Why licensure of alternative and complementary care is a really bad idea

Perhaps you are aware that practitioners of Reiki and other forms of energy work are fighting against an effort to license our profession. What you might not understand is why this fight is so important. I include below my letter to the legislative committee that is currently considering a licensure bill in Massachusetts.

If you agree with me (and with the vast majority of clients, practitioners, and teachers) that licensure is a bad idea, I encourage you to email committee members now. Although the hearing is on December 13, written testimony is generally accepted for at least a week after the hearing. If you are not from Massachusetts, your testimony can still be helpful — you should be aware that this legislation is seen as a test case. If approved, other states will likely launch similar efforts.

Email should have the following subject line: Testimony in Opposition of S.221 and H.350, An Act Regulating Alternative Healing Therapies.

It should be sent to these addresses: jointcmte-consumerprotection@malegislature.gov, Michael.Brady@masenate.gov, brendan.crighton@masenate.gov, edward.kennedy@masenate.gov, Bruce.Tarr@masenate.gov, Tackey.Chan@mahouse.gov, paul.feeney@masenate.gov, Mary.Keefe@mahouse.gov, Rady.Mom@mahouse.gov, david.leboeuf@mahouse.gov, Tricia.Farley-Bouvier@mahouse.gov, Joan.Meschino@mahouse.gov, tami.gouveia@mahouse.gov, Danillo.Sena@mahouse.gov, Steven.Howitt@mahouse.gov, Jacob.Oliveira@mahouse.gov, joseph.mckenna@mahouse.gov, susan.moran@masenate.gov.

Links for more information:

Detailed information on sending email. https://reikiinmedicine.org/protect-reiki/massachusetts-state-hearing-on-licensing-reiki-and-other-holistic-practices/

Reiki Unified, an organization to oppose licensure across the United States. https://www.reikiunified.com/ They also have a FaceBook group that you can join and will keep you up-to-date. The licensure fight is not specific to Reiki, so any type of practitioner/client/student can join.

Change.org petition. https://www.change.org/p/protect-the-right-to-practice-teach-and-access-alternative-healing-therapies-in-ma?recruiter=1194838943&use_react=false&utm_campaign=share_petition&utm_content=cl_sharecopy_28437779_en-US%3A7&utm_medium=copylink&utm_source=share_petition

My email to the legislative committee:

Dear Senators and Representatives,

I am asking you to oppose SB 221/HB 350 for the following reasons:

  • A profession should only be regulated because of the actions of its own practitioners.
  • Alternative healing practitioners do not need to be regulated. Harm is extremely rare.
  • Licensing alternative healing practitioners would not significantly affect sex trafficking.
  • Law enforcement can already easily distinguish between genuine practitioners and prostitution establishments.
  • A court challenge on this basis of freedom of religion is nearly inevitable.
  • Requiring state licensure of traditional practices with strong ethnic roots will be seen as discriminatory and an intrusion into cultural traditions.
  • The proposed Board and Advisory Council cannot adequately establish guidelines for this extremely diverse set of practices.
  • Each individual on the advisory board will have tremendous power over the discipline that they represent – power that could easily be abused.
  • The bill would prohibit volunteering except under strict supervision or with immediate family members; cutting off this source of help seems particularly cruel.
  • Burdensome licensing fees and procedures would cause many practitioners to close their businesses.
  • Hard-working and sincere practitioners would lose their source of income.
  • Supply would drop and prices would increase. Many clients would be priced out of receiving services.
  • Licensing these practices would do far more harm than good.

Please see below for a more detailed explanation:

A profession should only be regulated because of the actions of its own practitioners, not because of the behavior of criminals who are pretending to be members of the profession.

Alternative healing practitioners do not need to be regulated. Harm to clients is extremely unusual, as is made obvious by very low liability insurance rates (approximately $150 per year).

Licensing alternative healing practitioners would not significantly affect sex trafficking. Traffickers still attempt to use “massage” as camouflage, despite the fact that massage is licensed.

Law enforcement can already easily distinguish between genuine practitioners and prostitution establishments. There are clear signs that an establishment is providing sex (name, photos used in advertisement, descriptions used in advertisement, listings on sex-work websites, etc).

These disciplines are holistic. They address the whole person — body, mind and spirit. Many disciplines consider their work to be spiritual or even religious in nature (for example Christian laying on of hands or pagan healing ceremony). Because of this, attempts at regulation may very well cross a line into limiting freedom of religion. If this legislation passes, a court challenge on this basis of freedom of religion is nearly inevitable.

Some of these disciplines are specific to particular cultural groups. Requiring state licensure will be seen as discriminatory and an intrusion into cultural traditions (for example, Native American shamanic healing, Cuban Santeria, Roma divination and prayer). Claims of discrimination and a court challenge are likely.

These disciplines are numerous and diverse. Even within methods that call themselves by the same name, there is much diversity. A Board and Advisory Council cannot adequately establish guidelines for this extremely diverse set of practices. Also, each individual on the advisory board will have tremendous power over the discipline that they represent – power that could easily be abused.

The bill would prohibit volunteering except under supervision or with immediate family members. Many practitioners provide free treatment to friends or neighbors, and these treatments can be very beneficial. They are especially important to those who can’t afford to pay for treatment. Cutting off this source of help seems particularly cruel.

Burdensome licensing fees and procedures would cause many practitioners and especially practitioner/teachers to close their businesses. This would reduce supply and increase prices. Those who do continue practicing would need to pass the cost along to their clients/students – which would again raise prices.

Many hard-working practitioners who provide valuable services and reap only modest financial rewards would lose their source of income. The majority of practitioners are women, many of whom are supporting families.

Many people depend upon the help they receive from alternative healing practitioners. We are currently in a crisis of exorbitant healthcare costs and inadequate insurance coverage. We are also in the middle of a pandemic. There would never be a good time for this bill, but now is a particularly bad time.

Licensing these practices would do far more harm than good. This bill has been under consideration for quite a while. At every step of the way, there has been an outcry from clients and practitioners. Please listen to those of us who truly understand the field of alternative health. Please oppose SB221/HB350.

Sacredness Becomes Obvious

I have completely lost patience with anyone telling me how to Be.

I am not young anymore. I do not look up to anyone. Nor am I living the illusion of superiority. I am looking across to everyone and everything.

This existence that we’re swimming in – I don’t begin to understand it. I won’t pretend. I refuse to pretend wisdom. I have gone deep enough into myself to know mystery. And so, when others claim sureness, I find myself quite skeptical.

I don’t care what the tradition is; I find myself quite skeptical.

I begin to understand the point of consciousness that we are calling Me. I gaze at myself and there is recognition, there is some reality in here somewhere, there is something I begin to understand.

And I notice. In this exact moment, through the magic of my ears and brain, through the magic of air and wings, I hear the cicadas’ whirr. It is familiar and beloved, and fresh. I don’t understand it, and it whirrs through me, electric in my cells. My heart samples its beat.

I am not going to tell you how to hear cicadas. I am not going to tell you how to hear me, how to hear yourself, how to hear your own heart’s beat.

If I let you Be, I can find full joy in you. Your sacredness becomes obvious, and there is nothing that either of us needs to prove. I have completely lost patience with any aspect of me wanting to tell you how to Be.

You and I – if we can sit here noticing, then maybe something has started between us.

I don’t want to take away any parts of you. And I am done letting anyone take away parts of me. When I pay attention, I notice that my love is indiscriminate. I love you, and I love myself, and I love the cicadas, and I love the air.

That is simply how it is. Your liking it or disliking it, my liking it or disliking it – changes nothing. I have completely lost patience with anyone telling Be how to Be. Existence moves inside us and I am powerless to make it any less.

On Sparsity of Mind

We are so accustomed to accumulation. We live in houses full of objects that are supposed to take our discomforts away. We live in bodies full of junk and disarray. We exist in minds full of input and reactions, worries and desperate dramatic hope.

Life is not so bad. It is painful, inherently. It is challenging or why else would we be here? It is apparently the gravel upon which we hone our essence. It is essentially what it is meant to be – a school for soul(s), a way for the universe to learn and expand.

The universal mind seems to be sparse and expanding, and expanding in its sparsity. Our essential minds are sparse and expanding. My essential mind watches and listens. It does not clap or complain. It is not particularly wise – no more wise than any other being’s essential mind, and no less wise than the essence of the universe.

All around us in our human world, accumulation beckons. We should have and we should want. Marketers of all sorts push us toward desires that will line their pockets and fuel their own accumulation. Even much of what passes for spirituality turns out to be a means to someone’s gain, or a promise to teach us how to “get what we want.”

But what about the deeper want? What about the desire within, what about the desire of the great without? Our essential selves sit watching us struggle, aware that all we could ever have is here now. We have always been just our selves, complete in the universe, sparse and expanding, stamped with the essential desire to Be.

It is when we allow this sparsity of mind – in those moments between our suffering – that we begin to understand.

Peace and War Stand Looking At Each Other

There’s a part of me that secretly treasures every experience I’ve ever had, even the very difficult ones. This part feels like a renegade, an outlaw, because surely I’m supposed to judge. Surely, I’m supposed to call this good, this bad. That is what I have been taught.

But this part just notices. This part just revels in what is and all the ripples that occur when something occurs.

For many years this part was hidden to me, and when I found this part, it was like finding a limb that had gone numb from too much pressure.

Now, when I’m quiet, this part notices me and says, “There you are.” I notice her and say, “There you are.” She remembers that we dropped into embodiment to experience everything, not just the pleasantries. Now I remember her.

This is an awakening. One of the many, one of the long list that happen gradually as we breathe, as we breathe and be.

Do I treasure every time I thought life would break me down? Well, I treasure each moment when I found it hadn’t, each moment when I discovered that my essence is essentially unbreakable. And I treasure every facet of my being, all the parts that suffer, and this renegade who understands: truly each moment of life experience is clay in my willing hands.

Some people find peace in forgiveness, in compassion. For me, peace and war stand looking at each other, acceptance and outrage gaze lovingly across a very crowded room. In the tension between them, I am.

Going Overseas: Reiki Beyond Japan

The third webinar in Dr. Justin Stein’s 2020 series on the history of Reiki examined the beginnings of Reiki’s movement beyond Japan, including the nature of Takata’s training, how Reiki spread in Hawaii, and what changes occurred in that process. Dr. Stein is a well-known Reiki scholar and has researched and written extensively on Reiki and the cultural context in which it arose. This blog is a summary of Dr. Stein’s third webinar, posted with permission.

Hayashi Reiki Kenkyukai

In 1938, there were 4-5,000 members in Hayashi’s Reiki organization in Japan. The headquarters were in Tokyo, with branches in Kyoto, Nagoya, Daishoji, Chichibu, Sendai Morioka, and Aomori. There were 13 teachers (shihan), and there may have been additional assistant teachers (shihan-kaku) certified to teach level 1 only (shoden).

In looking at how Hayashi-trained practitioners conducted sessions, we have a few sources. One is an article by Matsui Shoo, a student of Hayashi. From this source, it appears that practitioners sometimes treated with one hand at a time, or even just a few fingers. Treatments were often quite long, and might involve multiple practitioners. Especially for serious illness, treatments might be given every day for several days. Matsui recounts treating a woman who seemed near death for six consecutive days, 7-8 hours per day. In a testimonial, a Reiki recipient describes an initial session of 2-3 hours, conducted by Matsui and 2 assistants.

Sessions were generally given with the recipients lying down, on futons or mats. Hayashi’s treatment manual describes sets of hand positions for treating particular conditions; his manual is similar to the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai’s handbook. Some describe recipients disrobing and receiving treatment under a quilt, but there are also indications that recipients were treated while clothed.

We have access to brief notes that Takata took during her Reiki 1 class with Hayashi. She writes that “in order to concentrate” the Reiki, the practitioner “must purify one’s thought…and to let the energy come out from within.” These concepts are very consistent with Buddhist theories of emanation of healing energy being linked to moral development. She adds that the energy is stored in the abdomen “about 2 inches below the navel,” which is consistent with Japanese Buddhist beliefs about the energy body.

Mrs. Takata writes to “sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, concentrate on your thoughts and relax, close your hand together and wait for the sign. Kindly and gently apply the hand starting from [either the heart or the head – writing not legible] downward.” This echoes a practice that Usui apparently taught, of sitting in Gassho (hands in prayer position), purifying one’s thoughts, and then waiting for a sign to begin treatment.

Mrs. Takata mentions, “the patient could be diagnosed just by the touch of hand,” which is apparently a reference to “byosen” – indications of the location of the source of disease by sensing energetic stimuli in the hands. She also addresses the mindset of the recipient. “The patient…must first purify one’s thoughts, feel comfortable and [have] a desire to get well…Gratitude is a great cure for the mind.” This emphasis on gratitude is consistent with the Reiki precepts.

Usui’s teaching system was apparently gradual, with various ranks and with practical examinations given to determine advancement, similar to a martial arts school. There were 3 main levels—shoden, okuden, and shinpiden—with sublevels in each. Hayashi seems to have had a similar system, although probably not as graduated. Classes were apparently 4-5 days long, with daily reiju (attunements). Hayashi may have taught the first two levels together under certain circumstances. Some students apprenticed at his clinics; during her initial training with Hayashi, Takata was a clinic apprentice.

Reiki in Hawaii

After her initial training, Takata returned to Hawaii in 1936. She treated clients in the afternoons and evenings, perhaps after her work day. She seems to have charged a fee for her treatments, but also offered free clinics. She was apparently teaching, perhaps only Reiki 1 as a shihan-kaku (assistant teacher). She returned to Japan in 1937 for further training. Takata seems to have been among the top students of Hayashi. She lived in Hayashi’s home, and traditionally in Japan, this would be the case if she were in the inner circle.

Hayashi travelled to Hawaii, arriving in October of 1937. From then until February 1938, he and Takata travelled throughout Hawaii teaching Reiki. This period was a continuation of her apprenticeship. Their classes seemed to have varied from 3 days to 5 days, with some of the five-day classes involving 2 hours of instruction per day. Class size was approximately 20 students, mostly women. They were taught in Japanese, and there were very few students who were not of Japanese origin. After Hayashi’s Hawaii trip, Mrs. Takata was apparently considered a fully-trained teacher by Hayashi, who gave her a certificate to that effect. Takata then regularly taught Reiki 1 and Reiki 2, mostly in Buddhist meeting spaces. She also ran a Reiki clinic.


Reiki practice apparently changed somewhat in the process of coming to Hawaii. It is difficult to discern exactly which changes Hayashi made prior to this period, which occurred during Hayashi’s time in Hawaii, and which Takata made afterwards.

That being said, overall, Takata’s way of practicing and teaching Reiki was quite similar to Japanese practice, particularly at first. Her early students were taught to use byosen (sensations in the hands) to determine the location of the cause of disease. They gave long treatments for no specific fee. Distance treatments were given by placing fingertips on a person’s photograph.

Some of her early students later criticized Takata for establishing a set fee for hour-long treatments. It is worth noting that Japanese cultural norms about reciprocity would likely have resulted in Japanese recipients paying practitioners a reasonable fee without the practitioners asking directly. Perhaps Takata discovered that the same reciprocity did not apply with non-Japanese or bicultural recipients. It is also worth noting that we have no information about Hayashi’s payment structure for Reiki sessions.

Takata had studied massage and naturopathy, and these apparently influenced her practice. She made nutritional recommendations, and also employed a stroke alongside the spine plus massage of feet and lower legs. However, it may be significant that a stroke alongside the spine is taught in at least one Reiki lineage that descended from Hayashi but not Takata.

At some point, recitation of poetry and the precepts in Hawaiian Reiki classes ceased. Perhaps we should note that these features might have been the most obviously Japanese elements of Reiki, and we are dealing here with Hawaii prior to and during the second world war. Takata advertised her classes prior to Pearl Harbor, but not afterwards. She also disbanded her Reiki clinics when the United States entered the war.

Takata taught in 3 levels. She reestablished a firm separation between first degree and second degree, which Hayashi apparently sometimes taught together. We don’t know why she made this change, but it might have been to make first degree more financially accessible.

Upcoming Webinars

Dr. Stein’s fifth and last webinar is on Sunday September 27: Unsolved Reiki Mysteries. All proceeds benefit the non-profit Reiki Centers of America and will be dedicated to the English translation of an important Reiki book. For more information, see https://reikicentersofamerica.org/reiki-webinar-series/

Stay tuned for my upcoming blog summarizing Dr. Stein’s fourth webinar Coming to North America: One Woman’s Mission to Spread Reiki. This lecture examines Takata’s teaching of Reiki in the mainland United States.