For the special edition of German Reiki Magazin about Hawayo Takata, published in February 2019, Oliver Klatt did this interview with Phyllis Furumoto. It is one of the last interviews (maybe even the last one) she gave before she died in March 2019. This is the first publication of this interview in English language.
Oliver Klatt: Hawayo Takata was your grandmother. How did you experience her when you were a little child?
Phyllis Furumoto: Truthfully, I don’t have many memories as a child in general, and the memories of being with Hawayo Takata are few. Sitting on the floor of our home and placing my hands on her face and torso are clear because it felt like a punishment. So it is in my memory bank.
Oliver Klatt: Why did you feel it was like a punishment?
Phyllis Furumoto: Because I didn’t know what I was doing and I really wanted to go play with my friends outside, it felt as though I was being punished. In our home, explanations were not given. When the adults said, “Do this!” there was no discussion. Since I hadn’t done anything wrong, staying inside and doing something I could not relate to was definitely no fun. I feel this is why I am so careful about children being treated with dignity and as individuals who know their own minds, especially about Reiki.
Oliver Klatt: When you grew older, did something change in your relationship with your grandmother?
Phyllis Furumoto: When I turned 16, I was ready to go out on my first date with my first boyfriend. I was very excited. She flew in to town two days before my birthday and convinced my mother that this was a dangerous idea. I was not able to go on the date, and I didn’t speak to her for three years.
Oliver Klatt: In what phase of your life did you spend the most time with your grandmother? How was that for you and what did you experience then?
Phyllis Furumoto: When I was 19-20, I had not done well in school and was sent to Honolulu to stay with an Aunt as a kind of punishment. I had a job as a file clerk in an insurance company. It was boring and after a year of this, I realized that studying in college was a much better way of determining my future. During this time of living in Hawaii, I realized that my grandmother loved me and was only trying to do what she felt was best for me. I dropped my anger and resentment. I visited her often during that year and she gave me treatments. I did not know intellectually that this was Reiki. We did not talk about what the treatments were. I surmised they were something called Reiki.
Oliver Klatt: Your grandmother, Hawayo Takata, initiated you in Reiki. How did you feel about that? What did Reiki mean to you at that time?
Phyllis Furumoto: As a child, I thought nothing of it because it was done without teaching. I just treated her. When I was 28, she gave me second degree and told me about using the symbols. She told me my practice was to treat her every day. I did this, and then did it less and less. And then forgot about it entirely. She would call up and ask me to start again. When I consented to go on a teaching tour with her in 1979, we started in Puerto Rico. It was there I found out about Reiki because the first week we were there, we went to many different groups of people so she could talk about Reiki. I heard the Reiki story for the first time, heard her idea about what the energy of Reiki was, and listened with alarm at her stories of treating people. It was all not believable to me.
It was only when she and I began to give treatments to people who came from these lectures and I saw the results that I began to believe her stories could be true. When we started teaching the first class and I saw the changes in people, it became possible for my mind to open to another world. A year and a half after this, I began to teach on my own. Soon I realized that it was important that all students, no matter how young, needed to understand what they were taking and they needed to choose it. I would not repeat what was done to me as a child nor would I ever recommend Reiki to anyone. I was not honored as a child nor given a choice to be a student. When the first child of five asked me to initiate her into Reiki, she did so because her mother and older sister practiced together and on their family. She loved Reiki so much and wanted to give Reiki to her mother. I was so touched by this request because I did not have this chance.
Oliver Klatt: When Hawayo Takata died in a hospital in Seattle in December 1980, you were there shortly before her death. How was that last meeting with her?
Phyllis Furumoto: Hawayo Takata did not die in Seattle but in Iowa where she lived close by my mother and father. She was taken to Iowa in a plane when she was strong enough to be transferred. She lived for two weeks more after being moved to Iowa. When I arrived in Seattle having traveled by car from the Kootenay area of British Columbia to be with her and treat her, she said, “You must go to Victoria and teach the classes that are waiting there for me.” This was the third time that I had taught on my own and the students were expecting her! Well, after a little argument, I drove to Victoria and taught the classes.
I then came back and she said, “I hear you have a class to teach in the Kootenays with Bethal (another master initiated by her). You must go back and teach these classes. Reiki comes first!” I did not want to leave but after arguing with her again, I went to teach the classes. And I did not see her again. This was sad for me. There were so many questions I wanted to ask but did not have a chance.
Oliver Klatt: What is the significance that your grandmother had for you, during the time after her death. What was the situation like at that time, concerning Reiki in the world?
Phyllis Furumoto: When Hawayo Takata died, I was in the mountains of the Kootenay area of British Columbia, cut off from the rest of the world because of a major snow storm. It was almost a week before I received the news that she had died. Interestingly though, the day she died I began to have intense emotional reactions to everything and felt a strong shift of energy that I did not relate to Reiki or to my relationship with Hawayo Takata. Later, after returning to town and calling my parent’s home in Iowa, I realized that energetically I had been very affected by her passing.
My partner at the time, Michael Hartley, and I eventually drove down to Iowa to be with my family. We had scheduled our trip for Christmas holidays. First—in keeping with Takata’s admonition that “Reiki comes first!”—I taught classes in Edmonton, Alberta before starting on the long drive to Iowa. The day we started out, Michael stopped for gas. He got out of the car and started to clear a seat in the back of the car. There were two of us in the car and lots of stuff that was piled high in the back. I asked him what he was doing and he said, ”Clearing a seat for your grandmother so she can get off my lap!” I had also strongly felt her energy in the car but didn’t have the nerve to ask him to do what he was already doing! We drove for three days with a car packed to the ceiling with presents for the family, our skiing gear, my things I carried for Reiki classes and so on, and an “empty seat” in the back. We received many odd looks but it was much more comfortable in the front of the car.
As my mother notified the masters that we knew about of Hawayo Takata’s death, most of them called me and asked me what I would do now? They acknowledged me as her successor. Eventually Barbara Weber from Atlanta, Georgia, let me know that Hawayo Takata had told her that she would be the successor. I had no idea if this was the truth. One thing was clear. If this was so, Takata decided something different later on. In the last year of her life, Hawayo Takata would not talk about Barbara or the Association that they had founded together. She would become angry and would turn away literally and figuratively from any conversation about these topics. At the same time, to some of the masters, Takata indicated clearly that I was to be her successor.
However, this is not enough for the placement of a Grand Master. It was my experience that I was aware of three phases: the energy of the system came to me, Hawayo Takata recognized me, and many of the students and masters recognized me. Then it was up to me to grow into this place of Grand Master. Many of the masters she had initiated or recognized, did support my succession and further, supported me to accept this and step into this place. The process took almost ten years. Without the support and encouragement of the community, this would not have happened. Paul Mitchell describes this time: “Phyllis had a special energy sometimes. It was clear that she did not choose when this happened. But when I was in her presence and it happened, it was obvious that she had this connection to the lineage. It was like a gas stove that had a pilot light. The pilot light was always there. Sometimes the burner was turned on and Whoosh! the flame burned bright. Then it went back to the pilot light until the next time.” (These are not Paul’s exact words but paraphrased by me.)
The teaching of Reiki was a joy in the 1980s. Our questions about the system and what we were doing were innocent and had the sweetness of beginners. We threw ourselves into our practice and allowed Reiki to flow through us—speaking through us. The people who came to classes were such pioneers. No one could really talk about Reiki, the energy. No one really understood much of what was happening. However, the instant connection to our inner “home” place, the amazing transformative experiences, and the often-miraculous physical happenings kept us teaching and practicing. There were no books on Reiki. No internet. No web sites and emails. Only the masters we knew personally. And we all spoke to each other and tried to support each other, except for Barbara Weber. She supported all of us in a contrary way. She wrote a newsletter saying that none of us were really Reiki Masters and she was the only one who had all the information of a master. This pushed us all, especially me, into searching ourselves and finding our own answer to the question: “Am I a Reiki Master?”
Barbara was the greatest gift Hawayo Takata left, in my opinion. She strengthened us and pushed us into a group who would look to the benefit of the system and not just our students and our local community. Almost immediately, some of these masters left their homes to teach and started the intensive spread of Reiki that would eventually go around the world and into every country of the world. Wanja Twan went back to her home in Sweden, teaching in all the Scandinavian countries. Beth Gray went to Australia. Mary McFadyen to Germany. Other masters went to parts of the USA and Canada. It was an exciting time! We were always discovering something new or having insights that would lift the understanding of the whole circle of masters.
Oliver Klatt: How do you feel today about your grandmother?
Phyllis Furumoto: In those early years, trying to find my way without guidance from a living person, I also went through the process of holding Hawayo Takata at first as my grandmother and then my master. When I finally got this transition, I had the true relationship with my grandmother. She was not ever the grandmother I wanted or expected. She was always my master and I honor her deeply for this.
Oliver Klatt: To what extent has Hawayo Takata influenced your way of practicing and teaching Reiki?
Phyllis Furumoto: She gave me the gift and charged me with stewarding this gift, the system and the practice. She told me that Reiki would teach me, and indeed Reiki has taught me, guided me, and challenged me to grow into a Lineage Bearer and Grand Master. I teach and practice her practice as best I can while honoring the developments over the years that have been brought into the practice by the cultural times, by social influences, and by the advent of personal computers. All in all, the practice has been passed down to me by Hawayo Takata, and now the practice and system rest in my hands.
Oliver Klatt: What does Reiki mean for you today?
Phyllis Furumoto: Reiki is Universal Life Energy. Everything is made up of this energy. The practice that is sometimes called Reiki is actually, in this case, Usui Shiki Ryoho. This is a practice that students use as a way to have a conscious connection to Reiki. When students develop this relationship or connection, they are able to use this connection for living a different sort of life than before. Usually students describe this as more fulfilling, having meaning, and discovering that one person can make a difference.
As we look at Hawayo Takata’s life which started almost from nothing, an indentured field worker’s daughter, we see that only her determination and brilliance moved her out of her situation into something with hope. She ended up following her knowing that Reiki was essential for her to survive. She was a part of handing this gift to millions of people around the world who now use it for their survival on many different levels.
Oliver Klatt: What is the legacy of Hawayo Takata from your point of view? Out of what she did and said, what remains unchanged and important for us today?
Phyllis Furumoto: I would say: Let Reiki teach you. Reiki comes first. Hands on, hands off. Reiki goes where it is needed.
In these simple phrases, Hawayo Takata summed up the practice that she stewarded for many decades. The first one, Let Reiki teach you. I thought this only meant, “Pay attention to Reiki.” Now I hear, “Let the meaning be open to the messages from Reiki. Reiki, not other people, but the voice in yourself that is Reiki.”
“Teach,” meaning give me the way and I will learn—not do it for me.
“You,” not everyone else. Not someone else. Be open to the messages and teachings that Universal Life Energy brings to YOU everyday. Let go of resistance and stubbornness.
So much is contained in this small phrase. And I am sure there is more there to discover.
The practice of Reiki is simple. Human beings are not simple. We can use our minds to create defense mechanisms, to invent reasons, to avoid hearing what is obvious, to only see what we wish to see. The practice of Reiki allows these filters to dissolve, if we wish, and to live our lives with more openness and more authenticity. Then our minds are able to truly create and bring into our human future a way forward.
I hope this is still important for you, the reader. It is for me of utmost importance. Each of us as human beings are asked to contribute to the world something that moves humanity to its next step of development. Reiki gives us the opportunity to find out what that is for each of us and gives us the nourishment to develop into who we must become in order to make that contribution. This is how Hawayo Takata lived her life. Look at what she contributed. She simply took each step as it came to her. We too can do the same.
Oliver Klatt: Phyllis, thank you for the interview.
Edited by Susan Mitchell
Copyright: Oliver Klatt, www.einfach-nur-reiki.de