Punya interviews Tanmaya Honervogt, author of the first UK publication about Reiki, on the origins and developments of this method
The name Tanmaya Honervogt came to my attention when I was running a Reiki School in Scotland. This is now more than fifteen years ago. At the time I was unable to find a book for my classes – so ended up having all the drawings of the hand positions done by one of my students and made a manual myself – there was nothing available on the British book market about the subject. This until Tanmaya’s first Reiki book was published.
It was very beautifully crafted, each page in full colour and individually designed, in colours of pink and orange; I had never seen such an exquisite book. And, on the first page, it had an Osho quote – so I knew that she was one of our sannyasins. Her book was the pride of our little book stall we used to take to the many body and mind fairs we attended to promote Osho’s meditations and the Reiki courses. Further investigation showed me that she was living in the South, in Devon, where she had her own Reiki School.
And now, after all these years, I finally meet her here in Corfu in flesh and blood! For our readers to understand what this Reiki is all about I first ask her:
What is Reiki?
Reiki is a Japanese healing method which is used for healing, relaxation and for rejuvenating our energy. Reiki is, in itself, a very simple method. The universal healing energy, the Reiki power, the universal cosmic energy which surrounds us all (or however we want to call it) flows through the giver and simply passes on to the receiver. The energy flows from the top of the crown through the upper chakras, the arms and hands and then into our own or another person’s body, but it can also be an animal, a plant or a crystal. We become a channel and this powerful energy can be used for healing.
Where is the energy coming from?
The name Reiki is actually composed by two words: ‘Rei’ is the boundless, universal aspect of it and ‘Chi’ means vital life energy, the power which flows through all living beings. It comes from the source and, in a way, all other healing methods are also connecting to this divine energy. In order to use this vital force the (1st degree) Reiki student needs to get attuned to this higher vibrational energy and this is done through four initiations.
What happens during these initiations?
The initiations, also called attunements, are a transmission of energy where our own vibrational energy frequency is amplified, hightened. This creates an adjustment of our energy inside of us so that we can become a channel of the higher vibrational Reiki power, so that the Reiki energy can flow through us.
This happens on all the chakra levels. During the initiations the Reiki Master-Teacher works on the upper chakras, but later, during the 21-day cleansing process which follows each degree, the lower chakras also adjust to this higher vibrational frequency.
I usually leave a few hours between the four attunements that are part of the 1st degree, so that the Reiki energy can settle in the body. During a weekend course we would have typically one attunement in the morning and one in the afternoon.
In the 2nd degree we have one attunement only, but this is four times stronger than all the initiations in the 1st degree put together. After the 2nd degree, with the help of ancient symbols and mantras, we can not only bring healing to the physical body lying right in front of us, but we can also give healing at a distance as well as mental-emotional healing. It is very powerful.
The final degree, the master-teacher degree, which also has one attunement, enables the Reiki student to initiate others.
What is your personal story with Reiki?
I received my 1st degree in the States in 1983 (Reiki was very little known in Europe) and in 1983 my Reiki teacher Mary McFadyen came to Hamburg and I received the 2nd degree from her. I vividly remember how I reacted to it. The first night I had a very high fever and I thought not to be able to attend the course the next day. But the fever disappeared the next morning – it was all because of the attunement.
This initiation provoked a big opening in me. Before that I used to give Reiki to myself mainly, or exchange sessions with others who had also learned Reiki, but now – after the 2nd degree – I knew that I wanted to give Reiki sessions and so I did. It was a great breakthrough on an energy level. I became a Reiki master-teacher only 9 years later, in 1992 at the Multiversity in Pune, and it was probably overdue because on my return to Germany I immediately had 6 people in a group for the 1st degree course!
But your book came out in England!
Yes, the following year I moved to England because my partner at the time was from there: England was always a healing country for me, so I knew that I was in good hands. And out of the blue I started offering my first Reiki classes, in Devon, which is in the middle of nowhere. This is also where my whole journey started as a writer.
As you said, at that time there were no good Reiki books in English and so I thought that I needed to have my own book. Just as a play I imagined how I wanted it to be. It would be in colour for one, not just black and white. I also wanted that when someone opened the book, they would receive the Reiki healing from the pictures, from the colours, from the words.
The other day I received a letter from Sweden (the book has now been published in 18 countries and in 16 languages!) and the woman writes: “I can feel the Reiki healing from each page.” I was very happy to hear that because that was exactly the vision I had when I started to work on the book.
Its creation was like a birth for me. Because in those days Reiki was not much known in England the publishers were, understandably, wavering back and forth and could not make up their minds if they wanted to take on the project or not. After one year I decided: I do it! – even without their agreement. I was so sure! I decided to take two months off just to get started. I knew that I could not write it in England, nor in Germany. I had to go to the source, to Hawaii. This is the place where Hawayo Takata had lived, the one who brought Reiki to the West. And this is where I started writing the book.
Before leaving I rang up the publisher to inform them about my decision and they replied: “When you come back, ring us immediately and then we will make the contract.” Suddenly it became clear also to them that they wanted this book to happen. I can just say that I felt a lot of support: by my publisher, by the editor, by the designer – by everybody. This is why I feel that my first book was like a birth, for me and also for Reiki in England.
I discovered through your website that you have been a prolific writer!
Yes, indeed, now there are five books in English and I am very proud of the last one. It came out in England in 2008 and in Germany in 2009. It is called ‘The Complete Reiki Tutor’. It is a complete book about everything I have been teaching, about the 1st degree, 2nd degree and 3rd degree, the masters degree – it is a real handbook. It is now out in many other languages and I get emails from teachers who use it regularly as a handbook in their trainings.
Any new projects?
In May I have been recording and filming a Reiki DVD in Berlin. My German publisher will release it in September this year. In the past I have done a number of Healing CDs for relaxation, meditation and guided self-treatment. My first audio recording was ‘’Reiki – A Guided Self-Treatment’ and the second: ‘Inner Healing’, also for self-treatment. My voice is accompanied by Deva Premal singing healing mantras. I have done four more guided healing CDs which are currently published in Germany only. One of them features background music by Deuter.
But this is my first DVD – I am quite excited!
After my first years of teaching I felt that Reiki had lost its good reputation. Did you experience the same?
The Reiki movement wooshed through the alternative scene in Europe about 15-20 years ago. Since then about 20 branches have formed, some with specific names like Karuna Reiki, Seichem and others, all using different symbols and different initiation rituals. This makes things very confusing for a newcomer.
Just recently, in one of my Reiki master trainings there were two students who had taken the 1st and 2nd degree with other masters. My own students and myself where astonished to see the difference in the symbols they were using. Obviously, through a long lineage from one teacher to the next, the symbols can easily be diluted.
I am glad that my lineage is short and goes directly back to the source of Reiki. It starts from Mikao Usui who had received this healing technique in his meditation on a sacred mountain in Japan, to Hayashi, then Hawayo Takata, Mary McFadyen and then to Himani. I am convinced that the symbols and the initiation rituals which I have learned and which I teach are the original Reiki symbols. They are powerful tools and are close to the source of Reiki.
It is also confusing for other reasons: e.g. some masters don’t give the 1st degree with four initiations but with one only. Some even go as far as giving 1st and 2nd degree in one weekend without leaving the students the time necessary to integrate the Reiki energy. Others use what I call the ‘fast lane Reiki’, for whatever reason – perhaps some just to make easy money. All this created an image of Reiki which didn’t do good to the healing method – it actually did quite a bit of harm to the image of Reiki.
Whenever I take on students, mainly when they want to become a master, I discuss with them to see if they have given a certain amount of sessions to clients with written reports, that they are also regularly giving Reiki to themselves, that they have a certain integrity and are ready to take on the responsibility to pass on this healing technique. I want to make sure that to become a Reiki master-teacher is really the next step for them.
Is Reiki still ‘in fashion’ today?
Yes, it is! Quite often I have people in my courses who have taken Reiki years ago and want to reconnect to the energy. So there is renewed interest there. But I know that there are many people out there – people who live in the so-called ‘normal’ world – who are interested in healing.
They are attracted to learn Reiki because it is not frightening or threatening in any way. It starts from where the person is. Reiki is such a good tool for anyone who starts on the spiritual journey – not very consciously perceived maybe – but many people who come to my workshops know that while they learn the Reiki method they also get something else: they get to know themselves better.
I am now teaching regularly in Germany (Cologne) and England (Devon), but I am also venturing to new European countries, such as France, Austria, Greece and Sweden. This year, at the beginning of September, I will run a special healing holiday group which is also open to people who have not learned Reiki. It is called ‘Golden Healing Seminar: From Head to Heart’ and it will be held on the beautiful Greek island Corfu!
Tanmaya gives an introduction on ‘How to do a Reiki Class’ to a journalist of the BBC who attended her course in Devon and who created this video for the series ‘Healthy by Nature’:
Text by Punya for Osho News