Steps to Understanding the System of Reiki
There are three steps that you might take to understand Mikao Usui's teachings.
The first step in trying to understand Mikao Usui's teachings is often to read a book or attend a lecture on the subject. By following this path, you rely solely on the author or teachers' understanding of the teachings. You are unaware of how or why the teacher's ideas have developed. Has the author or teacher really discovered Mikao Usui's teachings? What is the author or teachers' focus on the teachings? You will never know the answers to these questions if you don't inquire and try to find out as much as you can about the system. This type of learning is great for your first step towards a deeper understanding of the teachings, and it is really just the top, superficial layer to that awareness.
The second step to gain an understanding of the teachings is to attend a course and begin applying some of the methods taught. Again, this might not give you the deepest understanding of Mikao Usui's teachings. Yes, we are getting a closer, but not close enough. There are many variables connected with your success: how often do you practice, are you practicing correctly, is the practice in line with all of Mikao Usui's teachings or just one aspect of them?
The third step is the hardest. It is difficult and not easy to access or attain and might take years and years of dedicated personal practice. This step is the way of becoming One with the precepts, One with the symbols and mantras, One with the reiju/attunement, One with the hands-on healing positions and One with the meditation methods. This is the deepest level of understanding of any kind of system and by becoming One with all the teaching tools you begin to gain a deep faith in your practice and the teachings.
These three steps often naturally follow on one from the other. We happen across a book, decide to take a course and then we obtain the motivation to get into the nitty gritty of the teachings. So investigate, explore and, most of all, practice the tools with the thought of becoming One with them to really discover what Mikao Usui was trying to teach us.
Here's an analogy to help you to understand this concept further:
If you want to learn about a tree you can buy a book which explains everything about trees, in doing this you will only know the tree from another person's perspective. You could cut down a tree and inspect the rings, take samples etc... but this is merely the technical knowledge about the tree. If you really want to know absolutely everything about the tree then you need to become One with the tree - and how you do that is a long journey combining practice, patience and perseverance (read the article The Three Ps of the system of Reiki for more information).