by Marita Aicher-Swartz
In her book, Practical Intuition, Laura Day writes: “Each individual’s lifetime comes down to one purpose, one reason for being”. I believe that I am here on earth to help people understand that God loves them and I realize from deep within myself that this lifetime has been centered on communicating this through the values and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. My family life and childhood, education, and work experience has been profoundly influenced by the life and teachings of Jesus as expressed in the practice of Roman Catholicism. This was the religion I was born into and later accepted as my way of spiritual practice. I have been privileged to study with some of the best educated and most compassionate teachers in our country resulting in a Master of Arts degree in Religion and Religious Education and additional training in Spiritual Direction. I have understood my primary life work to be in helping young children, adolescents, and adults to understand the meaning of life and more specifically their own divine purpose within human existence. In each phase of my life the “pearl of great price” has been a personal wrestling with the person of Jesus – who He was historically and within the Christian faith community as well as how I have loved and followed him in my life.
My personal world view has definitely been shaped by the teachings of Jesus, from the values he lived by, and from a genuine commitment to live out those same values in my own life. Each and every experience has both shed light upon and received illumination from this “still point” in my ever-changing world. When conflicts have arisen within my personal life, I have returned again and again to Jesus’ teachings and practice as my rock and as a light to guide my path. From an examination of his life, I have gleaned the values and principles that shaped His ministry: the sacredness of all life, the need for forgiveness and compassion, the practice of kindness, the understanding that God is always with us, and an openness to and enjoyment of the presence of God within each person. His values and spiritual teachings ultimately alienated him from the religious leaders of the time and the teachings of Judaism in which he had been raised.
Where did his values come from? I believe they spring from a deep understanding of his Oneness with God, being a “beloved Son” which was the focal point of his entire life. His was a realization and embodiment of a God who was close, personal, and intimately present within human beings. This awareness colored everything Jesus said and did and imbued his teachings and actions with a truth that shed new light on the teachings of the Torah and the Prophets – the history of the Jewish people that preceded him. He taught about a God called “Abba”( meaning “Daddy) and saw goodness in all people even his enemies. He taught his disciples and followers that “the Kingdom of God is at hand (in Him) and within you (us). He found God’s presence in the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, in sailing the waters of the Sea of Galilee, and eating and drinking with enemies and friends alike. He found comfort and strength in his prayer and meditation time early before dawn, and while walking the roads and hills of his native land.
His love for God and people overflowed into a ministry of physical, mental and spiritual healing which touched many and yet alienated and frightened others. “Healing was the heart and soul of Jesus’ ministry. Long before the emergence of whole-person medicine in the West, Jesus, the Jewish healer, saw human beings in terms of their original wholeness. For Jesus, body, mind, and spirit interpenetrate one another seamlessly. Social relationships shape not only our faith, but also our health. Jesus knew that a change in one area of our lives can transform every other aspect of our lives. Jesus believed that God’s intimate love for the world is reflected in the divine desire to respond to suffering in all of its manifestations. Jesus’ first public pronouncements set the agenda for a ministry that came to embrace the totality of his life. Quoting the prophet Isaiah (61:1-2) Jesus announced his mission to the hometown congregation at Nazareth.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of the sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of the Lord’s favor. Luke 4:18-19
His life literally could be summed up in the command He gave his disciples at the Last Supper: “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other. This is how all will know you for my disciples: your love for one another.” (John 15: 34, 35)
When I reflect upon my decision to be a Christian I understand that for me, personally, Jesus is the clearest reflection of who God is for me. He is the visible presence of the invisible God. When I look at His words and actions I can see more clearly what God is like and in imitating his values and ways of love I become both more fully human and more divine. My deepest desire has always been to be more like Jesus – to follow his example in living a life of service to others. This has led me to find various ways of ministry as a nun, a teacher, a minister of religious education, in married life, and as a spiritual director. In 2000, during times of prayer and meditation upon the life of Jesus, I felt drawn to a ministry of healing and began to wonder what ever happened to the practice of hands on healing that Jesus taught the twelve disciples and others around him.
[“Jesus now called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority to overcome all demons and to cure diseases” (Luke 9: 1) and again “After this, the Lord appointed a further seventy-two and sent them in pairs before him to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them…Into whatever city you go, after they welcome you, eat what they set before you and cure the sick there. Say to them, “The reign of God is at hand” (Luke 10, 1-9)]
Was the same gift of healing available to us in the modern world? As disciples of Jesus, are we able to heal as He did? In the Catholic community the practice of hands-on healing was the ministry of the clergy and celebrated in the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. But more and more of the children and parents I was working with at school, as well as those who came to me for spiritual direction were seeking emotional, mental, and spiritual healing. Family crises, separation and divorce, single parenting addictions to alcohol and drugs, unemployment, and hyperactivity were daily problems in the lives of those around me. These were the blind, the poor, the oppressed, and the imprisoned in my world. I personally was suffering with migraines and back pain which were taking their toll on me physically and emotionally. I felt a call to do something in the area of healing ministry but was stymied as to where to find any answers. I prayed for direction.
Within weeks a friend at work told me about an evening retreat they saw on the parish bulletin board called “Reiki and the Sacraments of Healing” at a local retreat center. I had no idea of what Reiki was but I decided to go, believing that God was giving me the guidance I had asked for. The evening was a perfect introduction to Reiki for me and I came away with a thirst for more. I felt excited that there might be a way for me to incorporate my religious practice and hands on healing. This ultimately led to two years of classes in Reiki, becoming a Reiki master teacher in 2005, and since then a full time job working as Reiki practitioner and teacher in a holistic medical practice. I often wrestled with my thoughts and fear that if I practiced Reiki that I would be in conflict with my Christian beliefs. Would it take me away from the faith I had always known and practiced? The founder, Mikao Usui, was a Buddhist monk – would I have to change my spiritual roots in order to do Reiki? Could I be both a Catholic Christian and practice Reiki? My questions once again led me to hours of prayer, meditation, and discussion. I sought counseling with a Spiritual Director myself and wrestled with the questions of my heart and soul. I went back to the history of Reiki as taught by the ICRT and also talked with my friend and Reiki teacher, Beth. The answers would come in time through the use of Reiki on myself and with others.
I continued working with clients as both a spiritual director and Reiki practitioner. It was especially during Reiki treatments (self and others) that a transformation occurred in how I understood the gift of Reiki healing. Through the use of Reiji-ho before a session I ask that God use my mind, heart, and hands as instruments of love and goodness. I ask that God’s love flow into each cell, tissue, organ and bone of the client’s body where there is need for healing and into those areas of their spiritual and emotional life in need of balance and wholeness. Because I do not know fully where these areas are, I trust that the God who lives within them will complete the work I have asked him to do “for their highest good”. God knows where the healing is ultimately needed! This is one of the magnificent gifts of Reiki – “letting go and letting God”. Reiki has taught me daily that God knows and loves my clients (and me) far more than even I can imagine and the results are mind-blowing. Some clients report feeling Jesus’ presence and the touch of his hands; others tell about being held and embraced in love. There are accounts from others of diminished physical pain, tumors shrinking, surgeries postponed or not needed at all. Emotional growth and healing of relationships as well as spiritual changes are common place! People come to understand more deeply that their God loves them and separation from God is not truth. The results far exceed my own expectations and most days I am awe-struck and deeply thankful since I know I didn’t do the healing – I was only the human instrument creating the space for God to be present. It is in these moments that I also am healed of personal blindness and deafness and my own heart is opened to the power of love.
As Reiki flows through me into others I have come to know that Reiki is God’s love – unconditional, without judgment, and life giving. My hands experience the true essence (energy) of a person and this has led me to see the God present in each and every client. Many clients experienced the presence of Jesus, Mary, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, spiritual guides as well as the Archangels. I began to know the deep peace which Jesus talked about as well as learning to be more self-accepting, tolerant, joyful, and kind to others as well as less judgmental and critical of myself. As I reflect upon the changes in my own life I realize that I am more able to live out the values of Jesus because of practicing Reiki each day. Reiki is a pathway of the heart (love and compassion) leading me to wholeness/holiness. Far from conflicting with my Christian beliefs, I know from experience how it has enhanced my faith and how living the Reiki principles help me live a life of love in concrete ways.
Looking critically at the history of Reiki I have come to see Mikao Usui as a person – a man born in the late 19th century who was influenced by family, society, culture, and religious upbringing. He understood that when crisis came into his life he would seek solace and wisdom in his spiritual roots of Buddhism much like I would in Jesus. Dr. Usui wasn’t a priest and didn’t claim any place of rank among deities. He sought wisdom and understanding while at the Buddhist temple near Mt. Kurama and was given a gift of love and life from the same Source that Jesus sought it from – the Universal Source of love that gives Life to all of creation. That gift which we now call Reiki is available to each of us as it was in another time available to the disciples and followers of Jesus. Usui through personal experience came to know that the gift of Reiki (healing love/God-force energy) did not come from him but rather through him and that it had to be nurtured and respected. Like Jesus he allowed Source energy to flow through him to heal others. Both found their personal strength beyond themselves and allowed the Love and Light of Creator to shine in and through their lives.
Dr. Usui urged his students to practice daily Gassho (two hands coming together in prayer/meditation) in order to clear the mind and heart and allow the Reiki to enter one’s life to bring metal and emotional balance and healing. To add to one’s spiritual practice Usui taught five Reiki principles which he took from the poetry of the Meiji Emperor who ruled Japan at the beginning of the 19th century.
Just for today, do not be angry
Just for today, do not worry
Just for today, count your many blessings
Just for today do your work honestly
Just for today be kind to every living thing.
Each of them begins with the words “JUST FOR TODAY” and stem from the Buddhist understanding of mind-full living – living fully in the present moment and not in memories of the past or dreams of the future. Living in the present gives opportunities for wonder and appreciation of what is going on at the moment. The principles themselves are woven throughout the Christian New Testament and are universal teachings of truth. Kindness (compassion and mercy) is one of the fruits of the Spirit mentioned in the writings of St. Paul (Galatians 5:22). In each of the healing accounts of Jesus it is his tenderness and kindness toward the person that is so obvious. Admonitions against anger are commonplace in the teachings of Jesus. Anger in my understanding comes from a place of judgment, fear, and separation. When I am angry it usually means that another person has not fulfilled my expectations in someway or I feel that I have not met theirs. Anger shuts down my energy of love– and blocks it from flowing. I feel alienated and alone. Anger is also a conscious choice – a habit developed in one’s life from reacting in a similar way to situations for years. Old patterns of behavior are reflected in anger. It was only when I realized that I had a choice in how I could respond to situations “today” that the cycle could be broken. Let me give an example. My husband is a computer guru and he is absolutely brilliant when it comes to programming and fixing computers. He understands the inner workings of Microsoft Word and things like that. When I would have a problem with a document I was working on or if my computer froze for some reason I would ask for help. The strange thing is that as soon as he would come into the room I would tense up, feel stupid, and even feel angry at him for no apparent reason. I felt “guilty” for having a broken computer or not being able to perform a task correctly. It was only when I connected to the fact that it was a childhood memory of being corrected by my father and yelled at whenever I made a mistake or broke something that I was able to change this behavior. When I am angry I cannot share Reiki – they are in opposition. From years of self – treatment with Reiki past ways of responding to situations are being brought to the surface for healing.
“Just for today do not worry.” Jesus offers a number of reasons to reject worry. First, worrying about the basic needs of life reveals an inadequate view of life.
“This is why I warn you; do not be concerned for your life, what you are to eat, or for your body, what you are to wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they do not sow, they do not reap, they have neither cellar nor barn-yet God feeds them. How much more important you are than the birds! Which of you by worrying can add a moment to his life-span? If the smallest things are beyond your power, why be anxious about the rest?” (Luke 12:23-26).
Put simply: there is more to life than food and clothing. These things, though basic, are not the most meaningful things in life. They are legitimate concerns, but they should not be our ultimate concern. When I find myself worried about little things in my life I know that I am out of balance and have taken my eyes off the presence of God’s faithful love in my life. I understand that I have once again unplugged my self from the Source of loving energy and support which always sustains me.
“If God clothes in such splendor the grass of the field which grows today and is thrown on the fire tomorrow, how much more will he provide for you, O weak in faith! It is not for you to be in search of what you are to eat or drink, STOP WORRYING. The unbelievers of this world are always running after these things. Your Father knows that you need such things. Seek out instead his kingship over you and the rest will follow in turn” (Luke 28-31).
God is aware of us and our needs. We are his children and he is our Abba – our perfect parent. God is capable of providing for our needs and committed to doing so. When we are anxious and worried, we cannot rest in the loving embrace of our heavenly Father. Anxiety is not productive. It ultimately accomplishes nothing but to keep one in fear and separation. Jesus puts it like this:
“And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?” (Luke 12:25-26)
For Jesus the reality of the kingdom of God within us and around us (at hand) offers us an alternative vision by which to lead our lives. Why worry when God’s love and presence is with us always? Why worry when God knows our needs?
“Just for today count your many blessings” is a positive perspective on the principle regarding worry. Since becoming a Reiki Master two years ago I awaken each morning being grateful for another day and for being alive. My first thoughts are an awareness of God’s presence: “God, thank you for this day. Thank you for loving me, for my beating heart and my ability to breathe and move. Fill me with your love. Help me be an instrument of your love today wherever I go and to anyone I may meet.” Reiki has helped me understand that God is with me in every moment and in all situations and when I focus on this, life is joyful. I look for opportunities in my day to see how God will show up! When clients come in depressed, anxious, and fearful I often encourage them to begin a “Journal of Blessings” in which they write down five new things they are thankful for each day. After a while they begin to be thankful for the smallest of things – the scent of a flower, a cup of hot coffee, a neighbor’s phone call, air-conditioning on a hot August day. Reiki opens us to the divine healing energy flowing within all things. The energy of love, which flows from within as well as beyond us, is a manifestation of God’s transforming power in our lives.
The last principle “Do your work honestly” has given me insight into the nature of human life. Once again in looking at Jesus, he didn’t separate his healing work from his spirituality or moments of relaxation. He was who he was and didn’t turn off his Godself when he got tired of it! He was REAL. His life wasn’t compartmentalized like ours can sometimes be today. So perhaps this principle calls us to work at being honest in how we think and feel. It calls me to be fully “Marita” and to allow my personality to develop and my consciousness to expand. Perhaps that is what Jesus meant when he said, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Don’t be an imposter – be YOU. It is through your unique combination of talents, strengths and even quirkiness that God’s love is shown and glorified. I read recently that when I get to heaven I won’t be asked if I have been like Jesus but rather whether I have been myself. I have a prayer in my Reiki room at work taken from Theresa of Avila, a Spanish saint and mystic of the 16th century:
YOU ARE CHRIST’S HANDS
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
Yours are the eyes through which to look out
Christ’s compassion to the world
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless men now
The practice of Reiki challenges me daily to be a woman of compassion, kindness, forgiveness and love. My clients continually call me to honesty, integrity, and a balanced life. I cannot do this without time for prayer, meditation and daily reliance on God’s grace. As a Christian, I willingly share in the ministry of service which is at the heart of Reiki. I feel called as Jesus’ disciple to share the gift of healing love with anyone in pain, those weighed down by depression and loneliness, and those who are anxious and fearful. “Reiki healing touch enables us to awaken to God’s healing energy and to gracefully allow it to flow through us to bring wholeness to others… In the spirit of Jesus’ story of the vine and the branches, reiki connects us with the abundant sap of the vine and allows us to bear the fruits of healing and transformation. All we need to do is to open to God’s healing energy and care-fully touch one another in love.”
The practice of Reiki changes people’s lives and it has certainly changed mine – one touch at a time. I began this journey seven years ago with many questions and doubts as to how it would effect my Christian faith. I have come to understand that Reiki is energy that comes from Source and is the creative force behind the fabric of all that we see and are. Reiki is not a thing and cannot be limited by my own perception of it. Reiki energy is unconditional love and as it flows through me to another we are both changed, we are both healed. I was recently asked if Reiki was Christian and my answer was that Reiki is not a religion at all – it is a spiritual path that leads us to a greater awareness and deeper understanding of the mysteries of Love itself. Reiki cannot be put into a neat little container and we make a mistake when we create Reiki in our own image of it! In the past seven years I have given Reiki treatments to and initiated people of many different faiths and those who have no religious affiliation whatsoever. As we experience the beauty of Reiki our common denominator has been the energy of unconditional love that crosses boundaries and shatters human misconceptions. Our eyes have seen the goodness and beauty in each other and in this marvelous world. Our ears have heard the song of love that sings within each living soul. We continue to witness miracles as we open ourselves to unconditional love flowing within and through us. Reiki allows me to live a life of love in ways I could never have dreamed or imagined. I would like to think that both Jesus and Dr. Usui are proud of who I am becoming.
Epperly, Bruce Gordon, and Katherine Gould Epperly. Reiki Healing Touch and the Way of Jesus. Kelowna, BC: Northstone Publishing. 2005.
Lubeck, Walter, “Walking the Reiki Path”. The Spirit of Reiki. Lotus Press Shangri-la. 2003.
Quest, Penelope. Reiki for Life. London: Piatkus Books Ltd. 2002.
Rand, William L. Reiki the Healing Touch. Southfield, MI: Vision Publications. 1991