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In Reiki: The Legacy of Dr. Usui, author Frank Arjava Petter describes the Reiki practitioner as being like a hollow bamboo reed. Such a lovely and accurate analogy! I wish I’d thought of that comparison two years ago, when I was talking with a couple of friends about Reiki. One had some training in Reiki and one was a novice; I had received my Master Teacher attunements three years earlier. I explained that the Reiki practitioner is a channel for Reiki, like a hollow tube. The friend with some experience added in, “Like a cup!” I said, “No, more like a pipe.” She said, “Like a vase!” I smiled and nodded. It seemed like an equally valid way of looking at it. But to me, it is through being open to the descent from above and allowing this energy to pour through us into the ground below that we connect heaven and earth and become a conduit for this spiritual flow.

My friend’s concept of the vessel, closed at the bottom, creates a different metaphor. Her image suggests an experience of being filled up from above, containing that energy and eventually overflowing with it. I think this is also a beautiful metaphor, but this is not how I feel when I’m doing Reiki. The energy pours into me, flowing out through my hands, feet, eyes, heart, and I am connected both above and below. To me, being connected and open to the earth is what stimulates the flow of energy.

Three symbols are learned in the second level of Reiki. Symbol 1 is a symbol for earth. Symbol 2 is a symbol for sky. Reiki teaches us that our first duty is to connect to the earth, to be grounded, perhaps even practical. The first symbol is called the power symbol, and it is enlightening to recognize that the power of spirituality comes not from the spiritual energy itself, but from our ability to ground that energy, to give it a way to flow into the earth. The energy is not filling up the practitioner, the energy is filling the earth; the practitioner is only the channel, like a hollow bamboo reed.

The second Reiki symbol also means love, the glowing feeling of being connected. The sky loves the earth, but as in all legendary romances, greater forces separate the two. We are the unsuspecting helper who brings together these attracted opposites, and we heal in their loving embrace.


The contemplation of the traditional Japanese poetic form waka is one method of Reiki meditation. The waka is a short form consisting of 31 syllables, often divided 5, 7, 5, 7, 7. In the spirit of the Reiki meditation, but not following the traditional form, I offer up this original poem.

Bamboo flute

Breath fills hollow reed

Plays spirit


Joy Vernon is a Reiki Practitioner and Teacher in Denver, Colorado. She is trained in both the Traditional Japanese Usui Reiki Ryôhô and the Western-influenced Usui Tibetan traditions of Reiki. To schedule an appointment, please visit

© 2010 by Joy Vernon

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The Bamboo Reed

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