A couple of years ago, while in Japan doing some research for a book on the diversity of Japanese healing practices; a book which in the end didn't actually get written, I was fortunate enough to be invited to stay with a Ukrainian friend, Sergei, and his wife Yuko who live on the outskirts of Kushiro City on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
When we had spoken on the phone prior to my visit, Sergei, who trains in a martial art called kempo, had suggested that as part of my research I might like to talk to the healer/therapist he and the other kempo students went to with training injuries. He said he would ask his Instructor if it would be possible to arrange an interview with the man he referred to as Izumi-sama, who was also a kempo practitioner, and the Instructor's 'senior'. The suffix -sama, I later found out, is a more formal term of respect than the -san I was already slightly familiar with.
By the time I got to Hokkaido, the meeting with Izumi-sama (that is, Mr. Izumi
Takashi) had been arranged along with a couple of other meetings.
(In Japan, the surname comes first, the given or personal name comes second - in the west we would call Mr. Izumi Takashi, Mr. Takashi Izumi. To save confusion, from here on I will use the familiar western naming convention)
Sergei told me that Mr. Izumi wasn't the type to normally agree to such interviews, especially as he had in the past had problems with a newspaper reporter. He had only agreed to this interview because the Instructor at their dojo had requested it. He could not stress strongly enough that anything less than my most respectful behaviour would mean a loss of 'face' for both the Instructor and Sergei himself.
It was in the afternoon, 4 days into my visit, that I got to meet Mr. Izumi. Sergei had arranged for a friend and senior kempo student to accompany me as interpreter, as Sergei himself had important work commitments he couldn't get out of.
Sergei had reminded me that I should bring Mr. Izumi a formal a temiyage or gift in gratitude for his agreeing to the interview, and from the suggested formal options, I had settled on a bottle of nihonsu (sake).
I presented the gift-wrapped bottle of nihonsu and in my best tourist Japanese, voiced the common statement when offering such a gift: "tsumaranai mono desu ga…" It's nothing much but…
Mr. Izumi's daughter Mizuki brought us tea and after an appropriate length of time, the conversation turned to the reason for my visit. With the interpretative help of Sergei's friend Yoshiki, I explained about my intended book, and how I would be giving everyone who did me the honour of permitting me to interview them the opportunity to read what I had written about them before anything went to publication.
[Even though the book did not go ahead, I still provided copy of this present piece and other material concerning Mr. Izumi, for him to review via an interpreter]
Mr. Izumi was very relaxed and friendly, and happy for me to take notes as we spoke about his methods.
It seemed that the more exoteric aspects of his therapeutic practice primarily involved a combination of what is known as amma / ampuku massage and therapy based around working with tsubo pressure points and keiraku (acupuncture meridians). Though Mr. Izumi said he did not use needles, simply finger pressure.
He also practiced a form pressureless touch-based ki-healing and healing with the breath.
And there were also more esoteric elements to Mr Izumi's practice.
On one level, he explained, injury or illness can frequently be seen to be the result of the negative influence of spirits. Though in some cases these spirits are simply malicious, it is more often the case that injury or illness is the means by which a spirit attempts to communicate with the particular individual.
Sometimes the spirit has a grievance, having been offended in some way, then again they may simply be attempting to communicate their distress or bewilderment concerning their situation: a simple cry for help.
The particular kind of spirit affecting the individual can often be discerned by the nature of the manifesting symptoms.
For example, Mr. Izumi said, the spirit of an aborted foetus may cause pain in the hips, the back of the head and the shoulders. Headaches in general can indicate the influence of an ancestor. The spirit of a dead animal (such as a family pet) may cause the individual to talk nonsense, even cause madness. And so on.
Sometimes, as part of the treatment, if the influence of spirits is evident (Mr. Izumi did not elaborate as to precisely how he ascertained if a given illness or injury was indeed due to intervention of a spirit) the patient might be instructed to hold kuyo, a Buddhist memorial service, or perhaps undertake Shinto purification rites, to appease the spirit; or in some other way address the cause of their grievance.
In certain circumstances, Mr. Izumi said, he would prepare ofuda, essentially Spiritual formulae or charms, for his patients.
We talked a little about the nature of these formulae, but he asked that I did not write about them in any detail.
He told me he also prescribed particular exercises for his patients to do at home to assist in the healing process and would suggest specific modifications in diet and lifestyle depending on the nature of their particular complaint.
He explained that while he would treat specific areas of illness or injury, the main focus for treatment, whatever the problem, was always the head, the spine and the hara or belly. "Everything is connected with these three" he explained.
I asked about his methods of diagnosis and he simply said, "My kami helps me." Then after a moment " And of course I use my senses".
It transpired that by the term kami, Mr. Izumi was speaking of a guiding spirit,
in the form of one of his ancestors, rather than as I had momentarily thought,
one of the major kami or gods of Shinto.
(I should mention that such belief in guidance from a venerable ancestor is something quite common, especially, it seems, among healers, and other spiritual practitioners.)
When I asked what he meant by using his senses, he explained that from the moment he meets a patient he is acutely observant. He looks, listens, touches and smells - sees how they move, sit, gesture, the state of their complexion, the state of their eyes, etc. listens to the words they use and their tone of voice, the feel of their skin, whether it is warm or cold or clammy, etc. and the odour of the breath. All these things play a part in his diagnosis. He did not however, make use of what is probably one of the more common and at the same time quite complex, forms of diagnosis; the reading of the pulses.
We talked for some time about various aspects of his practice, and I was shown around his small treatment room, which had several charts and certificates on the walls, as well as a copy of the hannyo shingyo or Heart Sutra, and the twenty-sixth chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the chapter on Dharani or incantations.
Like a great many Japanese of his generation, Mr. Izumi's faith is a combination of both Buddhist and Shintoist belief and practice, and in his treatment room there is an altar/shrine to Yakushi - the Buddha of healing and to various Shinto kami also considered responsible for aspects of healing. To either side of this altar, there was a framed black and white photograph - one of Mr. Izumi's teacher and the other, his teacher's teacher.
Mr. Izumi said that he preferred whenever possible to have his patients sit upright when treating them, rather than lie on a futon. He would usually only have a patient lie down when they were receiving heat treatment. It transpired that what was referring to here was something I had personally only seen previously in western therapeutic practice, though he assured me it was quite common, a form of heat therapy in the west often referred to as 'cupping'. In this practice, a series of very small glass bowls or cups are heated up and placed at strategic points on the patient's back, as the hot air inside the bowl cools it creates a suction effect securing the hot glass bowl to the body. (The effect is no doubt much the same as the acupuncturist's practice of burning moxa on the skin.)
Mr. Izumi told me he held surgery in the early morning and the evening; he liked to keep the rest of the day for himself.
I asked what role absent healing played in his practice.
Mr. Izumi said he had on occasion had cause to resort to this kind of healing, but it was not something he did lightly.
In most cases, if a person really wanted to get better from whatever ailed them, they would be willing to make the effort to visit him. If nothing else it was a psychological acknowledgment of their determination and commitment to be cured.
If they really couldn't come to visit him, for example, if they were bedridden, or for some other genuine reason, then he would arrange to go to visit them.
He had seen too many cases of people who said they needed absent healing as they were unable to come to see him in person, only on further investigation to discover that they were either too wrapped up in their work or even their social life, or just too lazy, or they didn't want to be seen to be consulting a healer, as opposed to a hospital doctor!
"You understand," he said, "not everyone who asks to be cured really wants to be cured in their heart"
"For these people, even so, I will still chant the daimoku, and the prayer to Yakushi " Mr. Izumi held up his open palm in front of him and in guttural tones, recited the Yakushi mantra: "On koro koro sendari matogi sowaka."
The daimoku, I knew, is the mantra of the Lotus Sutra, said to bring great merit to those who chant it or for those it is chanted for.
* * * * *
At one point while we were talking Mr. Izumi, in a most informal and unexpected manner, casually reached into his jacket and bought out a pack of cigarettes and asked if I would like one. Politely refusing his offer, I must have looked somewhat bemused as he lit up and drew heavily on what turned out to be a Chinese brand cigarette.
Through Yoshiki the interpreter, he said something to the effect of " Ah, you are thinking: 'he's smoking! Doesn't he of all people realise how bad smoking is for the health?'."
I had to nod in agreement.
He explained that in his view, the real problem isn't so much with smoking as with the state in which people smoke. He said that most people smoke when they are stressed and off-centre and that they smoke 'mindlessly'. " I only smoke when I'm relaxed, and then with mindful focus" he said, then with a laugh, "and what would an old man be without at least one bad habit!"
Mr. Izumi, who, before his retirement had been a clerical officer in the postal service, had begun his training as a healer in 1958 with a healer called Takanobu Shirasu who lived and worked in Utsunomiya City on Honshu Island. He told me that he had spent three years working as an assistant in Shirasu's clinic.
Unlike many other practitioners of traditional healing methods, Shirasu did not earn his living as a healer. By day he ran the family clothing business, practicing his therapeutic art in the evenings. He had insisted that he would only train Takashi Izumi on the condition that he too maintained a 'regular' occupation to support himself, rather than relying on the sickness of others as a means of generating income. He had also told him that a healer should either have a 'robust' manual job or take up some form of intense physical exercise to, as Mr. Izumi put it, " help the ki". This was how Mr. Izumi had become involved with kempo.
Shirasu had learnt his art during the 1930's working as an 'apprentice' or deshi to Juzu Hamada.
Juzu Hamada, who, prior to World War One, had for several years worked as a Civil Servant in the Japanese Administration in southern Manchuria, had studied widely in the healing arts. He had learnt elements of Chinese Medicine during his posting in Manchuria, and later traveled the length and breath of Japan, studying the methods of various well-known healers of the day.
Mr. Izumi reeled off a list of names of some of these people, including Yugaku Hamaguchi, Tamai Tempaku (who, I later discovered was the father of modern-day Shiatsu) and Shofu Yamato. Quite understandably, prior to this I had never heard of any of these people. But there was one name mentioned by Mr. Izumi that I certainly had heard of.
That name was Mikao Usui.
I hurriedly had Yoshiki explain that I recognised that name - that I had only quite recently become a student of Reiki myself.
He threw up his hands and grinned "Ah, Leiki, Leiki" he nodded.
Had he learned Reiki too, I asked
No, he wasn't a Reiki practitioner.
I couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed by this reply.
In fact, Mr. Izumi continued, it was only a few years ago that he started seeing articles in a couple of magazines which talked about this New Age (he actually used the phrase "nyu-eiji") teate healing art called Reiki that was becoming quite popular.
Before that he had never heard of it. He said he had been a little confused at first, by all the talk of this Reiki being an energy, as for many people of his generation, the term indicated the presence of an Ancestral Spirit or at least the beneficial effect of a spirit, not ki flowing in the body.
When "Teacher Shirasu" as Mr. Izumi called him, had spoken to him about "Teacher Hamada" and the people he had learned various methods from, he had never mentioned this term Reiki when he spoke of the healer Usui.
It emerged that beyond what he had read in the magazines in connection with the growing interest in Reiki, Mr. Izumi really knew very little about Mikao Usui other than he had been a spiritual healer, and that it was from Usui that Teacher Hamada has learnt how to "make the densei".
This was how Yoshiki had phrased it so I had to ask him what this densei was. He looked a little unsure, saying it meant something handed down from one generation to another; then after some conferring with Mr. Izumi, Yoshiki seemed clearer about it. He explained that Mr. Izumi was talking about a sort of spiritual transmission, not so much from generation to generation in a strict sense but more from an experienced healer to another less experienced one. Mr. Izumi referred to the procedure as densei because that was what Teacher Hamada and Teacher Shirasu had called it.
Mr. Izumi was talking about some kind of Initiation or Attunement process…
I suddenly had what seemed like a hundred questions buzzing round in my head at once.
This attunement, what form did it take?
Was it like the western style attunements I had undergone, or was it more like the reiju I had heard about, or …
I was about to start asking Mr. Izumi when his daughter, Mizuki, came in and ever so tactfully pointed out to her father that the first of his evening patients would be arriving in less than an hour.
Dejectedly, I realised it was time for us to leave.
I thanked Mr. Izumi for his hospitality, then to my great relief, as both he and his daughter showed us out, Mr. Izumi said something to Mizuki, who whispered in broken English "He say tomorrow, same time you come back, yes?"
I looked quizzically at Yoshiki. I was aware that often such invitations are just made out of politeness and not really meant to be taken literally.
Should I accept? He nodded.
I told Mr. Izumi I would be honoured to visit his home again. Thanking him once more, we left.
* * * * *
I hardly slept that night, and the morning seemed to crawl by at a snail's pace.
Morning eased into early afternoon and Sergei's phone rang. It was Yoshiki. He had had a flat tyre and would be at least another half-hour.
I was like an impatient child.
When Yoshiki eventually turned up I was waiting out side Sergei's apartment, and the car had hardly stopped moving before I was in the passenger seat.
We somehow managed to arrive on time, and received the same warm greeting we had the day before.
Once again Mizuki brought tea, then left, only to return a few moments later with a small envelope and a good-sized old, black, box-like case both of which she handed to her father. Then she was gone again.
In the 21 hours or so since I had left Mr. Izumi's home I had been going over
the revised questions I wanted to ask him, even to the point of making a list
which ran on for a couple of pages in my notebook.
I was eager to begin my questioning, however Mr. Izumi seemed to have other ideas.
He sat there, sipping his tea thoughtfully.
Yoshiki indicated that I should be respectfully patient.
After a couple of very long minutes, Mr. Izumi held up the envelope Mizuki had brought him, saying he would like to show me some photographs of his teachers.
The day before, I had seen the two formal portrait photographs of Juzu Hamada and Takanobu Shirasu on the wall of Mr. Izumi's treatment room. The photographs he now took from the envelope were much smaller, and also much more informal ones.
In most of them I recognised a young Mr. Izumi with Teacher Shirasu, there were a number of photographs of Shirasu on his own and the rest, about four or five quite badly damaged, and seemingly tobacco-stained, were of Shirasu and his teacher, Hamada, who had been born in 1881.
Mr. Izumi talked around the photographs as he showed each one to me, recounting little incidental details which, particularly in my state of impatience, seemed to be of little importance.
Later I realised that perhaps I had missed the point, perhaps Mr. Izumi was attempting to form an emotional link in my mind with his honoured teacher and his teacher's teacher.
He explained that Juzu Hamada, as well as learning the traditional ways of healing had been a man open to new ideas, and had always been willing to experiment with practices in the hope they might augment his healing work.
Mr. Izumi gestured to the black case which he had set down on the couch beside him.
This had belonged to Teacher Hamada, he said.
Moving the case, which had definitely seen better days, onto the small magazine table to his right, he opened the clasp to reveal an ancient electrical device, which I believe, was known as an electrovitaliser, among other names.
The electrical device built into the case, which Mr. Izumi said, Teacher Hamada had ordered (sometime around 1910-2) at considerable cost from Europe, had a number of leads and glass attachments.
According to the instructions, written in French and still pasted to the inside of the case lid, the device was used to run a harmless (!) electric charge through affected areas of the patients body with the intent of stimulating the 'nervous humours'.
It was powered by a hand-turned magneto, and had various dials and knobs for adjusting the level of charge it produced.
According to Mr. Izumi, Hamada had only experimented with the device for a few months after purchasing it. While it still functioned (Mr. Izumi offered to let me try it for myself, but I politely declined), he said neither he nor Teacher Shirasu, in whose possession it had been for many years, had ever considered using it in their practice.
Although Mr. Izumi had only spent three years as an assistant in Takanobu Shirasu's clinic before Shirasu considered him ready to set up his own independent practice, he explained that Shirasu had remained his mentor for many more years.
We talked for a while longer about Takanobu Shirasu, but mainly about Juzu Hamada, particularly about the people and forms of spiritual and healing practice which had influenced his methods.
Mr. Izumi said that Teacher Shirasu had always talked with great reverence about Teacher Hamada.
* * * * *
I began to see if I could steer the conversation around to the topic of Mikao Usui and the densei Mr. Izumi had mentioned the previous day, and gradually achieved my objective.
Mr. Izumi was by this time smoking again.
Did he know if Hamada had been a member of the society created by Usui's students?
" No, it was different then." He said.
Mr. Izumi was aware there had been such a society. Not that he'd given it any real thought but he seemed to think that it had probably been disbanded by the Americans after the war. Then (in one of the magazine articles he had mentioned the day before) he had read about how this society was supposed to still exist today. But he had never met anyone or even knew of anyone who had been a member of it
As far as Mr. Izumi was aware, when Hamada had studied with Usui there wasn't a gakkai: a Society, as such. Hamada had studied with Usui and a couple of other healers who worked with him at the time. Mr. Izumi seemed to be of the opinion that these others taught a somewhat different style of healing than Usui, but he couldn't be certain.
I asked about the densei, the Spiritual Transmission.
The previous day, he had said that Hamada learnt how to make the densei from Mikao Usui.
Yes, Mr. Izumi said, Teacher Hamada had made the shi densei for Teacher Shirasu, and Teacher Shirasu had made the shi densei for him in turn.
So he had received the densei himself?
Yes, of course.
"Making densei is like transmitting a 'memory' of experience from one person to another" he explained.
Mr. Izumi had used the phrase 'shi densei'. Even with my limited tourist vocabulary, I knew shi meant four.
There are four densei - four transmissions?
I explained that Reiki, certainly as we knew it in the west, often involved four levels of training.
"Does he mean, four levels of densei?" I asked Yoshiki.
"No", came the reply. They were not levels as such, but simply for different purposes.
The four densei were:
Jishin..... to enhance Compassion
Nenshin to enhance Mindfulness
Seiryoku to enhance Vital Force
Kaigen to enhance Wisdom / Spiritual Awakening
To my mind at least, this seemed to suggest a connection with the Reiki symbols.
There is of course one symbol referred to as the Power Symbol which could relate to vital force, and I knew that the name of another of the symbols was actually a phrase about the importance of Mindfulness. Could there be a connection between the so-called mental/emotional symbol and Compassion, perhaps the Master Symbol was the Light of Wisdom… or perhaps I was, in my enthusiasm, simply grasping at straws.
I stopped trying to make connections, and continued with my questions
Which transmission did a student receive first? I asked
That all depended on which was more beneficial to them at the time. The jishin, seiryoku and nenshin transmissions could be made in any order, but the kaigen transmission was only ever made after all the others.
Personally, he had found that the student usually benefited by receiving jishin
" Maybe you think", he said, "seiryoku power should automatically be made first; give the healer much force, make him a strong healer?" Mr. Izumi held his palms out flat in front of him, eyes closed, his arms shaking, face straining; pretending to be working with some tremendously powerful energy "oouuuhhh" he intoned resonantly. "Or maybe you think nenshin should be first; help him be mindful of his skills?"
"It is not great skill, or great force of ki that makes a great healer", he said, "these are important, yes, but what really makes a great healer is great Compassion."
Densei was not something to be taken lightly.
"It is a sacred process" Yoshiki translated.
Mr. Izumi said Teacher Shirasu had asked that he only make densei for worthy
In all he had only made densei for three people; for two apprentices he had had over his forty years of practice, and for his daughter Mizuki.
While he had eventually made all four transmissions for the two students,
he had only made two for Mizuki.
This was not, Mr. Izumi was at pains to point out, because Mizuki was a woman, but because it was not her destiny to become a healer.
Densei was made by the meditation of the teacher. (Perhaps I should mention here that the word, which Yoshiki had consistently translated as Teacher throughout the interview with Mr. Izumi, that is: Sensei, is something also meaning Instructor, and is a title of respect.)
The Teacher and the student/apprentice would perform a meditation together involving, as Yoshiki phrased it "the three secrets". (He later clarified this by saying it was something from Buddhist practice using ritualistic visualisations, gestures and mantras)
I asked if there was a specific length of time that a student/apprentice was expected to wait between receiving one transmission and the next.
Mr. Izumi frowned slightly, as if the question had no meaning.
I explained how in Reiki there were differing opinions concerning required waiting times between a student receiving the various initiations/attunements; how, for example, some people considered it acceptable for the student to receive the first and second levels with in a day or so of each other, while others believed there should be a gap of several months so as to let the student 'grow into' the attunement.
Yes, Mr. Izumi had heard about this. "Like your MacDonald's" he commented via Yoshiki "Today people want everything now, now; instant."
Densei was not the same as what I spoke of as Reiki. I must stop thinking of it in terms of this Reiki or I would only remain confused.
The transmission was not to give the student healing abilities. It was a Spiritual Enhancement to help someone who was already a healer be an even better one.
Mr. Izumi explained that a student (or more properly, apprentice) might only receive a transmission after a couple of years of training. They were not considered substitutes for training.
While Mr. Izumi had said densei was not Reiki in the sense that we know it, the concept of the transmission, which he was attempting to explain (while at the same time avoiding discussing the precise details), certainly seemed to be a variant on the Reiki initiation/attunements.
I became even more sure of this as he went on to explain that each of the four transmissions involved a symbol (in the case of each of the first three, visualised in a shining sphere or bubble of light) being generated by the teacher and placed in the students body.
The symbol for each densei was put in a different place.
Did he mean in different chakras? I asked
Mr. Izumi said he had heard of chakras, but didn't really know about them, they were not part of traditional healing. No. Not in chakras.
He was not going to elaborate. He did not have to say so, I just felt it, and decided not to pursue it any further.
I explained a little to him about Reiki and how, after attunements, students often went through a period of catharsis or as it was called 'Healing Crisis'. Did healers who received the transmissions experience anything similar?
No. Mr. Izumi said that if they did, then they hadn't been properly prepared before the teacher made the densei. "In your Reiki, you get initiation (denju) and then your hidden problems get driven out for you deal with, yes?" he asked. "Our way, the student deals with his problems first. Gets lots and lots of healing, learns his art; gets lots and lots more healing; then perhaps, and only then, he is ready for densei.
I asked about the symbols used in the transmissions. I did not expect that Mr. Izumi would explain the actual nature of the symbols, and respected this fact. But could he say how they were used in healing?
I was thinking with my 'Reiki Head' again.
The symbols were only placed in the body, during the transmissions.
They were not drawn or visualised on the hands or in the air, etc., as in Reiki, for healing.
Mr. Izumi explained that the power or influence of each transmission once
it had been made, was always there with the healer.
Like a beacon, radiating from its place within. If the healer wished to 'turn up the volume' [my words] of a particular power, he simply focussed on the symbol encased in a bubble of brilliant light, within his own body.
He also mentioned that there was a particular meditative practice connected to each of the symbols to enable the healer to deepen the quality of the particular power within him.
* * * * *
Mr. Izumi tactfully pointed out that we had probably talked enough about densei. Though a sacred process, densei was only one of several important practices which were part of the healer's ongoing development.
While Teacher Hamada had studied with Mikao Usui and learned how to make densei, he had also (as Mr. Izumi had pointed out the previous day) studied with many other people including physical therapists, faith healers, yamabushi (Mountain Priests) and other gyoja (ascetic practitioners); and learned many therapeutic and spiritual practices of great value from them too.
For example, from the faith healer Yugaku Hamaguchi he had studied the 'Pah-pah' breath healing method.
He had trained in the art of senrigan: 'thousand ri eye' or 'long-distance eye' (Yoshiki explained this as the art of seeing into the past or seeing events at a distance. That is, what in the west we would call clairvoyance.)
And had undergone byoki na oshi no gyo: religious healing training, as a member of several spiritual groups.
He went on to say that Hamada, while he had had the deepest respect for those who shared their teachings with him, would only adopt practices which he found to work well for him, combining the various practices and teachings and developing them in ways he felt to produce the most effective therapeutic results.
In keeping with Mr. Izumi's wishes, I moved on from the topic of densei to other issues, and talked around some of the other practices that were part of the healer's development process.
Chinkon or meditation, also known as mitama-shizume, "calming & settling the spirit & collecting the mind" of course also played an important part in the healer's life, Mr. Izumi said.
There was a term chinkon kishin, meaning 'to repose in the Divine - in the holiness of life'. This was the true purpose of meditation.
Mr. Izumi also spoke about something called furutama, 'the shaking of the
Furutama is a practice involving strong physical movement, aimed at generating a sense of heightened spirituality. Mr. Izumi explained that furutama nourishes and revitalises the spirit/soul, which just like the body can become tired or weakened. Furutama freshens up the soul, makes it fully 'awake'.
He also spoke of the importance of misogi or ritualised purification of body and soul. I commented how I had heard that this bathing ritual had to be performed under running water. Yes, he said, it was usually performed in a stream or at a waterfall; sometimes in the sea. Lakes and pools were no good as the water was still. You could even perform misogi under a cold shower at home.
"But this is washing the body is only the external expression of misogi", Mr. Izumi said. Misogi also involved purifying the organs and the blood through deep breathing and dietary practice. "This is the internal expression." He explained.
"There is also a spiritual expression" Yoshiki translated, "cleansing the heart. Purging the soul of evils".
Yoshiki explained that by the word 'evils', Mr. Izumi was speaking of maliciousness, prejudice, fear, selfishness, anger, insecurity, envy and all manner of other negative attitudes, thought patterns and emotions.
"The concept of misogi also extends to the purification of the environment",
Mr. Izumi continued.
He said this involved physical cleansing and tidying. It also involved the intentional use of sudden, sharp sounds or noises, like hand-clapping, and kiai (spontaneous utterances) to disperse stagnation or negative vibrations form the immediate environment or from objects.
This aspect of misogi also called for the individual to be conscious of the thoughts and feelings they express in the world. How it is important to use 'bright and 'luminous' words, while avoiding using dark, discouraging words; that we should look for the good in life, and make space in our lives for helping and serving others.
* * * * *
I had been keeping a check on the time. Though eager to continue talking with Mr. Izumi, I did not wish to encroach on his preparation time before his evening patients began to arrive.
As we got up to leave, Mr. Izumi said he would like to do something for me if I would permit him to. Would I let him fix my shoulder for me?
I was confused by this and looked at Yoshiki. "But there's nothing wrong with my shoulder", I insisted.
The reply was something to the effect of "Yes, it is a very old injury, many years old." Mr. Izumi indicated to my left shoulder.
I was momentarily speechless. I hadn't thought about it in ages. I had injured the shoulder in a motorcycle accident more than twenty years earlier!
Hardly believing he had picked up on it, I could only agree to Mr. Izumi's offer.
And so, holding my left wrist in his left hand, his right hand on the back of my neck, Mr. Izumi gently began manipulating and rotating my arm, testing the mobility of my shoulder.
He said something to my interpreter, Yoshiki, who made a brief reply, nodded, and glanced briefly at me. Yoshiki made no effort to translate what had been said and I was about to ask when suddenly, with surprising force, Mr. Izumi yanked on my arm.
The pain was intense and I cried out explicitly.
Yoshiki smiled at me and said, "Oh, Mr. Izumi said 'this is going to hurt like hell'… "
Meanwhile, Mr. Izumi had cupped his left hand over my collarbone and his right on my shoulderblade. Accompanied by a deep guttural "hudddss" noise, he blew forcefully along my shoulder from the top of my arm to my neck. For a few moments there was an incredible heat from his hands, far hotter than I had felt from 'Reiki Hands', and a sensation as if his hands were actually inside my shoulder.
After a short while, he patted my shoulder quite hard. The heat subsided and I realised that all the pain was gone. I rolled my shoulder and stretched my arm and was aware of a freedom of movement I hadn't known for many years - for so long in fact that I actually forgotten that I had ever had that degree of flexibility in the first place.
I thanked Mr. Izumi profusely for both freeing up my shoulder and for the amount of his time he had afforded me over the two days.
We said our good-byes, and as we left I felt reasonably sure that I had not said or done anything over the two days which would cause my friend Sergei or his Instructor to suffer any 'loss of face'.
The next morning I would be making the 350 kilometre or so journey southwest to Matsumae, to meet with a Tasmanian-educated Buddhist Priest who practised a form of spiritual healing called kaji…
About the author:Article written by Darragh MacMahon
To subscribe, simply enter your email address below: