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Our Reiki Practice: Active or Passive?

Article by Reiki Master Elise Brenner

We have all participated in Reiki Shares and seen our colleagues providing Reiki treatments in ways dissimilar from our own. Diversity in Reiki practice is part of our community since Reiki is not regulated or standardized by one outside authoritative agency.

Some of us celebrate the diversity in the practice of Reiki, some of us tolerate it, others accept it, and still others condemn it. That is really a matter each one of us must answer for him/herself as we examine our feelings, reactions, and thoughts when we see the diverse ways our community practices Reiki.

A key observable difference in the way Reiki practitioners provide Reiki treatments  to others can be summed up in two words: The practitioner is active versus the practitioner is passive while providing the treatment.

If one were a fly on the wall during a Reiki session in which the practitioner is active, one would see the practitioner ‘doing something to’  the recipient. The ‘doing’  may involve using crystals, applying essential oils; the ‘doing’ may involve the practitioner cutting cords, working to re-balance energy centers, cleansing energy, clearing blockages, calling in angels and guides. Note the use of verbs in each of the examples: using, applying, cutting, working, cleansing, clearing, calling. The practitioner is active, and is ‘doing something to’ the client. The practitioner seems to be in charge of the situation, trying hard and putting his or her effort and will into the process for the benefit of the recipient.

Image by Lady-bug

If one were a fly on the wall during a Reiki session in which the practitioner is passive, one would possibly be a very bored fly! The fly would notice one person lying quite still on a table and the other person standing, or sitting, quite still beside the table, occasionally moving his or her hands on or above the prone body. When the Reiki practitioner is passive, he/she does not impose him/herself into the process by working hard or by using his or her will power. Neither does the passive practitioner make a judgment on, or an assessment of, whether there is a blockage that needs to be cleared or negative energy that needs to be cleansed. The passive practitioner is not ‘doing something to’ the recipient at all. Just stillness and Reiki for the benefit of the recipient.

The active and passive approaches continue after the Reiki treatment into the post-treatment interaction between practitioner and recipient. After the treatment, the active practitioner reports anything he or she “picked up” or noticed during the session to the client. In fact, Reiki clients may hold the expectation that their practitioner will ‘get messages’ and ‘receive guidance’ that should be passed on to the client.

After a Reiki session, the passive Reiki practitioner shines the spotlight on the recipient’s process, not on his or her own process. The Reiki practitioner who practices in the passive mode considers the Reiki session to be about the client’s experience of the session, and not about the practitioner’s own experience of the session. This practitioner may ask if the client wishes to share any feedback about his/her experience. The practitioner would then listen, confident that the Reiki session helped the client go within him/herself to heal.

Active or passive? We are united in our commitment to being of service to others.

Elise Brenner

Elise Brenner

Elise Brenner, Ph.D, Reiki Master Teacher, is a strong advocate for Reiki outreach, education, and empowerment. The owner of Brenner Reiki Healing in Newton, Massachusetts, Elise teaches Reiki classes, provides in-depth mentoring for Reiki professionals, operates a monthly low-cost Reiki Clinic, and is Chair of the annual Celebration of Reiki Conference in Massachusetts. Elise considers herself a Reiki community builder, providing Reiki at veterans retreats, community wellness fairs, in hospitals and hospice. As an anthropologist, Elise Brenner has researched cross-cultural healing practices, thereby enriching the scope and depth of her Reiki practice. Reach Elise at www.BrennerReikiHealing.com, eliseb@rcn.com, and at Brenner Reiki Healing on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brenner-Reiki-Healing/234700054121?fref=ts).

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Rita Stanley June 19, 2013, 7:29 pm

    As a Reiki practitioner, not only did I learn to open to the movement of Reiki energy through my system, but I became aware of the shamanic piece of my practice as well. It is never “I” that moves into the active part of removing or healing during the session with my clients, “I” have asked to become a conduit for healing, that is all I am when I work. There is and should be no ego involved, when helping and compassionate energies are called into heal. The messages and actions are not mine, but move through me. The tone of this article leads one to feel that the “active healer” is moving from a self state of being, when this is not always true.

    • Elise Brenner August 26, 2013, 1:31 am

      Hi Rita, I agree with you that if the practitioner is authentically connected to spiritual source, either from within or from without, this may be viewed as “active”. However, to me, this is still what I would see as “passive.” The “active” practitioner, in my own view, reports to the client a kind of authoritative pronouncement.

    • Jack Russo August 26, 2013, 4:07 am

      I totally agree with Rita Stanley on all counts. When I’m providing Reiki my ego is totally removed and waiting in the background. I always ask for and give thanks for Spiritual Guidance. Any time that I become “active” it’s not “me” initiating the action, I am being Spiritually guided to do so.
      Reiki Energy knows where the healing needs to occur, it’s intelligent, it’s cunning. I see nothing wrong, and everything right with following the dictates of your Angelic Guides. One must keep in mind, however, that unless one is highly sensitive it becomes possible to mistake your own thoughts for those of your guides, in which case, let the Reiki Energy do it’s thing. Above all do no harm. I have always been sensitive, but when I started practicing Reiki I was extremely “Passive”. I found, however, that the more I channeled Reiki the more sensitive I became. By the time I reached the Master level I had no doubts as to the validity of my guided actions.

      • Elise Brenner August 26, 2013, 10:39 am

        May it be so. Jack, you are blessed that you have no doubts as to the validity of your guided actions. You also noet that “unless one is highly sensitive it becomes possible to mistake your own thoughts for those of your guides.” That last piece is where I have witnessed a fair amount of confusion and distress. We hae a huge responsibility as Reiki practitioners to reduce confusion and distress in our clients, not increase it. That is my only concern, really.

    • Susan July 17, 2014, 8:05 pm

      This is very interesting and I would like to hear more on the subject. The first few years i practised I would reiterate that I was purely a channel for healing, as years passed I started “getting stuff” after realising that I have been very sensitive and getting over involved I have rested for ayear or two, now ready to practise again this has helped me greatly

  • Kara Daly June 19, 2013, 10:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing! I feel drawn towards both methods-passive and active-and I am inspired to explore how I can resolve the two in my own practice.

    • Eli June 20, 2013, 6:09 am

      I use both methods depending on how I feel guided, but when in doubt I remain in the “passive” mode.

  • Emmy June 20, 2013, 10:05 am

    Good article I thought I also do both, like Eli and Kara.
    I dont feel that either active or passive have a down side. The reiki will still go where it needs to and I think you can choose to swap your manner between the two depending on what you feel the client will feel comfortable with. Not everyone wants ‘messages’ that come through so it is good to be flexible in the session.

  • Elise June 20, 2013, 5:22 pm

    Agreed! I was hoping to open thought and discussion, not really to pigeonhole us. Thank you for your wise thoughts and generosity in sharing them.

  • Elaine June 21, 2013, 11:42 am

    I do both too! I sometimes do get messages, but I never expect to get them, if that make sense. And for clients who actually come in thinking immediately that they are going to get ‘information’ from me, I jokingly say “You know, I can say nothing to you from now until you finish the session and leave, and you will still benefit from the Reiki. But don’t worry, I’m friendly!” and we both laugh, and they get it 🙂

    • Elise Brenner June 21, 2013, 12:41 pm

      Elaine, that makes a lot of sense to me. And I am delighted to find a colleague who uses some humor! A reiki session need not always be solemn! Enjoy the practice.

    • Julia June 21, 2013, 2:46 pm

      I know Elaine – I really hate it when people call me looking for a “reiki reading”. I tell them I can give them Reiki and if they want a reading, I have a friend who is an amazing medium I can refer them to. I like your approach 🙂

  • Patti Deschaine July 7, 2013, 3:56 pm

    Good article and ensuing discussion. Thank you!

    • Elise Brenner July 7, 2013, 8:12 pm

      Patti. I appreciate that. My goal was to get a discussion going, so I am particularly happy that you mentioned that. I feel I know your name from somewhere in the Reiki community. Where are you from?

  • koko san August 26, 2013, 12:23 am

    I use both approaches…no problem. But there is a lot of miscoceptions among patients, some expect some kind of extensive energy reading as part of a Reiki session and are often disapponited if one didn’t provide that. 🙂

    • Elise Brenner August 26, 2013, 12:35 am

      Dear Koko San, thank you ever so much for your comment. You are not alone in your experience. Many people I know, including me, report the same thing. Sometimes I gently say that this Reiki session was YOUR process, so I want to hear from you. The session, I say, is not about me or my process. What do you think of saying something like that, Koko San?

  • Denis August 26, 2013, 10:07 am

    Clearly disagree. There exists only one natural state of human consciousness, which presupposes the existence of I, the human person, the human identity strictly separated from other beings. And anyone is responsible for all actions that are done by him or her. However, one may use things outside us, which have their own nature and which behaviour is governed by the laws of Nature. The Laws that can be logically derived and formulated. To my mind, Reiki is one of such things as one of the forms of qi/chi. The main goal of a practionner is to investigate these laws of Reiki and to use it for the good and wealth of all beings. I’ll repeat once again: to use with complete personal responsibility.

    • Elise Brenner August 26, 2013, 10:47 am

      I cannot disagree with you Denis, yet the caveat that you raise is my particular concern as well. We may increase confusion and distress in our clients if we mistake our own thoughts for those of
      “things outside ourselves” as you put it. Similarly, Jack commented that one must be highly sensitive and have much experience before one can be certain that one is not, in fact, mistaking one’s own thoughts for “higher wisdom.” I will also add that many of us have clients who are not inerested in hearing any such thoughts at all from us. Thank you, Denis, for yur thoughtful and important comment.

  • cindy galvao September 8, 2013, 12:44 am

    This is a bit off topic here, but I have a question. I have placed bowls of sea salt in the four corners of my healing room about a week ago. I just went down to cleanse the room and all of the bowls have moisture in them, some even water; what is the cause of this? I may have been informed of this before, and don’t remember…

    • Elise Brenner September 8, 2013, 2:29 am

      I am at a loss to help, Cindy. Maybe someone else out there reading this thread has some thoughts. Sorry!

    • Chris Ramsbottom September 8, 2013, 11:23 am

      Your salt has drawn moisture from the atmosphere and acted as a sort of dehumidifier. If you have that amount of water in there, I think you need to check out whether you also have some mould growing in that room.

  • Chris Ramsbottom September 8, 2013, 11:25 am

    I do both. When I am doing a Reiki session I am doing Reiki. I try to honour and be true to the Usui Reiki I learned originally. If I’m balancing chakras, or using crystals, or essential oils or massage, I have agreed it with the client beforehand. This is useful for me and the client, as I believe that the client can be startled or alarmed by unexpected moves or events.

    • Elise Brenner September 8, 2013, 12:17 pm

      Hi Chris, it is an honor to be in a virtual conversation with you. I have read pieces you have written. I agree with your approach. I believe many in the Reiki community combine some active and some passive practices. What I appreciate about your comment is that you and the client work out the treatment plan ahead of time. That way the client knows what is shall I say a”traditional” Reiki treatment and what is a Reiki treatment plus other energy healing techniques. May you be well, Chris!

  • Christopher Evans July 17, 2014, 1:48 pm

    I use both really. start off some what passive as i progress i become more active. since in much part i feel that i link with mind or guides at some point.

    • Elise Brenner July 17, 2014, 2:31 pm

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Christopher Evans. You have a nice balance there, and the Reiki recipient is clearly foremost in your mind.

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