Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reiki Attunements and Training

As one studies Reiki, the necessity of and type of attunement becomes a prominent issue.  There are three main issues: whether an attunement must be done in person or whether it can be done via distance or by watching a video; whether distance attunements are valid "traditional" Reiki, and whether training must be received in-person to become part of a Reiki association and become an accredited practitioner.

I'll begin by describing what I believe an attunement is.  Reiki is acknowledged to be universal life energy that is present in and permeates all things (just like chi, prana, the Tao), and a Reiki attunement is intended to align a student with that energy so they can be a conduit for Reiki.  An attunement is only a small part of Reiki training, though.  Reiki precepts, hand positions, techniques, and so forth must be learned as well.

So what does an attunement look like?  Well, it looks like this (search "reiki attunement" on YouTube for more).  Essentially, it's a guided meditation to introduce a student to meditation, energy work, and using intent.  Since Reiki is a spiritual and mental discipline, such "attunements" are a very good idea, especially for people without any complementary background.  An attunement can be repeated as many times as desired; Mikao Usui, the founder of Reiki, used to do attunements on his students every time he worked with them.  They were the same process each time (called reiju) and didn't differ with one's degree of Reiki training.

So, on to the issues... I'll start with whether distance attunements are valid traditional Reiki.  The easy answer to that is that no, they're not traditional, but then again, very very very very little of modern-day Reiki is traditional either.  As mentioned earlier, Usui's reiju didn't differ from degree to degree, as modern-day attunements do.  Nor did Mikao Usui work with chakras, prana, Angels, crystals, Tibetan or Egyptian symbols (Mikao Usui was Japanese...), spirit guides, and so forth.  Even the hand positions of modern-day Reiki have changed dramatically (following the chakras, as opposed to five original positions all around the head).

So do distant attunements work?  I'd say yes, though quality may vary, as is no doubt true in person (I've linked to what I think is a good one above).  According to the theory of what Reiki energy is and how it works (especially given that Reiki II teaches distance healing), and since the attunement is really a guided meditation to help the student feel the energy themselves, there's really no logical reason a distant attunement can't work.

Of course, for people making buckets of money off Reiki training classes (it's typically about $1,000.00 to train up to Reiki Master/Teacher), the conclusion that distant attunements are perfectly valid hits them directly in the pocketbook.  So let's talk about Reiki training.  Quite frankly, in the Internet age, the concept that training must be received in person is an anachronism; you can complete university degrees through online learning, after all.  Books and information are widely available, distance attunements are available, and people can practice their hand positions and techniques on themselves, friends, family, animals, and by attending local Reiki Circles.  All for free or very low cost.

The main issue is quality control and assurance that students have actually done the learning, rather than becoming "Instant Reiki Masters".  For individuals practicing Reiki on their own for no profit (on self, friends, family, etc.) we can simply hope that these people will continually learn more, hope that they're discerning in what they read and believe, and take responsibility as a community to mentor them and guide them towards good material and to lead by example.  One Reiki author refers in the second paragraph of her first chapter to 12 source planets that originally colonized the earth (yes, this is in fact the plot of Battlestar Galactica!)... let's make sure new people get guided to more credible sources such as The Reiki Sourcebook.

For individuals who plan to practice Reiki as a business, though, some sort of externally validated accreditation is often desired.  Unfortunately, current Reiki associations have taken the anachronistic stance that training must have been received in person (and at substantial cost) in order to be accredited by them.  To be honest, I think it's symptomatic of the fact that spirituality and money really shouldn't be mixed; when money changes hands, things become infinitely more complicated.

The Canadian Reiki Association, for example, requires that Level 1 and 2 Reiki training must be at least eight hours long in-person training each, and that Master level be at least twelve hours long.  In addition, applicants must submit practicum/case study forms to demonstrate experience in order to become certified practitioners or teachers.  Most other Reiki associations follow similar guidelines.

In our bureaucratic, capitalist society, I suppose this isn't surprising.  But is there a better model?  I think that the idea of submitting practicum forms to demonstrate experience to become a certified practitioner is a good model.  But to be a mere member and be embraced by the Reiki community, there shouldn't be such exclusionary policies as requiring education to be in-person (typically at large expense).  Instead, part of the certification process should perhaps include a written exam on Reiki knowledge, and/or submission of a video of the applicant conducting a Reiki treatment session.  Given that in-person classes probably vary greatly in quality, a written exam and/or video would ensure quality control just as well as requiring in-person class attendance, without putting a hefty price tag on participation in a spiritual practice.

So, for the dedicated student of Reiki, my advice is that if you're learning lots from a variety of sources, and interacting online and/or through Reiki Circles with other practitioners, then your Reiki training (including distant attunement) is probably as good or better than that received by many who've shelled out hundreds of dollars for in-person training.  As long as your intent is pure, you're already on your way to being a Reiki Master in all the ways that really count.

Reiki resources:
Free Reiki International
Share Reiki International
New Awakening Reiki

Reiki and Pranic Healing treatment impressions...

I recently went to a Holistic Healing and New Age show, and had the opportunity to receive Reiki and Pranic Healing sessions.

The first session was Reiki.  I liked the sign they had on display defining Reiki as "a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing."  Accurate, no outrageous claims, and humble.  Overall, it induced the relaxation effect very well.  I think there were three key aspects to this.  First, you sit down and essentially give yourself permission to relax, plus you're stuck there with no choice but to relax once you've begun.  Second, having another person touching you has a relaxing effect.  Finally, as the hands change positions, it's like a subtle cue to relax that area of the body, so a progressive relaxation happens.

I found the experience very relaxing and reached a deep meditative state quite easily (not a trance-like or hypnotic state, a meditative state where you're still fully aware but very relaxed and with a clear mind).  So I'd say that especially for people who don't meditate on their own, Reiki would be much recommended.  As for healing, we know that stress is very harmful to our bodies, so a practice like Reiki that offers stress release will be helpful whether you believe in energy healing or not.  As for the energy healing aspect, we can't really know for sure if it works, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

So, on to the Pranic healing session.  This one was hands-off, with the practitioner going through a variety of visualizations of manipulating the energy in my aura to cleanse it of impurities.  To watch it, at first glance it looks like the person is just goofily waving their hands around in front of someone.  However, if you watch the animated video on the pranic healing site, it portrays through special effects the energy; this puts the hand movements in context and it no longer looks nearly so weird because you can follow what they're visualizing doing.  Now, I was already nicely relaxed from the Reiki session, so I quickly returned to a meditative state while the pranic healing session was going on.

Being hands-off, I think perhaps I should have kept my eyes open, as seeing what technique the fellow was using at any particular time might have connected me to the process better.  Of course, with eyes open I would have been more engaged mentally and been thinking way too much.  Without the hands touching or being in close proximity, and without hands changing position, I'm inclined to think that Reiki would be better for most people until they've had experience with receiving energy healing.

Overall, it was a very interesting experience.  I'm currently on a research binge... I've read The Reiki Sourcebook, Reiki for Dummies, and tons on the net.  I've also got The Japanese Art of Reiki and Your Hands Can Heal You (the Pranic Healing book) to still read, and I'm working my way through Robert Bourne's New Awakening Reiki books/CDs/videos.