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Friday, March 27, 2009

US Catholic bishops group denounces Reiki

We had to hold the presses overnight for this week's edition of The Reiki Digest to bring you coverage of an important story that broke just as we were about to publish our email edition: The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committee on doctrine issued a ruling denouncing Reiki, calling it "not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence" and "therefore inappropriate for Catholic institutions."

You can read the full text of the ruling (in PDF) here.

It's breaking news, but this Reiki story has been developing for some time. Over the past few years, especially since Pope Benedict XVI replaced Pope John Paul II in 2005, various individuals in the Roman Catholic Church have made similar statements not only about Reiki, but yoga, acupuncture, and other modalities. Ironically, many Catholics, including nuns, have been practicing and teaching Reiki, often in Catholic institutions, for years. One of them, Sister Roseann Kasayka, Ph.D. and Reiki Master Teacher, of the Order of St. Francis, was the subject of the very first obituary in The Reiki Digest when she died in 2006. She was a pioneer in the field of geriatric care, and in December 2006, a different committee of the same organization that denounced Reiki this week dedicated a training conference to her memory in recognition of her contributions to the field

While Pope John Paul reached out to other religious and spiritual groups, Pope Benedict has been more confrontational, controversially criticizing other religions as well as science. Benedict has yet to make any statements on Reiki himself, at least not publicly. This week's ruling comes not from the Pope, but from the official leadership body of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.

The document speaks for itself and we recommend reading it in its entirety, but the key points are in the conclusion:

"For a Catholic to believe in Reiki therapy presents insoluble problems . . . a Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no-man's-land that is neither faith nor science . . . Since Reiki therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it would be inappropriate for Catholic institutions, such as Catholic health care facilities and retreat centers, or persons representing the Church, such as Catholic chaplains, to promote or to provide support for Reiki therapy."

The document cites some sources, including a few books about Reiki, but the major reference books on the subject are conspicuous by their absence.

We've been in touch with several Catholic Reiki practitioners since the ruling, but perhaps understandably, most declined to speak publicly about it. One of them wanted to spend some time in prayer before commenting, and others said they have no plans to abandon their Reiki practices because of the ruling. 

Dr. Olga Rodriguez Rasmussen of suburban Washington, D.C., a Catholic theologian who practices and teaches both Reiki and yoga, had this reaction:

"I read the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as Alternative Therapy with great interest - as a Catholic, a theologian, and as a practitioner of Reiki.

It is first of all, important to note that the operative word in this document is "guidelines." While everything in the document is consistent with traditional Catholic teaching, it does not carry the binding force of an Infallible Papal pronouncement or the weight of an Encyclical Letter. There is a hierarchy of importance that is accorded to documents that are released by the Vatican, and by local Conferences of Bishops.

There are many Catholic practitioners of Reiki, including religious women and priests, who have beautifully integrated the practice of Reiki in their healing ministry. I have had the pleasure of working with some of them who are deeply committed to their faith and their vocation. There are also a legion of individuals whose lives have been transformed by this practice.

Currently, there are many studies that are taking the practice and effects of Reiki under consideration. I for one, have humbly witnessed the healing of many of my Reiki clients - on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. In some cases, Reiki has helped some to die and reconciled them to their faith.

It is also important to note, that the Catholic Church has historically taught that each individual must ultimately respect the dictates of his or her informed conscience. Personally, I do not believe that the practice of Reiki is inconsistent with my own faith. I believe that God is revealed in many ways, and many practices - if one is but open to the Presence of the Divine in one's life.

The practice of Reiki has become very mainstream and I believe it will continue to flourish."

Olga Rodriguez Rasmussen, D.Min.

Thanks, Olga.

As our regular readers know, The Reiki Digest has made an effort to correct misinformation about Reiki since our founding nearly 3 years ago, and we feel obligated to do the same in making a few points about this controversial ruling. 

The ruling states that "Reiki is a technique of healing that was invented in Japan in the late 1800s by Mikao Usui" -- actually, Usui founded the system of Reiki in 1922.

It also states, "According to Reiki teaching, illness is caused by some kind of disruption or imbalance in one's 'life energy.' Perhaps some Reiki teachers say that, but so far none of the teachers we've encountered in three different Reiki master programs has put it quite that way. Instead, they made the point that in Reiki we do not diagnose. If we do not diagnose, then we don't claim to know where any illness comes from. That's not our job.

The document states: "Much of the literature on Reiki is filled with references to God, the Goddess, the 'divine healing power,' and the 'divine mind.' " We don't know what literature on Reiki the bishops are referring to as they do not cite a source, but, again, that's not what we learned from any of our teachers.

". . . Likewise, the various 'attunements' which the Reiki practitioner receives from a Reiki Master are accomplished through 'sacred ceremonies' that involve the manifestation and contemplation of certain 'sacred symbols' (which have traditionally been kept secret by Reiki Masters). Furthermore, Reiki is frequently described as a 'way of living,' with a list of five 'Reiki Precepts' stipulating proper ethical conduct," the document states.

First, sacred ceremonies are not exclusive to either Catholicism or Reiki, nor are they necessarily in conflict with them. For example, my daughter received her bachelor's from a major European university that was founded by a 14th-century Holy Roman emperor. Her studies began with a sacred (but not Roman Catholic) ceremony with some secret aspects, the same ceremony used to initiate students since the school was founded in 1348. Second, which, if any, of the Reiki Precepts is in conflict with the Roman Catholic Church?

For today only:
Do not anger,
Do not worry,
Be humble,
Be honest in your work,
Be compassionate to yourself and others.

The document further states that ". . . Reiki lacks scientific credibility. It has not been accepted by the scientific and medical communities as an effective therapy. Reputable scientific studies attesting to the efficacy of Reiki are lacking, as is a plausible scientific explanation as to how it could possibly be efficacious."

People used acetylsalicytic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin, for thousands of years before there was any "scientific explanation as to how it could possibly be efficacious." There is no record of the Catholic Church denouncing it before scientists found an explanation.

The document continues, "The explanation of the efficacy of Reiki depends entirely on a particular view of the world as permeated by this 'universal life enegy' (Reiki) that is subject to manipulation by human thought and will. . . for the Reiki practitioner the healing power is at human disposal." Again, that's not what my Reiki teachers taught me. On the contrary, they taught that the meditative techniques used in Reiki help us keep ourselves out of the way as much as possible when giving a treatment, and the better we get at using them, the less we interfere with the energy. 

Another point on which all my teachers have been in agreement is that Reiki is not a religion, and neither the practitioner nor the recipient need believe anything in order for it to work. 

From a scientific perspective, we can reasonably conclude that the e. coli bacteria who received Reiki in laboratory experiments had no belief in Reiki at all and no opinion as to whether it would help them.

More unfortunate misconceptions: The document claims that Reiki is ". . .a technique that once mastered will reliably produce the anticipated results." In the footnote on that sentence, the authors state, "Reiki Masters offer courses of training with various levels of advancement, services for which the teachers require significant financial remuneration. The pupil has the expectation and the Reiki Master gives the assurance that one's investment of time and money will allow one to master a technique that will predictably produce results." They do not cite a source for any of those claims, all of which are completely contrary not only to what I learned from my teachers, but what I paid them for my training.  I do not tell my students anything of the sort, nor do I require "significant financial remuneration." I have heard that members of the Reiki Alliance once had a standardized fee of $10,000 for Reiki master training, but if that is still practiced then it is the exception rather than the rule, and Alliance members are now greatly outnumbered by practitioners who are not part of that organization.

It appears that rather than doing comprehensive research or reaching out to request information from Reiki teachers and practitioners, whether Catholic or not, the bishops have created a straw man version of Reiki, then ruled against it. What a pity that a significant part of the ruling is based on misinformation.

Meanwhile, I am reminded of what a Reiki colleague of mine was told when she showed up for her regular volunteer shift at a local hospice. "The archbishop says no Reiki," she was told by a sympathetic nurse there, "So from now on, just call it Therapeutic Touch."

Readers, we invite your comments on this issue. Add them to this post (click on the word "comments" at the bottom of this post on our web site -- you don't have to log in, just scroll down in the comments window and type into the blank white rectangle. Or you can email your comments to

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mrs. Yamaguchi's legacy: Jikiden Reiki

Chiyoko Yamaguchi was only 17 years old when she learned Reiki. The year was 1938, the place was Daishoji, Ishikawa, Japan, and her teacher was Chujiro Hayashi, one of the original students of Reiki founder Mikao Usui. Many members of Mrs. Yamaguchi's family also practiced Reiki, and it was her uncle, by then authorized by Hayashi to teach, who trained and initiated her as a master. Mrs. Yamaguchi didn't start teaching Reiki until she was in her 70s. After she died in 2003 at the age of 82, her students, including her son Tadao, have continued her lineage, now known as Jikiden Reiki.

Amanda Jayne was one of Mrs. Yamaguchi's students, a neighbor during her four years living in Kyoto, and she now travels the world as a Jikiden Reiki teacher. On Wednesday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m., her travels will bring her to The Reiki Dojo in New York, where she will tell us about the origins of Reiki, Mrs. Yamaguchi's legacy, and show us rare photographs of Usui and Hayashi from the 1920s. 

Spaces are extremely limited and advance reservations are essential. For more information, email or call 917-512-1330. Admission is $20 for this special Reiki Dojo event.

Amanda's talk on Jikiden is only one of the special events coming up in The Reiki Dojo's First Annual Cherry Blossom Festival, which will take place April 15 to May 13 at various locations in the New York City area as well as online. As the cherry blossoms here begin to open, we'll be revealing more about the festivities. We'll be celebrating not only springtime, but the second anniversary of The Reiki Dojo and the third anniversary of The Reiki Digest.

The Reiki Dojo is the home base of The Reiki Digest. Both are divisions of Healing Movement LLC.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Cherry blossom time-lapse from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

(Note: This video has music, but no words.)

The weekly waka


As old fabric scraps
Sewn together become quilts,
So neighbors unite,
Becoming the foundation
Of human community.
(By Michael Dagley)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A great big Reiki Roundup

It's been a few weeks since our last Reiki Roundup, so this week we're getting caught up with a jumbo-sized roundup, and making it our lead article.

We begin in Washington, D.C., U.S.A., where politicians are looking everywhere they can to cut government programs due to the continuing economic crisis. This week it appears some of them are eyeing the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, urged on by some in the medical and scientific community. The Washington Post has jumped on the story not only on its news and feature pages, but the op-ed page as well. Reiki is mentioned in the news story as well as the op-ed piece.

And here's the op-ed piece: "Even 'Snake Oil' Can Help Patients Heal"

It's a legitimate story to cover, but this package doesn't seem to be up to the Post's usual standards. Anybody who's been a journalist for more than six months knows that studies come along all the time, and they often contradict each other, so citing a single study as evidence of anything is fairly meaningless. To claim that there is little evidence so far on acupuncture is either ethnocentrism, ignorance, or both: acupuncture has been practiced in the largest nation on earth for thousands of years, so evidence is in the eye of the beholder. 

Speaking of op-eds, in Schenectady, New York, an op-ed column in the Daily Gazette repeats the unfortunate misconception that complementary and alternative therapies and conventional western medicine are somehow mutually exclusive. That's why we prefer the term integrative medicine: nobody has to choose one or the other.

In nearby Coshocton, Ohio, an article in the Tribune is so vivid it's almost like a Reiki session in itself, despite the oft-repeated error of calling Reiki founder Mikao Usui "Dr."

In Lansing, Michigan, we find a Reiki practitioner who says, "Your body is like a car: it needs regular maintenance.

At, we find a scholarly article by Reiki practitioner Sarah Hews: Developing a model for complementary therapy for patients with cancer.

That's a lot of reading, and there's more to come in the supersize Celeb-Reiki Report that follows and the rest of this week's edition.

A Celeb-Reiki roundup

We have so many Celeb-Reikies this week that they get a Reiki Roundup all their own. To help us keep track, we'll put each name in bold

First up is Reiki Master and author Pamela Miles, pictured just to the right of designer and activist Donna Karan in a great group portrait spread across two pages of the April issue of Allure magazine. The photo goes with an article about Karan's new Urban Zen Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. Other familiar celebrity faces in the group include yoga teacher Rodney Yee and his wife, yoga teacher Colleen Saidman Yee. Miles, the Yees, and five other experts make up the Urban Zen faculty. 

Coincidentally, the other day I heard from a Reiki master colleague who's one of the Institute's first class of integrative therapists, and she was thrilled with the quality of the program and all she's learned so far. 

From Urban Zen we move on to the big screen, where the hit graphic novel Watchmen is now a hit movie. Malin Akerman, who plays Silk Spectre II, the lead female character, mentions Reiki in an interview with about the making of Watchmen. (Thanks to Marcus, a regular reader in California, for spotting that one.)

Our next Celeb-Reiki is also a star of the big screen, as well as the small screen: Bollywood and reality TV star Shilpa Shetty.

In her spare time, Shetty has co-founded a new Mumbai spa, Iosis, where one of the therapies available "will be Reiki, the holistic treatment that she finds very effective," according to a report at

More on what it means to be a master

For the past two weeks, we've been discussing what it means to be a master. This week, Marlene Schwartz contributes her thoughts on the subject:

I have been practicing Reiki for 3 years now. I am a master also. I agree with some others. Just that I am a Reiki master doesn't mean I have mastered it. There is always more work to be done. I use the term Master lightly. I go by a Reiki practitioner. Saying I am a Reiki Master does make me feel good for the accomplishments I have made. I just love working with my clients and the respones I get after a session. 

Marlene Schwartz

Thanks, Marlene.

Our other comment wasn't a reader submission, but a comment from famed Buddhist teacher Venerable Master Sheng Yen, who died last month in Taiwan at age 80. He earned the title of master many times over in multiple lineages, disciplines, and countries. Here's something he said a few years ago:

"I don't really need a Ph.D. in literature, or the post of professor, or the position of abbot, or the title "master." None of these is of any use to myself. But for the sake of Buddhism, and the spread of Buddhadharma, my doctorate is very useful, my position as a professor is very useful, and my being a master can be a driving force for many people. So these things are all useful. These things are unnecessary for me as an individual, but necessary for Buddhism. Therefore, they are not unnecessary." 

(From the television program Great Dharma Drum.)

If you'd like to add your thoughts to our discussion, add them as a comment to this post on our web site (you can do so anonymously if you want -- just scroll down past the login choices on the comment window and type your comments directly into the blank white field). Or you can email them to

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Reiki for horses

The weekly waka


As haze and moisture
On the horizon alter
White light at sunrise
Into glowing rainbow hues,
So desire distorts life.
(By Michael Dagley)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What it means to be a master: your responses

Last week, we asked, "What does it mean to be a master?" This week, our readers answer that question:

Hello Janet....

When I began my walk with Reiki, The Usui Method of Natural Healing, I was told that there were levels and the final level was Master Level. It was also stated that master was teacher and not to be confused with Mastery.

As the years have passed and my studies have deepened, and my understanding of The Usui Method or System of Natural Healing have gone beyond the teachings I have received....and I begin to find it easier and easier to get to "that place," that oneness, and begin to understand this incredible gift.

I dont really care if anyone calls me master, teacher, preacher, sensei or fool. I know where I am with Reiki and what Reiki has done for me, mentally, spiritually and physically. And I have seen the power of the Ki not only in my personal life but in the healings of my clients. I will never say, or think, that I have mastered Reiki.

I have my Masters in Plant and Soil Sciences. I have not mastered that either, but it means that I have studied and gained understanding and knowledge of said science.

I have gained understanding and knowledge of The Usui Method of Natural Healing: Reiki. Thanks to that knowledge and understanding, some taught and a lot learned from working with the Ki, I am still alive today. (I had to Reiki myself before I could call 911)

To Be Master or not to Be Master: that is the question -- 
or marketing?

In my heart and mind, I know when I say "Reiki Master" I understand that it mearly means "Reiki Teacher" and I have had reikimaster.michael as an email address for a long time and I don't plan to change it.

I guess it all boils down to what you are comfortable with, and your degree of understanding and knowledge. The biggest thing when it comes right down to it: Just do it. Just do it. Just do Reiki.

Remember the Precepts. Speak them daily: morning and night. 

Be Well,


Rose De Dan wrote:

When I first became a Reiki Master in 1997 the title was one that was respected by many in the community as well as outside, and there were not many of us.

Not long after I completed my Master training, I was in Chi Gung class where I was among 50 other students, and our very respected instructor singled me out and introduced me as the sole Reiki Master present. He spoke briefly about the practice of Reiki, and BOWED to me! As a relatively new Reiki Master I was stunned to be accorded such respect.

One year later Reiki had gained in popularity, and with popularity there was a definite downgrade in the quality of instruction offered by some teachers.

Two years later the term "Reki Master" had begun to be a term of derision, denoting someone who was "New Age" and foo-foo, and not well trained or grounded in energy healing.

Myself, I prefer the term "Reiki Master Teacher" as more aptly describing my role. I tell my students that no one masters Reiki, rather one is mastered by it.

Rose De Dan
Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC

Kimberly Fleischer wrote:

I have to say I agree with most Reiki Master's who are uncomfortable with the title, because of the possible implication that we have mastered the art of reiki.
From what I understand even Usui never claimed to be a Master of Reiki.

At the same time, I have often speculated on how the term came to be.... and what was the intention behind it's selection? I wonder if perhaps Takata chose the title of Master in an attempt to give reiki teachers and practitioners a degree of credit that otherwise may not have been implied. Most of us have heard that Takata did other things to make reiki more embraceable (who hasn't heard the many stories of Usui and Reiki's founding?) In Takata's time the term master could have been used in two ways - from the eastern perspective that we've all heard so much about, AND from the western perspective, to the graduate of a an advanced collegiate degree. I.e, I have a Masters in Education , Business, etc... In both ways the term does imply a degree of achievement.
From the western perspective I believe that although the term Master does imply an achievement, it does not necessarily imply mastery. How many friends or family members do you have who have Master's degrees who would not consider themselves masters of their craft or profession?
Yet no one is arguing that we throw away that title.

I am not saying that the term Master is fitting. I am saying that I have made a certain peace with it. I use it because it is what we have. Many people (including potential employers) understand that Master means that a person has achieved a certain degree of learning, and/or the ability to teach. So even though I may not like the title, I use it because it enables people to classify me. Maybe it is best for us to throw it out and find a whole new term, I'm not really sure. For now I think of my own Reiki Mastery as the commitment towards revealing the inner master in me, the commitment of walking the reiki path, and all that path entails. : )

- Kim Fleisher, RMT, M.Ed, Director of The Reiki School and Clinic in Philadelphia

And Scotto-san wrote:

My opinion on being a (Reiki) Master

If you think you are infallible, you are fallible.
If you think have mastered something, you have not mastered it.
If you think you are a Reiki Master, you.......................


Thanks to all our contributors this week. Let's keep the discussion going: What does the term "Reiki Master" mean to you? Contribute your thoughts by adding a comment to this post on our web site (you can do so anonymously if you want), or by emailing 

Book Review: The Art of Extreme Self-Care

By Janet Dagley Dagley

The minute I saw the title of Cheryl Richardson's latest book, I knew I had to review it here. After all, self-care is the foundation of Reiki practice: if we don't take care of ourselves, how can we be helpful to others? While Ms. Richardson may not be a Reiki practitioner herself, she's a well-established expert on self-care, as her appearances on Oprah as well as the bestseller list demonstrate.

The book arrived in my mailbox at the perfect time: I was down with the flu in midwinter, worn down from weeks of caretaking during a severe flare-up of my husband's chronic illness. I was in dire need of some extreme self-care. 

I was surprised when I opened the mailing carton: it looked like a coffee-table book: large, flat, colorful. Ms. Richardson sits smiling on the cover, impeccably coiffed, wrapped in a big comfy sweater, a beautiful, deserted beach in the background. I gazed longingly at the beach -- and the sweater, for that matter -- and then came back to reality, put the book down on my desk and went back to my chores. 

I got over the flu in a couple of days, but my husband's illness dragged on for weeks. As I dealt with more urgent matters, the book sat there amid a pile of waiting tasks, Ms. Richardson smiling up at me, the beach beckoning. She seemed to be urging me to look after myself, and I appreciated the reminder even if I didn't have time to open the book. The fact that I've been preaching the importance of self-care to my readers here for several years was a reminder, too, and I did manage to keep my personal daily Reiki practice going, albeit in truncated form. But the accumulated stress left me needing my personal practice and other forms of self-care all the more. At times Ms. Richardson's smiling face and that inviting beach seemed to be taunting me. Sure, she's an expert on self-care, I thought. But is she an expert on keeping that going in trying times?

Indeed she is, as I discovered once I finally got past the cover and began reading. ". . . Once I signed on to write about Extreme Self-Care, my husband got very sick. . . " -- I could certainly identify -- "Not only was I running a company, hosting a weekly radio show, traveling to speaking engagements, but we were also in the final stages of building our dream home. . . ." 

That was the second paragraph -- and I was hooked. Ms. Richardson had clearly established her credibility. From there, I zoomed eagerly through the book. It's a quick read, but the book is intended to last the reader for a whole year. Each chapter is an assignment in personal transformation that takes a month to complete. I confess that I skipped ahead and began trying several of those techniques at once. I'm glad I did, because they came in handy right away. 

Active Reiki practitioners will be familiar with some of the topics, such as letting go of anger and worry, staying in the present, and creating sacred space. So for us, going through these exercises can itself be a form of Reiki practice.

If you're not in the habit of taking care of yourself, some of the chapters in this book might seem difficult, frivolous, or both. Learning to do something positive each time you look in the mirror, rather than just focusing on your own superficial flaws, can feel awkward at first. And to the chronic caregiver, it might even seem counterintuitive that sometimes the best way to get more of what you need is to let other people have their way. Ms. Richardson's example of that is, of course, from personal experience: she discovered that her husband could load the dishwasher without her help, once she stopped telling him how to arrange the dishes. 

The final chapter, Your Extreme Self-Care First-Aid Kit, is for those who find themselves in situations such as the one Ms. Richardson found herself in when she began writing the book. She had to clear what she could from her calendar, even delay the book project, to take care of her husband. She had to not only accept help from others, she had to ask for it. And then, in the midst of all that, she had a health scare of her own to deal with, and practicing what she preaches helped her get through it.

So if you're among those who take better care of others than you do of yourself, this book can be the perfect complement to your daily Reiki practice. It works best when you work with it and do all the exercises in real time, but in a pinch, even a glimpse of the cover might help. Maybe that's why they made it a coffee-table book.

Movie about Reiki draws praise in India

This week the Celeb-Reiki honor goes to two people, both part of a movie about Reiki that just debuted in India. Reiki Master Teacher Anubha Sharma of Bahrain wrote and directed the film, produced with the assistance of the Information and Broadcast Ministry of India. And Om Sharma (don't know if they're related), a retired bank executive, plays Reiki founder Mikao Usui, unfortunately referred to as "Dr. Usui" in the film. The film was shot on location in Bahrain and Mumbai.

A letter from a Celeb-Reiki, and a correction

Last week's Celeb-Reiki, cancer survivor, Reiki Master, sailor and future circumnavigator Gordon Brown of Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts, got in touch with us not only to say thanks for the honor, but to correct the record:
Hi Janet,

A reader sent me the link to your digest, I didn't know I was mentioned in it, thank you. This was the article about dealing with the cancer myself and leading a fleet of cancer survivors arond the world. (I think it was last Thursday)

I do feel compelled to clear up one thing that got jumbled around in the information chain. I have been a master teacher for ten years now, I was diagnosed with the cancer last year. Naturally the first reaction to cancer is "Get it out of me!!"

Well it is easy enough to walk the talk when the stakes are small, I did speak with a couple of doctors about this and none of the options were acceptable so I decided to fix it myself. If it is an easy fix for them it should be easy for me.

I have been a part of what I consider miracles several times over the past decade and I expect this to be a pretty cool outcome too. It will be an honor to keep you posted on our victory lap if you like.

Keep up the good stuff

Thanks, Gordon. We wish you continued good health and success in your planned journey around the world. Please do keep us posted.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The weekly waka

a swirling black tide
unsettling, settling
hundreds of blackbirds
anarchistic harbingers
let robins take the credit
(By Beth Lowell)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

What does it mean to be a master?

What does it mean to be a Reiki Master? Or any other kind of master, for that matter. Is there even such a thing as mastery?

The question came to mind for us when we read the requirements for membership in a new Reiki organization, Shibumi. The group specifies the terminology that its members may use, and "Reiki Master" is not one of the accepted terms:

"The term Reiki Master is not utilized by Shibumi members due to the understanding that one does not master Reiki (spiritual energy)."

But is that the case only with Reiki? Or can anything be truly mastered? If nothing can be mastered, then when, if ever, is it appropriate to use the term "master"? 

It's true that "Reiki Master" can be a somewhat nebulous term, since there is no standardization or regulation. The quickest, cheapest way to call yourself a certified Reiki Master is to go to your computer, design a certificate with your name on it and print it out. Or if you don't want to print your own, you can buy a Reiki Master certificate online for as little as a few dollars. That won't get you any training or experience, but no one can stop you from calling yourself a Reiki Master. If you'd rather take it seriously enough to get a certificate from a Reiki teacher, you can spend anywhere from a few hours to several years, and anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 (or equivalent) for your training. As we search the world for news about Reiki each week, we see more and more ads for online attunements, training, and certification, so you might not even have to leave your home to get a certificate. Of course, there are also ads for cheap online bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D.s as well, but that doesn't make them a substitute for studying at a university.

Having studied for a year myself to become a Reiki Master in one lineage, and then followed up with training in two other lineages, one of which is that of the founders of Shibumi, I admit that I wish the term hadn't been devalued by eBay certificates and online attunements. But for me, the certificate and the title aren't really the point. It's what I did to earn them that really matters. Being a Reiki Master, or a university graduate, isn't about a piece of paper. It's what you do with it that counts.

I was taught that in the traditional Japanese lineages of Reiki, earning a certificate didn't mean a student had completed a particular level. Rather, it meant that you've begun working at that level. I began working with Reiki at the master level several years ago, and I don't expect I'll ever reach the point where I mark that task as "done" and file it away. Reiki is a practice: for me, an everyday practice that will never be completed. Of course, I also feel that way about writing, yoga, qigong, cooking, or any other practice. 

In my first Reiki Master program, the reading list included a book on the subject: Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard, an aikido practitioner. I've lost track of the number of times I've read it, and recommend it to you. Leonard sees mastery as an ongoing journey, not a fait accompli -- or as we Americans say, mission accomplished.

Reiki Masters, teachers, students, and practitioners of the world, what do you think? Add your comments to this post on our web site (just click on the word "comments") or email them to

Roots, Branches and Sky, a review of The Completely Revised Edition of The Reiki Sourcebook

By Beth Lowell

The very reason for the first edition of The Reiki Sourcebook’s wide success is also the reason for the new revised edition – its timeliness. Recognizing the rapid changes that have taken place in the world of Reiki during the past few short years since the book’s original publication, authors and founders of the International House of Reiki, Bronwen and Frans Stiene, have undertaken the Herculean task of revising what has been called the most comprehensive book about Reiki ever published.

Just as the idea behind the original book was to gather currently available information about Reiki rather than including new information about it, the revised version continues in this vein, expanding further on Reiki’s origins and history to explain how it got to where it is today, that is, a single system that sprang from one man’s vision less than 100 years ago in Japan that through time and circumstance has been changed, added to and reinvented into countless variations and branches.

The new version digs a bit deeper under the surface to get to the heart of the practice, and the book has been well reorganized to accommodate this expanded information. To understand Reiki, one must also understand the world of its creator. By learning about the culture and times of Reiki’s founder, Mikao Usui, a Buddhist monk of samurai descent, readers get an insight into the influences that shaped such a system. It’s much easier, for instance, to comprehend Usui’s revelation on Mount Kurama when one takes into account the complexities, influences and practices of Japanese Buddhism and martial arts as opposed to the distilled history commonly taught in some Reiki classes today: A man named Usui climbed a mountain and had a vision.

In the revised edition, readers get a closer look at what lies beneath the intellectual principles behind elements like mantras, symbols, and reiju, which as the Stienes state, brings a rational, rather than superstitious understanding of their uses and purpose. It is this de-mystification of Reiki that is needed right now in order to push it forward in a way that more people both within the Reiki community and those outside it can understand and accept.

Part of the importance of the section on Reiki’s past, too, is to give the reader not only details about the system as Usui taught it, but also to show how that information and information about Usui himself got slightly changed as his students passed the system on to their students, who then went on to develop their own branches of Reiki, modifying it yet again in an attempt to make it better, stronger, or suit the times, often incorporating ideas from different popular philosophies. These are the many, many Reiki branches of today, described at length in the new ‘Reiki Present’ section of the book.

The Reiki Sourcebook is still jam-packed with the comprehensive information that readers appreciated in the first version, not the least of which includes Japanese customs and etiquette, a brief section on kanji, traditional and non-traditional Reiki techniques, Reiki resources, an extensive glossary, and a translation of the inscription on Usui’s memorial stone. But new information in both the Reiki Past section of the book and also in what is the shortest, but by no means the least important section, Reiki Future, will be important to owners of the first version and new readers alike. Herein lies the crux of its purpose – to call on Reiki practitioners to realize that the path or ‘Do’ of Reiki is not separate from one’s life, and that the commitment of Reiki practitioners worldwide to it as a lifestyle will shape the evolution not only of Reiki, but also of the planet.

Reiki is at the cusp of something greater as practitioners seek and find answers to some of their long-standing questions about the practice. As more information becomes available about Reiki’s past, its practitioners gain more support in their work. This newfound knowledge allows them to evolve, developing a more grounded practice, based on the system’s original foundation.

As The Reiki Sourcebook notes, cohesiveness among the community is growing through dedication of practice, through finding common roots, and through open communication. Part of this cohesiveness is due to the Reiki Sourcebook itself. Having access to the most recent and detailed information is an invaluable tool and makes the addition of this book to any Reiki practitioner’s library – whether they own the original version or not – a must.

This coming together of the Reiki community serves only to improve the perception of Reiki, and with this stronger perception comes the possibility for Reiki to one day find its rightful place among other time honored practices like qigong, yoga and tai chi.

Thanks to this book, I know that day will be here soon.

Celeb-Reiki prepares to set sail

We find this week's Celeb-Reiki in Buzzard's Bay, Massachusetts, USA, where he's just begun to make headlines. He may not be so easy to find in a few months, when he's scheduled to set off on a quest to sail around the world. But we expect the headlines he made in the Cape Cod Times won't be his last.

In the course of his battle with cancer, Brown discovered Reiki and is now a Reiki teacher. Now that the cancer is in remission and the boat is nearly ready to go, he plans not only to achieve his personal dream, but lead a flotilla of cancer survivors around the world. The journey is expected to take about two years.

Thanks for the tips!

Last month, after more than two years of publishing this free weekly publication, we finally took the long overdue step of adding a "Donate" button (there in the left-hand column) to give our readers a chance to support The Reiki Digest in a tangible way. We're happy to announce that the first donations became coming in this week. Thank you! One donor even suggested we call attention to the Donate button just in case readers haven't noticed it.

We also thank our advertisers for their continued support. 

Several readers have contacted us to ask about becoming advertisers, and we are planning a new service to accommodate ads from individual practitioners. Stay tuned for an announcement about that in the next few weeks, and thanks for your patience.

Our online tip jar is open 24/7, and donations of any amount are appreciated. 

Publish a Reiki newsletter? Let us Digest it!

Each week we search through hundreds of news articles, blog posts, and other information (and some misinformation) about Reiki all over the world. With an increasing number of Reiki teachers and practitioners publishing newsletters, we'd like to add some of those to the mix. 

So if you publish a Reiki newsletter and you'd be willing to let us include it in the raw material we sift through for The Reiki Digest, let us know by emailing We can't guarantee that you'll get a mention in the Digest, but you might.

All styles, lineages, and specialties welcome.

Comments on CPR and hand-washing

Registered nurse and Reiki Master Teacher Lilia Marquez in New York City sent in these comments in response to last week's item on the value of learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation:

Hi Janet :-)

Few comments :
1. It's great that you mentioned about the value of CPR, as a Critical Care Nurse working primarily in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit for more than 20 years, learning Basic Cardiac Life Support(BCLS) is highly recommended. If any Reiki practitioner is interested in learning Basic Cardiac Life Support, I highly recommend training at Emergency Care Institute (Bellevue Hospital Center) Phone # 212 562-6561, February is actually The Heart Month, learning Basic Cardiac Life Support (BCLS) is a great gift that an individual should consider to learn to save lives.

2. As to using Reiki in emergency situation, it's a MUST to call 911 first. Every minute wasted means death to heart muscle/brain. As a Critical Care and Holistic Nurse, I feel very blessed to have the best of both worlds. Reiki is a blessing and I feel very blessed to have the gift of Reiki. Reiki is one the healing modality that I am passionate about.

I will quote Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei:
"Reiki energy will flow of its own accord (You cannot direct or manipulate it).
No conscious focusing (a mind concentration) is necessary." In my experience, I know that Reiki is flowing anywhere, anytime and being directed to whoever needs it the most.

3. I can't emphasize enough the importance of handwashing and/or use of hand gels in between clients/Reiki practitioners.

I hope you'll share this comments to the rest of your readers.

Love and light,

Thanks, Lilia. Her comments came to us with a background of rainbow hues -- unfortunately that couldn't be reproduced here.

That's a good point about hand-washing. I know many Reiki practitioners use hand gels between clients. And since I'm allergic to most perfumes (aah-choo!), I recommend unscented gels. The Mayo Clinic has some good advice on proper hand-washing technique, including (optional) singing to make sure you wash long enough.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The weekly waka


Mastery exists
not in the past or future,
but in the moment:
The journey of a lifetime
begins anew with each breath.

(By Janet Dagley Dagley)