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Reiki - Hands-on Healing for Body, Mind and Spirit

by Sharon Baylis(more info)

listed in reiki, originally published in issue 104 - October 2004

I was first introduced to Reiki some eight years ago, sitting in the hairdressers having a cut and blow dry. It was one of those idle 'what did you do at the weekend?' conversations, but my stylist's reply took me by surprise: "I've just had one of the best weekends of my entire life," she said.

Sex, drugs, rock and roll? I wondered. Turns out she'd just learnt Reiki. I'd seen the small ads in the back of magazines like this one and I'd noticed books in the mind/body/spirit sections of my local bookstore, but I had no real idea what Reiki was. So I was quite surprised to hear myself say, in tones of absolute certainty, "That's what I want." I've only ever done that once before, about the man I went on to marry (twentieth wedding anniversary just passed) so I knew I should pay attention.

I went straight home and called the Reiki master whose number I'd been given. He suggested that before I commit to learning, I should receive a treatment myself and find out if Reiki was, indeed, for me. My hairdresser, eager to practise her new skills, agreed to treat me after the salon closed. Ninety minutes later, feeling profoundly relaxed and blissfully at peace with myself and my life, I knew that I'd finally found what I hadn't even been aware I was looking for. I'd come home to Reiki.

Ask anyone who practises Reiki and I bet they'll be able to tell you just how and when Reiki found them. Because that's exactly what it feels like.

Reiki - Hands-On Healing


Like Water to a Plant

Reiki (pronounced ray-key) is a Japanese word meaning universal energy or spiritually guided life force (rather like the Chinese word Qi or the Indian word Prana). It's also the name given to a system of natural hands-on healing for the body, mind and spirit.

Reiki energy flows through the hands of the person giving Reiki to the person receiving treatment, stimulating the body's own natural healing process, relieving physical aches and pains, lifting depression, dissolving stress and bringing a deep and lasting sense of peace and relaxation. In the same way that a plant takes up water, the energy is absorbed wherever it's needed, going straight to the source of any problem in a completely natural and nourishing way, without the need for diagnosis or interference.

Treatment is totally safe and non-invasive and can be used with absolute security alongside other therapies, including conventional medicine. People of any age, from the very old to the very young, and with any condition, from pregnancy to Alzheimer's, can benefit. Plants and animals also respond well to treatment, so the effect is clearly not 'just in the mind'.


One of the most ancient healing methods known to man, Reiki was re-discovered at the end of the nineteenth century by a Japanese college professor, Dr Mikao Usui. He studied, travelled and meditated extensively, evolving the system of healing that is now taught around the world as Usui Shiki Ryoho (the Usui System of Natural Healing).

Reiki came out of Japan and into the west in 1937, in the hands of a diminutive Japanese woman called Hawayo Takata. Born in Hawaii in 1900, Mrs Takata was a young widow with two small daughters and a host of health problems when she travelled to Tokyo for surgery. Here she was introduced to Reiki – and the surgery became unnecessary. She worked closely with Dr Usui's successor, Dr Chujiro Hyashi, was initiated as a Reiki Master and, for the next forty years, taught Reiki throughout the United States and Canada. Only in 1975, five years before her death, did she begin to initiate Masters herself, and it is from the 22 Reiki Masters she created that the current worldwide explosion of Reiki has emanated. The Lineage Bearer of the Usui System today is Mrs Takata's granddaughter, Phyllis Lei Furumoto.

Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki is still taught by Masters trained in the original traditions, people who have committed their personal lives to this work. Like Mrs Takata, they teach in the oral tradition, sharing their experience and passing on the story of the System's development through a series of parables. Inevitably, as the years have passed, practices have evolved and new systems have emerged, so the treatments given by different practitioners may vary enormously, depending on how they themselves were taught.

Paths to Reiki

There are various paths to Reiki but perhaps the simplest way to begin is to do as I did, to visit a practitioner for a treatment. This lasts from 60 to 90 minutes and generally costs between £25 and £50 – prices vary. During the treatment, Reiki energy is transferred through the practitioner's hands, which rest gently on the recipient's body in a sequence of positions, moving every few minutes, starting with the head and covering the front and back of the body. Treatment is usually received either lying or sitting, whichever is most comfortable. No clothing has to be removed as the energy passes easily through fabric, blankets, belts, even a plaster cast.

A peaceful, relaxing environment, free of interruptions and disturbances, is best. You may experience sensations of warmth or tingling coming from the practitioner's hands – or you may feel nothing at all. Some people close their eyes while receiving treatment, and some fall into a deep slumber which can feel more refreshing than a full night's sleep. Others experience a treatment as being wonderfully energizing. There is no right or wrong way to experience Reiki.

Having received treatment, you may choose, as I did, to be 'initiated' into the energy yourself, so you can learn how to treat yourself and other people. Self-treatment, especially on a regular daily basis, promotes healing on every level – mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. It generates a sense of wellbeing and energy and is a powerful tool for personal development and spiritual growth.

Personally I find it gives me a sense of balance and of peace, a feeling of wholeness and of being 'at home with myself'. Treating myself with some 'hands on' is the perfect way to start the day; it turns a soak in the bath into spa treatment and as a cure for night-time insomnia, it never fails.

First degree classes are divided into four parts (usually spread over four consecutive evenings or a weekend), during which students are gradually initiated into the energy of Reiki and learn the forms of practice and the hand positions for treatment. Second degree Reiki, which includes healing at a distance and the healing of situations and places, takes you deeper into the System and requires a greater commitment.

Choosing a Master

Choosing a Master to teach you Reiki is something you should take your time over. It may be a good idea to get in touch with several different Masters, finding out how and what they teach and what relationship they have with the original form. Your relationship with your chosen Master is very important for your personal process so look for someone with whom you feel comfortable and have a sense of empathy (though you may just get lucky first time, as I did).

Anyone can learn Reiki – and all sorts of people do, from all sorts of backgrounds and walks of life and from many different religions, cultures and belief systems. It doesn't require any level of intellectual or mental power, any special skill or attribute. All that is needed is a genuine desire to learn and to use Reiki. And, once learnt, the gift of Reiki is yours forever. In times of pain or crisis, it can feel wonderfully empowering and reassuring to know that you can lay your hands on yourself or the person who is suffering and bring relief.

In the words of Mrs Takata, "All you have to do is take your hands out, apply, and you heal. And as far as healing is concerned, you don't worry, because you are not doing it, the energy is doing it, Reiki is doing it. If Reiki is doing it there is no mistake, you understand?"

The simplicity of the practice and the profundity of the spiritual journey that accompanies it I consider one of the great blessings of my life. Along with my husband, of course. In fact, after eight years of happily accepting treatments from me, he has just learnt first degree Reiki himself. I'm looking forward to a little reciprocity!

Further Information

The Reiki Association (TRA) was formed in 1991, a community of people initiated into Reiki and who seek to nurture the understanding and practice of the Usui System of Natural Healing. It's a membership organisation, offering community and support for students, masters and practitioners. As well as offering advice on legislation, insurance and training, TRA is a forum for Reiki people to meet and exchange views and ideas. Finding the right Master or practitioner is a personal process so TRA does not recommend individuals, but it does offer guidelines on how to make your choice, and publishes both a referral list of practitioners and a directory. For a list of practitioners or a copy of The Masters Directory send an s.a.e. to Jean at 1 Craigmyle Gardens, Clovenfords, Galashiels TD1 3LP and/or a cheque for £5 (made payable to The Reiki Association). TRA can be contacted on Tel: 0901 8800 009;


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About Sharon Baylis

Sharon Baylis is a writer, video producer and presentation coach. She learnt first degree Reiki in March 1998 and second degree seven months later. She has served two years on The Reiki Association Council and has helped to organise a number of Reiki gatherings. She has also contributed to two books, Natural Pregnancy and Fertility and Conception, both by Zita West. She can be contacted on

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