The 3 Levels Of Reiki: What Are They & What Do They Mean?
When I first began the journey to become a reiki practitioner, I knew little about the different levels of mastery and their meanings. In some ways, I believe I benefited from going in with a clear and open mind. However, a general understanding of the levels beforehand can help not only those looking to become a reiki practitioner but also those who are in search of a practitioner to work with.
What are the three levels of reiki?
While certain components of each level are standardized, each reiki master will teach them a little differently. There are typically three (sometimes four) levels of reiki training—each one is centered on "attunement" (a ceremony of empowerment), education, and practice.
Attunement is what makes reiki unique from other forms of healing touch and energy work. This ceremony, called Reiju (Ray-joo) in Japanese, is performed by the reiki master during each level to open and expand the main energy channels of the student's body, allowing universal energy, also known as Qi/Chi/Ki, to flow more freely and deeply through them. It tends to clear blockages in the body and can lead to significant energy changes within the individual. Many will undergo an intense period of self-growth following their attunements. You can think of the attunement process like a transfer of energy: The master is passing energy off to the student, who will then possess it for life.
While it's possible to receive Level 1 and Level 2 training over the course of the weekend (for a few hundred dollars, depending on where you live), you can also find trainings that are stretched out over weeks or months. Typically, the reiki master degree is more intensive and takes months to receive.
Here is a more detailed breakdown of the three levels of reiki and each of the attunements:
Reiki Level 1: The First Degree (Shoden)
Level 1 is a practitioner's initiation into reiki and is open to anyone. The focus during Level 1 is on opening the energy channels on a physical level, allowing the practitioner to connect to the universal life force energy, which flows from the cosmos through the crown of the head and down to the heart and hands. Many reiki masters emphasize self-reiki as the goal of the Level 1 designation, encouraging students to focus on practicing reiki on themselves, thereby working through their own obstacles. Typically the Level 1 course also includes an overview of the history of reiki.
What to expect during a Level 1 Attunement:
The reiki Level 1 attunement was initially given in four separate attunements. There are some reiki masters who still teach using this method. However, many reiki masters provide the Level 1 attunement in a single session. After the first attunement, many experience physical symptoms of energy in their palms—including tingling, coolness, or heat. Anxiousness, exhaustion, and sadness are not uncommon after the Level 1 attunement.
Due to the intensity of the attunement process, some reiki masters recommend that at least 21 days to a full three months pass between receiving the Level 1 and Level 2 attunements (Level 1 is required to receive Level 2).
Reiki Level 2: The Second Degree (Okuden)
Level 2 gives students the skills to practice reiki on others and open energy channels more deeply. Students also receive their symbols during this level. There are five symbols in reiki and each one corresponds to a specific energy (power, harmony, distance, mastery, and completion). Students are expected to use these symbols to bring the universal energy of reiki into their everyday lives in more practical ways. The symbols can also help people provide reiki over long distances or send healing energy wherever it may be needed in the world.
What to expect during a Level 2 Attunement:
The Level 2 attunement is typically given in one single attunement, with a focus on opening up the heart chakra, the midpoint between the physical and spiritual chakras. Students have their eyes closed for this attunement so they can look within and fully feel into the process' effect on the heart.
It is recommended to take at least six months to one year between your Level 2 and master training, to allow the lessons you just learned to really sink in.
Reiki Level 3: The Third Degree (Shinpiden) & Reiki Master
In many courses, the Third Degree and Reiki Master are the same designation. However, some teachers separate Level 3 from Reiki Master. The Reiki Master Level is traditionally considered the teacher's level, and masters are able to walk away and attune new reiki practitioners. However, many receive the master attunement, along with the corresponding symbol, yet don't feel comfortable or practiced in properly attuning others—hence the distinction between Third Degree and Reiki Master.
Becoming a reiki master also represents a deep commitment to the reiki practice, and some feel that significant time should pass between achieving the Second Degree status and Master Level. Because the Master Level is taught in a wide range of methods, you should meditate on which path feels right for you and spend time and consideration in selecting a master.
The reiki levels provide a general organization of the progression of reiki mastership. Because reiki courses are taught and organized in a wide variety of methods, it's important to research and find both the format and instructor that is right for you.
Sharna Langlais is a Reiki Master who practices in Santa Fe, NM and San Diego, CA. She received her certification as a Reiki Master from Kwan Yin Holistic Center, and Reiki 1 and 2, shamanic healing and 5 element theory certification through the Center for Sacred Transformations. Additional training and coursework includes guided meditation, group processing and leadership, tarot, hypnotherapy, astrology and moon cycle work.