There are three different levels of Reiki, Level I is probably the most important of the three. This level is centred around healing yourself. Before you can heal other people you need to be in good shape yourself from an energy viewpoint. The healing process starts at the attunement which you get from your Reiki master/teacher at the level I workshop. This will start a process of self clearing which generally takes around twenty one days to work through your system. During this period you may feel many symptoms such as stomach upsets or headaches. These will be due to your body shedding toxins. The attunement process will increase the vibration of your body and this will tend to shake off much of the lower forms of energy which can no longer cling to you. During this twenty one day period, immediately following the attunement, we ask our students to heal themselves for one hour every day. This will both help to shed the toxins and also to give the new student a familiarity with the feel of the Reiki energy as it flows through the hands and into the body. No symbols are taught at level I and this frees the student to experience the energy and to direct it purely by intent. This experience is valuable for them if they go on to take level II at a later date. They will have complete trust in the fact that symbols are not necessary for the energies to flow.
At level II the student is opened to energies of a higher vibration than at level I. The level II energy has three aspects in which it is manifest. These aspects are a the ability to control the power at which the energy flows, the ability to work at a mental and an emotional level and the ability to work on subjects which are not present. In order to simplify each of these aspects of the level II energy the student is introduced to symbols which are shortcuts to connecting with each aspect. It is worthy of note that Mikao Usui, the founder and developer of Usui Reiki, originally taught the equivalent of level II without using any symbols. He introduced the symbols at a later date to help his students to master this subject, rather like the use of training wheels when learning to ride a bicycle. After using the symbols on a regular basis for a couple of years, students find that they can access the different aspects of the level II energy without using the symbols. They are familiar with the sense of each aspect and can access this directly by focussed intent. It can often manifest that a required aspect of the energy fires in automatically without the student consciously visualising the symbol. At this point the student finds that they can use the symbols, or not as they feel appropriate, in any situation and still obtain the required result. They are then able to use the energies in a similar way that they did with the level I energy, using focussed intent in place of the symbols. A student who has taken level I and level II at the same time will have difficulty in taking this final step as they will have never used the energies without the symbols before.
Level III is where the student gains the abilities to teach other students and to attune them to the energies. The best teachers are those who can teach from experience rather than from things that they have learned in books or that they have been told by others. There is no substitute for experience. The level III attunement introduces the student to a higher vibration of the Reiki energy allowing them to work at a soul level.
The energies of the different levels should not be considered better or worse than each other. As a master/teacher I am constantly using the energies of all three levels. Sometimes one level of energy is more appropriate, sometimes another.