Reiki Training

Let your Reiki hands teach you – Hawayo Takata

Reiki training teaches us how to learn Reiki. The Reiki master teaches us how to practice, and our practice teaches us Reiki. The more we practice, the deeper our understanding, respect, and love for this gentle, powerful healing practice. It is almost a technique-less technique, yet there is a subtle art to it, and significant discipline required to do less. Conviction in the effectiveness of the technique develops as the student practices over a long period of time. Students acquire the courage to do less as they witness the wide-ranging benefits of Reiki over time. As the practitioner becomes inwardly quieter, the ability to carry Reiki is enhanced.

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

Takata taught 3 levels of Reiki practice. Each level functions in a specific way:

First degree – hands-on healing

Second degree – distant healing

Reiki master – initiation and training of students to practice Reiki

Traditionally, First and Second degree training is usually given in group meetings with approximately 10 hours of class time. Reiki master training is an apprenticeship of at least a year. It is advisable to practice First degree Reiki on oneself daily for a minimum of 3 months before learning Second degree, and to practice Reiki 3-10 years before becoming a Reiki master.

Who can learn Reiki?

Anyone who has the interest can learn First degree Reiki, regardless of the age, state of health, intelligence or education. I have 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-treatment can provide great emotional and physical comfort, lessen side effects, and speed healing. Training students in unusual or challenging situations may require the expertise of a seasoned Reiki master who can be true to the system and flexible enough to work within limitations.


Reiki initiations are the core of Reiki training. They are the source of the defining characteristics of Reiki practice-ease, safety, and efficacy of self-treatment. The initiations extend the Reiki practitioner’s inner reach beyond his/her own limited vibrational field so that healing vibrations arise directly from unlimited, nonlocal consciousness. Initiation is the reason Reiki can be practiced so easily and safely, and why even those who are seriously ill can benefit from Reiki self-treatment. I have trained many students in First degree Reiki who were so debilitated with AIDS or cancer or both that they doubted they could sit through the training. Each one felt 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 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

As translated by Hyakuten Inamoto

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 that 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 wellbeing 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. Usui considered the precepts an integral part of the practice.

I have seen many people with life-threatening illness learn the First degree and receive great benefit from their daily Reiki practice. It is far more beneficial to practice daily at the First degree than to take Second degree training and use it occasionally. Daily self-treatment for at least three months is recommended before studying Second degree.

Hand Positions

The traditional placement of hands for Reiki treatment follows the Asian medical paradigm, 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 offer Reiki mentally when touch is impossible or inappropriate. This is referred to as distant healing. The Second degree technique uses symbols in a way similar to the way Taoist healers traditionally use talismanic healing images.

Second degree moves healing out of the linear First degree experience of hands-on/Reiki on and hands-off/Reiki off. 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. It cannot, however, be used to create specific results. As in First degree, the practitioner can only offer the Reiki connection; we can never direct Reiki to accomplish our goals.

Many psychiatrists and psychotherapists feel 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 seed vibrations 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, that effort is daily self-treatment, which is in turn supported by contemplation and mindfulness of the Precepts.

Becoming a Reiki master is a choice to commit oneself to being a custodian of this conscious vibration. The Reiki master’s calling is specifically to initiate others into Reiki 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 class.

Reiki masters who initiate master students with only a few hours of training clearly have a different understanding of mastership than those who train apprentices. Reiki master candidates, and indeed Reiki students at all levels, must decide for themselves which approach 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 only; they do not prepare students for professional clinical practice. The clinical skills of creating and honoring a therapeutic relationship with a client must be acquired outside the parameters of traditional Reiki training. Those who wish to collaborate with medical caregivers will also need a basic understanding of the scientific paradigm and medical procedures and protocols, including writing case notes.

At all levels of practice, Reiki develops through self-treatment. As we continue our practice, our Reiki hands continue to teach us. This does not preclude the need for treatment from another. Many practitioners have Reiki buddies with whom they share treatments, or return for treatment from their Reiki master as desired.

Avatar Written by Pamela Miles

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