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An Interview with Chris Deefholts:

Deepening our understanding of Reiki

What's your background and how did you get into teaching Reiki?

I have been on a profound spiritual journey for (at least consciously) thirty years, and began searching in my Catholic childhood. I received initiation from the well known Shaktipat Guru Baba Muktananda, in 1980, and began a long spiritual apprenticeship which has continued to this day. My practice of Reiki also took me to study with TYS Lama Gangchen Tulku Rinpoche, the Doctor Tibetan Lama Healer, the latter having given his blessing to the independent Radiant Heart Initiation Courses. These are deep subtle energy workshops for self and others that I have developed through working with many people and energies over the years.

Since 1984 I taught yoga and meditation as a backdrop to bringing up a family, and eventually began to understand that my service in the community needed to take a different form. So I studied intensely for several years to obtain professional training - counselling skills and theory, crystal therapy diploma etc. I wasn't interested in Reiki at all, initially, but obeyed my inner guidance and realised I was being shown a practical beginning for grounding my skills. After a few years, wishing to train with a highly skilled subtle energy worker, I was led to Irving Feurst, founder of S.U.N., the Spiritual Unfoldment Network (based in San Francisco). I was taught one to one over a intense period of 15 months to work with other energy systems such as Drisana (a Tibetan energy), Huna, pre Daoist, Egyptian, and Angelic energies and became the first certified overseas S.U.N. teacher.

Though I have had the extreme good fortune to study widely, still I'm not really an academic. I'm called to learn and work experientially, and that is how I teach: it's a balance between what cannot be expressed verbally but only given through presence and vibration, and enough "knowledge" to satisfy the enquiring mind so that it can get out of the way of the experience.

The spiritual path I began on was a kundalini yoga path and meditation taught me how to work with energy on inner levels for twelve years before I came to Reiki in 1992. So what I see taught mostly in Reiki classes has the quality of "Chinese Whispers" (although this has changed somewhat with the recent influx of information from Japan). You know truth is present, but it is only partly there.

The most amazing thing of all in the 21st Century is that we put up with, we actually (mostly) get by with living in spite of such discomfort and restlessness. Honestly, why do we put up with it? Maybe its because we are so used to it we accept it as the norm. We don't notice it any more. A person is shot on our television news and we accept it. The full reality of a human being's death has been removed from us, and somehow we are anaesthetised. We see meat in a supermarket wrapped up in plastic, but we don't experience the animal's fear of death because it is not killed before us. Our days are filled with unnatural noise, pollution, artificial food and light and all sorts of activities we weren't really designed to tolerate (like sitting in front of a computer all day long.) All these stresses take their toll.

For example, I have often heard Reiki teachers declare that Reiki is Universal, as if Reiki actually is the "ALL THAT IS" but they misunderstand the application of the word. It is universal in the sense that it runs through everything (but so does electricity, thought waves, light waves, radio waves and so on). And it is universally accessible. Well, yes.sort of. It is ONE of many vibrational combinations or forms of the impersonal healing energy that many have referred to as THE Universal Healing Energy and accessible if you have been initiated. It is a WONDERFUL doorway.

However it is not the entire expression of Consciousness. How could it be? If you consider the nature of consciousness for a moment... It is universal and all pervasive, and ever existent as the fundamental underlying principle. It needs no support or expression yet it can also have the quality of expression, of playfulness. Once Consciousness begins to limit itself in any way whatsoever, vibration arises. This vibration is referred to in classical Yogic texts as the Matrika Chakra, ma meaning mother, chakra meaning circle or wheel. From the matrika chakra, as Consciousness cloaks itself still further, arise all the subtle powers of form, the Matrika shaktis, or mother powers. From these arise the ever limiting and ever more concrete forms of individual forms, personalities and corresponding material world around us.

From this you can see that Reiki is still a limited expression of the Divine, even if subtle (a group of vibrations which feel a particular way, and have a particular aligning effect on the body, and which can align oneself sufficiently so that one can sometimes take a leap to that deep experience of the divine within). I have studied and initiate people into many different shaktis (energies, powers) and most are powerful, have a healing, balancing, aligning effect. But they are all different flavours of the Divine and none are the only way.

You could consider Reiki to be a kind of spiritual scaffolding with particular features (like healing qualities, for example) which support an aspirant on the spiritual path.

Each spiritual tradition began with an enlightened Master who infused the spiritual practices with the fruit of his/her own practice - literally from the wealth of their own inner fire, plus their connection with the Divine. They passed on those things that worked for them and infused them with their own sankalpa (direction of Divine Will). So each tradition has its own unique energetic cocktail . They all feel different in vibration and balance, often even within the same tradition. Take a walk into a great Cathedral like Canterbury, or Chartres and soak in the atmosphere. And then go to a vibrant Pentecostal meeting. Both are profound energies, but feel quite different, despite common Christian spiritual roots.

In modern times, spiritual practices often seem time consuming or even irrelevant to our needs, however, with modern presentation, the energies themselves can be very potent transformers of our personal clutter.

'What makes Reiki distinctive?'

This is an interesting question, because as you know, there are now many "flavours" of Reiki today. The pure form as Usui Sensei taught it, was not available in the West. The traditional Western form handed down from Mrs Takata contains what Phyllis Furumoto has termed "mystic form", but it was largely packaged as a healing art, because that was the dimension of Reiki that Mrs Takata experienced from Dr. Hayashi. Furthermore, each person also brings to Reiki their own natural energies and lineage energies, often from different lifetimes. One of my tasks is to help my students integrate those energies so that there is no vibrational conflict with any energies they many have acquired apart from Reiki.

The Reiki which is now being brought over from Japan appears more spiritually oriented, with also much more powerfully developed psychic skills, due to the continuity of weekly transmission. This is more along the lines of a traditional spiritual practice where you sit "in association with" or have "satsang" of someone who is well aligned to the source. Personally I perceive that this form is closer to the original Usui spirit -that is, a spiritual path infused with a practical, grounded form of service. However it should be remembered that Reiki itself was a fusion of Usui Sensei's own personal learning and absorption of enlivened traditions available in Japan, predominantly Buddhism. And that these forms developed in Japan following the introduction of energetic lineages from Tibet via China and don't forget that the Buddha's teachings were imported to Tibet from India When I received my first initiation into Reiki, those enlivened Masters were present too. And also there to support the transmission when I went on eventually to teach. (But that's another story!)

For the general Western public, Reiki has become a gentle and simple way to awaken to a deeper part of ourselves. Consciousness yearns to awaken to Itself and forms of Self.

A simplified code of ethics, simplicity of use and a lack of connection to any organised religion has made Reiki more acceptable to mainstream thinking, because it is non-threatening, and indeed it has become increasingly more popular.

Furthermore it still carries the sankalpa or concentrated will of the initial master Usui Sensei of protection, which is important when acting as a facilitator in the healing process. I.e. you do not take on other people's stuff so long as you follow the golden rule of non-doership (that goes for all systems, but here includes the general guidelines for neophytes of not directing the energy but allowing the intelligence of the energy to go where it needs to.)

The self-healing aspect is important and differentiates it from other western form of healing practice where the emphasis has been on something for "others". Reiki nurtures a sense of self responsibility, which is the first step to acknowledging the work we need to do on ourselves.

In the western form of Reiki, the symbols have taken on an increased sense of importance. These are good, enlivened preparatory exercises which help the student to develop working with the third eye, amongst other things. They act as shortcuts - I find them useful myself from time to time - but consider - they are rarely used at all in everyday practice in Japan! Interesting how focussed we are on them in the west - they were never meant to be an end in themselves!

The symbols also come with powerful, enlivened mantras, which if used regularly will help to clear and align your subtle bodies. Although the mantras are not emphasized, with practice, they are in fact even more potent than the symbols!

The key aspect of Reiki is the transmission of energy which helps to remove blocks effectively and safely. As it is an initiated form of healing there is built in protection for facilitator and recipient, no overloading or Karmic exchange. Once initiated you are plugged in. No knowledge or special practice is needed in order to connect to the energy and let it flow (though obviously both knowledge and plenty of personal practice are recommended!) The energy itself is intelligent and guides you from within if you allow it.

Another key quality of Reiki is its self-balancing effect. What do I mean? Well, I think you have to go back to the energy systems which Usui Sensei tapped into, which had an initial intention of self balance in all things. The goal of the spiritual path is enlightenment: freedom from illusion and equipoise on all levels of being! In Usui's time, the focus had become focussed toward the development of spirit without addressing the needs of the material world. Usui sensed this inherent imbalance and his work sought to redress this. In our times, the focus has swung so much toward "healing" and materialism, that we are now seeking balance again!

How does Reiki feel compared to the other energies that you channel?

Reiki was the first initiated energy that I used for healing purposes, though I had been working for several years with crystals and crystal devas, and of course, I had been initiated into a powerful kundalini yoga path. Once plugged in to Reiki, the crystal work became noticeably more effective and powerful, though the Reiki has never felt as strong as the yoga energy I work with for my meditation practices. Reiki was a way for me to channel my energies in the physical realm. Obviously I can only present a subjective perspective. To me, Reiki is an energy with it's primary roots in Buddhism, but very grounded. Different teachers I have worked with have added their own flavour (either consciously or unconsciously) so the flavours are quite varied. It's a bit like trying to describe the flavour of curry!

Until I worked with Irving Feurst, I never felt that I had been attuned to Reiki on all the Rays (indeed I don't think that general Reiki transmission does this) but that does not mean there is something fundamentally wrong. All the enlivened spiritual traditions work within certain "bands of wavelength."

For example Huna is a very grounded, nurturing mother energy, rooted in the blessings of the earth yet it's Cross of Fire centres lie in a deeper layer of the subtle realm than even our chakras. Some traditions within Huna are also connected to a high degree with the star energies. But largely it is a great energy for use where disconnection with the body, ungrounded-ness occurs. It is very supportive in cases of abuse where the person is ready to move into the stage of gradually clearing trauma in the body, and I have used it with great effect on quite a few occasions, where the outcome has been one of freedom to feel the joy of the spirit in the body again.

Some of the Tibetan energies have a focus on five centres rather than seven, with a particular focus on the fourth, sixth and seventh chakras. However, the Drisana system outlined in the S.U.N. Network is one of the mostly finely balanced systems I have ever worked with. It has a soothing feel, but the energy work goes very deep, effecting long lasting change. You receive powerful energies which you can then access at any time for yourself or others by mentally directing the flow (no visualisation, complex symbols, mantras etc.). People using Drisana frequently report dramatic shifts at all levels of their being - physical, emotional, mental, and particularly spiritual.

The Sufi tradition I have been studying within for the last three years has an energetic focus on the second, fourth, sixth and seventh chakras, though it obviously works on the other centres too. The names of God that are chanted in Zikr are very aligning and energising, and bring a great sense of peace. Different chants work with different centres to bring about an overall clearing and balance.

Angelic energies are different again, and often work even better after I've been running another energy first - such as Reiki or Huna - though you can use them effectively on their own. Each energy will have its own particular strengths and these can even differ from individual to individual.

Any main differences in initiation?

On an outer level, the major difference between Reiki and the other systems into which I have been initiated is (1) the length of training on a spiritual and psychic level before teaching and (2) differences in initiation practice.

When I was taught Reiki in 1992, there was a breathing space between levels so that I could really get to know myself and how to work with the energy at different levels of my being. Then when I received initiation, I received much, even though I was already on a profoundly transformational, enlivened path. I waited a whole year between the first and second level, putting myself on a personal apprenticeship of self-discovery and this brought great benefits. These days, people say "time has speeded up, we don't have so long now." But we are eternal beings, and if we don't do the clearing work thoroughly on ourselves now, it will still be there waiting for us later on!

These days people can study level one and two together and level three a few weeks later and launch themselves onto an unsuspecting public as fully trained. Fully trained means fully anchored in the Reiki energy, not simply fully initiated. Initiation is a BEGINNING not a completion. Even for those who have learnt much in other modalities, this seems to undermine the natural maturation process that a fundamentally spiritual path demands of the practitioner.

To those who have skimped their training and practice, I would suggest this is playing with fire. The down side is that new students are short-changed. And so are you. Can you handle a spontaneous kundalini experience, or the group dynamics in a class when a deep emotional outburst occurs? Can your Reiki practice support you and centre you? How can you teach someone else to handle these and other issues if you don't have experience? You can only teach from your own experience... Having said all this, of course, we all have had to begin somewhere and a great protection is to be open to learning by keeping the attitude of beginner's mind.

The initiation practices of Reiki have been given a (fairly complex) outer form. Ritual helps to give form to content. Usui was simply given the content, but again, I guess the form has been offered to help the student focus well on the sacred intention. Usui knew what he was doing, but many Reiki Teachers today don't really understand what is taking place, they simply pass the transmission on. Transmission itself does not take place because of what is physically done, rather a particular method has been enlivened to help to focus intent. In yogic traditions, initiation is given through one of four means, and for a Master, each one is equally effective - through will, through touch, through mantra or through focussed look. At different times, with different students, they will use whichever is the most appropriate. They are not bound by a particular method. You can see that most of those elements are present in the ritualised Reiki forms of initiation. In more modern offshoots of Reiki, the initiation rituals are even more complex, but this does not mean that the Reiki received is necessarily stronger or better. The Japanese Reiju initiation introduced most recently is very powerful and yet far simpler to enact. The key is the deep connection, clarity and consequent transmission of the initiator.

In the other traditions I teach, initiation is mostly given through will alone, whilst sitting in meditation, though occasionally through touch - including breath, visually, or mantra.

One other noticeable difference is that in the other traditions I work with, the student is given some preliminary initiations to strengthen and clear the subtle bodies, nervous system and so on, to prepare for the main initiation. In this, I break with accepted Western Reiki tradition and now offer this benefit to my Reiki students too (because in all conscience I could not do otherwise)!

After twenty years of subtle energy work I am still learning and deepening my practice, understanding and transmission! I endeavour to keep beginner's mind with the everyday experiences as my teacher. And I am content. Many days I will wake up laughing, or just happy, thankful to this universe we live in. I love this work, which is ever new, and am so grateful to the Reiki Circle who have supported my process. And yes, I have come to learn and appreciate, in the words of an ancient Gita, "Beloved, you are my very Self." For after all the words have been spilled, and the illusion of differences debated, we are a collective Consciousness who are given the opportunity through Reiki and other doorways, to reconnect with ourselves, and be free to enjoy this paradoxical play!


Chris Deefholts 2000

Triveni Light Chris Deefholts 1994, 1999 Crystal Ascension Chris Deefholts 1994, 1999 Wheel of Light Chris Deefholts 1999 Radiant Heart Workshops Radiantbeing Peace Transmissions

All Copyright Chris Deefholts 2000. All rights reserved.

January 2005