Tag Archives: reiki symbol

Were you taught the correct ‘Power’ Symbol: Variations on CKR

reiki symbol ckr choku rei

Reiki started simply

Reiki is very simple, you know.

You start working with energy at First Degree and at Second Degree you’re introduced to three symbols that you can use.

These symbols were taught to the Imperial Officers and a few others by Usui Sensei, and Dr Hayashi passed them on to Mrs Takata, who taught them in the West.

One of those symbols was CKR, perfect and complete on itself – see above.

So we started messing about with it, which is fine – experimentation is a good thing – but some of the experiments have become ossified in different lineages and passed on as ‘the’ way to do Reiki, rather than being taught as interesting variations.

Let’s have a look at some CKR variations

CKR with a spiral going the wrong way

There was only ever one CKR and it had an anticlockwise spiral.

If you’ve been taught one CKR and it has a clockwise spiral then you’ve been taught something that is quite different from what Usui intended.

Different shapes can be used to represent different aspects of the energy, and they will all frame the energy in a particular way, and if you want to frame the energy in the way that Usui intended then you do need to use the symbol that he taught.

Use two mirror-image CKRs, not one

There was only ever one CKR and it had an anticlockwise spiral, so if you want to use an additional symbol that is a mirror image of the original then that’s your choice, but please realise that this is not what Usui was teaching and most Reiki people don’t do this.

Certainly don’t feel that you ‘have’ to use these two symbols for Reiki to work properly because that simply isn’t the case.

Use CKR to put energy in and reverse CKR to take energy out

CKR is an image that you can use to represent or elicit earth ki, one of the two basic energies or aspects of our existence: earth ki and heavenly ki.

The person who you are working on will draw that energy to where they need it to go, and in the right amounts for them on that occasion. If you’re stepping in to decide for yourself that they need more energy or less energy, you aren’t really allowing the energy to do what it needs to do, unless you are doing this intuitively, in which case you’re working in partnership with the energy, and it is guiding you.

Usui Sensei didn’t teach two CKRs, one of them to take out energy; there was a reason for that: Reiki will do what people need to have done, and if energy needs to be released then plain Reiki will help a person with that without you having to use a specific symbol to achieve it.

If you are currently using a reverse-CKR to ‘take out energy’, you might try dispensing with that for a while and see what happens.

So if you want to use the variations on CKR then that’s your choice, but please know that while this is a way that you can work with Reiki, it is not the only way, other Reiki people work in a different way from you, and these variations were not part of the system that Usui taught.

Over to you

If you were taught some of these non-standard versions of CKR as “the” way that you should practise Reiki, may I suggest that you experiment:

  • Use the CKR that you can see on this page, meditate on its energy to get to grips with how it feels, how it affects you
  • Draw it over your palm to experience its energy
  • Use it in practice when you treat someone, flooding yourself and your client with its energy

How is what you’re doing different in quality or nature from what you were doing before?

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Picture credit: Nathaniel_U

Do I always have to use the symbols?

reiki symbols in treatments use

So many Reiki rules!

In most Reiki lineages the Reiki symbols are taught on the Second Degree course, though some are taught one symbol at First Degree I believe.

A lot of rules have built up about what you can and can’t do with symbols, what you always must do, and of course these rules end up being contradictory.

The only rule that applies to Reiki is ‘there are no rules’ I believe, and what I’d like to do here is just run through a few ‘symbol rules’ that you can choose to ignore.

Draw the symbols over your palm every day or you’ll “lose” them

Some poor Reiki people are frantically drawing the three symbols over their palms every morning because if they don’t they’ll “lose” the symbols and won’t be able to use them any more.

I have to say that this is nonsense, and is something that most Reiki people will not be doing.

The symbols are graphical representations of different aspects of the energy, they are triggers that you can use to access and energy, to direct an energy, and you don’t even need to be ‘attuned’ to a symbol for it to work for you (but that’s another story).

Please don’t draw the symbols over your palms every day for fear of losing them.

You always have to use the symbols when you treat


Why would you always have to use the symbols when you treat someone?

You are attuned to Reiki, you have been working happily with the energy since your First Degree course, channelling it for your benefit and for the benefit of others, and suddenly someone does some mystical hand-waving over you and you can’t use Reiki unless you keep drawing out symbols?

That makes no sense at all, particularly when you realise that there are a lot of Reiki practitioners and Masters who have moved away from, or beyond, the use of the symbols and just allow the energy to do what it needs to.

The symbols are useful tools, a way of focusing your attention on and experiencing different aspects of the energy, but they’re not compulsory!

Try only using a symbol during a treatment when the symbol seems to ‘want’ to be used, when you feel it’s right to use in a particular hand position, when it ‘calls’ to you.

Go with the flow and let the energy guide you, so you’re gearing the treatment more towards the needs of the person you’re working on.

See what happens.

Always draw every symbol over each hand position

Oh dear, this would be so ham-fisted, to have to frantically draw out three symbols in every hand position you use when treating someone.

If you were taught to do this, I would like to suggest that you experiment, try out different ways of working that don’t involve this very busy, cluttered approach, and come to your own conclusions about what’s necessary.

It’s not a very Japanese approach, is it?

If you think about traditional Japanese arts they do pare things to the bone, leaving only the bare, elegant essentials.

Clutter-free Reiki is a much calmer, and potent.

Over to you

If you have been taught some of the rules and restrictions I mentioned above, please do experiment for yourself and come to your own conclusions about what’s necessary and effective.

You don’t need to slavishly follow all the instructions that you were given by your teacher; you can find your own comfortable approach with the energy.

Post a message below to le tme know how yoru practice has changed over time.

Want to find out more about Reiki symbols & treatments?

reiki book second degree manualsA whole load of info and advice can be found in the 110-page Reiki Evolution Second Degree manual. This isn’t just available to Reiki Evolution students: anyone can work with our manuals.

You can order a professionally-printed copy, or you can download your manual right now.

Here are the links that you need:

Reiki Second Degree manual

Reiki Second Degree eBook





Picture Credit: Ashley Van Haeften


The breath of earth and heaven

In this article I would like to talk about the energy that we work with when we practise Reiki: when we work on ourselves and when we share Reiki with others. The energy that we channel is described in various ways: we are said to be working with universal energy, we are passing on unconditional love, or chi, or prana. But there are aspects of the energy that are not being explained through this use of words, and in this article I want to talk about the essence of Reiki energy. In doing this we will touch on Taoism, QiGong, Shintoism, meditation, breathing, chanting and the use of the Reiki symbols.

Now many people reading this article will be practising something called “Joshin Kokkyu Ho”, an energy breathing method taught in the Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai, the Usui Memorial Society in Japan – part of a longer sequence of exercises referred to as “Hatsurei ho”. It was also used in Mikao Usui’s original system, according to a group of Usui Sensei’s surviving students who are in contact with one or two people in the West. Joshin Kokkyu Ho translates as something like ‘technique for purification of the spirit’ or ‘soul cleansing breathing method’, and on its own ‘Kokkyu Ho’ means ‘the way of breathing’. When we use this method we are moving energy in time with our breath, into and out of our Tanden (Dantien in Chinese), it is a way of achieving balance, but there is more significance to this technique than simply moving energy through our bodies.

With each in-breath we are filling the body with ki. This ki is yin in nature, it is the breath of earth, of physicality and the power of separation. By contrast the out-breath distributes ki throughout our bodies. This is yang in nature, it is the breath of heaven, of spirituality and the power of unification. So from the moment that we practise Joshin Kokkyu Ho we are experiencing earth ki and heavenly ki.

In fact, earth ki and heavenly ki are what we are: we are physical reality and we are spiritual essence. In Taoist philosophy, Earth and Heaven – along with Humanity – are known as the “Three Powers”. Humanity is in a pivotal position between the cosmic powers of heaven and the natural forces of earth, covered by heaven above and supported by earth below. Qi Gong, the energy cultivation technique which is practised in Japan as ‘kiko’, allows us to work with these two energies and bring them into balance. Shinto practices also refer to these two basic energies, these two essential aspects of what we really are.

It is not surprising, then, that these two energies are the basis of Usui Sensei’s spiritual system, and latterly his healing system. When we practise Reiki we are working with earth ki and heavenly ki, in a conscious or unconscious fashion; when we channel Reiki, we are channelling either the ki of earth or heaven, because that is what we are.

But Usui Sensei’s system goes further than just acknowledging our true nature, our physical and spiritual nature, because Reiki allows us to fully experience our physical reality, and fully experience our spiritual essence. This is a powerful method for achieving balance. We can return to that state of perfection we enjoyed at birth, before life corrupted us; we can be reborn. How this was achieved is as follows: At second degree in the original system the student would be shown how to experience earth ki and heavenly ki, they would learn to ‘become’ the energies of earth and heaven. How this was achieved very much depended on the student’s background, since Usui Sensei varied his teachings and methods according to the needs of his students. If the student had a Buddhist background then they would have used meditations, and if they had a Shinto background then they would have chanted sacred sounds called ‘kotodama’. Later on in Usui’s system, symbols were introduced for the Imperial Officers, but all these approaches had the same end in mind: to fully assimilate, to fully experience or become the energies of earth and heaven, the essence of what we are. The meditations, the kotodama, and the symbols are all tools used to trigger, to invoke within us, to allow us to experience an energy or a state. Second degree is all about getting to grips with earth ki and heavenly ki, to fully assimilate those energies, to reconnect to what is within and realise our true nature.

CKR and SHK represent earth ki and heavenly ki respectively, but they do not represent something new: these two energies are already within us. They do not represent something additional that we are connected to: they emphasise or flag up something that is already there.

Now, Usui Sensei’s students worked long and hard to assimilate or integrate these energies. The might have spent 6-9 months just meditating on one energy, before moving on, so there were no short-cuts and it was a long process. They started with the energy of earth and moved on to work with the energy of heaven. We can echo that original practice by working with the energies of CKR and SHK. It is not enough to be ‘attuned’ to a symbol – whatever that means – and it is not enough to use a symbol in practice when treating someone. To fully get to grips with an energy we need to meditate on the symbol, using its energy individually, not combined with others, and we need to commit ourselves to doing this regularly if we are going to fully experience the benefits that are available through Usui Sensei’s simple spiritual system.

Back to basics: Reiki Second Degree

People learn Reiki for many reasons and come from an amazing variety of backgrounds, all attending for their own personal reasons. Reiki courses in the UK present a whole variety of approaches, some “traditional” Western-style, some more Japanese in content, some wildly different and almost unrecognisable, some free and intuitive, others dogmatic and based on rules about what you should always do and not do. Reiki is taught in so many ways, and students will tend to imagine that the way that they were taught is the way that Reiki is taught and practised by most other Reiki people.

What I have tried to do in this article is to present a simple guide to what in my view is the essence of Second Degree: what it’s all about and what we should be doing and thinking about to get the most out of our experience of Reiki at this level. My words are addressed to anyone at Second Degree level, or anyone who would like to review the essence of Second Degree.

The first thing I want to say is that there should usually be an interval of a couple of months or so between First and Second Degree if you want to get the most out of your Reiki experience, and that it is unwise to take both Degrees back-to-back over a weekend. We would not take an advanced driving test the day after passing our basic driving test, so why would we believe that moving on to a more ‘advanced’ level with Reiki would be an effective way to learn when we have had no opportunity to get the hang of the basics of First Degree? Can we get the most out of Second Degree when we have had no opportunity to get used to working with and sensing and experiencing energy, when we have had no opportunity to enhance our effectiveness as a channel and our sensitivity to Reiki through regular practice, when we have had no opportunity to become familiar with a standard treatment routine and have had no opportunity to feel comfortable and confident in treating other people? Reiki is not a race, and we need to be familiar with the basics before moving on.

Second Degree is all about:

1. reinforcing or enhancing your connection to the energy 2. learning some symbols which you can use routinely when working on yourself or treating others 3. enhancing your self-healing 4. learning how to effect a strong distant connection (distant healing)

And ideally it is also about opening yourself up to your intuitive side so that you throw away the basic Reiki ‘rule book’ and go freestyle, gearing any treatments towards the individual needs of the recipient.

There are many approaches to doing these things, and I wanted below to touch on each one and to dispel some myths that may have been passed on.

Enhancing your Connection to the energy

On your Second Degree course you will have received some attunements or some empowerments. Attunements are not standard rituals within the world of Reiki and take many forms, some simpler and some more complex. They have evolved and changed greatly during their journey from teacher to teacher in the West. There is no “right way” to carry out an attunement and the individual details of a ritual do not matter a great deal. They all work. Equally, there is no “correct” number of attunements that have to be carried out at Second Degree level. Whether you receive one, two, or three attunements on your course, that is fine.

On your course you may have received some “empowerments” rather than attunements, though these are less common. The word “empowerment”, or “Reiju empowerment”, refers to a connection ritual that has come to us from some Japanese sources, and is closer in essence to the empowerment that Mikao Usui conveyed to his students. If you are receiving empowerments rather than attunements then you really need to have received three of them at least.

What we experience when receiving an attunement or an empowerment will vary a lot. Some people have fireworks and bells and whistles and that’s nice for them; other people notice a lot less, or very little, or even nothing, and that’s fine too. What we feel when we have an attunement is not a guide to how well it has worked for us. Attunements work, and sometimes we will have a strong experience, but it’s not compulsory! Whether we have noticed a lot, or very little, the attunement will have given us what we need.

Since in Mikao Usui’s system you would have received empowerments from him again and again, it would be nice if you could echo this practice by receiving further empowerments (or attunements) and perhaps these might be available at your teacher’s Reiki shares or get-togethers, if they hold them. But it is possible to receive distant Reiju empowerments and various teachers make them freely available as a regular ‘broadcast’. This is not essential, and your connection to Reiki once given does not fizzle out, but it would be a beneficial practice if you could receive regular empowerments from someone.

Being “attuned” to a symbol

For many years within the world of Reiki, people believed that the symbols would not work for you, that they were essentially useless, until you had been “attuned” to the symbol: then it would work for you. Unfortunately the only connection rituals available in the West were ‘attunements’ which involved attuning you to a symbol, so no-one knew how to carry out a ‘symbol-free’ attunement to see if you really needed to be attuned to a symbol for it to work for you.

But in 1999, from Japan, emerged Reiju empowerments, a representation of the empowerments that Usui conferred, and these empowerments do not use symbols. Finally we were able to see if you really needed to be attuned to a symbol for it to work for you. Lo and behold we discovered that the symbols work fine for people who are connected to the energy using Reiju; they work fine for people who are connected to Reiki but who have not been ‘attuned’ to the symbols. It seems that once you are connected to Reiki – and now we know how to achieve this without symbols entering into the process – the symbols will work for you, and in fact any symbol seems to push the energy in a particular direction without you having to be specifically ‘attuned’ to it (whatever that means). The Reiki symbols are simply graphical representations of different aspects of the energy, a way of representing and emphasising what is already there.

“Sacred Symbols”

In some lineages students are not allowed to keep copies of the symbols and have to reproduce them from memory, based on what they learned on their Second Degree course. There is the suggestion that the symbols are sacred and not only sacred but secret, and should not be shown to people who are not involved in Reiki, or people who are at First Degree level. Where this idea came from in the Western Reiki system is not clear, since certainly Dr Hayashi had his students copy out his notes by way of preparing their own manuals, including copying down the symbols.

For me, the Reiki symbols are simply graphical representations of different aspects of the energy, useful tools to assist us in experiencing or becoming consciously aware of different aspects of what we already have, and what is special or sacred is our connection to the source, not the squiggles we might put on a piece of paper.

Because of the ‘Chinese whispers’ that have resulted from students not being allowed to take home hard copies of the Reiki symbols, there are many different versions of the symbols in existence, but they are mainly variations on a theme and they all seem to work in practice. Do remember, though, that the original CKR had an anticlockwise spiral, and to use a version of CKR with a clockwise spiral is to use a symbol that is not part of the Usui/Hayashi/Takata system.

Using Symbols in practice

Some students are taught there is one ‘correct’ way that symbols have to be used. Reiki is not so finicky. The important thing when using a Reiki symbol is to focus your attention on the symbol in some way, so whether you are drawing the symbol with your fingers hovering over the back of your hand as you treat someone, whether you are drawing out the symbol using eye movements, or nose movements, or in your mind’s eye, all approaches will work. You do not need to visualise the symbols in a particular colour and if you can see the symbol in your mind’s eye in its entirety – this takes practice – you can ‘flash’ the whole symbol rather than drawing it out stroke by stroke.

Just because we have been taught some symbols does not mean that we are now obliged to use them all the time when we treat or when we work on ourselves. They can be used to emphasise different aspects of the energy, but this is optional. Use of symbols does seem to boost the flow of energy, so we can use them when it feels appropriate. This is the key: to bring a symbol into a particular part of a treatment when we have a strong feeling that we ought to, to work intuitively rather than following a set method.

I have written in other articles below about the issue of simplicity within Reiki practice, and the complicated way that people have ended up using the Reiki symbols, for example mixing symbols together or using complicated symbol sandwiches. Remember that the simple approach is usually the most effective, and that there is no hard and fast way that you ‘have’ to work with the symbols you have been shown.

By the way, if you have been taught that you have to draw the three Second Degree symbols over your palm each day or else they will stop working for you, you can safely ignore these instructions. The symbols will work for you no matter what you do or don’t do with your palms!

Why the symbols are there

At Second Degree, the prime focus of Reiki is still your self-healing, and the first two symbols are there to help you get to grips with two important energies that will further or deepen your self-healing. Putting the ‘distant healing’ symbol to one side, the other two symbols represent the energies of earth ki and heavenly ki, and we need to fully assimilate these two energies to enhance our self-healing and self-development. If we are going to use these energies when we treat other people, it makes sense to be thoroughly familiar with these energies, to have spent time ‘becoming’ these energies. We can do this by carrying out regular symbol meditations.

Making ‘distant’ connections

The third Reiki symbol that you are introduced to on a Second Degree course is commonly called the ‘distant healing symbol’. We should remember that distant healing is perfectly possible at First Degree level and that we do not need to use a symbol in order to send Reiki to another person: intent is enough. But using this symbol can help us to learn to better ‘click’ into a nice strong merged state.

There is no set form of ritual that ‘has’ to be used in distant healing, there is not set form of words that has to be recited, no established sequence which needs to be reproduced in order for distant healing to be effective, so we can find our own comfortable approach, different from other people’s but equally valid. The details of the ritual that we use are not important. All we need to do is to focus our attention on the recipient and maybe use the symbol in some way, merge with the energy, merge with the recipient, and allow the energy to flow.

Intuitive working

Ideally, Second Degree should be the stage where you start to leave the basic ‘rulebook’ behind and go ‘freestyle’, gearing your treatment towards the recipient’s individual energy needs, so that each treatment will be different, as the recipient’s energy needs change from one treatment session to another. Some students will already be modifying the basic treatment routine by the time that they arrive on their Second Degree course.

Set hand positions and a prescribed scheme to follow are useful things to have at First Degree, and allow the student to feel confident in treating others, but sequences of hand positions can be left behind when we open to intuition. Intuitive treatments seem to do something special for the recipient: when you direct the energy into just the right combination of positions for that person on that occasion you allow the energy to penetrate deeply and this seems to lead to a more profound experience for the recipient. Treatments using intuitively guided hand positions may involve much fewer hand positions being held, and each combination being held for much longer, than in a ‘standard’ treatment.

We recommend that the Japanese “Reiji ho” approach is used to help Second Degree students to open to their intuitive side, since the approach is so simple and seems to work for most people even within a few minutes of practice. The resulting strong belief that the student is “intuitive” is a hugely empowering state and opens many doors.


Reiki has the potential to make an amazing, positive difference to you and the people around you. Remember that Reiki is simplicity itself, and by taking some steps to work on yourself regularly, and share Reiki with the people close to you, you are embarking on a very special journey. How far you travel on that journey is governed by how many steps you take. Carry on with your Hatsurei and self-treatments, get to grips with the energies of CKR and SHK through regular meditation, find your own comfortable approach to carrying out distant healing, and open yourself to intuitive working. And have fun!

HSZSN but not as you’ve seen it before!

hszsn expanded into component partsHSZSN is the acronym used to refer to the ‘distant healing symbol’, familiar in its various guises to anyone who has attended a Second Degree Reiki course.

It’s the trickiest of the symbols to get to grips with and usually has 20+ strokes or hand movements to draw it out.

HSZSN actually consists of five separate Japanese kanji which have all been overlapped and merged to produce one ‘composite’ kanji, which we see on courses.

In this blog I have posted an image of what these five separate kanji look like. The calligraphy was kindly brushed for me by the fantastically talented Japanese Calligraphy Shihan Eri Takase, who does all our Japanese writing for us, on our Reiki certificate templates, Reiki precepts prints, Reiki CDs and Reiki manuals.

Chinese whispers

When people attended Reiki courses in the past, many students and Masters weren’t provided with hard copies of the Reiki symbols and so had to reproduce them from memory. That perhaps wasn’t so bad for the simpler symbols like CKR and SHK, but for HSZSN this led to a process of “Chinese whispers”, where the drawings altered slightly each time they were taught.

So now, quite understandably, there are various versions of the symbols in existence, some closer to and some really quite different from the original Japanese source.

Eri’s calligraphy takes us back to the originals, though. It’s great to see the original individual characters that the symbol was based on.

Merging the separate symbols

If you look at the image, you can see that the bottom part of the first kanji looks rather like the top part of the second kanji, so you could move the upper kanji downwards so that the ‘cross’ overlaps, producing one composite figure.

Similarly the bottom section of the second kanji looks rather like the top section of the third kanji, so they could be merged and overlapped. And so on down the line.

And that’s how the composite HSZSN was formed!

Over to you

Have a look at the distant healing symbol that you were given.

See if you can work out what has changed, and what has stayed the same, compared to the original characters.

Post a message below to let me know what you discovered.

What do you think of the ‘expanded’ HSZSN?

Want to find out more about Distant Healing?

reiki book second degree manualsYou can read more about HSZSN and distant healing methods in the 110-page Reiki Evolution Second Degree manual.

This isn’t just available to Reiki Evolution students: anyone can work with our manuals.

You can order a professionally-printed copy, or you can download your manual right now.

Here are the links that you need:

Reiki Second Degree manual

Reiki Second Degree eBook