What is Reiki Attunement?

Reiki HealingPeople often mention to me that they’ve received attunements.

If I’m feeling playful, I ask, “What’s an attunement?”

Many are nonplussed by the question, as if they’ve never been asked it before, or never asked it themselves. Others launch a rocket of a response, a barrage of words that doesn’t tell me anything — or at least not what the practitioner had in mind.

Reiki propaganda

I am deeply interested in people’s understanding of Reiki practice. I truly am. And so I ask questions, lots of them.

More often than not, what I hear is a lack of understanding, a memorized bit of — yes, I’m going to call it propaganda — that hides a huge untended question mark.

That’s unfortunate, because blind allegiance to the party line won’t unlock the door to freedom.

Don’t we pursue a spiritual practice such as Reiki to increase our inner spaciousness and personal freedom? One way spiritual practice increases our freedom is by encouraging us to question, to dive into the unknown, to savor the mystery.

Perhaps the greatest mystery of Reiki practice is initiation. Reiki is not a skill-based practice as, for example, yoga is. Reiki is an initiation-based practice, an empowered practice. The Reiki initiation is the very life breath of Reiki practice. Without initiation, there is no Reiki practice.

Initiation or attunement?

Some time after the death of Hawayo Takata* in December 1980, the word “attunement” starting popping up. Many Reiki practitioners now use it exclusively for the process Mrs. Takata referred to as initiation (reiju in Japanese).

Even though the initiation process is mysterious, the word “initiation” is pretty straightforward. It refers to beginning.

Initiation is the process by which a master shares with a student the ability to practice. Initiation lineage keeps a practice alive, and is common in Asian spiritual traditions.

Just as the essence of practice is to begin again, initiation can be repeated. Usui offered reiju to his students each time they gathered to practice.

The rise of the word “attunement” seems to have put an end to questioning. It encouraged practitioners to see Reiki as a particular vibration of “energy” to which people need to be “attuned” in order to practice. This confusion — that one is attuned to energy rather than initiated into practice — has taken on a life of its own and is now generally presented as fact.

But it’s not a fact. It’s a belief. And if Reiki practice is predicated on belief, it’s no longer a practice; it becomes a religion.

When you look at it that way — which is how people outside the New Age community tend to look at it — is it so surprising that some religious folk are opposed to Reiki practice?

Demystifying initiation, so to speak

It’s impossible to actually demystify initiation because the process itself is mystical. But whereas the initiation process is mysterious, what it accomplishes is practical and usually palpable. People who receive a Reiki initiation notice the effect.

As a young Reiki master, I made the mistake perhaps all new masters make: I talked too much.

Over time I came to appreciate that my job is not to explain Reiki. Rather, my responsibility as a Reiki master is simply to teach students how to practice Reiki, to inspire them to practice daily self-treatment, and to give them the confidence that they actually can practice successfully.

I know all my students need are the initiations; I also know they don’t know that. I can’t expect them to believe me, nor do I want them to. I want students to develop their own confidence. And nothing I say can create confidence the way in-class practice does.

In my First degree classes, we move into the first of four initiations right after the welcome and introductions. I then lead the students through their first modified Reiki practice. After this brief initial practice, and before they open their eyes, I ask them to notice any little difference between the way they feel now compared to how they felt when they started.

Once I’ve gently led them out of their practice session, the students share what they noticed during their first practice. I don’t remember the last time someone didn’t notice anything. People at the very least feel calmer, more centered, more relaxed — and are savvy enough to realize that’s not the way they would have expected to feel sitting quietly amidst strangers.

The process of initiation is inherently mysterious; what it accomplishes — enabling us to practice — is not.

*Hawayo Takata and her Japanese Reiki master Chujiro Hayashi brought Reiki practice to Hawaii from Japan in the late 1930s. Hayashi was trained by Reiki lineage founder Mikao Usui.

August 15 marks the 147th anniversary of the birth of Mikao Usui, founder of the Reiki practice lineage. We will celebrate with a special guest blog by UK Reiki master and Reiki history buff Colin Powell. You don’t have to wait till next week to enjoy Colin’s previous posts Reiki Writing and What Does the Reiki Kanji Mean?

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42 Responses to “What is Reiki Attunement?”

  1. Pamela Miles August 04, 2012 12:15 pm Permalink

    Thank you for your comment, Gisela, and I agree that Reiki is a non-dual practice, meaning that we practice to live from that place in which the opposites resolve and we experience the inherent perfection not only of a human being, but of all being.

    Subtle energy is part of the human experience. Since Reiki practice enhances our experience of ourselves and of life itself, the experience of subtle energy is also enhanced, but that experience is a by-product, not the core or the foundation of Reiki practice.

    • Lea Alexander August 04, 2012 1:43 pm Permalink

      Thanks Pamela, for opening this discussion. Your last remark of course begs the question… If you see the experience of being reminded that we humans are already one with the subtle divine energy is only an experience or by-product, then what do you understand the core or foundation of Reiki to be?

      • Pamela Miles August 04, 2012 2:57 pm Permalink

        Lea, I said the experience of subtle energy is a by-product of practice. I agree with Gisela that practice is a reminder of the true nature of reality, but my understanding is that is our true nature is all-pervasive unmanifest consciousness, which is far more subtle than even subtle “energy.”

      • Lea Alexander August 04, 2012 3:34 pm Permalink

        Thanks for that clarification Pamela. I missed your point. I agree, “Reiki practice” enhances every area of our life. It is the only way we can become consciously aware that being one with Reiki is more than just “playing” with the phenomena of subtle energies. It is so much more.

        I too have stopped using the word Attunement and feel like the Japanese
        experience of reiju is more like a reminder, a remembering or awakening for those of us who have been deeply asleep to our true nature. (And isn’t that all of us!) The reiju is such a beautiful reminder of our essence. And practicing Reiki can allow us to experience that remembering on our own, so easily.

        Thanks again for opening this discussion.

      • Gisela Stewart August 04, 2012 3:41 pm Permalink

        I would be very happy to call this consciousness source energy, the highest subtlest form of energy in existence. As so often seems the case, we simply prefer to use different words (and perhaps choose them or avoid them with specific audiences in mind)

      • Pamela Miles August 04, 2012 4:45 pm Permalink

        I don’t think it’s different words for the same thing, Gisela; energy and consciousness are distinct. There is no source energy because energy involves movement, however subtle, and that means it is removed from source.

  2. Rose Mattax August 04, 2012 12:31 pm Permalink

    Pamela, I really appreciate this post. I’ve always used the word attunement, because that was how I was taught–but I much prefer the concept of initiation, and also the phrase “soul-granted” speaks to me. Personally, I will be glad to leave the word “attunement” behind, because of the confusion and questions it rises with my brothers and sisters in faith. Thanks again, for your commitment to reiki. Blessings, Rose

    • Pamela Miles August 04, 2012 2:20 pm Permalink

      Yes, I love “soul-granted,” too, Rose. And isn’t it interesting that “rei” is in “reiju.” Maybe one of our Japanese experts will write a guest blog about that.

      It’s never as simple as a literal translation. Even when translating from one Romance language to another, there are nuances that get lost or redirected. Translating from a language that is expressed in pictograms to one that uses words is even more challenging, and on top of that, Japanese culture includes concepts and perspectives that are not part of any English-speaking culture.

      The pursuit of any spiritual practice is open-ended. If we don’t keep questioning and opening to understanding that lies beyond our current state, our loss is immeasurable.

  3. Hannah Setu August 04, 2012 2:48 pm Permalink

    Thank you Pamela, this is so needed for us who have struggled with the translations and definitions of Reiki here in America. I have always felt a little hurt that our contemporary American culture does not already have words that accurately describe something that belongs to the whole world, indeed that the world is made of or descends out of.

    What I like to discuss with my students is our shared culture in America of celebrating the milestones of life (like birthdays, weddings, funerals, sweet 16 and 21 coming of age parties) and that this new spiritual practice of Reiki is a milestone that they have now chosen and are ready for. I have always avoided using the non-English words wherever and whenever I can and certainly, like you expressed Pamela, I have talked too much, even now!

    I will probably stop using the word attunement, however I feel it is helpful to explain why it is not the exact word. ‘Beginning’ as a simple definition of initiation, to me, still cannot avoid the connotations of baptism, consecration, confirmation and other religious rituals therefore opening up the question of religious vs spiritual ceremony and practice. I am also relieved to hear that Usui did not limit the number of ‘reiju’ ceremonies for his students to receive as I have also not limited this over the years.

    As for the word attunement, I really do understand and am very grateful for your explanation Pamela, it feels like a very subtle difference though it is not subtle at all. Your explanation is foundational and and cracks open a perception that most of us have not had the opportunity to explore. I feel most people (Americans or the ‘common man’ worldwide?) at least most of my students have not had the exposure or education in a most basic way to consider themselves profoundly connected and at choice in experiencing their lives in the way of Reiki offers.

    So, although this is a long post, I do not subscribe to heavy explanation in my first level Reiki; I speak experientially as much as possible and save the deeper conversations for Reiki II when they have already begun their practice and are secure in their understanding that experiencing Reiki is first, everything else comes after.

  4. Kathleen McDonald August 04, 2012 5:33 pm Permalink

    Thank you, Pamela. This is one of the best posts ever! I have passed it along to my students.

  5. Christine August 05, 2012 11:06 am Permalink

    Thank you, Pamela, for putting some light on this issue. In my opinion there is often too much focus on a physical ritual versus the whole in-person class experience. That is why some may believe that they can be “attuned into Reiki” via the Internet and that the attunement is all it takes to be able to offer Reiki treatment to others. Or that you can be “attuned into Reiki mastership” within minutes, versus going through master training and really learning how to teach Reiki and what its practice embodies.

    I believe that the misinformation about initiations is one of the roadblocks that keeps Reiki from being more accepted into the mainstream and into our hospitals. Thank you for educating the Reiki community!

  6. Barbara Martin August 05, 2012 11:21 am Permalink

    This is an interesting discussion. When I’ve been asked what an attunement does, I’ve said it is like having the light switched on in a dark room for the first time. The potential to see the lighted room has always been there, but the switch can’t be found easily in the dark. The attunement, or initiation, enables the switch to be noticed and the power to light the room becomes a reality.
    I quite possibly heard this before in my years of practice but can’t recall where, but the English concept of “soul-granted” for the Japanese word reiju fits the image for me of being empowered to discover what is already there.

    • Christine August 05, 2012 7:02 pm Permalink

      Barbara, does that mean that people who have not received a Reiki attunement are still in the dark?:)

      The attunement did not turn on any lights for me. Regular Reiki self-treatment continues to increase my self-awareness and helps me to look beyond polarity.

  7. Suneil August 06, 2012 4:09 am Permalink

    Interesting discussion, Pamela – you must be familiar with the Sanskrit word, “deeksha”: the Indian Hindu / Buddhist / Jain concept describes the “initiation” that a person receives from a Master carrying an authentic lineage (and this lineage is important – crucial, even…). A person might receive a deeksha into a mantra (some mantra practices (“Sadhana”) are absolutely not to be practised without the proper Deeksha from a person who has “perfected” that practice – another meaning of the word “Siddha”) and accompanying ritual. There are various systems of categorising various levels of deeksha according to the tantra, the scriptural authority, being consulted, and even there one might encounter different interpretations according to the “Sampradaya” (lineage, or school of thought) in question. That said, most of these Deeksha ceremonies always essentially talk:

    1. from a relative perspective (adopted to correspond to ordinary reality that we usually perceive of duality), of a connection being established between the practitioner (“Sadhak”), the initiator (“Acharya”, or if one is lucky enough, “Guru”), the practice (“Sadhana”) as outlined by the lineage, and the goal (“ishta”) of the sadhana

    2. from a non-dual perspective, of the essential inseparability of these various elements – the metaphors involved always point to an awakening to the illusion of separation.

    In my opinion, it is always useful to differentiate between the perspective we adopt when we want to talk about Reiki initiation – if “All is One and One is All”, then we might as well go home and watch television, since it is essentially not different from any other perceived “spiritual” activity. From the relative perspective of ordinary reality and duality, we have to take into account the fact that we have a different body from our Reiki Master’s, who has taught us to do something which we (practically speaking) previously did not know. Maybe s/he initiated introduced me to a practice or re-activated some aspect of my Self that was not capable of doing that Reiki practice previously. I leave it to my students to grapple with that question, if they want to bother with it at all :-) I cannot say “Practice is enabled and effective only after the initiation” and “the process of Reiki initiation / attunement / empowerment are a way of connecting you to yourself” at the same time, since they are talking from two different perspectives – the former statement assumes duality while the latter assumes non-duality.

    Whether Reiki Masters choose to express one or the other aspect, either among themselves or in classes to students, I believe they must be clear on that front, as well as be genuinely and sincerely able to see whether they are speaking from a felt state or just from what they have read or heard and “intuitively feel to be true”

    • Gisela Stewart August 06, 2012 4:43 am Permalink

      “I cannot say “Practice is enabled and effective only after the initiation” and “the process of Reiki initiation / attunement / empowerment are a way of connecting you to yourself” at the same time.” ~ I would agree with you there Suneil. While it is true that most of us need a gentle reminder in the form of reiju to tap into what is already there, we also know that there are people who are natural born healers. To me the beauty of Usui Reiki Ryoho is that it can help anyone tap into their natural state more fully.

      • Gisela Stewart August 06, 2012 5:21 am Permalink

        When asked by such ‘naturals’, would they still benefit from learning Reiki, my answer is, yes of course. Most of us, at best, catch glimpses of non-duality here and there, which is why ongoing reiju is so helpful for anyone. Also, it it one thing to discover that you may have ‘healing hands’ and another to know how to use this natural ability to best effect and how to explain it to others. This is something that for my taste jikiden does well, provide a quality conceptual framework for how Reiki can be used to support the body’s natural healing processes.

      • Suneil August 06, 2012 8:56 am Permalink

        Thanks for your comment Gisela – I wished to reply to your comment below this one, but the blog didn’t give me an option for that.

        I have pretty much given up explaining the Reiki initiation (as an interesting aside, I remember from a Vajrayana perspective that initiation in Tibetan can be translated as “permission” – without the permission, the deity of the meditation may not be approached). When I start training Masters, my approach will be pretty much like, “Look, this is the process, this is how I have been taught by my teacher how to do it. Beyond this, you are free to imagine what happens and how.”

        I also keep wondering if the clairvoyant views of the Reiki initiations really offer anything of absolute value – people claim they can see what happens in the subtle fields and chakras of the person getting the Reiki initiation. I wonder if that adds anything significant to what we claim to know – after all it is also another relative view of reality. Perhaps seen through a beautiful stained glass window, but still just a perspective…

        I am sometimes caught in a very sweet, beautiful dilemma – I know I am honoured and deeply grateful for being able to pass on this wonderful life-enhancing technique to other people. On the other hand, I also know my role in it is nothing more than that of a facilitator or a technician who knows how to, for example, teach people how to do a backbend or a headstand (except the fact that everyone learns it, and nobody suffers injuries in the process).

      • Pamela Miles August 06, 2012 9:22 am Permalink

        Suneil,

        Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity when we stop trying to explain what cannot be explained. After all, if spiritual practice is to support us living in mystery, are Reiki masters helping their students when they try to explain everything?

        It’s critical that masters refrain from sharing their clairvoyant experiences with students and discipline themselves to teach their students the mechanics of practice, inspire them to practice daily, and assure them that understanding unfolds naturally from within — in time. There is a huge difference between the natural process of realization that happens for each committed student in his/her own unique way over time, and “imagining what happens and how.”

        We don’t imagine the ultimate reality; rather, our committed daily practice slowly, gently dissolves the obstacles to clear vision. When we try to rush the process, we risk destabilization and delusion.

        Reiki practice is not dangerous, but the way it is taught can be. Isn’t self-restraint a characteristic of mastery in any field?

    • Pamela Miles August 06, 2012 7:22 am Permalink

      Suneil, as always, thank you for your comment.

      Perhaps I do not understand what you have written, but in my experience, no matter what our perspective, it’s never the case that we might as well go home and watch television — unless of course we are going to practice Reiki while doing so.

      As one blossoms into the realization of non-dual awareness, one does not become less respectful of the distinctions that exist in dualistic reality. Even a fully enlightened person still has a body to feed and clothe.

      Initiation and practice are not a matter of connecting us to ourselves, but rather enhancing our awareness of our identity with the essential oneness that already exists.

      • Suneil August 06, 2012 8:46 am Permalink

        Sorry for getting carried away with the Sanskrit, Pamela – my bad.

        Can I have your opinion – do you think it is possible to “enhance” awareness of essential oneness, or is it a binary ON/OFF thing?

        In my opinion, although there might be stages leading to a pure non-dual awareness, that awareness itself is either there or not there. Reiki of course helps nudge us towards that.

        Whether, however, Reiki is identical to that awareness, or it is the source or an offshoot of that awareness, is something I long to experience in the depths of my whole being, as clearly as I know the fact that I am alive, rather than understand in such a way that scientific research ( :-) ) or brilliant logic can sway me from. I wish all of us may reside permanently in that state.

        In gratitude,
        Suneil

      • Pamela Miles August 06, 2012 9:32 am Permalink

        Not bad at all, Suneil. You have a strong drive to find clarity. How can I not love that? :-)

        Isn’t binary anything a function of a dualistic framework? Try developing the habit of thinking whole, of thinking systems-oriented balance rather than linear seesaw balance (I don’t remember seeing seesaws in India…).

        Perhaps a more helpful albeit imperfect image is of how we respond to the changes in the sky. Clouds come and go, storms arrive and pass. As we understand that phenomena changes constantly, it’s less and less worrisome, and we eventually realize the sky itself remains forever unblemished and essentially unchanged.

        As Gisela wrote, we all have fleeting experiences of this. The point is to become established in that state. Our committed practice is the thread which connects the fleeting experiences so that they develop into wisdom and understanding.

      • Gisela Stewart August 06, 2012 9:45 am Permalink

        We’re very much agreed here Pamela, to let understanding naturally unfold from within at each individual’s own pace. To me Reiki is a path of direct experience, and that is the beauty of of it. To enlist the imagination (as if often encouraged) is not helpful at best, and can lead to delusion as you say.

      • Christine August 06, 2012 10:15 am Permalink

        Pamela, I am so glad that we are having this conversation.

        Most clairvoyant Reiki teachers do not mean any harm when they share their perceptions with their students. However, it has been my experience, just like you describe, that this can cause destabilization and delusion. To me, it felt like being put on the fast track.

        Understanding has been unfolding naturally – and gently, and when I am ready for it – from within once I started practicing Reiki self-treatment consistently.

      • Pamela Miles August 06, 2012 11:11 am Permalink

        I agree, Christine. The Reiki community is by and large a group of open-hearted people who want to help. But wanting to help is not enough. We need to be in a position to help, and we need to know how to help. Sharing a perspective that is personally meaningful can be inspiring, but sharing it as fact is detrimental to both the practice and the student’s development.

  8. Linette M August 06, 2012 1:23 pm Permalink

    Hi Pamela,

    Thank you so much for this article. I often wondered about the words “initiation” and “attunement” and now I understand this better.

    I have a friend who is interested in learning to practice Reiki. However, this person has asked me several times about initiations, questioning the need for them. The questioning comes from the large number of cons out there who trick people for their money, and also from the idea that all knowledge is within us and that a person with “natural healing abilities” could perform a self-initiation and be able to practice if they choose to.

    I have trouble answering these questions. Do you have any suggestions? I will definitely share this link with my friend.

    Thank you for all that you do Pamela.

    ~Linette

    • Pamela Miles August 06, 2012 1:48 pm Permalink

      Linette,

      Often the confusion you mention happens when people assume we are saying that no one can heal unless they have the Reiki initiations, and they find that suspicious, or it makes them angry.

      That’s a time when it helps to remember that no matter how careful we are in our communication, people hear what they hear, especially when they have a strong emotional response to what they think we are saying. (Given the extent to which emotions skew our listening, it is truly amazing that clear communication ever happens!)

      Here’s the deal :-)
      Everyone has the capacity to heal, and appropriate human touch has been well documented to be beneficial in a wide range of circumstances, primarily by Tiffany Field, PhD and her colleagues at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami medical school.

      Although Reiki practice is generally facilitated by light touch at the First degree (entry) level, the practice is distinct from traditional laying-on-of-hands healing that is practiced cross-culturally, if not universally.

      Reiki practice is a particular spiritual practice that those who wish to practice are enabled to do so by the Reiki initiations; that’s simply the way the founder Mikao Usui set it up.

      People can definitely heal without practicing Reiki; no one needs to receive Reiki initiations in order to heal. People only need the Reiki initiations if they want to practice Reiki.

      Helpful?

      • Linette M August 14, 2012 4:58 pm Permalink

        Absolutely, thank you Pamela! :)

  9. Hannah Setu August 06, 2012 2:22 pm Permalink

    Yes, @Linnette, I get the same types of questions myself. As in, who initiated Usui or they bring up Jesus purported statement, “the works that I do ye shall do also” which I have also subscribed to, but then I find myself leaving out the full statement “if you believe in Me.”

    Thank you Pamela for this thread. It is so unbelievably powerful to try to put words to the mystery and is like an elephant in the corner! And you started this blog with the comment “If I’m feeling playful, I ask, “What’s an attunement?” To be playful yet profound, sounds like a purrrfect state of being!

    I need an embroidered pillow with one of your sage references to THE MYSTERY to soothe my monkey brain (along with consistent Reiki self-practice of course!)

    • Christine August 06, 2012 3:10 pm Permalink

      I would like to challenge that you need a physical ritual in order to initiate someone into practicing Reiki. Usui did not use a physical ritual. He would just sit in meditation across from his students in order to introduce them to the system of Reiki. Sometimes he may have done Reiju, which is similar to a seated Reiki treatment and does not involve the use of symbols. The attunement procedure that is most commonly used in Reiki training comes from Hayashi and Takata, in my opinion.

      I am not saying that there is anything wrong with using a physical ritual as a Reiki teacher, if you choose to do so. However, Reiki can also be taught without a physical ritual. For example, the first thing I do with my students in Reiki Level I is to guide them through a self-treatment. I see this as their initiation/attunement, in addition to teaching them the mechanics of Reiki practice in a 12 hour class. Pamela, I get the same feedback from them after their first Reiki self-treatment as you describe above, feeling calmer, more centered etc.

      Linette and Hannah, I find that people feel less suspicious towards Reiki with this approach.

      • Pamela Miles August 06, 2012 3:28 pm Permalink

        Christine, perhaps I missed something, but where did anyone say a physical ritual is necessary?

        My esteemed colleague and friend, Japanese Buddhist monk and Reiki master Hyakuten Inamoto has explained to me that Usui-sensei sat with his students in meditation and gave the initiation in a meditative way.

        The point is not whether or not the Reiki master touches the student, but whether or not the initiation is given and honored as carrying the lineage. Initiations is not something I would ever hide or even downplay, as it is the core of Reiki practice.

        People also tell me they practice Reiki by following the practice protocol given in my book. They place their hands and feel calmer, more relaxed. I explain to them that they have practiced laying-on-of-hands healing — in itself a good thing — and that Reiki practice requires the initiation. The feedback has been that they feel a difference after initiation.

  10. Christine August 06, 2012 4:28 pm Permalink

    Pamela, thank you for your response. I did not mean to downplay or hide the initiation but I can see that it may come across like that. I do tell my students that guiding them through Reiki self-treatments is my way of initiating them into practicing Reiki.

    I have learnt a lot from this post and I appreciate your clear language. It has helped me to better understand the meaning of initiation.

  11. Nathan August 07, 2012 4:21 am Permalink

    Personally, I use the word “attunement”, because I can perceive how a person is attuned to Reiki. Belief is something without a hook in reality, you take it for granted. A fact if something you can perceive over and over again. But perceiving the attunement process requires clairvoyant skill – with it, you can perceive how meridians get brighter, how the primary channels glow, how hand centers emit the energy. And this is what all clairvoyants perceive, so honestly, it’s not a belief, it’s a fact. Of course, a fact that requires people to accept that clairvoyance is real – but, this should be obvious for those who practice Reiki ;) .

    • Pamela Miles August 07, 2012 7:18 am Permalink

      Nathan, I respectfully point out that people perceive delusions over and over. That doesn’t make them facts. Facts are not based on belief, and those of us who value a credible presentation of Reiki are aware that when we present our inner experiences as fact, we lose credibility not only for ourselves but also for Reiki practice.

      Practicing Reiki and initiating students into the practice does not require clairvoyance.

      • Nathan August 07, 2012 7:29 am Permalink

        Practicing Reiki doesn’t require clairvoyance, yes. But teaching Reiki to students without any form of psychic perception is… well, quite irresponsible. And with the skill of clairvoyance you can easily understand what attunement is all about, without considering it to be “mystical”, or considering attunement to be a “belief”.

        I guess now we’re getting into true New Age, by thinking that psychic perception and the way energy works is just a subject to belief and delusion…

      • Pamela Miles August 07, 2012 8:08 am Permalink

        Actually, Nathan, it’s New Agey to present inner experiences as fact, and that is precisely how the credibility of Reiki practice has suffered.

        If, as you say, teaching Reiki without being a psychic is irresponsible, then I am an irresponsible Reiki master, and have been one for more than two decades.

        The profound understanding that arises with diligent Reiki practice goes far beyond clairvoyance or psychic phenomena. I think I’ll stay the course.

  12. Christine August 07, 2012 8:02 am Permalink

    Nathan, if we want Reiki practice to move forward into the mainstream and into our hospitals we need to find common ground with other Reiki practitioners. I find that the best way to do this is to focus on the benefits of Reiki treatment and let go of personal opinions how Reiki works. The Reiki community is very diverse but I think that we can all agree on that our clients feel more relaxed and balanced after a Reiki treatment. I think we can also agree on that Reiki self-treatment improves our well-being and enables us to offer a healing space to another person.

    Reiki practice is a wonderful healing modality that is much needed in our hospitals, for our wounded soldiers, cancer care and so much more. We are creating roadblocks if we insist on our own personal models.

    • Pamela Miles August 07, 2012 8:14 am Permalink

      Well put, Christine. In order to gather our community so that we can bring Reiki practice to a larger public, we need to find steady common ground, a platform with simple points that we can agree upon.

      While someone’s inner experiences are deeply meaningful to that person, they are subjective, and do not create common ground. That doesn’t make them less important or wrong. However, they are not a shared reality and therefore are not appropriate for the purpose of strengthening credibility.

      If we insist that people believe something in order to experience Reiki practice, we’re limiting Reiki practice to the True Believers. My goal is to fulfill Mrs. Takata’s vision that Reiki practice become as common as aspirin.

    • Nathan August 07, 2012 8:21 am Permalink

      It’s not a problem to practice Reiki I, II or III to help people, Reiki is, indeed, a wonderful practice. Practice is safe (as long as you keep the safety rules in mind, like cleansing the place of your work, or cleansing your self before and after any Reiki sessions, there’s so much energetic stuff that gets into your aura…), and everyone can do Reiki. But not everyone can teach Reiki.

      With SO MANY things that can go wrong during Reiki attunement, if one is not capable of perceiving that which goes beyond the physical matter, then one is not ready to teach. For example, some teachers continue to say “oh, that awesome Reiki egregore!” and they do attune people… by pluging them into this egregore, from which one more experienced people have to exorcise the victims of irresponsibility.

      At least basic psychic perception (again, perception – not fortune telling) is required. To put it in a simple metaphor – if you can’t see the fire, don’t work as a firefighter.

      The practitioner doesn’t have to believe in anything, he or she doesn’t have to see anything. But Reiki teachers whose perception is limited, are mass produced for the last 20 years thanks to New Age movement that don’t give a heck about safety rules. Again – yes, everyone can do Reiki. Not everyone can teach Reiki.

      • Pamela Miles August 07, 2012 8:39 am Permalink

        Nathan, we have found a point of agreement: anyone who is trained can practice Reiki, but teaching Reiki is a different matter.

        Doing anything and teaching it are always different, requiring different skill sets. And with Reiki practice, teaching is best founded on extended daily personal practice as well as professional practice.

        Since practice itself is our greatest teacher, how can we teach what we have not substantially done?

        If Reiki masters have a solid foundation and stay within the scope of practice, the initiation process is not at all dangerous. It’s when people have added embellishments and/or haven’t practiced long enough to be confident and thus bring fear into the process, that it becomes dangerous.

        If Reiki masters practice long enough before initiating others, all is resolved by practice. Additionally, it’s important that masters understand the responsibility we carry as custodians of the practice, and feel a sense of accountability. There is no need to be clairvoyant or have any psychic abilities. That is fortunate because those means of gathering information may sometimes be accurate, but are inherently unreliable and prone to distortion.

        The enthusiasm and naivete of the New Age movement has literally spread Reiki practice around the world, at a great cost to traditional values and practice standards.

        Now it is up to those of us with traditional practice standards to find one another and create a credible Reiki presentation for the public. Within that network, there will still be enormous diversity. This is good because the mainstream public is also very diverse.

  13. Jennifer August 09, 2012 10:45 am Permalink

    Pamela, thank you for the insight of the differences in the words and meanings of the words initiation and attunement. I have also felt when I have said “attunement” as if it were coming from the outside, a sort of disconnection.

    An issue I get stuck on sometimes is this…..we all have the power to heal our selves and to send healing energy of some sort to others. So if asked….. so what is the point of learning Reiki…..I fumble…..I can explain Reiki….I feel unclear when answering what makes it different for someone to send energy with a certain intention?

    Thank you for your time and wisdom!!
    xoxoxoxo

  14. pawana January 17, 2013 12:56 pm Permalink

    I really learn a lot here. thanks Pamela for kindly sharing this valuable information.

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  16. Gisela Stewart August 04, 2012 11:45 am Permalink

    An interesting and thought provoking post Pamela and I like, and agree with, your emphasis on direct experience. To me the fact that no belief is required to practice Reiki is one of the great attractions of Mikao Usui’s unique healing system.

    I also like your understanding of the role of a Reiki teacher, teaching students how to practice, motivate them and help them gain confidence that they can practice successfully. And I agree that this confidence comes from practice and direct experience.

    With regard to the two translations of ‘reiju’, initiation and attunement, to me both of them are just that, an approximation in the English language for a Japanese concept that does not directly translate.

    In English, we use both approximations interchangeably, being aware that neither fully captures ‘reiju’. Which is why in jikiden reiki, we usually stick with the Japanese ‘reiju’ and explain the concept.

    If we choose attunement, then naturally the question follows ‘attuned to what?’ It seems to me that perhaps your problem with the choice ‘attunement’ may be the result of a reluctance to accept the concept of energy as part of Reiki practice, which seems to be understood as something external.

    However, ‘reiju’ literally translates as ‘soul granted’. (Frank Arjava Petter, Das ist Reiki), a process designed to remind the practitioner of what is always and has always already been there. Underlying Reiki practice, at least from a Japanese perspective, is the understanding that ‘the original human being is perfect’ (i.e. perfectly aligned with the divine) and that Reiki initiation gradually helps us tap into this natural state of oneness more fully.

  17. Pamela Miles August 04, 2012 12:15 pm Permalink

    Thank you for your comment, Gisela, and I agree that Reiki is a non-dual practice, meaning that we practice to live from that place in which the opposites resolve and we experience the inherent perfection not only of a human being, but of all being.

    Subtle energy is part of the human experience. Since Reiki practice enhances our experience of ourselves and of life itself, the experience of subtle energy is also enhanced, but that experience is a by-product, not the core or the foundation of Reiki practice.

    • Lea Alexander August 04, 2012 1:43 pm Permalink

      Thanks Pamela, for opening this discussion. Your last remark of course begs the question… If you see the experience of being reminded that we humans are already one with the subtle divine energy is only an experience or by-product, then what do you understand the core or foundation of Reiki to be?

      • Pamela Miles August 04, 2012 2:57 pm Permalink

        Lea, I said the experience of subtle energy is a by-product of practice. I agree with Gisela that practice is a reminder of the true nature of reality, but my understanding is that is our true nature is all-pervasive unmanifest consciousness, which is far more subtle than even subtle “energy.”

      • Lea Alexander August 04, 2012 3:34 pm Permalink

        Thanks for that clarification Pamela. I missed your point. I agree, “Reiki practice” enhances every area of our life. It is the only way we can become consciously aware that being one with Reiki is more than just “playing” with the phenomena of subtle energies. It is so much more.

        I too have stopped using the word Attunement and feel like the Japanese
        experience of reiju is more like a reminder, a remembering or awakening for those of us who have been deeply asleep to our true nature. (And isn’t that all of us!) The reiju is such a beautiful reminder of our essence. And practicing Reiki can allow us to experience that remembering on our own, so easily.

        Thanks again for opening this discussion.

      • Gisela Stewart August 04, 2012 3:41 pm Permalink

        I would be very happy to call this consciousness source energy, the highest subtlest form of energy in existence. As so often seems the case, we simply prefer to use different words (and perhaps choose them or avoid them with specific audiences in mind)

      • Pamela Miles August 04, 2012 4:45 pm Permalink

        I don’t think it’s different words for the same thing, Gisela; energy and consciousness are distinct. There is no source energy because energy involves movement, however subtle, and that means it is removed from source.

  18. Rose Mattax August 04, 2012 12:31 pm Permalink

    Pamela, I really appreciate this post. I’ve always used the word attunement, because that was how I was taught–but I much prefer the concept of initiation, and also the phrase “soul-granted” speaks to me. Personally, I will be glad to leave the word “attunement” behind, because of the confusion and questions it rises with my brothers and sisters in faith. Thanks again, for your commitment to reiki. Blessings, Rose

    • Pamela Miles August 04, 2012 2:20 pm Permalink

      Yes, I love “soul-granted,” too, Rose. And isn’t it interesting that “rei” is in “reiju.” Maybe one of our Japanese experts will write a guest blog about that.

      It’s never as simple as a literal translation. Even when translating from one Romance language to another, there are nuances that get lost or redirected. Translating from a language that is expressed in pictograms to one that uses words is even more challenging, and on top of that, Japanese culture includes concepts and perspectives that are not part of any English-speaking culture.

      The pursuit of any spiritual practice is open-ended. If we don’t keep questioning and opening to understanding that lies beyond our current state, our loss is immeasurable.

  19. Hannah Setu August 04, 2012 2:48 pm Permalink

    Thank you Pamela, this is so needed for us who have struggled with the translations and definitions of Reiki here in America. I have always felt a little hurt that our contemporary American culture does not already have words that accurately describe something that belongs to the whole world, indeed that the world is made of or descends out of.

    What I like to discuss with my students is our shared culture in America of celebrating the milestones of life (like birthdays, weddings, funerals, sweet 16 and 21 coming of age parties) and that this new spiritual practice of Reiki is a milestone that they have now chosen and are ready for. I have always avoided using the non-English words wherever and whenever I can and certainly, like you expressed Pamela, I have talked too much, even now!

    I will probably stop using the word attunement, however I feel it is helpful to explain why it is not the exact word. ‘Beginning’ as a simple definition of initiation, to me, still cannot avoid the connotations of baptism, consecration, confirmation and other religious rituals therefore opening up the question of religious vs spiritual ceremony and practice. I am also relieved to hear that Usui did not limit the number of ‘reiju’ ceremonies for his students to receive as I have also not limited this over the years.

    As for the word attunement, I really do understand and am very grateful for your explanation Pamela, it feels like a very subtle difference though it is not subtle at all. Your explanation is foundational and and cracks open a perception that most of us have not had the opportunity to explore. I feel most people (Americans or the ‘common man’ worldwide?) at least most of my students have not had the exposure or education in a most basic way to consider themselves profoundly connected and at choice in experiencing their lives in the way of Reiki offers.

    So, although this is a long post, I do not subscribe to heavy explanation in my first level Reiki; I speak experientially as much as possible and save the deeper conversations for Reiki II when they have already begun their practice and are secure in their understanding that experiencing Reiki is first, everything else comes after.

  20. Kathleen McDonald August 04, 2012 5:33 pm Permalink

    Thank you, Pamela. This is one of the best posts ever! I have passed it along to my students.

  21. Christine August 05, 2012 11:06 am Permalink

    Thank you, Pamela, for putting some light on this issue. In my opinion there is often too much focus on a physical ritual versus the whole in-person class experience. That is why some may believe that they can be “attuned into Reiki” via the Internet and that the attunement is all it takes to be able to offer Reiki treatment to others. Or that you can be “attuned into Reiki mastership” within minutes, versus going through master training and really learning how to teach Reiki and what its practice embodies.

    I believe that the misinformation about initiations is one of the roadblocks that keeps Reiki from being more accepted into the mainstream and into our hospitals. Thank you for educating the Reiki community!

  22. Barbara Martin August 05, 2012 11:21 am Permalink

    This is an interesting discussion. When I’ve been asked what an attunement does, I’ve said it is like having the light switched on in a dark room for the first time. The potential to see the lighted room has always been there, but the switch can’t be found easily in the dark. The attunement, or initiation, enables the switch to be noticed and the power to light the room becomes a reality.
    I quite possibly heard this before in my years of practice but can’t recall where, but the English concept of “soul-granted” for the Japanese word reiju fits the image for me of being empowered to discover what is already there.

    • Christine August 05, 2012 7:02 pm Permalink

      Barbara, does that mean that people who have not received a Reiki attunement are still in the dark?:)

      The attunement did not turn on any lights for me. Regular Reiki self-treatment continues to increase my self-awareness and helps me to look beyond polarity.

  23. Suneil August 06, 2012 4:09 am Permalink

    Interesting discussion, Pamela – you must be familiar with the Sanskrit word, “deeksha”: the Indian Hindu / Buddhist / Jain concept describes the “initiation” that a person receives from a Master carrying an authentic lineage (and this lineage is important – crucial, even…). A person might receive a deeksha into a mantra (some mantra practices (“Sadhana”) are absolutely not to be practised without the proper Deeksha from a person who has “perfected” that practice – another meaning of the word “Siddha”) and accompanying ritual. There are various systems of categorising various levels of deeksha according to the tantra, the scriptural authority, being consulted, and even there one might encounter different interpretations according to the “Sampradaya” (lineage, or school of thought) in question. That said, most of these Deeksha ceremonies always essentially talk:

    1. from a relative perspective (adopted to correspond to ordinary reality that we usually perceive of duality), of a connection being established between the practitioner (“Sadhak”), the initiator (“Acharya”, or if one is lucky enough, “Guru”), the practice (“Sadhana”) as outlined by the lineage, and the goal (“ishta”) of the sadhana

    2. from a non-dual perspective, of the essential inseparability of these various elements – the metaphors involved always point to an awakening to the illusion of separation.

    In my opinion, it is always useful to differentiate between the perspective we adopt when we want to talk about Reiki initiation – if “All is One and One is All”, then we might as well go home and watch television, since it is essentially not different from any other perceived “spiritual” activity. From the relative perspective of ordinary reality and duality, we have to take into account the fact that we have a different body from our Reiki Master’s, who has taught us to do something which we (practically speaking) previously did not know. Maybe s/he initiated introduced me to a practice or re-activated some aspect of my Self that was not capable of doing that Reiki practice previously. I leave it to my students to grapple with that question, if they want to bother with it at all :-) I cannot say “Practice is enabled and effective only after the initiation” and “the process of Reiki initiation / attunement / empowerment are a way of connecting you to yourself” at the same time, since they are talking from two different perspectives – the former statement assumes duality while the latter assumes non-duality.

    Whether Reiki Masters choose to express one or the other aspect, either among themselves or in classes to students, I believe they must be clear on that front, as well as be genuinely and sincerely able to see whether they are speaking from a felt state or just from what they have read or heard and “intuitively feel to be true”

    • Gisela Stewart August 06, 2012 4:43 am Permalink

      “I cannot say “Practice is enabled and effective only after the initiation” and “the process of Reiki initiation / attunement / empowerment are a way of connecting you to yourself” at the same time.” ~ I would agree with you there Suneil. While it is true that most of us need a gentle reminder in the form of reiju to tap into what is already there, we also know that there are people who are natural born healers. To me the beauty of Usui Reiki Ryoho is that it can help anyone tap into their natural state more fully.

      • Gisela Stewart August 06, 2012 5:21 am Permalink

        When asked by such ‘naturals’, would they still benefit from learning Reiki, my answer is, yes of course. Most of us, at best, catch glimpses of non-duality here and there, which is why ongoing reiju is so helpful for anyone. Also, it it one thing to discover that you may have ‘healing hands’ and another to know how to use this natural ability to best effect and how to explain it to others. This is something that for my taste jikiden does well, provide a quality conceptual framework for how Reiki can be used to support the body’s natural healing processes.

      • Suneil August 06, 2012 8:56 am Permalink

        Thanks for your comment Gisela – I wished to reply to your comment below this one, but the blog didn’t give me an option for that.

        I have pretty much given up explaining the Reiki initiation (as an interesting aside, I remember from a Vajrayana perspective that initiation in Tibetan can be translated as “permission” – without the permission, the deity of the meditation may not be approached). When I start training Masters, my approach will be pretty much like, “Look, this is the process, this is how I have been taught by my teacher how to do it. Beyond this, you are free to imagine what happens and how.”

        I also keep wondering if the clairvoyant views of the Reiki initiations really offer anything of absolute value – people claim they can see what happens in the subtle fields and chakras of the person getting the Reiki initiation. I wonder if that adds anything significant to what we claim to know – after all it is also another relative view of reality. Perhaps seen through a beautiful stained glass window, but still just a perspective…

        I am sometimes caught in a very sweet, beautiful dilemma – I know I am honoured and deeply grateful for being able to pass on this wonderful life-enhancing technique to other people. On the other hand, I also know my role in it is nothing more than that of a facilitator or a technician who knows how to, for example, teach people how to do a backbend or a headstand (except the fact that everyone learns it, and nobody suffers injuries in the process).

      • Pamela Miles August 06, 2012 9:22 am Permalink

        Suneil,

        Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity when we stop trying to explain what cannot be explained. After all, if spiritual practice is to support us living in mystery, are Reiki masters helping their students when they try to explain everything?

        It’s critical that masters refrain from sharing their clairvoyant experiences with students and discipline themselves to teach their students the mechanics of practice, inspire them to practice daily, and assure them that understanding unfolds naturally from within — in time. There is a huge difference between the natural process of realization that happens for each committed student in his/her own unique way over time, and “imagining what happens and how.”

        We don’t imagine the ultimate reality; rather, our committed daily practice slowly, gently dissolves the obstacles to clear vision. When we try to rush the process, we risk destabilization and delusion.

        Reiki practice is not dangerous, but the way it is taught can be. Isn’t self-restraint a characteristic of mastery in any field?

    • Pamela Miles August 06, 2012 7:22 am Permalink

      Suneil, as always, thank you for your comment.

      Perhaps I do not understand what you have written, but in my experience, no matter what our perspective, it’s never the case that we might as well go home and watch television — unless of course we are going to practice Reiki while doing so.

      As one blossoms into the realization of non-dual awareness, one does not become less respectful of the distinctions that exist in dualistic reality. Even a fully enlightened person still has a body to feed and clothe.

      Initiation and practice are not a matter of connecting us to ourselves, but rather enhancing our awareness of our identity with the essential oneness that already exists.

      • Suneil August 06, 2012 8:46 am Permalink

        Sorry for getting carried away with the Sanskrit, Pamela – my bad.

        Can I have your opinion – do you think it is possible to “enhance” awareness of essential oneness, or is it a binary ON/OFF thing?

        In my opinion, although there might be stages leading to a pure non-dual awareness, that awareness itself is either there or not there. Reiki of course helps nudge us towards that.

        Whether, however, Reiki is identical to that awareness, or it is the source or an offshoot of that awareness, is something I long to experience in the depths of my whole being, as clearly as I know the fact that I am alive, rather than understand in such a way that scientific research ( :-) ) or brilliant logic can sway me from. I wish all of us may reside permanently in that state.

        In gratitude,
        Suneil

      • Pamela Miles August 06, 2012 9:32 am Permalink

        Not bad at all, Suneil. You have a strong drive to find clarity. How can I not love that? :-)

        Isn’t binary anything a function of a dualistic framework? Try developing the habit of thinking whole, of thinking systems-oriented balance rather than linear seesaw balance (I don’t remember seeing seesaws in India…).

        Perhaps a more helpful albeit imperfect image is of how we respond to the changes in the sky. Clouds come and go, storms arrive and pass. As we understand that phenomena changes constantly, it’s less and less worrisome, and we eventually realize the sky itself remains forever unblemished and essentially unchanged.

        As Gisela wrote, we all have fleeting experiences of this. The point is to become established in that state. Our committed practice is the thread which connects the fleeting experiences so that they develop into wisdom and understanding.

      • Gisela Stewart August 06, 2012 9:45 am Permalink

        We’re very much agreed here Pamela, to let understanding naturally unfold from within at each individual’s own pace. To me Reiki is a path of direct experience, and that is the beauty of of it. To enlist the imagination (as if often encouraged) is not helpful at best, and can lead to delusion as you say.

      • Christine August 06, 2012 10:15 am Permalink

        Pamela, I am so glad that we are having this conversation.

        Most clairvoyant Reiki teachers do not mean any harm when they share their perceptions with their students. However, it has been my experience, just like you describe, that this can cause destabilization and delusion. To me, it felt like being put on the fast track.

        Understanding has been unfolding naturally – and gently, and when I am ready for it – from within once I started practicing Reiki self-treatment consistently.

      • Pamela Miles August 06, 2012 11:11 am Permalink

        I agree, Christine. The Reiki community is by and large a group of open-hearted people who want to help. But wanting to help is not enough. We need to be in a position to help, and we need to know how to help. Sharing a perspective that is personally meaningful can be inspiring, but sharing it as fact is detrimental to both the practice and the student’s development.

  24. Linette M August 06, 2012 1:23 pm Permalink

    Hi Pamela,

    Thank you so much for this article. I often wondered about the words “initiation” and “attunement” and now I understand this better.

    I have a friend who is interested in learning to practice Reiki. However, this person has asked me several times about initiations, questioning the need for them. The questioning comes from the large number of cons out there who trick people for their money, and also from the idea that all knowledge is within us and that a person with “natural healing abilities” could perform a self-initiation and be able to practice if they choose to.

    I have trouble answering these questions. Do you have any suggestions? I will definitely share this link with my friend.

    Thank you for all that you do Pamela.

    ~Linette

    • Pamela Miles August 06, 2012 1:48 pm Permalink

      Linette,

      Often the confusion you mention happens when people assume we are saying that no one can heal unless they have the Reiki initiations, and they find that suspicious, or it makes them angry.

      That’s a time when it helps to remember that no matter how careful we are in our communication, people hear what they hear, especially when they have a strong emotional response to what they think we are saying. (Given the extent to which emotions skew our listening, it is truly amazing that clear communication ever happens!)

      Here’s the deal :-)
      Everyone has the capacity to heal, and appropriate human touch has been well documented to be beneficial in a wide range of circumstances, primarily by Tiffany Field, PhD and her colleagues at the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami medical school.

      Although Reiki practice is generally facilitated by light touch at the First degree (entry) level, the practice is distinct from traditional laying-on-of-hands healing that is practiced cross-culturally, if not universally.

      Reiki practice is a particular spiritual practice that those who wish to practice are enabled to do so by the Reiki initiations; that’s simply the way the founder Mikao Usui set it up.

      People can definitely heal without practicing Reiki; no one needs to receive Reiki initiations in order to heal. People only need the Reiki initiations if they want to practice Reiki.

      Helpful?

      • Linette M August 14, 2012 4:58 pm Permalink

        Absolutely, thank you Pamela! :)

  25. Hannah Setu August 06, 2012 2:22 pm Permalink

    Yes, @Linnette, I get the same types of questions myself. As in, who initiated Usui or they bring up Jesus purported statement, “the works that I do ye shall do also” which I have also subscribed to, but then I find myself leaving out the full statement “if you believe in Me.”

    Thank you Pamela for this thread. It is so unbelievably powerful to try to put words to the mystery and is like an elephant in the corner! And you started this blog with the comment “If I’m feeling playful, I ask, “What’s an attunement?” To be playful yet profound, sounds like a purrrfect state of being!

    I need an embroidered pillow with one of your sage references to THE MYSTERY to soothe my monkey brain (along with consistent Reiki self-practice of course!)

    • Christine August 06, 2012 3:10 pm Permalink

      I would like to challenge that you need a physical ritual in order to initiate someone into practicing Reiki. Usui did not use a physical ritual. He would just sit in meditation across from his students in order to introduce them to the system of Reiki. Sometimes he may have done Reiju, which is similar to a seated Reiki treatment and does not involve the use of symbols. The attunement procedure that is most commonly used in Reiki training comes from Hayashi and Takata, in my opinion.

      I am not saying that there is anything wrong with using a physical ritual as a Reiki teacher, if you choose to do so. However, Reiki can also be taught without a physical ritual. For example, the first thing I do with my students in Reiki Level I is to guide them through a self-treatment. I see this as their initiation/attunement, in addition to teaching them the mechanics of Reiki practice in a 12 hour class. Pamela, I get the same feedback from them after their first Reiki self-treatment as you describe above, feeling calmer, more centered etc.

      Linette and Hannah, I find that people feel less suspicious towards Reiki with this approach.

      • Pamela Miles August 06, 2012 3:28 pm Permalink

        Christine, perhaps I missed something, but where did anyone say a physical ritual is necessary?

        My esteemed colleague and friend, Japanese Buddhist monk and Reiki master Hyakuten Inamoto has explained to me that Usui-sensei sat with his students in meditation and gave the initiation in a meditative way.

        The point is not whether or not the Reiki master touches the student, but whether or not the initiation is given and honored as carrying the lineage. Initiations is not something I would ever hide or even downplay, as it is the core of Reiki practice.

        People also tell me they practice Reiki by following the practice protocol given in my book. They place their hands and feel calmer, more relaxed. I explain to them that they have practiced laying-on-of-hands healing — in itself a good thing — and that Reiki practice requires the initiation. The feedback has been that they feel a difference after initiation.

  26. Christine August 06, 2012 4:28 pm Permalink

    Pamela, thank you for your response. I did not mean to downplay or hide the initiation but I can see that it may come across like that. I do tell my students that guiding them through Reiki self-treatments is my way of initiating them into practicing Reiki.

    I have learnt a lot from this post and I appreciate your clear language. It has helped me to better understand the meaning of initiation.

  27. Nathan August 07, 2012 4:21 am Permalink

    Personally, I use the word “attunement”, because I can perceive how a person is attuned to Reiki. Belief is something without a hook in reality, you take it for granted. A fact if something you can perceive over and over again. But perceiving the attunement process requires clairvoyant skill – with it, you can perceive how meridians get brighter, how the primary channels glow, how hand centers emit the energy. And this is what all clairvoyants perceive, so honestly, it’s not a belief, it’s a fact. Of course, a fact that requires people to accept that clairvoyance is real – but, this should be obvious for those who practice Reiki ;) .

    • Pamela Miles August 07, 2012 7:18 am Permalink

      Nathan, I respectfully point out that people perceive delusions over and over. That doesn’t make them facts. Facts are not based on belief, and those of us who value a credible presentation of Reiki are aware that when we present our inner experiences as fact, we lose credibility not only for ourselves but also for Reiki practice.

      Practicing Reiki and initiating students into the practice does not require clairvoyance.

      • Nathan August 07, 2012 7:29 am Permalink

        Practicing Reiki doesn’t require clairvoyance, yes. But teaching Reiki to students without any form of psychic perception is… well, quite irresponsible. And with the skill of clairvoyance you can easily understand what attunement is all about, without considering it to be “mystical”, or considering attunement to be a “belief”.

        I guess now we’re getting into true New Age, by thinking that psychic perception and the way energy works is just a subject to belief and delusion…

      • Pamela Miles August 07, 2012 8:08 am Permalink

        Actually, Nathan, it’s New Agey to present inner experiences as fact, and that is precisely how the credibility of Reiki practice has suffered.

        If, as you say, teaching Reiki without being a psychic is irresponsible, then I am an irresponsible Reiki master, and have been one for more than two decades.

        The profound understanding that arises with diligent Reiki practice goes far beyond clairvoyance or psychic phenomena. I think I’ll stay the course.

  28. Christine August 07, 2012 8:02 am Permalink

    Nathan, if we want Reiki practice to move forward into the mainstream and into our hospitals we need to find common ground with other Reiki practitioners. I find that the best way to do this is to focus on the benefits of Reiki treatment and let go of personal opinions how Reiki works. The Reiki community is very diverse but I think that we can all agree on that our clients feel more relaxed and balanced after a Reiki treatment. I think we can also agree on that Reiki self-treatment improves our well-being and enables us to offer a healing space to another person.

    Reiki practice is a wonderful healing modality that is much needed in our hospitals, for our wounded soldiers, cancer care and so much more. We are creating roadblocks if we insist on our own personal models.

    • Pamela Miles August 07, 2012 8:14 am Permalink

      Well put, Christine. In order to gather our community so that we can bring Reiki practice to a larger public, we need to find steady common ground, a platform with simple points that we can agree upon.

      While someone’s inner experiences are deeply meaningful to that person, they are subjective, and do not create common ground. That doesn’t make them less important or wrong. However, they are not a shared reality and therefore are not appropriate for the purpose of strengthening credibility.

      If we insist that people believe something in order to experience Reiki practice, we’re limiting Reiki practice to the True Believers. My goal is to fulfill Mrs. Takata’s vision that Reiki practice become as common as aspirin.

    • Nathan August 07, 2012 8:21 am Permalink

      It’s not a problem to practice Reiki I, II or III to help people, Reiki is, indeed, a wonderful practice. Practice is safe (as long as you keep the safety rules in mind, like cleansing the place of your work, or cleansing your self before and after any Reiki sessions, there’s so much energetic stuff that gets into your aura…), and everyone can do Reiki. But not everyone can teach Reiki.

      With SO MANY things that can go wrong during Reiki attunement, if one is not capable of perceiving that which goes beyond the physical matter, then one is not ready to teach. For example, some teachers continue to say “oh, that awesome Reiki egregore!” and they do attune people… by pluging them into this egregore, from which one more experienced people have to exorcise the victims of irresponsibility.

      At least basic psychic perception (again, perception – not fortune telling) is required. To put it in a simple metaphor – if you can’t see the fire, don’t work as a firefighter.

      The practitioner doesn’t have to believe in anything, he or she doesn’t have to see anything. But Reiki teachers whose perception is limited, are mass produced for the last 20 years thanks to New Age movement that don’t give a heck about safety rules. Again – yes, everyone can do Reiki. Not everyone can teach Reiki.

      • Pamela Miles August 07, 2012 8:39 am Permalink

        Nathan, we have found a point of agreement: anyone who is trained can practice Reiki, but teaching Reiki is a different matter.

        Doing anything and teaching it are always different, requiring different skill sets. And with Reiki practice, teaching is best founded on extended daily personal practice as well as professional practice.

        Since practice itself is our greatest teacher, how can we teach what we have not substantially done?

        If Reiki masters have a solid foundation and stay within the scope of practice, the initiation process is not at all dangerous. It’s when people have added embellishments and/or haven’t practiced long enough to be confident and thus bring fear into the process, that it becomes dangerous.

        If Reiki masters practice long enough before initiating others, all is resolved by practice. Additionally, it’s important that masters understand the responsibility we carry as custodians of the practice, and feel a sense of accountability. There is no need to be clairvoyant or have any psychic abilities. That is fortunate because those means of gathering information may sometimes be accurate, but are inherently unreliable and prone to distortion.

        The enthusiasm and naivete of the New Age movement has literally spread Reiki practice around the world, at a great cost to traditional values and practice standards.

        Now it is up to those of us with traditional practice standards to find one another and create a credible Reiki presentation for the public. Within that network, there will still be enormous diversity. This is good because the mainstream public is also very diverse.

  29. Jennifer August 09, 2012 10:45 am Permalink

    Pamela, thank you for the insight of the differences in the words and meanings of the words initiation and attunement. I have also felt when I have said “attunement” as if it were coming from the outside, a sort of disconnection.

    An issue I get stuck on sometimes is this…..we all have the power to heal our selves and to send healing energy of some sort to others. So if asked….. so what is the point of learning Reiki…..I fumble…..I can explain Reiki….I feel unclear when answering what makes it different for someone to send energy with a certain intention?

    Thank you for your time and wisdom!!
    xoxoxoxo

  30. pawana January 17, 2013 12:56 pm Permalink

    I really learn a lot here. thanks Pamela for kindly sharing this valuable information.


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