The Heart of Reiki

For a long time now, I have been hearing from those who have been doing Reiki over the last ten years that they feel it is not relevant to the current wave of consciousness.  I myself have also had times of feeling despondent and unmotivated to teach or practice Reiki. 

I then felt drawn to explore traditional Reiki as Dr Usui had first practiced it and found so many of my own conclusions about the form there in the early teachings.  I became certain that Reiki as it is taught today may have begun to lose its relevance but that if we could find what is at the Heart of Reiki we could discover its own evolving consciousness.  By looking at its early creation and combining this with the experiences we have had throughout its use I felt that there we would find a transformation of the form which would be more relevant today. 

So I set myself the task of re-writing my Reiki manuals.  The most revealing aspect of doing this was how easy it was.  I realised that over the last 12 years I had already begun to teach and practice in a way which reflected my own realisations within Reiki over that time and that it had taken on a very different feel from those first manuals. 

In the following ‘Heart of Reiki’ articles, I am going to explore the different aspects of how Reiki has changed in my own journey and spend some time looking deeper into its core, allowing the consciousness of Reiki to evolve through my writing…


Reiki Training Levels

Usui Reiki I

Reiki I is the start of the journey of Reiki.  It is a statement to yourself and the world that you are willing and ready to clear and cleanse your being, enabling you to practice Reiki.  Reiki I has as its guiding principle the aspect of self-healing, building the foundation for your future as Practitioner.  As you practice, you may begin to experience an increased awareness and sensitivity of yourself and others which is then reflected in your life.

Usui Reiki II

Reiki II deepens the practice of Reiki by introducing the symbols.  These are the cornerstones of the Reiki form and were given to Dr Usui at his initiation.  They are ancient symbols holding meaning and energetic healing which can be used when giving Treatments and in many other areas of life.  Their use instills an element of consciousness into daily living and the introduction of the concept of Distance Healing asks you to expand your perception and awareness of the world. 

Usui Reiki Master
(individually or in small groups to a maximum of 3)

The Reiki Master course appears to be the end of your Reiki journey but in many ways is the time when the preparation of Reiki I and II leads you to the beginning of your real life journey.  It is when you become a Teacher of Reiki and with this commitment comes the responsibility to remain as present with yourself and others as possible.  You will become a beacon of light for many and will begin a life-long relationship with Truth, uncovering many interesting revelations along the way.

Well, I don’t know how it happened but spontaneously I found myself last night in our little mobile home in the heart of the woods with the lights off and one candle burning brightly, attuning my Daughter Jasmin to Reiki I. 

She had woken up that morning and not stopped asking for the attunement all day.  She had, at the age of 7 decided it was time.  This is the age when Rudolf Steiner believed a child had become its own ‘self’ and whilst growing adult teeth is also growing a perception about their place in the world and for Jasmin this meant time for Reiki.  This type of healing has been in her life since conception but the need to explore it as a form had never occurred to her before now.  Maybe she was just copying mummy but she had never really done this before and I think her being knew it was going into the second 7 year cycle of her life, where she would begin to confront the duality of her human existence.  This interests me because she is part of a new consciousness, the children of parents who began to pick apart the truth of their own existence seeing the light of a greater consciousness ahead of them.  How will her life differ, will she need to experience the ‘who you are not’ to experience ‘who you are’ in the same way as we did?  I think not, this generation have absorbed the clearance their parents have done and will take this and the practices handed down to them through their life.

The growth of the child and of the greater consciousness will be wonderful to watch and will be, as usual enlightening for the parents.  As I write this I can feel myself spending more time with children, helping them to shine into their futures and at the same time letting them help me.  This symbiotic relationship between children and adults must be the way forward, surely gone are the days of the adult knowing all.  The need for boundaries and structure for children is all the more important today, don’t get me wrong but within the framework of development there is also the need for recognising that they may have a greater light to shine than ours and we must give them the space to do this.

A way in which this was reflected after Jasmin’s attunement was that once she had rested for a short while, she instantly became very alert and began to place her little hands as hot as irons onto my back just where it was at that time quite aching.  Her hands stayed there for a long while until the aching subsided and then she moved them.  She was totally and intuitively tuned into the Reiki and my body.  She was practicing what I now know after research, was the Reiki practiced and taught by Dr Usui.  Without set hand positions, the Reiki practitioner worked intuitively over and on the body.  I think watching Jasmin work like this without being told anything intellectually has strengthened my feeling that it is time to begin to practice and teach Reiki in this way.  I can feel that times are changing and it may be wise to let go of the ‘western’ style Reiki that has until now served all who have come into contact with it and go deeper into the heart of Reiki. 

With this in mind I will begin to explore the ‘Heart of Reiki’ as I believe it will become a new way to practice, focusing very strongly on the intuitive not only in healing but as a ‘way’ of being,  a ‘way’ of life.  

When I started writing none of this was in my awareness.  For me, writing has become a flow of inspiration and such a wonderful creative way to access the truth…maybe this will be part of the programme… 

Rebecca x

Over the past ten years, the world of Western Reiki has undergone rapid change. In fact, not since Iris Ishikuro disobeyed Mrs Takata by making the Master Level commonly available has anything of the like happened (Mrs Takata had decreed US $10,000 to be the going rate for the course, thus putting it out of most people’s reach).

While there are several plausible reasons for this change – the advent of the Web, a growing number of teachers etc. – the principal cause is almost certainly the rediscovery of Reiki’s Japanese heritage. This has led many practitioners to question much that was previously taken as ‘gospel’, and delve more deeply into a practice they soon learnt was not just a healing system, but also a way of life.

The Problem with Western Reiki

The Reiki almost everyone practices in the West was passed on – in one way or another – from Mrs Takata (a student of Dr Hayashi who, in turn, was a student of Mikao Usui, the founder of Reiki). Her style of Reiki has proven a great success and helped millions of people around the world. This is indisputable.

But is it true to Usui’s original system of Reiki? And, more importantly, is it as effective as what Usui originally taught?

The answer, I believe, is ‘no’, and the reason is that Mrs Takata focused too much on the healing component of Reiki. For her Reiki was – at least primarily – a hands-on healing technique; while for Mikao Usui it was something much grander: a path to Enlightenment.

Before I elaborate on this point, it should be noted that the difference in emphasis is not surprising given the way Mrs Takata and Mikao Usui found Reiki. Mikao Usui arrived at Reiki after a life of meditation, martial arts and (Tendai) Buddhism; Mrs Takata found it after she sought a solution to several life threatening health problems.

As a result, Usui saw Reiki in the context of Buddhism (and hence, Enlightenment); and Mrs Takata saw Reiki in the context of healing. It is therefore only to be expected that the way they taught Reiki differed substantially.

The Five Building Blocks of Reiki

Reiki, as taught by Usui, consisted of five principal parts:

  • Attunements
  • Healing
  • Mantras and Symbols
  • Traditional meditation techniques
  • Reiki precepts

All five parts are seen to work symbiotically together: one part strengthening the other in a bid – ultimately – to find Enlightenment.

In Western Reiki (as taught by Mrs Takata) many of the five components are either lost or greatly weakened. They all exist, sure, but the emphasis – as we have explained – is on the healing. Everything else is useful only insomuch as it helps this.

The Quest for Enlightenment

Since Reiki, for Usui, was not principally about healing (in fact, he only bothered teaching hands on healing in the last few years of his life!), then it is worth examining how it fits in with the goal of Enlightenment . In particular, it is useful to re-examine the five building blocks of Reiki to see how traditional Usui Reiki differs in emphasis from that handed down by Mrs Takata.

The Attunements

The attunements are for the most part used in a similar way in both Western and Japanese Reiki. Their purpose is to connect the aspiring practitioner to Reiki energy. The principal difference is that in Japanese Reiki the attunements (reiju) are not a one off thing. Rather, they are performed over and over again to help maintain one’s connection to the Reiki energy.

In fact, in Usui’s time, it was even common practice to perform reijus each time Reiki practitioners met as a group.


As we have already said, healing for Usui was not so much an end in itself as a path to Enlightenment. Through healing you entered into a deep meditative state that led to a closer connection with the true Self.

That is not to say that the healing component wasn’t valued. After all, Usui himself spent much time healing people (sometimes even doing so for days on end – for instance after the 1923 Tokyo earthquake). The point is simply that healing was of secondary importance. It was the spiritual state of an individual that truly mattered.

Not surprisingly, Japanese healing sessions tend to be much more intuitive as a result, since the emphasis on the meditative element makes them less ‘heady’ than their Western equivalent.

As a rule, there are no set positions, with a practitioner moving intuitively from one place to the next (unlike the method Mrs Takata taught which involves students using a set of fixed hand positions).

Mantras and Symbols

In Western Reiki, the mantras and symbols are primarily used to strengthen healing. If the practitioner feels that more energy is needed on a certain part of a patient’s body, for instance, the Power Symbol can be drawn to intensify the Reiki energy. The mantras and symbols are generally used together – the mantras being repeated after the symbols are drawn.

In Japanese Reiki the symbols have a role of lesser importance. Indeed, the best way to describe them – according to Frans Stiene – would be something like ‘training wheels’. While a beginner practitioner has a less reliable (or weaker) connection to the Reiki energy they will be used; but as soon as the practitioner has learnt to embody the energy of the symbols they will be let go of.

Furthermore, the symbols are used more for the practitioner’s sake than the client’s. They are not drawn on the client so that he or she can receive ‘more energy’. Rather, they are drawn by the practitioner so that she, herself, can better embody their energy.

Another key difference between the two Reiki systems is that in Japanese Reiki the mantras are often used on their own. They are generally chanted with the aim of strengthening certain energy centres (for instance the CKR mantra – that is pronounced slightly differently to normal – bolsters the hara, or second chakra).

Students will spend months – maybe even years – chanting these mantras, working their way from one to the next only when their teacher deems them ready for the next one.

Traditional Meditation Techniques

As a rule, traditional Western Reiki neglects meditation practice. Sometimes meditation techniques involving the visualization of the Reiki symbols are taught, and students are usually encouraged to be in a meditative state when practising Reiki; but systematic meditation is seldom part of Western Reiki.

For Usui, on the contrary, meditation was a genuine cornerstone upon which Reiki developed. Using particular meditation techniques – in particular breathing into the hara – students learnt to focus their mind, strengthen their energy and merge with the true Self.

Since Reiki – as we have said – was for Usui a path to Enlightenment, then moving more deeply within oneself was the most important thing one could do. As such, it is hardly surprising that Usui taught meditation for many years before teaching the healing component of Reiki.

Healing the body is great, for sure; but healing the mind (through meditation) is more important still.

Reiki Precepts

The Reiki precepts are taught in both Western and Japanese Reiki and, to some extent, are important to both. The main difference between the two systems is how they are used.

While in Western Reiki the precepts are often understood on an intellectual level, Japanese Reiki aims to understand them in a more intuitive, non-rational way. Practitioners meditate on them, trying to understand with the ‘gut’, not the head. In this way, it is hoped, they can more fully embody the principles (in both actions and spirit).

When the principles are understood with the head alone, students will generally find that they do not greatly influence their actions.


Due to the multiple developmental influences on Western Reiki – for instance, Indian, Tibetan and Egyptian to name just a few – it is impossible to make any statements that are valid for all of its forms.

That said, it is nevertheless true that on the whole, Japanese Reiki is principally a path to Enlightenment, while Western Reiki is a path to healing. This, it could be argued, is the main difference between the two systems.

(Note: This discussion should be seen as a general one. In other words, as accurate as it will often prove to be, many Reiki practitioners and systems will not conform to the ‘norm’.)

Jeremy O’Carroll is a traditional Usui / Shamballa Reiki Master. He has studied Reiki in India, Thailand and Australia and is a registered Master Teacher at the ARC (Australian Reiki Connection). He is the founder of the Om Reiki Centre in Daylesford (Victoria), Australia.

If you wish to contact him, please write to info@om-reiki.com.au or visit the Om Reiki Centre website at http://www.om-reiki.com.au

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