Reiki attunement is a somewhat controversial issue. While most reiki practitioners agree that attunement is an absolute requirement for the successful administration of reiki, there are many who disagree. There are also a few prominent standouts who remain neutral or undecided on the issue. This includes reiki masters, such as Rob Daugherty, with a prominent reiki lineage (the lineage of who attuned who going back to the reiki founder).
The disagreements about the necessity of attunement within the reiki community at least partly arise out of the fact that there are many highly successful energy healers who have never received reiki attunement. On the other hand, some long-time energy healers who finally did receive reiki attunement later in their healing careers have had a change of heart on this issue within a few days or weeks after finally receiving an official reiki attunement and experiencing the effects firsthand.
What Is Reiki Attunement?
From a purely practical standpoint, a reiki attunement is an initiation process by which a person who wishes to practice reiki receives an unlimited supply of “ki” energy (same a chi), the vital life force that courses through our seven chakras. After the attunement, he or she then has the ability to use this energy force to heal others as a reiki practitioner. For most people drawn to reiki as a career, it’s a calling to heal and help others, much like becoming a medical doctor was a century or two ago. To a smaller number of people undergoing attunement, becoming a professional Reiki practitioner may begin as a fun job. However, oftentimes, the reiki healing process takes on a life of its own and pulls the Reiki practitioner into life with a higher purpose.
During a Level 1 reiki attunement, a reiki master (the highest level reiki practitioner) will perform a ritualistic version of reiki to unblock the energy flow. It is thought by many that the reiki master will also “tune” this energy to a particularly harmonious form of ki energy passed down by Dr. Mikao Usu, the Japanese Buddhist teacher who was inspired to develop reiki during an extended fast. It is said that Dr. Usu was so enlightened right before he almost died that reiki was bestowed on him.
During Level 2 and Level 3 attunements, the reiki master also opens the crown chakra to insert reiki symbols into the mind and psyche of the participants. These symbols can then be used as triggers or “buttons” to quickly achieve certain things. They are used almost like shortcuts by advanced reiki masters. For example, one symbol can be used to quickly harmonize the energies between the left brain and the right brain. Another symbol can be used to quickly interject a massive amount of energy. You can think of this like suddenly hitting the powerful force of the rapids on a free-flowing river of energy. Powerful stuff!
During the attunement, a person achieves the ability to be a lifetime vessel through which this specially tuned energy is carried and passed to others. With a limitless supply of this ki energy, it is free to flow directly into others and then simply be replaced, i.e the “reiki well” is bountiful and never runs dry! The ki energy from a reiki practitioner will also passively flow into the auras of other people in their physical presence and even in their thoughts for higher-level Reiki practitioners, thus giving a reiki practitioner the ability to positively affect others and the world at large even when he or she isn’t actively practicing reiki.
The Levels of Reiki Attunement
Level 1: First Degree
While Level 1 reiki is the most basic attunement level, it is still very powerful and allows one to very effectively heal people. First-degree Reiki practitioners are encouraged to practice reiki on themselves daily to hone their skills and keep their energy channels uncluttered and unblocked. Upon completion of Level 1 reiki, energy will flow freely from the reiki practitioner’s hand and most will have a life-changing experience.
Level 2: Second Degree
Level 2 Attunement is the intermediate level of reiki attunement. At this level, symbols are introduced into the mind and chakras and the reiki practitioner obtains the necessary training to not only have ki energy flowing from their hands but also be able to control that energy in various ways. The symbols extend the abilities of a reiki practitioner by at least an order of magnitude. Level 2 attunement is the minimum reiki level required to offer distance reiki, and even then, it can take serious practice to become a good distance reiki practitioner.
Level 3: Third Degree
Reiki practitioners must undergo this Third Degree attunement in order to become a reiki master. Advanced symbols are introduced at this level that again vastly increase the healing power of the reiki practitioner. Most importantly, a Level 3 attunement is needed for a reiki practitioner to offer attunement to others and it is usually not attempted until the Level 3 reiki practitioner has a vast amount of experience.
Why Is Attunement Necessary and Does It Really Make a Difference?
This is a very active area of discussion on many reiki blogs and forums. While people may disagree, the important bottom line is that scientific research has shown repeatedly that attunement is needed to achieve actual healing from reiki therapy. Just going through the motions of Reiki does not have the same effect. While this may seem somewhat “magical” to some because we do not yet fully understand WHY attunement makes such a difference in the effectiveness of reiki therapy, it does indeed make a difference because the evidence that this is true is overwhelming! Therefore, to ensure that reiki does result in healing, attunement is necessary.
Now, while we do not yet understand in detail why reiki works so well, or at all, and why attunement seems to be one of the main drivers of this effectiveness, we do have at least a window into how and why Reiki works — and why reiki performed by ATTUNED reiki practitioners works better than reiki performed by people who are not attuned. It turns out that when reiki is done right by an attuned Reiki practitioner, it stimulates the very powerful vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the largest cranial nerve that passes through the neck and the thorax to reach the abdomen. Close your eyes and think about this — if you view a map of the seven chakras, you will see the pathway of this powerful nerve goes through all seven chakras! Magical…. yes! But… there also seems to be a scientific explanation for why Reiki works!
The vagus nerve seems to be the master switch for the entire parasympathetic portion of the nervous system. This part of the nervous system is sometimes dubbed the “rest and digest” portion because it slows down the heart rate and silently controls our lungs and gut. In fact, the vagus nerve sends out sensory fibers into ALL of the vital visceral organs! Could “ki” energy be the electrical impulses of the parasympathetic nerve network controlled by the vagus nerve? It’s looking more and more like this is at least close to the truth. However, it’s also going to be a bit more complicated than we currently understand. At any rate, reiki performed by a reiki practitioner who has undergone attunement encourages the body to slow down, rest, and heal itself by stimulating the parasympathetic nerve network. Yes — that IS a bit magical :-)
A Couple of Interesting Final Notes
The symbols introduced during the Second Level and Third Level reiki attunement used to be kept top secret. However, with the internet, it is impossible to keep such a secret. This has changed the dynamics of the attunement process. Can you think of a few ways that knowing ahead of time what the reiki symbols are and how they’re used might change things?
It turns out too that there is no longer high fidelity in these reiki symbols. Different reiki masters modify the original symbols to their own vision and method of attunement. In fact, many reiki masters have developed their own symbols, which in turn leads to increasing divergence in how attunement is delivered. With all the talk about whether reiki lineage matters, this would certainly be one point to make in favor that it does indeed matter, since attunement methods are diversifying, and it may matter more in the future.