Discovering our Lineage

Alice RisembergArticles, English 35 Comments


At a Reiki class, teachers often share their Reiki teaching lineage – who their teacher is and that teacher’s teachers – in a direct line back to Mikao Usui, who originated the system of practice we call Reiki. Lineage can be spoken of in reverent or proud tones, with people counting how close or far removed, by the numbers, they are to Usui.

I never felt particularly drawn to this idea of lineage; it seemed externalized and overly simplified. And yet it can be important who a practitioner’s teachers are. It affects the practitioner’s approach in personal self-practice and shared practice with others. For teaching practitioners, it can also directly affect how Reiki teachings are passed along to students and how the teacher models the practice in her character.

Perhaps it was the “line” in lineage that threw me off. For such a holistic practice, one line seemed reductive. Teaching and learning don’t follow a single-line path. The process is more dynamic and multi-dimensional, with the give and take moving in many directions, from and to multiple places, weaving together within an individual to become an ever-expanding, cohesive whole.

So I set aside the idea of lineage in my mind for many years, knowing there was something worthwhile there but also realizing I didn’t understand it yet.

At a recent Reiki retreat with my ongoing teacher, Frans Stiene, the understanding of lineage, the feeling of it, finally started to come together inside me naturally. The connection I felt with Frans was the starting place, a mutual trust that we have developed over years of study together.

Then, as my teacher wove in as part of his teaching stories of his own life, his family, his students, and his teachers – more than one teacher, and not all of them Usui Reiki teachers – I felt a depth of connection to them, as well. I felt them within me, even though I had never met many of them and probably never will. And somehow that made me notice the connection to my own students in a new, layered way, too.

The other students at the retreat also shined within me, especially those who have been practicing for some time and dedication on this particular path. Some I have known for years and already had a close relationship with. Others, from as far away as Australia and Ireland, I had met perhaps once or not at all before the retreat, and they felt like instant kin.

We were all unique in our personalities and lives, but sharing this path was enough to feel we “knew” one another. And then over four days we found we really did. Trust like what we experienced together doesn’t spring from nothing.

Some of the practices we tried at the retreat were older ones than those in the system of Reiki – chants and meditations from Japanese traditions that Mikao Usui likely practiced himself. The system of Usui Reiki Ryoho that has been passed down to us is a simple practice, which is one of its great pluses for those of us who are living “regular” lives but want to find our spiritual center, truth, and overall well-being. Not all of us want a monastic life dedicated to nothing but spiritual attainment, after all.

But as we tried these earlier practices, interspersed with more familiar Reiki practices, I again found this feeling within me of connection, this time to Usui himself, as if Usui were directly teaching me. I will never know his living presence, since I was born long after he died, in another country and culture, but I can taste it through these practices, both those that came from his own lineage and those that have been handed down to us as the system of Reiki.

So lineage seems to encompass everyone who helps to form me. I am discovering that the “line” in lineage is actually me and my life path. There are many life lines that are connected to me like rays of the sun. These include not only Reiki teachers, students, and community, but also family and kindred spirits and friends from all parts of my life, bringing with them their own lineages to mingle with mine.

The truth is, all beings – past, present, and future – are actually part of my lineage. We are each at the center of a star-filled universe, with some stars shining a bit brighter than others within us at any given time.

In this way, lineage represents one of the outcomes of practicing the system of Reiki – a sense of interconnectedness, or as Thich Nhat Hanh calls it, “inter-being,” a weaving together of hearts into a seamless, compassion-filled whole.

May each of you recognize the stars in your lineage shining brightly within you. And may you know the joy of your own star shining within those you love, cherish, and respect, as well.

And to my dear teachers, friends, family, and students, indeed to anyone who is reading these words now, and to all that have come before and will come after you, thank you for being part of who I am and who I am growing into. May our lines continue to weave together.

Alice Risemberg is a Shinpiden student of the International House of Reiki. She currently teaches the system of Reiki in Roseville, California. You can visit her at and

Comments 35

  1. Avatar of Elly

    Thanks for a lovely post, Alice! I myself have always thought of Reiki lineage as a tree, with many roots, many leaves, and many branches, but all bound to the same strong trunk.

  2. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse
  3. Avatar of Elly

    Yikes, no, not me, Alice! Reiki itself and Usui Founder form the trunk, all the traditions that influenced him are the roots, the different schools and their teachers the branches, and those whom they have taught or touched the leaves. I do have a personal Reiki “family tree,”  but it’s more like a circular genealogy with Usui Founder in the center and the various lines of descent going out from him until they get to me, sort of like a medicine wheel.

  4. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse

    How interesting, Elly! For me, it is helpful to be part of the tree so I don’t think of it as something growing over there separate from me. But I also can see wanting to not be egoic about it all, for sure.

    Thank goodness for metaphors, or we wouldn’t get far in engaging with this stuff that defies words, would we?

    Thanks for the chat, Elly, which has enriched my own understanding.

    With love,

  5. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Alice,
    Wonderful article.

    Just wrote this down for myself:

    We all have the same lineage and this is our great bright light. The only thing we have to do is practice so that we can re-discover our great bright light and then all the distinctions fall away.

    We get too caught up with “outer” lineages, the real lineage is in our True Self.


  6. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse

    Thanks, Frans. Yes, that sounds right, our lineage is our great bright light. But that doesn’t make for a very long blog post, does it? 🙂

    Seriously, though, that is the essence of it all, isn’t it? Wonderful words.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with your beautiful Reiki community here.


  7. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  8. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse
  9. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Alice,

    I think so, all traditional spiritual practices talk about non-attachments so we need to let go of it all in the end anyway.

    This is why it is so important to start already with little attachments in the system of Reiki, if we put to much stuff in it, like what we feel or do not feel, labeling, wrong or right hand positions etc… then it becomes harder to let go later on.

  10. Avatar of seema sahoo

    Hi Alice,
    Nice article, your article kind of steered up some stuff inside me , which were there all along for some time. I believe that was a hindrance in my personal practice.

    You wrote that “line” in lineage is actually me and my life path “.
    I think that was one line that was especially “vehement” and “stinging” to my heart and it just pierced right in !.

    I think before we can come to that “self realization” in a direct way we need to have direct experience . One cannot just get up one day and say hey , my linage is my path and I know my path.
    Usui -san did not got up one day put together system of Reiki and started “linage” he did practice whole life has his teachers and worked on himself. It is interesting what you mentioned about your experience in the retreat and how you felt that interconnections with everyone and the universe . Myself had similer experience almost at same time when you all were in the retreat in October , that created a lot of “confusion” in mind and “fog” started to form all over and around…
    I have struggled with issue for some time since the very day I have started learning system of Reiki from a spiritual aspect. In fact that always been in some shape or form have been a issue. It stemmed from the yearning to learn and finding what is “hidden” inside myself and when I would not get the “answers” I would “blame” myself for not having the “linage” to understand the teachings , that was in my “head” coming in way , heart was some where else. My “ego centered mind” would become so big that it would not see anything else.
    It was like “tormenting ” of the mind or the mind with “tornado” of confusion . The more I worked with system of Reiki I started to live in “heart and mind” where when I lived in Heart I was in joy, fulfillment and satisfaction and when my mind took over I was living in confusion, frustration and doubts.
    After I read your article I send an email to Frans and expressed my deluded mind confution for the 1000th time and pour myself out “as it is”.
    I am going to say here for the last 7 months I have tried to work with system of Reiki and during that time every day and I mean every single day I have send perhaps on average 10 emails a day to Frans on top of blog/face book/ ki campus / Skype sessions and he always have “molded me around” with” firmness and flexibility” when needed with compassion .

    Just felt a big let down , when the outpouring started and hence “I”  felt the need to ask Frans ” what is my linage Frans”  I want to get rid of this once and for all so what is my linage , Frans?.

    Now need to go back to the meditation y pillow and practice and pull myself apart piece by piece and take out what is not needed , clean what needs to be cleaned and then put them together and that shall go on and on…

    I am definatly not there as you see where I can say ““line” in lineage is actually me and my life path” , for that need to have direct experience which I don’t have it that’s why “I” comes in way..
    Thank you Alice again for this article and wonderful teaching lesson for me !

    Thank you Frans for everything ,

  11. Avatar of Paula Michal-Johnson

    Yes, it is wonderful to have teachers who inspire and connect.  Your approach is global and at the same time specific.  May you continue to reflect all you know for all of us.  We sit at your feet.  Really?  Kind of.

  12. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse

    Hello, Seema!

    My own “ego centered mind” bows to yours. 🙂 We are truly all in the same ego boat, it’s part of the human condition.

    For me personally (I’m sure Frans will ring in with some profound general Truth with a capital T), when I say I find that the line in lineage is me, it definitely does not mean I have the full and complete direct experience or knowing. It’s more about honoring the fact that my own entry point is my life. And all these teachings come together within me.

    But in lineage, there is no receiver, no giver, no gift, just as in all our Reiki practices. So I do not “receive” this lineage, nor do I “give” lineage to others. I just AM the lineage, without trying, without judging. Just like in all our other practices.

    Warm hugs as you work through the challenging mind stuff. I’m working through mine side by side with you (and everyone). And there you go, lineage, right there in our side by side walk! 🙂


  13. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse
  14. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Alice,

    What a beautiful statement: I am lineage.

    Yes we are all the great bright light, we do not give the great right light, lineage, or Reiki to anybody when we do a reiju/attunement/initiation, when we think we give this to others we come from a place of ego. The precepts state: show compassion to yourself and others, which means we need to see everybody the same. So if I say: I give you the lineage, or I give you Reiki, then we don’t see everybody as the same, therefore it is not in line with the precepts.

    This is why understanding the precepts is the foundation for any Reiki teacher.

    When we truly are Reiki, we are lineage as well. 🙂

  15. Avatar of seema

    Hi Alice,
    Warm hugs back to you 🙂
    yes , there is no receiver and giver and we all are the bright light .
    It is so easy to get into the ego trip and its a constant thing one needs to work on.
    I am shaving my head as I go. Yes , I understand that you( we) don’t have the full direct experience its a work in progress and we are at similer/same path at different points.
    Hope I didn’t sounded “beaten up” 🙂 ,Like Frans say , its all the part of healing and growth isn’t it.
    just 2 days ago I had this discussion with Frans , although word “linage: was not mentioned but seems it was a part of that. Before , during and after the session I had this intent in my “mind” and “heart” , now is the time to get rid of this , once in for all what ever it is . Funny ,  I was thinking about this and saw your blog post at same time and I was like really 🙂  and I knew its on surface and need to be plunged out right away..

  16. Avatar of seema

    Hi Frans,
    so true about non attachments , they are roots to so many “sufferings”.
    and so true about understanding the precepts – compassion to yourself and others…
    in true state of compassion one does not give or receive and find them and others in that bright light….Heard so many times , read so many times , they need to be embodied and part of who I(we) are .
    Precepts I think is foundation for anyone if one wants to really work from that place of compassion . Reiki level 1 should be part of healthy living like ” balanced diet and exercise”
    I need to go back to my meditation pillow and practice, practice practice
    Until next time …cannot say I wont have them again 🙂

  17. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  18. Avatar of seema

    Agree Paula,
    Frans approach is global yet specific.
    globally and reaching to everyone according to what and where they are in their practice

  19. Avatar of seema

    Hi Frans,
    yes first we need to understand intellectually before can experience it for ourselves and others.

    so hard at times to do , you think you have the grip a bit but then you don’t . need to keep practicing without thinking to get some thing out of it…

    thank you for these teachings again and again so needed .
    some times it just does not sink in 🙂

  20. Avatar of Elly

    Hi Alice!

    You’re giving me way too much credit for humility here! Of course I see myself as part of the”Reiki tree”—-as a branch, if only a small one (more like a twig). To live apart from it would be to cut one’s self off from the All, and that would be devastating, and ultimately killing. It is only through connection that we truly live, and only through Reiki connection that we truly live in the light that is Reiki. (Thus, The Reiki Blog!) I feel connected to you and all here through our mutual lineage, which is nothing less than Reiki itself.

              Love, Elly

  21. Avatar of Yolanda

    Dear Alice,

    I am just getting the chance to read your article.  What a wonderful way to describe lineage.  I too feel I have had many teachers on the spiritual path—- Reiki.  Whether they are people or things found in nature like trees, birds, insects and other animals in the area where I live.  It is the interconnectedness we all share and dwells deep within us.  Thanks for sharing your experience.


  22. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Yolanda,
    That is beautiful, yes indeed we are also part of the lineage of nature and we can learn so much from the trees, birds, etc.
    Everything is interconnected, if only we can really say this.

  23. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse
  24. Avatar of seema sahoo

    Walking on your spiritual path and doing your personal practice day in and day out is not an overnight process where one get instant results or a sense of instant bliss as soon as you start. It’s a process where one almost have to commit self without expecting anything in return. It’s like you are gardening, first you sow a seed, you put water, make sure it has sunlight and all the nutrients and then you take the weeds out so it can grow. You keep doing it every single day out of your love and “devotion “although you really don’t really see anything “coming” out meaning no expectations at that moment. You just keep doing it. Then suddenly one day you might see a little seedling coming out peeking out from the soil the more you work on that little seedling nourishing it and also making sure the “weeds” are out of way soon enough you will see it becoming a tree bearing fruits. Same with your personal spiritual practice some days you will have those “weeds” of intense challenge and uncertainty that you must pull them away with patience, perseverance and persistence and keep watering it with devotion and faith towards your practice. Soon enough one day you will start to see little seedlings coming out when you will least expect, without anything on your part. You will find your heart radiating with free bliss and that will set you free and liberated and that will be enough to keep you going forward in your journey even if that would mean having “frost “ some days and that you would need to “cover” and “protect” your “seedlings”. For now seems I am fine with the answer of linage and that linage for me is universal linage where I am the child of the universe, no separation.

    Thank you Frans for the wonderful healing chanting and meditation session and clearing some of the fog from my eyes. Still now , everything is same but it’s a relief and trust , trust in self and strength to accept self just the way I am . ….so wonderful !
    Wrote few lines , just would like to write here , something to keep reminding myself again when in future some “ tough times”  will come as they will come 🙂

    You showed me in darkness
    The astonishing light of my own being
    Your compassion befriended me
    Completely and turned me to
    “Ash” and freed me
    Of every concept of “linage”
    And feel of “incomplete”

    Frans- San you permeated
    In every pore of my being
    And scrubbed my mind
    And soul with your glance

    You opened window
    To my heart
    And initiated me
    With lit of your

    Only then I truly understood
    The true meaning of “linage”
    Only then it dawn on me
    That I wasted my time before
    As a “non-believer”
    Your word power of “chants”
    Slain the demon of my mind
    And saturated every pore of
    My being.

    I bathed and “purified”
    Self in nectar chants of
    Heart sutra and cosmic Buddha

    You showed spiritual path
    Can be utter dark and “fearsome” at times
    As it leads to shining pool of water of “life”
    Master Frans, as I saw you’re radiant “face”
    Saw the entire universe and the
    Only “holy” place.
    And prostrate myself in “obeisance”
    You showed me “creation “and “destruction”
    “Myself” within, soon I started burning
    Without “fire” in flames
    Burning layers of my “ego”
    All bright and glazed

    You said, it matters little
    If you are physically
    Long way off…
    I am always
    Present In your heart
    You showed to stop
    Looking “outside”
    As “linage” is within
    Now I must go and
    Practice word power
    By sitting and
    Looking “within”

    Thank you Frans –San
    You lifted all the veils
    Removed all coverings of “dirt”
    Shined my heart like a “mirror”

  25. Avatar of Elly

    Seema, thank you for that beautiful analogy between gardening and practice. (Of course, as a passionate lifelong—-organic, of course—-gardener, I’ll admit to a little bias!) You’ve brightened my day!

  26. Avatar of seema sahoo

    Hi Elly, thats great that you can do that. I do not do enough. Need to get out more . You have given me some thing to think about . No bias , its all good , I think we need to get out more , its a meditation in itself..I am feeling brighten myself with this thought 🙂

  27. Avatar of Sharon Yeskel

    Hi Alice, I loved your post. I have always connected with the idea of lineage…teacher to student, carrying the torch of information and ritual passed down from those who came before. I carry the stories of my first Reiki master with me and now Frans’ stories and all the students, clients and Reiki friends I’ve known over the years. How wonderful is it to be part of a community that is all seeking to connect with The Great Bright Light!

  28. Avatar of Nivedita
  29. Avatar of Nivedita
  30. Avatar of seema

    I couldn’t stop myself to come here today to re read the article and comments , which is some thing I often do here with severals of them. Re reading the articles and my own comments and making sense to it all have helped me to get deeper in practice.

    Today when I read this article I saw it with fresh eyes and actually was able to understand some thing that I had missed it last time .

    There is hope for me also ;-)))

    thanks Alice and Frans

  31. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse
  32. Avatar of seema

    Hi Alice ,

    Hugs ! Hope you are doing well .

    Thanks for your kind words 🙂 , yes we all are perfect just the way we are …!


  33. Avatar of Janet Dobbs

    Hey Alice –

    I just had to write and tell you that I just love you!!! Thank you for writing this heart felt article and lineage. I am honored to be connected to you.

    I love the connection that you have felt and shared with all of us that have read your article. When I think of lineage I also think of our “family trees”. I have two of them. On that is my “blood” relations. I do not know them well or at all. The other is my true family for I was adopted. Growing up I looked at everyone (didn’t matter the race or nationality) as possible brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts,etc. I have always felt that we are all related in some way, but I find deep joy in your thoughts about lineage. Thank you for connecting us in this way.

    Oh you are a shining star my friend.

    – Janet

  34. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse

    Janet, don’t make me cry! Oh, who am I kidding, I enjoy a good sweet joy-bawl. 🙂

    Thank you for saying what was on your heart. It’s perfect timing to remind me of this article, as I’m going to a retreat with Frans this week (the same one that inspired me to write this last year). You are so right that lineage is just another kind of family tree! I like that and will borrow it from you next time I’m chatting with someone about lineage (or how much I love them).

    I adore you, Janet! Hopefully I’ll be able to resit in Virginia again soon.

    Big hugs coming your way (and for anyone who happens to read this comment),

  35. Avatar of Janet Dobbs

    Oh thank you Alice. So good to hear that you are going to the retreat. Some day I will join you all out there on the west coast. You are so lucky to be with the giant trees.

    Have a life changing time. I know you will. 🙂

    Sending hugs and gratitude
    – Janet

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