In every degree of Reiki there are one or more offerings of blessing, given by teacher to student. In Japanese the word for this is reiju. In English it is initiation or attunement. And this blessing is a ritual, in the same way that baptism in a church is a ritual. This ritual serves to support you as you grow in skill and experience with this energy that we call Reiki.
Commonly a student will experience some of the following during, and immediately after, the ritual: profound peace, a sense of connection to all things in the universe, sensations of energy moving through the body, and even visions. These experiences are normally temporary. But don’t worry about losing them: each initiation will have an effect that accumulates over time, and together they will lead to deep, long-lasting transformation. You will always be able to remember this experience, and that memory itself will have a guiding effect on your journey.
The initiation brings certain things into focus. First, and of most concern to someone who is just getting started with Reiki, it will awaken or enhance your sensitivity to ki, spiritual energy. Regardless of what you feel or don’t feel during the ritual, afterwards you will have a heightened ability to work with spiritual energy. This is a practical ability.
The second focus of the initiation is connection. The initiation welcomes connection to the greatest spiritual power, to the Universe, to God. Reiki teachers will tell you that this power is and always has been within you, but that sometimes we need help really knowing and feeling that. The ritual therefore is given to awaken you to this connection that already exists, or to enhance the connection that you already know. Again, this happens regardless of what you feel or don’t feel during the ritual. I say “regardless of what you feel or don’t feel” because there is no pressure for you to feel anything at all. It’s best if you can fully relax and be fully open, but if you can’t fully relax and can’t be fully open, the initiation will still be effective.
Before I learned to ride a bicycle, I thought it was a bit mysterious: how do you keep going and not fall off? I also thought it was going to be difficult, perhaps painful, to learn. But I still remember the moment when I first got going, pedalling away from my grandfather who had been alongside me to catch me when I fell. It really felt great. First I was a bit unsteady, but very quickly I developed confidence, and before long it was second nature. And since that time, I have always been able to get onto a bike and ride it, even if it’s been a very long time since I last did so. It’s the same with Reiki initiations.
Reiki seems mysterious and difficult until you actually do it. In one sense the mystery never really goes away, because the deeper you go with Reiki the more you realise it is unfathomable, something beyond words. But in another sense it’s not mysterious at all: you lay your hands on, and Reiki flows. You pedal and the bicycle goes. The questions you had when you were first learning soon drop away, because you don’t need to understand the gyroscope effect, which keeps a bike steady, in order to ride it, and you don’t need to understand complicated theories of cosmic energy in order to do Reiki. Reiki takes practice, like riding a bike takes practice, but once you’ve had that experience of doing it once, you will never forget.
What actually happens?
It is taught that the founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui, didn’t seem to do much during the initiations. He would sit opposite the student, and somehow generate an energetic space. If you have been to a big live music concert and felt the atmosphere as the band walks onto the stage, you will know what an energetic space feels like. Out of this space that Usui generated, the experience of blessing would just seem to happen. But Usui was a man deeply practiced in spiritual arts, and his own students didn’t all have this level of skill. So a physical ritual was created, either by Usui or his students, to be followed during the blessing. The physical pattern helped them to create that energetic space. And since Usui, both traditional and modern Reiki teachers have performed some version of a formalised physical ritual to create this space in which the blessing happens.
During this ritual, the student usually sits on a stool. The teacher invokes guidance and blessing for the student’s highest good, and then performs physical movements, such as laying hands on the student’s own hands. The whole process takes about five or ten minutes. It encourages release of stagnant energy within the student, which explains why they often get various sensations of energy flowing through the body. The ritual ignites dynamic potential for the student, for direct transmission from the Universe, from God. This happens throughout the body, but especially in several key locations: crown, central channel, heart, base of spine, hands and feet.
What to Expect After the Initiation
The initiation often triggers release within you. This occurs on every level: spiritual, mental, emotional and physical. You can therefore expect to feel a bit different afterwards, and for changes to accelerate in your life. This could be anything: feelings of peace, elation or sadness as you let go of unneeded emotions; increased physical energy or increased need for sleep as your body adjusts; or changes in your eating and drinking patterns as you let go of unhealthy habits. There is a cleansing period of 21 days following the first initiation in a Reiki course, and during this time it is helpful to give yourself lots of hands-on healing, to drink plenty of pure water, and to look after yourself with extra attention.
With this chart you can trace your lineage, through the initiations given from teacher to student, all the way back to the founder of Reiki, Mikao Usui.
Twenty-one of Usui’s students reached shinpiden, the highest level of teachings. One of these, Chûjirô Hayashi, taught the Japanese-American Hawayo Takata, who was responsible for introducing Reiki to the West. She taught twenty-two master-level students, who helped spread Reiki across the world.
Hawayo Takata transmitted the lineage of Usui Shiki Ryōhō to Beth Gray and Phyllis Lei Furumoto. Through a series of Reiki masters, this lineage is now being extended to you.