What is Reiki?

By: Autumn Willard

What is Reiki anyways?

What is reiki? The word itself helpfully translates from Japanese as: Rei meaning universal, and Ki meaning life-force. The concept of life-force is as old as time. Referred to as Ki in the Japanese tradition, Chi in the Chinese tradition, and Prana in the Indian tradition, life-force is the elemental force which animates us. It goes beyond bio-electricity or electromagnetism or any other traditional force or energy field you can think of. Ki is the energy of life; it is the very essence of us. Having a strong, well-nourished life-force is therefore integral to feeling functional, well, vibrant, empowered. In short, the more Reiki you have, the more powerful your life can become.

What The Science Says

Science has begun observing and measuring life-force as what is termed a “bio-field.” Some would call this an “aura” or a “presence.” Science has shown that bio-field fluctuations correspond with a person’s energy input and output. Science is also increasingly showing that Reiki energy given to hospital patients, can soften the experiences of illness and death by reducing pain and suffering. These compelling findings are pushing energy research and evidence-based knowledge forward; results are taking place and there is more on the way.


This is a good place to briefly discuss the term “energy” which is being used a lot these days. After all, Reiki is “energy work” just as massage is “body work” and psychotherapy is “cognitive work.” So, what is energy anyway? The term can be confusing because it embodies different meanings depending on the context. Physics describes energy in terms of joules, or the capacity to do work. Nutrition describes energy in terms of calories, or the intensity needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. Electrical applications describe energy in terms of watts, or the number of wavelengths a current carries through unit space per unit time.

What do capacity, intensity, and wavelengths all have in common? They are all, fundamentally, borne of vibration. This makes sense, because everything in existence is borne of vibration. Science has shown that everything (matter, light, everything), when we get down to the subatomic level, is comprised of undulating waves. The faster the undulation, the higher the vibration. Energy is vibration. Matter is vibration.


Color provides another great example of how different vibratory intensities manifest as different phenomena. The visible light spectrum consists of light existing across a range of wavelengths. Each particular wavelength manifests as a particular perceived color. The color red will have a much longer relative wavelength on the visible light spectrum than the color violet will have. Red is therefore a low-frequency light vibration, while violet is high-frequency.

So everything has a vibration of a particular intensity. While this can be a huge concept to apply to everyday life, the idea is very straightforward in essence. While energy (vibration, life-force, Ki) can’t be seen, or for that matter detected by any of the five senses, it can be known. Everyone has a deep knowing of their own energy, of their own experience. Some call this the sixth sense, or intuition. This knowing is deeply felt as a “sense” or “mood” or “vibe.” The language surrounding how we experience ourselves and each other is no coincidence!

If energy is vibration, Reiki energy is high-frequency vibration, like the gas state of water or the violet color of the visible light spectrum. Reiki energy, however, carries a definite feeling with it. It is a feeling of openness and possibility. It is a spiritual feeling. Keep in mind, however, that Reiki is non-religious and non-dogmatic. There is no one right way to think of Reiki, but there certainly is a very uplifting feel to a Reiki treatment.


Remember This

It is okay to frame your thinking about Reiki and life-force however you’d like. Everyday terms, scientific terms, and spiritual terms all have their place. They are all important. What matters the most to anyone trying to understand what Reiki is, however, is having an open mind. I have seen in my work that those whom benefit the most from Reiki treatments are those whom are the most open to the idea of life-force as a concept.

By far, the greatest results are reaped by those who see their life-force (or their energetic body) as real and worthy of nourishment, time and attention, just as their physical body and mind are. The more life-force energy you receive, the healthier you feel. The higher your molecular vibration, the better you perform. Be open to receiving, and be amazed at how much you are able to progress as a result.


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