Teaching Reiki: A Way of Teaching, a Way of Living

A few of my Shinpiden students have been called to teach recently, and they’ve asked me to help them develop their courses. Apart from reminding them to teach the Usui Reiki Ryoho techniques at the core of the class, I’ve had to take some time to find what I wanted to share, from my own experience, about this important choice and its challenges.

Although I’ve been a teacher (of various subjects) my whole life, and I’ve even specialized somewhat in teaching teachers, it’s not as easy to advise about teaching Reiki. It’s a natural next step, when the time comes, but it’s also a big step, because there’s something about teaching Reiki that demands we live Reiki more fully.

I remembered what Frans had told us in my first Shinpiden class – to teach our own way, and be true to the principles and practices. It seems quite simple, but it turns out, for me, teaching Usui Reiki Ryoho has been more than sharing the path – it’s become a deeper way of living the work.

Teaching requires a gentle and fierce integrity, a stillness and attentiveness I believe is only possible when we are dedicated to the spiritual practices in our daily lives. At its core, for me, teaching Reiki means bringing that dedication and integrity into the classroom.

As to how that’s done, there are as many ways to hold a sacred space as there are teachers. Fundamentally, teaching anything is a way of deepening our commitment to the principles and practices of our own lived knowledge, passed from our best teachers and mentors. Being a good Reiki teacher means being our best selves, committed to knowing who and what we are, our limitations and gifts, obligations and freedoms.

Because it is our own feet that carry us forward, our body, mind and spirit shape the walking, and the teachings as well. Therefore, each of us teaches differently and calls different students, even though the curriculum contains the same mantras, jumon, reiju and principles, because we know and move differently in the work.

This awareness becomes a key source of integrity for Reiki teachers. As we begin to walk the path as teachers, we get to live that old cliché and walk the talk – as leaders and partners with our students.

Ultimately, our inner integrity, the discipline and strength to continue and deepen our own practice while we share the work with others, is fed by our connection to the oneness at the source of our Reiki path. Although it may seem paradoxical to consider our uniqueness in one breath and our unity in another, I understand the relationship between the two as a dance, not an opposition.

As teachers, each of us needs to find the rhythm and flow of that dance to hold a space for students to be nurtured and challenged as they develop their own skills and insights along the way. Students come to Usui Reiki Ryoho from many different faiths and experiences, including the many versions of Reiki that have developed from Takata’s Westernized adaptation of her understanding of Usui’s teachings.

It’s only with patient attention that we observe the reasons and patterns in our students’ energies, fears, expectations, beliefs and interpretations. Here, our greatest resource is our ability to be still and present so everyone can expand as he and she are meant to, through the same gentleness and oneness we offer in the reiju/attunements. If we are undisciplined, then the energy of our class will be scattered. 

For me, a successful class is a clear space. A clear structure, good handouts and appropriate resources help students follow and remember concepts and practices, but these are primarily the scaffolding for the vital process of learning on a cellular level. Even experienced teachers must remind ourselves that each class demands its own process. The more I teach Reiki, the more I depend on my ability to hold a space of gentle and expansive learning, in which students can practice and experience the work (this is paramount!), share their experience in talk story (less important but part of the process), and begin to create a respectful community of support. 

I return, again and again, to the need for integrity to be a good facilitator for this sacred task. Integrity develops hand-in-hand from self-knowledge and oneness practice. As we grow, our teaching grows. As our teaching grows, we deepen our own insights and practices.

Whether our Reiki classes are part of our work income or simply give us a chance to share our passion with others, good teaching begins with integrity – in our personal practice, in our commitment to our students, and our work as healers in the world.

So as my students start to teach, this is what I have decided to tell them: be yourself, honor the teachings, let the practices shape the learning, and hold a space of integrity that helps all of you learn together. That’s the gift Reiki gives us, if we are willing, if we pay attention. That’s the joy of Reiki.

Carol Burbank is a USA Shinpiden graduate of the International House of Reiki


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  1. by reiki blog on June 17, 2011 at 02:57 pm

    i really connected with this post. i think it is harder than it looks developing your own personal style while remaining connected to the heritage of the reiki lineage. do you think people should have a minimum amount of time that they do self healing for before starting to instruct others?

  2. by Frans Stiene on June 17, 2011 at 04:17 pm

    There are three elements to learning the system of Reiki, the first one is to listen to or read some teachings, but that in itself is not enough. The second one takes that a step deeper and that is to contemplate what you have heard or read. For example, does it make sense what that person is saying or writing?
    But again that is not enough, the next step is to have a direct experience of was has been heard or read.
    It is only after many direct experiences that we can start to teach the system of Reiki and this might take a long time for some people.
    Otherwise it becomes like the famous saying, the blind leading the blind.

    If you can’t heal yourself how can you heal others
    Reiki Ryoho Hikkei

  3. by Glenys Arthur on June 06, 2012 at 11:50 pm

    “...As we grow, our teaching grows. As our teaching grows, we deepen our own insights and practices.”  How very true this is.  We have just finished delivering a Level 3 course and one of the meditations used ends “Know that we are all both students and teachers, both acolytes and masters…”
    “..As teachers, each of us needs to find the rhythm and flow of that dance to hold a space for students to be nurtured and challenged as they develop their own skills and insights along the way.”  And this is, for me, how all teaching - regardless of the subject - should be facilitated.

    Carol, thank you so much for posting this.

  4. by seema on December 31, 2013 at 06:23 am

    Reiki is a spiritual healing and lot of times Reiki teachers don’t realize that I think. Teaching Reiki in itself is a healing experience . Every time you teach you go through a energetic shift in yourself , off course provided you are indeed teaching from that space and intent. After I taught my first class I was unable to get out of bed for a week and during teaching in class itself I felt some thing I have never felt even when I had taken Reiki classes. For me it was only after I taught first class I began my journey and now have a dedicated personal practice because after that class I realized I was not “fit” and “good” enough for the students and teaching. ...

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