Mystery and Mastery

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

At this time last year, I decided to join an organization called Shibumi International Reiki Association. This group was developed by Frans and Bronwen Stiene, who run the International House of Reiki and teach Usui Reiki Ryôhô, which is one of the Reiki lineages I am trained in. As a member, in addition to upholding the Vision, Mission and Philosophy of Shibumi, I also agreed to uphold their Codes of Practice, which includes, among a great many other things, the requirement that members not use the term Reiki Master. As the Shibumi website puts it, “The term Reiki Master is not utilized by Shibumi members due to the understanding that one does not master Reiki (spiritual energy).”

Poet on a Mountaintop is a painting by the Ming Dynasty artist Shen Zhou (1427–1509)

That’s simple enough and certainly makes sense. So why did I go through such inner turmoil over making the change?

I had worked hard to earn my title of Reiki Master. I took the first two levels as directed by my teacher, went through an emotional and energetic clearing process and regularly traded sessions with a friend. I didn’t pursue the Master and Teacher levels until almost two years after my initial training. I meditated regularly, practiced the precepts, worked with the symbols. I sought out monthly Reiki shares with other practitioners who shared my belief that Reiki was a quiet and meditative practice. Then three years later I trained again, this time in the Usui Reiki Ryôhô traditional Japanese style of Reiki. I constantly sought to learn more, experience a deeper connection to the Reiki energy, and become a better practitioner by stepping aside and allowing the energy to do the work.

And yet here I was, ego-attached to a word. A word that now had to be excised from my business cards, my website, my bios, my being. I didn’t want to give up that title! And of course that recognition is what made me realize how important it was to give it up.

I felt like I was losing a part of myself.

The Shibumi website suggested that I use the phrase Reiki Teacher instead. That was a bit of a relief, because the title of Teacher was always the highest level one could attain in Reiki. I pondered that carefully—in some ways it seemed to be the only thing that could smooth my ruffled ego.

But as I contemplated it further, I began to ask myself, what does it mean to be a master? If we say we’ve mastered something, doesn’t it usually follow that we have nowhere further to go? That we have accomplished all that there is to accomplish? I certainly did not feel that way about Reiki. I knew this path would continue to reveal much to me. In fact, isn’t that what I liked about teaching? I loved to teach because I always learned so much! To me, the title Teacher meant that I was always a student, always seeking, learning, revisiting, expanding. Quite the opposite of mastering! Yes, I thought, I can do this. I can leave behind the word master and call myself the perpetual student, secretly hidden in the verbal guise of Teacher.

I changed my business cards, website and bios. My being was lighter, stronger and more authentic now that the superfluous term of Master had been stripped away.

I should write a blog post on this amazing process I thought, and that way everyone will know that I’m actually a Reiki Master!

Luckily, I immediately recognized this sneaky little Hail Mary from the ego, and heroically restrained myself.
But now, a year later, I have gone to dozens of Reiki practice and meditation groups, meditated alone and with others, given four public Reiki talks, taught two Shoden classes, two Okuden classes, and two Shinpiden classes, worked with dozens of clients, said the precepts thousands of times, and received additional training. In each of my Shinpiden classes we had a discussion of what mastery is. Each group encouraged me to share my story.

What are you a master of? I asked my most recent Shinpiden students. “Eating. Showering.” One student laughingly replied. Then she went on, “You know when you’re in the middle of your shower, and you can’t remember if you did the conditioner or not?” We all laughed. She continued, “So I guess I’m not a master of showering. Not if I can’t always remember if I’ve conditioned or not.” Yeah, that’s it, isn’t it. Being fully present, every moment of every shower. And then eventually every moment of every day.

Shinpiden means “mystery teachings.” One of my students asked, what does that mean? What is the mystery?
The next week she said, “I know what the energy is for each of the first three symbols. I can feel that clearly. But what is the energy of the fourth symbol?”

I shared with her a quote from Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido: “The Japanese term for birth is U-MU, consisting of the kototama U, ‘Being’ and MU, ‘Nothingness.’ That is, life springs forth when Form and Emptiness are in perfect balance.” The fourth symbol, I said, is the life that springs forth.

The energy of each of the first three symbols can be felt within our body’s energetic centers. But the energy of the fourth symbol expands beyond our limitations, arises from us, connects us, is more than us.

“Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.”

Like Donne to his three-personed God, we submit to the spiritual energy and it masters us. This is the mystery of the third degree of Reiki. This is the mystery of mastery.

Joy Vernon is a Reiki Practitioner and Teacher in Denver, Colorado. She is trained in two styles of Traditional Japanese Reiki: Usui Reiki Ryôhô and Komyo Reiki, as well as the Western-influenced Usui Tibetan tradition of Reiki. Joy is also a Certified Professional Tarot Reader. To schedule an appointment or for information on upcoming classes, please visit

© 2012 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.

Joy Vernon
Joy Vernon

Joy Vernon is widely recognized as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty-five years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup grew into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Now Joy runs the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher in Burien, Washington. To learn more, please visit

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  1. Joy, I enjoyed reading this blog submission. Your insights to “Master” and “Teacher” as titles was very inspiring and applies to so many of us in our own venue of work and life. Thanks for your honesty and for sharing. I hope for you great success in your passion. 🙂

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