Q. Can you please tell us a little about yourself and how you started on your Reiki journey?
When I was a child, my mother was often ill and in and out of the hospital. Because of this, I became interested in healing and convinced that if there was a God, there had to be something more than prayer that people could do to help those they loved who were in pain. This interest in healing stayed with me through college, where I was briefly pre-med, and after, when I worked in publishing. Ten years later, when I returned to graduate school for a masters degree in English, I took a break from my studies one Saturday and visited a holistic health conference at Rosemont College in the suburbs of Philadelphia. There, I met someone who mentioned Reiki. As soon as I heard the word “Reiki” I wanted to learn it, even though I didn’t know what Reiki was. After I had a treatment, I asked when and where I could take a class. I was told that I had just missed a class (in fall 1986). The teacher would return in the spring. In March 1987, I had the privilege of attending a Reiki Level I class taught by Rev. Beth Gray, one of the Reiki masters trained by Madame Hawayo Takata, the first Westerner to learn and practice Reiki. After some amazing experiences with Reiki hands-on healing that spring and summer, I returned in September to take the advanced course in Reiki with Beth Gray and she certified me as a Level II practitioner in Usui Shiki Reiki Ryoho.
Over the next five years, I took advantage of Beth’s invitation to “assist” at her Level I and II classes again and again. Sometimes I had questions. Always, I loved being in the Reiki Energy. Unfortunately, in 1992, Beth had a stroke and was forced to retire from teaching. This meant that those of us who assisted at her classes at every opportunity were left to practice in relative isolation.
There followed an interval of solitary commitment to practice, which was also important in its own way. During this time, a dream of the end of the world prompted me to consider becoming a Reiki master: faced with blaring sirens and the realization that I had about fifteen minutes to live, I asked myself what was the best thing I could do with the little time I had left to live. Reiki! I stopping the running, screaming people to show them the hand positions for self-treatment. When I woke up, I realized that I should think about teaching Reiki.
Later that year, I found that Frank DuGan, who had been certified as Level I and II by Beth Gray, had taken the master training and was now teaching. He was willing to accept me as a student for the master training. In December 1994, he certified me as a Reiki master, and soon after, I began to teach, realizing my dream.
As I taught, I began to recognize the need for clearly written instruction materials for Reiki students and practitioners. So I wrote Traditional Reiki for Our Times (1998) as a reference book for Reiki I practitioners; Intuitive Reiki for Our Times (2006) for advanced practitioners; Reiki for the Heart and Soul: the Reiki Principles as Spiritual Pathwork (2008), for everyone interested in the guiding values of Reiki; and The Complete Book of Traditional Reiki (2010) which is a revision of my first book, with an updated and more accurate history of Reiki. All of the books, published by Inner Traditions-Bear & Company, are still in print and available from bookstores and online. I have also written many articles about Reiki. Writing about Reiki is another way to teach the public and to support practitioners in understanding and deepening their practice.
Q. How has Reiki affected your life?
Reiki has coursed through every cell, revved every atom, pulsed through every photon and neutron, and electrified every electron. Reiki has changed me profoundly, bringing healing, eliminating pain, restoring balance, and creating calm. Every day, Reiki helps me choose peace and “invite happiness.”
Reiki has been central to my life for so many years that I cannot imagine my life without it. Reiki guides me and enhances the quality of every aspect of my life.
Q. Who did you train with, and how long have you been teaching yourself?
I’ve already described my training with Rev. Beth Gray and Frank DuGan, which resulted in my certification as Reiki Level I practitioner in March 1987, Reiki Level II practitioner in September 1987, and Reiki master in December 1994. In addition, I have also attended workshops on the traditional Japanese Reiki techniques (Usui Reiki Ryoho) and been certified to teach Gendai Reiki by Tom Rigler, one of those who sponsored the first visit of Japanese Reiki Master Hiroshi Doi to the West in 1998. Following this training, I attended an Usui Reiki Ryoho International Conference in Toronto, Canada, in 2002, where I met Mr. Hiroshi Doi and had the opportunity to learn from him. On the same trip, I met Reverend Hyakuten Inamoto, who subsequently taught me Komyo Reiki, his synthesis of traditional Japanese and Western style Reiki techniques.
Q. How would you explain Reiki – is it a spiritual practice, energy healing or something else?
My usual answer to people who want a quick explanation is to say that Reiki is a form of holistic healing, which incorporates bodywork and energy medicine. For those practitioners who commit to deepening their practice, Reiki can become a form of spiritual pathwork.
If my listener is still curious, I will elaborate further. I explain that Reiki is a Japanese word, usually translated as “Universal life force energy.” However, in a dictionary of kanji, “rei” is translated as spirit, soul, or ghost. Another way to translate the word “Reiki” would be as “Spirit-guided life force energy” or “soul-guided life force energy.”
This opens the discussion up, so that it can go in many different directions. When I can, I encourage my listener to experience Reiki because it is through experiencing Reiki that we truly begin to appreciate its power and to gain some small understanding of its nature.
Q. What makes Reiki different from other forms of energy healing (like Qi Kung / TT / Pranic Healing)?
When I first started teaching Reiki, I had a dream in which I was asked my occupation. I said that I taught and practiced Reiki, a form of holistic healing. When asked to distinguish it from other forms of holistic healing, my dream self replied, “Other forms of holistic healing require the practitioner to form an intention, say an affirmation or prayer, or visualize healing energy in order for the healing to occur. Reiki doesn’t require any of that mental work, because the practitioner doesn’t ‘do’ Reiki. Instead, the practitioner is a channel for Universal life force energy or soul-guided energy.
“Reiki teaches the soul. The soul immediately recognizes the energy and resonates with it. The soul, or spirit, is infused into the body, so the physical body is able to channel Reiki a nanosecond later. The mind, long after a practitioner is attuned, can still be wrestling with questions and trying to figure out how Reiki works.”
Reiki works, even when a practitioner has doubts and very little experience, because the Energy itself is the healer, not the practitioner.
Q. What is the most misunderstood thing about Reiki in your opinion?
Sometimes people are taught Reiki with only one attunement and with no opportunity to practice and experience the flow of the energy and to learn what it means to “listen” to their hands. In traditional Reiki (both Usui Shiki Reiki Ryoho and Usui Reiki Ryoho), attunements or empowerments are repeated, supervised practice is integrated into instruction, and the ability to listen to the energy in one’s hands (“hibiki”) and to detect subtle changes and shifts in the flow (“byosan-ho”) is considered a requirement for advancement to the next level.
People who are certified as Reiki practitioners without receiving repeated attunements, gaining practice, or learning to feel the flow of the Reiki energy through their hands often later realize that they have missed something important. Some find their way to me or other traditional Reiki masters and choose to repeat the classes they have taken – and are very happy with the results.
Q. What really happens in an attunement?
Universal life force energy flows through the master into the student’s crown, third eye, throat, heart, and hands, so that the student will be empowered to offer healing and will become more aware of his or her true and enduring nature.
Q. As a Reiki Master, what was the most challenging question posed to you by your student, and how did you answer it?
I do not know if I can answer this question! I have been asked hundreds of different questions, many of which express common concerns. When I cannot immediately answer a question on the basis of experience that comes easily to mind, I close my eyes and, very quickly, do a traditional Japanese meditation called “Hatsurei-ho.” This involves breathing in the Reiki energy through the crown of the head. As I breathe, I look for the answer on the flow of the energy and I respond to the student as I am guided by the energy.
Q. Can you share with us your most unforgettable experience concerning Reiki?
My mother died January 6, 2004. In April 2004, I taught a Reiki I class with seven students. I divided the students into two groups for attunements. As I completed the first group of students, I heard someone’s hands being attuned in the second group. After I attuned the second group and everyone returned to the circle and described their experiences, I mentioned that I had heard a pair of hands receiving that final slap when there should have been no sound. One of the students in the second group exclaimed that she had also heard a pair of hands being slapped in the space beside her chair (where no physically present student sat). On reflection, I have come to believe that my mother attended the class and was attuned as a Reiki I by a Reiki master “on the other side.” This new Reiki practitioner and I were privileged to witness this event and receive the same clairaudient impression as validation. Since my mother loved to receive Reiki, but had been unwilling to learn while she was alive, this experience touched me very deeply. I feel grateful for her choice. (I have also had this experience again, in a few other classes over the years, although I have not had as clear a sense of the identity of the student as I did in that April 2004 class.
Q. What do you hope to see change for Reiki in the next five to ten years?
I hope that more people open their hearts and minds to receive Reiki healing, that more choose to become Reiki practitioners, and that more practitioners choose to send Reiki distant healing to the earth every day.
Q. Is there anything we have not asked that you would like to share with us?
Reiki masters are ordinary people called upon to serve in an extraordinary way at a time when the world is in need of extraordinary healing. We are human beings, however lighted and loving we appear as we teach a class or give a treatment. Be patient with us, please! Remember that we, too, have challenges. Just like any other practitioner, we grow through our practice, our experiences of the Energy, and our focus on the Reiki principles. We are helped by our students’ smiles and strengthened in our purpose by our students’ acknowledgment and gratitude.
Thank you to all those who say, “Thank you!” Those words open the way for shared experiences in the Energy and more joy…
Amy Rowland teaches traditional Reiki (Usui Shiki Reiki Ryoho) classes since 1994 and has a active Reiki practice since 1987. She is the author of four books about Reiki, including The Complete Book of Traditional Reiki, published in 2010 by Inner Traditions (Rochester, VT).