The “21-Day thing”

reiki 21 days twenty one

Where did the 21 day thing come from?

I wanted to talk a little bit about the “21 day thing”: the 21-day self-treat or the 21-day clear-out after attending a First Degree course.

I’m a bit puzzled by this and I’ve been trying to fathom where it came from, and why it should be recommended.

I think this idea probably came into being because it echoes the story told about Mikao Usui’s discovery of Reiki on Mt Kurama where, according to the story that Mrs Takata passed on, Usui Sensei went up Mt Kurama and fasted and meditated for 21 days, culminating in him being hit by a bolt of light, seeing symbols, and Reiki was born.

We know now that this isn’t actually what happened: Usui didn’t fast for 21 days up the mountain, though he did carry out something called the “Lotus Repentance meditation”, and this did last for 21 days I believe.

But this was quite a formalised process – an established Tendai practice – and he went home at night after each day’s meditation. In any case, this did not lead to the ‘eureka’ moment that Mrs Takata spoke about since Usui was already teaching his system before he carried out the first of his Lotus Repentance meditations, and he performed these meditations several times during his lifetime.

7 x 3 = 21

People have speculated and taught that the 21 consecutive days of self-treating is required because the energy makes a visit to each of a person’s chakras three times during this period.

The emphasis on chakras within Reiki seems to have originated within Reiki’s journey through the New Age movement, where some lineages have incorporated various New Age practices like crystals, spirit guides and Angels etc. Chakra work wasn’t part of the original system.

And this three-times-through-your-chakras seems to me to be a bit of ‘reverse engineering’, where you have something that you’re supposed to do, and then you back-track to try and find a justification for it, to make sense of it in your head.

Some suggest that if you carry out a practice for 21 days then you will have established it as a habit, and there may be something in that, actually.

Don’t stop after 21 days!

The problem that I have with this idea of a 21-day practice is that some people “do their 21 days” and then stop, or have only a sporadic practice afterwards, as if once you’ve done your 21 days… that’s it, you’ve cleared yourself out and you don’t need to work on yourself so dedicatedly afterwards.

And I also have a problem with the idea that you have a clear-out just during that 21 day period and then you’re sorted.

In my experience, the way that people react to Reiki in terms of ‘clearing out’, whether that be in terms of physical reactions or states of mind or emotions, seems to vary greatly from one person to another. And while Reiki doesn’t seem to give people an experience that they can’t handle, some can make a great big fast clear-out initially, some have it happening in dribs and drabs, while for others the process may be delayed for a while.

Everyone’s different. And there’s always something more to clear out!

We all live lives, we have stress, we suppress emotions, we fail to deal with things, so if we carry on working with Reiki, there will be stuff that we will need to shift in the future to bring things into balance for us, not just in those first few weeks.

And just wait until you start attuning people: you may have a mega-clear-out waiting for you!

So while I don’t object to people working on themselves dedicatedly for three weeks – why would I? – I’d rather emphasise that if you’re going to gain the greatest benefit out of your connection to Reiki then you need to work on yourself regularly.

You don’t have to self-treat (or carry out Hatsurei ho) every single day (and then beat yourself up for not being perfect if you have to miss a day sometimes) but if you can make Reiki a regular part of your life then you will reap the rewards.

And that’s not just for 21 days: that’s for life.

Over to you

So, do you have a regular practice of using Reiki on yourself?

And, if so, what have you noticed in terms of the way that your mind/body has responded to that ongoing energy work?

Did you have a bit of a clear-out to begin with, or a great big clear-out, and then occasional ups and downs after then?

Need a hand with your Reiki habit?

If anyone does want to carry out some task or practice for 21 days in a row, here is a free online service that will keep track of what you have been doing, sending you an e-mail every day to see what you have done. It’s called Habit Forge.

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Picture Credit: Martin Fisch


20 thoughts on “The “21-Day thing”

  1. This 21 day thing has always baffled me really. I initially trained in Western Reiki and this philosophy is what we were taught.
    As far as I am concerned, whether we are Reiki Teachers or Students
    we are constantly being given opportunities to *clear-out*………
    From my own experience of teaching Reiki, then I too am a student.
    I am merely the conduit, the facilitator who re-introduces the Universal energies to my students. We are already connected to Reiki, and remember, Reiki is merely a word, which came in later during Usui’s journey.

    Reiki is always with us, working quietly in the background, whether we are aware of this or not.
    How on earth a 21 days of working with ourselves leaves us cleansed and balanced, I find difficult to understand.
    Our Reiki journeys continue throughout our lifetimes. We are constantly being given chances to evolve and develop, and if we ignore these chances, then the Universe will certainly find another time and situation for us to address our *shortcomings.
    It’s not right, it’s not wrong, it just is Reiki at work, guiding and steering us in what is for our greater good.

    At Reiki-Evolution, we don’t lay down any silly rules and regulations that*you must* do this and *must do that* in order to be an effective channel for the energy.
    Yes, daily work on ourselves is important, but it’s meant to be
    *enjoyed* not endured. Reiki is a kind, loving, compassionate and is a highly evolved intelligent energy.
    If we surrender to the energy on a regular basis, committing ourselves to regular practice, then the results can be fully rewarding. What we put in to our practice, we will get back a thousand fold.

    And we are rich in materials to draw from. Manuals, c.d’s illustrations, DVD’s etc, and now we have the *BLOG* to share with one another. And much more on the way:} Fabby!!!
    Yes, we are very blessed indeed being part of all of this.
    It’s wonderful and exciting, and I still marvel after approx. 20 years of working with this magnificent source of energy.

    Kind Blessings
    Margaret Craig

  2. I agree Taggart, the 21 Days is certainly going to help forge the habit of regular Reiki practice, but it’s important not to give up at that point and consider yourself fixed! It’s a life’s work is it not!?

  3. I agree. It’s not so much 21 days as 21 years and counting! I think the idea that if you can dedicatedly carry out a habit for 21 days then you have probably established a habit that may stick is probably correct, but life intervenes sometimes and it’s not always possible to work on yourself every day, and habits can come and go, motivation can come and go.

    It’s a work-in-progress really. You make Reiki work a regular part of your routine as far as you can, and the beneficial changes build up cumulatively.

  4. HI, how wonderful article again Taggart! Just as recent as yesterday, in one of the class i was teaching this topic of [habit] came up. A Reiki Volunteer who is a Reiki I practitioner ( with no habit !!] had received a treatment from the Reiki II student. As I then enquired about how her own self-treatment practice was unfolding the person replied that she had not yet this [full habit] into her routine because … a long list of to do list. Then she came up with the fact that a full self treatment lasts about 1 hour and she surely would not have the time for that. She loves Reiki but cannot get into the [HABIT] of self-treatments. To this I suggested to double-check other habits such as going to sleep, waking up, and other basic routines. She said yes I had self-treatment for 21 days, but then came back to work and did not create the [HABIT]

    So is the issue with the 21 days, the habit, the intention of healing or, the versions of self-treatments long and short? …. As Margaret pointed out, Reiki is cumulative and will build up…self-treatment is very important and the short version of full self-treatment is plenty enough to perform everyday, giving time for long full version to more appropriate timings!
    Isabella (Healing Mudras)

  5. Hi. My thoughts on this 21 day practice is this…. The theory is that a habit takes 21 days to make or break…. So the idea would be that if a new student were to start practice and do so for 21 days they are likely to have formed the foundation for a new habit?!… We know that everyone is different – but it does create a good foundation. I have recently been creating my own workshop and have already decided not to suggest a 21 day practice (in the hope that it will be encouraged to continue daily)… instead I am suggesting that after the course they practice daily – and that we speak after 3-4 weeks to see how they are progressing. The intention being that by this time there will be a notable improvement in their ability to focus /meditate. .. and as a result will find the new practice ‘natural’. (One they will continue most if not every day). After all…. the whole practice is based on focus and intent (mind state)… so what better way to initiate a new habit that will enable that process to become.’fine tuned’.
    With best intent 🙂
    Sue (Zen Reiki)

    1. Hi Sue, yes, there is the thing about a 21 day practice embedding itself as a habit, though I don’t think the 21 day thing has any basis. According to research, it seems to take anything between 18 and 254 days to establish a habit! Have a look here: But the 21 day thing has become mutated in some lineages and turned into something taht you do and then stop. That’s no good! I like what you are planning on doing with your new course. 🙂

  6. I believed the 21 days were how long it took your body to adapt to its new vibration, and my personal experience backs this up.

    I had my first empowerment just over 3 weeks ago ( 23 days ago to be precise ). The day after it I had Diarrhoea, then in the following days I developed quite a heavy “cold”. The manual my teacher gave me explained to me this was a natural part of the process of my body changing to its new vibration. This made sense to me as I have not had a cold or such like for years ( since I started eating 1 or 2 cloves of raw Garlic every day), and it would have been too much of a coincidence to just randomly get one the day after I was “attuned” .

    In all honesty I would say I felt 100% better 2 or 3 days ago, which would tie in with the 21 days. I have been doing self Reiki every day during this period, but I was never instructed to do it for “21 days”, and I have never had any intention of stopping after I felt better. This is a way of life for me now, not a “habit” as the differences I have experienced in my health and well being are profound.

    1. Hi Kenneth. EVeryone is different, you know, and while some people may notice effects lasting for 2-3 weeks, others will have a huge clear-out over a short chunk of time, while others will experience some sort of a clear-out more slowly and for a longer period. There are definitely people out there who “do their 21 days” and then feel like they have been there, done that, and my article was aimed at those people, to try and encourage them to work with the energy regularly long-term.

      1. Hi Taggart, and thank you for the reply ! 😛

        PS. I ordered your Shoden book on Friday and got it this morning. That is incredibly fast, you must have done Reiki on the Royal Mail 😉 . Thank you so much for that, Ive been reading the book all afternoon, it is amazingly informative and fun to read.

  7. I was taught and teach that you go through a 21 to 30 days detox or cleanse after an attunement. I was not taught that you should do self-treating or gassho meditation only throughout those 21 days, and have never heard anyone else mention that either.

    While I agree on the YES you need to self-treating and gassho meditation everyday, not just during the cleanse. And also agree that, especially for westerners, it is very difficult to get across to them that they need to do something for life, not just for a few weeks or months after their initial Reiki training. I ran into this issue when I taught T’ai Chi Chuan. As soon as a student realized that, #1 you have to practice T’ai Chi EVERY DAY to reap the benefits, and you couldn’t just learn it in a week or a few months (it requires years of training just to get to a point where you can practice most of it alone) The concept of dedication to a practice of any sort of life was just too beyond their scope, and discipline just don’t seem to be a part of the average make up westerners. You could say, what you put in, you get out, maybe they’d get that!

    Where did you get he information about Usui and the Lotus Repentance Meditation, etc. This sure shakes things up a bit.

    1. Hi Patricia. There is adefinitely this thread where teachers have their students ‘do their 21 days’ and then the student feels like they have been there, done that, and don’t have to be dedicated subsequently, hence teh topic of the article! And we certainly find that if you keep on working with the energy, stuff will rise to the surface to be dealt with not just in the first few weeks but further, and sometimes a lot further, down the line. The info about the Lotus Repentance Meditation comes from surviving students of Usui that one or two people were in contact with nearly 20 years ago now.

  8. Hi, when I was attuned to Reiki I on 23/11/2001 I was advised to wait about 3-4 weeks before taking Reiki II ‘so that the body could get used to the energy’. I actually had Reiki II on 13/12/2001. In between these dates did a lot of self-healing and also a lot on the cat – she loved it!! After that I started to use it on friends as well, and from April 2002 I began taking part in MBS shows, which was excellent, a very good way to get the experience. Additionally I started sending absent healing to all who asked.
    I am very lucky that my health is usually very good and of course self-healing has been a great help. I’ve also received Reiki myself and that has also helped.

  9. I was never aware of this 21 day thing.
    I’ve just practised self healing and Hatsurei every day since attending First degree, though am now adding in the stuff from Second degree….

    And enjoying the process/energy

  10. My understanding is that 21 days self practice is required before healing other people – family or friends. So, this period is required for self cleansing before attempting Reiki on others. For self, Reiki journey is life long. In my Reiki classes, I give this understanding to my students.

    1. Hi Atul, I don’t apply any such restriction and I do not believe that one needs to be ‘cleansed’ before treating another person, nor that a Reiki person can ‘tarnish’ the energy that they are channelling into another person, so we disagree there. Do you have direct evidence of someone treating another person before that 21 day self-cleanse period and there being problems with that, or is this somehting that you were taught and are teaching yourself?

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