I’m sure I’m not the only one with paralyzing fear from the US election this week. In Philadelphia, swastikas are cropping up around the City and many don’t know when (or if) they will be able to obtain healthcare again. Folks who work in non-profit, higher education and in fields like renewable energy wonder how long they may be employed. With such a gutpunch from our fellow Countrymen, it seems almost impossible to get out of bed let alone continue on our personal paths of betterment. Where is Spirit now? Why bother?
This is a time when self-cultivation is most important, and healing practices are no strangers to difficult times. The modern practice of Usui Reiki, a profoundly powerful method of energy healing, was created in Japan and passed into the West in the years leading up to, during and following World War II. The first three founders to bring Usui Reiki to the West did so under exceptionally grim circumstances, and reflecting on this has helped me to find new motivation and fuel deeper determination. My hope is that it will hearten you as well.
Mikao Usui, Founder of the modern Reiki system, formed the practice with his extensive knowledge of esoteric Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Shamanic ritual and the gifts passed on to him by his Samurai family (specifically the Chiba clan). When Usui was just six years old, the Samurai were disbanded under Meiji rule, which was inching ever closer to what would later be world war. As this happened he certainly witnessed many of his family members committing ceremonial suicide (death before dishonor isn’t just a saying in Japan). As an adult, several of his family members admonished him for teaching aspects of their family’s methods and several apparently disowned him. Additionally, Usui appears to have been a member of the Raku Kei, an organization that we know little about today. At a minimum, this secretive group shared the oral histories and traditions of many groups with one another to keep them from becoming extinct in the years that would follow. Usui passed in 1926, and it is reported that he taught 21 people to teacher level.
One of the teachers trained by Usui was Chujiro Hayashi. Hayashi was a retired Naval
officer and surgeon who spent just ten months learning Reiki from Mikao Usui before Usui’s passing. He founded a clinic in Tokyo, where he healed and taught alongside his wife and daughter. Hayashi wrote guides and developed new techniques for the practice, many of which live on in the West today.
One of Hayashi’s clients, and American of Japanese descent named Hawayo Takata, was able to show her dedication enough to become his student. In 1938, after a year of study, she returned to her home in Hawaii. The following month Hayashi and his daughter followed her there to help her set up her practice and he bestowed upon Takata the title of Reiki Master. She was his 13th and final Mastery student.
In 1940, Hayashi knew that Japan would soon go to war with the United States. Having previously taken part in the Russo-Japanese war, he wanted nothing to do with battle again. On May 10th of that year, Chujiro Hayashi committed suicide. Prior to his death he reportedly told Hawayo Takata “keep your mouth shut” lest she wind up in a concentration camp. She wisely listened, and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor she even painted over the sign on her clinic. Where it once read “Reiki”, it now read “Swedish Massage” and “short wave treatments” (learn more…).Takata reportedly told many that Usui was a Christian minister working to teach the Japanese about Jesus-an effective cover in her Filipino neighborhood.
Takata never spent time in any of the Asian American encampments that became such a horrible reality. The only reason I can theorize for this was the support of her community-any one of whom could have spoken out against her. At any moment, she could have been arrested and interred in such a camp. Despite the risks, she seems to have continued practicing Reiki throughout the war.
Takata did not begin training others to teach Reiki until the mid 1970s. Just like Usui, she trained 21 Reiki masters before her passing in December of 1980 (just a month before I was born). She edited the practice significantly so it could be more easily used by Westerners.
After Takata’s death, many believed that Usui’s Reiki died out in Japan during the war. Several Westerners have since returned and studied Reiki in Japan, bringing many more traditional elements back to Western practitioners. Today, Reiki is one of the fastest growing holistic practices in the US and is popular throughout the West, particularly in Germany and Australia…thanks to the tireless work and tremendous risk when times were least certain.
I have had the honor of teaching Reiki since 2008. In just 8 years, I have taught 57 Reiki Masters-more than Usui, Hayashi and Takata combined. Of those 57, more than half are in professional practice today-several teaching their own students. I treat 10-15 clients per week and my classes are regularly sold out-three of my grads reached out to me this week in gratitude for what I had taught them, that they can now pass it along to more who struggle with this new reality. The ripples of Usui, Hayashi and Takata continue to echo. Reiki has survived and persisted despite the most dangerous of times, and it will continue to do so as long as we bravely carry the torch and commit ourselves to healing ourselves and our communities.
On a personal level, I wonder what I will face. I’m a disabled bisexual female, and I am absolutely terrified of what the future holds for me, the nation and the world. In light of this, my resolve to teach and practice Reiki is even stronger. These three managed to create healing ripples that have become so many waves and they did so under incredibly grim circumstances. Now is the time to be inspired by their hard work and dedication to create our own ripples of change that will carry beyond this dreadful administration and even our mortal lives. Our legacy will be the fruits of our labor.
The seeds of hate we see rapidly germinating around us have been there all along. Yes, the presence of the President-Elect and his cronies have watered the fertile soil but make no mistake that these sentiments are not new. We grieve for our Nation and it is fair to fear the times to come, but we must not lose ourselves in despair. We have work to do.
For those of you who don’t truly know me, I’ve lived a very challenging life often and seriously deprived of physical safety and emotional comfort-so much so that I don’t ever truly feel “safe”. I struggle with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Reiki has helped me fill in some those cracks and move forward, changed by experience yet not diminished.
I’m also a heavily caffeinated Capricorn with an Aries rising (read: an industrious workaholic with a fiery flair). Freshly re-inspired by my practice’s founders and the words of my grads, I find ripples suddenly insufficient.
Stand back and behold my tidal wave.
May we lift one another into the highest possible future that can come of this. We are all that we seek, and as many we create much. I am humbled and honored to spend (in many cases another) lifetime with all of you-may this be one for which we are eternally proud. I love you all.
In closing, here some words of Winston Churchill, which I have found inspiring since I stumbled along them in the fourth grade:
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
and perhaps most importantly…
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
May we work together to turn this hell into the beautiful reality of the brightest tomorrow humanity has ever seen. We have it within us-I can see it. May our lights shine bright and may we all exceed what we thought possible for ourselves…and each other.
Love, power and solidarity to all of you.
Danielle Stimpson is a Reiki Master, Integrated Energy Therapy Master-Instructor, Intuitive and creator of the Stimpson Methods of Shamanic Reiki. She is the owner of Learn Reiki Philadelphia currently in Center City but soon to relocate to a larger space in an incredible neighborhood. Danielle is an assistant organizer for the Philly Death Cafe and was recently featured in the September 2016 edition of Natural Awakenings magazine (pg. 11). Learn more about classes, sessions are readings with her at LearnReikiPhiladelphia.com