Mt. Kurama, Japan ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt.

Reiki Masters Are Energy Messengers, Not Healers

Reiki Masters Are Energy Messengers, Not Healers 1024 768 Cyndie Burkhardt

“We humans originally have the power to connect with nature and use this energy to heal ourselves. In our modern world they put so much attention on scientific information and facts that people forget we have that power/potential.” Akiko is a Reiki Master from Kyoto, Japan and sitting in her living room over tea she was explaining to me all things Reiki. Sort of.

What is Reiki and how does it work?

The word Reiki comes from combining rei (soul, spirit) and ki (vital energy) and loosely translates as “universal life energy.” The word refers to the energy itself as well as the practice, which is sometimes described as spiritual healing or energy healing.

Reiki is built on the belief that each person’s body has energy and is innately able to heal itself. Reiki masters place their hands on a recipient, connect with Reiki energy from a universal life force, and it flows through them. Akiko channels energy to facilitate healing but says, “it’s more of awakening someone’s own ability to heal themselves.”

In fact, she doesn’t think of healing at all. Akiko connects to universal energy and her hands “work automatically.” How does this automatic business work? “When you have Attunement the channel opens and when you touch a client the energy flows,” she says, “that’s traditional Reiki.”

I needed to know more about attunement. But just a minute, is there a spiritual connection? For Akiko it’s respecting the universal force and trying to live as a clear channel. Meaning, she doesn’t think about healing or changing people, rather being an empty vessel and letting Reiki energy move through her. I asked if she considers herself a healer to which she replied, “If you say so.” She thinks of herself as a messenger of Reiki energy, and that’s all.

Mt. Kurama, Japan ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt.
Mt. Kurama is considered a significant energy source. People come from all over the world to experience Reiki energy and its calming effect.

All images ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt.


Attunement is an initiation, or ritual, whereby someone learns the basics to perform Reiki and prepares to become a master. It’s the gateway to knowing how to tap into universal life force energy. Akiko cannot reveal any details of the process, they’re secret and protected which she repeated several times as I struggled to understand the mystery. She took a different tact, giving me a history lesson on the birth of Reiki at Mt. Kurama in Japan, including the intrigue of generations who carried on the practice after the death of its founder Mikao Usui.

Supposedly Usui went to the mountain to find enlightenment and in the process also found a power to heal—he cured his foot pain simply by placing his hand on it. When I said it sounded like magic Akiko laughed out loud.

Reiki’s roots

The rest of the story has a cast of characters and plotlines. In a nutshell: the Japanese government banned Reiki after WWII but a few practitioners kept it alive secretly—Dr. Chujiro Hayashi, a direct student of Usai, and his student Chiyoko Yamaguchi. Nobody knew and Reiki more or less disappeared from Japan. However, Hawayo Takata, another student of Dr. Hayashi, took it back to Hawaii where she lived and began teaching. You could say she helped develop Reiki and prevented it from being lost as it spread in the U.S. and other countries. Reiki returned to Japan in the 1990s when the Yamaguchi family was discovered. People everywhere who knew western Reiki wanted to learn the original eastern practice.

Akiko Sakai, Kyoto, Japan ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt.
Akiko Sakai.
Akiko's Reiki certificate, Kyoto, Japan ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt.
Akiko’s diploma is atypical and unique, hand-written with Chinese characters.
Why seek a Reiki master?

The number one reason people seek Reiki is because they have a disease or problem that cannot be fully treated with western medicine. In eastern medicine, mind, body, and soul are connected. Reiki looks at the whole being and tries to balance the energy of the whole body.

Pain management, mental health, and stress are some of the non-physical conditions Reiki addresses; most commonly anxiety, fatigue, depression, and PTSD. “People experience deep relaxation during Reiki,” Akiko says, “they don’t realize how much tension is built up inside them. The body needs rest and they relax.”

But how does it really work?

Mental health in its various forms is a convincing reason to seek Reiki but I still had questions about its viability as a healing modality for physical ailments. What actually happens inside a body when Reiki energy flows? Then Akiko dropped a bomb.

Reiki can be performed remotely. You don’t need to touch a recipient, you can help them from a separate place. You mean like on a Skype call?

Akiko claims to have healed her 89 year-old mother from a critical condition, remotely. All she would say is that once she started thinking about her mom and her condition Reiki started to work automatically. I needed to know how it’s possible to perform Reiki from Kyoto to Tokyo and how the recovery is attributable to a remote Reiki intervention. “I cannot tell you in detail,” she said, “you need to take the seminar on how remote Reiki works.” Again, I said it sounded like magic and laughter ensued. This story didn’t help make a case for Reiki.

Akiko Sakai, Kyoto, Japan ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt.
Akiko grew up in a spiritual family, her grandfather was a Shinto teacher/preacher.
On the table
Akiko Sakai, Kyoto, Japan ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt.

Akiko said it’s easier to understand from experience rather than explanation and asked if I had any problems. I mentioned knee pain and a broken toe, then hopped on her table, ready for magic.

She said to relax my eyes and relax my mind, and commented that people think too much, such as asking too many questions. Funny woman… she does have a sense of humor. She started with my head so the energy would go down through my body then she moved to my knee, foot, and back. I surrendered to her touch and I definitely felt relaxed but nothing special happened.


A few days later I went to Jikiden Reiki Institute for an open house and spoke with Tadao Yamaguchi. He co-founded Jikiden with his mother to preserve the integrity and teachings of Japan’s original Reiki. The conversation more or less followed the same storyline—hands-on Reiki works automatically; Reiki can help with anything; anybody can do Reiki; attunement is secret.

Mr. Yamaguchi mentioned Reiki being a family practice. One person learns it and they keep the family well, helping with everyday things. “Everybody has something, even if it’s just a headache,” he said. I asked how Reiki fits into the Japanese healthcare system and was told it can be used for preventative care, not just when there’s a problem, and again family was mentioned.

Back on the table

He asked if I’d like to receive Reiki and what problem I had. Knee pain and a broken toe. I got on the table and four Reiki masters gathered around. They placed their hands on my feet, knees, lower back, and head. Within a few minutes I felt light sensations where their hands were, like delicate electrical impulses. Their fingers danced, as if twitching.

Was I imagining this? Did I really want something to materialize that badly? Maybe this is what happens when you have four Reiki masters touching you and not just one. I was present and aware of my body and I was also clear about having no expectations. I simply laid there and noticed, and this was real. Then I started to feel sleepy and it was all I could do to stay awake. Then someone rubbed my head and my experience of original, eastern Reiki was over.

Energy messengers

It’s curious that Reiki practitioners don’t consider themselves healers but as channels—Reiki is accepted as a complementary healing modality after all. And talk about secret rituals, automatic hands, and remote healing undercuts Reiki’s credibility, although some may be drawn to it specifically for the mysticism. Maybe how much you believe determines how well you respond to treatment, even if it’s just a placebo effect.

Natural healing

From the perspective of family care and a healing touch, Reiki makes sense. Though not evidence-based, the benefits of family support are well documented to increase a person’s overall health and wellbeing, whether from preventative health measures or something else. In this case, it’s the powerful sensation of human touch.

Deep relaxation is also a thumbs-up for Reiki. Calming the nervous system to encourage internal rebalancing is valuable in today’s society where so many people experience some sort of stress, whether from being overworked, illness, financial struggle, political conflict, violence, or war.

It’s unclear if/how Reiki fits into healing and health when it comes to serious physical conditions. Stress reduction, preventative medicine, holistic care, and natural healing may be its best selling points.  I definitely felt relaxed on the table and my knee pain subsided. But as of this writing my toe is still broken…


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