An Interview with Mary Burmeister, Master of Jin Shin Jyutsu®
by Melissa Higgins
Edited version of an article published in the March/April 1988 issue of Yoga Journal
The tiny, energetic woman placed one of my hands in hers, grasping my forefinger firmly but not tightly. Her eyes sparkled as she looked into mine and said, "See? Isn't that simple?" Miraculously, the tension of months of work disappeared. It was Jin Shin Jyutsu® in action, she explained.
Categorizing Jin Shin Jyutsu can be as difficult as pigeonholing its one-woman leading force, Mary Burmeister. More than a style of bodywork, it's a philosophy of life taught by a master who lives her philosophy.
Burmeister describes Jin Shin Jyutsu (which means "art of the Creator through compassionate man" in Japanese) as a "physio-philosophy" that is used by everyone unconsciously, doesn't "do" anything, yet encompasses everything. "I call it the art of life, the art of life itself. It is the whole cosmos and cannot be categorized," Burmeister explains.
The purpose of Jin Shin Jyutsu is to release the tensions that cause various physical symptoms. The body, Burmeister teaches, contains energy pathways that feed life into all cells. When one or more of these paths become blocked, the damming effect can lead to discomfort or pain. Jin Shin Jyutsu, reharmonizes and balances the energy flows.
Recently I participated in Burmeister's five-day Jin Shin Jyutsu course to learn more about this little-known "art" from the Orient. Although she has a large and loyal following, Burmeister keeps a low public profile and, until now, has never allowed an interview.
Based on ancient knowledge of the body and creation, Jin Shin Jyutsu was passed down orally from one generation to the next and had virtually disappeared in Japan when it was rediscovered in the early 1900s by Jiro Murai, a Japanese philosopher. As a young man, Murai contracted what was diagnosed as a terminal illness. He asked his family to take him to the mountains and leave him in solitude for seven days.
In a feverish state, Murai imagined sages in spiritual meditation using hand mudras, which he applied to himself as he went in and out of consciousness. By the seventh day he was completely healed, and he vowed to spend the rest of his life studying the connection between his amazing recovery and the mudras he had used.
Searching for answers, Murai studied the Bible (which he translated himself) and ancient Chinese, Greek, and Indian texts. But it was the Kojiki, the Japanese "Record of Ancient Things," that opened the door for him.
"He unraveled the mystery of a plain, old story, the Kojiki, which describes creation in allegories," says Burmeister. "He read into the words."
From his study of the Kojiki and his 50 years of personal experimentation, Murai concluded that Jin Shin Jyutsu was more than a philosophy of the body.
"Murai studied the Chinese acupressure points, then took them a step further by experimenting on himself and fasting. He compared what he experienced to the ancient acupuncture writings and compared them to what he felt. His experiences were much deeper than what he found in the writings. There is an awareness in Jin Shin Jyutsu that is deeper than technique," Burmeister says.
Theories of the body and philosophies of creation were far from Burmeister's mind when she met Murai in the late 1940s. A first-generation Japanese-American born in Seattle, she went to Japan to learn Japanese, not to study Jin Shin Jyutsu. "A young lady came to me and asked me to tutor her in English," Burmeister recalls. "It was through this casual meeting that some months later I met Jiro Murai at her home. The first words he said to me were, 'How would you like to study with me to take a gift from Japan to America?' I had no idea what he was talking about, but I went to hear him speak and knew I would stay to listen. I studied with him in Japan for five years, then in America through correspondence for seven more years."
It was 17 years, however, before Burmeister started sharing Jin Shin Jyutsu with others. "I just felt I had to know something before I could say I knew it. Then I realized you can't say you ever really know an art like this. One day I found myself timidly putting my hand out to a neighbor with a back problem and saying, 'Maybe I can help you.' After five years of working with her, I moved, and she then went back to her chiropractor, who called me soon after and requested that we meet. The chiropractor became my first student.
"After two years of sharing with the chiropractor, I started to translate and write down what I had learned from Jiro Murai. I'd stay up late at night after taking care of the children, writing and making drawings. The chiropractor said she had a few colleagues with whom she'd like me to share Jin Shin Jyutsu. Our group grew to about six students, including a psychologist, a physician, and another chiropractor. That's how it began."
Burmeister explains that our revitalizing energy, which flows up the back and down the front of the body, can become blocked in 26 "safety energy locks," or what she terms "specialists," located throughout the body and in the organs themselves.
"As we abuse our bodies in our daily routines, mentally, emotionally, digestively, or physically, our safety energy locking system becomes activated," says Burmeister. "This is simply to let us know we are abusing our bodies."
A flow can be unblocked through a sequence of steps, or through a "quickie" step as simple as grasping a finger. The revitalizing energy then flows through the hands, or what Burmeister calls the "jumper cables," and can penetrate through clothing, even a brace or a cast.
"Light pressure goes through the skin and into the bone. If pain is present, it's because there is blockage and the pain is coming from the person, not the pressure. We don't have to dig into the very marrow of the bone. All we have to do is take away the dams."
Burmeister says that in Jin Shin Jyutsu there is no diagnosing, healing, or curing. "Some of you can go out today and look at the book and try this out. But you're not doing it, it's the light and the 'specialist' that are doing it. And the person you're working on says, 'Hey, my headache's gone.' But it's not you who's done it, it's the 'specialist' on step one, step two, step three, that's cleaning the debris for that particular complaint. We cannot do wrong because we are not doing anything. We are only jumper cables."
"Not doing anything" while at the same time doing something is one of several paradoxes in Jin Shin Jyutsu. Despite its esoteric principles, however, Burmeister maintains that Jin Shin Jyutsu is an inborn art that anyone can learn without much training.
"Plato said, 'Learning is remembering.' There's nothing we have to learn. We're always utilizing part of Jin Shin Jyutsu naturally, but as soon as we come into the world, it's 'gotta get,' 'gotta go,' 'gotta get your education,' and the skill lies dormant."
A student with a sprained ankle tells Burmeister that after her accident she has developed a habit of holding her wrist "That's helping the sprained ankle," Burmeister replies. "We carry a baby a certain way, and that's helping the little one without our knowing why. When a baby sucks its thumb, we tell it, 'No, no, that's wrong,' but the baby is telling us about its needs. It's in need of real energy, or its digestion needs help. Sucking the thumb helps the baby's nervous and muscular systems. As adults, we can hold the thumb and get the same result."
Burmeister says that Jin Shin Jyutsu not only aids the body, but changes the attitudes that underlie the physical symptoms. "Jin Shin Jyutsu helps everything from head to toe and toe to head. There are 27 trillion cells in the body, and if we smile, all 27 trillion cells smile with us. This is how we help ourselves in health.
"A five-year-old girl came in for a session with her parents. At the first session she was unhappy, all frowns. After the third session, she smiled at her mother and said, 'I love life.' Isn't that dynamic?"
During the five days of class, Burmeister shared other success stories. A woman in a wheelchair whose hands were stiff with arthritis was unable to enjoy her favorite hobby, knitting. A friend who was familiar with Jin Shin Jyutsu told her about holding the fingers. A few days later, after using Jin Shin Jyutsu on herself every night, the woman was knitting again.
A teenager working in a fast-food restaurant burned his arm in a vat of hot oil. His mother, a student of Burmeister's, placed her hands gently on his calves, the location specified in Jin Shin Jyutsu for helping skin ailments. The next morning, not only had all signs of the burn disappeared, but his complexion had cleared up as well.
Amazing as these stories are, I wondered how any kind of body therapy that didn't include direct and deep manipulation of the spine or muscles could be so effective. Although I felt tension disappear when Burmeister held my finger, I was not completely convinced.
Then I experienced a full Jin Shin Jyutsu treatment firsthand. In a class practice session, Burmeister took one look at me and said, "You're a 'doer.' You're always out in the world trying to get things done, rather than relaxing and letting things be."
From observing my body - the bend of my toes, my hands held over my stomach, my left shoulder higher than the right - Burmeister seemed to know almost everything about me. Yet she insists there is nothing unusual in what she does.
"When someone comes in for a session, I know the way they eat, I know what their needs are. And they say, 'Gee, you're psychic.' I'm not psychic. There's nothing mysterious about it. I'm just reading what the body is telling me."
At Burmeister's direction, one student placed her fingers under the back of my neck and another held my big toe and ankle. Two students on either side of my body each put a hand under my back. Then one of these students grasped my inner thigh at the knee, and the other put his free hand on top of my calf. Over the next 20 minutes I felt the tension in my back muscles melt away. Gurgles rose up from the depths of my torso. Toes and fingers twitched and moved. My breathing became deeper and more even. In general, I felt a sense of calmness, balance, and well-being. Even the puffiness in my cheeks disappeared.
Other students experienced their own small successes. Obviously something was working, but would the results last?
"The physical, mental, and emotional may be cleaned up for now," Burmeister says, "but if we go out and dirty it up again, we need to clean up the dirt, dust, and grime again. That's all it is. You'll just come in for more housecleaning, or you'll do it yourself."
Although dedicated to her work, Burmeister is hesitant to promote Jin Shin Jyutsu as a business. She does no advertising for her courses or private practice in Arizona, yet her classes fill quickly with students from around the world, and new clients have to wait up to one year for treatment. Watching and talking with Burmeister, I soon understood why: By living the simplicity, calmness, patience, and self-containment that lie at the heart of Jin Shin Jyutsu, she has become its best promoter.
"In Jin Shin Jyutsu there are no teachers or masters, they are all the same. I always say, 'Be the example.' We don't have to preach to other people. When people see me and say, 'You're so calm and relaxed. How do you do it, are you on pills or something?' Then I can tell them about the hands. The jumper cables are the light. I've been studying for 30 years, and I know nothing.
"I don't see a future. I'm just in the now. Whatever direction it is, so it is. Whatever direction comes up, that's what I am. We're having this interview because David (her son and business manager) said it's time to get out a little bit more. I never butt into God's plans, I just go along with what is. Life is not a struggle, life is enjoying the now. It's simple."
Remembering Mary (21 October 1918 - 27 January 2008)
Dear Jin Shin Jyutsu Family,
It is with a mixture of profound sadness and joy that we inform you that our beloved President and Founder Mary Burmeister, has returned to the Creator. It is rare that such a great and beautiful soul graces this planet and we, whose lives were touched by her, will remember her with deep affection and reverence.
It is our wish that this memorial page will serve as a glimpse into a life that transformed the lives of countless thousands of individuals through the blessed art of Jin Shin Jyutsu.
David & Alice, Michael & Martha, Jody, Pat, Karen, Terry, Marty, Catalina, Jeffre....
"What Mary Says, …"
"My mind is open, wherever I am, I am simply beginning. Thank you, God, Thank you." These words from "What Mary Says, …" provided the ceremonial tone to a special service held for her at Hakubai Temple, 2 February 2008, in Boulder, Colorado. Led by my teacher, Hakubai Zenji (Martin Mosko), the sangha and I chanted the Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra, offered incense, performed prostrations and honored her in our hearts. I made a presentation of her embodiment of Jin Shin Jyutsu and her magnificent enlightenment that touched so many lives. We concluded our service by adding her name to our lineage. Starting with Sakyamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha, the names of all Buddhist teachers in our lineage were recited. Her name was the 89th name announced in an unbroken lineage extending beyond 2,500 years of compassionate teaching from India to China and Japan to the United States. As the 89th teacher, Mary is, "Perfect balance – As above, so below."
Deep bows, HakuZan Dai∙E
By David Burmeister
Since that time so many memories of Mary's remarkable life have filled my thoughts. The childhood stories Mom would tell me about my grandfather, Uhachi, whom she always said was one of the great inspirations of her life, assures me of our strong connection with those we love, long after they've gone. Back in the early days in California, before Mom became completely busy with clients and Dad was still working two or three jobs (the bowling alley comes to mind), Mom kept herself busy looking after her elderly mother Shima, me and my brother Michael, plus five foster children and, of course, Dad. She made regular trips to the L.A. Veterans Administration hospital to treat the sick; she worked as a Red Cross volunteer; and we had voting booths in our dining room during every election. Mom attended years of Bible study, which I later discovered was related to her study of Jin Shin Jyutsu.
Not long after Mary began to accept her first Jin Shin Jyutsu clients and students in the mid-1960s, most of her time became filled with what seemed like an endless stream of people in need of her help. Yet even with so much going on, somehow she always found time for her boys.
I remember the happy times on family trips, with a car full of pets and Mom behind the wheel. She was always a good sport when it came to family fun. Not long after we moved from Los Angeles to Scottsdale, Arizona, in the summer of 1972, the entire family became horse owners. Well, really, the horses for Mom and Dad were the brainstorm of my brother Michael and me, and they turned out to be a couple of very large Christmas surprises. Mom's pony seemed to be a gentle little guy when we bought him, just right for her, we thought. What we didn't know was that Thunder was a hungry pony, and the more he ate, the more spirited he became. Mom learned to hang on tightly. It wasn't long, either, before we had her dressed up in cowboy boots, jeans and a big western buckle. I think we spared her the hat.
It seems like Mary's Jin Shin Jyutsu life really took off after moving to Arizona. She finally had an office away from home, and for the first time a support system of people around her taking care of the little things. She was finally free to immerse herself in her studies, her practice and her teaching, which she did to her utmost ability. The next 18 years were a whirlwind. I knew that Mom's popularity was growing, but I wasn't able to fully appreciate this until some years later. I think it was when she took me to Europe for the first time, just after graduation from high school that I began to see my little Mom more in global terms.
I spent the next few years getting my degree at the University, and beginning to work in the field of mental health when my sister-in-law Martha asked if I would be interested in running the JSJ office for a couple of years, while she and Michael started their family. It was October 1985 when I returned to Scottsdale from San Diego to run the office "for a couple of years." And as you all know, I never left. I quickly understood the magnitude of Mom's work as well as her need to have someone close to her, a family member, "try" to regulate her extensive schedule. Mary's love of Jin Shin Jyutsu paired with an amazingly strong and healthy body and mind uncluttered with worries and fatigue allowed her to work abnormally long hours, generally sleeping 4 or 5 hours nightly. I feel extremely blessed to have been with Mom during such a dynamic part of her life. From the end of 1985 to the beginning of 1990 I had the privilege of traveling across the U.S. and to Germany with Mary and was able to witness amazing transformation in the faces, hearts, bodies and minds of her students. Then in February 1990, Mary fell at home, ending her career as Teacher of Jin Shin Jyutsu.
At that time the doctors said that Mary had just gone into involuntary retirement, and would no longer be able to work. Well, it's true, she didn't teach to groups anymore, but within a couple of months, she was back at the office seeing clients with her long time friend and colleague, Patricia Meador. Mary continued to bless the JSJ office with her presence and remained our greatest source of inspiration for all of these years. I think in some ways it must have been strenuous for Mary to remain on this earth plane for so long, knowing her love and connection to our Creator, but this was never evident. To experience Mary toward the end of her life was to experience a person in communion with our Creator. The simple happiness of her being is a gift that I will forever hold in my heart! Mom, I love you always…
Fond memories of Mary Burmeister
get up at 5 in the morning and give me a treatment before going to the office to treat others. She did not even have time to eat lunch and dinner. She would just bite into some sandwiches.
She also started to teach people about JIN SHIN JYUTSU, following the wishes of teacher Murai. She taught not only the technique but also the philosophy of JIN SHIN JYUTSU. Her desire was to help people physically and mentally. Then, she moved in to Arizona.
A few years later, I went in for my heart surgery at Stanford University in San Francisco. A week after the operation, a complication arose, I was dying. Mary cancelled all her appointments and flew to the hospital, giving me treatments several times a day. Later, she told me that she was not sure that she could help me. I got better everyday and that surprised the doctors and the nurses. I feel like I owe my life to Mary, without her I would not be as healthy as I am today. Living in Tokyo, I have not been able to visit her as often as I would like too but I always think about her. She has a special power to help people. She is so quiet but she has so much charisma and power to teach people. She did not care about propaganda, she did not care about business, she even did not care about her health, and life. She only cared about JIN SHIN JYUTSU. So, now JIN SHIN JYUTSU is spreading all over the world. It is amazing how much power she had in such a small body. She passed away very peacefully. It is a very sad thing for us, but I hope JIN SHIN JYUTSU will continue grow around the world and continue to help many people. That is what Mary would like. I thank you Mary from the bottom of my heart
Philomena Dooley - Instructor, Boulder, Colorado
I don't have words to describe my relationship with Mary and Jin Shin Jyutsu and all that she did for the world.
Jin Shin Jyutsu, Physio Philosophy, allows us to change our state of Existing into a state of Being. With Master Jiro Murai's 50 years of study and research and Mary's 50+ years of study and teaching, mankind has been given an amazing heritage.
Mary would say, "1% inspiration and 99% perspiration – that's all it takes." As a result of the 99% perspiration, I am blessed to have the ability to use my jumper cables as the need arises. Thank you God, and thank you Mary.
I am on a cruise in South America and Antarctica. On January 25th I read David's email telling of Mary's condition. Early morning of the 27th I was wide awake and watching the magnificent scenery, including glaciers and icebergs from our balcony. The ship was sailing easterly through the Straits of Magellan on our way to Antarctica. Everything was very peaceful and beautiful as the dawn began to break. The dawn was most unusual. Clouds were fluffy, pure white and edged with gold – a brilliant pure luminous gold with a powder blue sky appearing. It was truly a one of a kind sunrise, what Michelangelo would dream of. I remarked to Roger that something special is happening and mentioned that Mary might be in transition. It was 6 to 6:15 a.m. in our time zone which corresponds to 1 to 1:15 a.m. Arizona time. I thought to myself, it could be that Mary is on her way to her paradise.
January = 1, 27 = 9, 2008 = 10. So, the prime mover having completed the 1 through 26 was now entering the new cycle.
On January 31st, when we were in Antarctica a Requiem Mass was offered for Mary by the Reverend Canon Eugene Nee on board the MS Prinsendam. Many passengers attended.
With love and gratitude to Mary for all the love she shared with each of us. I am humbled by the magnitude of all she gave us. Her worth is beyond the expression of mere words.
Matthias Roth - Instructor, Hamburg, Germany
On Sunday, January 27 at 9:15 a.m. central European time (1:15 in Arizona) Mary Burmeister, at 89 years of age, peacefully passed away.
My memory of this woman who deeply touched my life and transformed it, will be that of her flow. I see her, sitting, standing in front of groups of people, simply "being where she is". I see her, flowing with her narrative, following the flow of inspiration, abandoning herself to that flow yet never drowning in it. A Master? She may have been to some. What has touched me is that she didn't position herself as such. She simply referred her vis-à-vis back to him-or herself.
To grieve, then? For ourselves perhaps, only ever for ourselves, for our being left behind, left alone. Human, we don't like to be alone, even if for many years we have been able to walk on our own. To grieve, just for ourselves: we are allowed ...
To wish? She is - yet again or still and always - where she is - I hesitate to say "where she is supposed to be"... so what is to wish? Peace to her soul that still touches me, still being where she is, still with the precision of just Being? Peace to my soul which will sometimes miss her, even though her gifts, the things that I was able to receive from her, have long become a part of me? Who knows ...
I wanted to share this moment with you, and return to silence. A wonderful evening to you all,
Iris Chapman, Jin Shin Jyutsu student, Hawaii
Over the years there have been so many ways that Mary taught me so much about myself and by so doing, taught me how to be in the world in a more contactful, aware way. But in order to do that, to BE in my life and present for others in my family, my friendships, my Jin Shin Jyutsu practice and other worldly work I have done I needed to learn the most basic lesson. It happened in the first class I attended in about 1983. I was close to 40 years old. As I sat down in the meeting room in the Safari (I think that was the name of it) hotel on Scottsdale Road I was aware of two things....first, I was uncomfortable in my own skin; I felt like I didn't belong, that I didn't know anything (I didn't) and that was not OK. Second, I was there to learn a technique to release neck spasms (my project) and a technique to help asthmatics (my son, David's, project). That's what I thought.
Then Mary walked into the room, sat down, put her hands in her armpits and said "I'm giving my best friend a hug." We all did the same and tears came to my eyes. Before that moment, I never knew it was acceptable to acknowledge appreciation and love for oneself. As that loving state of consciousness was transmitted into the room by Mary, and got stronger and stronger as we students hugged ourselves, I felt a transformation happening in the depth of my being at the same time as a lifelong belief system of lack and deficiency was being blown in my mind. I wasn't expecting to have a spiritual experience in class, especially not before Mary even touched anyone with her own hands, but it was the beginning of a new way of life for me. End of a cycle, begin anew; it was happening. What I learned in that class was self love, self acceptance, and that what was important was to be the best we could be no matter where we were at. In that class Mary taught us that if we were too busy, to do our best at being busy; if we were lethargic another day, to do our best at that! I learned that I was fine however and whoever I was ...and at that point in class I had no idea who I was, I just knew I was having one ah ha experience after another and I felt the truth in all of them. This was a whole new paradigm for me. Sometime during that week I became the Smile. The foundation was built from which I was then able to put my own hands out, to open to the giving that comes from being a jumper cable.
Mary. I don't know where I would be if it weren't for you and your loving and generous sharing of Jin Shin Jyutsu.
Love and blessings for the journey of your soul. Iris
Mrs. Mary Burmeister and Jin Shin Jyutsu
Students of Jin Shin Jyutu in Japan, and even Master Murai himself, never achieved what Mary has achieved. I believe Mrs. Mary Burmeister is now in a happy place. May Mary rest in peace.
From Mary herself..
"Thank you and in Unconditional Cosmic Love I leave you physically and I am with you all eternally as One. May each one of you discover the teacher within and Be the FUN."
The experience of Mary's gentle passing reminded me so of the quality and spirit of her amazing life. The effortless reality of her transcendence was a loving testament to her life of grace, flow, harmony and oneness. My dear Mother, devoted friend, teacher and limitless source of strength and unconditional love returned to our loving Creator, early Sunday morning, January 27th.
I first met Mary in Japan, when I was 11 years old . At that time, Mary was working as a secretary for a U.S. army general. During that time, she was also studying JIN SHIN JYUTSU from teacher Murai. Teacher Murai asked Mary to take JIN SHIN JYUTSU to the United States and make it known to the people of America.
Later, after I graduated from college, I came to the United States, and lived with the Burmeisters for two years. At that time, Mary was a house wife with two little kids. I was probably one of Mary's first patients. I was born with a hole in my heart, and at that time, I was very weak. She was calm and always nice to me. She always told me that God was with me and was always helping me, so do not worry about anything.God will do whatever he thinks is best for me. After my stay was over, she started helping other people. The next time that I visited her, she was getting very busy. She would
Our great loss has been the ascension of our beloved friend and teacher, Mary Burmeister. We shall be forever grateful for her unconditional love and instruction.
She was often known to say, "Thank You, God" and I felt she had a direct line to God.
Rumi called the body the tomb of the soul. So now Mary, unencumbered, can share with others in the Realm of Perfected Beings.
We thrill for her in this transition; and now, in her absence, we can say "Thank You, God -- for Mary".
Thirty years ago I was introduced to Jin Shin Jyutsu and to Mary Burmeister. Through the gift that was given to Mary by Master Jiro Murai, my tired worn out body, which was under medical care for 19 years (daily medication and weekly visits to the doctor for blood analysis), was brought back into a healthy and happy state by the angelic jumper cables of Patricia Meador. Mary was always available when a crisis arose. (And there were some serious crises.)
My medical background of 21 years had me believe that the best one could do was to take her medicine and continue existing as best she could.
I had never had the opportunity to meet Mary until I saw her for the first time in America in 1992.
While Master Murai was alive, I had opportunities to see Mary's letters of questions she had sent to Master Murai, and Master Murai's letters that he attached to hers, to be sent back to Mary. The letters were detailed and specific, so different from Master Murai's verbal answers to my questions. I remember feeling envious that Master Murai was so kind and thoughtful to a female student.
After Master Murai's passing, whenever we had questions, Mary, whom I had never met, and I corresponded and exchanged Master Murai's clinical notes and other documents.
I finally had the opportunity to meet Mary in Arizona in 1992. In the meantime, Mary's students have increased in number throughout the world, and Master Murai's greatness has come to be widely known.