Can I Do Hatsurei if I Can’t Visualise?

reiki self treatment meditations


Hatsurei ho is one of the basic energy exercises found in Japanese-style Reiki, an extension or elaboration of the original two exercises that Usui Sensei has his students perform at First Degree: Kenyoku and Joshin Kokkyu ho. Part of what you do when you practise Hatsurei ho is to draw energy to your Tanden, which is an energy centre found two fingerbreadths below your tummy button and 1/3rd of the way into your body; it is the centre of your personal energetic universe, the place where your creativity and intuition lie.

Someone contacted me recently wanting to know whether they would be able to do Hatsurei properly because “they couldn’t visualise”, so I thought I would talk about the whole issue of visualising and controlling or directing energy.

The answer is “yes” by the way: you can do Hatsurei ho effectively even though you can’t visualise.

We are visual beings

Firstly, and this is a complete aside, I wanted to say that humans are visual beings. During evolution, there has been a veritable ‘arms race’ between our different senses, battling it out to achieve supremacy, and the visual sense has won that war hands down! We are successful as a species because of our binocular, colour vision and our ability to be a pattern-matching supercomputer.

In fact, 50% of our brain’s immense processing power is dealing with visual information, so even if you are a person who believes that thay aren’t a visual person, or that can’t visualise, in the background your mind is spending half of its capability dealing with visual images! And in fact there are things that you can do to develop that awareness of your visual sense, and become more comfortable with visualising and accessing images internally, but that isn’t really a Reiki topic.

Another point is that visual memory is a bit grainy, rather like the photos that the first mobile phones with cameras used to take, and some people who say that they “aren’t visual” or “can’t visualise” just have too high expectations of their internal visions: they are expecting Panavision or Technicolor, whereas in reality our internal visual ability is decidedly low grade. You may be as ‘visual’ as anyone else, but just don’t think so!

Unfortunate choice of words

When you read instructions about working with Reiki, often they will involve following an exhortation to ‘imagine’ or ‘visualise’ that the energy is doing a particular thing or moving to a particular place. The majority of people can visualise well enough for most practical purposes so it makes sense to use those sort of words, and working visually is quick and easily achievable for most people.

But we do not need to use our visual sense, or imagine anything in our minds, to be able to control or direct the energy. Reiki is a very flexible and adaptible energy and will accommodate many ways of working.

Energy follows intent

The reason for this is that Reiki follows your intent, however you might choose to express or frame that intent. Where you focus your attention is where the energy directs itself, and how you want the energy to move will guide the energy to move in the manner you intend, no matter how that intention is expressed. Certainly if you can “see” the energy moving in a particular way or to a particular place, that will work well, but there are alternatives.

For example, you can:

  • Have in mind…
  • Know…
  • Be aware of…
  • Feel…
  • Experience…

… the energy, say, moving down through your crown, down the centre of your body, down to your Tanden.

All these words refer to a way of knowing or experiencing that do not require any visual images and will work just as well.

Move energy without seeing

Let’s try a simple experiment. I want you to become aware of your right hand. Feel energy flowing down your arm into your right hand and notice the energy build there. Now take your attention to your left hand: feel the energy travelling down your left arm into your left hand, where the energy builds in intensity.

You just controlled the movement of energy without visualising anything.

Try this: be aware of the energy flowing down through your body, like a free-flowing river, through your torso and down your right leg, and the energy concentrates itself in your right foot. Experience the energy there for a little while. Now notice how the energy pulls back, so that a strong bubble of energy now sits within your right knee. Experience the energy there for a while.

Again, you directed the flow of energy without visualising anything. What you did was to experience energy in one place and notice it moving; your “noticing” it moving caused it to move because the energy follows your focus and your attention.

Hatsurei ho without seeing

Now let’s try an exercise more directly related to Hatsurei ho:  focus your attention on your forehead/third eye, and notice whatever sensation that arises there: maybe some pressure or fizzing or tingling; you’ll probably like this sensation! Now, slowly move that feeling to the very crown of your head; this may take a little while and you’ll need to concentrate. Notice the sensation moving as the energy traces a path to your crown. Let the energy fizz on your crown for a short while. I had you do this so you can see what fine control you can have over the movement and location of the energy.

Anyway: back to Hatsurei ho: now notice that the sensation starts to move vertically downwards, from your crown, down through the centre of your body. Don’t worry if you can’t feel it every single step of the way because you can reconnect with it as it descends. And be aware as the energy reaches and builds in your Tanden. This is a small part of the Joshin Kokkyu ho stage, where you draw energy from the universe, down through your crown to your Tanden, then having the energy spread through your body and then flood out to infinity. All these stages are accessible to you whether or not you can specifically “visualise” something.

Remember, you can:

  • Have in mind…
  • Know…
  • Be aware of…
  • Feel…
  • Experience…

… that the energy moves in a particular way or rests in a particular place.

The energy is accommodating

Reiki is a very accommodating energy. It is happy to flow as it wishes, drawn to areas of need, and it will also follow your focus, however your focus might be achieved. It will follow your intention, moving, behaving, framing itself, in whatever way you intend, however that intention is expressed.

So you don’t have to worry about “not being able to visualise” because Reiki doesn’t need you to.


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5 thoughts on “Can I Do Hatsurei if I Can’t Visualise?

  1. Thank you for touching upon this visualization thing. I am a Reiki Master who has aphantasia (blind minds eye). I too was caught up into the whole visualization thing. Years of frustration and I almost gave up the entire Reiki journey. But then i realized it is not part of who I am, and was able to let it go (part of the letting go you speak about). This letting go, allowed me build upon my strengths of feeling and moving the energy. I believe that we all have different gifts that gives power to the whole for great things. You spoke beautifully of how to move energy by the focused intent of movement and I agree this works for mostly all aphantasics. Ironically enough, I am sent students who are unable visualize, the universe is so amazing. Many of my students have very strong abilities in feeling the energies of color, sound and other truly profound stuff. Anyway my focus has been on teaching the importance of the intention and the power of the spoken word. Thank you I really enjoyed this article and will direct my students to your site.

    1. Dear Dana, I was really pleased to hear that you found the article helpful, and that you found a way of working with the energy despite your aphantasia; interesting, isn’t it, that you are being sent students who also need help with this? 🙂

  2. Thanks for this, Taggart, I found it interesting and totally agree that the ability to visualise is not at all necessary for Hatsurei Ho or anything Reiki-related. After all the energy is actually doing the thing, right, we don’t need to imagine anything!

    I just wanted to chime in as I only found out a few years ago to my amazement that people visualised at all – I always thought it was metaphorical – I have a condition called aphantasia – visualisation is completely unavailable to my brain. I am not alone in this either! For those of us with aphantasia being told that they could visualise a bit better if they tried some methods or lowered their expectations or something is really frustrating. For some of us it’s not a continuum, the tools are quite simply not there.

    I find this works to my advantage in all energy work, I always wondered why people distracted themselves pretending to see things (and I now know they actually *are* seeing things :-)) when you could just go to your direct perception of what is going on with the energy, which is not primarily on the visual frequency.

    It would be really cool if people with aphantasia were included in discussions like this, I appreciate of course that many people haven’t heard of it yet!

    1. Hi Sarah, I don’t think that people who are able to visualise are ‘distracting themselves’ by visualising, just that for most people the visual is the most familiar and fastest “go to” sense to use, given the massive chunk of the brain’s resources that is allocated to visual processing. It’s the default setting for most people, I think. And for people who don’t have aphantasia, they can learn to develop their visual side to an extent, and some people’s expectations in terms of visualising can be unrealistic (it’s often more “grainy thumbnail” than 4K HD!). And because most people can visualise, or can learn to visualise better, and most teachers will be using their default visual sense, instructions tend to be framed that way.

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