Updated: Oct 23, 2019
More and more people are becoming attuned to Reiki and after a recent visit to meet some new people I was engaged in a conversation about the ethics of attuning masses of people to the healing art and was even specifically asked, "what is an attunement and why is it done?"
This led to other questions such as, "why is it done in 3 levels?" and "does it need to take that long?"
Firstly let me stress that while I am a Reiki Master it is not primarily what I do and the way I use it is very specific and not at all the hands on healing, let the energy flow to where it is needed style of Reiki that many practitioners do.
I have also recently been asked to attune people to this modality and it has left me wondering where I stand on some ethical and larger questions regarding it.
Let me start with a bit of history:
Reiki is a universal life force energy - everybody already has it flowing through them. We already have the capacity for healing touch and love to be transferred from one individual to another and there are key milestones in our life journey that make this apparent. Think about becoming a parent. Many parents already have a healing touch when it comes to their children. A child will intuitively return to a parent when injured or feeling unwell and what is the first thing a mother and many fathers will do? Place their hands on their child. Whether that be feeling for a temperature, a comforting gesture, a hug, it is a form of connection and with that comes a transfer of our energy between 2 people. When a friend or family member is greeted we hug or shake hands, or kiss cheeks. This is again an exchange of energy that gives a feeling of healing, welcoming, comfort and love. It connects us and our bodies instinctively use it to feel better.
Dr Mikao Usui is regarded as the "father of Reiki" who rediscovered it as a healing art. It is said that he had a Moses type moment where he went and meditated in solitude for a bit and suddenly was gifted with this new version of an ancient universal healing energy that he then labelled as Usui Reiki Ryoho. Admittedly he did some pretty cool stuff with it and it is important to remember that he was not "attuned" by someone in order to do it. He had a spiritual experience that opened up his energy channel allowing him to learn how to focus it through himself and in to others.
Dr Mikao Usui had an existential crisis.
Now that you know this I ask you to revisit the question of "what is an attunement?"
To me an attunement is a shortcut, pure and simple. Usui had an existential crisis, a point in his life where he questioned everything as the world no longer made sense to him. He spiralled down into the dark part of his life and soul searched. As a reward and/or gift for his newfound awareness of self he opened up himself to a sense of divinity, recognising that he is both divine and human concurrently. On an energetic level this bestowed unto him the ability to open up to a universal flow and consciousness that he had not reached previously.
If you believe all the blog posts and social media memes out there about collective and universal consciousness, we are all divine beings with god-like and goddess-like potential - I don't doubt that - but there has to be a catalyst for this to be felt through all 4 of our bodies. Until that happens we dabble and we transfer energy unconsciously rather than in a focussed and conscious manner.
Truth be told, many of us neither have the time nor dedication to have an existential crisis. I've had one and believe me, they're hard work. Not to mention that we have important 3D stuff to do and it's time consuming so instead we get an "attunement". This allows us to schedule it, tailor it, and we have more control over the depths to which it takes us instead of the universe ripping us a new one. It's also a little bit nicer than having the world crumble around you while you kick, scream, howl and cry like a snot-filled toddler at how mean and unkind life can be.
The attunements that are given are a ritualised spiritual experience. It sounds fancy and lovely and gives you a warm fuzzy feeling as you are gently opened up to a new way of life.
Basically Reiki attunements are opening up your spiritual/energetic body to be a clear energy channel while allowing time for your physical and emotional bodies to adjust to the new sensations that are happening.
In terms of our four bodies each has a different density. Our spiritual/energetic body is the lightest version of us. When we hear the term "light body" this is what it means. It is the amplification and projection of our soul energy and it is the part of us that travels through the stars and even through different dimensions. Our mental body is the second lightest, it is our mind, our thoughts and our consciousness. It is the memories of all our lives. The second heaviest part is our emotional body. This feeling centre is what gives us humanity as an entity. It exists in the 4th and 5th dimensional states. The most dense part of us is our physical body, it gives us the ability to function in a 3D world and that physicality gives us tangibility in our reality. It creates solid matter on an practical level.
As we receive an attunement and are opened up as an energetic channel our four bodies need to assimilate the process too and "come online". An attunement does not just work on the energetic aspect of a person. It purges and moves through all parts of us, it causes us to question our lives and the purpose we have for ourselves (mental body), it makes us drop our bundle and evaluate our emotional state to find who we really are (emotional body), and detoxifies the human form (physical body). Once this purging has occurred and there is a sense of alignment between all 4 aspects of Self, that person is deemed "attuned" to the level of Reiki.
Why is it done in 3 levels with multiple attunements?
Can you imagine being hit with all of that energy at once? It's a hell of a whop. Considering that most people are completely offline to begin with anyway, if we were to hit them with a Master level attunement from the get go we would have the equivalent of the energetically supercharged, twitching, walking dead - maybe not but I think you get my point.
By breaking up a full Reiki experience into 3 levels we are allowing the body time to fully and completely assimilate each stage and more importantly, we are giving the receiver a chance to do the inner work that comes up - and it does come up - so that they are making the most of the opportunity in way and timeframe that is manageable for them.
I have even seen an attunement given when, in my opinion, the person was not ready. All four of their bodies were not ready for it but the client insisted, the Master relented, and against everyone's better judgement an attunement was done. It fritzed the client. They pulled back and shut down because the shadows hiding in their closet were too confronting and the physical body was not ready for that level purging.
This leads me to consider the timing and way that Reiki is taught and personally I believe it is handed out too casually with incomplete training and with no follow up support and in some cases, to the wrong people.
Before I offend someone let me explain what I mean by the wrong people. I'm talking about those who have mental illnesses, binge drinkers, recreational drug users, children under 16 years of age. I am not saying that these people can never be attuned, not at all, all power to them for wanting to change their lives and circumstances; what I am saying is that firstly, it is well documented that addiction is an attempt to escape from trauma/fears/circumstances/and generally check out of reality to ease suffering. If we go attuning someone with an addictive tendency before they have done any work on their shadow or while they are still using recreational drugs/drinking heavily/smoking etc we are opening a veritable hornet's nest! And if they're still engaged in that lifestyle they quite often aren't ready to face their skeletons. Personally I will not attune someone with tendency towards recreational drug use until they have remained clean for 6 months.
For those with mental health issues, medicated or not, we are opening up their intuition and potential clair-senses which often are naturally very strong for those with mental health issues. Self harm is also a potential issue for many people and we there needs to be adequate support in place before I would consider an attunement.
It is also important to consider the physical detoxification issue for these people. When you start to realise the amount of chemicals, both manufactured and manmade, in their systems an attunement takes on a whole other meaning. A Master Teacher needs to consider if they are putting potential students at greater risk and assess if they are ready and give realistic and sage advice. To me Reiki is energy and while we say it can do no harm, we can. We need to be responsible.
As for children under 16 - let them be kids, for the love of the Goddess. They may be natural born healers - a lot of children are - but there is plenty of time for them to be worrying about that. Not to mention that it takes 7 years for each of the chakras to become fully receptive and integrated into a new body. Technically that means until a person is 21 their chakra system is still in development and opening up. Whacking an attunement on them too young can actually harm their energetic body.
As for how? I do not believe an attunement should be done in a group format. I do not believe it should be done as a workshop, weekend retreat, or quick fix to feel better about your life or situation. I believe there should be more than 2 weeks between each level of Reiki. I do not believe in distance attunements.
It used to be that a student of Reiki had to have 6 months between each level attunement. Why? Because time is needed between each level to fully adjust to and work through the intricacies that arise. That and you have to learn how to harness it! This is a new form of energy moving through you and you have to learn what to do with it.
Reiki Level 1 is predominantly about self healing. It is recommended that at level 1 you spend 10 minutes EVERYDAY laying your hands on yourself and calling in your reiki energy. This self healing is integral to accepting the energy fully. It also helps you to face the darkest aspects of yourself that have arisen during the spiritual, mental, emotional purging that is appearing in your life. You know, the topsy turvy nature of Life. Probably for the first time in your life your chakras are spinning like crazy, your crown is opened up to all kinds of messages, your intuition is on fire, and you are probably toileting like a diarrhoea champion. It takes time for that to settle down. Not to mention time to develop your skills and confidence with this healing art.
Each person who accesses Reiki modifies it. As the energy moves through you it merges and melds with your personal energy signature. It takes on a feeling, a colour, a symbolism that is individual and specific to you, to the point that an experienced practitioner can feel the energy signature of another. In order for that to happen you need to allow time for it to develop and for you to learn how you work with Reiki.
Reiki Level 2 is about developing yourself as a practitioner and learning how to channel energy through the use of symbols. This adds a level of complexity because you aren't just holding your hands over people or yourself anymore. It is confusing and overwhelming to be a novice student and have to learn symbols, let alone remember what they are for and how/when to use them, even if done so intuitively. The symbols to me are about helping you to pinpoint what you are feeling and how you can help a client. It is also about developing yourself as a Healer and Healing Practitioner which means further diving into the ethics of healing. There is of course, more inner work, purging, crying, and potentially the loss of bodily fluids you need to contend with again too.
Reiki Master and Master Teacher is the highest level of energy you can gain and this allows you to intensify the energy you use and to teach the healing art to those willing to walk the healer's path. This is not to be taken lightly and instead of being treated as a step 3 all levels done completest attitude, it needs to be earned. There needs to be a dedication to what this means, upholding and living the principles of life as a Healer and Master Teacher. Think about this, in Hindu and Buddhist traditions the Gurus and Monks spend lifetimes dedicated to their lessons and mastering themselves. Why should a Master Healer be any different. If we are not dedicated to our lessons, our own healing journey, and mastering ourselves then how are we living up to the Master or Master Teacher title? Like I said before Reiki is not primarily what I do and I use it very specifically but as I am a Reiki Master Teacher and I have earned that title. What I can tell you is that I have lived the existential crisis that came my way. And when I am working with Reiki or in the Reiki community with others I teach and share and if I see another shirking their responsibilities or not honouring, I speak up.
When I studied I was attuned in quick succession. I did not do the self healing everyday and I can tell you from experience that I will discourage every student from journeying to Reiki the way that I did. I have even been re-attuned to Reiki Master Teacher as I didn't feel I fully accepted or was ready for that level.
To me Reiki is a healing ART not a modality. It is a process and a program, a foundation upon which to live and be. It needs to be done with ongoing training and support so that each person undertaking whatever level is mentored and midwifed through their journey. It needs to be done as an apprenticeship where the Master Teacher not only attunes but helps the student develop at each stage, sure that the student is not only confident and competent but aware of the influence they can have on themselves, the world and the people they heal.