki Master. For the Reiki student, there is no requirement for specific knowledge or experience, nor the need to have reached a particular level of enlightenment.
Reiki is part of the quest for understanding - Reiki is not an award of merit.
The ability to give Reiki healing is passed-on through a simple ritual called an 'Attunement' which opens the chakras and creates an indissoluble, 'undilutable' link between the recipient/student and the Reiki energy. It begins a process of detoxification. Because of this, candidates are advised to prepare themselves for the experience by taking simple steps, which the Reiki Master will explain.
The classic procedure, hand positions etc., are taught during Reiki teaching sessions. The Reiki Master will typically provide supporting notes.
There are typically three levels in Reiki teaching and learning. The levels are usually called 'Degrees' and the teaching process is known as 'Attunement'. Some Reiki Masters sub-divide the 3rd Degree in to two parts, namely: achieving full vibrational strength, and then being qualified to teach and pass on Attunements.
1st Degree: Entry level - Enabling the candidate to give 'hands-on' treatment.
2nd Degree: Increased vibrational strength, and enabling the candidate to channel Reiki at distance.
3rd Degree: Full vibrational strength, and enabling the student to pass-on all levels of Reiki to other candidates ('Attunement').
At each Degree stage, additional material and appropriate instruction is supplied.
Only when a candidate has been given the Attunement knowledge and teaching will he/she be qualified to teach Reiki to others.
NOTE: Some Reiki Masters split 3rd. Degree into two. The first gives the candidate the full vibrational advantage but DOES NOT teach the candidate how to do the Attunements. I.e. The candidate will not be 'qualified' to teach and pass-on Attunements to other because he/she will not have the knowledge. That is revealed in the second part.
It is important to note first that Reiki history is by no means crystal clear. The organic way in which the teachings have been passed down and spread over the years, and the apparent absence of officially documented records, contrive to leave a somewhat vague trail, nevertheless:
Reiki as we know it today is generally said to have begun with Dr Mikao Usui, a learned scholar and teacher, living in Japan in the 1800's. Sources suggest he was born on 15 August, 1865 in Gifu, Japan, which is by the Nagara River mid-way between Tokyo and Kyoto in the south of the country.
Significantly Usui is said to have 'rediscovered' Reiki, from old Sanskrit writings, aided by and his meditation experiences on Mount Kori-Yama, which enabled him to formulate the Reiki concept and techniques. Some Reiki writers suggest that these rediscovered healing secrets recreated those practised by Buddha.
Accounts vary as to whether Dr Usui established his Reiki 'healing society' (supposedly in 1922) in Tokyo or Kyoto. The fact that the cities' names are mutual anagrams no doubt didn't help the confusion, and probably guarantees that it will continue.
Usui is credited with developing the Reiki ideals and ethics, and the levels or degrees of capability, qualification and 'attunement' teaching. Dr Usui is also credited with establishing five core values which feature in Reiki philosophy and teaching, sometimes known as the five Usui principles, namely:
- Don't get angry.
- Don't worry.
- Be grateful.
- Work hard.
- Be kind to others.
Reiki historians seem to agree that at some stage (around 1925) Dr Usui initiated Dr Chujiro Hayashi, who by this time was a close friend and fellow Reiki practitioner, as his successor, which involved teaching all three levels including the attunement.
Usui was apparently at some time honoured by the Emperor of Japan, and most accounts seem to agree he died in 1926.
Dr Hayashi went on to set up a clinic in Tokyo and continued to establish formality and order to the Reiki proceedings including hand positions, and attunements, etc.
The third significant person in the history of Reiki, and especially the spread of Reiki (to the west) is Madam Hawayo Takata.
According William Rand in his highly regarded book 'Reiki, The Healing Touch' (Vision Publications 1991) the history surrounding Madam Takata is as follows:
Hawayo Takata was born on 24 December 1900, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, of Japanese immigrant parents. In October of 1930, her husband Saichi died leaving Madam Takata to raise their two children. Perhaps due to her hard life, around 1935, she developed serious health problems. The death of her sister prompted her to travel to Japan to inform her parents, who had since returned there. Seeking medical help in Japan, Madam Takata (after apparently hearing voices on the operating table) then came by recommendation to Dr Hayashi's Reiki clinic. After four months she was completely healed and so began her own Reiki learning, which she brought back to Hawaii, aided by Dr Hayashi who had followed her to help spread the word. Hayashi died in 1941, after which Madam Takata was the main force behind the adoption of Reiki teaching and methods in the USA, notably via lecture tours to Universities, in all initiating twenty-two Reiki Masters up until her death in 1980.
Apparently, at the time of writing this (2005) Madam Takata's granddaughter Phyllis Furumoto is still a Reiki Grand Master in the western USA.
When William Rand wrote 'Reiki, The Healing Touch' in 1991 he estimated there were then 50,000 Reiki Masters and up to a million people practicing Reiki throughout the world. I suspect the numbers have increased considerably, perhaps exponentially since then.
William Rand, as well as writing authoritatively on Reiki, is thought by some to have been chiefly responsible for bringing Reiki to the UK, and also for promoting its teaching at more affordable and accessible rates than had previously applied in the USA.
advice on choosing a reiki master
Perhaps not surprisingly, given the underlying philosophy of Reiki, it is generally suggested that you will be guided to the right Reiki Master for you.
Notwithstanding that idea, here are some general guidelines:
While every Reiki Master is obliged to pass on the appropriate 'Degree of Attunement' to any given candidate, each Reiki Master is likely to take their own approach, and may augment or position their teaching with other related concepts, orientations, types of application, etc., so be aware that variety and choice are available. Associated orientations and Reiki applications will include: counselling skills; teaching you how to help your 'client/patient' to feel at ease; the use of self-development techniques to aid the Reiki candidate in his/her quest; light trance-states for meditation sessions; the safe use of essential oils to create a sympathetic ambience, etc.
Fees vary too, and as with other services and advisors, a high fee doesn't necessarily mean best or right for you. Trust your instincts, and allow yourself to be 'drawn' to a person you feel is right for you.
Travelling distance, accommodation and convenience will also have a bearing on cost and your decision.
Contact with a number of Reiki Masters. Emailing and/or talking on the phone will soon give you an idea whether you're on the right track.
If possible go and visit the Reiki Master. Some Reiki Master hold Reiki 'Sharing Meetings', others not.
Some Reiki Masters are 'full-time' others have other commitments. A full-time Reiki Master is not necessarily any better than a 'part-time' Reiki Master (a person's commitments' other than Reiki may be just as worthy as Reiki).
Ultimately, choice will come down to a feeling, a sense that this person will be good to trust. Clearly, Reiki Masters are individuals. They bring their personalities to the proceedings and by chatting and meeting you will pick-up on their vibration. If it chimes well with yours; if you like what you hear; if you can see yourself safe in the teacher's hands - then you're probably right to go along with your intuition.
the seven chakras
Various Eastern concepts, philosophies and theories refer to the 'chakras', for example Reiki and Yoga. So do modern-day European concepts of Spiritual Healing. The chakra system also now appears commonly in many 'new age' writings and references. The word chakra was originally cakra, meaning wheel, also sun, dating back to between 600-2,000 BC from ancient Indian culture. References to chakras being bodily centres of feeling or consciousness appeared in ancient Indian writings about Yoga as early as 200 BC.
Typically seven chakras are referenced, and these are certainly the main ones on which theories focus, although various systems and doctrines consider that other chakras exist.
These days there is much interest in the seven chakras in the way that they relate to modern life and well-being, and this is not surprising since it is clear now that the ancient chakra system corresponds directly with the major human nerve ganglia which stem from the spinal column. The position of the chakras also relate to the endocrine glands which secrete directly into the bloodstream.
The seven chakras are generally thought of as being centres of energy within the human body, aligned with the spine, which correspond to our feelings, and emotional and behavioural characteristics. Each chakra is also commonly associated with an organ and bodily function, and is usually represented by a colour, and a 1-7 numbering system. Other sensual aspects are associated with the chakras depending on the interpretation and doctrine, for instance shapes and sounds, and human development from conception to maturity.
A person's body, mind and spiritual well-being are balanced and healthy when all of their chakras are 'clear'. When chakras are 'blocked', the related functions and feelings will be adversely affected; also the balance of the person is upset because other chakras are forced to compensate.
The seven chakras (numbered according to the chakra system) are located at the following points of the body, along the line of the spine:
- base of the spine
- lower abdomen/lower back (below navel)
- solar plexus (between the navel and base of sternum, which is the central vertical bone in the rib-cage)
- heart (centre of chest)
- throat (base of neck)
- brow (lower forehead, between eyes)
- crown (top of the head)
The lower chakras govern our more basic instincts related to survival and physical self .
The higher chakras govern our mental characteristics and feelings related to thought and consciousness .
Logically the central chakra - the heart - arguably bridges the two, being strongly linked both to physical and emotional feelings.
When all chakras are open and balanced, the mind, body and spiritual self, are healthy. Reiki is one of several techniques and methodologies which can 'open' or 'free' chakras that are blocked (which causes other chakras to become over-active), and thereby to restore a person's natural balance.
chakra names, positions, associations and meanings
The seven chakras are written about often, and representations of the chakra system can vary slightly, although the essential principles and definitions are generally consistent. The chakras are often shown in reverse order (7-1) compared to the grid below, and the names given to each chakra can vary slightly too, so alternatives are shown here where applicable. When the chakra is open and free it enables feelings and behaviours according to and relating to those listed. When a chakra is blocked or closed these feelings and behaviours are suppressed, resulting in negative feelings stemming from the respective emotion or instinct. The colours interestingly correspond to the colours of the rainbow, and can be remembered in the same way by the mnemonic (mnemonic means memory aid): 'Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain' (= Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Indigo, Violet).
the seven chakras
|chakra name||position in body||associated feeling or emotion||other associated aspects||associated colour|
|1||root||base of spine||survival, bodily connection, security||earth, physical||red|
|2||sacral||lower abdomen, lower back, below navel||
emotional stability, adaptability, movement
|3||solar plexus, navel or power||between navel and base of sternum||personal power, independence, energy, metabolism||fire, ego||yellow|
|4||heart||centre of chest||love, self-acceptance, reconciles opposing forces, feelings and entities||air, social||green|
|5||throat||base of neck||
communication, vibratory awareness (language and sound)
|6||third eye or brow||between eyebrows||intuitive insight, conceptual awareness||light, fundamental||indigo|
|7||crown||top of head||
spiritual connection, higher
|thought, universal||violet or purple|
Important as they are, the seven chakras are just one aspect of Reiki; there is so much more to learn and experience that is postive and good from this fascinating subject. There are many good books on the Reiki subject, and various websites, many of which embody an uplifting and positive spirit, like the subject itself. Reiki provides a modern access and methodology, through some very ancient philosophies, to self-discovery, self-development, healing self and others, and attaining fulfillment and life balance. It is a remarkable area that is worthy of further exploration and experience.
katharina van gend - biography
Katharina Van Gend is a Reiki Master, NLP Master, hypnotherapist, and aromatherapist. Katharina's early interest in 'what makes people tick' led to her becoming qualified in hypnosis and regression therapy. She later became a Master in NLP (see Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and qualified at as an Aromatherapist Brighton University, UK.
Katharina also designs and conducts 'alternative' secular funerals, weddings, and naming ceremonies.
Reiki came into her life - as is so often the case - due to a personal need, and from there Katharina felt driven to become a Reiki Master. Katharina's skills in Reiki, aromatherapy, hypnotherapy and NLP are complementary. Moreover they are beyond interests or qualifications; they contain and embody tenets which form the basis of her personal philosophy and inform every aspect of her life. Katharina is married and lives on the south coast of England. Her other interests include writing, languages, horse riding, cycling, and cookery. Katharina's book about Reiki is titled Reiki Revoloution.
Katharina's contribution of the technical content of this Reiki article is gratefully acknowledged