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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Reiki Digest for July 26, 2006: Back to the Source(s) of Reiki

Book Reviews:

The Reiki Sourcebook
Bronwen and Frans Stiene
O Books
ISBN 1-903816-55-6

The Japanese Art of Reiki
Bronwen and Frans Stiene
O Books
ISBN 1-905047 02-9

If you are a Reiki practitioner who learned the art anywhere outside Japan, there are three things you need to do right now:

1) Sit down.
2) Get these books and read them, footnotes and all.
3) Revise your understanding of Reiki and your practice accordingly

Thanks to the thorough research of Australian-based Reiki Masters Bronwen and Frans Stiene, much of what you learned about this gentle healing art is about to be shaken right down to its foundation. You can choose whether to sway like a Tokyo high-rise or crumble in response, but either way, you're in for some shock waves. Neither of these books is new, but somehow news of them has been slow in reaching the North American Reiki community. That's a pity, but easily rectifiable as you can easily buy them here and elsewhere online.

Born in Japan in the early 20th Century, Reiki was then borne to Hawaii and from there to the rest of the world by a Japanese-American woman, Hawayo Takata, who managed to study it even though she was a foreigner, thanks to the open-mindedness and foresight of Chujiro Hayashi, a doctor who learned the art from its founder, Mikao Usui. For decades, it seemed from outside Japan that Takata and those who learned from her lineage were the world's only Reiki practitioners. It even appears that Takata herself may have made that claim, just as she taught some other things about Reiki that weren't exactly true. For example, Mikao Usui, or as the Stienes refer to him Japanese-style in The Japanese Art of Reiki, Usui Mikao,was not a doctor, as Takata taught, nor a Christian, nor a minister, nor was he a university president or a theology school graduate. We can easily guess at the reasons behind some of Takata's truth-bending, since a Japanese-American practicing a Buddhist-based healing art in Hawaii around the time of Pearl Harbor might have met not only resistance but hostility in a nation that was rounding up Japanese-Americans by the thousands and locking them up in the desert behind barbed wire. We can as easily wonder what else got lost, added, or changed in her translations of the Reiki legacy, in practice as well as story.

Then in the early 1990s, German Reiki Master Frank Arjava Petter, then living in Japan and married to a Japanese woman, Chetna Kobiyashi, helped what we now call Western Reiki to reconnect not only with its roots in Japan, but its cousins there as well: practitioners who learned from Usui's other students, and a decades-old society dedicated to the practice and study of Reiki. Petter revealed what he had discovered in several books, also easily available here and elsewhere online. The Reiki story, on both sides of the gap, had to be rewritten, and the practice is the better for it.

It was Petter's work that led the Stienes – he's from Holland, she's from Australia – to seek more information after becoming (Western) Reiki Masters themselves in 1998. They studied Western Reiki in Nepal, first taught Reiki in India, and have since traveled to Japan to study with (Eastern) Reiki practitioners Hiroshi Doi and Hyakuten Inamoto, among others, and they now continue researching and teaching Reiki from the Japanese perspective from their base, The International House of Reiki in Sydney, Australia, and in their continued travels around the world.

A few excerpts of the reviews their work has received outside the U.S.:

“What an incredible work...”
“The Reiki Sourcebook is a gift to humanity...”
“You will find EVERYTHING you would like to know about Reiki in this book...”
“The definitive manual...”
“The most complete work ever done on Reiki...”

The Reiki Digest enthusiastically concurs. If you practice Reiki, you need to read these books.

Just some highlights of the surprising revelations in the Stienes' impeccably researched and documented work:

Mikao Usui did not refer to his practice as Reiki.

Most translations of the term “Reiki” only include the second syllable.

In Japan, everybody gets an attunement at every meeting of the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, a traditional Reiki society that remains closed to foreigners.

The Reiki symbols and their names are not necessarily connected to each other.

Mikao Usui was a teacher long before he developed Reiki, and people are still studying and practicing his pre-Reiki teachings today.

One of his pre-Reiki students was still alive – at 105 – a year ago when The Japanese Art of Reiki was published, and provided some of the information in both books. Other information came from other centenarian students of Usui, students as well as classmates of Hayashi, and other reliable sources.

Born into a samurai family of privileged rank, Usui studied martial arts at a young age and was a longtime practitioner of an exercise and meditative practice known in Japan as ki ko and elsewhere by its Chinese name, qigong or chi kung. Japan was beginning to open itself to the rest of the world at the time of Usui's birth, after a long period of isolation. At the time he developed Reiki, Japan was also undergoing a spiritual transformation. But Usui didn't invent hands-on healing. By the time Usui retreated to Mount Kurama for the legendary 21-day fast that led to his discovery of Reiki, the Japanese language already had not one but two words for the practice: teate, the generic term for “palm-healing,” and tenohira, a more structured form.

Reiki has roots not only in martial arts, qigong, and esoteric Buddhism, but in Shinto and Taoism, and in Shugendo, which the Stienes describe as “esoteric mountain Buddhism.” Shugendo itself has roots tangled deeply in a mixture of Shintoism (the indigenous faith of Japan), Taoism, Buddhism, and shamanism. As different faiths and traditions were outlawed or reinstated by various Japanese governments, the Japanese culture wove them together and tended to call their beliefs and practices whatever name was approved at a given time, so unraveling those threads and following them isn't likely after so many generations.

The branches of the Reiki tree are nearly as tangled as those roots, but the Stienes have put together a chart that includes them all along with their origins. It isn't exactly a family reunion, since much of Japanese Reiki is still off-limits to foreigners, but at least Reiki East and Reiki West have not only met but are getting better acquainted, to the benefit of the entire Reiki world.

The Reiki Sourcebook presents the results of the Stienes' research in meticulous detail: it's a Reiki encyclopedia, complete with illustrated reference sections for both Japanese and Western Reiki techniques, a Reiki glossary, and extensive lists of resources. The Japanese Art of Reiki, subtitled, “A Practical Guide to Self-Healing,” is completely devoted to Reiki self-practice, and its clear illustrations make it easy to follow.

One practice illustrated in The Japanese Art of Reiki is from the first level: Kenyoku-ho, the dry bath, which comes from Shintoism. The dry bath is a way of clearing the body's energy field (known in Western medicine as the putative energy field), and for practitioners, a way of ending a session and separating from the client's energy field.

The Stienes have another illustration, a full-color animated one, of kenyoku-ho on their web site (click on the picture that says "Try an interactive Japanese Reiki technique now"). It's one of their contributions to Journey to the Wild Divine, the interactive biofeedback program developed by Dr. Deepak Chopra, one of the best-known bridges between Western and Eastern medicine. The same animated version of Kenyoku-ho is featured in Wisdom Quest, the second version of Journey to the Wild Divine. All Reiki practitioners will enjoy it, but so will anyone else who wants to take advantage of this simple, quick energy-clearing technique. You can do it in an elevator in less time than it takes to travel from one floor to another.

As if their books and teaching weren't enough of a contribution to the worldwide practice of Reiki, the Stienes add to their work once a week with The Reiki Show, the world's first podcast devoted to Reiki. This week, they have an excellent interview with Reiki Master Pamela Miles, author of Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide, about her groundbreaking work with Reiki in medicine. Miles talks about her work with Reiki in the operating room, even during heart transplants, and busts some Reiki myths. Don't miss it – in fact, if you subscribe, you can listen to The Reiki Show every week.

But wait...there's more. Three more of the Stienes' projects are scheduled to be published this year and next.

Because of the importance of these two books, we'll save the usual Reiki roundup and Celeb-Reiki for next week. As always, your comments are welcome.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Reiki Digest for July 15, 2006: Beyond 'Airy-Fairy'

Welcome to the third edition of The Reiki Digest.

As some of you may have noticed, this publication is interactive. Every post has a "comments" feature built right in, so if you have something to say, just click on the word "comments" and start typing. In order to protect The Reiki Digest from the comment spam that is so epidemic in cyberspace, all comments are moderated -- but not censored. We hope the posts, links, and comments here will lead to an ongoing discussion for the benefit of the global Reiki community. For that to happen, we need to hear from you!

Reiki Master Claire M. Schwartz posted a comment the other day that seems a perfect place to begin a discussion on Reiki in the media:

Hi, Janet! I was reading all these articles with great interest - as a fellow Reiki Master, I want to know how we are being portrayed in the media and how Reiki is being explained to the public. While I am pleased to see that it is apparently spreading, there is a HUGE variance in how people describe it. I believe that it is not enough to just mention that Reiki is out there, but to accurately portray what it is and offer honest support for it. But I see that many of these articles have an air of derision to them or give inaccurate information altogether. The very first article says that the Reiki Practitioner draws upon her own energy field and then channels it to the client, when in fact we draw on a universal energy and only act as a conduit. This author also refers to Reiki as "airy-fairy". Another article says that "Reiki practitioners manipulate these energy fields by applying pressure, manipulating the body or placing the hands in these fields." We actually are VERY clearly prohibited from doing body manipulation, as that is strictly a massage therapist's domain, nor do we apply pressure at all. Finally, one article quotes a Reiki Master who says that "Eastern practices, like Reiki, are preventative while Western ones, like cancer radiation, are curative, she said", which in my experience is not true at all. There is growing evidence that Reiki speeds up many healing processes and offers great support in combination with conventional medicine.

My point is that I think it is important that we as Practitioners act as spokespeople for our craft, and clearly explain what Reiki is, and is not, to the lay public, so that people understand what we are doing. I know there is a great deal of variation in people's practices, and I respect that, but I don't think we can expect to be taken seriously as an alternative medicine healing modality if we do not have some standards about how we talk about it.

I would like this to open a discussion among practitioners on this point - what do you think?

Looking forward to a lively debate!

Best Blessings,
BA, Reiki master, Spiritual Counselor and Interfaith Minister
Miriam's Well Healing

As a former reporter myself, I know what you mean, Claire. Unfortunately the coverage of Reiki isn't unusually bad -- the inaccuracies you've seen in the articles we've featured here so far are fairly par for the course, for most any subject. Few reporters are experts in the fields they cover, so they just listen, take notes, and then regurgitate what they've just heard, usually on a deadline.

Reporters rarely run their stories by their sources before they are published -- that's generally considered unethical, although exceptions are sometimes made for highly technical scientific stories.

So what can we practitioners do to improve the quality, and accuracy, of coverage about Reiki? We want to get the word out, so we do want the publicity -- we just hope that eventually it becomes more accurate and less derisive. I would suggest that we give these publications some feedback. Particularly if you see a story about Reiki in your local media that has some of the problems you've mentioned here, write a letter to the editor, correcting those inaccuracies, and sign it as the authority you are: a Reiki practitioner.

Back in the 1970s when I was a cub reporter, my colleagues warned me that there were two words that would automatically draw letters of protest. Those words were "Xerox" and "Tupperware." In those days, most copiers were made by the Xerox Corporation, so people often used the word as a verb, as in "please Xerox that for me." If the word "Xerox" showed up in any article, anywhere, in any context, the Xerox Corporation's clipping service would find it, and a Xerox representative would send a form letter explaining that the word was a trademark and not to be used to refer to copying in general. They stuck to their message, and now you rarely hear anyone using "Xerox" as a verb. (In fact, you rarely hear about Xerox at all -- maybe that policy didn't work the way they'd hoped!) The same thing with Tupperware -- any reference that had that word, even used correctly, drew a letter from Tupperware explaining that the word referred only to their products. Reiki isn't a huge corporation, we don't have a public affairs department, so nobody is going to send letters out automatically in response to articles that misrepresent our healing modality. It's up to us.

One way to help reporters understand Reiki better is to offer them sessions, as part of their research. Yes, it's usually considered unethical for reporters to accept freebies, but there are many, many exceptions to that rule: reporters who cover baseball games or concerts don't have to buy tickets, and reviewers don't usually pay for the books they review.

I've given Reiki to people who knew nothing about it beforehand, as well as clients who were skeptical. So far, nobody has received a session from me and had no reaction. Everyone I've given Reiki to has loved it. It speaks for itself better than any of us can.

How about other Reiki practitioners? How do you think we can improve the quality and quantity of coverage about Reiki? Please join the discussion by clicking on the word "comments" immediately below this post.

Reiki Roundup:

We begin in Cleveland, Ohio, with a perfect example of what Claire is talking about, in this case in an article about Reiki for animals. An excerpt: "She explained that Karuna Reiki is a Reiki of compassion." Readers, if any of you hear of a form of Reiki that is not "of compassion," please alert us immediately by e-mailing to practitioner Gloria Grandel-Braun for making these points crystal clear to the reporter: "Reiki is not a religion, and it is not affiliated with any religion. And it is not a substitute for traditional medicine. It can, however, be used to complement traditional treatments."

The Orange County Register, where I once worked as a science and health reporter, mentions Reiki this week in an article about a mother dealing with the loss of her child. Brenda Paik Sunoo survived the death of her teenage son 12 years ago, as well as the December, 2004 tsunami in Thailand. She now lives in Hanoi, Vietnam, and is a Reiki practitioner as well as a grief counselor. A freelance writer, she is the author of Seaweed and Shamans: Inheriting the Gifts of Grief.

An article we featured in last week's digest about Reiki-practicing physician William DeMedio has spread far beyond its original home, The Philadelphia Inquirer, appearing in newspapers in Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, California, both North and South Carolina, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, and North (but not South) Dakota. Fortunately, that story is one of the more accurate ones we've seen lately.

In other news, Frans and Bronwen Stiene of The International House of Reiki have another podcast, this one on Reiki and Cancer -- I haven't heard it yet, so if you listen, please post a review here.


This week's celebrities are, alas, no longer among the living. Three of them -- heiresses Barbara Hutton and Doris Duke, and entertainer Danny Kaye -- reportedly received Reiki from Hawayo Takata herself, and all lived to a ripe old age. The fourth, John Denver, also is said to have received Reiki, but he didn't get to live as long due to a plane crash.

Note: Preliminary research has indicated that Wednesday is a better publication day than Saturday for The Reiki Digest, so our next issue will be published Wednesday, July 26, 2006. If you're already a subscriber, you'll receive the next edition as soon as it is published. If you're not a subscriber, but you'd like to be, just e-mail editor@thereikidigest.comwith the word "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line. If you want the full version, put the word "FULL" in the subject line OR body of the message, and if you prefer just a link, include the word "LINK."

Until our next edition, let's keep the discussion going. How do you think we can help Reiki move beyond "airy-fairy"?

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Reiki Digest for July 8, 2006: A Celebration of Nonlocality

Welcome to the second edition of The Reiki Digest!

If you're reading this by e-mail or RSS syndication, thanks for subscribing. If you'd like to subscribe, just send an e-mail to with the word SUBSCRIBE in the subject line.

If you're reading this on The Reiki Digest web site, you get not only the text but the graphics, including ads that have been carefully chosen for people interested in Reiki, ads that help keep this publication free of charge. If you find an ad here that seems inappropriate, please alert us by writing to and we'll filter it out. Web site readers also get to read the comments, and contribute to them. For example, Reiki Master Teacher Karen J. Gordon in Eugene, Oregon, has posted her own review of the Pamela Miles book, Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide, as a comment to the review I published here last week. All readers are invited to contribute to the discussion, even readers who aren't Reiki practitioners but might have a question about Reiki.

A Celebration of Nonlocality

In this edition, we'll travel through space and time as we consider a concept that puzzled Albert Einstein himself and still boggles minds today, a concept that is one of the pillars of Reiki: nonlocality. In Reiki, practitioners at the Second Degree level or above learn how to send Reiki across space and time, though we also learn to use discretion in talking about distance healing, since non-practitioners tend to raise eyebrows at the very notion. Those unfamiliar with the concept of nonlocality tend to dismiss it, and in the process dismiss Reiki and its practitioners as well.

Our first stop in the exploration of nonlocality is the year 1935, when physicists Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen introduced the EPR Paradox in a paper intended to prove that the description of reality in quantum mechanics was incomplete, since it seemed that according to quantum theory, a measurement performed on one subatomic particle could have an immediate effect on another, regardless of the distance between them. Subsequent experiments, however, confirmed the phenomenon of nonlocality, proving the non-local effect despite Einstein and colleagues' disbelief. Nonlocality is also known as quantum entanglement, or, in Einstein's words, "spooky action at a distance."

No matter where you are right now, no matter what time it is, your eyes may already have glazed over at all that quantum physics. Don't worry, you don't have to go back to school or even read all those links. Just remember, the next time you encounter someone who's skeptical about the use of Reiki at a distance, let that person know that Einstein found it confusing, too. And if you do want to learn more about it, there's a new book, The God Effect, by Brian Clegg, that explains it all in nonscientific language:

Our next stop is present-day Sydney, Australia, where Reiki Master Teachers Frans and Bronwen Stiene at the International House of Reiki have done at least two things I'd like to do someday: they've studied Reiki in Japan as well as the West, and they're offering a weekly Reiki podcast. This week's program takes us all the way to England for an interview with British Reiki Master Angie Buxton-King, the first person to bring Reiki and other energy healing into the hospitals of the United Kingdom's National Health Service, and author of the book The NHS Healer. The sound quality isn't the greatest, and I had to listen to the interview three times to make sure I heard it all, but if you have time, it's very interesting. Buxton-King explains what works, and what doesn't work, in the hospital setting. For example, while it's best to avoid off-the-body Reiki (too "airy-fairy"), it's sometimes difficult to work around IV tubes and respirators, so Reiki without touch can come in handy.

Next stop: Cleveland, Ohio, USA, where The Cleveland Plain Dealer interviews Reiki Master
Wendy Langenderfer for an article headlined Lessening the Pain of Cancer: "Studies show that such care alleviates physical and emotional pain. At the Center for Body, Mind & Spirit, participants charted their pain and stress after meditation, drumming and Reiki. In all three cases, more than 90 percent of the participants reported improvement."

On to Pennsylvania, where the Philadelphia Inquirer turned its attention to Reiki on July 3 with a feature headlined "Good energy for bad: Reiki, a Japanese practice of clearing away negative energy, is finding acceptance in U.S. medicine." Reiki-practicing physician William DeMedio gives reporter Dawn Fallik a demonstration, removing his stethoscope and white coat for the session.

Also in Pennsylvania, the Doylestown Patriot takes us to Serenity House, a hospice where Reiki and other modalities help the terminally ill and their caregivers.

In Stamford, Connecticut, Reiki is helping recovering cancer patients; cancer survivors in Waltham, Massachusetts, also find Reiki helps with stress.

In southern Maryland, horses are getting Reiki. In Burlington, Vermont, nuns of the Sisters of Mercy are teaching Reiki.

In Naples, Florida, the Sun-Times has a columnist who is, among other things, a Reiki Master.

And back in the UK, Greenwich resident and Reiki recipient Kevin Marques is celebrating the 20 years he's lived with HIV.


This week's Celeb-Reiki section also includes global travel:
Singaporean actress/model Jojo Struys is hosting a television series on wellness that will include Reiki, according to The Star newspaper in Malaysia. And in India, Israeli actor/director/musician Gil Alon tells an interviewer that he learned Reiki "for myself, not for healing others."

Stay tuned for another edition next week, and please don't be shy about commenting on this or any other post.