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.
Another wonderful post, thank you!
I think the greatest tragedy to befall Western Reiki is the phenomenon I call “the five-minute Reiki Master.” The person goes from knowing nothing about Reiki to Reiki Master status in a one-day or weekend workshop, gets a certificate, and—-presto change-o!—-starts teaching and charging, without ever going or growing farther on the path.
As you so rightly point out, Reiki is a Way, not an event; it is a moment-by-moment becoming that ideally leads not just to, but through, enlightenment. It is not some bag of “magic tricks” to be pulled from a hat to impress others. It is a practice, a discipline, a service. Usui Founder recognized the challenges of embodying, living, being Reiki; thus “For today only.” (“For this second only” would be challenge enough for most of us!) Trying to live and embody Reiki is humbling, to say the least; we fail so often. But though the true practitioner stumbles and falls, s/he rises and continues to walk forward, step by step, knowing that another trip-up is probably minutes or seconds away, knowing that this is humiliating, knowing that this is irrelevant.
You’re so right that few things are as disconcerting as a Reiki Master/teacher who does *not* embody Reiki, who is fussy, nervous, angry, unsettled, didactic, etc. I’ve read Sundar’s wonderful series of posts about his experience with Frans, and the thing that impressed me most was his impression that every time he saw Frans, Frans had progressed farther and deeper along his own path. May we all do likewise!
What I personally find the most important point in teaching the system of Reiki is showing students that if I can go deeper along the path, they can go deeper as well.
If I still teach, and be the same, as last year then something has gone wrong in my own personal practice and then I need to honestly address this. This doesn’t mean adding or changing techniques but expressing the teaching from a deeper perspective and understanding, and therefore also performing the reiju/attunements from a different state of mind then the year before.
Such a wonderful journey 🙂
Great article and right on target. Thanks for this. When I began Reiki training many years ago it very quickly became a sprirtual practice. I think that many students lose out on the great spiritual beauty of Usui Reiki by training too quickly.
I also see a connection between Usui’s experience and the experience of the founders of some of Japan’s “folk religions” such as Johrei, Omoto, Tenrykyo and Mahikari. But that’s another article.
Thanks for your great work. Peace and bright blessings.
A single journey begins with one step and that is the goal for each day. The end of the journey/road is never in view. Perserverance is the key.
I think the end of the journey (our true nature) is already here, we just haven’t recognized it yet. So we need to start with the, one step at the time, as you say perseverance is the key, keep walking. (I might add a bit of patience and practice in and I will be on my way.)
Isn’t it interesting when we start to look at other Japanese spiritual practices, like Omoto, Shugendo, Shinto and other folk beliefs we start to see so much similarities between them all. I think we can learn a lot about the system of Reiki by looking at all these other spiritual practices which started or were practiced around the late 1800 beginning 1900.
Below are two quotes about the link between the spiritual systems which started in this era and Shugendo, which I find very interesting:
Some of the founders of new religions had revelatory experiences while performing religious practices on sacred mountains, and some of the rituals created by new religions bear the imprint of Shugendo rituals; indeed, the highly syncretic character of Shugendo laid down a precedent for the syncretic pattern of most new religions.
From; Miyake Hitoshi – Shugendo – Essays on the Structure of Japanese Folk Religion
The influence of Shugendo on the origin of many of the new religious movements in Japan, for example, is increasingly recognized.
Paul Swanson, Permanent Fellow and Director, Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture
Here is a link to another article on our website which discusses, intent, path and result. http://ihreiki.com/blog/intent_path_result/
Intent, path and result all need to be present to call the system of Reiki a spiritual practice, as without it there is nowhere to go.
What about Shinto and Shugendo? Do you think they also have a clear path which leads to results? I often ask myself why i have chosen the system of reiki? Why has Frans done that? And all the people whose folk religion has nothing to do with Japan? Having Russian roots it is much easier for me to accept the concept of disillusioning through suffering which is stressed by russian history, religion and esoterism. And Buddhists teachings are focused on releif from suffering and positivity in life. ??? do we chose our path or does the path chose us? and to which extend you think we can influence the results?
Shugendo is said to be a very fast path towards discovering your true nature. It is a mix of Shinto, Taoism, Buddhism, Folk religion, Shamanism etc. I think this is why many founders of the “new religions” in Japan practiced Shugendo. However it was not an easy practice and this is why many of the systems created in the late 1800s beginning 1900s kind of made these teachings more accessible.
I think we choose the path due to past practices, our energy has been around since beginning-less time and has touched upon many different aspects of the universe. This is what makes us who we are now and this also makes us being drawn to certain teachings and teachers.
For example if a teacher is very shy and closed in their daily life then it will be hard to get students, the more open the teacher is, the more she interacts with others, the more she makes a connection with people ( I am not talking about facebook friends here 🙂 but real connections with people), this will create a certain link and this is how over time the student finds the teacher.
To which extend can we influence the result, well the more we practice on a daily basis the more we get out of it. If we only do a bit of hands on healing when we go to bed and fall asleep after 5 or 10 minutes then the result will not be the most profound result, enlightenment. But if we sit down for 45 minutes a day and meditate on the mantra/symbol for this period of time we can go much faster of course. If we practice two sessions of 45 minutes a day then you can go even deeper. But we also need a teacher, without a teacher it will be very difficult, the teacher can help and guide you on the path because she has been there before and knows the pitfalls and difficulties on the path. If a Reiki teachers says that he/she doesn’t have a teacher him/herself anymore then we know that he/she has stopped practicing. With a teacher I do not mean a teacher who you once worked with, but a teacher who you work with on an ongoing basis, who supports you on your journey. The student practices and gives feedback about her practice to the teacher, the teacher then instruct her further, this is how it should be.
Hope this all makes sense.
Thank you Frans,
I am finding these wonderful gems of yours slowly , reading about the steps , I think that’s what you meant in our last session !
How ever I am also finding it out that if I had read that like a month ago it would not have made much sense to me .
I often read books a few times, maybe 6 months later or a year later, so much to discover. And when we grow deeper we start to see things differently as well.
Yes that’s seems the case , as now I am coming back to read again and it seems everything is new , like it was not even there when I read last time , seems. Yes , so much to discover if its same then it means you are also the same and not going any where with it . Thanks !