The Dogma of Reiki Treatments

Bronwen and Frans StieneArticles, English 13 Comments

lady in box

Dogma; something that is considered to be absolutely true.

Since we entered the world of Reiki we have seen many variations on what is taught and how it is taught. One of the things that has stood out is that the teaching of hands on healing on others is often taught as a dogma rather than a healing practise. These restrictions placed on hand positions have made it very difficult for practitioners and teachers alike to become more fluid with their practise.

Fluidity within hands on healing is very important as no two clients are alike. 

At the beginners level, known as Shoden in Japanese, you learn a set of hand positions for treating others. This is taught as a foundation practice. It supports beginners in getting a feel for the method and is a perfect teaching model for learning about how one’s hands connect to the energy and the client.

Yet somehow the practise has become dogmatic. Below are some of the ways in which the fluidity of the system has been obstructed.

Hands on healing can be taught as hands on as well as hands off, or a mixture of both, depending upon the teacher. Some teachers, however, have been known to state that to practise hands-on is incorrect or that hands-off is incorrect. To do other than is decreed by such teachers ensures an unsuccessful treatment.

Another dogmatic approach is one where hand positions are fixed by a teacher (in whatever positions the teacher believes to be “absolutely true”).The student must practise in this manner no matter whether he or she is a Level I, II or III practitioner and even when he or she teaches. Due to this dogma, the hand positions will always remain the same as those taught at the first level. Some teachers might teach 12 hands positions, while others might have a different set of hand positions.

Some teachers say you must begin at the head, or others that you must treat from the hara (belly) first.

Another fixed teaching method relates to the timing of a treatment. Some teachers insist that students stay at each hand position for an exact period of time (such as 3 minutes). There are cds with a chime at 3 minutes which work with this method.

None of these examples above take into account that the hand positions taught at Level I are there as a foundation. One method is not better than another; they are merely different tactics aiming to give the beginner a strong foundation in his or her Reiki wisdom. With personal practise the practitioner will begin to develop his or her intuitive abilities as to where the hands should be placed, how they should be placed and for how long they should remain in that position. It will all depend upon the client and the moment.

By performing the exact same hand positions in the exact same time frame on each client, we are negating the fact that life is in perpetual change. We cannot hold on to a moment, but must move into each moment anew. Every client is unique, and each day in the life of that client is also unique. Therefore a client requires exclusive attention. If a practitioner performs exactly the same hand positions and timing, the client is treated as if he or she is a plastic product on a conveyer-belt – never changing.

No matter what your profession, you will always study the foundation first before you move on to new studies to further progress. Progress means utilising what you have learnt in the foundation and then going beyond that. Like the musician who learns to play the violin, she must first study the foundation of how to play this wonderful instrument; how the bow is handled, how to translate the notes into music etc. Then one day, when she is confident in this practice and has committedly studied a piece of music, it is then that she lets go to become One with the violin and just play.

This is the same within the system of Reiki. In Level I, the beginners level, you learn the foundation of hands on healing. As you progress you utilise the 5 elements of the system of Reiki (the precepts, meditations, hands on healing, the symbols and mantras, and the reiju/attunement) and begin to realise that you are One with the client. In this state of Oneness the energy will guide you where to place the hands. And in such a state, no two treatments will ever be alike.

Being in a state of Oneness with a client can only be achieved by first being in a meditative consciousness when performing a treatment. This, however, does not mean that you are unaware of what is happening around you or with your client. If that were the case you would be in a state of meditation that is called “ignorant meditation”. In a state of meditative consciousness you are full of wisdom, awareness and compassion. You are so connected with your client that you are aware of everything that is happening. And only in this state are you genuinely free of any dogmatic hand positions as you allow the fluidity to come forth.

Existing in this meditative state of Oneness with the client guarantees that protection is unnecessary. If you feel the need to protect yourself or the client, then you are not yet in that place of Oneness. Within Oneness there is no “you” or “client”, so what is it that you need to protect yourself from? Nothing.

Let’s take this a step further and look at the precepts that are used within the system of Reiki and their relationship to the dogma of Reiki treatments. 

For Today Only

Do not Anger
Do not Worry
Be Grateful
Be True to Your Way and Your Being
Be Compassionate to Yourself and Others

You can see the precept “do not worry” in action when performing a treatment. Why worry if your hands stay longer in one position than another? Why worry if you feel that your hands are suddenly guided to a different place on the body than where you expected them to be placed? If you do worry about any of these aspects of your practice then you are distracting yourself from the intention of your treatment; that you and your client are open to receive whatever it is that you both might need at this exact moment in time. You are obstructing healing from taking place.

If a client asks you not to place your hands physically on his or her stomach. Naturally you respect the request. But what if you have always been told that you may not work off the body with your hands as it doesn’t work, and, yet, that is what you feel you should do in this case? Suddenly you begin to worry and your whole treatment falls apart; the dogma has created a trap and you have fallen into it.

How about “compassion”? If you perform a treatment on each client in exactly the same way, are you compassion in action? Of course not. Within compassion each person is treated as an individual; you accept each person as he or she truely is. Compassion demands different hand positions for different clients.

Mrs Takata knew all of this. She handed out the Ryoho Shishin, a small manual in which many hand positions are listed in relation to an individual’s complaints. This was a supportive manual; an excellent guide. Yet, we know that she took her practice much further than this. In her diary on May the 1st 1936, she wrote that she had studied the secret of Shinpiden with her teacher Chujiro Hayashi and learnt (what she called) “leiji ho”. This is “reiji ho” – a Japanese Reiki technique translated as “guided by spirit method”. This technique supports students in allowing the energy to guide their hand placement to where each client requires it.

Mrs Takata was a strict teacher who taught a strong foundation practice to her students. Yet, within her strictness there was flexibility. After her death, when students of hers compared notes they found it difficult to understand why she had taught them different ways of working with the practices. Some teachers tried to define what was taught them by creating dogma rather than by following her method of teaching; teach each person as it come. Without a strong personal practice teachers cannot teach as Mrs Takata did. They themselves do not have that energetic connection created from their strong foundation and ongoing personal practise to guide them in their teaching.

The more we practice with the tools taught within the system of Reiki, the more our energy becomes open and in unison with the universe. This energetic openness in turn creates an open-mind, and it is in this state of open-mindedness that we can let go of dogma and embrace the practise.

Comments 13

  1. Avatar of Rebecca

    I think it’s a shame if students aren’t allowed to grow in their practice and let things change as they progress.

    It’s clear from the techniques we teach at Okuden – Byosen Reikan Ho and Reiji ho – that intuitive practice is an important part of Reiki and something that students should be given the chance to develop as they move into Okuden.

    These 2 practices help the student to practice in the moment and to develop openness and sensitivity to what’s going on within the session.

    When I teach Okuden some students find it easier than others to move into this more intuitive way of working. I think teachers should support each student individually in this. It needs to go exactly at the pace of the student. Some students embrace intuitive working straight away and others prefer the security of a more set process. I think it can help to talk to them about Byosen Reiki ho and Reiji ho as ways to expand their existing, well grounded hands-on healing that they learnt at Shoden and that they can use these techniques as much as they feel comfortable with.. It’s not so useful to the student to try to lock things down by telling them they have to do things in a particular way. How could this help when we’re dealing with the infinite possiblities of the moment?

  2. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Rebecca,

    I love your sentence: “It’s not so useful to the student to try to lock things down by telling them they have to do things in a particular way. How could this help when we’re dealing with the infinite possiblities of the moment?”

    It is so true, there are infinite possibilities at each moment, we just have to learn how to see them.

    I also believe that the deeper we go into our own practice our hands on healing will change all by itself, if has to, how can it not be, if we start to feel a deeper interconnectedness, awareness and openness.
    I see this with many students who have a very dedicated daily practice.

  3. Avatar of Trudie

    I wanted to follow a special practitioners course, so treatments would be paid for by some national insurance companies. The master giving this course was so rigid, I decided not to do it.
    For me Reiki is movement, as everything in life is. Dogma and Reiki do not go together.

  4. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Trudie,
    I agree Reiki and dogma do not go together, life itself already has too many restrictions. For me the system of Reiki is all about unification with the universe and the essence of the universe it fluid, open, timeless and full of potential.

    Hope you find someone who is less rigid in their thinking and teaching.

  5. Avatar of Patsy Fine

    If one works with the Reiki practices, then the reiji will develop. I tell my students that I want them to learn a protocol to use at the beginning level. Then with practice they learn to listen to their inner guidance and respond to the needs as they arise. Great article!

  6. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  7. Avatar of Lagan

    Great article.  I did Reiki I and II with someone else in 2004.  I was taught Reiki with too many protocols, I was even told if you get exhausted during Reiki just imagine an imaginary basket and the energy draining off in it.  It never made any sense as Reiki is Universal energy and if anything, both the practitioner and the client benefit from it – be it at a spiritual, mental, emotional and/or physical level.  I was told lots of restricting things about the Reiki Symbols as well.  This made me find another teacher as I did not believe in what I was told.

    Luckily I did Reiki I with International House Of Reiki back in 2004 as well and Frans simplified the whole process and since 2004 I am doing Reiki the way I was taught by Frans.  Once I did Reiki II with International House Of Reiki in December 2012, Frans simplified the Reiki Symbols and their use as well.  It actually felt liberating knowing that intuition plays a far bigger role than rigid protocols, dos and don’ts.  Having a protocol in the beginning makes sense until we develop our own intuition in working with energy.  Thank you to both Bronwen and Frans for simplifying the teachings of Reiki.

  8. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  9. Avatar of Miriam Stollar

    I recognize from my own Reiki Practice that what is being stated is right. I go to a Reiki share where one of the participates is keen on ‘closing down the chakras, visualizing each chakra with it’s associated colour, as a flower closing its petals’. The idea behind this is for self protection so when you go out into the world again, the energy that is gained from the Reiki share is not dissipated.  The idea of protection I do believe has come from ‘Spiritual Healing’. I think it has its validity with some modes of healing.

  10. Avatar of Marybeth Spain

    Thank you for this excellent article and comments!  Reiki is all about being open and connecting with the Energy.  It’s infinite and can’t be contained in a set structure.  What I loved about Reiki from the beginning was the fluidity and intuitive approach.  I didn’t realize some teachers were/are so dogmatic.  I’m so grateful that I was led to teachers who gave “standard” positions to start but emphasized that they were just a guide and that we “follow the energy” or “follow the hands” during a session.  Peace to all!

  11. Avatar of Elizabeth
  12. Avatar of Cece
  13. Avatar of Jeanne Steen

    Among many things in this article, I like the music analogy with regard to hand placements. I tend to see the initial suggested hand positions like learning the chords of music – from which you move on to improvisation, being guided by your sensitivity and intuition.

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