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.
musings of someone spiritual and oddly religious
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