Teaching Reiki in the Pandemic

When the Coronavirus arrived, I considered my situation and how I could continue to offer services to my clients and students. Energy work can be performed remotely, and so I was lucky to be able to continue working with many of my clients. I was able to meet virtually with my Reiki class graduates, so that they could continue to receive support from me and each other.

But teaching Reiki was another story. I didn’t know how well it would work to teach virtually. The group experience is so important to learning Reiki, as is the connection with the teacher. We perform attunements in Reiki classes, which involve working with the student’s energy body to create a deeper connection to sources of universal light. Could I effectively do all of this from a distance, virtually? And what would the best format be?

Luckily, I had a couple of friends who wanted to learn Reiki 1, and they were willing to try a virtual class. I sat down and planned my curriculum. I decided to teach 5 two-hour sessions, over 2-3 weeks, with practice and a bit of reading between sessions.

I was delighted to discover that the online format worked beautifully. The attunements seemed to function just the same at a distance as in-person — perhaps because I have many years of experience with distance healing. Although we missed each other’s physical presence, and we missed practicing with each other in-person, students practiced between sessions on themselves and their loved ones. From what students told me, as well as what I was able to feel emanating from them, it was clear that the attunements held. Their Reiki was strong and effective!

Based on this initial experience, I began to offer regular Reiki 1 and Reiki 2 classes virtually. At this point I have graduated quite a few people from online small-group classes. I hear from them regularly about how they are practicing Reiki and are helping themselves and others.

There are advantages to teaching and learning in this format. I am able to include students from across the country. I am able to include students with transportation challenges, with time constraints, or with disabilities that make a standard full-day format impossible. I can offer the class at a very reasonable rate because I don’t have to pay for room rental. Teaching across 2-3 weeks with practice between allows excellent, relevant questions to emerge. Students finish class with a strong understanding of Reiki and with a self-treatment routine already established.

Most importantly, students learn a powerful method for stress management, vitalizing the system, and boosting immunity — with 100% safety.

When the pandemic is over and we return to some degree of normality, I will joyfully return to teaching Reiki in person. And I will also continue my virtual Reiki classes, because now I can reach people who I couldn’t reach before.

Reiki is a gift of the Light. It has transformed my life. I am so grateful to Reiki and to the teachers who have come before me. There are those who say that Reiki should only be taught in-person, that teaching virtually is inappropriate and a distortion of Reiki. I respect their opinion. But one of my teachers wisely taught me that Reiki manifests differently through all of us, and that I need to be open to how it manifests through me.

We need the grace of Reiki now more than ever. We need peace in the midst of turmoil. Here I am, doing my best to interpret how Reiki wants to move through me, doing my best to share Mikao Usui’s beautiful gift with all those who want to receive it — including those who do not feel safe receiving it in person. I am here for anyone ready to bring themselves and others into the calming light.

The Roots of Reiki

The second webinar in Dr. Justin Stein’s 2020 series on the history of Reiki examined various spiritual therapies that arose in Japan during the period when Reiki was founded. Dr. Stein is a well-known Reiki scholar and has researched and written extensively on Reiki and its cultural context in which it arose. What follows is a brief summary of Dr. Stein’s second webinar, posted with permission.

Spiritual Therapies in Usui’s Time

According to Dr. Stein, in 1919-1920, Japan experienced epidemics of the Spanish flu, cholera, and tuberculosis. These were diseases that the medical science of the time could not adequately address, thus sparking interest in other healing options. At the same time, there were educated people in Japan who were interested in spiritual development but were not committed to a religion. These conditions led to the growth of what Dr. Stein labels “spiritual therapies.”

At the time, these techniques were known as reijutsu (spiritual arts or extraordinary therapies) and/or seishin ryoho (psycho-spiritual therapies). Reijutsu might include meditation techniques, healing methods, spiritualistic practices (i.e. channeling or spirit communication), and psychic activities (i.e. clairvoyance). In contemporary Japan, seishin ryoho refers to psychotherapy. In the early 20th century, it might have included a variety of practices such as breathing methods, positive affirmations, and hands-on healing, with the intention of healing the kokoro (heart-mind) and/or the seishin (spirit).

In both reijutsu and seishin ryoho, healing the mind and spirit was thought to also heal the body. Practitioners drew a distinction between their healing methods and religion, although they did borrow practices from religion, such as meditation and initiation. During this time in Japan, there were also many new and hybrid religions.

Influences

Dr. Stein explained that Usui Sensei was an enthusiastic reader and scholar, interested in a variety of topics, including spiritual practices. He was likely influenced by various people who were active prior to the development of his own method. These include Tamari Kizo, a theorist who wrote books about spiritual energy. He described a vital force that he called reiki. Spiritual practitioners during the period of 1910-1930 frequently referred to his work.

Tanaka Morihei founded a spiritual healing method known as Taireido. He is said to have gained healing abilities after a period of meditation on a mountaintop. Yogi Ramacharaka (William Walker Atkinson), was an American who combined principles of yoga and western spiritualism into a method of Prana Therapy. This method included transmitting energy through the hands, breath, and eyes; scanning techniques; distance techniques; a stroke down the back to assist circulation; self-healing; and breathing practices to cultivate prana (ki). Suzuki Bizan apparently influenced Usui’s ideas about how to maintain a healthy heart-mind; he published a book in 1914 that used a set of statements very similar to Usui’s Reiki precepts.

There were also contemporaries who may have influenced Usui. Among these were Takagi Hidesuke, who taught hands-on treatment, meditation, and a set of principles very similar to those used by Usui and by Suzuki Bizan. Yamada Shin’ichi was another contemporary; his prana therapy has much in common with both Usui’s system and the practices of Yogi Ramacharaka.

Overall, Usui Reiki Ryoho shared much with the spiritual healing methods of precursors and contemporaries. Gaining power after fasting on a mountaintop was a frequent feature; various healing methods utilized “gaze, breath, stroking, patting”; meditation techniques that concentrate ki and then distribute it were common; and precepts like Usui’s were taught by at least 2 other spiritual leaders.

Distinctions

There are four characteristics of Usui Reiki Ryoho that were unusual for Japan of that period. Usui did not advertise or write books. He was apparently fairly well-known at the time; we don’t know why he didn’t advertise, but perhaps it wasn’t necessary given his contact with a class of people who provided many in-person referrals. Usui’s use of poetry recitation as a way to cultivate concentration was apparently unique at the time; at least 2 of his students carried this technique forward.

The use of symbols and also initiation procedures were also unusual. These both likely came from mikkyo, Japanese esoteric Buddhism. They may have entered into Usui’s practice through Shugendo, an ascetic religion practiced in the mountains of Japan that derives in great part from esoteric Buddhism. Usui might have had other types of contact with magico-spiritual practices. Other spiritual therapies of Usui’s time used techniques from mikkyo, but not specifically symbols and initiations.

Some have questioned whether or not Usui used symbols, and have suggested that the symbols could be a later invention. However, Dr. Stein explained that there is substantial evidence that Usui did use symbols. The Usui Reiki Gakkai uses symbols, and Usui at various points discusses that distance treatment is part of his Okuden training (second degree). From the information that Dr. Stein has been able to access, it appears that three symbols were presented in Usui’s Okuden training and were taught in a manner similar to the way that Takata taught them.

Dr. Stein concluded by stating that Usui Reiki Ryoho had much in common with other therapies of the time, but was a unique combination of contemporary ideas and traditional Japanese practices.

Upcoming Webinars

Dr. Stein’s next webinar is on Sunday, July 26 at 2:00pm EST. It focuses on Hayashi’s work in Japan and Hawaii in the 1930s and 40s. Subsequent webinars are on August 30 and September 27. 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/