My History with Phyllis – by Oliver Klatt
Oliver Klatt talks about his encounters with Phyllis Furumoto over a period of 23 years in the following 13 text fragments.
>> Redaktioneller Hinweis: Dies ist die englische Version des Artikels „Meine Geschichte mit Phyllis“, der in der deutschen Originalversion im Reiki Magazin-Sonderheft „Phyllis Furumoto – Leben und Wirken“ (Print) erschienen ist.
In 1995, one and a half years after my 1st Degree Initiation, I attended the Reiki Festival in Gersfeld. We were almost 300 participants, so it was probably the largest Reiki Festival ever in Germany. „Heal the World“ was played loudly, the „Dances of Peace“ were danced – and Phyllis and Paul were both there. On Saturday morning, we had the possibility of going up to Phyllis and giving her a hug. I got into the queue since I absolutely wanted to have this experience. When it was my turn, I walked up to Phyllis, hugged her… and was surprised at how little this embrace lived up to my expectations. I couldn’t really feel Phyllis. Was it me? Was it her? Or both of us? It was probably because I had expected something “supernatural“… and there was suddenly an entirely normal person.
In the afternoon, there was an event with Phyllis and Paul. I participated in it and felt how I was gravitating inwardly towards Paul. This had actually already started the day before… and was now continuing more intensely. It sometimes almost felt as if he were speaking directly to me at the lectures.
Half a year later, I attended Paul’s one-week Aikido seminar for Reiki practitioners and became his student.
After the Aikido seminar, I was floating on cloud nine. My master training had begun… I was accepted as a student. There was a major event with Phyllis in Freiburg at that time. I drove there, all the way from Berlin.
Due to the large number of participants, the venue was changed at the last moment. So we were in a big sports hall, completely filled with people. What a special Reiki group experience! I sat on the floor of the hall and Phyllis was in front on the podium. She spoke, and the entire situation touched me deeply.
During the time of my Master training, I attended other major events with Phyllis and Paul – in Cologne and Hamburg. In 1998, Phyllis came to us in Berlin. It was a Saturday. I got up early that day because, of all mornings, I had an important job interview at a big up-and-coming company. It went well, and they wanted me – but I suddenly didn’t know exactly what I wanted. If I accepted the job, it would be difficult to get vacation time. If I stayed where I was working at that time – a small publishing company – this wouldn’t be the case. It was important to me that I got enough vacation time so I could continue and complete my Master training. With this inner turmoil, I went to the event with Phyllis, which took place at a hotel in Berlin-Steglitz that afternoon. I sat in the 5th or 6th row, listened intensively to Phyllis, and was somehow lightheaded and sweating profusely. Suddenly, the clear inner decision was made – and it was irreversible: against the „worldly career“ and for my way as a Reiki Master, as the main direction in my life!
On Monday, I declined the new job offer. I stayed at the small publishing company until the end of my Master training, continuing to learn much about how to make and publish books.
On the eve of my Master initiation, which was Thanksgiving Day in 2000 in the USA, we were invited to Phyllis‘ home as her guests. She fixed a big turkey in the oven. There were nine of us: Phyllis and her girlfriend of that time, plus Paul, his wife Susan, their two children – and we three Master candidates.
Phyllis was living in an idyllic, rural house in Idaho, which was close to Paul’s property. I eventually somehow started to play the piano… Mary, Paul’s daughter, played her saxophone… and then Phyllis joined us and sang. Her singing was soon the leading element in our improvisation, which became increasingly powerful… like a flow originating from itself.
The music continued like this for a good half hour while the others sat there and simply listened. We were all deeply touched, almost as if we were overwhelmed by it. As we left later and went out into the night, it began to gently snow – which was the first time that year. This is the night that we received our Master initiation.
I met Phyllis one more time during my stay there. She indirectly encouraged me to work for the German Reiki Magazin from then on. Jürgen was looking for someone to take over the editorship at that time, and I was interested. I believe that Phyllis had heard about me through Jürgen.
Back in Berlin, I quit my previous job – and began working for the Reiki Magazin. And half a year later, I started offering Reiki courses. A new era had dawned for me!
One or two years after that, I met Phyllis again. There was a reunion with her, for which Jürgen and I went to Hamburg and met her at Simone’s flat. So the three of us were sitting there – and Phyllis asked me to begin. I said that I didn’t know where I should start and asked her to begin since she was ultimately the person who had called the meeting. This caused her to be a bit irritated… and we then needed a few minutes to start over again.
It eventually turned out that she wanted to discuss something with me about my article on „Reiki – Tradition and Modernity“ that was published in Reiki Magazin. She was especially concerned about some lines in which I had written about Takata: She saw it as an affront to Takata. I said that it had not been my intention to write about Takata in any way that was disrespectful. From then on, I paid even more attention to the details when writing something about Reiki. Phyllis was right: I had used a quote and not closely checked the context or the translation of a Japanese word that it contained. The knowledge that Japanese words in German translation should always be treated with great caution has accompanied me ever since in every text that I read or write.
In the following years, there were two occasions upon which I gave Phyllis Reiki and/or received it from her. The first time was at the H’Art & Soul Festival at the Luneburg Heath. There was a Reiki exchange, and Phyllis suggested that I treat her. I went to her head, which the Master present in the room (who had been initiated by Phyllis) thought was somehow inappropriate. In response, Phyllis confirmed to her that she was fine with me treating her head. This treatment was very special to me, and I was very mindful as I gave it.
In 2003, when I was in Idaho once again to attend another Aikido seminar with Paul, Phyllis still lived in the nearby house. I went to see her and asked if we could exchange Reiki treatments. She agreed, and we made an appointment. Then I drove to her home again. We were alone in the house. I first gave Phyllis a complete treatment. Then she gave me one. It was as if we were energetically truly working on each other, intensively and very primordially. It was almost like romping about like children sometimes do… perhaps even a bit of wrestling… but without any movement, of course and purely energetic. Afterwards, I thought: Aha, so that’s what it feels like for me to receive Reiki from the Grand Master.
During this 2003 stay in Idaho, I was preparing to publish my first book. Phyllis agreed to write a text for it – for which I am grateful to her to this day. For me, „The Way with Reiki“ is among the most inspiring and clearest texts that she has ever written. It was published in my book Reiki Systems of the World.
Phyllis also gave me some information about how everything had been in the early days of Reiki’s spread, after Takata’s death. I conveyed this accordingly in my book.
One year later, there was a Reiki Alliance Conference in Denmark. I was able to drive there quickly from Berlin. I had the time and was interested, so I participated. At this conference, I learned how to give the Reiki Blessing from Wanja, interviewed Fran and had an encounter with Rick – all three were or are Masters initiated by Takata. I spent more time with them on the sidelines of the conference than at the actual events of that week, where Phyllis and Paul mostly were. My emerging connection with Wanja was the special focus for me – and seeing what the other Takata Masters have to say, as well as hanging out with them.
On the third day, I met Phyllis in the hallway. The brief conversation that we had there was somehow unproductive. In my perception, we were quite distant from each other. I noticed that I wasn’t very interested in the contact with her at that moment. Perhaps she sensed this. If so, had she somehow misunderstood it? I don’t know. In any case, we had quite a difficult conversation the next day – just the two of us – to which she had asked me to come to her bungalow. Afterwards, I first had to take a deep breath. I didn’t understand what it was all about from her perspective and thought that she had overloaded me with something that was actually „her thing“. She seemed to notice this in the next few days. On the last day of the conference, as I was leaving and driving my car around the grounds – asking myself why I had already driven in a circle for the third time and hadn’t found the exit yet – I suddenly saw the exit and Phyllis standing at the barrier. She opened it for me and said something like „sorry!“ I was a bit dazed and mumbled something like „thank you“ – and then drove off.
I thought highly of Phyllis for that „sorry“. Nevertheless, that time marked the start of a new phase for me in which I started to pay more attention to my own motivations and goals in terms of Reiki. As a result, I was no longer as active in the community for the next few years.
In the course of this development, I found it important that my practice and teaching of the system could stand on its own – also because I no longer shared some of what Phyllis stood for or perhaps even had never really shared it, as I had suddenly realised. I sought an exchange with Paul, who confirmed to me that he also saw things in this light: that it was okay if I referred exclusively to what I had received from him – and that I didn’t have to necessarily base my practice and teaching on Phyllis. Although Phyllis was the lineage holder of the Usui Shiki Ryoho, which is the practice that I had received from Paul, she is not represented in my Master initiation lineage. My Master initiation lineage is: Usui – Hayashi – Takata – Mitchell.
During this time, I had an extensive exchange of letters with Phyllis on several topics related to Reiki that were important to me. This marked the start of a long-lasting, mostly page-long, predominantly controversial but consistently respectful exchange in which we „shot the balls back and forth“ time and again. This was simply due to the very different views that we had on essential points, especially concerning the type of spirituality that she represented and what I stand for. It also related to the issue of how significant spirituality is for the Reiki method. This was and is a very essential question for me, the answer to which I believe goes to the very core of what the practice of Reiki is intrinsically about. We just didn’t agree on many crucial points in this regard.
It was also important to me that the new historical findings about Usui and Hayashi be integrated into the history of Reiki, whereas Phyllis very much blocked this approach at that time. Out of respect for her and her position in the system, as well as to not get into a kind of permanent clash with the Grand Master – a state in which we were almost constantly in the meantime and I increasingly recognised as quite unsupportive for my spiritual development – I changed the name of my practice and teaching of Reiki to Usui Reiki Ryoho. This was the name that Takata had also sometimes used for her practice and teaching of the system. It gave me the necessary inner freedom to define essential points related to Reiki according to my own experiences and spiritual convictions, independent of a higher authority. At the same time, I remained true to the essential principles of Usui Shiki Ryoho.
During this time, I began and intensified my contact with Mary, another Master initiated by Takata. We had numerous meetings and conversations in Berlin, and they gave me a great deal. The two of us had numerous points of contact in matters of spirituality and saw many things in a similar light. I experienced this as very fruitful for my spiritual development.
Many years later – Phyllis had already been ill with cancer for some time and Mary had disappeared from the face of the earth – certain events led me to set aside my controversial attitude towards Phyllis and attend an event in Birmingham that had been brought to my attention by several Masters from the community. This is where Reiki practitioners and Masters met with Phyllis and Paul in the Succession Group related to Usui Shiki Ryoho. It was the first of many events to address and talk about Phyllis‘ succession in the case of her expected death.
I had really looked forward to the event and thought that it could perhaps be a new beginning in my relationship with Phyllis… but I was unbelievably disappointed by everything that I experienced there. I couldn’t connect with Phyllis and the event had a facilitator whose manner I found unhelpful to the process (in contrast to almost everyone else, who saw him as very effective). I came to the conclusion that a group dedicated to the topic of a successor wasn’t even that important since an appropriate dynamic „guided from above“ would probably be set in motion shortly before Phyllis‘ death, and I felt that this didn’t need to be prepared.
As if to make matters worse, I received a challenging email from Phyllis in this event’s aftermath, mainly based on misunderstandings on her part. This resulted in a further exchange that went on for many pages and was full of disagreements, but unfortunately was also very energy-sapping. It caused me to completely put my relationship with Phyllis „on ice“ for the time being.
In the following years, Phyllis was invited twice to the annual conference of ProReiki, the German professional association, in Gersfeld. The first time I avoided any contact with her – even though I heard from the others that Phyllis had said: „So where is Oliver?“ It’s interesting to note that our hotel rooms were directly next to each other at this conference and we could even hear each other through the wall.
The second time, her interpreter came to my Reiki Magazin stand and seemed to sense how I felt about Phyllis back then. I spontaneously signalled in honest openness that I wanted a meeting with her since I felt the flow for it… and a bit later, Phyllis stopped by at the stand. I immediately came out from behind the table and we hugged each other. I could really feel her now in this embrace, unlike 20 years before in Gersfeld.
We exchanged a few words, and I was happy about her appreciation of the Reiki Magazin special issues on Mikao Usui and Chujiro Hayashi with their new historical information about Reiki… and her offer to support the planned special issue on Hawayo Takata with previously unpublished photos and an interview.
In spring 2019, I heard from Jürgen that Phyllis would possible die soon. When we finished the Takata Special Issue, I immediately sent a copy to her in the USA. I heard that she was still holding the magazine in her hands before she passed away. Shortly before her death, she had also sent me a „Friend request“ on Facebook (after I had „unfriended“ her many years before in our critical phase). I accepted it… and was thankful and touched by her greatness, as well as by everything that happened in relation to her death.
On 15 March (my birthday) she appointed Johannes as her successor. I had been in the Japanese restaurant Daitokai in Berlin at that time, as it later turned out.
Two days after Phyllis’ death, I was in Berlin for a concert by Loreena McKennitt (for which we had already bought the tickets much in advance). My heart was deeply touched the entire time, and I perceived Loreena and her music as the epitome of what Phyllis had also embodied. It was like a tremendous, incredibly intensive emotional soundtrack for Phyllis‘ death…
Two months later, there was a Reiki Alliance Conference in Birmingham. Through a twist of fate, I once again flew to Birmingham to attend a Reiki Alliance Conference after 15 years had passed. The event was marked entirely by the death of Phyllis. Johannes was also with us during the first four days, and the events related to Phyllis‘ successor were extensively shared and processed together in the large group of about 150 persons. At one point I suddenly had to cry a lot… as I was in a conversation with Simone about Phyllis and my relationship with her. I realised how limited and paradoxically deep my relationship with Phyllis had been through all the years.
I had the opportunity to spend two hours with Johannes on the third day. I could palpably feel how the Grand Master Flame had already passed to him. During the course of that year, it became increasingly clear that we would publish a fourth special issue (which had actually not been planned before) on Phyllis‘ life and work. This issue is now here.
Thank you, Phyllis!
Copyright: Oliver Klatt
Translation from German into English: Christine M. Grimm
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