We sit in circles. It is an image that echoes the outward ripples caused by a drop of water. A spread of quenching. This circle gathered in a place that was both familiar and unfamiliar to me. Familiar – a church hall, tables pushed to the sides, chairs set around a small centre table set with a cloth and a candle. Unfamiliar – this is a Kyodan, a church in Japan, the language around me, although familiar in some ways is one I don’t speak, the culture too. There are 27 gathered today, all women with the exception of one of the ministers. They have come for an experiential introduction to Healing Pathway. My good friend and colleague Rev. Yoko Kihara has organized this. She is the drop of water.
It’s the ripples that I’m thinking about. The way each raindrop sends a circle of vibration, the feel of the water washing over me as the swell hits.
A water drop, so beautiful, can be raindrop or tear. Nine months ago Yoko and I were in Japan on an amazing journey. The healing circle was only the start of it, but an apt beginning to a time of deep engagement. One of the realities of that trip was that Yoko believed it would be her last trip to Japan, land of her birth. As we journeyed we were aware, always, that she was living with cancer. Determined to LIVE with cancer to the very end. She had opted to end all invasive and harsh treatments which would prolong her life, but not cure her. She said that quality of life was more important than quantity.
Yoko seemed amazingly well in Japan. I wonder if the connection to the place, the land, the language, helped energize her. Three of the days we walked the rigorous Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route, carrying packs on the mountainous trails. This had been a dream Yoko held since reading the work of Japanese philosopher Kumagusu Minaka as a young university student. Only a few days did she seem to need extra rest. Most days she went full-bore, which anyone who knows her will tell you is how she lived in general.
Lived (heart skip.) I hardly even want to say what is true here. As full of life as Yoko was in Japan, after we arrived home her energy steadily waned. It’s been almost a month now since she shifted, more than that by the time you are reading this. I was blessed to be there with her and her family moments after she took her last breath and her spirit was still palpably present in the room. Many hundreds of people gathered in person and on-line to celebrate her life and mourn her death at a service on February 29. Rev Etsuo Toya from the congregation where we ran the Healing Circle was one of three of Yoko’s friends and colleagues who came from Japan for the service.
Before coming to Canada 15 years ago, Yoko was a minister with the United Church of Christ in Japan. She maintained close ties with that church and many of her colleagues, including writing regular reflections on ministry in Canada and various ministries of the United Church of Canada. One of those reflections was on the Healing Pathway.
Japan has ancient roots in energy healing. My grandfather, for example, practised the Samurai healing art of Seiki (sei - living, ki - life force energy). However, some of those ancient traditions are seen as outside of Christian practice. Yoko’s article about Christian energy healing was received with some curiosity.
This trip had taken many years to come to fruition. Five years ago Yoko asked me to come to Japan with her to teach energy healing. But then life intervened with the illness and death of my spouse and Yoko’s own health concerns. Every year I held space and May 2019 that space opened.
We arrived in Japan on Wednesday afternoon. Thursday afternoon we were gathered in the church hall to engage in Healing Pathway together. I facilitated, Yoko translated. Prior to coming to Japan I had prepared a brief handout about Healing Pathway as a way of introduction. Yoko felt that an introduction would encourage people to participate. And although Rev. Toya-san had been concerned that few people would attend, she assured him that however many it was, it would be enough. We set chairs for 15 and added more as more people arrived.
I set the space and lit the candle, gathering us to begin.
As a check-in Yoko asked each person to introduce themselves and share their experience or curiosity about energy healing and what drew them to attend. Some people had participated in yoga, Qi gong or mindfulness meditation rooted in Buddhism. Many people spoke of mothers and grandmothers using their hands to sooth the pain of headaches, stomachaches or childhood scrapes and injuries. A few had worked in care homes, hospices and other healthcare settings and knew the value and healing properties of human connection through touch.
A few expressed hesitation or even nervousness. Unbeknownst to me, the Christ candle so familiar to Christians in Canada was not common in Japan and for some evoked something from a cult. This was me tripping over cultural difference. Yet they stayed, open to participate in Christ’s healing.
Yoko and I had decided on the Heart of Christ meditation. Here that sense of water rippling was a blessing to me. Although I could not understand the words spoken in Japanese, I could feel the resonance as we connected our hearts, collectively raising our vibration through the Divine. We offered beautiful healing energy to each other through soaking prayer, sharing resonance by placing our hands gently on the shoulders of a person sitting in a chair. Each person both received and offered. We finished with full body balance on ourselves, running energy into our own major joints and chakra points with our hands, starting with the feet and working up.
Checking out, people talked about the warmth and energy flowing through their whole body. Some expressed their feeling of connection, of the energy going down to the earth, of feeling grounded. One person talked of their experience of seeing light during the meditation. We heard of bodies warming as circulation improved and the wash of peacefulness that people felt. One person spoke of her own cancer and her husband’s diagnosis and how she could feel her anxiety release as the peace washed over her. Even the ones who had been cautious gratefully shared the deep-felt healing they experienced.
One month after Yoko’s service, the world has shifted as everyone goes into seclusion and bans have been placed on travel and in-person gathering. Yet these conditions do not stop the ripples, in fact underscore the power of taking this potent ministry into the world and spreading it through the hands of many. At her memorial service, her friend and colleague Rev Yoshiki Nakamura from Tokyo spoke of the gift of healing that we shared not only in Tokyo, also in Wakayama, Osaka, Niigata and Sado Island, and Fukushima.
The image of the drop of water connotes many things – the quenching of rain, the catharsis of tears, the ripples of someone whose life of service touched so many. The generosity of this final trip to her motherland was emblematic of Yoko’s whole life and ministry. Yoko’s memory washes through me, a warmth that gladdens and heals me, filling me with gratitude. Thank you, my beloved friend.
During this time of social isolation, I am offering Virtual Healing Circles with Good Vibrations: the Energy of Resilience each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Find information for joining a circle here , send me an e-mail or check out my healing page.
I want to say a word about connection.
Skin touches skin,
plug goes into socket,
and energy flows.
It’s that flow we long for;
roots draw water, leaves reach
for the sun. And we reach for
each other, streaming sparks as
your finger tips brush my face. And the current
we see only through the wonders
of lights and music and this screen.
We’d miss it if it were gone.
Trees roots transmit wisdom.
Tap in. Can you hear?
Are your lights on? Can you feel me
here drawing circles on your palm?
Oh, and that word I wanted to say,
I bet you already know. Because we are
connected, you and me, our roots entwined.
Together, we complete the circuit.
My body is craving everything. Coffee, comfort food, tender physical skin-to-skin touch, energetic connection.
I wonder which one is real.
What is available is coffee and I savour the dark brew. Some moments coffee feels spiritual. A warm, softly bitter connection to all that is life-giving — water, sunshine, soil, human hands. The buzz responds to my longing, makes my skin tingle.
We tell stories as if they have a beginning, a middle and an end. But there is always something before the beginning and something after the end. Even the Bible starts with "In a beginning," leaving it open for other moments to also claim that space.
My story begins before me, before my parents, before even their parents. As Joni Mitchell noted,
We are stardust
We are billion year old carbon
We are golden
There are moments when I feel golden and moments when I feel like carbon. Before it is compressed into diamonds. Certainly I don’t feel like anyone’s best friend.
The beauty is that although I am alone I am aware that I am connected to everything. And while I have moments of acute loneliness, it’s really only physical and emotional, not spiritual. And I’m never bored, just restless in my sense that I am failing to connect — to others, to my highest self, the dots.
I’m not sure how we humans have so spectacularly failed at the one thing God — or Divine or Life Force or however the core of Oneness shows up for you — created that is so quintessentially human. Relationship. By that I mean connection. Moving from tribe to metropolis has created more fracturing, it would seem. There are more of us and more ways to network. But those are so often shallow and tinged by fear and competition. For sure there were problems with tribes. But let’s not get sidetracked onto that path.
I am the first to acknowledge that my cravings are largely my own doing. I am so afraid of missteps or ambush or something, that I hide behind a guard. My golden can’t shine through. When it does shine I can feel it and I feel ALIVE! And so I am working on building up my inner strength so I don’t need that guard. It’s slow work, but powerful and enlightening.
I suspect I’m not alone, it’s not unique to me. So I share this just to say, if this resonates with you, you are not alone either. And, You Are Golden!
came to the river knowing that the season would be over. Still I brought the picking bucket, just in case. As expected, these bushes are long done. I’d last picked weeks ago, before my birthday.
The ducks are here, quietly going about their paddle. Because I have been focussed on the blackberry banks, I hadn’t noticed right away. It’s as if they're ok with my presence as long as I don’t look at them. I can see subtle shifts to attention as soon as I spot them even though I have simply turned my head and have made no sound. It’s as if they sense me looking.
I had not anticipated that the bees would still be flying in and out of the flowers. They seem bigger, plumper this late in the season.
It’s not actually quiet here, I realize. Airplanes fly overhead, North Road is right there to my left. Despite today being Labour Day there is a lot of traffic going by.
The first day I came down here this year I saw a big, beautiful dragonfly. It’s the only one I’ve seen in all my years of coming here. It felt like a gift and, looking back, a symbol of this moment of shift.
Between that moment and this I realized that I had come to the other side of something. I saw it like a vision. I was standing at the base of a hill, the mouth of a small valley. Having been for two years in a different place, a liminal space, I just stood there, listening, smelling, observing. The scent was a curious blend of dry ground and vegetation. Not unfamiliar, yet I had not been exactly here before. Ahead, not a clear path, but a definite way. What is this place?
Remembering the lesson of wayfinding (thanks Dan Hines) I turned around to see where I’ve come from. Behind me stretched a broad desert. I recognized it as the place I’ve been for the past two years. Liminal space; time between what is and what is next. And stretching across the desert a row of lotus flowers, a lush path of stepping stones.
I thought back to a previous vision I’d had, one of looking out into a barren desert that I needed to cross. Each time I took a step forward a lotus flower would bloom to receive my foot. Lotus are water plants. So this path of watery abundance had walked me across the desert. Here I was now on the other side. With this realization, I knew it was time for me to move forward to a new path, step into a new moment.
I have now given notice that I would be leaving the communications work at the Centre for Christian Studies which has also escorted me across the liminal space. After Paul died, I didn’t know what I would be doing. This position has offered me a creative and supportive place. I never imagined leaving after such a short time, but here I am. Despite being sad to say good-bye to this place I love and a great collegial team, it feels right. I will be done here before winter comes.
I hold such gratitude. While it was shitty to watch my husband suffer and die, today life is again full and abundant. Do I experience loneliness? Yes, at times aching and visceral. And I have deepening and accepting friendships. Times of doubt? Absolutely. But not deep doubt. Deep down I trust the moment, trust the Divine, trust even failures, which teach me what things in me need healing and what actually matters. I have learned things that are important to me, and that are important for me to nurture in myself like compassion, kindness, joy.
The way into the hills is obscured. But I step forward sure in the continuing unfolding.
Here at the river I’ve lost track of time. I usually only come to this place when the blackberries are ripe for picking. But the fruits of this place are still here for me now. Thanks be to God. The longer I sit quietly, the more I notice. Tiny dragonflies, a bead of water on a blade of grass, my own need to be here.
I’m having a hard time leaving, even though I know it’s time to go. Much like the time I’ve spent with CCS, it has nourished me. And I know this place will still be here, just as the connections at CCS won’t be severed, simply shifted. As I gather my things and stand up to leave, amazingly another large dragonfly glides by.
musings of someone spiritual and oddly religious
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