An Interview with Mary Kretzmann
Q: Mary, when did you first become involved in Ananda’s healing prayer ministry?
MK: I moved to Ananda Village in 1978. My first week there I learned some of Paramhansa Yogananda’s deepest healing techniques and, soon after, began attending the weekly healing prayer night at a member’s home. Then, in 1989, I became the director of the healing prayer ministry.
Q: Did becoming director affect your approach to healing?
MK: Yes. Some years earlier, to help my brother-in-law, who was dying of cancer, I had taken initiation into Reiki, a form of hands-on healing. I later learned that Swami Kriyananda had voiced concerns about our using Reiki because it involved an initiation. He spoke of how taking an initiation into a higher level of Kriya Yoga from a direct disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya had immediately blocked his attunement to Yogananda. To regain his former level of attunement, he had to repudiate that initiation.
Despite his concerns, Kriyananda left the final decision about using Reiki up to each of us. I never felt that the Reiki initiation had interfered with my meditations, or my attunement, so I let it stand for the time being.
However, when I learned I was going to be director of the healing prayer ministry, I felt that I should be an instrument only of the Ananda line of Gurus. So I prayed deeply and asked that the Reiki initiation be revoked. The next day, when I did a healing session, I felt a major increase in my intuition and healing power. I felt the presence of our Gurus strongly blessing the session, and guiding me on how to help the person.
I could see by comparison, that even though I had felt the blessings of the Masters in my meditation and discipleship, the Reiki initiation had been blocking the depth of what could happen in a healing session.
Q: Was that the first time you felt the presence of the Gurus?
MK: It wasn’t the first time, but up to then my progress with prayers had felt incremental. My prayers were being answered, so obviously something was happening, but by revoking the Reiki initiation, and putting my trust entirely in the hands of our Gurus, everything shifted to a higher, more powerful level.
Q: Can you give an example?
MK: Yes. A few weeks later, an Ananda member in Sacramento called and said, “Mary, I have this problem with my neck and my doctor says I need neck surgery. In my seclusion I felt that you are supposed to pray for me.”
I said, “OK, I’ll put you on the healing prayer list.” She replied, “No, Mary. I felt direct guidance in seclusion that I’m supposed to come to you, and that you’re supposed to put your hands on me.”
I agreed to see her. When she arrived, I asked her to sit before the altar. I then put my hands on her neck. While the energy flowed through my hands, I prayed to God and Gurus to surround her and bless her. The session lasted fifteen minutes. She later told me that her neck was healed and that she no longer needed neck surgery. I saw that healing as the Guru’s grace.
Q: Must a person be with you for a healing to occur?
MK: No. Healing can be in person, or at a distance. Paramhansa Yogananda, in his early lessons, teaches both types of healing: the laying on of hands and also sending healing energy at a distance. He subtitled the lesson, “How to Heal as Jesus Did through the Laying-on-of Hands.”
Q: Have people been healed when you sent energy at a distance?
MK: Oh, definitely. Sometimes those healings have been remarkable. One time I was teaching a class of about 40 people and we used Yogananda’s healing-at-a-distance technique for a woman in New Zealand with early stage cancer. She was very receptive. Almost immediately she felt a grace come over her, and the cancer was taken away. There are many other similar cases.
Q: What is the role of the hands when you try to heal someone at a distance?
MK: I hold the hands up and that’s partly how I receive the healing energy. I then hold the person in mind and lovingly surround them with God’s love, and appeal to God and Gurus to bless this person. In these ways, I’m able to connect to his or her aura and to send healing energy through my hands to that person.
Q: Can you describe what you’re feeling in your hands when you connect with someone’s aura that way?
MK: When I pray for a person, I feel energy flow through my hands. It can feel like warmth – but it can also feel like a beneficial magnetic force flowing through me, and surrounding the person. Simultaneously, I will often have an empathetic understanding of the person’s healing need. Years later I learned that in India the symbol of a healer is an eye in the palm of the hand.
Q: You mentioned that the New Zealand woman was very receptive. How do you feel receptivity or lack of receptivity in your hands? What happens if a person is not receptive?
MK: If a person is receptive, I feel the energy flowing easily to the person, and my empathetic understanding increases along with it. It is not a static process. It feels quite natural in that I have the intent to send energy to the person, and I can indeed feel it going out and connecting to him or her.
But when a person is not receptive, the energy has nowhere to go. My hands feel almost like a clogged pipe: the energy is there but it is not flowing toward the intended person.
In such cases, I briefly pull back and simply surround the person with divine love, but with no intention right then to “heal” the stated problem or illness. Usually there is something within the person that needs to be put at ease, and I try to help the person feel safe and secure.
Q: Mary, you’ve had remarkable success as a healer. What role does past karma play in your ability to do both types of healing: hands-on healing and also healing at a distance?
MK: First, let me just say that healing prayers alone are a great help to those who receive these prayers, and anyone can do these. When prayer requests come in, we send them to members of the Healing Prayer Council and trust in God’s grace to answer these prayers. The effectiveness of the prayers can vary, of course, depending on the faith and intensity of the person sending prayers and the receptivity of the person being prayed for, but there is always some benefit.
But for me, at least, hands-on healing feels more like a “calling,” and I believe my ability to do it reflects karma from past lives.
Q: Why do you say that?
MK: My becoming director of the healing prayer ministry awakened vivid and painful memories of a past life as a healer, a lifetime in which I was persecuted and put to death. Like any form of post-traumatic stress syndrome, these memories had to be healed. In learning how to heal my own past life traumas, I also learned to heal other people’s traumas from past lives.
I also recalled a beautiful lifetime as a cloistered nun when I longed to share God’s mercy, grace and compassion with humanity. But, since I was cloistered, all I could do was send blessings in general. For the first years as the healing prayer director, I could feel the momentum of that lifetime, like a spiritual wind, blessing the development of the healing prayer ministry.
I think both past life experiences deepened my compassion and empathy for the suffering, and left me with an intense desire to help people through my healing work.
Q: What are some of the attitudes one must hold to be an effective healer?
MK: First, you must be compassionate and approachable or else people won’t come to you for help. Secondly, you have to understand the importance to the healing process of people doing whatever they can to help themselves. Yogananda wrote that “even when you’re acting as a healer, you’re actually assisting the person to be a self-healer.”
Sometimes I’ll give the person an affirmation to do, and guide him or her in how to use it. This brings their energy into the healing process and increases their receptivity to healing.
Q: What other attitudes are important?
MK: Spiritually, the most important attitude is a constant awareness that God is the source of the healing power. There is also the need for reverent devotion to God and Guru because if you pray and ask the Masters to guide you, they will protect you from all negative influences, especially any tendency to become egoic.
I’ve seen instances of people becoming egoic when they try to take on a vocation of hands-on healing. However, if before the healing session you pray aloud to God, it helps everyone keep in mind that God is the source of the healing. The healer is simply “the willing instrument.”
Q: Was there ever any doubt in your mind that God is the Doer?
MK: No, but I remember a moment, soon after I stopped doing Reiki, when something extraordinary happened at a healing session. I thought, “That was incredible!” But in that same moment I realized that to indulge that thought would take me in the direction of ego. That’s why Yogananda says, “Just heal and forget it.”
For me, the main protection against becoming egoic with healing is that it’s pointless. If we start thinking – “Wow that was amazing; look what I did” – we cut off the flow of energy coming through the medulla oblongata. Powerful healing depends on the medulla being able to receive a very strong flow of energy. I remember the first time I felt my medulla opening more widely during a very powerful prayer; it was a physical sensation. Up to that point I had never felt it quite that clearly.
Conversely, if that much energy comes through the medulla and accrues to the healer’s ego, he or she could go insane. Swami Kriyananda has cited this as the reason certain famous artists became mentally unbalanced.
So it is pointless to become proud; the healer could either go mad or lose the healing gift, because of blocking the flow. The life of a healer may involve some wonderful healing stories, but preceding them is the pain and suffering that brought the person to you in the first place. For that reason, there is no “glamour” in it.
Q: How do you respond when people come to you seeking, in essence, a miracle?
MK: I had an experience of that in Italy. I had just finished teaching a week-long healing class at the Ananda center in Assisi when two women in the class asked me to heal their friend in Rome on my way back home. Their friend’s legs were numb and progressively deteriorating. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong, but they predicted complete paralysis if the condition continued.
I said, “You’re asking for a miracle.” They nodded and replied exuberantly, “Si! Si!” I found it intimidating that they had such faith in me.
I went to see Swami Kriyananda, who was then in Italy, and I was kind of laughing off their request as preposterous. But he said at once, “You have to go. Their faith in you is a form of faith in God, because they know you pray deeply to God when you do a healing. There are two chapels in the Rome airport. Pick one.” I later felt Swamiji’s prayers supporting me as I prepared for this healing session.
The three women met me at the airport and, because time was short, right away I started with the prayer. I called on the presence of God, Christ, Guru, and sent energy to the woman’s legs. Soon she began moaning and grabbing her legs, for she was feeling the temporary discomfort of the energy re-entering her nerves. After several more minutes her legs were healed.
Q: Is it correct to say, then, that the most important attitudes for hands-on healing are knowing that God is the source of all healing, and that God alone decides whether or not a person should be healed?
MK: Yes. God can do anything through a clear channel if it’s God’s will that healing take place. Yogananda discusses how even a Master will wait for God’s permission to do a dramatic healing because the healing has to be for that soul’s highest good.
Some people are going to be blessed by being healed. Others are going to be blessed by being able, through God’s grace, to work with the illness or other challenge with patience and strength. I don’t necessarily understand God’s method of choosing which people are going to be healed, but when people are receptive to God’s will, they feel blessed even though they may not be healed physically. Sometimes I’ll feel God’s grace go through to a person, not healing them but giving them the strength to go through their particular challenge.
Q: Mary, you’ve gone through many stages in your journey as a healer, but after the passing of your husband, Tim, in 2012, you seemed to pull back from teaching and hands-on healing work, at least to a certain extent. Is that correct?
MK: Yes. A natural response to losing a beloved spouse is to pull back for a while, and try to live life at a safe predictable level. However, early in the grief process, when I felt unable to teach or do much of anything, a woman who was scheduled to teach a seminar at the Ananda Meditation Retreat said she felt the strong inner guidance that she should invite me to teach a class in the time slot allocated to her. I’d had a radiant dream of Tim at dawn that morning, as though foretelling something special coming to me, so even though I wasn’t feeling quite ready, I agreed to do it.
Q: What was the result?
MK: Teaching the class was a very tangible experience of Spirit flowing through me and it was the most whole I’d felt since Tim died. If someone asked a question, the intuition came through to help that person. God’s presence, power, and guidance were with me that entire day. More recently, I had a very similar experience when teaching in the Los Angeles area.
In fact, since Tim’s passing, I’ve felt his soul nudging me forward to do more teaching and hands-on healing. As though in response, people are now asking that I train others in hands-on healing.
Q: Do you feel ready to do that?
MK: Yes. A training program would have to cover not only the basics of healing but also devotion, because, at least for me, that is the glue that holds it all together. Yet not all healers emphasize devotion.
I am also feeling guided not only to teach but to write a book on healing, and to do more healing sessions over the phone. I’ve already done a few phone sessions which people seemed to find helpful. Lately I’ve been feeling that I also may be traveling more.
Q: That sounds like a rather full schedule. Are you looking forward to it?
MK: Yes, because this seems to be what God and Guru are asking of me at this time in my life.