Mikao UsuiIt’s fortunate that today the full teachings of Usui Sensei’s Reiki are available:

1) Meditative Reiki which leads to inner mastery and evolution.

2) Hands-on Reiki which leads to healing.

The two form a complete and comprehensive spiritual teaching. There’s some crossover between them and one complements the other. Because Reiki is a spiritual teaching and not a healing art alone, or worse a modality (as some practice it), Meditative Reiki is the root and trunk of the teachings. This doesn’t negate the power and value of hands-on Reiki.

Hands-on Reiki is founded on, sourced from, and supported by Meditative Reiki, without which Reiki is a truncated teaching. This post details the pitfall such truncation causes.

Hands-on Reiki without its Meditative anchor

Until about ten years ago, Reiki was popularly known only as a hands-on energy healing practice, with Usui Sensei’s enlightenment teachings left out of the system. This error, unfortunately, persists to this day in many pockets of the global Reiki community.

Usui was really only interested in helping people alleviate suffering through their own self-realization or satori using meditation and other related inner practices. Because he was a dedicated spiritual practitioner, he had healing power and was involved in an ongoing conversation about “palm healing” with his contemporaries, but this wasn’t the main thrust of his work.

Healing power is part and parcel of any evolutionary path, as it is in Reiki. It’s there naturally as the practitioner evolves. Hands-on healing is simply an extension of this process.

Just like an apple has a core, spiritual teachings have a core which is meditation. Remove the core and the apple collapses in on itself.

I’ve been teaching and practicing Reiki for fifteen years continuously. I was first trained in Reiki without its core; then Usui-san’s original wisdom seeds were made available to me. This writing comes from my personal and professional experience of the Grand Canyon of difference between the two, as well as staying up-to-date on historical research, global observation of Reiki, and of course my own practice of the teachings I love.

Here are some of the results of Reiki without its core:

  • It feels incomplete; some of the information is disjointed; leaves you with a lot of questions.
  • This in turn leads to an attempt to complete the teaching with material from other traditions. A prime example of this is the inclusion of the yogic chakra system, whereas in fact Far Eastern spirituality revolves around the understanding of hara.
  • The filling-in doesn’t stop there. A baffling array of Reiki flavors have emerged: Amanohuna Reiki, Angelic RayKey, Ascension Reiki, Blue Star Reiki, Karuna Reiki, Kundalini Reiki, Lightarian Reiki, Raku Kei Reiki, Shamanic Reiki, Shamballa Reiki, Tera Mai Reiki, Tibetan Reiki…ad infinitum! Many of these claim to be “more powerful” or “higher vibration.”
  • The hunger still doesn’t stop, for without feeling complete and without an enduring practice Reiki folk can become collectors of all these flavors.
  • And with all of this comes the addition of material and practices that are extraneous to Usui’s Reiki: Guided meditation, crystals, hui yin breath, unrelated symbols, violet breath, chakra balancing, manifestation techniques, Reiki or spirit guides, and channeling, to name a few.

Let’s look at two extraneous practices to highlight the main distinction being made:

A) Guided meditation

B) Chakra balancing

Guided Meditation: There’s nothing wrong with this practice. Often it’s a novice’s first introduction to meditation, and any meditation is better than no meditation. In the context of Reiki as an evolutionary practice, however, guided meditation skims the surface.

The entire teaching of Reiki and its native meditations is based on a perennial understanding of universal Ki. This Ki isn’t only subtle energy. It’s also a set of divine qualities which include nondual consciousness, compassion, wisdom, spiritual light and power, spiritual intelligence, harmony and balance, all wrapped up in an embodied experience of Oneness.

In Usui’s meditations, universal Ki travels along the subtle spine pooling in significant points along it, in time-honored practices which are designed to be transformative and enduring.

When meditations already included in Usui’s Reiki are not passed on, the void is filled with guided meditations or other breathing techniques. This inauthenticates and bloats a teaching that already has all the elements of a true spiritual practice.

Let’s examine in a little more detail. “Transformative” means that a teaching and its practices radically and permanently shift your being. “Enduring” means this shift doesn’t stall after one time, it continues to expand your paradigm, and the practices never get stale, bringing new insight and wisdom, staying fresh, creative and inspiring.

Firstly, if you’ve only been taught hands-on Reiki, it gives you only a certain view. Then, because it isn’t complete, it starts a false hunger and striving in search of more power and higher vibration, you start to collect Reiki styles and a mishmash of techniques. This search doesn’t fill the void.

When a spiritual teaching is properly designed as Reiki was by Usui Sensei, it has a graduated set of practices, knowledge, transformation and realization that’s built-in and that fulfills and advances the practitioner with each use.

As originally designed, Reiki gives the practitioner direct access to the power of the universe in a way that builds a solid, lifelong relationship, answering all needs and questions and making way for a meritorious life.

Chakra balancing: As mentioned above, chakras aren’t an understanding elucidated in Far Eastern spirituality which works with the hara model. This isn’t the aspect being discussed here, for that requires its own post.

Chakras are a part of the human subtle body and for Reiki practitioners what may work best is to solidify and embody Reiki’s native teachings on the hara, and then grow into a blended appreciation of both. This is still not what’s being discussed here.

What’s being highlighted is the idea that Reiki practitioners balance anything at all. The fact of the matter is that when giving Reiki to yourself or someone else the practitioner is in a state of nondoing. (More about this here and here.)

Reiki is not a practice of being actively involved in the delivery of healing. Practitioners don’t need to visualize, direct, focus, colorize, enhance in any way, or force Reiki. There also isn’t an evaluation in the sense of making choices of what is to be balanced. Nothing is removed and nothing is added.

There’s only receptivity, observation, witnessing, and allowing. Any other approach constricts the conduit.

Any healing action and balancing occurs between the intelligence of the recipient and Reiki. Another way to say this is that Reiki has a healing effect in the resonance between personal ki and universal Ki.

And this healing isn’t what it seems to be at first glance. Reiki does create better energy flow within the mindbody; it reduces pain; provides emotional support; calms and clarifies the mind and brings a host of other benefits. There’s an energetic aspect to it and it does work energetically with the person.

Yet what is often missed in the teaching and practice of Reiki as only hands-on is that real healing is happening deep in consciousness and not only in the subtle body. Reiki is spiritual healing even when administered via the hands which means that there’s a transformation of consciousness.

Let’s remember that Meditative Reiki is the source and ground of its hands-on application, that Reiki is first a spiritual practice of inner mastery and evolution. When a student receives the practices of the trunk of Reiki, the transformation made available through these methods is then available when applied as hands-on. The student must first be given the techniques, i.e., Reiki teachers worldwide stop passing on truncated teachings, and then the student must practice Meditative Reiki sincerely and regularly.

There aren’t any shortcuts. A practitioner can effect a meditative change and healing in consciousness through hands-on Reiki on self and others, if the inner practice is first known and then adopted in a devoted and disciplined manner. Otherwise, Reiki is reduced to only a form of energy healing with an inconsistent ratio of effectiveness.

(These posts explain how this is so in greater detail: Reiki as Consciousness — Parts III – and III.)

What Usui’s Reiki can truly offer the individual and the world


Usui Sensei graced the world with five simple but abiding precepts:

For today only: Do not anger—Do not worry

Be humble

Be honest in your work

Be compassionate to yourself and others

These precepts are simple, but they are not easy at all. There’s tremendous profundity to them and contemplation leads to many, many lifelong realizations. Right in the very center of the trunk of Reiki are these precepts. They are the living tissue of the tree of Reiki.

Another feature of spiritual teachings which are considered to be wisdom traditions is that in addition to guiding words, practitioners are given practices to fine tune the human instrument to actually be able to live the precepts.

True teachings can’t be embodied only intellectually. The intellect is an asset, but it must also be surpassed. To become and live Usui’s precepts, a transformation must take hold in the person. And this can only happen if the complete teachings are first deeply embraced by Reiki Masters and then fully passed on to students.

Let’s finish by imagining what the world would be like if Usui’s five precepts were well-established in all aspects of society.

Without anger, conflicts would be resolved and new ones circumvented. Without worry, fear would end and we wouldn’t exacerbate suffering. Humility is respect and the willingness to include all viewpoints. Honesty; would there be a worldwide financial crisis if there was honesty?

And compassion. Compassion is both a prerequisite and condition of enlightenment. In compassion there’s no separation, no other, no stranger. Compassion is the true democracy! Enlightenment is a state of Oneness. If there’s compassion, there’s understanding and appreciation. Compassion unifies and in that unity we find enlightenment.

Enlightenment isn’t only a spiritual pursuit. There can be enlightenment in government, technology, business, science and social systems.

This post has many areas that are begging for a more detailed look, and future posts will be expanding on these points. If you’re new here, please subscribe via email so you will be notified.

This post is also not complete. For instance, I’m eternally grateful for the hands-on function of Reiki. And the arguments above can be made in many other ways, all enlarging and enriching the global Reiki conversation. This conversation will be continued here and I invite you to join me by commenting and reading future installments.

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Modern Reiki

15 thoughts on “Modern Reiki

  • 02/11/2009 at 9:45 AM

    Pamir, thanks for the history and depth of concepts presented here. Appreciated your views on Miruh’s blog.

  • 02/11/2009 at 9:55 AM

    Hello Pamir, Thank you for the energy and knowledge you transmitted in this blog. What great reminders and so well stated. You’re a touchstone for spiritual guidance. Sincerely, Leesa

  • 02/12/2009 at 7:35 PM

    Kudos for getting commentluv added! I just had my VA add it to my blog, too. Nice feature. 🙂

    Jeannette’s last blog post..How Can We Help?

  • 02/21/2009 at 9:51 AM

    @Liara Covert: It’s important to know the origins of things.

    @Leesa Budler: Welcome! It’s important to remember just how profound these & other authentic teachings are.

    @Jeannette: Welcome! Did you have anything to say about the post?

  • 02/24/2009 at 12:30 PM

    I agree with your premise that Reiki is essentially spiritual. That is how I teach it in my practice also, and actually, more to the point, that’s how I live it!

    Astrid Lee Reiki Master Teacher’s last blog post..Suze Orman

  • 03/04/2009 at 7:14 PM

    Hello Pamir,

    Great post, just as in the practice of Hatha Yoga, it is the deeper study and practice of the philosophic truths behind Reiki or Hatha Yoga, that a practitioner grows in self-knowledge and true healing takes place.

    Miruh’s last blog post..Let All Things Pass Away

  • 03/07/2009 at 7:08 AM

    @Astrid – When you practice or receive Reiki, it’s easy to feel how spiritual it is. My point(s) in the post, however, is not to wonder where & how Reiki is spiritual, or use our own creativity to find it in the teachings, but that spirituality was built-in to the teachings by Usui Sensei with specific methods and a specific orientation, and much of that had been unavailable until about 10 years ago. Usui’s original, Japanese Reiki teachings are only spiritual, are about embracing your inner being & evolving, with healing being an outcropping of that growth.

    @Miruh – Yes, wisdom practices have a supporting lattice that is integral. Without it, the practices become mere tools or even discarded.

  • 03/08/2009 at 9:45 AM

    I ran across your site here, and just had to comment… 🙂

    I’m also an Usui Reiki Teacher here in Houston (moved here from abroad), and I’ve been spreading the same information as you write here in my classes. People seem so confused as to what the original practices and intentions are, and there is so much else that gets mixed in. The unfortunate aspect is that many become very attached to modality thinking, crystals, and other outside tools. I try to gently suggest that these tools are fine, yes…but, maybe better practiced within their own systems? And, that they are not a part of Usui Reiki.

    I just wanted to write Kudos to you for writing about this! Keep up your very good work. 🙂

  • 03/30/2009 at 4:33 PM

    How refreshing to come across such a well considered and well written post on traditional Japanese Reiki. Nothing short of excellent. Thank you for you highly insightful posts all round.

  • 05/17/2009 at 12:05 PM

    Enjoyed this! I have been teaching Reiki for about 10 years – have studied a number of lineages – but the last two years have studied exclusively with Frans Stiene and gotten much deeper into the Reiki meditational practices of Usui which are very powerful. For Usui, Reiki was first and foremost – a spiritual practice – which has gotten lost in the West. I love the meditations and chanting that were part of his personal practice and which he gave to his students.

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  • 08/09/2011 at 8:57 AM

    Thank you for your thoughtful reflections on the crucial role of a spiritual practice in Reiki, and for describing how this emphasis seems consistent with what Usui was fundamentally practicing himself. I came to Reiki after some exposure to Japanese Zen Buddhism and zen shiatsu, so I felt the connections. The emphasis on hands-on healing makes Reiki so accessible to many people in the West, but I agree with you that hands-on healing is more appropriately understood as a gate.   

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