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Pilgrimage to Mystical Mount Kurama in Kyoto

Upon entering Kurama-dera Mountain Temple I was overcome with both humility and joy to be following in Dr. Mikao Usui's actual footsteps. In 1922, at the age of 56, Dr. Usui entered this same place with only one wish, to find inner peace. He climbed to the top and meditated and fasted there for 21 days before he received the same Reiki that all his students share in to this day.

As I was teaching a Reiki class earlier this year in New York City, I experienced one of those moments of synchronicity that spanned across time. I completely forgot about this detail until preparation for my class brought it to my attention. It left me in awe of just how purely we are guided into our destiny everyday, whether we're aware of it or not. There's magic working in our favor, always.

About 20 years ago when I was a southern girl from Georgia, I landed my first job which was waiting tables at a Japanese steak house. And it was called Kurama's. Only Great Spirit could have known that one day I would become a Reiki Master Teacher from New York City and would pilgrimage to the restaurant's namesake, a holy mountain near Kyoto, Japan.

At the mountain's entrance, I paid my small donation and was given a little piece of paper with the Prayer of Mt. Kurama written on it. I held it carefully, as it was my first introduction to the mountain and read every word with my soul's understanding.

These last four lines of the prayer brought the past into the present once again:

Beautiful as the Moon (Love)

Warm as the Sun (Light)

Powerful as the Earth (Power)

We trust in Sonten [cosmic energy] for all things.

I was brought back to the beginning of my spiritual awakening journey when I was 21, a college student at Soka University, a school built on a hilltop on sacred Native American land in California. It was then that I began to see the world and be guided through it with the eyes of spirit.

These four lines summed up what has been my life's aspiration ever since. Mount Kurama seemed to be returning me back to the beginning, just as I was ending my life in New York City, and entering into a new one in Okinawa, Japan.

I began to feel the potent spiritual power of the Mount Kurama, and I sensed the nature spirits gather around me. I was assured that my time here would be full of majesty.

The dew from the heavy rainfall the night before charged the cedar-scented air, and everywhere, at every turn grace poured through in from the heavens. This mountain was truly a temple in the sky. A Shangri-la. And I was about to enter its gates all asong.

I was met by this beautiful purification fountain that reminded me of the water goddess Quan Yin, who's known as a kind and compassionate guardian of all people on Earth. She's surely one of my guides and I felt very welcomed.

The spirits of the mountain led me further and further up, and I continued ascending, albeit slowly as I was nursing a very inflamed left foot. At one point my leg started to seize up and pain shot up and down my entire body. A notion of retreat floated into my head and I seriously considered it. But then a counter thought met it very fiercely, which were my spirits coming to my aid. They filled my mind with all the trials I had to overcome to get here, including this severe pain, helping me to understand that even this moment of doubt and feeling defeated was part of the journey. And as I looked out into the forest that surrounded me, I was given this very profound teaching: Pain is an illusion.

As I received this teaching with my soul's understanding, a surge of electricity sang through me like rivers of light, and I started to laugh with ecstasy. I looked toward the endless path ahead of me, took a deep breath, and started running up the mountain!

The joy that I felt was tremendous. There was no more pain, only appreciation for this life, and for this incredible gift Spirit was giving me on this day. Every step invigorated me even more and fueled this ascent.

Before long a woman in a red sweater stood at a small clearing and I couldn't move past her without stopping completely. She was alone until a man exited a pathway from the left and met her there. They moved past me and started down the way I came. I stayed there to catch my breath and I noticed a little shrine that caught my attention. My eyes moved to a little sign beside it that read in English, "highest point of mountain". I was completely astonished. If that woman wasn't there I wouldn't have stopped, and if the sign wasn't written in English (most all the signs were written in Japanese) and because the mountain was thick with trees, I wouldn't have known that I made it to the top!

After a little more investigation I discovered that the pathway the man exited from actually led to the area of Dr. Usui's meditation and where he received the original Reiki transmission.

I was dizzy with euphoria, and also exhaustion and hunger. I heard a spirit guide guide me to sit on a little concrete bench that was facing the mountain top shrine. I did so, and as I pulled two yomogi (Japanse mugwort) mochi out of my bag to eat, a wind blew so strongly all around me that I had to brace myself and hold everything including my umbrella close. I felt very loved in this moment. And after taking a few deeply sastisfying bites of the sweet earthy mochi a light rain started to fall. I opened the clear plastic umbrella I brought and simply sat there, still alone on this mountain top, looked up at the rain as it fell upon me, and took in the moment - this immense blessing from heaven and earth, and Reiki.

And so at the top of the mountain all was redeemed. I did all the rituals I set out to do including giving myself a Reiki self treatment in the place Dr. Usui received his Reiki transmission at age 56. While I was doing so, again a very strong wind blew through the trees and around all around me that created a sound so loud I had to open my eyes just to make sure a train wasn't bellowing through. I felt the wind there protecting me in a way I'd never felt before, it was incredible.

On my descent I felt waves of excitement buzz throughout my body like electricity. Even though my left foot was in a lot of pain and that entire side of body was seizing up from overuse and fatigue, all was overshadowed by the blessings from the mountain. I felt myself walk towards a large, no rather, a humongous, prayer bell that I passed on my way up. It was so big that I had to use all my body weight to lunge a large log into its side, and when I did the bong created by the impact was so sonorous and because I was standing right next to it my entire body shook from its reverberations. It was a fine way to send all my prayers out into the the forest air, into the universe.

After ceremoniously exiting the mountain, I decided I'd do one last water ritual at the town's onsen, or natural hot spring. Onsens are public bathhouses that use geothermally heated mineral water from deep within the earth. I dipped my weary body in the bubbling healing water and felt the stress and strain of 4 months of travel begin to melt away. I must have stayed in the bath for hours, because at one point my body was so warmed that only dipping a foot in the water while the rest of me was cooled by the evening mountain air was simply perfection. At this point I was so relaxed I layed down by the waters edge, and with my one foot still soaking, and intuitively started giving myself Reiki. I drifted off into a deep otherworldly Reiki sleep, and when I was nudged awake by a gentle mountain breeze I was completely alone, with only the black silhouette of the mountain around me. It was a rebirth I'll never forget. I felt like I was held by the majesty of Mount Kurama and the guidance of Reiki the entire time.

Understanding it was time to leave, I gathered my things, deeply refreshed on every level of being, and thankfully caught the last train back to Kyoto City.

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