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Reiki - Distance vs In Person Attunements

Last Updated: 12 June 2020

Distance attunements (a.k.a. distant attunements) have long been a controversial subject within the global Reiki community. The views of some leading, relevant Reiki practitioners are examined below.

William Rand, the founder of Karuna Reiki®, believes that distance attunements1 are inferior to training in person because personal touch is needed to ‘transmit important metaphysical frequencies’, and that one misses out on the in person student/teacher relationship, seeing techniques demonstrated in person, as well as the opportunity to practice with other students in person.

The UK Reiki Federation, for instance, acknowledges distance attunements but believes face-to-face tuition is important, particularly at levels 1 and 2, and does not presently accept applications for membership from those with distance attunements2.

In her 20063 and 20134 newsletters, Kathleen Milner states that initiations are always one-on-one, whether via the telephone or in a class. However, she strongly feels that people benefit greatly from attending a class. The telephone is her preferred method of performing a distance initiation, and without it, attempts at distance initiation are merely healings in her view. She states that whilst Tera-Mai Reiki initiations given over the telephone have been documented repeatedly as bringing about a successful healing connection to Source, she only performs clearings and Tera-Mai Reiki I and II re-attunements this way, for those who have already had some form of Reiki initiation, except in unusual circumstances. She states that it is not possible to perform most Tera-Mai Seichem attunements over the telephone.

Patrick Zeigler, founder of Seichim and SKHM, has stated in his experience each person has their own way of receiving the energy best, some preferring distance attunements and others preferring them in person5(pp11); and that it is the recipients ability to receive it that is the overriding factor in how successful the attunement will be, more so than the teacher or lineage. This he believes is influenced by the willingness to receive and also trust and belief in the process, e.g. if the student does not trust in the distant attunement then his experience may differ from the equivalent in person attunement. In his experience, he also notes that those who are more emotionally expressive experience the greatest results from attunements5(pp19). He believes that emotional blocks may also hamper the effectiveness of a Reiki or Seichim/SKHM attunement or self-initiation, which is why there is a focus on emotional and spiritual healing within SKHM workshops to move the self-initiation process along. When Seichim was first taught in 1984, it used Reiki-based attunements, something which Seichim and Sekhem branches today still practise5(pp13). However, from 1994 onwards, Patrick Zeigler’s own style ceased to use symbols and attunements, instead using self-initiation through visualisation, meditation and the group dynamic, and was renamed to SKHM5(pp13).

Robert Fueston, Reiki Master, Acupuncturist and founder of the Reiki Preservation Society, has identified a private letter at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University from Hawayo Takata to Doris Duke, dated 19 December 1978, where Mrs Takata states that in a prior telephone call, she explained to Ms Duke how to draw one of the 2nd degree symbols, and that it would not work without the initiation, which she could provide remotely6. Mrs Takata also sent all 3 symbols to Ms Duke in a separate letter, explaining how to draw them, and in another letter she explained she sometimes taught over the telephone and gave initiations remotely, by ‘short wave’ or ‘remote control’7.

Phyllis Furumoto, Grandmaster of Usui Shiki Ryoho, is of the opinion that Reiki Mastery is not simply about following rules and supporting the system of practice, but assessing the student and situation and being open to teaching according to the students’ needs, and so exceptions are not uncommon. She regards it as ‘believable’ that the full extent of an initiation can be transmitted remotely by a master, after having performed distance attunements over many years. She states that remote initiation was not part of Mrs Takata’s core practice, but sometimes performed out of necessity; and that her prior relationship with Ms Duke and circumstances should be taken into consideration regarding her remote initiation7.

When considering the effectiveness of distance training, there are two components, the attunements themselves, and the quality of the tuition, opportunity for practice and level of support. William Rand’s energetic argument is subjective, difficult if not impossible to prove, and individual experiences of distance attunements are subject to a number of considerations, such as psychology, especially when new to Reiki. The common argument put forward by supporters of distance attunements is that distance Reiki appears to work as well as Reiki in person, so there may be no reason why it should it be any different for attunements.

I personally agree that for new Usui Reiki students, learning either level 1 or 2, that in person training is preferable because hand positions are more easily demonstrated and corrected in person, and that the ability the ask questions in person and listen to the questions from others is beneficial; as is forming a relationship with a Reiki teacher. These considerations are likely less relevant for Karuna arts, where students are in most cases already Usui Reiki Masters, and there are no additional hand placement teachings (in Karuna Ki). In addition, because Karuna arts are less common than Usui Reiki, it may be harder to find a local teacher unless one is prepared to travel or consider a different lineage. Quality of teaching materials and manuals varies between teachers and lineages, whether you learn in person or by distance. Distance teachers have different policies regarding support, some offering attunements only (supplying a pdf manual) whereas others are available to answer ongoing questions.

One potential issue with Reiki styles that are less traditional, taught primarily by distance and for which there are no organisations or bodies, is that it is easier to neglect and lose information pertaining to the teacher’s lineage, which is a more formalised process in traditional Reiki styles, primarily taught in person. This of course depends on the individuals in the chain between one’s immediate teacher and the founder. It is up to the student to determine a teacher’s lineage during the selection process, before taking the course, if this is important to him. In my experience, in distance attunement oriented styles, a lineage is usually provided (if available) at the same time as the certificate after the attunement has been performed.

  1. Rand, W.L. (n.d.) Distant Attunements. Retrieved 12 June 2020 from https://www.reiki.org/articles/reiki-questions-and-answers
  2. UK Reiki Federation. (2001-2020) Teaching/Learning Reiki Online. Retrieved 12 June 2020 from https://www.reikifed.co.uk/2020/03/30/teaching-learning-reiki-online/
  3. Milner, K.A. (2006) Summer 2006 Newsletter. Retrieved 12 June 2020 from http://kathleenmilner.com/newsletter/newsletter-old/summer-2006-newsletter/
  4. Milner, K.A. (2013) Summer 2013 Newsletter. Retrieved 12 June 2020 from http://kathleenmilner.com/newsletter/newsletter-old/summer-2013-newsletter/
  5. Heemskerk, M. & Zeigler, P. (2004) All Love – SKHM Magazine – Edition 1. SKHM.org. https://www.scribd.com/document/90020274/All-Love-Magazine
  6. Fueston, R.N. (2016) Reiki: Transmissions of Light, Volume 1: The History and System of Usui Shiki Reiki Ryoho. The Reiki Preservation Society.
  7. Miles, P. (2015) Takata and Distant Initiation. Retrieved 15 April 2017 from http://reikiinmedicine.org/takata-stories/takata-and-remote-initiation/

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