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What is Reiki?

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

From the healing hands of Sarah Misson, Align with Sarah.


photo of an in-person Reiki energy healing session
What a Reiki session can look like

What the heck IS Reiki, anyway? I hear that at least a few times a week, every week! Mostly because I have Reiki listed as a healing modality I offer in my practice and it is also a way I describe the work that comes together with Restorative Healing. In general, I have found that people seem to have heard the word but they don't necessarily know what it means exactly.

Here's a spoiler alert! It's not actually one thing and so it is not easily defined in any one way. Here, I am going to offer lessons I have learned, analogies that might help, a straight-up definition (that doesn't seem to help me), and also my own made-up definition (that does help me). Reiki is difficult to define because it is more a concept that is everything than just the thing that it is or is not. Read on to help that form the understanding! And to begin, let's have a quote from Dr Usui, a founding figure in teaching the concepts of Reiki:


Dr Mikao Usui quote. What is Reiki.
Reiki quote by Dr. Usui

Overall definition:


The Merriam-Webster's Dictionary offers this for the definition of Reiki:

a system of touching with the hands based on the belief that such touching by an experienced practitioner produces beneficial effects by strengthening and normalizing certain vital energy fields held to exist within the body. Okay... and...

This is what Sarah has to offer as something to quantify the concept of Reiki:

another word for Love, Healing, Life Force, and Holy Spirit. It is the energy that creates the foundation of life and therefore the foundation of healing. It is in all beings, it is available to all, by all, at all times.

I think I like mine better! Feel free to create your own inspiring definition and please feel free to share it in the comments or a private email.


Reiki and Spirit:


Each month I choose a focus in my own practice of healing and learning. I pair this with what Align with Sarah offers as it's Piece of Wellness so we can explore together with the hopes of expanding into a new phase of Personal Growth with the momentum of collective consciousness. This month the focus is on Spirit, which began with excitement to get more curious about the Spirit part of mind, body, and Spirit but it has grown to so much more! Very close to the beginning of the efforts to gather lessons, I ran into this amazing poem by Merritt Malloy.


"When I die, give what's left of me away to children and old men that wait to die.

And if you need to cry, cry for your brother walking the street beside you.

And when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give me.

I want to leave you something, something better than words or sounds.

Look for me in the people I've known or loved, and if you cannot give me away, at least let me live in your eyes and not in your mind.

You can love me best by letting hands touch hands, and by letting go of children that need to be free.

Love doesn't die, people do.

So, when all that's left of me is love, give me away."


Amen! What an amazing thought process! This led me to the thought that Spirit is Love and the Eternal Life that we have and might then extend to what some call the Soul. This stimulated my reflection to turn to the wonder of how layered and faceted the concept of Spirit is to me. It is just as layered and full of facets as Reiki is to me.

Spirit is everything that is life inside me.

The mind is there as the switchboard operator.

The body is there to express what the Spirit and mind believe, limiting or inspiring, as well as what is hurting and is ready to heal. Sometimes it does this in the form of chronic pain, unexplainable discomfort, dysfunction of body or life, dis-ease, etc. How do we heal these things? We offer love. Self-love. Commitment to movement. Commitment to nutritional awareness. Commitment to routines that serve healing including modalities of reflection (journaling, meditation, yoga, exercise, conscious breathing, Reiki). We invite in healing and we allow this healing to replace the frustration and stress and disconnection. This is love. Foundation of life and therefore foundation of healing.

When I am offering Reiki, based on the principles of Usui Reiki, I am allowing love to flow through me and the other person. Applying Usui concepts for me means: do not take, do not give, just allow and believe and connect the circuit so we both will come away cleansed so love will flow more readily. If Reiki is love, and love is Spirit, and Spirit is Eternal Life, and more is more is more, and so on. It feels like a reminder of all the proverbial hats that we wear that define "us" and the roles we hold. I am a mom but also a daughter, sister, cousin, niece, teacher, student, homeowner, farmer, creator, giver, taker, receiver, allower, and the list can go on and on. The point of this example is, I am still me under those labels. My Self is separate from these things but those things also help create the expressions of me. The concept of me. Confusing, but hopefully also mind-opening.

So what is Reiki? In my opinion, it is more valuable to know what Self is first. Whatever fills in the answer to that question can be repurposed to help define Reiki. If that fails you, or you want a deeper understanding of Reiki, try this next layer: What isn't Reiki? What isn't love? What aren't you? Everything else that is left after these questions are answered are the answers to what IS.


One last thought

We are many things to many people but we will always have our Self at the core. When we whittle down to try to find that Self (the "S" is capitalized for a reason) sometimes we can be left with a thought or statement that includes an emotion that might be negative. For example: Wow, I am a pretty angry person. Or, Here we go again with the anxiety/ worry/ depression. The statement or thought about your Self could possibly include emotions of abandonment, worthlessness, resentment, or defensiveness, just to name a few. Look for what is there with love and understand you will find everything that is ready to heal when you are ready to heal. Please also remember those are emotions, those are not You. This an exercise to help find those things called trapped emotions, emotional trauma, and emotional baggage. These are essentially a lens that is affecting the whole perception of your life and the perception of the Self. Dr. Joe Dispenza tracks that bad moment, that leads to a bad afternoon, then overtakes the memory and creates a bad day, mood, personality trait, and then our personal reality. That is the lens. We want a lens of love, hope, confidence, belief, safety, and support. How do we get that positive lens to focus on life and Self?

Step #1 acknowledge the lens that is there.

Step #2 self-love to heal what is hurting.

Step #3 find a new way to see.

Reiki is healing energy we all have and sitting quietly with an open mind is a great first step to sampling Reiki right now. Seeking out guidance from others is also a great step forward but I have one request with this, don't wait. Do it now. Sit quietly and hold the heart or don't hold the heart. Sit quietly and listen to the first thought and start journaling or talking out loud to your Self or a loved one and just let it all go. Get it all out. Then return to sitting quietly with your Self and clearly and consistently say thank you. You have just offered Love. Love is Spirit. Spirit is Life. Reiki is the foundation of Life... You did this! You got this! Embrace the love of Self, Spirit, Life, everything!

Wishing you endless Love and gratitude!


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