Reiki is a technique of complementary or alternative medicine, developed (or rediscovered) during the latter half of the 19th century by Mikao Usui in Japan. It has gained widespread popularity outside Japan, particularly in Europe and the U.S.
The name Reiki comes from the Japanese rei (roughly meaning "Universe" (also believed to mean spirit/soul, it had an older meaning of possessed shamaness)) and ki ( energy/life energy, see chi or qi). From this, a verb may also be derived. Other common definitions are "universal life force energy" or "healing energy of the universe".
Practitioners believe that they are able to act as channels fo Reiki energy, which flows from the universe through their bodies and from the palms of their hands, to specific parts of their own or others' bodies, in order to facilitate healing. They say Reiki energy can be channelled through other parts of a practitioner's body (for example, their feet, fingers or even "beamed" through their eyes) if they wish to. The primary tool to focus the flow of the energy is the practitioner's intention. Many scientists and others dispute the effectiveness of Reiki, claiming that there are no objective studies confirming the existence of this specific Reiki energy or practitioners' claims that this Reiki energy has the capacity to facilitate healing.
Theories and practices
In some traditions, Reiki energy is believed to enter the initiate through his 7th (crown) chakra, fill his aura and flow through his hands into the body of the recipient. In other traditions, it enters through his 1st (root) chakra, fills his aura, is centered at the 4th (heart) chakra, and flows out through his hands. The Reiki energy is believed to have a form of intelligence, and "knows what to do". Thus, if the recipientīs body needs it and is ready to heal, it may use the Reiki energy for healing. If the body does not feel that the energy is needed, it will not absorb the energy. Some traditions teach that Reiki "spirits" keep watch over Reiki energy to prevent corruption of it and keep it from doing any harm. Many teach that Reiki energy can not do harm and that any intention to do harm will not facilitate the flow of Reiki energy. Given that Reiki energy is said to be sourced from the universe itself and given beliefs about the loving and nuturing nature of the Universe itself, the belief is that Reiki energy is incapable of doing harm.
The treatment is traditionally done similarly to the laying on of hands. The clothed patient is asked to lie down and relax. Then the practitioner acts as a channel for Reiki energy, allowing Reiki energy to be channelled through the practitioner to wherever the patient requires it. Usually the practitioner applies his hands to various parts of the patient's body. Some practitioners touch the body while some simply hover their hands above it. Some patients report feeling various sensations: heat, cold, pressure and the like. This is attributed by the practitioner to Reiki energy filling the body and aura of the recipient and acting: filling up energy deficiences, repairing and opening the energy channels (meridians), pulling out negativity, and dissolving the blocks of stale energy.
Reiki is purported to be a form of Oriental medicine which defines full health as total harmony of body, mind and spirit, so it is said that Reiki heals all mentioned parts of a human being. Some traditions label these as Body, Emotion, and Soul and are taught the technique said to be for each in that order: Reiki I, Reiki II, and Reiki III. A Reiki master knows all three and is qualified to teach and attune others to the practice. Proponents of Reiki claim that it can help to alleviate or cure many afflictions. In practice, however, often it seems afflictions that are difficult for conventional medicine to treat are difficult for Reiki to treat. However, Reiki practitioners claim that since it needs only energy no medications with side effects are used by them. They furthermore claim that Reiki is good for restoring vitality and reducing stress.
Reiki was claimed to have been "rediscovered" by a Japanese man named Mikao Usui. After long meditations and prayers, he claimed to have gained knowledge of how to awaken and apply "Reiki" energy for healing. While some believers in Reiki claim that access to this energy is limited for the majority of people, many are of the firm view that Reiki is our birthright. Some go so far as to hold that the energy system Reiki flows through and works with was integrated into our basic DNA and that every person has the ability to channel this energy. Mikao Usui claimed that he could enable his students to enlarge their access to the energy through certain initiations. Through such initiations, students (and practitioners) become clearer channels for Reiki energy and this, in turn, enhances the quality of treatments that student (or practitioner) provides to the patient.
It is said that while Mikao Usui was actively pursuing the art of healing before he developed his Reiki method he studied Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, some internal martial arts, Qigong and Yoga. He claimed that the awakening of Reiki and development of the set of accompanying techniques is something entirely different, however.
After developing the Reiki method, Usui went to the slums of Tokyo to attempt the healing of beggars. However, after several years he claimed that it is their mindset that keeps them ill even when they are "healed" time after time. This gave rise to the principle that there should be an energy exchange in return for a treatment. This may take the form of payment or a trade of some sort. The idea is that the patient regards the treatment as having a value and is prepared to invest himself/herself in the healing process. Subsequently, he engaged in philosophical studies of the Yellow Emperor. He then summarized his studies in five ethical principles:
(See Traditional Chinese Medicine for an explanation of the origin of disease)
Mikao Usui trained several disciples. One of his disciples, the military doctor Mr. Chujiro Hayashi, represented a more rational approach. He simply stressed physical health and some codified technique, such as a system of laying on hands in fixed positions. Usui preferred a more mystical means of diagnosing the patient's problem.
This wouldn't have much consequence if he hadn't initiated and trained Mrs. Havayo Takata, who brought Reiki to the USA. The States proved to be very fertile ground, as Mrs. Takata applied the American spirit of enterprise to Japanese tradition. Now, Reiki is nearly extinct in Japan, but flourishing in the USA. Two basic "schools" emerged, the Traditional "school" and the Independent "school" or movement. The Traditionalists teach and practice Reiki pretty much as it was taught from Usui's time until Mrs Takata's time. The Independent movement developed with the belief that Reiki is not the preserve of a privileged few and that it should be made available to everyone. Furthermore, the most Independent practitioners believe Reiki is Humanity's birthright. New paths were developed out of the Reiki core that fused it with Christianity, shamanism, channeling and so forth. Also, new symbols were added. Many of these symbols emerged through practitioners who felt guided to expand the system in various ways.
The method developed by Mikao Usui spread over the world, and now it is possible to attend a Reiki course almost anywhere. Generally, to achieve a complete education in Reiki Usui Shiki Ryoho (the Usui System of Natural Healing), 3 courses are necessary: the 1st degree course, the 2nd degree course and the master course.
In the 1st degree Reiki course, it is taught how to work with Reiki energy. The 'channel' through which Reiki energy passes to the 7th chakra has to be widened through an initiation by the teacher, to let the Reiki energy be strong enough to heal. Students learn the manner in which to place their hands on the body of the recipient to be most successful in the healing process.
In the 2nd degree Reiki course, techniques of mental healing are taught, enabling healers to treat even deeply ingrained problems like fears, depression, addictions and the like. It is also taught how to direct the energy to a certain point in time, to a specific person or place or a specific issue. The 'issue' can be something like a particular health problem of an individual, or it can be a more abstract or general issue such as world peace. This is made possible through three symbols taught at the second initiation. The 'channel' is thereby opened even more.
In the master course, students become masters of Reiki through the 3rd initiation and learn how to initiate students and have the option of teaching Reiki courses. The student learns a further Master level symbol at this level.
It is up to students how many courses they want to attend. The courses are sequential, so it is not possible to attend e.g. the master course after finishing only the 1st course. In order to practice as a Reiki practitioner a student is often advised to do so after receiving the second degree initiation after which they are arguably better equipped to practice.
While there is no chain of command and no vow of obedience, and practitioners practice as they desire, some practitioners have the notion of forming Reiki communities that may extend to other healers. This notion probably started as masters began to organize Reiki circles for joint healing and honing their skills. However, a real upsurge of Reiki communities began with the advent of the Internet and discussion forums. Global initiatives have been introduced (like healing the planet or global peace fostering) and a great deal of online services (like training and healing) have been commenced.
Some scientists hold that since researchers have been unable to demonstrate the existence of Reiki energy with any certainty, it shouldn't be described as an effective or worthwhile medical practice. Proponents of Reiki claim that they can detect and manipulate this energy, but some scientists claim that if a physical or medical phenomenon has any reliable real-world effects, it should be measurable and observable in rigorously structured studies. Since few scientists feel that Reiki's effects have been demonstrated to any significant degree, most argue that the sensations practitioners of Reiki claim to feel are psychologically subjective or the results of practitioners deceiving themselves with magical thinking.
Many practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine are also skeptical of the claims of Reiki practitioners.
There are others who actively criticize Reiki. For example, many mainstream doctors, academics, and consumer advocates find it disturbing and potentially dangerous that patients with serious diseases like cancer are choosing Reiki over trained doctors. While it is understandable for patients to seek non-mainstream remedies when conventional options seem ineffective or untrustworthy, many doctors say that Reiki, like many other forms of alternative medicine, is simply exploiting the fear and hope of people with serious illnesses while offering no demonstrable help. Reiki practitioners argue that Reiki is a reliable and effective treatment which is being unfairly dismissed by conservative Western scientific researchers, presenting a few cases of actual disease remission as evidence.
There are various religious groups opposing Reiki. Fundamentalists condemn Reiki as promoting pagan practices. Once such group is the Unification Church, which cautions its adherents to avoid Reiki on the grounds that Reiki involves channeling the energy of evil spirits. Some individuals and groups (like Dominicans from the Roman Catholic Church) actively advise believers against it. Some even go as far as to call Reiki a cult, which is seen as an unfair characterization by Reiki adherents as they say that there is no real structure, guru or chain of command in the Reiki community. Critics point to the often substantial fees charged by Reiki practitioners for their teachings as an indication of at least one type of structure. Some Christian practitioners of Reiki contend that the source of power that is chanelled through them is divine, possibly from the Holy Spirit.
See also: Alternative medicine, Alternative healing, Placebo effect.
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