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Woman performing Reiki on man


Reiki is a Japanese technique for healing and stress reduction. It is a very simple technique of laying on of hands based on the ancient human impulse to comfort ourselves and others by touching areas of discomfort, pain, or disease.

The term is made up of two parts: Rei, which can be translated as “spirit” or “God’s wisdom” and Ki, which can be translated as “vital energy”. It is difficult to translate terms exactly from Japanese or Chinese to English, so it should be kept in mind that we lack exact equivalents for these terms in our language and culture.


The term Rei denotes the higher intelligence that guides the universe. Depending on a person’s spiritual beliefs, the source of this intelligence could be God, “source”, or simply an overarching organizing principle. Reiki is a neutral healing technique and is not specific to any particular religion. Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Pagans, agnostics, and atheists can all benefit from this technique. Religious people find that Reiki reinforces their sense of connection to God; non-religious and religious people alike find that it helps them to feel more attuned of the magnificence of the universe and grateful for their place in it.

Ki or Qi

Numerous cultures throughout history have identified a certain “vital energy” as critical for life and health. The Chinese referred to this energy as Qi, the Japanese called it Ki, George Lucas called it “The Force” in the Star Wars series, and in Hebrew the term is “Ruach” (which can be translated as breath, wind, or spirit – see Genesis 2:17 below). It is this breath of life that God breathed into dust to create man. In the Bible, God is the source of Ruach (see Job 33:4, below). In human beings, Ruach further denotes an animating dynamic that is characterized by reason, will, and conscience. More recently, European physicians and scientists have called this vital energy Elan Vital or Orgone Energy.

“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul.”

– Genesis 2:17

“The spirit of God made me, and the breath of the Almighty gave me life.” 

– Job 33:4

“Qi is understood to be the intrinsic, dynamic, self-regulating and self-maintaining power of the organism.  All healing in Chinese Medicine is directed, ultimately, at conserving, protecting, augmenting, restoring, and facilitating Qi.” 

– Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold

“Concerning matter; we have been all wrong. What we have called matter is energy whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses. There is no matter.”

– Albert Einstein

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration.”

 – Nikola Tesla

Ki is the motive force behind your ability to move, see, hear, heal, digest, speak, love, and dream.  It is the “spark” that keeps your heart beating, your blood circulating, and your brain thinking.  It is the energy behind the phenomenal growth of a small child, the ability of a tiny acorn to grow into a massive oak tree, and the remarkable ability of living beings to heal from injury and disease.  The balanced, unobstructed flow of Ki is critical for health.

In Japanese culture, the term Ki is commonly used to describe the personality or presence of a person. For example, a person in good health is described as having good Ki, a person in poor health is described as having sick Ki, a person who is generous is described as having large Ki, and a person who is depressed is described as having heavy Ki. In China, the practice of Feng Shui involves the orientation of buildings and the placement of furnishing in ways that optimize the movement of Qi in an environment. This is traditionally believed to have an affect on on the quality of the relationships in a home and the financial success of a business.

Two Types of Ki

Ki can be divided into two basic types — genki (or healthy Ki) and byōki (or unhealthy Ki). When genki levels are high, we feel vibrant, confident, and happy. There is a spring in our step and a sparkle in our eye. We accomplish tasks easily, communicate and connect with others readily, have strong resistance to illness, and heal quickly. Things like adequate sleep, a nutritious diet of fresh foods, time spent outside in nature, daily exercise, a fulfilling occupation, processing negative emotions as they arise rather than repressing them, and a positive mental attitude support a large reservoir of genki.

On the other hand, unhealthy byōki fills the vacuum when our genki levels are depleted by lack of sleep, poor diet, habitually negative thoughts or beliefs, surrounding ourselves by negative people, spending too much time using electronic devices, sitting too much, repressing or stuffing down negative emotions, and remaining stuck in unhappy life circumstances. Specific feelings, especially when they are denied, ignored, or suppressed, can create byōki that has a particular affinity for certain organs. For example, anger creates byōki around the liver, grief creates byōki around the lungs, fear creates byōki around the kidneys, worry creates byōki around the digestive system, and anxiety creates byōki around the heart.

The most effective way to prevent this from happening is to allow yourself to acknowledge and fully experience negative emotions as they arise, which allows the feelings to dissipate. The small amount of byōki that is formed when we do this moves out of our energy system and is quickly replaced by genki.

The Influence of Emotions and Thoughts on Ki

Our Ki is affected by our conscious and subconscious thoughts and feelings and vice versa. Thoughts and beliefs attract Ki and build up a reservoir of Ki that resonates with those thoughts and feelings. Our reservoir of Ki attracts resonant people, events, and circumstances into our lives. This is the reason why people who generally think in happy and confident ways and hold the belief that the universe is a beneficent place tend to have relationships and experiences that support those thoughts and beliefs, while people who are cynical and have habitually pessimistic thoughts and feelings tend to have relationships and experiences that reinforce those thoughts and beliefs. This phenomenon applies to individuals, as well as families and other groups (including whole communities and cultures).


Unlike regular Ki, which can be either positive (genki) or negative (byōki) and is subject to our state of mind and other factors as described above, Rei-Ki is wholly and unalterably positive. It can only create good. According to William Lee Rand, Rei-Ki is “the primal energy of the universe being guided by the highest wisdom of the universe.”

We can think of ordinary Ki as our personal energy — the energy that comes from our genetic inheritance, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the thoughts we think, the beliefs we hold, and the people that surround us. Rei-ki, on the other hand, is the energy that comes from God, Heaven, or the Universe. Because Rei-Ki is Ki guided by Rei, it is absolutely free of any negativity and can only have positive effects. According to Don Beckett, Reiki is “a vibration of pure unconditional love, which brings out the best in everything it touches. We can think of Reiki as the ‘extension cord’ that connects us to Source energy, or the ‘program’ that allows the integration of Source energy into the material world.”


A Reiki healer has received a series of special attunements which enables her to serve as a conduit for Reiki energy to others. There are three degrees of Reiki attunement:

  • Degree one (or Shoden), which prepares a person to give themselves Reiki treatment
  • Degree two (or Okuden), which prepares a person to give others Reiki treatment
  • Degree three, also called Master (or Shinpiden), which prepares a person to teach Reiki and attune others as Reiki healers


Babies are born with a close connection to Source energy, which is probably the reason that so many people love babies and small children. As we “grow up”, however, we settle into the lower vibrations of our earthly existence and, for most of us, our connection with Source is gradually forgotten. This is particularly true in modern society, where most of us are much more closely connected to our electronic devices, popular media, and the demands of our busy schedules than we are to nature, relationships, and Spirit. Our natural state of relaxation and ease gives way to habits of tension and stress and the incidence of dis-ease increases.

As this happens, our reservoir of healthy genki is diminished, unhealthy byōki comes in to fill the void, and the body’s innate capacity for self-balancing and healing becomes impaired and physical and emotional disharmonies begin accumulate. Eventually disease is the result.

The Reiki healer has the capacity, however, to act as an “extension cord” and re-connect us to Source energy. During a treatment, Rei-ki flows into the client’s energy field, enhancing and strengthening genki and neutralizing byōki, preventing it from causing further harm. This gives the body the resources it needs to regain equilibrium and to heal. This healing extends beyond the physical, however, to the mental, emotional, and spiritual planes as well.

“Reiki is all about moving more into a state of balance on all levels, achieving more balance in your life. Moving into a state of balance may involve the resolution of some health problems, it may involve a chance in beliefs and attitudes, it may involve making decisions that have been put off or ignored for a long time, and a realization of one’s true values and priorities in life. Reiki is all about change for the better, finding out what is right for you in your life and making decisions to move you closer to what is right for you.”

– Taggart King

I like to think of Reiki as like an energetic leaf-blower. During a treatment, Reiki rushes in and blows away all the energetic cobwebs, dust, and debris (byōki) that have accumulated in the nooks and crannies of the body and mind. Unlike a leaf-blower, however, once present, Reiki energy lingers and helps to restore and maintain balance and harmony in the hours and days following the treatment. From this place of balance the body regains the capacity to heal itself.


Every Reiki healer approaches treatment in a slightly different way. When I give a Reiki treatment, I place my hands in various positions on the head and body while the recipient lays on her back. My hands are placed over top of clothing. A whole body treatment takes approximately 30-45 minutes.

Most people find having a Reiki treatment to be extremely pleasant — the Reiki energy feels like a comforting, glowing radiance that penetrates and surrounds the body. This results in feelings of deep relaxation, peace, security, and wellbeing. In some cases a Reiki session can result in an emotional catharsis, as feelings that may have been deeply buried come to the surface and are released. Many people report that after a Reiki treatment they feel refreshed and light, almost the same way you feel after completing your Spring cleaning or after having cleaned out your closet, but much better since your entire being is affected in a very positive way.

Some things that you may notice during a Reiki treatment:

  • Deep relaxation and a sense of profound peace
  • Heat or warmth from the healer’s hands
  • Seeing colors or sparkles against closed eyelids
  • Sensations of floating or sinking
  • Feelings of movement or “rushing” within the body
  • Mild disorientation
  • Time passing very quickly or very slowly
  • Memories coming to the surface, often in fragments or “snap shots”
  • Emotional release
  • Temporary intensification of physical symptoms
  • Nothing at all

All of these reactions are considered normal. It is not necessary to experience dramatic sensations with treatment in order to benefit — the Reiki is working whether you feel it or not. Many people find that with each subsequent treatment they are able to relax more and more deeply.

For more information about how Reiki works from a scientific point of view, check out How Reiki Works – The Science Bit.