Updated: May 21
At the Japanese Nikkei National Cultural Centre in Burnaby last November, the Jikiden Reiki North American Congress took us all on a beautiful journey into Japanese culture and all that lies at the heart of Reiki. Many of the speakers had learned Reiki with Chiyoko Yamaguchi and spoke of the spirit and wisdom she brought to the experience. One of the many things I loved about this congress, was the honour and respect of people and traditions it encompassed in every moment.
The day before the congress, experiences of Japanese cultural activities were offered to participants. If you wanted to, you could spend the morning being formally dressed in kimono by several highly skilled and deceptively strong Japanese ladies while Maria and I took a thousand photos of you from every angle possible, then you could pop in to a Japanese tea ceremony in a traditional tatami room and finish your day attempting to emulate the accomplished hands of Eri Luman as she taught us all how to write ‘nen’ as traditional calligraphy.
These arts were fun and really just taster sessions, but they were designed to help us all understand more about Reiki and the context it comes from. Each of these arts takes years, sometimes decades, to become proficient in. They are a meditation, an inner experience as much, or even more, than an outer experience. In Shodo (calligraphy), I learned that the way you take the brush off of the paper is as important as how you put it on. In Sado (tea ceremony) I understood that stillness and presence while the tea is prepared is as important as the act of drinking it. Every article in the room has purpose and meaning. In Kitsuke, watching the kimono dressing experts spinning around people and tucking material in here and there in a wonderful symphony of movement, I learned... well I learned how much it takes to get into those things! And I learned patience and witnessed the art of taking pleasure in what you are doing for others in the moment.
The congress itself opened with a ceremony performed by members of the Squamish Nation in thanks for the land we were using. Tadao Yamaguchi introduced everyone to the weekend ahead and the Grand Reiju began.
The speakers gave vastly different presentations, yet at the core, they were all expressing the same message. Though speaking of their own experiences of Chiyoko sensei and sharing their delight of Reiki in different ways, under their words, the same resonant tone rang out. The true essence of Reiki is in simplicity, connection with nature, going within and letting go - living the gokai. Competition, complication and hierarchy only take us away from these things, away from Reiki.
As in all traditional Japanese cultural arts, simplicity invites us in to experience ever greater hidden depths.
The first day, I spoke of my experience of learning Reiki with Chiyoko Yamaguchi and the qualities she lived that inspired me. A traditional bento box lunch later, Takashi Terajima, a buddhist monk, spoke of his own experience learning Reiki with Chiyoko sensei, and shared some fascinating information about the buddhist deity Kannon sama. Once we’d all finished laughing with Terajima san, who, at a young age had to decide between becoming a buddhist monk or a comedian (he seems to have become both) we listened to Kazumi Oishi, an Okinawan shaman. She talked about her work, her experience of Chiyoko sensei and the importance of honouring what your teachers have taught you in Japanese culture.
After a beautiful moment of collective silence inspired by Frank Arjava Petter, the panel discussion was a wonderful lighthearted mix of anecdotes and a glimpse into the family side of Chiyoko sensei. Her son and grandson told some funny stories about times with her and we were all feeling uplifted as we filled our plates from the Japanese buffet and watched with awe as the Okinawan Taiko drummers performed.
That evening, Mari, the lead congress organiser, was feeling understandably stressed and exhausted. Having lived a while in Japan, I understood that both stress and exhaustion can be helped by karaoke! So we stopped at a karaoke box on the way home to shout into a microphone and bang some tambourines around until she felt much better. The main things I learned in Japan were Jikiden Reiki and how to teach English, but along the way I developed a surprising appreciation of the benefits of karaoke.
The second day brought a host of never-before-seen photos of Chiyoko Yamaguchi and her family that Tadao Sensei kindly presented. His son, Yohei, then showed a heart-warming video he had made of him talking treasured memories with three of Chiyoko sensei’s friends, who still work with Jikiden Reiki now. One of them was Arakawa san, who has written the Jikiden Reiki Japanese certificates since the first student learned. I won't go into the video any more here as Silke Kleemann and I will be writing a little about it in our book that comes out later this year.
Gabrielle Gietzen shared her experience of using Jikiden Reiki in the health care system in Eastern Canada and showed some charts of assessments they had made and the incredible feedback they have received. Then, fresh from her karaoke the previous night, Mari Okazaki, dressed in a gorgeous kimono, shared some vital insights into Japanese traditional arts, systems and schools that helped us all understand more about the traditions Jikiden Reiki adhere to and the lack of hierarchy within. Finally, refreshed with Japanese tea, we listened to Frank Arjava Petter speak of meeting and learning with Chiyoko Yamaguchi. ‘Love at first Sight’ was another heart-warming presentation filled with love and appreciation for the spirit and legacy of Chiyoko sensei.
If you have never seen a Japanese Mikoshi, I highly recommend it - you can see one in the photos here. The Vancouver Mikoshi Sakurakai Society came to close the congress in traditional Japanese fashion. I’m always intrigued at how they manage to carry the heavy wooden Mikoshi at festivals and dance and shout at the same time. The answer of course is the sheer number of people working together. As everyone in the room shouted the Japanese chant with the Mikoshi carriers and then sang the Canadian national anthem together I was filled with the tears that express the joy of cultures and communities coming together to create something bigger. This congress had successfully brought people from across the world into the spirit of respect, appreciation, connection and working together. The Spirit of Reiki.
Many thanks and great appreciation to the congress organisers Mari Okazaki, Sue Yasuko Tedaka, Paul Sexton, Shoko Kawamura and Marius Bocu and to all the volunteers who gave their time and presence.