Reiki Training

Let your Reiki hands teach you – Hawayo Takata

Reiki training teaches you how to practice Reiki on yourself, family, friends and pets. Once your Reiki master teaches you how to practice, you’ll continue to benefit through your observed, contemplated daily self practice. The more you practice, the deeper your understanding, respect, and love for this gentle, effective spiritual practice will become.

Reiki is an almost technique-less practice, yet there is a subtle art to it. It takes discipline at first to self practice daily, but soon the obvious benefits will motivate you to continue your daily Reiki self care. Unlike in other endeavors, in which a lot of effort might be needed, Reiki practice invites us to do less, to merely place hands mindfully, and then enjoy.

Students gain the courage to do less as they see the wide-ranging benefits Reiki practice brings on its own, and your conviction in the effectiveness of your Reiki practice will grow as you continue practicing daily over a period of time. The simplicity of Reiki practice makes it easy to practice even in the busiest of times, and the support you feel from even a few minutes of Reiki practice as you wake up can significantly improve your day.

When nothing is done, nothing is left undone – Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching.

Reiki founder Mikao Usui organized Reiki practice into 3 distinct levels, called degrees. Each degree practice functions in a specific way:

First degree – hands-on healing (or just off the body, as needed)

Second degree – distant non-touch healing

Reiki master – initiation and training of students to practice Reiki

Traditionally, First and Second degree training is given in group meetings with approximately 10 hours of class time. Reiki master training is an apprenticeship of a year or longer, according to the individual student’s needs. It’s advisable to practice First degree Reiki on oneself daily for a minimum of 6 months before learning Second degree, and to practice Reiki 3-10 years before becoming a Reiki master.

Who can learn Reiki?

Anyone who wants to can learn First degree Reiki, regardless their state of health, intelligence or education. Children aged three or four can also learn to practice, depending on their interest and the skill of the teacher.

I’ve trained people with serious or chronic conditions such as cancer, HIV, Lyme, pneumonia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, injuries and post-operative healing, heart disease, arthritis, chronic pain syndromes, insomnia, headache disorders, infertility, back pain, mild and severe emotional instabilities, various women’s disorders, allergies, asthma, and auto-immune diseases. When invasive treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery are needed, Reiki self-practice provides profound emotional and physical comfort, lessens side effects, and speeds the natural process of healing. Training students in unusual or challenging situations is best done by a seasoned Reiki master who is flexible enough to work within limitations while remaining true to the system of Reiki practice.


Initiation is a gentle, time-honored way that master teachers empower students in various practices. Reiki initiations are the core of Reiki training and the source of the defining characteristics of Reiki practice—ease, safety, and effectiveness of self-practice. I’ve trained many First Degree Reiki students who were so debilitated with AIDS or cancer or both that they doubted they could sit through the training. Each one experienced benefit during the first class. Initiations are sometimes called empowerments or attunements. Takata gave four initiations in the First degree training, one for Second degree, and one for master level.

Since the value of initiation and practice is not well understood in Western culture, students often approach the trainings with a consumerist more-is-better mentality, assuming that since the initiations take only moments to enact, they can be crammed into short sessions. It takes moments to become pregnant, but months for the fetus to develop before it can be born. And still, the baby must be well cared for over a long period of time if he is to develop healthfully. So it is with initiation. It can happen in a moment, but the fruits take time to develop, and require on-going practice to blossom into maturity.

First Degree Reiki

First degree is the entry to Reiki practice, in which students are empowered to offer Reiki by gently placing hands. First degree Reiki is easily learned, and suitable for people of any age and at any level of emotional or physical health who have the interest. Hawayo Takata famously said, “First yourself.” Reiki training starts with self-treatment, and self-treatment remains foundational to the continuing development of a Reiki practitioner at every level, including professionals.

Takata gave four initiations in First degree training. In the First degree classes, students are introduced to the concepts of subtle healing, trained in both abbreviated and full treatments, and given the history and the Precepts. Students begin practicing Reiki on themselves in the first meeting.

Precepts of Mikao Usui

Today only

Do not anger

Do not worry

With thankfulness

Work diligently

Be kind to others

The precepts were a vital part of Usui’s system, and he advised his students to recite them during Reiki practice. The precepts offer non-dogmatic contemplations to guide outer behavior and inner intention. Usui called them “the secret of inviting happiness through many blessings, the spiritual medicine for all illness.” Like the great teachings of all true paths, the precepts are timeless, as conducive to well-being in today’s world as they were in Usui’s time. Reciting the precepts at the beginning and end of each day, continually contemplating their meaning, and expressing them through one’s conduct creates a powerful structure to support one’s Reiki practice.

Even people with life-threatening illness can learn First Degree Reiki practice and benefit greatly from daily Reiki practice. It’s far more beneficial to practice First Degree Reiki daily than to take Second Degree training and use it occasionally. Daily self-treatment for at least six months is recommended before studying Second Degree.

Hand Positions

The traditional placement of hands for Reiki treatment follows the location of the glands and organs, treating the head and front and back of the torso to affect healing throughout the system. In addition, hands can be placed anywhere there is pain or injury, but this may be unnecessary after the core Reiki placements.

Second Degree Reiki

Second Degree training enables students to practice Reiki mentally when touch is impossible or inappropriate. This is referred to as distant or remote practice. The Second Degree technique uses symbols in a way similar to how Taoist healers traditionally use talismanic healing images.

Second Degree extends your ability to practice Reiki beyond First Degree touch or proximity. Second Degree can be used to offer distant healing to individuals, as well as to heal relationships, enhance problem-solving, uplift tense situations, defuse enmity, inspire collaboration, and empower spiritual self-inquiry. As with First Degree practice, Second Degree cannot be used to create specific results. At all levels of Reiki practice, the practitioner can only offer, never direct the practice to accomplish specific goals.

Many psychiatrists and psychotherapists recognize touch is outside their scope of practice, and use the Second Degree to augment the power of healing available during their sessions. Second Degree can be particularly useful for professionals serving the mentally ill or rape or trauma victims who may prefer not to be touched.

Reiki Master Training

There is great diversity of opinion regarding all Reiki training, but particularly at the master level. Many students seek the master initiation for their own purposes, without any intention to teach, motivated by the misunderstanding that an “advanced” initiation is a fast path to higher attainment. It may be clarifying to liken the process of Reiki training to that of gardening. Initiations break ground within our being, sowing seeds whose germination is shaped by both the qualities of the inner landscape at the time of initiation (rocky, sandy, acidic, hard, etc.) and by the loving effort by which the seed is tended. In Reiki practice, that effort is daily self-practice, which is in turn supported by contemplation and mindfulness of the Reiki precepts.

Becoming a Reiki master is a choice to commit oneself to being a custodian of this practice. The Reiki master’s calling is specifically to initiate others into Reiki practice, to teach them to practice and to support their development. Therefore Reiki master training is best given through an apprenticeship, an extended relationship between the initiating Reiki master and the candidate, rather than a one-and-done class.

Reiki masters who initiate master students with only a few hours of training clearly have a different understanding of being a Reiki master than those who train as apprentices. Reiki master candidates, and indeed Reiki students at all levels, must decide for themselves which approach seems reasonable and best reflects their values and goals. The accessibility of First Degree practice was designed to encourage self-treatment. It was never intended as a foundation for instant mastership.

Professional Practice

All three levels of Reiki training provide instruction in Reiki practice only; they do not prepare students for professional clinical practice. There are many aspects to professional Reiki practice that aren’t part of home Reiki practice. For example, given that Reiki professionals are small business owners, you need business skills, such as bookkeeping, time-management, and marketing (getting the word out about your business). Plumbers, accountants and doctors don’t have to explain to people what they do; those are well established services that people understand the need for. The mainstream public, however, is largely unaware of Reiki practice and usually not interested in the New Age jargon that is often wrapped around it. To appeal to the mainstream public, Reiki professionals need to describe Reiki practice in clear, credible language which may not be how they were taught. Practicing Reiki is easy; communicating Reiki is an entirely different skill.

The clinical skills of creating, nurturing and honoring a therapeutic relationship with a client must be acquired outside the parameters of traditional Reiki training. Those who wish to collaborate with licensed medical professionals in conventional settings can prepare themselves by learning the scientific paradigm, and medical culture and protocols, such as writing case notes.

At all levels of practice, Reiki develops through self-practice. As we continue our practice, our Reiki hands continue to teach us. We also learn from receiving and offering treatment to others. Many practitioners have Reiki buddies with whom they share treatments, or return for treatment from their Reiki master as desired.

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Written by Pamela Miles

Explore Wellness in 2021