By Andrew Anders • Photos by Joni Strickfaden
A motivation rooted in compassion
A journey born of determination
Discovery of the way of peace
in mind and body
Over a decade ago, I was presented with difficulty and blessed with the opportunity to learn about Reiki. What started out as a passing curiosity and sincere desire to help my ailing mother, turned into what is now a lifelong journey of healing and personal growth.
Coming of age in the ’90s and early 2000s, I had unrestricted access to many unconventional ideas and perspectives, all via dial-up connection. This era of information introduced me to new age trends, Veritas communities, Eastern thought systems, Mayan prophecies, and so on. I read about all sorts of ideas, like healing with gemstones, guided meditation, visualization, and energy healing techniques. I was an open-minded kid with keys to a world much bigger than the south side of Ypsilanti, Michigan.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, my mother had been laid off again. She was a very sensitive, compassionate, and hard-working woman, proud to provide her fair share for the family. Apparently she was also quite stubborn, socially reserved, and set in her ways. Upon losing her second job after re-entering the workforce (she raised me and my siblings at home), she fell into a depression of the likes that I don’t believe she ever recovered from.
Unable to provide and feeling the burden of a single-income household, my mother’s stress turned into a very real and very uncomfortable pain. Despite numerous visits to the doctor, no single cause was found. Eventually, she was offered medication for her pain with no permanent solution in sight. I later learned this is another way to understand the expression “practicing medicine” — there are no guarantees.
One night I was startled awake by my Dad’s voice, yelling for my older brother and looking for help. Mom was having a seizure and my father had no idea how to react. Unfortunately, this was the beginning of what would soon be an all-too-common occurrence. Calling the ambulance and rushing off to the hospital almost became routine after a few years.
Being young and naive, I decided the doctors knew nothing and that I would take matters into my own hands. Little did I know how literal that expression would come to be.
My journey officially began upon seeing a co-worker waving his hands around a colleague. Upon further investigation, I learned he was “doing Reiki” to help her headache. No more than maybe a month later, he taught me his style and approach to Reiki.
Following this experience, I moved on with great interest, and pursued further education with the International Center for Reiki Training, earning certification in level 1 and level 2. The experience was life changing. I still had many questions, but that was for later. The top priority was to go home and hopefully heal my mother.
Thankfully, Mom was very open to my spiritual curiosity and studies. However, even with her support, in the many times I offered a healing session, Mom kindly declined, deciding she just wasn’t ready for Reiki healing right at that moment. In my mind, this was nothing to worry about. I’d be there for her when she was ready.
In the years following, I played with Reiki techniques, satisfied with my certification and warm healing hands. Eventually, I pursued Reiki mastership, looking for a chance to “increase my healing powers.”
No more than two months after completing the master level, my Mom suddenly passed away. I’d lost my chance to fix things. In one of my last moments of seeing her, I made a vow to do my best and help as many people as possible in her memory.
Toward Usui Reiki Ryoho
The vow I made pushed me headfirst into the world of all things Reiki. Despite being a “master” at that point, I realized just how little I really knew. So I set out to find the answers to the questions I still had, in pursuit to be the best practitioner I could be.
I traveled all over the U.S., beginning with an understanding of Reiki as a palm-healing “energy-medicine” technique. I eventually landed in Japan, the birth place of Usui Reiki Ryoho, with an understanding of Reiki as a deep inner practice for holistic healing in mind and body.
Usui Reiki Ryoho is a traditional Japanese inward-contemplative practice, established by Mikao Usui for healing in mind and body. Usui Shiki Ryoho is a later development based on Mikao Usui’s method, generally emphasizing palm-healing techniques. The majority of modern “Reiki” traditions teach a variation of Usui Shiki Ryoho, highlighting palm-healing techniques for stress release and relaxation. Initially, I focused on this approach, and the motivation to trace it back to its origins pushed me to New England, in search of the early teachings of Hawayo Takata.
Hawayo Takata is a very important person in the history of Reiki. She brought the practice from Japan to America in the early twentieth century, teaching the methods of Usui Shiki Ryoho. One of her earliest students, John Harvey Gray, was still living and teaching students in the New Hampshire area, so I traveled there to take classes at his healing center. As Mr. Gray was quite advanced in age, I ended up training with Dr. Lourdes Gray, the late Mr. Gray’s wife and now director of their Reiki center.
Dr. Gray stressed “Reiki with no short cuts,” and taught level 1 and level 2 separately (they are usually taught together in a one-weekend seminar). Her classes referenced Mrs. Takata’s teachings directly, while also introducing new age healing ideas, such as aura reading and chakra balancing.
Upon returning home from New England, I entered the Reiki therapy program at Beaumont Health System in Michigan. Their therapy program de-emphasized the origins and history of Reiki and helped me to understand it from an integrative medicine paradigm. Whereas Dr. Gray’s method focused more on tradition, the Beaumont program emphasized research and statistical evidence.
After the Beaumont program, I went on to New York to study further, but eventually, I realized that despite all of my training, I still felt unclear about something — how Reiki “works.” Although the word “Reiki” translates directly to “spiritual essence,” it is often understood to be an almost magical hands-on, palm healing technique. None of my teachers offered a direct explanation for how it works and why, and instead focused on traditions and applications.
A Deeper Understanding
Later, I found the deeper understanding I was looking for in the traditional Japanese approach to Reiki, originally called Usui Reiki Ryoho (臼井靈氣療法). In this tradition, meditation is emphasized. Daily meditation with Usui’s methods (precepts, breathing, symbols, etc.) allows a deeper embodiment of Reiki and promotes the body’s natural healing potential. This holistic approach to Reiki changed my life. I realized that only by my own effort would I understand Reiki. Fewer teachings — more practice. With this, healing was much deeper and more effective, both personally and for others, allowing me a conscious way to be the best practitioner I could be.
After years of daily practice, I learned that Reiki is nothing esoteric or mystical. It’s actually one of the most natural things we all have. A peaceful mind and healthy body doesn’t require “magic,” when we allow ourselves to be grateful for and compassionate to what’s already inside and around us.
It is in the spirit of this understanding that I offer this writing and sincerely wish that all beings heal, be free, and be at peace in mind and body.
Andrew Anders is a professional Reiki teacher and Reiki practitioner trained in Usui Reiki Ryoho, Usui Shiki Ryoho, and Usui/Tibetan Reiki. He is also a 4th degree master instructor in two Korean martial art systems: Kukki Taekwondo and Hoijeon Moosool. He is the principal Reiki instructor at Washtenaw Community College, and conducts Reiki healing sessions and monthly practice circles out of the Lotus Center. Lastly, he pays the bills as a full time university programmer/analyst. He can be contacted at http://michiganreiki.org; firstname.lastname@example.org; or (734) 480-8107.