The Deeper Aspect of Hands-on Healing

Bronwen and Frans StieneArticles, English 18 Comments


Double sensation, through the intuition of identity between which is touching and that which is being touched, links the subject-body withe the object-body…and brings them into an interfusion. ~ Ichiwaka Hiroshi

What is the real reason that Mikao Usui taught hands on healing on ourselves?

Before we delve into this question lets first of all establish that from a traditional perspective the word Reiki symbolizes True Self. By using the word Reiki, Mikao Usui was pointing out that the system he created was there to help us to re-discover our true selves. This is apparent by his use of the precepts, as the precepts deal with the intricacies of the True Self.

People in early 20th century in Japan appeared less interested in meditation or chanting mantras as their world was opening out and being culturally influenced by western cultures. Mikao Usui created the system of Reiki in this environment: a practice for people without interest for chanting mantras or meditation but which still would bring them closer to re-discovering their true selves. The result was a hands on healing practice for themselves.

This hands-on healing practice evolved over time to become a more externalized practice, and today many of us have forgotten the inner/hidden (Japanese Ura) meaning of hands on healing on ourselves.

What is the inner/hidden meaning of hands on healing on ourselves?

The first thing we need to ask ourselves is what is happening in our mind when we place our hands on ourselves?

When I touch my body I am both the person who is touching and the person who is being touched. This sensation within our mind triggers a letting go of the “I”, this happens because we find it difficult to realize that we are touching and being touched at the same time by our own body, so we let go; we let go of the “I”. On the deepest level it helps us to trigger a state of non-duality or in other words–we re-discover our true selves.

Ichiwaka Hiroshi, a Japanese contemporary philosopher, states it very beautifully in his book Seishin Toshite no Shintai – The Body as the Spirit.

Although I am touching myself who is [also] being touched, this doubling of sensations is further internalized to enable me to discover myself who takes note of touching, which invites me to a purification of the thought that “I am touching.

The more we purify the notion of “I am touching” the more we can let go of the “I”. Yet this can only start to happen when we are mindful during the process of hands on healing. This will not take place when we perform hands on healing on ourselves while watching TV or when our mind is all over the place.

Consequently, it is only if we are mindful during the process, that hands on healing on ourselves becomes meditation. Meditation is when our mind is not being distracted by the past, or future, or gets carried away by the present.

In this way we are also creating a very intimate relationship with ourselves, as intimacy only happens when there is a mutual agreement between two elements, which means we feel no difference between what is being touched and the the toucher.

For example, if I touch a tree and I feel there is a big difference between me and the tree, intimacy will not take place, however, when I let go of the notion of “I am touching the tree”, the “I” and the “tree”, then we can become intimate, and finally reach a state of non-duality.

The more we let go of the “I” the more we can reach into this state of non-duality.

Mikao Usui also pointed this out within the precepts.

Do not anger
Do not worry
Be Humble
Be honest
Show compassion to yourself and others

When we look deeply within the precepts we learn that they say: let go of the “I” because it is the “I” who gets angry and worried, and it is the “I” who gets in the way of being really compassionate.

All of Mikao Usui teachings point in the same direction, letting go of the “I”. This is also the deepest meaning of hands on healing on ourselves.

We might think that hands on healing was developed to alleviate our physical pain, but that is really only the outer meaning of hands on healing. The inner/hidden meaning is letting go of the “I”. Because when we let go of the “I”, there is no “I” who is worried about the pain and discomfort.

In the precepts, Mikao Usui also asks us the to perform Gassho. Gassho is placing our hands together in a praying position. This position is about the left hand touching the right hand and the right hand touching the left hand–the toucher being touched. Which further helps us to let go of the notion of “I”, bringing us deeper into in a state of mind of non-duality.

In his book Ichiwaka Hiroshi states this about gassho:

In many religions, the reason that one closes his eyes, and joins his hands together when he prays is because he attempts to reach by way of his activity a certain pure state that is without fissure between activity and passivity, between interiority and exteriority, and between subject and object.

It is only when we let go of the notion of subject and object, toucher and being touched that we can re-discover our True Self/Reiki. This is also the inner/hidden meaning of hands on healing on others, but we can only really start to see this if we have had a direct experience during hands on healing on ourselves.


Comments 18

  1. Avatar of Elly

    Thank you, Frans, for this thought-provoking post! I especially appreciated the discussion of gassho. Bearing this in mind will reinforce the sense of connection when we bow before and after giving or receiving Reiki. I have always believed that the way hands-on Reiki “works” is by showing the body, one’s own or another’s, that it is loved at the most visceral, cellular level. This is not just a springboard to connection to the All for the body involved, but the most direct way to show compassion to one’s self and others. I find that when I put my hands down, on myself or someone else, all thought drops away, leaving only the profound, healing state of connection. Of course, this can’t happen when we’re busy, busy, busy trying to get “impressions,” find signs that “our” Reiki is “working,” worrying about tonight’s supper, and on and on. But without the mental hijinks and focus on our insecurities, I know of no method that so quickly and effortlessly takes us to that timeless, peaceful place. Gassho, Usui Founder!

  2. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Elly,
    Yes if we do hands on healing with the intent that we need to find signs of something then we are not really focused on what we are doing, therefore it becomes very difficult to reach this more non-dual state of mind during hands on healing.

    But when we just let go, go off all this and thats, then and only then can we truly let go of the “I”. Because it is the “I” which needs to feel things or interpret stuff.

  3. Avatar of Sister Mary Mebane
  4. Avatar of Claudio

    Thanks Frans for this excelent article.
    What about the Symbols in the hands on healing?
    It´s a Usui´s tradition or is a western (Hayashi) tradition?
    Do you think that using the symbols the hand on healinh is more powerful?
    From which tradition comes that S1 is power (earth), S2 is armony (moon), S3 is light of wisdom (sun) and S4 is light of spirit. Do you know from where Gendai Reiki took this?
    Thank you very much.

  5. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Claudio,

    The symbols and mantras are there for you, the practitioner, so that you can remember your True Self/Reiki. Over time they have become externalised and are now solely used by many teachers for working on others, but traditionally they are there for you.

    Earth, moon, sun comes from Gendai Reiki, and is taken from Kurama Yama. There is a prayer at Kurama to Sonten which has the sun, moon and earth in it.

    Hope this helps.

  6. Avatar of seema

    Thank you Frans for this wonderful article on deeper spiritual perspective of hands on healing. This is some thing we can look at ourselves for our own inner healing like the other elements of System of Reiki.
    I feel it is also so we can be compassionate to ourselves, so many times we are almost “afraid” to touch ourselves and not really tune to our bodies..
    seems it can first make us tune to ” physical self” and then the “inner self” so we can start to look inside of ourselves and slowly the bounderies of “I” and “ego” start to clear up..
    I know I have to do more hands on healing on myself..:)

  7. Avatar of Frans Stiene
  8. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi All,
    Just read this nice quote:

    “Enlightenment is intimacy with all things.”
    Dogen Zenji

    When we become intimate with ourselves we can start to become intimate with everything.

  9. Avatar of seema
  10. Avatar of seema

    Hi Frans,
    thinking about Gassho and compassion / ego.
    My understanding is when we do gassho or bow down we kind of reducing our “ego” in presence of other person and extending our friendship in love and humility. When we close our eyes its almost like we are looking within ourselves and trying to see the divine/ goodness in ourselves and the other person same time and I think when we join our hands that kind of signifies that “oneness” between us and the person..
    Also on side note when one does gassho and “mean” it , it reduces the ego in true sense and at the same time it evokes “compassion” in the other person that one is bowing too.
    This is what I understand the meaning of it based on my own culture background..
    I have seen that happening even when you do this to people who you don’t even know …its not easy to bow in that way I must add 🙂

  11. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Hi Seema,
    You hit the hammer on the nail, we need to “mean” it. So the real essence of gassho is in our mind, if we don’t have the right mind, then it will be an empty gassho, so to speak.

    This is why HSZSN the Okuden symbol/mantra is so important as it points to our right state of mind.

  12. Avatar of seema

    Hi Frans,
    unfortunately , even the Gassho has start to become a “external” component . People now just do it because they think it will make them look all “humble” or some thing that goes well with ” their healing attire” or other wise.
    Seems right state of mind is so important , if its not there then everything else is “empty” .
    Thank you for mentioning about HSZSN- the right mind. Like you wrote in your quote about sign post on face book that all the tools point to the same thing – our true self and true self is the right mind.

  13. Avatar of Frans Stiene

    Usui-san put it all there for us in plain sight, yet most of the time we fail to see it, wanting to make it more complicated.
    HSZSN is one of these, in reality it means: I am Right Mind, so we need to ask ourselves what does that mean, and not just use it for distance healing.

  14. Avatar of Tarasa B. Lovick

    Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, from my experience Gassho, like Namaste means: “May the Divine in me meet the divine in you.” There is no separation upon that realization. It does not matter what the divine is because we are all divine in our higher true selves; we are all one. The assumption is that the fire in the heart is where the individual is meeting the “other.” Knowing thyself is premise that I am sure Usui began from. Knowing our true selves, dropping all of the lies that we tell ourselves about ourselves, and living from a place of truth within is freedom. It is in this truth that freedom exists and where we move from existing to living.

  15. Avatar of Elly
  16. Avatar of seema

    Hi Tarasa. I think Namaste , gassho , touching feet of elders etc. they all kind of mean the same thing.” Divine in me meet to divine in you” , I think its one layer and some what superficial layer . Like you say upon “realization” one is set free. The question how you have that realization? In order to see the divine in others we have to first see divine in ourselves and for that we have to step out our egos. Ego which means anger , pride etc. Other wise we are only doing a” physical ritual” . To really bow down without the ego one needs to have that right state of mind what Frans is talking about. It is not easy to have that right state of mind when we are bowing lets say to some one who we really don’t have that “respect” and we have anger etc. if we do have that then no we are not in right state of mind to see divine in them and ourselves that’s why it takes so much practice. In system of Reiki HSZSN helps with that right state of mind so hopefully one day we can be in that right state of mind all the time.
    When we have that right state of mind , and we step away form our egos only then we can set ourselves free and “receive the true blessing and compassion”.
    Like you said knowing true nature of mind, dropping all lies etc. will bring out freedom but that bringing that state of mind always all the time is not easy . Its easy to bow down to some you love and respect but not to some one who you don’t feel that or bowing down to lets say a piece of rock or tree for that matter and if we don’t mean that then no we don’t have that right state of mind where we can free ourselves and see ourselves in true light.
    Then it really is just a ” physical ritual” a “empty Gassho” like Frans has said.

  17. Avatar of Tarasa B. Lovick

    Dear all,

    Let me first say that I appreciate the writing on the Reiki precepts. Personally, I honor and live by the Reiki precepts. When they live inside of a person, they are certainly a path to wisdom and compassion. When teaching, I EMPHASIZE them, this means that students spend a great deal of time working with the Reiki precepts as they progress in their Reiki training and practice with me.

    An important aspect of the Reiki precepts that is often overlooked is that judgment falls away as ones experience deepens in Reiki. The mind, ego, judges; that is one of its functions. The mind if it is not awakened can not bow to anyone or anything; it only knows how to compare and contrast. My experience it that it is Grace (Reiki) that imparts the capacity to be free, the capacity to live in Oneness and merge with the other.

    I am so pleased that a discussion is occurring about the importance of living the Reiki precepts from the heart! So many Reiki practitioners, sad to say, do not even know that they exist or what they are or how to grow into them. BRAVO.

    May you all become awakened. May the whole world become awakened.

    Namaste to all!

  18. Avatar of Susan Andrews

    Hello to all!  I am looking over posts in this forum and really wanted to just say how much I enjoyed reading Frans’ excellent article about the deeper aspects of hands on healing and the lively comments that followed. 
    The more I let go of forms/concepts/intellectualizing/discriminating and simply focus on the physical sensations of the present moment – hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting,smelling- the more I settle in and lose ‘myself’.

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