On Attunements and Fasting

I’ve noticed a recent trend while enrolling new students for Reiki classes, and I find it at least slightly disturbing.  I’ve had at least a dozen students in half as many months ask me for “the list of things they cannot eat” before, during, and/or after the attunement.  Was there a memo I wasn’t copied on-and most importantly, did it include the nutritionist/Dietician certification one needs to tell people what to/not to eat? Yeah…you need one of those to do that.

An attunement is a ceremony performed by a Reiki Master to “tune in” a new student/initiate to the energy of Reiki, and from that point on, they can access Reiki energy.  While the process of performing an attunement varies from teacher to teacher and lineage to lineage, it’s a powerful thing that is thought to kick start at 21 day cleansing process within the initiate, so they may be a more open vessel for Reiki.  The “21 day cleanse” comes from Mikao Usui, the founder of Usui Reiki and all of it’s varied branches.  Basically, Mikao Usui was a Buddhist Monk of the Tendai tradition who fasted and meditated for 21 days (as was the tradition, and still is,  in Tendai Buddhism) and had an epiphany on the 21st day where he saw the 4 traditional Reiki symbols, ran down Mount Kurama, and began teaching.  Well, maybe-many assert that he already knew of these symbols as part of his Buddhist tradition but came up with the system on his own, or was encouraged to start teaching it by Spirit as a result of this event.  Mikao Usui passed away nearly 90 years ago so I cannot ask him myself, but I have seen the symbols (at least one of them) carved on Temples in India that are thousands of years old, so they did exist on Earth before he did.  So, YOU decide what happened.

No matter the case, when Usui fasted he ate NOTHING-not a thing-for 21 days.  It takes a LONG time to build up to this, and it is part of the Tendai tradition…as is miles upon miles of walking (tendai.org), self-flagellation (Musafar, 2003), and a number of other things that you DO NOT see in modern American Reiki.  He was by no means doing the fast you are likely being told is “necessary”, which I have seen to run the gamut but include:

  • Vegan
  • Gluten free
  • No sugar
  • No carb
  • Master Cleanse
  • One or another fruit juices
  • Liquids only
  • Raw Foods
  • Liver or colon “detox”
  • “Stimulant” free
  • Probiotic
  • Macrobiotic
  • …name a fad diet you heard of here

There is no evidence to suggest that Usui followed any of these diets.  Furthermore, there is no evidence to suggest that he required his students to do so either.

I’m sure a few Reiki teachers are reading this and seething, as it flies in the face of what you know Reiki to be.  I ask you to please breathe and keep an open mind. Some of you may be thinking “well, these diets are more accessible that a full-on fast”, which is true, but not all of these diets will work for all bodies-and many of these diets cancel each other out or contradict each other. More of you are likely saying “but it worked for me”, to which I say YOU are not EVERYONE ELSE.

The physiology of the human body varies greatly and for many reasons, from activity level to Ph to overall functioning to disease.  If someone is a diabetic and they force themselves to use the Master Cleanse, which involves drinking lemon juice, black strap molasses and cayenne pepper exclusively, their blood sugar will skyrocket and will have serious health issues….or if they are healthy and training for a marathon, they won’t last long without proper intake of carbs and protein at the correct times.  I have seen students of mine try the Raw Foods diet.  Some have experienced great health with it, others have gotten violently ill as they could not digest a diet of only raw vegetables and fruit.  I have gluten intolerance and allergies to nuts and peanuts, soy, and more…sorry but “beans” do not all my protein needs provide, especially since I walk a minimum of 4 miles a day (yes, even when I eat them with rice) so I do eat meat.   And while we’re talking Gluten Free, lets cite this recent article about how many people misconstrue “gluten free” to be always “healthy”, and quit asking about the food’s content as long as those two little words appear on the package.

Now the psychology of food choices.  When we suggest that people purge large swaths of options from their diet, we vilify foods and food groups.  To some, this exacerbates eating disorders like Anorexia; which have a 5-20% mortality rate depending on who you’re talking to.  It also fosters something called Orthorexia – NOT a DSM classified mental illness like Anorexia, Bulimia, and other eating disorders but bears mentioning. Many a healing arts affair or potluck have turned into a “who’s diet is more restricted” competition.

Full disclosure – as I have mentioned in this blog before, I have anorexia.  And I have experienced the pitfalls of misguided practitioners telling me what to do to heal it while understanding not at all what eating disorders even really are-mental illness, and the most deadly forms of it, thankyouverymuch. Certainly not something to be trifled with.

In my experience of teaching Reiki for the past three years (and practicing for the past five) I can tell you that the attunement process is real, and intense.  It brings things up for healing, and intensifies our awareness of what we need to do…yes, including changing our diets from time to time.  I’ve seen carnivorous students go veg, and I’ve seen veg students eat a bacon cheeseburger. So what do I tell my students to do when they ask what NOT to eat over the 21 days?  I strongly advise them AGAINST making any dietary changes, and instead pay close attention to what their body tells them it needs and wants.  I caution them to pay attention and partake slowly when it comes to alcohol, caffeine, and street drugs as their body may be more sensitive to the effects (though, from what my students report, this is seldom the case).  I encourage students to use this time of enhanced sensitivity to listen to their body and support it in supporting them, seeking guidance of nutrition professionals if they see a need for significant change.  The outcome is different for each and every student, and rewarding every time.

So why did your Reiki teacher tell you to do this?  Perhaps they are doing it in honor of Usui’s fast, or maybe they don’t think much of the attunement as a stand-alone tool and feel the need to add to it’s intensity.  Maybe they are interpreting the precept “be kind to every living thing” as a suggestion of a Vegan lifestyle, or maybe they have wrapped their dietary, social or political views into their practice.  It’s also likely they are just repeating what their teacher(s) told them.  In short,  I have no idea and maybe they don’t either.  Try giving them an ask and see what they say.  If they get all upset, have them direct their hate mail at me (plenty of others do!) But above all, listen to your body and your own good sense.  If your body isn’t happy, it generally tells you so…although it helps if you are quiet enough to listen.


3 thoughts on “On Attunements and Fasting

  1. rich

    Heads on Straight.. You Understand The Psychology behind all things… If a Reiki Practitioner Does not Understand the Many Psychological aspects then they dont know reiki enough..

  2. rich

    Final Compliment… You have also merged Reiki with Shamanism.. A Really Complimenting Idea and Skill to connect them both.. You know what your Doing.

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