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Interview with Reiki Master Penelope Quest

Posted in Personal Experiences, and Reiki Blog

Q. Can you please tell us a little about yourself and how you started on your Reiki journey?

Originally from Cheshire, I now live and work in the beautiful Cotswolds.  My background was in marketing and management, and I spent 15 years teaching in FE and HE, but my focus now is on healing and the mind/body connection as a writer, Reiki Master and spiritual teacher.  I took my first Reiki course in 1991, and was absolutely blown away by the experience, so for a while if anyone or anything would stand still long enough, I would Reiki them!  (But it’s OK, I have calmed down a bit since then!).  Reiki 1 changed my focus, and I started exploring many other forms of self-help and healing, and in 1994 I qualified as a Reiki Master, so I have been teaching workshops on healing, personal growth and spiritual development for nearly twenty years.  Although I do still teach all levels of Reiki, including the techniques from the Japanese traditions, my main activities are research and writing, and I am the author of a number of best-selling books, including “Reiki for Life”; “The Reiki Manual”; “Self-Healing with Reiki”; and “Living the Reiki Way”.

Q. How has Reiki affected your life?

Reiki has changed my life completely!  I was a very ambitious college lecturer and senior manager, working my way up into the top levels of college administration, but then Reiki came into my life and over a period of years my ambitions and interests changed.  I studied lots of different “alternative” subjects in my spare time, such as meditation, NLP, shamanism, sound healing and energy psychology, and even changed track academically, studying part-time for an MSc in Health and Healing Science.  I gave up my college career in 1996 to concentrate on teaching and writing about Reiki and other spiritual subjects, and I now can’t imagine my life without Reiki – it is an essential part of me, and I use it every day.

Q. Who did you train with, and how long have you been teaching?

I have trained with a number of Reiki Masters – Reiki Alliance Master Kristin Bonney, American Reiki Master William Lee Rand, plus Andrew Bowling and Richard Rivard for the original techniques from the Japanese lineage, and occasional short workshops with Frans Stiene, Robert Jefford, Helen Galpin and others.  I have been teaching Reiki First and Second Degree courses since 1994, the original Reiki techniques from the Japanese lineage since 2000, and Reiki Master/Teacher level since 2003.

Q. How would you explain Reiki – is it a spiritual practice, energy healing or something else?

Reiki (pronounced ray kee) is a Japanese word meaning “spiritual energy”, so in essence it is a high vibrational energy which can be used for physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual healing, but which also has its foundation in a spiritual practice from Mikao Usui, a Buddhist scholar who developed the system of Reiki we have adopted – and adapted – today.  I recognise that for some Western Reiki students, Reiki is predominantly a healing system for physical ailments, albeit with a spiritual aspect, but I believe that Mikao Usui’s emphasis was more about a personal spiritual practice to bring about a spiritual awakening, rather than about purely physical healing.  Indeed, there was apparently nothing unique in Usui’s ‘Teate’ (palm healing) method, as it was similar to other healing methods in Japan at that time.  The uniqueness of his teachings was that they combined esoteric Buddhism, ancient Shugendo practices, classical Samurai teachings and knowledge of energies through martial arts.  In effect, this was not Reiki, but perhaps more accurately the spiritual path undertaken by Usui which resulted in the birth of Reiki as we know it today.  Mikao Usui referred to his teachings as the “Method to Achieve Personal Perfection”, and they were about personal mastery – he taught that it is by mastering the mysteries of the self that we learn to affect the mysteries of life, so his teachings were really about deepening our spirituality.  It is therefore not just the Reiki energy that makes the Usui Reiki system unique, it is the path that is walked by each individual.  Each of us in the Reiki community is connected not only to the wonderful healing energy that is Reiki, but also to a spiritual tradition.

The three levels (Shoden, Okuden and Shinpiden, equivalent to our Reiki 1, 2 and 3) of the system taught by Mikao Usui, emphasised spiritual development and self-healing practice based on a number of main aspects: (1) Receiving Reiju empowerments regularly (a simplified form of attunement); (2) Focusing on and living the Gokai (the 5 Reiki Principles or Precepts); (3) Practising meditation and mindfulness; (4) Carrying out Kokyu ho – breathing and energy exercises; (5) Practising Tenohira – the practice of palm healing for self and others; (6) At Okuden level and above, learning Jumon (chants) and Shirushi (symbols) and Kotodama (mantras) if required.  (There is more information about the Japanese traditions in Chapters 19 to 22 in the updated and expanded 2012 edition of “Reiki for Life” by Penelope Quest.)

Q. What makes Reiki different from other forms of energy healing (like Qi Kung / TT / Pranic Healing)?

Probably the main difference between Reiki and other forms of energy healing is the attunement process which allows someone to acquire the ability to draw high frequency healing energy into themselves immediately and permanently.  Qi-gong, Therapeutic Touch and Pranic Healing all seem to use the body’s own life-force energy (known as Ki, Chi, Qi or Prana) to effect healing, rather than drawing any additional spiritual energy into the body, and each also require a certain amount of time in training or practice before this ability can be sufficiently developed.  Also, with Reiki there are no complicated rituals to follow, nor any specific physical movements required, in order to activate the flow of Reiki energy into oneself – just thinking about Reiki with the intention of using it is all it takes, once someone has been attuned – and that attunement never wears off or wears out, and there is a limitless supply of Reiki energy, so they have the ability to use Reiki for the rest of their life!

Q. What is the most misunderstood thing about Reiki in your opinion?

People often expect Reiki to “cure” them of any physical condition, so they don’t understand its holistic nature, nor do they even give credence to the idea that emotional, psychological or spiritual issues may need to be “healed” first, before a physical illness can be addressed.  Many people go to a complementary therapist with the same expectations they have of a doctor – they want to be “made better” without having to put in any effort themselves – they want a pill or an operation or a treatment of some kind, rather than tackling any lifestyle issues that might be contributing to their state of health.  Reiki is a wonderful, healing energy, but it is not a “cure-all” – it still means the person who is ill must take some responsibility for themselves, and commit to doing whatever it takes to get well, even if that means giving up some things they like, eg excess food, cigarettes, or a stressful job or home environment.

Q. What really happens in an attunement?

The ability to channel Reiki can only be acquired by being transferred to the student by a Reiki Master during a special process called an “attunement”, which is a form of spiritual empowerment based on ancient Buddhist techniques. This basically “empowers” a part of your spirit which you have always had access to, but weren’t aware of, and it ‘attunes’ your energy body to the particular high vibrational frequencies of the Reiki energy, meaning it brings your energies and the Reiki energies into harmony with one another, so that the Reiki can flow easily into and around your energy field. This process also creates, or more accurately, reactivates, a permanent spiritual channel (a type of conduit in the energy body to carry spiritual energy) within your energy field, through which Reiki (and only Reiki) can flow into your crown chakra, and through your brow, throat and heart chakras to your arms and then down to the centre of each palm, and out, so that when you place your hands on yourself or someone else with the intention of giving Reiki, the Reiki energy will flow. This attunement process makes Reiki unique and is the reason why the ability to heal can be developed so quickly, yet so permanently, and once you have been attuned you will always be able to use Reiki—it doesn’t wear off or wear out!

Q. As a Reiki Master, what was the most challenging question posed to you by your student, and how did you answer it?

“What is the difference between healing and curing?” was the question.  It is a common misconception that these two words mean the same thing, but they don’t.  I explained it by giving the following example of someone who had gangrene and therefore had part of a limb amputated.  Provided it was caught in time, this would “cure” the gangrene, and the body’s processes would “heal” the wound, but the person themselves would not be fully “healed”.  Think of the psychological and emotional impact such an event would have, as well as the potential physical mobility problems or lack of dexterity.  Would they feel unattractive?  Could they be rejected by their partner?  Would they still be able to do their job or take part in their hobbies?  How would they cope?  It could be a long and possibly painful journey for them to reassess their lives in a positive way, but Reiki can help, as it will flow into the psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects of the person as well as into the physical, encouraging deep healing, to help the person to feel more “whole” again, even if part of their physical body is no longer there.

Q. Can you share with us your most unforgettable experience concerning Reiki?

I’d been giving a short talk about Reiki where I’d demonstrated it on a few people, just placing my hands on their shoulders and letting the Reiki flow whilst I continued to talk, and at the end a woman came up to me and said her elderly mother, who had suffered from ankylosing spondylitis for many years, would have like to have attended, but she found it difficult and painful to move, so she’d been sitting on the passenger seat in her daughter’s car outside the village hall.  I went out and sat in the back seat of the car and placed my hands on the mother’s shoulders and let the Reiki flow (which it did very strongly) for about 20 minutes, while I continued to talk reassuringly to both the mother and daughter, as they seemed fairly nervous about the process.  However, when I felt the Reiki flow slow down I took my hands away and told them that it seemed she had received enough Reiki for now, whereupon the mother turned around towards the back seat to thank me – and her daughter burst into tears, because her mother hadn’t been able to move her back like that for a very long time!

Q. What do you hope to see change for Reiki in the next five to ten years?

As a former Vice Chairman and Education Co-ordinator of the UK Reiki Federation, I was involved in the development of the core curriculum for professional Reiki Practitioner training as a member of an RRWG committee (now The Reiki Council).  The purpose behind this, and the development of National Occupational Standards for Reiki Practitioners, was to improve both the training and status of Reiki Practitioners, so that they would give their clients an even better experience during a Reiki treatment, and be able to work in clinical environments such as hospitals and hospices.  I would hope that over the next few years more and more Practitioners will go through a more thorough training, and will therefore comply with the National Occupational Standards for Reiki, so that Reiki’s reputation will be considerably enhanced and it will gain the approval of the medical profession and take its rightful place in health care in the future.

Q. Is there anything we have not asked that you would like to share with us?

As an educationalist I am very keen on good training, and I realized that over the past 20 years many people being attuned to Reiki were literally just being attuned, or were attending a course lasting only a couple of hours, with little or no instruction or supervised practice other than perhaps being given a handout on hand placements.  I came across many people who had “done” Reiki in this way, but who didn’t have the confidence to use it themselves, and who even thought it didn’t work.  That is why I started to write books about Reiki, because although you can’t become attuned to Reiki just by reading a book, you can learn about its history and the Reiki Principles, how and why it works, where to place your hands to give yourself a treatment or to treat other people or animals, and so on.  I am pleased to say that I get a lot of really nice feedback from people who have read one or more of my books, saying how much it has helped them, and how much more they have learned about Reiki than they did on the course(s) they attended, which is very gratifying – although in some ways it is also sad.  Although every Reiki Master is, I am sure, doing what they believe is right, and therefore doing the best they can with the knowledge and experience they have, I would love every Reiki student to get the very best and most thorough training they could, so that they would have the same confidence and enthusiasm I gained from the courses I attended!  But if that doesn’t happen, then I hope they read at least one of my books to help them to gain the passion and eagerness for using the amazing, life-changing gift of Reiki they have received!  (Please see for details of Penelope Quest’s books and courses.)


Penelope Quest is a Reiki Master based in the UK, and has been teaching workshops on healing, personal growth and spiritual development for nearly twenty years. She is also the author of a number of best-selling books, including “Reiki for Life”, “The Reiki Manual”, “Self-Healing with Reiki” and “Living the Reiki Way”.