Reiki is not a Religion

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People often ask me if Reiki is a religion. This is not only a valid question, but also a very important one.

Since the question comes up so often, I thought I’d write an article about it.

Dear friends, Reiki is not a religion. However, it is most definitely yes a spiritual path.

And what is the difference between religion and a spiritual path, you ask?

Good question.

Let me tell you a story. I was raised in a strict religious family. My grandfather was the pastor of our Presbyterian church and my mother the director of the choir. I was sent to strict Christian schools from preschool all the way through high school.

One word that aptly summarizes my upbringing is: oppressive. Religion was my life, and religion was all there was, but religion rarely brought me any comfort. In fact, religion usually brought me the opposite. Religion usually presented me with endless opportunities to judge and hate myself. The God I was offered by my grandfather and school teachers was a stern God, a God full of anger, jealousy, and even vengeance.

Though I couldn’t have articulated it in this way back then, the God I was offered in my childhood was not inspiring. In fact, he was not even particularly loving. The God I was taught was, actually, kind of a jerk!

In my experience, religion is about fearing and trying to appease some big, powerful entity outside of ourselves. Some sort of bearded wise man in the sky. Supposedly, that entity is more awesome than we are—in comparison, we humans are supposedly mostly rubbish: flawed, sinful, innately corrupt. We are bad. God is good. Or so goes the logic.

As I was growing up, I was taught that I should do good deeds in order to receive later reward, in heaven, after the death of my body. I was also taught that the resources of the planet all “belonged” to me and other humans. I was taught humanity was the center of all life. I was taught that animals had no souls and that the most important kind of creature that existed on the planet was human beings: those who had rightful “dominion” over all other creatures. I was taught that anything that deviated from heterosexual monogamy was evil, and I was taught that women who used their voices too much were suspect. I was taught that it was “of the devil” to read tarot cards, have sex outside of marriage, or adore nature.

In the traditional, conservative, monotheistic religions (especially the Abrahamic religions), there tends to be a kind of moral superiority: our way is the “best” way; our way is the “only” way. And these religions compete with each other for dominance: this ranges from heated debate to the bloodiest of wars and genocide.

In my experience, traditional religion can be categorized as the philosophical mode of the old paradigm. It is simply the limited human mind trying to comprehend something as numinous as the Universe. It is the old way. It is the darkness, groping toward the light.

While traditional religion requires us to defer to an outside force, to a kind of stern cosmic parental figure, spirituality on the other hand asks us to take responsibility for our own lives. There is nothing on the outside that will lead us to salvation or guide us to peace. There is no savior but ourselves. Everything, every single thing we need for our journey is located on the inside.

Life is an inside journey.

Spirituality is a way of approaching our life experience with an open, compassionate heart. Spirituality is being curious about and willing to learn the wisdom traditions of other cultures across the globe. Human beings, in their myriad forms, are seen as beautiful expressions of the Divine.

Indeed, spirituality is vastly different from religion.

Spirituality is a way of approaching our daily lives with the wisdom that comes from living in the present moment. We don’t do certain things in order to receive some future reward. No. Life is all about living in the now, with as much love, peace, and compassion as we can muster—and not because we “must” or “should” …but because to live this way feels more wonderful.

On a spiritual path, we are internally guided. There is no bearded father-figure in the sky who passes down commandments we must follow. In fact, if we immerse ourselves in the present moment, if we immerse ourselves in the beauty of this moment of life, we find there is no external “God” at all.

What we find on a spiritual path is extraordinary, revolutionary, truly amazing. We find that we are that which we have been seeking.

There is nothing outside of us to search for. God dwells within. In fact, we are God. God is us.

The practice of Reiki is certainly not a religion. Rather, Reiki is a spiritual path. A way of awakening.

Through Reiki, we feel the energy of life flowing through our hands. We feel that because there is such power in the hands, that there must be infinite power everywhere else, too. Surely Earth is a good place, full of good people. We feel happy to be alive. We feel light.

When new clients come to me and ask, in worried tones, “Is Reiki a religion?” I totally understand their concern. I empathize with their worry. They don’t want to get tangled up in an old system that they’ve worked so hard to break free from. As someone who has spent many years de-conditioning herself from all the Sunday sermons, I have great empathy for those who fear walking back into something that requires trust in what is unseen.

Many of us who have fled religious upbringings have turned to the rational mind, to intellectualism, to the University, to systems of science and logic. That may be the arena that feels safest at that point. However, after awhile, many people begin to feel that something is missing.

Although religion has been, in many ways, quite a harmful force on the planet (the cause of much hatred, vindictiveness, and bloodshed), what religion did do (and does do) well is that it inspires people to open their hearts beyond their limited perceptions. It inspires them to feel deeply. It inspires them to hope, to dream, and to love. This is religion’s power. And many of us who have turned away from religion eventually find ourselves circling back—but, this time, from greater awareness of what it is we are indeed seeking.

When we receive or give a Reiki healing session, what we are seeking is not a “God” outside ourselves, but the God within. What we are seeking is empowerment, self-love, and a sense of magic in our everyday lives.

No, Reiki is not a religion. It is, rather, a very deep, profound spiritual path. A way of waking up.

As more of us wake up on this planet, paths like Reiki will become more and more widespread, as we seek to heal ourselves from the limitations and disappointments of religion, boldly stepping into the power of the present moment, and building a human future that looks nothing like we’ve ever seen before.

That time has indeed come.

The Real History of Reiki

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Around a century ago, a Japanese Buddhist monk named Mikao Usui founded the Reiki system of natural healing. He began to teach students. His students taught their students, and then those students taught their students. Two women, Barb Hay and Lia Ricci, taught me. And now, through this blog, I teach you. This is our lineage.

However, within this lineage, there is also a paradox. While it is certainly beautiful and fitting to honor our founder, Usui, we must also balance that honoring with an acknowledgement of the deeper truth of our practice.

Usui did not “invent” Reiki. He did not start it nor begin it. Rather, what this gentle monk did was remember Reiki. What he did was remember a force that transcends space and time.

Usui did not “invent” Reiki. Rather, what this gentle monk did was
remember Reiki.

The power to heal with the hands is a natural human birthright. It has existed as long as human beings have been. If we study the histories of indigenous cultures everywhere, we find equivalent systems of hands-on healing across languages and borders.

The power to awaken with light is also a natural human birthright. If we peer into the varied religious and spiritual traditions of humanity, we will find belief in a universal life force energy. The concept is ubiquitous, inescapable. Just as the notion of “God” seems to be everywhere, so too is life energy. There are a thousand names for it. In China, it is chi; in India, prana; in America, it is known as the holy spirit. High in the Andes mountains, the Quechua people invoke ushai energy during healing ceremonies, and in Mongolia, hiimori is the intuitive and powerful “windhorse energy” that uplifts and animates all beings.

No, Usui certainly did not invent anything new. It would be more accurate to say, rather, that he remembered an ancient wisdom. He helped uncover what our modern culture forgot. He remembered what is most important: He remembered we are light.

Life force energy is light. It is energetic particles vibrating at high frequencies—and the higher the frequency, the stronger the light. With more light comes more harmony, more ease, more intuition, more joy, more compassion, more creativity, more bliss.

When we are new to Reiki practice, the story of Usui is a beautiful and necessary story to learn. We need to honor him. Eventually, though, we come to see Usui’s story as the story of us all. The story of every soul.

Eventually, we come to see Usui’s story as the story of us all. The story of
every soul.

We—all of us—have an innate craving to learn, grow, and heal. We journey onto this planet in order to fulfill that destiny. Whether through Reiki or through other practices, we begin to tap into the cosmic, Universal force that opens our hearts and strengthens our natural intuitions. We break out of man-made limitation, and move into the realm of universal love. And we stop relying on the rational brain to run our lives. We step back, and channel the life force through us, for our own wellbeing and for the wellbeing of all.

Reiki was not really invented in the early 1900s. It was not really invented in Japan. It is not really a system that can be traced and tracked with clocks and calendars. No. Reiki defies all of our mental comprehensions.

The real history of Reiki is that it has no history. It is timeless. Eternal.

As we practice, we learn to honor our human stories…bow to them…yet we also learn to move beyond them, recognizing that the story is simply a seed. It shall blossom, in time, to so much more.

Reiki Practice for World Peace

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It is a rose seed’s destiny to bring forth roses. Sooner or later, when the soil is watered and the sun shines, roses will come.

Reiki is one path among many beautiful paths. It is one road among many. At the start of our Reiki journey, we enter a phase of jubilation and awe. We feel as if we have discovered “the truth.” Yet, in time, we remember the wisdom of the mystics since time immemorial: All paths lead to the same place.

           All paths lead to the same place.

If we plant a seed and care for the soil, roses will appear. Sometimes the kinds of seeds that others may choose to plant may seem to be—on the surface—strange seeds. We may scratch our heads, not comprehend why they do as they do. We may feel there is no chance for them to blossom.

Perhaps we cringe when we look at the religion of our parents. Perhaps we condemn the strictly rational viewpoint of scientists and atheists. Or perhaps we roll our eyes at the get-rich-quick manifestation teachings so prevalent in new age circles. There are many things with which we may not agree.

And yet…over time…if we observe those who follow the paths with which we do not agree, we will always find growth. Let me repeat that: Every path offers growth.

          Every path offers growth.

Although it may not be in this particular lifetime that people are enlightened with the pure Love of the Universe, it will be that each lifetime holds growth. Whether it is subtle growth or more obvious growth—this is not our place to judge or criticize.

If there are those in your life who are following a path you think is foolish, I invite you to stop and ask yourself: What is it about that particular path that provokes negative reactions in me? How might this reaction be symbolic of a deeper issue, a shadow within me? Have I been “hurt” by the worldview of that particular path? What part of me is feeling defensive or worried?

Through this deep inquiry, we develop a deep sense of peace. We recognize what the visionary playwright Tennessee Williams said was true: “Every path is the right path.”

A good way to practice peace is through self-healing Reiki sessions. Or, we can receive healing sessions from others. As we are enveloped in the gentle radiance of the Reiki light, we can open ourselves, setting the intention to flow with whatever comes, without disagreement or contraction.

On the inhale, we whisper: I accept every path.

On the exhale, we whisper: All paths are perfect.

 

With time, roses come. They always come. To everyone, whether in this life or the next. It’s not our place to judge time. The Universe works in rhythms, fits, and cycles. Peace comes from resting in this wisdom.

Indeed, the quiet, simple, restful wisdom that all paths ultimately lead to the same place is a wisdom that is a vital step in our awakening process. We cannot skip this step. We must go through it—and in going through it, we dissolve the anger, judgements and fears we have about those who follow different paths. We forgive previous versions of our own self who may have been confused or convinced of something different. We make peace with everyone. We make peace with everything.

From Darkness into Light: My Journey of Becoming a Reiki Master

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I used to be sick. Really, really sick. I was so sick, in fact, that sickness was all I knew. Sickness was my life.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of lying in bed with a fever. My mother is hovering over me, holding pills and orange juice, a concerned look on her face. I have just returned from the doctor’s office. Yet again. All my friends are at school, and I am missing it. I am always missing it.

Indeed, doctor’s offices, hospitals, waiting rooms, and cold, sterile medical facilities were the norm of my everyday life growing up.  I was always in danger of being held back at school because of so many absences. Whole years became a blur of prescription bottles, shots, inhalers. The doctors were as mystified as I was. Life was awful.

There was not only physical illness throughout my youth, but also emotional and sexual abuse. Certain members of my biological family were quite lost: lost in conditioned patterns of fear, neglect, and outright violence. They unwittingly repeated to me what their parents had done to them. The nasty cycle continued. I had no idea, until years later, that my brain was being wired into a state of constant anxiety and panic. (Years later, a helpful counselor diagnosed me with Complex-PTSD.) I was abused by others, and then my own brain began to abuse me. My own brain became my enemy.

At age twenty-five, my body felt utterly broken. I felt like I was one hundred years old. I felt so tired. There was no cure or relief in sight. Yet, somehow, I entered graduate school. I may have been sick, but I was still mentally determined. I had a strong will and an insatiable work ethic. My goal was to become a professor of English. I had always admired the English teachers in my life: to me, they were these living beacons of hope and wit. I wanted to be like them. Despite my flagging body and the emotional chaos within, I entered grad school, thinking, “I can do this.”

I worked hard. I worked so hard, in fact, that by the time I was midway through a PhD program, I was nearly completely burnt out. I had developed a severe form of adrenal fatigue syndrome, among other chronic illnesses, including migraines, chronic sinus infections, severe food allergies, and leaky gut syndrome.

Although I had published more articles and presented at more professional conferences than any of the other students in my doctoral cohort, I was not able to enjoy any feelings of professional success. I was ready to give up. Suicidal fantasies bombarded my brain every morning, as I struggled to lift my aching body out of bed. I was sicker than ever. I was drinking nearly a gallon of coffee every day, just to get through the day. I was shoveling sugar, breads, and other “quick energy” foods into my mouth so as to not fall asleep at my desk.

I almost dropped out of school. One day, I called my dissertation advisor on the phone. My fever was raging at 103 degrees and I had just had an allergic reaction (yet again) to  what was probably the tenth round of antibiotics that year. I remember the tears and the feeling of defeat. I sobbed into the phone: “I just can’t do it anymore.”

Somehow, she convinced me not to quit. A few weeks later, though, I remember talking to my husband about wanting to die. I simply couldn’t take it anymore. Each day was too much effort. Each day was a little bit worse than the day before. Nothing held hope; nothing held light.

One day, during an afternoon seminar, one of my favorite professors, Sue, notices me holding my throbbing head in my hands. She softly touches my shoulder. She says: “Would you like a free massage gift certificate? I have an extra one. Maybe a massage might help with your headache?” I smile, thank her, touched by her generosity. She hugs me. There is kindness in her eyes.

A few weeks later, I find myself on the table of a particularly gifted massage therapist. As lovely Anna works with me, kneading and releasing my sore tense muscles, she gently inquires if I’ve ever heard of Reiki. Just hearing the word, Reiki, ignites a feeling of excitement. There is a little zing in my spine, a little burst of energy. She then refers me to a Reiki Master who works in the same studio.

About a week later, a beautiful Reiki Master named Barb Hay places her hands on the crown of my head. There is soft music playing. The springtime trees are blossoming, wafting their soothing smells through the two-story window.

Almost immediately, I feel strange sensations pulsing from her hands into my body. Her hands are hot—like an oven!—and my skin below her hands is tingling. As she moves her hands from my crown to my forehead, and then down to my chin, I begin to wonder how all of this is possible. How is there such a great amount of heat if her hands are resting still on my skin? How is there such vibration? What is happening? What kind of crazy magic is this?

A few minutes into the session, I begin to lose control. My body begins to twitch. My arms, legs, and head are thrashing, jerking about. My breath is coming deep and fast, and there are moans and sighs. I begin to breathe out what feels like nasty toxic sludge. As I breathe, I suddenly realize all that I have carried, since childhood. In this moment, I realize how truly sick I have been.

I begin to cry. Barb asks me if I am okay. I say “I am okay, please continue.” I am somehow aware that the best thing that I can do right now is not to think. The best thing that I can do to heal is to trust and to simply experience exactly what is happening even though I can’t logically understand it. And I can quite literally feel the love pouring from Barb’s hands. Her heart is speaking to my heart, without words. Her heart is gently whispering: You are well. You are home.

After about an hour, I sit up and rub my eyes. I swing my legs off the side of the table, and turn toward Barb, who is now seated in a chair across from me. Her eyes are wide and sparkling. There is a smile upon her face.

“What just happened?” I ask.

“I will teach you,” she says.

♦♥

Fast forward six years. I am now a Reiki Master, carrying on in the footsteps of my beloved teacher Barb. These days, there is more light than darkness. These days there is more joy than grief.

I am still healing, too. Even with all the miraculous changes in my body, mind, emotions, and spirit, I still get triggered some days into anxiety and anger.

As I work with people who are waking up, I notice I have a lot of gratitude for the darkness. And I remember the deepest of truths: that I chose to incarnate onto this planet into the specific family, time and place that I did. Nothing was by chance. All of it, my whole story, including the darkness and the sickness, was my soul’s desire.

In order to be able to help others, I needed to get lost in the darkness for a while. I needed to have that experience, so that I could empathize with others. I needed to understand illness and trauma not from a merely conceptual point of view—but I needed to live it.

I chose to have the circumstances that would shape me into who I am today. A healer. A teacher. These choices were made by my soul before birth. In truth, we all are given these choices.

Thus, understanding and integrating this knowledge means we can release victim-consciousnss. When we can view every circumstance of our life as a divinely-orchestrated moment of profound perfection, we shed the darkness of victimhood and step into the Light.

Hopefully, by my telling you the story of my own life and past darkness, you will begin to feel clearer and more confident about your own journey. About your own life purpose.

Through your own healing journey, you guide yourself out of the darkness. You love yourself, into the light.

My story is the story of a Reiki Master. It’s a particular story. And there are so many stories.

So…what’s your story?