Being grateful for Reiki elders
By Robert Fueston
Today, I am grateful for the time I live in. Most days, however, I contemplate what it would have been like to have learned Reiki in the 1970’s or early 1980’s; what I once thought of as a utopian time or a “golden age” of sorts for learning Reiki.
Unlike in today’s world, where one can "get" a Reiki attunement on YouTube or e-bay, back then the few Reiki teachers around for the most part still taught Reiki as Takata had taught it. The form of Reiki was simple to learn, easy to apply, and it worked. This sort of simplicity can be very deceiving in a fast paced society that highly values the qualities of innovation and individuality. In this sort of environment, it takes extraordinary patience, practice, and willingness to follow another’s instructions (instead of the predominately “do it yourself” attitude) for traditional teachings to survive. Perhaps Frank Sinatra summarized our culture’s attitude best when he said, “I did it my way”.
Since learning Reiki in 1996, I discovered a plethora of different teachings that have been added since the early 1980’s. I recently came across an individual who has created and teaches over 80 styles or systems of Reiki. At what point is it enough? What is the purpose of the new teachings? Were the old ways found to be inadequate after time and dedicated practice or rather, was there an inadequate amount of time practiced with the old ways? Are these changes made with an enlightened mind as Usui’s system was?
This brings us to the topic Reiki elders. What is a Reiki elder? I would define a Reiki elder as a person who has had a great deal of time to practice and has taken the opportunity to utilize that time for practice and/or teaching. I don’t think one can precisely come up with a clear cut definition of the term Reiki Elder, for instance, someone who has been practicing Reiki for 20+ years. Time, dedicated practice and experience are all integral. I believe the term must also include keeping closely to the original traditional teachings. Reiki Elders are the living library and archivists of the system of Reiki and just like real libraries I believe they are underutilized and underappreciated. They help share in the responsibility of making sure that Reiki, as Usui would recognize it, will be around for the next generation to learn and experience it.
In the past few years several of my Reiki teachers have died. I find myself wanting to converse with these masters to get their experienced opinions. A few of them were trained by Takata and a few were not. Recently, I was fortunate to find Reiki elder Marcia Halligan, who started practicing Reiki in 1981 and was initiated as a master in 1983. After her initiation, she moved to a rural farm in Wisconsin and has had very little to do with the “outside” world. She still practices and teaches Reiki while living a kind of luddite lifestyle. Marcia has been mostly unaware of the changes that the system of Reiki has undergone since she learned it 30 years ago. She was surprised to learn that her own teacher, Barbara Weber (Ray), is no longer teaching Reiki as such, in the 3 levels that Marcia learned it, but now teaches it as The Radiance Technique™ with 7 levels. Meeting Marcia was like digging up a 30 year old time capsule and a real treasure. Hearing first-hand stories from someone who had been around during the early days of Reiki in America, during the early days of The American (International) Reiki Association and the formation of The Reiki Alliance, the 2 major organizations of the time, is something special.
I began this article with the statement, I am grateful for the time I live in. I have come to realize that today there are actually more teachers today teaching the “old ways” of Reiki than there were 3 decades ago. So instead of trying to find a needle in a haystack, now, the analogy is there are 2 needles in the haystack. Additionally, after Takata died in Dec. 1980, her master students at best had less than 4 years of experience teaching Reiki; some had just been initiated as a new master a few months prior. Today it is possible to study with someone who has been practicing and teaching Reiki for 30+ years. To my knowledge, no one alive has the kind of experience of practicing and teaching Reiki as Takata had – around 45 years. However, I am grateful that although this year will be my 15th anniversary of practicing Reiki, I can meet with, share stories, and learn with someone who has been practicing for twice as long. This opportunity was not available to those 22 master students of Takata after she died.
Today is the best day for learning Reiki and I hope it will always be so.