The first time I heard the word “Reiki”, I asked my friend to say it twice and spell it once. I knew instantly it was an important word for me, sounding both foreign and familiar. I later learned that it was actually two words combined, “Rei” and “Ki”, and that the term was Japanese. The first syllable, “Rei” is translated as “Universal or Divine Wisdom” and the second, “Ki” means “energy”, the Japanese version of the Chinese term “Chi”. Together, these words define a system of energy medicine that is rooted in the concept of balance through extra-personal wisdom. The common American pronunciation is “Ray-key”, but according to one authority, the proper Japanese pronunciation is “rLay-key”. Beyond the peculiar and diverse sound of the word, Reiki is an elegant system of care that individuals can use to harmonize body, mind, and spirit.
Although Reiki is regarded largely as a treatment method, it is actually a system of balanced living through mindfulness, devotion, and care giving for self and others. The most well known system of Reiki, Usui Ryoho, was developed in the early 1900’s by a Japanese physician, Dr. Mikao Usui. A practitioner of a complex treatment system known as “Kiko” (similar to Medical Qi Gong), Usui sought to simplify the methods in order to expand their practice and availability. Many legends of the original insights have arisen in the short time since Usui began to teach his methods, and many practitioners have added their own manner over time. Today there are many different schools and styles of Reiki practiced throughout the world. In Japan, Reiki is considered a generic term for Energetic or Spiritual healing.
The Reiki treatment is a graceful affair, typically conducted on a table in a massage or bodywork environment. Music, low light, and aromatics are often part of the ambience that gives the treatment its calming and empowering effect. Treatment can be given through direct contact, through projection within proximity, or at a distance through intention with directing techniques. The objective of treatment is for the practitioner to serve as a conduit for Reiki, a sort of antenna gathering and delivering this universal energy. This helps the recipient to become physically and emotionally relaxed in order to bring balance throughout the entire system. This resultant balance or “harmony” helps to relieve distress and enhance the body’s own healing system. A treatment can last from minutes for a local concern to hours for treating the whole body.
Part of this balance arises from the concept of “surrender” that is laced within the Usui Reiki legend and ideals. By “letting go” of tension, worry, resentment, and discomfort, the body’s restoration is bolstered without restriction. As a practitioner, I have found this principle to be extremely liberating, freeing me from the concern of “getting it right” and allowing me to simply support the needs of my clients. As a recipient of treatment, this permissive reinforcement has fostered in me a calm sense of connection to my internal and external environments.
The simplicity of Reiki has helped to fulfill Usui’s vision of universal application, a democratization of care. The practice is taught in a brief ceremonial training designed to release innate ability and guide advanced development. This model has allowed Reiki to expand from its Japanese origin, becoming adapted by societies around the world. Indeed, Reiki treatment is provided in many American hospitals. I have been commissioned to train nurses in Reiki for self-care as part of a university study. It is also combined with other treatment methods such as acupuncture, massage, and hypnosis.
Though exact techniques vary, the manner and title of “Reiki” remain from population to population. This was illustrated to me as, while strolling the streets of a South Indian city, I saw a sign reading “Healing Reiki Clinic”. Usui, I thought, should be both proud and delighted to learn just how far his elegant methods have spread, giving many the ability to support health for themselves and others.
Timothy L Trujillo