Hibiki and the Spiritual System of Reiki

Bronwen and Frans StieneArticles, English 25 Comments

lake reflection

What we feel during a hands on healing session or a meditation is called hibiki in Japanese. Literally, hibiki means an echo. The reason why these sensations are called hibiki/echo is because they are not real–an echo is empty, like a reflection or an illusion.

We need to experience the hibiki without labeling it. When we label hibiki we see it as real and we start to make distinctions between a good or bad hibiki, which in itself creates a dualist state of mind.

Here’s something to ponder for those inetrested in hibiki and Usui’s spititual practice of the system of Reiki.

No matter which tactile sensations become objects of awareness, one immediately realizes that they are like reflections, like an illusion, or like a conjuration, and thus unreal.

If one experiences a pleasurable tactile sensation to which one is temporararily agreeable, one does not give rise to desirous attachment. If one experiences painful tactile sensations to which one is temporarily opposed, one does not give rise to hateful affliction. If one experiences tactile sensations to which one is neither opposed nor agreeable, one does not give rise to thoughts which retain them in mind nor does one engage in making distinctions among them. This constitutes the cultivation of calming.

What is meant by the cultivation of [insight] contemplation when the body engages tangibles? One should bring forth this thought: “Lightness and heaviness, coolness and heat, roughness and slickness and other such dharmas are all tactile sensations….. The nature of tactile sensations is that they are all empty and false.” ~ Chih-i, Founder of Tiantai




Comments 25

  1. Avatar of Seema

    Hi Frans,
    this article for me is a bit hard. I would need to read it couple of times and try to contemplate what all means for me. Like , that I don’t understand as that means so much more to learn :). Thank you

  2. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Seema,
    In essence it means that an echo is empty, thus if we do hands on healing or we feel things during our own meditation practice then it means that we should not get distracted by labeling it as good or bad, hot or cold, here or there, soft or hard, you name it. This labeling creates a dualistic state of mind which therefore takes you away further from rediscovering your True Self.

  3. Avatar of seema

    Thank you Frans !
    What you just said and everything that had happened with me personally lately seems all just came together , just opened a layer for me..!
    I almost now see hibiki in hands on healing same as worry, fears etc in our lives . Seems they are real but not truth . We label them and give substance to them . But it is so hard not to do them , if only we can just wait a little and not jump off and get all crazy they can just settle and die down.
    Just love it , now I can say I just had experienced a “hibiki” when worry and fears will arise , it sounds great too ..—just a echo , empty .
    Thank you , need to practice more and less thinking 🙂

  4. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Seema,

    All the tools within the system of Reiki, the meditations, reiju. byosen, hands on healing, you name it are just sign post to one and the same thing, Non Duality.

    However often we get attached to the signposts and forget to look at what they are pointing at.

  5. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse

    Lovely article, thank you. I’m looking forward to sharing it with my current Okuden students.

    For some reason, this post reminded me of one time when I was doing a health fair, and a woman came up to my table all distressed and asked me, “Do I have dark and bad energy?” I talked a little bit about my understanding that there is no “bad” or “good” energy, but she was still distressed. I asked her why she wanted to know.

    A psychic across the room had told her that she had bad energy (and of course that the psychic could help her get rid of it, for a fee).

    One of the most challenging parts of practicing Reiki in this way, understanding everything is an echo, ultimately, is how human it seems to be to want to have someone evaluate and put us in a box. And how easy it is for us to believe when someone says we have “bad” energy (or even “good” energy, which can also be problematic, still just an echo).

    Communicating what Reiki has to offer, I often encounter the disappointment when I say I don’t “see” things or diagnose or evaluate. I still have to work at reminding MYSELF in those moments that this way, this understanding, is infinitely less limiting. And more “real.”

    Thanks again for the excellent article. I think I heard you talk about hibiki as “echo” once before, but I had forgotten. It’s a potent metaphor and quite beautiful, even the feeling the word evokes.


  6. Avatar of seema

    Hi Frans,
    Have read before on byosen article about Hibiki and echo but when read this one was keep thinking some thing is different when you wrote again in comments suddenly all just came together for me. Never had thought and seen Hibiki and coorelation of worries , fears etc. in life. All tools are for self in system of Reiki but we get lost .
    Thank you so much , have read so many times about attachments but this just went a step deeper !

  7. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Alice,

    You know the funny thing is that most Reiki teachers teach that a hibiki means bad energy, that something is wrong with you. This of course is very one-sided.
    What about a hibiki when when there is positive stuff happening?

    But again labeling things as good or bad are very relative and therefore it is just the teachers/practitioners own filters.

    Therefore if we teach the system of Reiki from a spiritual practice than hibiki is just that, a sensations, just as it is, no need to label it.

    It is indeed sad that so many people focus on negative stuff when they do a treatment and make comments to their clients that their heart is blocked or that they had lots of bad energy. Not very empowering if you ask me.

    Thanks for your insights.

  8. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Seema,

    The whole system is interrelated with each other, but if we take it apart and see each practice as separate then it becomes very hard to get to have a direct experience of the spiritual side of the system of Reiki.

  9. Avatar of seema

    Hi Alice,
    It’s funny you mentioned about dissappointment when you say you don’t see things :). I recently started going to a reiki share and when I was done they looked at me to say some thing. Mind it they were all reiki practitioners there I tried to explain them I don’t lable it this is how I am learning and teach system of reiki they just looked at me with dissapoinrment then when my turn came they all were quite with head down like a kid.  I thought that was kind of cute 🙂 so I gave them permission to ” diagnose ” me . They all were so excited as all want to tell me what they saw and felt , talk about our ego self . At one time I also have to watch my own ego !!.
    So much to learn 🙂

  10. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Seema and Alice,

    You know what is funny that when you teach or give a talk and you don’t mention these things people automatically assume that you do not feel or see things. because they all associate it with commenting to others about it, ego stuff.

    But we can see or feel thing without labeling it and without commenting on it to others.

  11. Avatar of seema

    Hi Frans,
    This is what I used to do as well , lable it as negative !
    Yes, so right when we see good then what ?
    I am so glad now that I don’t have pressure to diagnose things have started to become so free, fluid and so much deeper …Yes it also means spritual side of reiki is no different then life and life is no different then reiki.. reiki is life !
    Thank you for such a timely teaching and all the teachings , they eventually get in head one at a time 🙂

  12. Avatar of seema

    Hi Frans,
    It is funny , comes from ego
    In that studio they have a special expensive Reiki session called intutive reiki 🙂
    When I had said that they also gave me kind of the similer look that I don’t see things or feel things.. It is ego stuff where every one wants to tell more then the other..and some times I feel they almost “fudge” it…we all get lost in this ego game and judging etc. that don’t know when some one actually gets any reiki session .
    I love what you say ” be reiki” instead of “do reiki ”

  13. Avatar of Alice Risemberg ~ Reiki Pulse

    Good conversation, thank you!

    For me, being told what someone sees can be helpful, just as the diagnosis in acupuncture can be helpful. It’s a different approach. But it helps to know that ultimately it is limited and might even block us from what is natural and truly needed (for us or in the bigger picture of our community, the planet, the universe, etc.). So it’s tricky. It’s kind of a matter of perspective. So sometimes I make the narrower choice in my life and other times the unlimited one.

    In my Reiki practice, I tend to default to the unlimited one. This makes sense to me. But I respect people choosing the more limited but also more identifiable (sometimes) choices.

    I think about this lately, as California has had no rain this winter at all. So on one hand I want to “ask” for rain. Invite rain. How could getting the rain we desperately need be bad? But then I think, there is more to the earth and the cosmos than our human needs here. There is even more to our human needs here than we truly understand.

    So in one way I invite rain. And in another way what I really invite is balance for the earth, for the cosmos, for we humans and animals and growing things living in these specific conditions together. And I invite peace no matter what the outcome.

    Not easy!

    “For the highest good” is used a lot in Reiki circles. But I wonder what people truly mean when they say that. Why they reach for that phrase. There is a lot of wisdom in it, but perhaps a little more thoughtfulness about it could be helpful.


  14. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Alice,

    Yes it is good to hear what we have, however I have found that there is a big difference between what acupuncturist say and Reiki teachers/practitioners!

    It also depends if we practice the system of Reiki for hands on healing for physical ailments or for spiritual development. Within acupuncture we can also have treatments for spiritual development, love those, ever hand them, they treat the ghost points 😉

    Here is a wonderful quote:

    The Tao that can be told, is not the eternal Tao.
    The name that can be named; is not the eternal name.
    The Tao is both named and nameless
    As nameless it is the origin of all things;
    as named it is the Mother of 10,000 things.
    Ever desireless, one can see the mystery;
    ever desiring, one sees only the manifestations.
    And the mystery itself is the doorway
    to all understanding.


    All real spiritual teachers of the past say the same thing. Usui-san, Lao-Tsu you name it, however many modern teachers add all sorts of stuff in it which, unfortunately, is not based on a deep spiritual insights like the masters of old. (from my personal perspective)

    If we go deeper within our own spiritual practice within the system of Reiki we come across “not naming” anything, not labeling.

    Therefore as a teacher, I personally, believe that we need to instil this already into a student when they start Shoden Level I, because if we teach them to label then it will become very hard later on to let go of labeling.

    It is like creating a house with not so much in it, when spring cleaning comes it is easy to clean. However if we have a house with lots of stuff in it then when spring cleaning comes we will find it hard to clean because we have become attached to all the stuff.
    Our mind is like the house, so better to put not too much stuff in it.

  15. Avatar of seema

    Hi Frans !

    Thank you for the above post and comments and discussions. The above reply you just wrote came at the right moment for me.

    I had a meet with my students this morning and had a guest who had done level 1 number of years ago and was kind of into protection stuff , she is a nurse and often talk about “giving and taking” patients energy. She came as she knew me other wise she doesn’t go any where due to her “fears”.

    Knowing that I thought of started with a little intro and talked about 5 elements , then a bit about protection and compassion. Since she was a nurse and work in same set up gave her my examples of early day of practice with patients and how compassion is the “protection”.

    She started to have questions about “hibiki” , so discussion went into again about judging etc and I shared lot of things we had just talked here as it was still very fresh in my mind. She liked it all and was asking questions , I gave Frans your analogy of how we need to be like Sun and Moon and let the client take what ever they need .Then we did joshin kokyo ho

    Then we have hands on healing session and after like 2 minutes she stopped, I asked her what happened she said ” I was feeling hot and cold and then I went blank” ! she became worried !! . She then told me now I see what you mean about worry and fear and labelling during the session , I understand that now !! . I told her I am glad it happened with you as now you have experienced yourself what happens when we become worried etc.

    She decided to try again on another student I taught her dry bathing this time and she had a much easier time and stayed there for good 10-15 minutes.

    We had a break in between and I saw your reply which I shared with her on how when we start to label things it becomes so hard for us not to later on in our daily lives as well.

    That lady was so amazed to see how “easy” it is to work with Reiki and how easy is it is not to worry about protection !!.

    These 2 articles came at a great time for me and I get to learn so much from them and also the students today !

    I see how labeling in the beginning can be so hard to let go later on. We as it is label everything in our lives , we label ourselves every single day , every moment . I know I do a lot so much . In fact it is so bad as soon as I “see” it my mind already start to visualize it , now I had to literally “slap” my mind to give a rest—thinking about mind and dentures metaphor :-)))

    Thank you Alice was bringing this into discussion , great points as I myself struggle with them every day.

    Thank you Frans for these lovely teachings , every time I read /hear it , then experience it , I learn some thing new. So refreshing and inspiring !!!


  16. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  17. Avatar of Elly

    Thanks for the wonderful Lao-tzu quote, Frans, and for discussing spiritual acupuncture, which I hadn’t heard of. And Alice, I’ve always thought of sending Reiki to a person, situation, etc. “for the highest good” as a matter of letting go and letting Reiki do what it will. We humans have such a need to be in control! It’s only human to want to send Reiki for a specific outcome, to “make things better,” but Reiki knows better than we do what is actually the best outcome, even if it doesn’t seem that way to us (or at least, not at first). And the act of surrender itself is so empowering, so liberating. Even receiving a hands-on Reiki treatment is an act of surrender, of letting go and simply resting in the Reiki. There’s an expression “let go and let God.” I say, let go and let Reiki! But like you, I fear for our planet as Gaia/Mother Nature becomes more and more angry at our greed and destruction and catastrophic weather events become more and more common as a result. That’s why I like to hold an earth marble (a beautiful marble depicting the earth) between my hands and, not thinking, not directing, let Reiki flow to our poor planet. Thank you for raising this issue!

  18. Avatar of seema

    Hi Elly,

    Agree about our greed and destruction of mother nature on name of progress and technology. We really need to go back to our roots .

    Looks like we have become so habituated “taking things away” and “putting it back”  not only in Reiki sessions but also in our lives and our environment ! because we think we are ” the builders , healers and can make our mother earth “better”  or some thing.

    In the process we are just making things complicated and disastrous for us , like you have said we have now more catastrophic weather and also more disease , complications and illnesses that we didnt had before. I see one as “Autism”.

  19. Avatar of Elly

    You’re quite right, Seema! There has been a sharp rise all along the autism spectrum. Allergies are now rampant; when I was growing up, I didn’t know a single person who had allergies. We’re seeing a giant wave of depression, social anxiety, panic attacks, and the like, striking from the teen years on. And of course, the enormous increase of diabetes and cancer. (I’m reading a futuristic novel now, On Such a Full Sea, where everyone ends up getting cancer because of our treatment of the world around us.) We must stop this desecration!

  20. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Elly,
    I think that is exactly it, surrender and letting go, however so many practitioners and teachers find this hard to do. But when we do we feel in fact a greater union taking place.

  21. Avatar of Seema Sahoo

    Hi Elly,

    I think its the food we are eating. Just today when I was in the elevator at my hospital , the kitchen assistant was taking food trays for the patients and some one said ” is there any food which is edible here , perhaps we should write not for human consumption” I said well then its pretty much every thing.

    Reading is good , I need to find some time for that 🙂

  22. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi All,

    This is what we have to be careful of when we do hands on healing, reiju, or meditate. This is also why traditionally Byosen was about becoming intuitive, not about labeling what is hot or cold etc…

    “In themselves experiences are good, because they indicate that there’s a process occurring. The problem with experience is that you tend to fixate on it, and fixation on experience is a problem, principally because memory exaggerates. When you recollect an experience, whatever it was, you will tend to embellish it in your memory. This can happen quite quickly. Then, when you next meditate, you will be looking for recurrences of that same experience. But even if the experience you had were to recur, because you remember it as better than it really was, you’ve set yourself up for disappointment. Furthermore, the whole process has become goal-orientated; you’re directing your practice towards recapturing a specific experience. Obviously, conceptual contrivance has seeped in.”
    Khenchen Thrangu

  23. Avatar of Jenny Newman

    Hi Frans
    Thank you for the articles and quote, they are very thought provoking. I was a little confused with the meaning of Hibiki, I was labelling it instead of letting it go, after,all, Hibiki is just a word like any other words. The ‘Echo’ didn’t make sense to me at first, I really had to look deep inside and realised the echo comes from within, it isn’t real, but looking at it from the outside we make the sound and thus the echo. Practicing Reiki without thought and just letting it happen, is the same isn’t it? Being true to who we are we rule the world! Only joking! Being true to who we are, and being in the right state of mind, is no Anger, No worry, just compassion, Reiki and Hibiki rolled into one.
    I really want my students to understand this. So I need to explain in the best way possible, from within. Any further information would be great Frans.

    Thank You
    love Jenny

  24. Avatar of Don

    Are we are talking about reiki energy or are we talking about another energy?
    Reiki itself is, as i see none of my business, im symply present to its presence. The most astonishing reiki healing of impossibile magnitude happened with just left hand on client while mind was wondering what good Wife was cooking for dinner, an astonishing miracle happened. A 15 year fused spinal column exploded with a terrific bang and returned to its state prior to the accident. So correct to say, get out of Reik way.
    Thats reiki right there clean spotless unhindered by self. I cam leave that right there and forget it.
    Bad energy? Not in reiki.
    However, outside of Reiki there are many other energies both benevolent and manevolent and their numbers are countless and boundless.. tactile sensations are indeed illusions because the physicall is as illusionary as the experiencier? We should test the theory first. Is it a fact?
    To say to that woman who bent down for the first time in 15 years that its all illusion wouldent really wash right then, then i got to asking why Reiki would even bother healing anyone if all was such a hoax illusion? Perhaps it too is deluded by the spectacle of it?
    In my life journey i have encountered many things from not here or as i refer to them, non locals. I would have impossible trouble trying to square me being in a state of illusion with any single one of them. Happenings yes, encounters yes, ilousionary? We should be very carefull not to be so set as to miss the thing compleatly. There is indeed an illusion but like all illusions there is also a master of ceremonies.

  25. Avatar of Linden

    Thank you for this. It’s interesting that I just answered a FB post asking essentially about painful hibiki. My answer was that when we work as Reiki we are in communication which may be received in a variety of forms. I don’t feel that hibiki are true/false real/unreal in the same way that 3D existence is these things too. I discerned hibiki without expecting them, so I just received the communication. I presumed it ‘meant’ we are Reiki: just keep on going. I find any communication with the energy in Reiki to be good and reassuring. Yes. I am Reiki. I don’t perceive that as attachment or labelling or ego. It just is, in the same way that I am. I’m grateful for the communication and move on.

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