We’d like to get to know you, and our mothers raised us right. We know it’s polite to introduce ourselves before we ask the same of you. So here’s a little a bit about us—Susan Mitchell and Paul Mitchell —and why we think Reiki is such a powerful force for healing.
The official biographies
(click on the name or scroll down the page to read our Personal Stories)
Susan Mitchell has treated thousands of people since she began practicing Reiki in 1978. She learned Reiki from Hawayo Takata, who brought Reiki from Japan to the West. As the long-time director of The Reiki Alliance and now assistant editor of Reiki Magazine International, she is a well-known and respected member of the international Reiki community. Starting life with a cleft palate and harelip put the themes of healing and wholeness front and center in Susan’s life. Susan has dedicated nearly her entire adult life—the past twenty-seven years—to the practice and principles of Reiki. Witnessing the healing that comes through Reiki inspires Susan to help others find their own source of healing and wisdom.
Read Susan’s story below
Paul Mitchell has been doing Reiki now for thirty years, much of that time teaching others Reiki so that they can better care for themselves and their families and friends. Paul has worked extensively with Phyllis Lei Furumoto, Hawayo Takata’s granddaughter and successor. With the support and prompting of Phyllis, Paul has taken his place as a teacher and leader in the worldwide Reiki community. He has traveled to over 22 countries doing classes, retreats, and workshops facilitating the ongoing process of healing and growth in Reiki.
Read Paul’s story below.
Our personal stories
As an editor of Reiki Magazine International, I saw every day how stories can explain the inexplicable. Most of the teaching in a Reiki class comes from telling stories, and story-telling is such a vital part of folk healing traditions. Here’s a chapter in each of the stories of who we are and how we came to be here on this web page.
Hi. I’m Susan Mitchell. I was living in a communally-owned house in San Francisco in 1978 when I met Hawayo Takata, the woman who brought Reiki from Japan to the West.
At the time, I saw myself as an unlikely Reiki student, but the moment I heard about Hawayo Takata, I knew this “Reiki” thing was for me. I had a feeling it held answers I was searching for—What was healing? Could I heal myself? I needed to find out.
I was born with a cleft palate and harelip. Correcting a cleft palate and a serious speech impediment in the1950s required eight surgeries and years of dental work and speech therapy. I was lucky to receive the most advanced procedures available and to have my mom, who worked with me every day (with never a complaint!) to improve my speech. I experienced more physical pain than the average child, carried the weight of being different, and identified at every level with the Ugly Duckling. I longed for a miracle to make me pretty and, in adolescence, often thought about killing myself.
I was fascinated by psychology, struggling to understand what mental illness was. At twenty-one, after graduating from the University of San Francisco with a degree in Theology and Psychology, I took a job in a psychiatric halfway house. A year and a half later, I felt almost as crazy as the residents—I was a sponge, absorbing everyone’s thoughts and feelings. I didn’t quite understand what boundaries were, but I realized they were important and I didn’t have any. I vowed to avoid “helping” professions ever after.
But the fates had something else in mind. Five years later, my husband Paul came home from a class at San Francisco State where a woman named Hawayo Takata had given a talk about a healing practice called Reiki. We jumped at the chance to learn.
With Reiki, I no longer absorbed what other people had or how they felt. For someone with no boundaries, this was a great relief (albeit not the final solution to the boundary issue). I learned that no matter how bad things seemed, a treatment always made me feel better—the problem might not go away but my ability to face it increased. And I saw that what I learned about life from doing Reiki applied to the other parts of my life. It was amazing—and exciting!
Reiki brought me the realization that my childhood was not a terrible thing but a blessing. I gradually realized my own pain had given me a keen understanding of human suffering, a capacity to be with people facing any situation, and a heightened capacity to persevere.
This healing touch cut through the things that separate people from one another, revealing our true nature and our inter-connectedness. Even before I was initiated as a Reiki Master by Phyllis Furumoto, Mrs. Takata’s granddaughter and successor, I was involved in the creation of The Reiki Alliance, dreaming of a global community of Reiki Masters who could spread peace and understanding in the world. I jumped from being a second-grade teacher into the role of director of The Reiki Alliance and spent eleven years hoping to make that dream a reality. The Reiki Alliance grew from 32 to over 700 members from 43 countries. My husband began teaching Reiki all over the world—his insightful and wise column appears monthly in Reiki Magazine International. You might think I’m biased, but he’s good!
We had two children—a daughter and son, and I gave my kids Reiki every day before they were born and birthed them with Reiki. I’ve treated childhood colds, flu, earaches sunburns, scrapes, concussions, and all the emotional struggles that go with growing up. My children know from a lifetime of experience that Reiki eases their aches and pains and soothes their heartache and confusion.
I started exploring the human mind and heart as a teenager and I’ve never stopped. It’s led me from the Beat theatre scene in San Francisco to Reichian therapy, the work of Burt Hellinger, and the teachings of contemporary Catholic mystics and the Dalai Lama.
Even with twenty-eight years of doing Reiki, my body has always been a little problematic. With age I’m showing signs of road wear—my body has its little glitches. But I have a practice that has helped me immeasurably to alleviate my physical pains, to open my heart to what life tosses me, and to bring me a measure of wisdom to recognize what’s important.
After all of these years of practice and witnessing the ways in which Reiki brings healing, I have one passion—to share this touch with other people.
I’m Paul Mitchell, the lucky guy who is married to Susan. My formal Reiki journey began with meeting Hawayo Takata, the person who brought Reiki to the Western world. I was taking a course entitled Holistic Health and Self-regulation at San Francisco State University and she was a guest speaker. I drove home from the class having heard her speak about Reiki thinking: “This is what I have been looking for!” My next thought was: I didn’t know I was looking for anything. It’s obvious that on some level I was. A few months later, Susan and I took first degree Reiki from her.
I grew up a very fearful child and matured into a fearful adult. Who knows exactly where this fear had it’s roots, perhaps in the fact that my parents divorced when I was six months old and my mother was afraid that my dad and his family would try to take me from her. Maybe on tip of my own loss of father, I internalized her fear too. Add that to an introverted personality, and here I am!
I became a careful observer, always looking to see how things worked and how they could be fixed. I loved to work with my hands, take things apart, fix things, build things, solve problems. This interest also extended to how human beings worked and how we might get along better, develop tools for living and healing—always looking for that safe place where we could “just be.”
I began my study for the Catholic priesthood at the age of 14 and left that training at the age of 24. Then I went looking for another form of service. First I taught religion in a large Catholic high school in San Francisco where I was living in a communally owned four unit home that we were remodeling—saving it from being condemned and destroyed.
Then in 1978 I learned Reiki and soon after realized that this would be my life work. Why? Because it gave me what I so needed and enabled me to help others. At the same time Reiki kept bringing me back to the safe place I longed for where faith and hope are alive and healing can happen. And it does, over and over. I can place my hands on myself or another and go to that place of safety where I can be healed or healed enough to see what I must do to find my true self and the courage to live it.
This is all I want to do for myself and others. I look forward to being with you.
And what’s become of Barbara McDaniel?
If you’re a reader of Reiki Healing Arts website, the last you knew was that Barbara was on sabbatical until late 2008.
Our dear friend Barbara left Reiki Healing Arts in June 2007 for an
18-month sabbatical. She moved to Sravasti Abbey in Newport, WA. to study and practice Tibetan Buddhism.
Lo and behold! Five months after her arrival, she took her first vows and will become a Tibetan Buddhist nun this spring, 2008. She’s enormously happy—even when it’s challenging. And she’s thriving—you can see it in the sparkle in her eyes!
Here’s Barbara in her own words—
Since turning 50, the question in my head, “What’s my life about?” has been growing increasingly louder. “What is the best way to make the most of my remaining years?” For a long time now I have been drawn to deeper spiritual exploration, and last June (2007) I moved to Sravasti Abbey, a Tibetan Buddhist monastic community. After only a few months, the nagging questions stopped. I knew. I requested ordination in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and took my pre-training vows in October. Assuming all conditions are right, I will be ordained within the year rather than returning to Reiki Healing Arts.
Taking this step feels like a natural progression from my life in Reiki.I believe Usui’s torch burns in each of us, and that the practice he gave us calls us to cultivate our spiritual capabilities. I believe that his Reiki Principles outline our goals in developing those capabilities.For me, Buddha’s teachings offer a way to realize Usui’s principles—if not in this lifetime, then in a future one. That’s how I’ll spend the time I have left.
I send my prayers for all of you to flourish with Reiki as your support.
May the gift of Reiki bring healing to all you touch,