Reiki Symbols & Their Meanings: Everything You Need to Know

Photo: Caleb Gaskins

Whether you practice Reiki regularly, have experienced a Reiki session, or have just heard about it, the ancient healing practice—which is based on the idea that energy can be transferred through touch—thereby jump-starting the mental, emotional, and physical healing process—is endlessly fascinating.

One of the most important and interesting elements of Reiki is its symbols. Reiki symbols allow people to take their Reiki practice one step further by allowing them to take the energy of Reiki and use it for a specific purpose. While in most cases symbols really only affect the subconscious, Reiki symbols work a bit differently—they actually alert the mind and body to change the way the Reiki energy functions. To activate them, Reiki practitioners can visualize the Reiki symbols, say their names out loud, or even draw them. As long as you're using intention in the activation process, you can make it happen.

So, what are the Reiki symbols, what do they mean, and what should you know about them? Although Reiki symbols are traditionally supposed to be kept a secret, over the years they've gotten quite a bit of exposure and buzz. That being said, here's a breakdown.

Cho ku rei: The power symbol.

If you're looking to either increase or decrease power, cho ku rei is the symbol for you. It can be identified with a drawing of a coil (which can be drawn in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction) and represents chi, or the transfer of energy throughout the body. When visualizing the power symbol, imagine a "switch"—meaning once it's activated, the Reiki practitioner instantly has a greater ability to illuminate, enlighten, and channel energy in their body.

How to use cho ku rei.

Cho ku rei is most commonly used at the start of a Reiki session as a way to help boost Reiki power at any point when it may be needed during a session. One excellent way to use cho ku rei is when you're working to heal an injury—it can help with anything from light aches and pains to more serious, painful injuries.

In a more abstract sense, cho ku rei can be called upon when you're working to clear negative energy that may be getting stuck during your Reiki session. And if you want to take the negative energy-clearing power of cho ku rei into your day-to-day life, trying drawing the symbol on walls of rooms where you want the energy to be light and positive.

Cho ku rei can also be used when your relationships are in need of a boost. Drawing the cho ku rei symbol on business cards or working to activate it before a job interview or important conversation with a loved one is a great way to go about giving your relationships the boost they need. Cho ku rei can also act as a protection against misfortunes—which typically happen because of impure energy—so activating cho ku rei is an excellent way to purify the energy systems. And if you're looking to give your meals a nutritional boost, look no further than cho ku rei—it will help remove any negative energy in your food, making the nutrients in it all the more powerful.

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Sei he ki: The harmony symbol.

When you're in need of purification and mental and emotional balance, turn to sei he ki, the harmony symbol. The general meaning of sei he ki is "God and man become one," and the drawing of the symbol for sei he ki resembles either a wave cresting and getting ready to crash over a beach or a bird's wing. It can also aid in balancing the right and left sides of the brain and is often though of as a protection Reiki symbol on top of being a harmony symbol.

How to use sei he ki.

Looking to memorize new information, ace a test, or improve your memory in general? Sei he ki can help with that. If you're reading or studying, try drawing the sei he ki symbol on the pages of a book or notebook as a way to help you retain that information not just in that moment, but for days, weeks, or even years to come. And if you'd rather activate the Reiki symbol sei he ki using visualization, imagine it sitting atop your head.

Additionally, if you're struggling to kick a bad habit like drinking too much, smoking, or overeating, consider calling on sei he ki as an aid. Bad habits and addictions are often born from negative experiences or negative beliefs about yourself, and visualizing the sei he ki symbol around you can help you cultivate a more positive view of yourself, thus helping eliminate these bad habits.

And if you suffer from headaches, turn to sei he ki for guidance. Many headaches are caused by mental and emotional instability, and calling on sei he ki can help balance this out, thus eliminating headaches (and the need for unnatural pain remedies!). Sei he ki also protects you from negative vibes in general, acting as a protective symbol that can protect you from negativity and actually remove negativity from the body. Even better, sei he ki can make your affirmations more powerful. If you're someone who writes down your affirmations, try drawing the sei he ki symbol next to them—they'll be a lot more likely to stick.

Hon sha ze sho nen: The distance symbol.

The concept of hon sha ze sho nen is a bit more difficult to grasp than some of the other Reiki symbols, but not tremendously so. The meaning of hon sha ze sho nen is "having no present, past, or future," and it's used to send Reiki energy across time and space. For example, although hon sha ze sho nen can't change the past, it can help heal old wounds by reframing the experience and turning it into a learning experience rather than simply a devastating event that has no rhyme or reason. Hon sha ze sho nen can also help Reiki practitioners send Reiki into the future, ahead of events that could bring bad news, such as exams, doctor's appointments, or difficult conversation with loved ones.

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How to use hon sha ze sho nen.

Hon sha ze sho nen works a bit differently than the previously mentioned Reiki symbols. While hon sha ze sho shen is considered one of the most powerful symbols, it has to be used correctly for it to work. The distance Reiki symbol works better when it's used on the subtle body rather than the physical body, and it's suggested by Reiki experts that this symbol be called upon on a day-to-day basis in order to effectively encourage past and future healing in the body.

Dai ko myo: The master symbol.

All hail the powerful dai ko myo, or master symbol. This symbol is a nourishing and enlightening one, and it is the most sacred Reiki symbol. It also has the highest vibration, and it has the most transformative power of all five of the Reiki symbols. The healing powers of dai ko myo are all-encompassing, healing the upper chakras, the aura, and the soul as a whole. Dai ko myo is the empowerment symbol, and means "great enlightenment" or "bright shining light." By aiding in the process of spiritual enlightenment, dai ko myo helps bring Reiki practitioners closer to God.

How to use dai ko myo.

In order to call on dai ko myo, you can use several different methods, from drawing the symbol (a series of characters) to visualizing it or drawing it with your third eye. You can also meditate with the dai ko myo symbol as a way of receiving it, which will nourish your body and soul and give you the power to help yourself and eventually go out into the world and help others.

If you're working on strengthening your relationship with yourself and working to gain more self-awareness or a stronger spiritual practice, dai ko myo is an important symbol to call on, and using it in combination with other Reiki symbols only makes it more effective. Dai ko myo is also an excellent way to help improve your immune system—because dai ko myo improves the flow of energy throughout the entire body, it can help clear blockages that could be holding your immune system back. Additionally, if you're using any homeopathic remedies to heal your body or improve your life (think herbal tinctures or essential oils), dai ko myo can help enhance those benefits. It can also be used to charge or clear crystals.

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Raku: The completion symbol.

Raku is a Reiki symbol that's used at the master level, and it's also known as the "fire serpent"—and one look at its shape will tell you why. Its drawn in zigzag, lightning-bolt-like shape that's used primarily for grounding after Reiki. Drawn from head to ground, the purpose of raku is to allow the body to receive the benefits of Reiki—much like how savasana is used at the end of yoga to help the body absorb all the benefits of the practice. Above all, raku is a grounding symbol, and this symbol should also be used by Reiki practitioners as a way of clearing any negative energy they may have absorbed from the person they were practicing on.

How to use raku.

Use it at the end of a Reiki practice as a way to ground and absorb all the benefits of the transfer of energy. And if you ever need a moment of grounding in day-to-day life, feel free to draw the symbol to feel the grounding benefits.

How to use multiple Reiki symbols at once.

Reiki symbols don't have to be used individually—they can also be used in conjunction with one another. One way to do this is to use multiple symbols to help send Reiki to a sick child. Start by holding a photograph of a child and visualize cho ku rei, sei hei ki, hon sha ze sho nen, and cho ku rei three times per symbol. Then say they recipient's name three times while holding his or her photograph. This a great way to send healing energy their way.

Another great way to use multiple symbols at once is by sending Reiki to a future event that you're nervous about or that may bring bad news, like a job interview, a doctor's appointment, the list goes on. Say the names of cho ku rei, sei he ki, hon sha ze sho nen, and cho ku rei three times each, and visualize them as well while asking them to bring you peace and calming vibrations on the day that event will occur. That way, by the time the event you're anticipating actually roles around, you'll be less anxious and better able to focus on what's actually going on around you.

While using these symbols is an excellent way to improve your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, if you have yet to receive a Reiki session, consider giving one a try. Once you've experienced Reiki, you'll be better able to understand each of these symbols and how to implement them in your day-to-day life.

Interested in the practice of Reiki? These 8 women shared their first experiences with Reiki—and they're fascinating.

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