Saturday, 12 October 2019

Thank You Wanja Twan

Last month Wanja Twan, who initated my Reiki master Martha Sylvester, died peacefully, surrounded by family and pets, after a long life dedicated to the teaching and practice of Reiki.  Wanja was born   This is how I heard the story of how she came to learn Reiki:
Kate and Wanja at Reiki Alliance Conference 2006
in Sweden in 1934 and emigrated to Canada in her 20s, settling in British Columbia.

Wanja heard about the 1st degree reiki class, at a difficult time in her life.  Her second husband had unexpectedly left her (he said he was “too happy”!), leaving her with 6 children to raise and a farm to run on her own.  Searching for something to help her, she opened a book called “We Are All Healers” at random.  There she read about a woman named Hawayo Takata, who said she could teach people how to become healers.  Shortly after this Wanja heard that Takata was coming to the local area to teach 1st degree Reiki.  

She wanted to attend the class, but there were various issues restraining her from making the decision to go.  Being able to afford the fee of 150 US dollars was one. However, when she went to the drawer where she kept the deposits for the weaving workshops she ran in her barn, she discovered that someone had sent her $150 in US dollars – exactly what she needed for the Reiki class.

She was still concerned about leaving the younger children, but one of the older children volunteered to care for them and encouraged her to go.  So at the last minute Wanja made up her mind and went.  As she entered the house where the class was being held, a small Japanese-looking lady dressed in a bright Hawaiian dress was coming down the stairs opposite the door.  She looked at Wanja and said “Aha, I knew you would come!”.  This lady was Hawayo Takata, who initiated Wanja into Reiki in 1978 and as a master in 1979. 

Wanja’s practice was often informal and completely integrated with daily life.  Reiki treatments might happen on the kitchen table, with the children and animals all around.  Reiki was also used for improving bread that was being baked and many other daily uses (including dispersing clouds on a dull day!).  Wanja had a deep connection with the unseen world and Nature.  She had an understanding of the spirituality implicit in Reiki.

Kate, Wanja and Martha in Leamington Spa!
I was fortunate to meet Wanja on a few occasions when the was in the UK and at a Reiki Alliance conference in the USA (she was a founder member of the Reiki Alliance).  We first met in London when I was a very young master full of questions.  I would ask her a question and she would respond: “Well I don’t know, but…” and then give a profound answer.  

One of her teachings was that Takata encouraged her students to be grateful for the healing gift of Reiki.  Wanja developed a ritual for the end of treatments to honour this.  She would encourage us to place our hands on our heart and repeat 3 times “Thank you for this healing”.  It is not part of the official Usui Shiki Ryoho form, but it is a something I maintain to this day in my own practice.

I am grateful to Wanja, without whom I might not have Reiki in my life!  Thank you Thank you Thank you Wanja, my Reiki ‘grandmother!

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Visiting Connecting Reiki with Medicine at St George's Hospital, London

A few years ago, my friend Feona Gray thought of celebrating Dr Usui’s birthday by giving reiki taster-treatments in hospitals around the country.  She approached someone she knew with the idea, only to discover that reiki was not welcome in NHS hospitals, due to concerns about the unpreparedness and lack of professional training  of practitioners.  Feona decided to explore further what would be needed for this to change; as a result we now have Connecting Reiki with Medicine, which has enabled six reiki practitioners to undergo specialist in-hospital training and be paid by the charity ‘Full Circle Fund Therapies’ to give reiki treatments to patients on critical care wards of haematology, oncology and neurology at St George’s Hospital, London.

I have followed this inspiring project from the start so was excited to visit in July, with Johannes Reindl, our new Lineage Bearer.  Arriving at the hospital we met Suzanne Ruggles, CEO of Full Circle Fund Therapies who introduced us to the work and was our guide for the afternoon.  We then met one of the practitioners, Raquel Martin who took us to the bone marrow transplant and haematology ward.    Many of the patients, being critically ill, have compromised immune systems, so good infection control is essential.  Johannes and I were required to wash our hands, use the hand gel and to wear disposable aprons and gloves before going near the patients.  We observed a treatment for a woman with leukaemia, seeing how reiki eased her discomfort, so she was able to rest.

On a different ward we met the Nurse in Charge, who, when asked about her views on reiki on the wards, was very appreciative of what it offers to both patients and staff.  She talked about how the reiki treatments create a quiet time on the busy ward.  We heard similar comments from another Nurse in Charge and a matron from other wards we visited.  What is of particular note about this project is that, due to the specialist in-hospital training they receive, the practitioners are appreciated as members of staff, allowed to access and write-up  patients’ medical notes, rather than as complementary therapist visitors.

We met another practitioner, Anne- Marie Carratu, who took us to see her patient who had just received upsetting news from the palliative care team.  When asked about her pain, she rated it at 5 on a scale of 0 Johannes and Kate at St Georges Hospitalto 6, even with the hospital pain management medication.  Anne Marie and Raquel began treating her, then Johannes and I were invited to join them.  At the end of the 20 minutes the patient sighed and said “I feel as if all my burdens have been lifted.”  When asked about her pain level she said it was zero.  When Anne Marie checked back half an hour later, she was still pain free.

Over a three year period, six reiki practitioners have completed the training and  give 20 – 30-minute reiki treatments on the wards.  They have delivered 900 treatments and reiki is now available five days a week.  450 patients, over a one year period, were asked what symptom was most of concern to them.  The most common symptoms in order of frequency were pain, difficulty with sleep, anxiety and depression.  Where possible they were asked to rate their symptom before and after treatment based on a scale of 0 to 6.  129 patients responded after the treatment - many of the rest were asleep, in spite of reporting pain was keeping them awake, so they were not disturbed to find out how they felt!  No increase in symptoms was reported.  The average symptom before treatment was rated at 4.2 and after reiki was 2.9, most of which was reduction in pain.   On 13 occasions the score was reduced to zero.

While they work primarily on oncology, haematology and neurology wards, the practitioners are also receiving referrals from other wards, such as cardiology.  Such referrals always require the agreement of the consultants and nurses in charge, especially in these highly complex areas of medicine. With further much needed research, reiki could even be recommended for some in support of medical treatment and become a part of mainstream integrated medicine.

If you would like to make a donation to support this valuable work you can do so here:

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Global Reiki Gatherings - part 2

The second international reiki gathering I was involved in was the Global Reiki Webinar Community Gathering.  Phyllis had booked exclusive use of Gaunt’s House in Dorset for the gathering with a dream that 100 people would come.  It was to be the first of its kind in Europe.

When I was in Arizona, I was delighted to meet Global Reiki Webinars host Rachel Goldberg, who had flown down from Chicago to see Phyllis.  One afternoon Phyllis called us both in to see her.  She was ensuring that various events would go forwards without her.  She talked with Rachel and me about the practicalities of the Global Reiki Gathering and the theme: Realizing Dreams.  She made it clear that she wanted my husband Alec to be there to tell his story of giving up teaching reiki to focus on his taiji teaching and how this led to the realisation of his dream to visit China.   I was uncertain what my role was, although Rachel had told me that Phyllis had suggested I could lead some singing.

When Phyllis died, we were uncertain whether the gathering should go ahead, but after discussion we decided that Phyllis’s dream should be realized.  We were delighted that Johannes was able to join us for a brief time, although a prior work commitment meant he was only able to come for the first evening, during which he shared his story of Succession.

A cold I had been fighting during the Reiki Alliance conference took hold during the days between the two gatherings and I arrived at Gaunt’s unable to sing!   I thought it was ironic, since Phyllis had suggested I attend to lead singing.  However, I could talk (or rather croak!) and when Rachel was planning the schedule for the weekend, I had offered to do a couple of sessions, one of them using cards from the Transformation Game so at least I could do that!

Phyllis used the Transformation Game to deepen our learning on many occasions over the years and I find it offers profound learning and delightful fun.  I was pleased to be able to offer a similar experience to those attending the Global Reiki Gathering.  Rachel kindly shuffled the schedule to make enough time to continue, so enthusiastic was the response to the first session!  I discovered that the facilitation skills I learned working with Phyllis helped me to offer everyone a thought provoking and enlightening experience.  I saw people laugh as they read the cards and recognised the truth in them, just as I had experienced.  I realized my dream to facilitate people in self-discovery through these cards. 

The group was diverse and international – with people from as far away as India – all drawn together by a connection with Phyllis through the webinars.   On the Sunday we had a fire ceremony to remember Phyllis and Alec told his story.  I was very glad that Phyllis had once again arranged for him to be with me at this very special gathering, so that we could share the experiences together.

It was a lovely gathering, where there was respect for our differences in reiki culture and country culture, together with recognition of our common values.  Around the fire a commitment was made to meet again – Phyllis had already booked next year’s venue in Switzerland.  There has been an offer to organise one in India in 2021!  See you there?

Monday, 1 July 2019

Global Reiki Gatherings - Part 1

For the first time since I began doing monthly reiki newsletters in 2007 I have missed a month!  This is because I have been so busy that June was already nearly over before I realised and I decided to give myself a break and just send one early in July instead.  So my apologies that you didn’t hear from me in June.

It has been a momentous time for the global Reiki community and in particular for the reiki master community in the UK.  For the first time the Reiki Alliance Conference took place in the UK at the end of May.  The Reiki Alliance is an organisation for masters who teach Usui Shiki Ryoho in the form taught by Hawayo Takata.  The organisation began in 1982, shortly after Takata’s death, and initially the main purpose was to support Phyllis Furumoto in her role as Grand Master/ Lineage Bearer.

As Takata had taught all over the Americas and Canada, the Reiki Alliance was an organisation of masters from different countries from the start.  It quickly grew into a more international reiki community as the practice of reiki spread around the globe.  The annual conferences, which last a week and are held in a different country each year, have always been an important time for members to come together to explore our reiki system together in a constantly changing reiki world.  I attended my first Alliance conference in Idaho in 2006 and I enjoyed the international nature of the gathering.

UK conference Team being thanked - photo by Cesca
So the first Alliance conference ever held in the UK took place at Hothorpe Hall in Leicestershire at the end of May this year.  I was part of the organising team, which began discussions way back in   My particular area of responsibility was another first: participation of the conference via internet video link.  This was something Phyllis suggested and perhaps she could have attended this way if she had been alive.  She also suggested that my husband Alec should attend the conference to look after the technical side, leaving me more free to participate in the conference programme.  I am so grateful to her for this suggestion because Alec is not a member of the Alliance and would not otherwise have attended the conference.  He enjoyed it and it was wonderful to have him there doing much more than just looking after the technical aspects (he did some qigong sessions too).  

We had anticipated that Phyllis might not be able to attend this conference and indeed that she might have died.  So we were somewhat prepared for the fact that this turned out to be a very significant conference as we mourned the loss of our Grand Master/Lineage Bearer together and the community welcomed our new Grand Master/Lineage Bearer, Johannes Reindl.  It was a poignant and also joyful time.

I was very busy for the whole conference because in addition to running the virtual participation I offered a Neutral Mask workshop, co-led a singing session, composed and led a special song for the week, clowned and sang in the cabaret and was tour leader for an outing to Warwick!   With early morning meetings of the organising team and late-night activities including a Ceilidh it was exhausting but fun!

The conference overall went very well – the UK team were congratulated for what some said was the “best conference in years”.  It was good to have been part of the team and to see how reiki masters from all over the world are holding this common practice of Usui Shiki Ryoho.
I only had a week before another gathering of reiki people from all over the world: the Global Reiki Gathering which happened in early June.  I will write more about that next month….!

Monday, 13 May 2019


About 20 years ago Phyllis and I were travelling to see a massage therapist in Mid-Wales.  Phyllis was driving and as we came up to a ‘Stop’ sign I pointed out that in the UK this means you need to come to a complete stop before moving on (not knowing how familiar Phyllis was with UK road rules).  For some reason Phyllis then fumbled the pedals and kept going through the ‘Stop’ sign, into the path of an oncoming lorry!  Thankfully, the lorry driver swerved to avoid us and what could have been a nasty accident was avoided.  After this incident I asked Phyllis what would happen when she, as Grand Master, died.  At the time the plan was that Paul Mitchel, who jointly holds the Office of Grand Master, was to be her successor.  She subsequently changed her mind, perhaps feeling that the role needed someone younger.  

In 2009, when Phyllis was diagnosed with breast cancer the question of succession was on many people’s minds.   In 2014 she decided to bring people together to talk about succession, with Ben Haggard as a regenerative thinking resource.  I was honoured to organise this event, which was very popular: we soon had a waiting list!  We found extra accommodation, so that everyone who wanted to could be there.

Ben led us in profound discussion and this was followed by Succession Weekend intensives in other parts of the world.   After these in-person Succession Weekends, Phyllis, Paul and Ben decided to create an online group, known as the Succession Core Team, to take these discussions further.  All those who had attended the Succession Weekends were invited.  Others also joined later.  Many attended these monthly meetings live and some acted as Witnesses – listening to the recording of the meeting and offering comments.  Ben prepared the group to hold a space for the process of succession.

While I was in Arizona it became clear that Phyllis’s life was coming to an end and there was some anxiety that she might die without naming her successor.  At the intensive I was participating in, which was held in Phyllis’s home, we were delighted to hear that she would join us on our last day.  

During the Usui II I had been thinking about how succession had happened when Takata became lineage bearer.  Hayashi gathered his reiki community together in his home and named Takata as his successor.  It occurred to me that this day would be similar, with members of the Succession Core Team and other reiki masters (including Rachel Goldberg, who assisted Phyllis with the Global Reiki Webinars) present in Phyllis’s home.  So this could be the day she would name her successor. 

Just before Phyllis came in to the room we had a break and I had gone to the bathroom.  On my way down the corridor I saw Phyllis and some of her carers preparing for her to join us.  Phyllis was sitting in her wheelchair, dressed in a lovely Japanese coat. 

Phyllis Furumoto, Johannes Reindl and witnesses on 15th March
After she joined us Phyllis started talking about how she had been thinking about deciding on her successor.  She then said: “Johannes in my deliberations and the deliberations of some of the Succession Core Team, you’re it.”  
At first Johannes was in shock and didn’t say anything.  Phyllis said “You can also say no”, but he accepted her request.  Phyllis then stood (which was not easy for her) and gave him the Japanese coat.  She also gave him a Native American medicine pouch that Takata had given to her.

Johannes Reindl is Austrian and relatively young (40).  He was initiated by Phyllis as a master in 2017 in Japan.  I have known him since we met in Germany about 15 years ago and I think he is a good choice because he is authentic, kind and has a strong commitment to reiki.