Attunements, empowerments & contact lenses!
As for the contact lenses, you can find out about them towards the end of this article!
No matter what sort of Reiki course you choose to follow, wherever you are in the world, you are likely to go through a ritual or a series of rituals which can be seen as a way of ‘connecting’ you to Reiki, a way of hooking you up to something that you were previously not connected to. That is a common way that such rituals are viewed: a way of ‘attuning’ you to something that you were not attuned to before, a way of plugging you into a new source of energy that was not available to you before.
But perhaps it is more useful to say that an empowerment, or an attunement, is a ‘ritual permission’, a permission to recognise something that is within, something that has always been there. The effect of the connection ritual is to allow you to channel energy for your own benefit, and for other people’s benefit, in a way that was not possible for you before you went through the ritual with your Reiki teacher.
Most people in the world of Reiki have been ‘connected’ using an “attunement” ritual, a version of the ritual that Mrs Takata was using, and while increasing numbers are now being connected using an “empowerment”, for the foreseeable future those attuned will always outnumber those empowered: most Reiki teachers attune, only a minority empower.
What are “attunements”
Until approximately 1999, everyone within the world of Reiki will have been ‘attuned’ using some sort of variation of the connection ritual that Hawayo Takata taught to the Masters that she initiated in the 1970s. Since the ‘70s Reiki has spread throughout the world and the attunement rituals used have evolved and changed as they have been passed from one teacher to another down the line. Some attunements are now quite complicated affairs, with many, many stages, while others are fairly simple, though there are some common themes that seem to run through most methods, for example the placing of the Reiki symbols into different parts of the student’s body (head and hands for example), tapping, blowing, affirming, visualising.
So there is not one standard attunement ritual used in the world of Reiki: there are endless variations, some quite contradictory to each other; if one method works in terms of the ‘theory’ behind it then a very different method does not make ‘sense’ and simply cannot work, and yet all methods do seem to work perfectly well. Some people insist that there have to be four attunements for Reiki First Degree, which is a big historical misunderstanding that I will not go into now, while others use three, or two, or even one attunement on their courses. All these approaches work.
It should be stated that Mikao Usui did not give people attunements, he did not attune anyone to any symbols, and he did not teach attunements. Attunements were not part of the system that Usui taught: he used empowerments instead. Usui taught empowerments to his Master students, and this was not done early on in their Master training – passing on the Reiki ability to others was only taught towards the end of the Master student’s formal training with Usui Sensei.
Now, the Imperial Officers who trained with Usui had not trained with him for long enough to have reached the level where they would have been taught to empower others, so where did the attunements used on most Reiki courses come from? Interestingly, it seems that after Usui’s untimely death the Imperial Officers put together a ritual that replicated the feelings or the experiences that they had when being empowered by Usui. Dr Hayashi passed on such a ritual to Mrs Takata, and then variations of this ritual spread throughout the world.
So attunements started their life as a constructed ritual put together by the Imperial Officers, and this ritual has now evolved, changed, altered over time as it has been passed from teacher to teacher in the West. These various attunement methods have been used to attune most of the Reiki people in the world.
So attunements work, of course. They ‘connect’ the student to Reiki. But that is not the end of the story: if we are going to get the most out of our Reiki then we are going to have to commit ourselves to working with the energy regularly, on ourselves, on other people, to develop our ability as a channel, to develop our sensitivity to the energy and to develop our intuition. An attunement gives us a baseline connection to the energy, but we can develop ourselves further, and benefit further, through our own efforts.
And in fact we can benefit from receiving further attunements, too. This is something that Reiki Master William Rand has been advocating for many years now, I believe. He does not say this because attunements are in some way ineffective, or temporary, or weak: he recommends that people get together to re-attune each other because he has found that there are definite benefits associated with having your ‘connection’ to the energy reinforced or renewed.
So one attunement is enough (or two, or three, or four, or however many attunements you had on your Reiki course, or however many attunements you believe are necessary), but there are definite benefits associated with being reattuned, and if we are serious about our Reiki then we need to also commit ourselves to working with the energy regularly. You don’t just go on a course and that’s the end of it: you need to work at your Reiki.
What are empowerments
When people talk about empowerments, they are referring to “Reiju empowerments”. You can write the word “Reiju” in two different ways using Japanese kanji, one way meaning “accepting the spirituality” and the other meaning “giving the spirituality”; spirituality in this case means ‘connection’ to the Reiki energy. In fact the word Reiju has been interpreted in several ways, for example “giving of the five blessings” and “the union of mind and ki”. The line in the Reiki precepts where it says “the secret method of inviting happiness through many blessings” might actually mean “the secret method of inviting happiness through receiving many Reiju empowerments”.
The empowerments that Mikao Usui used with his students can be referred to as “Reiju” and these were equivalent to a Tendai Buddhist blessing, a blessing that a Tendai teacher would bestow on a student with the intention that the student should receive what they need. Usui Sensei gave the blessing using intent only, but within Tendai Buddhism there is also a physical ritual that can be carried out which conveys the Reiju blessing; details of this ritual were passed to the West from Usui’s surviving students in the late 1990s and it is this ritual that we use on our “Reiki Evolution” First and Second Degree courses.
The effects of empowerments do not wear out. Empowerments ‘connect’ you to the energy; they allow you to recognise something that is already there. Just like attunements. The consensus that I have seen amongst those teachers who are using Reiju in practice, all over the world, is that not only are empowerments effective but they also confer special benefits. In my experience, students who receive Reiju seem ‘better connected’, better able to work intuitively, more sensitive to the energy in the early stages, when compared with people who have been attuned. Not everyone will agree with this, but many people who have moved from giving attunements to giving empowerments are saying the same sort of thing.
One empowerment is enough but it is nice do a few on a Reiki course, and we choose to carry out three empowerments on our First and Second Degree courses. But there are definite benefits associated with receiving Reiju repeatedly, and Usui Sensei’s students received Reiju from him again and again throughout their training at all levels. William Rand’s recommendation that Masters re-attune each other, because of the benefits associated, serves to echo this original practice. We echo Usui’s approach ourselves, by making distant empowerments available for all our students to tune into at any time on a Monday, every week, and Reiju empowerments are also given to students attending our teachers’ Reiki shares.
Receiving Reiju regularly helps to ‘reinforce’ your connection to the source. It enhances self-healing, it helps the student to develop spiritually, it enhances intuition and increases sensitivity to the flow of energy. Being reattuned will also help to achieve this, though as far as I can see it is not so common within the world of Reiki for re-attunements to be offered.
Now for the nonsense
One or two people are trying to argue that Usui Sensei’s method for connecting people to Reiki is ineffective. They are saying that Reiju is a weak and provides you with only a partial and lowly connection to the energy, that you are actually “dis-empowered”, unable to benefit from Reiki properly and unable to treat other people effectively.
These people – who will not have experienced Reiju for themselves, of course, or used Reiju in practice – are also arguing that Reiju-connected students are obliged to desperately carry out energy exercises every day to try and maintain some sort of a decent energy-channelling ability, and that they are dependent on their teacher for a regular ‘top’ up, without which their Reiki ability will dwindle and disappear. This is such a distortion of reality! By way of contrast, they also say that attunements give a far better permanent connection to the source, and the implication is that the student then does not need to carry out any energy work to develop themselves because they are perfectly connected right from the start, and no further commitment or responsibility for personal development is required.
Interestingly, in the same article, I was amused to hear that:
You should not treat people with pacemakers. This is nonsense, of course. Please see my article “Restrictions on Reiki” for a longer discussion of this Reiki fable.
First Degree does not really give you anything, and you cannot treat yourself and other people effectively at this level. This of course flies in the face of the cumulative experience of hundreds of thousands of people who have taken First Degree and whose lives have changed for the better through Reiki, and who have helped friends and family members at First Degree.
You should take Reiki First and Second Degree in one weekend to be able to use Reiki effectively. Again nonsense, and the global consensus is that you should wait between Reiki levels to give yourself a chance to work on yourself and gain confidence, putting what you have learned into practice before moving on. Exhorting people to take Reiki1 and Reiki2 in one go, because they will not be able to do Reiki properly otherwise, is largely a marketing ploy in my view.
There is a lot of nonsense spoken about Reiki, and two more examples that were just sent to me the other day nearly had me choke on my cup of Tick Tock tea: there is a local college somewhere in the UK (I won’t name it) that tells it’s Reiki students that they should not treat people who wear contact lenses because the energy will distort the lenses, and in that same part of the country there is also a teacher who is telling their students that every time they use one of the Reiki symbols they are shortening their life by several minutes.
We have a word in England for such advice, and for the nonsense that is being written by one or two people about Reiju empowerments: “claptrap”. Claptrap should be avoided at all costs; claptrap will seriously diminish your enjoyment and experience of this wonderful system that we have been given. So the next time you hear that you shouldn’t treat people with pacemakers, or contact lenses, or green trousers for that matter, or the next time you hear that Usui’s method of connecting people to the energy doesn’t work properly, take such comments with a pinch of salt, ignore them, and move on!