Updated: Aug 2
The following is an extract from Chapter 5 of my book, Mindfulness Meditation and The Art of Reiki which was published in July 2022.
When I teach a Reiki class, I always make it clear to my students that I will not be teaching them how to be healers. I am not a healer and have no intention of ever becoming one, though I have been involved in and facilitated many healing processes. We cannot give someone Reiki. One of the core teachings of the system is that Reiki energy is drawn in by the recipient for their own healing needs and not pushed in by the practitioner. To call ourselves healers somehow implies that we are in charge of the healing process; that we are “doing” something. We need to get out of this “Doing Mode” and into a “Being Mode” when it comes to our practice of Reiki. When we can just “be” with the process we start to embody the true nature of the universe, we start to connect to the true nature of reality, and this can have a profound healing effect on those around us. To call oneself a healer or a Reiki healer, is profoundly egotistical. Not even Jesus, as far as we know, referred to himself as a healer. A Reiki practitioner is not healing anyone and to claim to be doing so is very arrogant. This was summed up beautifully by Bodo Baginski and Shalila Sharamon in their book Reiki Universal Life Energy:
Do not be disappointed if your expectations are not fulfilled immediately. With Reiki, nothing is to be achieved by pure willpower. Our egos have to take second place instead, which is not bad for our development. As Reiki channels, we do not do the healing ourselves but are simply neutral observers and witnesses of events. For this reason, we should never disapprove of a patient’s symptoms. It is not our task to fight against an illness but to pass on Reiki energy and await the results, which will always be the best ones possible. (Baginski and Sharamon, 1988)
As a Reiki practitioner, you have no way of knowing what the deeper problem may be or where it is located in the energetic matrix or physical body of the human being. Here is an example that I regularly give in my classes: Let’s imagine someone comes to you with a lower back pain. You can see he is suffering, and out of compassion, you might feel your heart open and want to help by fixing his back problem for him. What you don’t know is that your client has a very bad relationship with his boss at work. He is regularly chastised, overworked, suffers the brunt of his boss’s anger and is generally given a hard time. This produces a lot of daily stress. Over time this stress has lodged in his shoulder muscles so that they are extremely tight and painful. Slowly that tension and stress has moved down his back and he now has a lower back pain. His problem is not with his lower back per se, but in his relationship with his boss. You don’t know this (and maybe your client doesn’t make the link between his work-related stress and back pain either), but the Reiki energy does. So, all your attempts to solve his problem for him by focusing on his lower back are at best misplaced. You may alleviate the pain a little, but you won’t fix the problem at its cause unless you allow the energy to do what it needs to do: target his relationship with his boss.
You are not a healer
Fortunately for your client, the energy does not in fact need your assistance and it will go to where it is needed regardless of your attempts to focus it where you think the problem is. Your “Doing Mode” attempt to make the energy bring about your desired outcome will simply “slow down” or hamper the energy’s ability to do what it needs to do. Like a reed in a stream, we can either go with the flow where it might lead, or we can resist and find that the stream will simply flow around us.
There are some who believe that they can access the information regarding the original cause of things intuitively, and so target the precise cause or location. Mostly this is an expression of ego, because mostly, they can’t. The information pin-pointing the original cause is certainly “out there” in the universal energy field (UEF) and within the energetic matrix of the individual. This information, however, when accessed by the Reiki practitioner is filtered through the human mind and is subject to various influences: the perceptions of the ego, obscuration caused by our own imperfections, sensory data filtering as well as cultural, religious, and time-specific influences. This all renders the originally “pure” information as potentially inaccurate or entirely wrong. The majority of people, including energy healers and Reiki practitioners, do not have the spiritual connectivity or spiritual awareness to “read” this information accurately and to know that it is being corrupted by themselves. They act based on what they believe to be true but are in fact working on the basis of an obscured, filtered or corrupted version of the truth. Consequently, energy is manipulated, eradicated, replaced and basically messed about with, by people who simply do not know what they are doing. Even if some people are gifted with the ability to perceive on very subtle levels the exact location and original cause of a physical or mental/emotional problem, why take the chance? The energy, this powerful manifestation of the oneness of all existence, still knows best! Leave it up to the higher intelligence of the universe. Your participation on this level of the healing process is not needed. It would be true to say that in some senses, once your hands are on the client, the treatment process is really no longer any of your business.
Broadening our understanding of the concept of healing
In working with Reiki, we need to broaden our understanding of what we mean by “healing” and stop picking up bad habits and philosophies from other energy healing modalities. Let's look at the concept of healing: According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the verb “heal” is derived from the old English word haelan which means, amongst other things “to make whole.” Sometimes to make whole is less to do with removing the problem and more about allowing the problem to simply unfold. Every experience we have in life, whether it be the circumstances of our life, an illness or some other physical issue that impacts on our life, is there for a reason. Nothing is the product of coincidence, accident or bad luck, because there simply are no coincidences, accidents or bad luck. Everything has a purpose. So, when we work in a healing context, to bring about wholeness we need to be mindful of the fact that everything is there for a reason. Everything is there to serve us in some way; to help us grow beyond our current condition.
A great spiritual teacher who suffers from Parkinson’s disease once told me that healing was not so much about being rid of a debilitating condition but learning to live a meaningful and happy life within the context of that condition. This of course, takes a lot of courage. If we can change our relationship to our condition in this way, then the problem ceases to be a problem and becomes a trigger for personal growth and for beneficial outcomes to manifest in all sorts of ways. As a Reiki practitioner, would we want to deprive this person of the blessings that can flow from the circumstances of their life? Sometimes healing is not about destroying the problem but embracing or befriending the problem and learning to be the best that we can be within that context; accepting the totality of who we are.
The Tantric Buddha
There is a story about Padmasambhava, the great spiritual teacher who was pivotal in the establishment of Vajrayana Buddhism as the dominant religious philosophy in Tibet. Padmasambhava is also known as the Tantric Buddha, and he completely transformed the religious, philosophical and cultural landscape of Tibet.
According to the story, King Trisong Detsen, the 38th king of the Yarlung dynasty and the first Emperor of Tibet (742–797) invited Śāntarakṣita, the abbot of Nalanda University to Tibet to help establish the teachings of the Buddha there. Śāntarakṣita started building the Samye monastery but was hindered by demonic forces. Padmasambhava was invited to Tibet to get rid of the demons. He did not, however, destroy the demons. Out of his great wisdom and compassion, Padmasambhava encouraged the demons to submit to the teachings of the Buddha, thus helping them on their journey to a spiritual awakening. This is in alignment with the tantric principles of not destroying negative forces but using them to fuel the journey towards a better and more whole state of being.
This story illustrates clearly the need to accept, embrace and show deep compassion for the negative states that exist in life, whether this be external circumstances or internal physical conditions. It is this acceptance and ability to embrace things just the way they are right now, that the system of Reiki is also built upon.
In Reiki therefore we engage with this alchemical process by not “ripping out” negative energy and replacing it with positive energy when working in a healing context. We encourage the transformation of the negative energy, the health issue or other life circumstance, to take on a more positive aspect; to use it as fuel to bring about a more whole state of being. To do this we need to step our conscious minds out of the way and allow that transformative process to unfold in whatever way it needs. We are not looking for solutions or making judgments about what needs to be fixed.
One of my students recently posted a status on Facebook: “May God grant us the insight to understand the wisdom of our hardships.” There is indeed wisdom in our hardships. Whatever we are going through in life is there to help us in some way; to provide us with an opportunity for further growth. It may not seem like it at the time. Often life can be very difficult, and suffering can be profound and deeply traumatic, but if we are gentle with ourselves and nurture ourselves with love and with care, we can turn even the worst of life’s circumstances into a positive force. This is as much true for our Reiki clients as it is for ourselves. We do not know what God/the universe/the divine power (or indeed our clients or our own karma) has in store.
To assume we know how to fix a problem at its deepest pre-manifestation state and to assume we know what healing means is, as the Indian mystic, Sadhguru once clearly stated, “juvenile meddling.” This is why Reiki is so dominant in the energy healing field. The system has a much more sophisticated understanding of health and healing than many other energy healing practices.
What is negative energy?
It’s worth reflecting for a moment on what we mean by “negative energy” in a healing context. What we perceive as being negative, or a manifestation of negative energy, as traumatic or painful as it may be, is in fact also an opportunity for further growth. It’s possible to see all of life’s problems in this way, whether they be physical illnesses or the circumstances of our life. When we see that something is holding us back or causing us to suffer, we tend to compound that state of suffering through our point of view; our mind loads secondary suffering on top of the primary suffering. If you are a farmer worried about your parched and dying crops, a day of rain seems like a blessing. If on the other hand, you are rushing to your office on the other side of the city, rain is the last thing you want. But rain is neither good nor bad. It simply is. And what’s more, it’s impermanent. Nothing has within it an innate quality of negativity or positivity. Everything simply is. We could decide to look at the circumstances of our life and the state of our physical health in the same way. Despite our suffering, despite our difficulties, we can also see these as essentially empty of positive or negative attributes. When we can do this, we free ourselves so that we can then impose upon our lives whatever understanding that we wish. We can, if we wish, view these conditions of our lives as opportunities for further growth. Of course, this is not always easy. Far from it.
This orientation to life and the lives of others also applies to when we are working with Reiki in a healing context. We need to let go of the need to judge another’s circumstances as positive or negative, and just be with the process. We don’t know what opportunities are being presented. We can acknowledge our clients’ suffering, we can feel compassion and support them through their healing process of course, but we must still “be” with their process rather than meddle with it on the basis that we think we know best.