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What is Reiki?

A Brief History of Reiki The person first associated with Reiki was Mikao Usui, born in 1865 in Japan. In 1922 after a 21 day fast and meditation, Usui was said to have attained enlightenment. Having a well-rounded education including medicine, history, religion and psychology he began teaching in the early the 20th century.  His intention was to guide an individual’s spiritual development through meditation, contemplation and Usui teate (Usui hands on healing method).    His focus was was to teach as many as possible about Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (Society for Usui’s Spiritual Healing Method).    Usui passed in 1926.

 In 1925 Churijo Hayashi, a Naval Surgeon and Soto Zen practitioner, came to train with Usui.  This was not as unusual as it might seem since naval officers often used Reiki as first aid.  After Usui passed, Hayashi came to be known for his teaching of Reiki.  In 1931, he separated from Usui’s society forming his own Hayashi Reiki Kenkyu Kai (Hayashi’s Society for the Research of Spiritual Energy).  With his vast medical background, Hayashi wrote a text which included options for treatment of many disorders.

Hawayo Takata, a first generation Japanese-American, was born in 1900 in Hawaii.    In 1935 after her husband’s death she began to suffer a number of health problems.  She traveled to Japan and while in Tokyo seeking medical treatment, she was directed to Churijo Hayashi’s clinic.  It was there she regained her health and she became intrigued with Reiki’s healing ability.  Although customarily not permitted to be taught to foreigners, Takata became Hayashi’s student and after Hayashi passed in 1940, Takata was the only source in the West about Reiki.  While Takata was aware of  traditional treatments that were passed to her by Hayashi, there are indications she took creative liberty in modifying some protocols due to her belief Westerners did not have an adequate understanding of the human energy system (through a Japanese perspective).

Reiki as taught under Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai has not left Japan nor is it traditionally taught to non-Japanese.  In this form of Reiki a devoted spiritual practice is included, the result of which is somatic and physical balance.  The form of Reiki that has been practiced in the West since the 1940’s and with which we are most familiar can be attributed to Hayashi Reiki Kenkyu Kai with adaptations credited to Hawayo Takata.   As practiced in the West, this system of healing has been associated with the chakra system and focuses less on spiritual practice, more on therapeutic application. 

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health Practices have identified Reiki as a modality which interacts with energy fields, also called biofields, of the body.  In the East the basic premise for wellness suggests that one’s life force energy be balanced and that when in balance, the natural result is health in body and mind.  It is when stressors begin to accumulate in the system that turmoil is created which can result in disease or an imbalanced mind.   According to Pamela Miles:  “Reiki has the potential to rebalance the biofield at the deepest vibrational level, thereby removing the subtle causes of illness while enhancing overall resilience.”

One of the reasons people seek out CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) is that Western medicine often fails to address relief of disorders where the symptoms tend to be somatic and subjectively experienced.  These symptoms, (i.e., pain) often result in a lower level of quality of life for the individual.  Studies reveal that application of Reiki results in decreased heart and respiration rates, increased parasympathetic activity, and measurable reduction of anxiety as well as systolic blood pressure. For those that practice or have received Reiki, there is little doubt there are physiological and psychological benefits.  Reducing autonomic nervous system response appears to enhance the ability of experiencing a higher level quality of life and for this reason alone, Reiki can serve as a valuable adjunct therapy to allopathic medicine.   


Resources ~

Essential Reiki, A Complete Guide to an Ancient Healing Art, Diane Stein. The Crossing Press.  Freedom, CA

Reiki, A Comprehensive Guide, Pamela Miles.  Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, New York.

The Original Reiki Handbook of Dr. Mikao Usui, Dr. Mikao Usui and Frank Argava Petter. Lotus Press. Twin Lakes, WI.

Vibrational Medicine – The #1 Handbook of Subtle Energy Therapies, Richard Gerber, MD.  Bear & Company, Rochester, NY

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