Co-authored by Maril Blanchard
The phrase, the system of Reiki is a spiritual practice, has become a household expression for many Reiki teachers and practitioners. But, what does it mean? And, how do we engage in Reiki as a spiritual practice?
To answer those questions, let’s begin by defining three words — action, practice, and spiritual.
- An action is doing something, with the intention of achieving certain results.
- A practice is one or more related actions repeated on a regular basis, so that the action(s) are embodied as ‘second nature’ or habits. According to George Leonard, author of Mastery, a practice is both a path and a way of being.
- Spiritual pertains to spirit, the animating principle of conscious life, the essence of being, our true nature.
Given these definitions, a spiritual practice is both an action-oriented path for and a way of embodying one’s true nature. In Japan, this path and way of being is often called anshin ritsumei or enlightenment.
When we look at the traditional teachings of Mikao Usui, we see that he offered such a path and way of being, by teaching several actions and practices— the precepts, hands-on healing, symbols and mantras, meditations and the reiju/attunement — that were to be carried out in concert with each other. Let’s take a look at the path and way of being offered by Mikao Usui.
In Shoden, or beginning teachings, students were taught the precepts, hands-on healing, and breathing meditations like joshin kokyu ho. This was the first step on the path. The second step was for the student to engage, over a long period of time, in a daily practice of hands-on self-healing, breathing meditations, and meditation on the precepts.
When the student established a solid embodiment of these practices, he/she entered Okuden, the hidden or inner teachings. In this third step along the spiritual path, students were taught actions and practices designed to help uncover that which was hidden within them, their true nature. Under the guidance of their teacher, they would engage in the fourth step on the spiritual path — they would meditate on the symbols and mantras; practice hatsurei-ho and other meditations, and offer hands-on healing to others.
If, after much practice, the student developed a deep personal understanding and experience of their true nature, they were invited to enter Shinpiden, the mystery teachings. In this, the fifth step on the spiritual path, students were taught actions and practices designed to help them embody their true nature and be anshin ritsumei or enlightenment. This included learning to offer the reiju/attunement and meditate on the Shinpiden symbol and mantra. Again, under the guidance of the teacher, the students would then practice these teachings as a way of fully embodying their true nature. This, the sixth step on the spiritual path, was an interconnected set of ongoing, life-long practices that sometimes lead to the taking the seventh step — teaching from one’s true nature.
As you can see, meditation was an essential part of Mikao Usui’s teachings. It ‘connects’ the various actions and practices, enabling students to deepen their inner awareness of their true nature. What may be less obvious in Usui’s path is the student’s intention and commitment. Without the intention to realize one’s true nature, and the commitment to undertake the actions and practices that enable that realization, there would be no spiritual practice, no spiritual path, and no embodiment.
Nowadays, unfortunately, the system of Reiki is taught as a set of external tools, even in Reiki schools that claim to teach that Reiki is a spiritual practice. But, a spiritual practice is not about learning more and more tools.
It’s not enough to teach the precepts and recommend that students repeat them every day:
For today only,
Do not anger
Do not worry
Be honest in your work (daily life)
Be compassionate to yourself and others
Be honest: Does simply knowing or saying the precepts mean that you will no longer be angry or worried, that you will be humble, honest, and compassionate?
It’s not enough to teach and practice reiju/attunements. If reiju/attunement could eliminate anger and worry, then, given the number of reijus/attunements performed in the last 100 years, the entire world should now be without anger or worry. As we all know, that is not the case.
It’s not enough to teach and practice hands-on healing. Although hands-on healing is a wonderful experience, if you honestly think about it, have you ever heard of any person achieving enlightenment just by hands-on healing?
A spiritual practice is about discovering and then embodying your true nature. It’s about being anshin ritsumei or enlightenment. And within the system of Reiki, that means engaging in actions and practices that deepen your awareness of the ‘tools’ within the system, as well as yourself.
This is why it’s important to carefully check what Reiki teachers mean when they claim that their way of teaching is a spiritual practice. Ask your teacher about the steps on the path, the nature and interconnections of the actions and practices that they will teach, and how they will guide you as you journey on the path. Also, observe their way of being and whether it’s aligned with the words they speak.
The system of Reiki is a spiritual practice!? Yes…it is anshin ritsumei.
Bronwen and Frans Stiene are the co-founders of the International House of Reiki and co-authors of The Reiki Sourcebook, The Japanese Art of Reiki, Your Reiki Treatment, The A-Z of Reiki Pocketbook and the Reiki Techniques Card Deck. Bronwen and Frans teach in the USA, Europe and Australia. Visit the Courses page to find a course near you.