Guided by Reiki

Estimated Reading Time: 11 minutes

Reiki Blog Hop: Guided by Reiki

Welcome to the Reiki Blog Hop! Jay Cassels of Metaphysical Angels suggested that for this hop we discuss the idea of Reiki guides and whether we work with them or not. I love this idea because my first Reiki teacher taught me to work with guides, but later teachers actively frowned on the practice. Reiki of course works with or without guides. I have spent several years working each way so I am looking forward to sharing my experiences regarding guides not only in Reiki Ryôhô but also in my tarot and magical practices.


Reiki Guides

The Reiki level 1 class I took in April 2003 included a guided meditation in which we were to meet our Reiki guide. I met both a spirit guide and animal guide (who just showed up). My meditation was odd and troubling. The guide we met gave us a gift. My gift was disturbing. I talked to the teacher about it, who seemed unconcerned and said she had heard worse. My guide was imposing but a clear and reliable presence, always standing over my left shoulder. My animal guide was a small deer that stood under my right hand. I felt like Snow White, to my embarrassment.

I could feel my guide’s presence when meditating, and I invited my guide to every Reiki session I did. The guide was a familiar feeling presence. But we had not been instructed how to work with the guide, so I never did anything other than invite the guide in. The guide rarely initiated any communication or actively participated in the Reiki session.  I also was instructed to invite the client’s guides in. I would do so and would always see one or several (or multitudes of) guides.

After four or five years, after working through teacher level in the Usui/Tibetan Reiki – Usui Shiki Ryôhô lineage I first learned, I started seeing an old Japanese man coming in when I called my guide. He would actively participate in the session, walking around the recipient and placing hands with a quick, clear, focused technique. This was different from my long, slow movements. I started seeing this guide in the year before I took my first traditional Japanese Reiki course.

In traditional Japanese Reiki guides are not used. Once I started working in this tradition, I discontinued the process of inviting in my or others’ guides. These familiar presences dissipated.


In May 2008, I earned teacher level in International House of Reiki style Usui Reiki Ryôhô. It was a slow build as I switched out of my previous style of working and gradually embraced the new-to-me but more traditional methods and philosophies. It helped that a couple of years later a friend, who had studied with the same teacher my teacher had, started up a small practice group out of her home. We met once a month for chanting and once a month for palm-healing sessions. Even though I had been attending (and continued to attend) monthly Reiki Shares practice sessions for several years, the chance to work regularly with her and receive the benefit of her specialized knowledge and experience in this particular tradition was extremely motivational and educational for me.

Through regular meditation I shifted my awareness and discovered that connection to Source energy was not external, it wasn’t planted in my aura by a teacher and it didn’t descend from above or beyond, nor was it evoked as guides. Instead, that innate connection was strengthened and increased through being present to our true self by activating the tanden energy center. Reiki was no longer something different than me, it wasn’t a cat at the window scratching to get in. It was oneness, recognizing the unity of all things. Seeing colors, focusing on energy imbalances, working with guides were all things that resulted from an experience of the energy, the clients, the healing, as separate from us. When working from a place of oneness, all these apparent differences fall away.

Guided by Reiki

We were taught specific techniques for discovering the source of disease and for letting the energy guide the session. In my experience of my practice, most sessions are done from that place of unity. When shifting awareness out of the world of disease and into the experience of unity, you are working with yourself or your recipient from the place of perfect health and wholeness. There is no experience of disease, discomfort, imbalance, or any other lack or need. Many of my clients seem disappointed when I say that I didn’t feel anything wrong with them. “But my other Reiki practitioner says I have a throat chakra block!” It’s so hard for them to give up their disease and accept their health. I could shift out of oneness and feel for every little potential problem, in fact, that’s how I originally learned to do a session. But then I’m working on a level of duality that assumes disease, rather than a level of unity that assumes wholeness.

On the other hand, there are people whose pain or ill health is strong enough to be felt at all levels. Reiki guides us to address the immediate experience of pain or imbalance, and then to follow the energy to find the source of the disease. Sometimes it’s perfectly clear — “Ouch! That hurts!” is the feeling I get. But I have also noticed that sometimes I get a sense of “No, nothing to see here, move along, move along.” This is actually a clue that the area needs extra attention. Reiki guides us each differently and in a way that we can understand.

Holy Guardian Angel

Philosophically and experientially I found that my Reiki sessions were better when I focused on the experience of oneness and the guidance of the flow of energy rather than working with incorporeal guides. The practical reason we were taught not to use guides was that it simply wasn’t taught by Reiki Ryôhô founder Mikao Usui, and it is not a Japanese cultural concept. The idea of guides was grafted onto the system of Reiki by Western practitioners and derived from non-Japanese sources. So, it’s decided. No guides for me.

Well, I’m also a tarot reader, which is not a Japanese modality. I was never taught to work with guides in my tarot reading. I don’t consider myself to work with guides. But one day I was doing a reading and looked to the side as I often do to think about something. As I thought it through, I apparently was talking out loud. “Oh, yes, I see. Thanks.” My client leaned forward and said, “Oh my gosh, I wish I could talk to my guides like that!!” I didn’t have the heart to disappoint her by saying that I wasn’t talking to guides, I was only thinking things through. Or was I? Ever since that experience I’ve questioned what it means to work with guides.

In the Western Mystery Tradition that I am trained in, we are taught to work with a variety of non-corporeal beings. We invoke them, or bring them into us so we can share the experience of each other or so they can talk through us. We evoke them into being, outside of us, where we can communicate with or command them. We visualize them. We invite them in and send them away. This practice has a long history of use in the Western world going back at least to Hellenistic Egypt and the neighboring Middle Eastern countries, with evidence of the practices being used earlier in dynastic Egypt. I don’t know any more of the history than this, but the study of ancient magic is a fascinating topic! (Check out my Tarot Geeks group if you’re interested in the subject.)

The ancient practices included two concepts, one of the daimon and one of the paredros. The daimon is a personal noncorporeal entity that guides your spiritual development. The paredros is a noncorporeal entity that works as a servant and does your bidding. These types of spiritual guides and servants have shown up in magical handbooks throughout the millennia. The fifteenth century grimoire, The Book of Abramelin, named the spiritual helper the Holy Guardian Angel. Samuel Mathers, one of the founders of the Golden Dawn, translated a (sadly incomplete) French copy of this German text. (A recent translation by Georg Dehn and Steven Guth is now available and includes the complete text.) The idea of the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA) thus entered the modern practice of magic. Specific rituals can be done to connect with the daimon or HGA.

Having moved entirely away from spirit guides as I became more committed and experienced in my Reiki practice, I have found that as I go deeper into my magical practices I am again drawn to the concept. The most compelling reason I have found to work with guides is the simple experience of having that conversation, the kind that my client witnessed and pointed out. To be honest, it’s not quite the same as thinking something through. Half the time when I think something over I come up with a variety of answers and no sense that any one is better than another. This discussion I sometimes have when giving tarot readings is a clear sense of someone explaining something to me, and after the explanation is given I understand the reading in a different way than I had previously. I sometimes need to ask for the information to be repeated because I don’t understand it. It is then repeated in a way that I get it. I think my readings are better, but more importantly my experience of reading is more fulfilling, when I have these conversations. As I court these experiences, I find that there is something powerful and reassuring and connected about being able to conceive of Spirit as a relatable form, a guide, unlike the abstract, disembodied, unlocated energy that is my experience of the Divine.

Reiki Guides Us

Reiki founder Mikao Usui.

I have not tried to connect with this conversant spirit when doing Reiki. It is not part of the practice as I learned it. Maybe I should try. Maybe I shouldn’t. I have found for the most part that this conversation usually needs to be initiated by me, through my asking an honest question. “Huh, I wonder what this means?” works great. Then again, when I’m doing Reiki, I will ask, “What is this?” or “What’s next?” I always get a clear sense, but not in words, simply in a thought or feeling of where to put my hands next (sometimes I get two of three images at once — Slow down! One thing at a time! Thank you!). It’s not the conversation I have when doing tarot readings. Then again, when working with clients tarot readings are conversational and Reiki is not.

Although spirit guides are not a traditional Japanese experience, it is traditional to invite your teachers and their teachers to assist you. I was taught this in one of the lineages of Reiki that I studied with a Japanese monk. The practice was specifically for performing reiju, the Reiki initiation, but I also do it sometimes when doing client sessions. I invite my teachers, their teachers, and their teachers through the founder of the system Mikao Usui. I felt guilty doing it at first — don’t these energetic beings have anything better to do than stand around while I perform reiju or palm-healing? Now it feels comforting. I have never dared interrupt them with a question. Maybe I should be so bold.



In addition to teaching Reiki, I also teach tarot and have a beginning class coming up soon. If you’d like to learn to read the tarot with no memorization or books, simply letting the cards speak for themselves, check out my upcoming Magician’s Tools: Beginning Tarot class, Sundays, February 11-March 18, 2018, 2:30-4:30 p.m. at Isis Books and Gifts, 2775 South Broadway, Englewood, CO 80113.

If you’re getting started and want to know the best beginner deck, please take a look at my post on 50 Beginning Tarot Decks.

Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit

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  1. What an absolutely refreshing, honest and beautifully written piece, thank you so much for taking the time to write to eloquently. You’ve got this knack of saying what needs said but at the same time encouraging me to feel/think as well. Thank you <3

    • I’ve found that for me learning always goes in cycles, finding one thing to be true, then experiencing and understanding the opposite, then swinging back. I’m guessing that like a pendulum it might balance itself out some day at my perfect happy medium. Until then I’ll keep swinging along.

  2. A lovely read as usual. I always enjoy your posts where you weave together the threads of all your experiences and beautifully balance the teacher with the eternal seeker… ?

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