The word Reiki can be translated as universal energy or life force. Rei meaning Universal and Ki meaning energy or life force. Another interpretation of Reiki; derived from the translations of Mikao Usui's memorial stone in Japan, (1865-1926), is 'A method that came into being through a moment of enlightenment'.
In Japan the work Ki means energy but in China the word Chi is used and in India energy is called Prana. People who practice Tai Chi, Chi Kung or Yoga also work with energy to bring balance and harmony through simple movements or breathing techniques.
Reiki is an invisible, gentle energy that works by balancing a persons' energy system, promoting the body's own natural ability to heal, on all levels; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. As well as encouraging personal or spiritual development. This means that Reiki may help with a wide range of issues and conditions, as it puts you and your body in the best position to cope with all of life's ups and downs.
Since Mikao Usui's death Reiki has been adapted and changed by several people including Mrs. Takata, Dr. Hayashi and others. These changes were made for a variety of reasons all of which were valid at the time. This involved more focus on symbols, rituals and treating others. So here in the West Reiki has become very much a treatment procedure like many other holistic treatments. We now have more information about the original teachings that Mikao Usui gave his students. Originally Usui's students' would have used Reiki for their own personal or spiritual development and this was the primary focus, treating others was done but it was a side issue. The system itself was kept very simple, free from symbols and cluttered rituals and students worked intuitively. The Reiki precepts were also an important part of original Reiki and his students would have applied these principles to their every day lives.
When researching different styles and training methods you may find influences brought into Reiki from Spiritual healing and the New Age movement. This would be working with concepts such as Spirit guides and Spirit communication, Chakras and Crystal healing techniques. It is fine to combine other approaches if that is what you would like but Reiki in it's purest form does not involve working with guides or the spirit world, the energy channeled by a Reiki person is a neutral universal energy. The energy will naturally balance Chakras and energy channels know as Meridian Lines so there is no need to have an extensive knowledge of chakras or Meridians. Crystal healing is a separate technique that some people like to use along side Reiki and for those who get on with crystals this works well but it is not Reiki. My advice for anyone who would like to develop other energy techniques such as Crystal healing or Spirit Communication etc is to do each course separately, making sure that you get adequate training in each area.
To sum up what Reiki means to me I would say that it is a simple, effective technique that anyone can use to produce a more harmonious and well balanced life style. An energy that gently encourages people to make better choices and focus more on what is important, rather than the mundane clutter of day to day living that usually takes over a person.
Reiki is simple and safe and is suitable for anyone interested in healing, personal development and meditation. Reiki will complement any other alternative practices or belief systems/religions you may follow.