The Definitive Guide to Reiki | Fiona McCallion Personal Development Blog

The Definitive Guide To Reiki

Does ​a Definitive Guide to Reiki Have to Encompass all of This?

  • A hands on healing method.  That's all.
  • A spiritual path that happens to also heal.  That's it.
  • A method of taking money from the gullible.
  • A bunch of weird people, doing strange things, telling some very odd stories ... and best avoided.
  • A dangerous demonic force

All ​the above and more is wherever you look online.  It's enough to put anyone off taking their curiosity any further. 

This is my definitive guide to Reiki.  I've been doing it a long time - over 20 years! - and have explored, shared, learned, been part of community and built my own (of which, more later).

I am a traditionally trained Reiki Master/Teacher.  If you're particularly interested, I can supply my lineages - there are a few of them. 

From my point of view, yes, Reiki is energy, but it is also the people and the community they build together. 

​You may find this definitive guide to Reiki a little different to definitions to be found elsewhere.

What is Reiki and How Does it Work

Reiki is a force of nature.  And also a force from the Source of all that is.  In its simplest form it is life itself - "Ki" - which permeates all living things and gives them life.  It is measurable in the harmony of the universe ...  the song of the blackbird ... the feeling you have on busy streets ... and the joy expressed in the laughter of children. 

Which is all very well, but what's the science behind it? 

There isn't any.

There's quite a bit of science about its effects, but none about Reiki itself.  Reiki can't be measured.  Yet.  It can only be measured and observed in its effects.

What are the Effects of Reiki?

There are quite a few published peer reviewed studies on the ​benefits of Reiki, a selection of which you can find here on my website.  More studies, large-ish and small, are being published all the time - you can find some recent ones here, here, here and here.

From the studies that have been done, Reiki appears to have a positive effect on wellbeing, mood and pain management, although, as indicated in the published research, more original research needs to be done.

No one really knows what Reiki is, or how it works.  Physical touch may be a part of it - if you're feeling down, have had a nasty shock, learned something unpleasant about your health or someone you thought you knew, well, a hug, a Reiki treatment, a space to let go and let it all out is often a great gift.

Reiki may also speed healing.  Some of the studies that have been done seem to suggest it, but, again, more research is needed. 

From my own experience, receiving Reiki is relaxing at the very least, can "push" the receiver of it into a meditative state, and can also make people who have been brave too long, let go and cry it all out, bringing about a state of relief and the strength to carry on. 

At the very least, people who have received a Reiki treatment that day tend to have a really good night's sleep.  Which can be something people are incredibly grateful for, particularly when they're anxious.

Can Reiki Diagnose Illness?

Reiki practitioners do not diagnose illness.  That can lead to trouble in the way of getting arrested for practicing medicine without a licence.

Nor do Reiki practitioners suggest any kind of medication or reduction thereof, for similar reasons.  You should always consult a medical practitioner when dealing with physical or mental health issues

Some Reiki people practice Reiki in prisons ... but they prefer to go home afterwards, rather than return to a cell.

That said, a Reiki practitioner may suggest you visit your health practitioner if you mention something to them that you've noticed or are worried about.  It's always good to get tests if you have symptoms. Reiki practitioners can't order tests - your doctor can.

Reiki Treatments - What Happens?

You keep your clothes on.  That's something that appeals to me - any treatment where I can keep my clothes on has a big plus in the benefits column!

You'll be asked to lie down on a massage table and may be covered by a blanket or light quilt.  I have a suitably "woo, woo" quilt with gold stars on it, large enough to fold over the person lying on my table, for example. 

The room may have an incense burner going, essential oils, candles and/or music ... but none of these things are strictly necessary.  It's really just you and the practitioner.

Then the practitioner may take a few deep breaths to centre themselves, before laying their hands on you.  I like to start at the shoulders, just to familiarise you with the warmth and feel of my hands, but many practitioners go straight to the position covering the forehead and eyes. 

If you've asked for an "emotional treatment", the practitioner may start working above the crown of your head, where you can neither see nor feel them working.  From there, they will put their hands over your eyes (possibly with a tissue covering your face - sweat is never a good look!). 

The Reiki practitioner will place their hands in various positions on your body for several minutes for a time.  Practitioners avoid the "naughty bits"* but the hand positions cover  your head, upper chest, abdomen, back and main joints.  You may be asked to turn over so that they can treat your back.  

At the end, there will be some routine for bringing you back from the relaxed state you have entered (if you have - it's not mandatory!).  And they'll generally offer you a drink of water and make sure you're capable of getting home safely and/or possibly call you a cab. 

The whole session will generally last for an hour or so. 

​​* In the unlikely event a Reiki practitioner puts their hands on anywhere ​that makes you feel uncomfortable, get up and leave.  They are not doing Reiki, but rather perving.  Just say no and leave.

How Often Should You Receive a Reiki Treatment?

You knew this was coming, didn't you ...

It depends.

I've had a client who came every day for a month. 

Other clients come when they feel like it.  Many come once a month.  Some come once a week for a while and then once a month.  Or twice a year. 

It depends on how you both feel. 

What Does Reiki Cost?

Reiki doesn't cost anything.

The Reiki practitioner's time, on the other hand, is charged at a rate that they feel appropriate.  Which may or may not fit your budget. 

Many people talk about "energy exchange" in relation to payment for Reiki sessions.  But, fundamentally, we're talking about an exchange of value: you pay for goods and services in every other area of your life, either directly or indirectly.  When you buy a dress from a shop or get your hair done by a professional, you exchange value for it, generally in the form of money.  A Reiki practitioner's time is no different to that.  They provide a service, you pay a fee.  The fee is set by them, not by you.

There's something of a debate around this and we may come back to it later in this article, or another one.

The Next Steps in Reiki

Once you've had some Reiki treatments, you might begin to think about learning Reiki, so it's always with you.

    Learning Reiki is a big step and you should think about it carefully.

    ​Things to take into account:

  • Traditional Usui Reiki ... or not so traditional
  • Choosing a Master/Teacher
  • Making the effort to attend a Reiki class in person ... or doing something else
  • Cost, obviously
  • Reiki is a process, there will be changes - and some of them start when you commit to the class

Traditional Usui Reiki ... or Not So Traditional

I'm a traditional Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, so I would urge you to find a traditional class to attend.

The traditional way of teaching is in groups.  In this way, you get to practice on your class mates and to receive a great deal of Reiki over the time of the class.  You also meet people who are, in theory at least, willing to share Reiki with you on a regular basis. 

​Why Spend a Whole Weekend Learning Reiki?

Most traditional Reiki classes stretch over a weekend - and there may be an initial meeting on the evening before the class starts, just to introduce some of the concepts, give a little information ... and possibly the first "attunement".

Traditional First Degree Reiki classes include 4 "attunements", spaced out over at least 2 days.  I like to explain this as "letting the Reiki settle" between each one.  My experience tells me, however, that there are various good reasons for spending a couple of days in a class:

  • ​Most of us come to Reiki from a low energy state, for whatever reason. 
  • ​You may not even notice your low energy state - after all, it's "normal" for you.
  • ​You'll certainly notice the higher energy state you take away with you as the class progresses.
  • ​The higher energy state may come as a surprise - particularly if you're sceptical about the whole thing.
  • ​The two day class gives plenty of time for Reiki Mawashi - the Reiki Circle - in my opinion one of the greatest joys of Reiki community and group practice.

Included in the class will be an overview of the history of Reiki, how it grew out into the world from Japan to the States and from there to become a worldwide phenomenon.

5 Precepts of Reiki - value bomb image

You will also be introduced to the 5 Precepts of Reiki

​Just for today:

Do not anger

​Do not worry

​Honour your parents, teachers and elders

​Do your work honestly

​Show gratitude to every living thing

Most Reiki Master/Teachers these days provide a manual and a certificate.  I certainly do, but some don't.  Even if they don't provide a certificate as part of the class, if you ask for one, they will no doubt give you one.  There may be a fee.

What are Reiki Attunements and How do They Work?

This is where we come to the "Rei" part of Reiki.  We already mentioned "Ki", being the energy of life, but the "Rei" part is more esoteric, if anything. 

"Rei" can be translated in many ways.  It's often translated as "ghost" from the Japanese, but can also be understood as "soul", "Source", "Divinity", "Sky Father" - you get the idea. 

"Rei" can be understood as the spiritual force that gives rise to the energy of life.  When we become attuned to Reiki, we take a step further into the mystical joining of Spirit and Life.

Spirit and life - Reiki guide image

Most of us tend to explain attunements as "tuning you in" to the Reiki: like an FM radio, there is a bandwidth spectrum where the signal can be received ... but tuning in to the exact frequency, gives you the best reception.  Similarly, you're already connected to Source - how could you not be?  Source gives rise to life.  However, with each attunement we are brought closer to the clearest interaction between Spirit and Life. 

HA! Any wiser?

You don't really have to understand Reiki to become a practitioner.  Just like you don't have to understand plumbing to be able to use a tap: turn it one way, the water flows; turn it the other way, the flow stops. 

With Reiki, it's hands on: Reiki on; hands off: Reiki off.  At least, that's what happens once you've been doing it for a while.  At first, you'll find that Reiki flows at interesting moments.  I remember, for example, being on a bus, holding the metal upright next to the door, when a woman made her way to the same upright preparatory to getting off at the next stop.  You know how it is on buses: she put her hand over mine by mistake ... and was taken aback by the warmth of it with no gloves, in winter, holding cold metal! 

You may find that Reiki flows at odd moments, but this is nothing to worry about.  One thing all traditional Reiki Master/Teachers are clear about: Reiki is its own protection.  It cannot be taken from you and once you have had your First Degree Reiki Class, it will always be there for you, whether you use it or not. 

After Your First Degree Reiki Class

You may have heard rumours about a "21 day cleansing" after your class.  I never experienced this, and you don't have to either.

It may be that you experience cold or flu-like symptoms for a few days, but I never did.  If you get sick, go to the doctor and get treatment if you're worried. 

You will be encouraged to self treat every day.  This takes time - usually 45 minutes to an hour.  One of the first changes Reiki brings is the suggestion that this form of self care is appropriate and you're worth taking that time out of your day for yourself.

You will also be encouraged to share Reiki with your classmates and possibly with other local Reiki people.  You can usually find a local Reiki share group through or through local business pages on the internet (google "Reiki shares near me").  You can even find local Reiki share pages on Facebook!

Reiki shares have many and various structures.  Make sure they actually share Reiki, rather than just sit around and talk about it, but bear in mind there will be social interaction.  Depending on how many people attend, you may find yourself sharing 2 to a table, 3, 4 or more.  Giving Reiki as a team is great way to practice.

As you approach these Reiki share groups, bear in mind they are strangers, just as your First Degree class mates were strangers at the beginning of the weekend class.  There may be some awkwardness to begin with, but once you've shared Reiki, that will be a thing of the past. 

However, as with all interactions with strangers, exercise caution.  In the unlikely event that the initial awkwardness develops into discomfort, get up and leave.  There's no need to be polite.  Just leave.  Refer them to me, if they object! 

Have fun!  Reiki shares are one of the ways Reiki people build community.  You'll make new friends, be introduced to new ways of interacting and be part of a resource of support and friendship that will always be there for you.

This is a long article - you can download a pdf here to read at your leisure.

Second Degree Reiki

Reiki 1 is really all you need for yourself, family, friends, pets and houseplants.

However, after doing all that self treatment and Reiki sharing, it may be that you feel a calling to take things further.

Many traditional Reiki Master/Teachers will expect you to attend at least one of their Reiki Shares before accepting you into their Reiki 2 class, maybe more.  I, personally, expect prospective students to attend three Reiki shares before the class.  If they're not prepared  to put in that time, I am not prepared to put in the time to teach them.

Second Degree Reiki is where you'll be introduced to the Reiki Symbols.  Reiki 2 is also generally taught in groups over a weekend and involves up to 3 attunements. 

You'll probably do a couple of Reiki circles (Reiki Mawashi - remember that from before?) during the weekend - by this point you'll probably appreciate that any excuse for a Reiki circle is a good one!

As a traditional Usui Reiki Master/Teacher, I don't publish the symbols ... but I do have fun with them.  You can find a video about how I use one of them here.

You will be introduced to the Reiki symbols one by one, get to practice with them on each other and yourselves.  You will also learn how to do distance healing. 

After the Reiki Second Degree Class

After the class you will be expected to do homework before you get your certificate. Usually, this comprises some distance treatments, with written feedback from your partner; some hands on treatments, again with written feedback - and quite possibly some distance Reiki on your Master/Teacher.  No cheating allowed.

After Reiki 2, you may find yourself tempted to Reiki everyone and everything, simply because you can.  The truth is, however, this is really not appropriate.  Ambushing people is never polite and, frankly, there are so many people out there who are asking for Reiki, that Reiki-ing people without permission is, quite apart from being ill mannered, a waste, as well as sending in the wrong direction.

Think about it.  What makes you think you know best for other people?  Other than if you are a parent of young children, obviously. 

Adults make their own choices.  Sometimes they make choices we don't agree with.  That doesn't mean we are in a better position to make them (choices) for those people.  Particularly if you are in open disagreement with them, whether it's a friend, family member or even a politician.   

If you honestly think that you are better placed to make decisions for other adults ... then do Reiki on yourself.  Keep doing Reiki on yourself until you understand that adults - including the ones you don't agree with - make their own decisions.  Just like you do.

And always remember: people on the receiving end of Reiki are in charge of whether and  how much they get.  Here's an example: my mother, bless her heart, knew all about how I do Reiki.  When I offered her Reiki, she would often say "oh, yes", but really I knew she was just humouring me.  The fact that this little old lady had the strength to move heavy furniture the day afterwards was, in her opinion, not connected (LOL!). 

One evening, during the last year of her life, I was sending her Reiki (I had general ongoing permission and didn't need to ask on each occasion).  In order not to surprise her, I visualised moving from the front of the house, into the lift, up the corridor and into her room ... and found myself back outside again!  How odd, I thought.  And started again. 

It wasn't until I found myself outside the house for the third time that I registered that she didn't actually want Reiki that day. 

Here's another story about Reiki interactions with my mother.  Make of it what you will.

Don't send Reiki to people who don't want it.  There are plenty of people who do.

The only exception is the Reiki circle.  You can put people, places, situations, relationships, whatever into the circle.  By doing this, you are making Reiki available to them without trying to push it into them without permission. 

Reiki distance healing permission image

Yet another reason to join or build communities with Reiki groups that do Reiki circles.

Third Degree Reiki: Reiki Master Teacher Level

So now you feel drawn to teaching Reiki. 

I've seen the adverts: "Become a powerful Reiki Master with this video".

Yeah, right. Like that's going to work (not).

Becoming a Reiki Master Teacher does not make you more powerful than anyone else, more righteous, more spiritual or in any way "more better".  It just means you can teach Reiki to others; that you are able to hold the energy involved ... and that you may have a teeny tiny control issue! 

Barely noticeable.  Microscopic, in fact.  No one could even notice it.

Teeny tiny control issue definitive guide to Reiki image

What Does Becoming a Reiki Master Involve?

Traditional training for Reiki Masters can take a year - or even longer!

You start by attending the shares your Reiki Master holds.  Every share.  No exceptions.

You may be asked to write an essay on what Reiki means to you.  This will form the basis of the manual you hand out to your own students, so think carefully about it.

Your Reiki Master Teacher may teach you how to do Reiju (if they know how to do it).  They may call it a "healing attunement", depending on their lineage. 

Whatever they call it, you will get plenty of practice at Reiki shares, where you will be called upon to practice these attunements on both your Reiki Teacher and the other attendees.  In this way, your teacher supports your spiritual growth, as well as your capacity to hold the energy required to pass the attunements when you are teaching your own students.

Because you will now be holding and handling the Rei (spirit) and Ki (life), in a more direct and powerful way, you may find that your life falls apart. 

Yup, this is what "becoming a powerful Reiki Master" is: you may feel very challenged by both your teacher and your life.  You may be tempted to walk away, to give up ... or to do the whole "mastery" thing some other way.  That is your choice. 

But if you truly want to become a Traditional Usui Reiki Master, you will stay on the path, keep going, meet and overcome each challenge ... and in the end, you will surrender to Reiki.

Reiki Mastery is a journey.  It does not mean that you "master" Reiki.  It means, at least in my experience, that Reiki masters you.

You will need some time and the support of your teacher, as well as your community, to fully grow into the role of Reiki Master Teacher.  That's why it takes so long.

And, you know, you'll learn the Master symbol. 

There'll also be some attunements.

What are the Elements of the Reiki System?

  • Attunements - The attunements are the most noticeable things about Reiki.  The whole mystical ceremony that suddenly gives you the ability to lay your hands on someone and feel the Reiki flow. 
  • The truth is, however, that this is not the only thing about Reiki.  The attunements will give you an experience ... but not the whole Reiki journey.
  • The Reiki Precepts - some people believe the Precepts are Reiki Rules.  They're not.  The Precepts are promises and guides, not commandments. Apparently, in Japan, students are encouraged to recite the Precepts every morning and every evening to focus their minds on where they're going.
  • ​Here, some Reiki shares include this at the beginning of the share, or the end.  Reiki gatherings tend to recite the Precepts in circle at least once over the two days.They are in every Reiki Manual ... as well as all over social media.It's surprising how many people, then, have never heard of them.
  • Reiki Treatments - both Reiki self treatments and treatment on others.   This includes the hand positions and distance Reiki.
  • The Reiki Symbols - all four Reiki symbols are part of the Reiki system.  Use them in your practice, play with them ... and learn from them. 
  • ​Anyone who tells you the symbols are "training wheels" and they don't need them, is missing the point.  After practicing assiduously with the Reiki symbols for some time, they begin turn up by themselves - you don't need to call them.  But if you're not using the symbols and they're not turning up by themselves, your practice is Reiki 1.  Which is fine - there's nothing wrong with Reiki 1. 
  • ​But you are no "powerful Reiki Master" without the symbols. 
  • Community - As you read through this - very long! - article, did you see how the importance of community grows, the further along the journey we go?
  • ​Traditional Reiki people learn in groups, we share in groups, we gather in groups and we build community in groups.
  • ​Groups are one of the fundamental elements of the Reiki system.  At Reiki Gatherings, people arrive from all over the country to sit (or stand! ) in circle together.  I have attended at least one Reiki Gathering with over 70 people in circle together.  So powerful.  And so fun!
  • ​From your very first Reiki class, you are introduced to the energy dynamic of a group of Reiki people working together.  You may not know any of them to begin with.  But they are all Reiki.
  • ​If you have only ever learned one to one, or - [insert whatever deity you believe in, or none, here], help us! - by "distance attunement", you are missing one of the fundamental elements of the Reiki system. 
  • ​If you learned by "distance attunement", then you simply had an experience of energy and, probably, nothing more.  Even if you were supplied with a manual.  Deep down, you know there's something missing, but do you now understand how much?

Wrapping Up the Definitive Guide to Reiki

This just about wraps up your definitive guide to Reiki. 


  • Reiki is more than attunements
  • Reiki is a system that has 5 elements
  • Reiki can only be measured by its effects
  • Traditional Reiki people build communities through groups
  • Practice and sharing are fundamental to Reiki
  • Reiki people provide a valuable service
  • Reiki Mastery is a journey - it takes time.
  • Don't send Reiki to people who don't want it.  There are plenty of people who do.
  •  You may have a control issue.  Tiny.

How does your experience compare with this definitive guide to Reiki?  Share your thoughts about this article in the comments below.