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What is Reiki?

Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one's "life force energy" is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.

The practice of Reiki works on every level, not just the physical.

The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words - Rei which means "God's Wisdom or the Higher Power" and Ki which is "life force energy". So Reiki is actually "spiritually guided life force energy".

Reiki healing is believed to have originated in Tibet, and was rediscovered by the Japanese scholar and Minister Mikao Usui in the late nineteenth century.

The History of Reiki

The origin of Reiki can be traced back to ancient Tibet, thousands of years ago. This technique was rediscovered in the late 1800's - early 1900's by
Dr. Mikao Usui of Japan.

Dr. Mikao Usui, or Usui Sensei, as his students in Japan call him, is the founder of the Usui System of Reiki.

He was born August 15th 1865 in the village of Yago in the Yamagata district of Gifu prefecture, in Southern Japan.

He was destined to become a scholar, philosopher and a healer.

He was educated by missionaries and became a Minister as well as Principal of a boy’s school in Kyoto.  After a sermon in 1822, a student asked if he literally believed in the Bible and he answered “yes”.  The student asked him to demonstrate his belief by performing a miracle as Jesus did.  Dr. Usui was not able to do this and so was told he
had blind faith and this was not good enough to bolster the faith of the students.  He told the students not to lose faith and resigned his position and traveled to the West where he would learn how to do the miracles of Jesus.

He went to Chicago University in America to study the Christian scriptures concentrating on the healing miracles.  However, after several years, he could not learn how Jesus healed and so turned to other great world religions. 

Thus he returned to Kyoto and looked into the Buddhist writings, as he knew that Buddha and his early disciples had performed healing.  Dr. Usui met a Zen abbot and spent many years with the monks.  He studied the writings in Japanese at first and felt that some of the meaning had been lost in translation and so since Buddhism had been brought to Japan from China he learnt Chinese and again he questioned the translation of the writings and so went on the learn Sanskrit since Buddhism had originally come from India!

He became a Sanskrit Master and it was in this language that he found what he was looking for in the writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Sect.  The secrets of healing were his!  He had found the symbols.  But he did not know what to do with them or how to use them.

He decided to meditate and fast, believing that he would be shown the meaning of the information he had found.  He went to a Sacred Mountain of the monks, holy Mount Kuri Yama, for 21 days.  He only drank water during this time.  To keep track of the days he placed 21 stones beside himself and moved one stone each day.  In the very early morning of the last day a very bright light rushed towards him and struck him on the forehead and he lost consciousness.
He came too several hours later and was aware of beautiful colours, all the hues of a rainbow.  Intense white light and then transparent bubbles, each containing one of the symbols, followed this.  As each bubble moved into his field of vision the instruction for the use of the symbol was given. 

He now had the secrets he was looking for.  He knew this was the Universal Life Energy, which he called “Reiki” and thus the Usui System of Natural Healing was born.

Full of energy he strode down the mountain to return to Kyoto.  On the way he stubbed his toe quite painfully.  He put what he had learnt to the test.  As he grasped his toe he experienced instant healing!

He was very hungry, after 21 days of only water, and stopped to have some food at a roadside food stand.  A young woman who had terrible toothache brought the meal.  Her face was swollen and she had a cloth tied around it.  Dr. Usui asked her permission to touch her cheek and the pain immediately ceased and the swelling went down.

Dr. Usui was delighted to have more proof of the truth of his instructions.

He returned to the monastery to find that the abbot was suffering much pain from arthritis and was in his quarters.  So after bathing, to remove the dust of 21 days on the mountain, he went to see the abbot who was very happy to hear that the secrets of healing had at last been revealed to Dr. Usui.  The abbot asked for a demonstration and was immediately relieved of his pain.

The two men discussed what should be done with this knowledge and Dr. Usui decided to go to the vast slums of Kyoto and offer healing to the beggars.  He spoke to the leader of the beggars and offered healing for the people in return for a place to sleep and to do his work, along with three bowls of rice a day.  His request was accepted and he moved into the area giving healing.

The plan had been that the younger beggars would go to the monastery to be trained by the monks in skills where they could earn a living.  However, Dr. Usui began to notice familiar faces as he went through the neighbourhood and asked why they had returned to the slums.  The reply was that earning was much harder than going out to beg each day!

Upon hearing this Dr. Usui felt a great failure and left the slums at once.  He again meditated on what had happened.  He realized that although he had been very successful in balancing the physical bodies of the beggars, he had had no concern for their spiritual health.

At this time he then added his Five Spiritual Precepts:

Just for today:
I will not worry                 
I will not be angry             
I will do my work honestly            
I will give thanks for my many Blessings            
I will be kind to my neighbour and all living things

From then on Dr Usui determined never again to give Reiki to anyone who did not appreciate it.

He then traveled through out Japan teaching others Reiki. . He was a wise and clever teacher.   Arriving in a town he did not know he would walk through the market place carrying a lighted torch.  The people would make fun of this silly man carrying a torch when the sun was shining.  However, he captured their attention and so arranged meetings to tell the people about Reiki.

He developed a large following of students and in the mid 1920s met Dr. Chujiro Hayashi.  They traveled together and when Dr. Usui died from a stroke March 9th 1926 aged 61 Dr. Hayashi continued in Dr. Usui's tradition, traveling, teaching, and dedicating his life to Reiki.  Dr Hayashi in turn passed on the Reiki teachings to a woman Mrs. Hawayo Takata of Hawaii, before he died.  Mrs. Takata was instrumental in spreading the teachings of Reiki to the United States and Canada.

From these 3 people all Reiki practitioners have descended.

The tradition of Reiki was an oral one, and was passed on by master-to-master and student-to-student by word of mouth. The story most likely has been dramatically embellished by each storyteller over the years to emphasize the wonder and beauty of the legend of Dr. Usui.

How can Reiki help me?

People use Reiki to:

Relax and strengthen their well-being
Cope with stress
Reduce pain
Reduce anxiety and fatigue
Help manage symptoms
Reduce side effects of medications
Support recovery after injuries or surgery

Reiki can be a wise first step in any treatment plan because people generally start feeling better very quickly with Reiki treatment.

As anxiety and pain lessen, and people feel hopeful about regaining their health, they feel more able to incorporate other needed health interventions or make needed lifestyle changes.

In this way, Reiki can help people become more actively involved in their own health.

Reiki can be safely practised on people of all ages, including the newborn, pregnant mothers, surgical patients, the frail and the elderly in any situation.

Reiki is a wonderful way to manage stress and so helps one to be relaxed and calm and thus able to see things in their true perspective.

Reiki can enhance everyday living, and regular sessions may help to promote development of a healthier, more resourceful state of being.

What happens during a Reiki Session?

A Reiki treatment is administered by the laying on of hands. It is a non-diagnostic, non-interventionist and non-manipulative treatment.  No pressure is applied.

A session is carried out with the recipient lying down, in a comfortable and peaceful environment.  There is no need to remove any clothing as Reiki energy passes easily through all material, including plaster casts.

The practitioner places their hands gently on or over the body.  The recipient automatically draws in only as much energy as is needed, using it in whatever way is most appropriate at the time.

Reiki may be experienced as a flow of energy, mild tingling, warmth, coolness, other sensations or nothing at all.

Reiki is deeply relaxing and has a profoundly calming effect. 

It is advisable to rest for a while afterwards and to drink plenty of water over the next few days.  Be responsive to your body’s needs.  Rest if you feel tired, so allowing the energy to continue its work in the days following the session.

The beneficial effects may be felt for several days.


Reiki is a gentle yet powerful complementary therapy that may be used with confidence alongside orthodox healthcare.  As such it expands treatment options.

Reiki is not, however, an alternative to conventional medicine.  You should therefore always consult a GP about acute or infectious conditions and in connection with problems of an urgent nature.