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What is Reiki?

Written by Lisa D'Arrigo

What is Reiki?

What is Reiki?

Reiki is a form of energy work that is carried out through the hands after a person has been attuned.   

The International Association of Reiki Professionals defines Reiki as a spiritual healing art - offering beneficial calming, balancing and stress reducing effects.   

From another standpoint, I’ve heard Reiki referred to simply as love. That Reiki is a pure stream of love.  Pure love energy. And personally this resonates with me quite strongly. Earlier today, on a hike in the woods, I was struck by the quiet beauty of nature and felt called to give an offering to the forest to the streams, to mother earth. So, I stood silently in a brief moment of centering and breathing and let the Reiki flow, offering it to the stream, to the water that feeds our earth and nourishes our bodies.  It was a pure moment of Love. An offering of Gratitude - with energy and life force.  

Many people have heard of Reiki before but perhaps you might not know what it’s all about? 

Over the years, I’ve heard people say any number of things when asked if they know Reiki.  Like,”Yes, I know what Reiki is … you walk on people’s back and such.” Ok, I giggled a little, but in all honesty, how would anyone know what Reiki is without asking?  Either they have experienced Reiki on the fly from a family member or friend or they’ve had a professional Reiki session and they know. Otherwise, people just don’t know.  So I’m here right now to clear it up and tell you a little about Reiki.  

Reiki is often the first form of energy healing that a person experiences.  In fact it’s probably the most recognized and widely accepted form of energy healing.  It’s considered an alternative healing modality and to many, a spiritual practice. 

Reiki comes from universal life force energy.  It is source energy. The Reiki practitioner has been attuned to Reiki 1, Reiki 2 or Reiki Master level (by a Reiki Master Teacher) and they act as a conduit for the life force energy to flow.  Often called a hollow bone in shamanic circles - Reiki flows through the practitioner from source and through the hands to the receiver. Life force energy, Prana, Chi, Source Energy, Vital Energy are all terms used interchangeably when referring to Reiki. 

“Reiki is translated from Japanese ‘Rei’ which means universal, spiritual, sacred, divine. And ‘Ki’ which means vital energy, life force energy, prana, chi, the energy that flows through everything.”  Lisa Guyman, Reiki Master and Teacher  

Reiki as a form of universal energy

Is Reiki Religious? 

Ok, so if Reiki is a spiritual practice - it can also be said that not all Reiki practitioners are spiritual, or share their spirituality openly.

Nor does Reiki have to be woo woo in any way. That said, Reiki healers often combine multiple modalities and there are many different paths.

Reiki is not religious.  You don’t need to believe anything or worship in any specific way, go to a church, have a religious or spiritual belief system or be devoted to a deity.  Reiki is entirely non-denominational. However, as I mentioned previously, for many, Reiki is considered spiritual. A spiritual art. A spiritual and sacred practice. 

I have heard it said that Jesus was performing a type of Reiki in his miraculous healings.  Obviously on another level entirely, but this came directly from a Reiki Master that is also a devout Catholic who goes to church every Sunday.  Interesting to consider, right? 

For my training, I received all of my Reiki attunements in the community room of a church. Would you have expected that? I did not.  And while my training and attunements took place in the church - there were no religious teachings whatsoever. We were just in that safe and sacred space and it was quite beautiful.  As you can imagine, the energy was highly spiritual and it felt absolutely wonderful.

It’s all about the energy.  And everything is energy. There’s nothing witchy about Reiki. It’s not new age and it’s not hokey pokey.  


Reiki workers are sometimes referred to as lightworkers. Some practitioners can actually see the light, while others can feel the energy in their hands or from the person they are working on (or both), and others might see colors, see images, receive messages or feel a change in the energy field of their client.  In addition, there are all manor of alternative healing modalities that can be worked alongside Reiki, including crystal healing, sound healing, and shamanic techniques.  

The initial reason people are drawn to learn and practice Reiki will be different  for each and every person. When I was attuned to Reiki Master, I was already a practicing Crystal Healer, Yoga Teacher and Certified Aromatherapist.  Adding Reiki to my professional practice only enhanced, my classes, private sessions and every aspect of my life.  

Practitioners also use Reiki Symbols, and each person is attuned to the symbols that correlate with the level of attunement the Reiki practitioner has received.  Drawing Reiki symbols directs the energy and is another way to tap into the Universal Life Force Energy and call in the Reiki. 

Reiki is great for maintaining everyday emotional and physical health and wellness, and can be beneficial for:  

  • Insomnia 
  • Stress 
  • Anxiety
  • Pain Relief 
  • Depression 
  • Chakra Balancing 
  • Maintaining Optimal Health 
  • Improving Overall Well-Being 

Do you have to be in a special, sacred place to receive Reiki? 

There are no limits to Reiki and where or when Reiki can be called upon, so long as it is for the highest good and well-being of all - with the intention of love and light. It’s very versatile and can be sent to sentient beings as well as inanimate objects. 

Personally,  I don’t practice Reiki on an individual without permission.  This is for the same reason that I don’t go around giving Crystal Healing advice or pronouncing that someone’s Throat Chakra is blocked.  Even if I feel it might be helpful for someone, there are definitely times when it’s inappropriate to dispel advice. If I’m not asked for this type of advice or Reiki work, then, I feel it’s important to respect boundaries.  

Reiki Lifestyle 

When you are attuned to Reiki you also step into a Reiki lifestyle.  There are Reiki principles that you are encouraged to live by.  To keep learning, keep expanding, upleveling and living in the light as much as possible.  

Does that mean that all Reiki practitioners don’t drink coffee, have arguments, yell, or otherwise make any mistakes?  No!  

Reiki healers are individuals just like all people and are all very human. We live differently than the next, look different from each other.  We are also inherently joined by the common bond of spreading light and love with universal life force energy.  

Recently, there’s been a funny meme circulating around social networks that goes something like this: 

People:  “She doesn’t look, sound, or act like a healer.”

Universe:  “I’m not looking for actors.”

And, that right there, sums it up.  I mean, have you ever thought those words?  She doesn’t look or act like a healer? I have before - admittedly and I’ve worked on it. I’m still working on it.  However, I’m much better now at not judging people by first sight or trying to box them in to an identity based on my perception.  

In fact, in my Reiki group during my Reiki 1, Reiki 2 and Reiki Master attunements, I looked around in absolute wonder and joy at all of the different people in the circle.  And I thought, first of all, I’m lucky and grateful to be here right now with this group of individuals. And second I thought, I would never look at this person sitting across from me, I would never look at them on the street and think they were a Reiki practitioner, or even that they were into Reiki.  And I say that in the most positive way, because Reiki draws all sorts of people of different backgrounds, lifestyles and religious beliefs.

More Reiki insights: 

  • Reiki is typically hands on or it can be hands hovering or even distance Reiki.  It’s altogether non- invasive and clients are fully clothed for a Reiki session. 
  • There are many different types of Reiki,  including Usui Reiki, Karuna Reiki, Shamanic Reiki and others.  
  • Some people choose to get Reiki treatments on a regular weekly basis, others monthly, while some choose to do it in tune with the Season or the Celtic Wheel of the year and the quarter days. 

For many people… those that are already tuned into their energy bodies and that work with crystals, intentionally wear crystal jewelry, meditate or practice shamanic journeying … they become increasingly aware of their own energy fields and just ‘know’ intuitively when they need a Reiki session.  

What’s a Reiki session like?

Reiki flows through the hands of the Reiki practitioner.  So, it’s primarily the Reiki worker respectfully putting their hands on you while you rest and relax in a session. 

My Reiki teacher taught me that the Reiki will go where it needs to, so when I am allowing the Reiki to flow in an energy session - I may intuitively feel that I should work on a particular area of the body and go to and focus on that area, but I also know that if I spend half of the session at the person’s head, that the Reiki will go where it needs to go and the person will benefit regardless of where I’m standing.  

For many years I have worked (and continue to work) on heightening my intuition and it’s an essential tool that plays a big part in my healing sessions. While I have many rituals that I practice to prepare for lightwork, I also find that relaxing, opening myself, trusting and allowing the Reiki to flow is the most beneficial. 

How does it feel?  For most it’s an entirely relaxing and restful experience where you remain fully clothed and typically lie on a massage table.  You may have an eye pillow draped over your eyes, and a light blanket covering you - or you may just lay restfully and relax. Sometimes people fall asleep. Sometimes people feel tingling, or see lights of different colors. While others experience feeling hot or cold in certain areas of their bodies.  It’s all different for each individual. 

So ... we've covered what Reiki is as well as what it isn't and hopefully cleared up some common misconceptions on this energy technique.  Next up, we’ll dive into Reiki Infused Jewelry and explain how Reiki charged crystals, jewelry and gemstones can add an extra boost to your sacred adornment and your energy field.   Stay Tuned!

Lisa D'Arrigo
Writer and Editor. Certified Aromatherapist, Advanced Crystal Master, Reiki and Earth Medicine Practitioner. 

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