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Lucid dreaming. August 19, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in Reiki, Reiki exercise, Reiki wisdom.
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“We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Shakespeare is, of course, encapsulating the human condition, its beauty, breadth, and brevity (the “sleep” he refers to being death). But the beloved quote came to mind today because of an article I read on LiveScience about lucid dreaming—that is, when you’re asleep and dreaming, but realize that you’re dreaming. Researchers found that people who engaged in lucid dreaming were more aware of their surroundings and the people they interacted with in their waking lives than those who were not lucid dreamers. They tended to be more imaginative and more successful than their non-lucid peers.

What triggers lucid dreams? According to the researchers, an illogical element in the dream that the dreamer knows simply can’t be true, and therefore recognizes that s/he must be dreaming. Let’s say you’re having a lovely dream about vacationing on the beach. You’re sitting on the warm sand, watching the waves wash ashore, smelling the salt air and enjoying the sea breeze. You dig your toes into the sand, only to see that they’re elephant toes, not human toes—your legs end in elephant feet! The lucid dreamer realizes that this is a dream, since s/he obviously doesn’t have elephant feet on the ends of his/her legs.

Being a lucid dreamer has great advantages that go far beyond being more observant, sensitive, and successful in the waking state. It can save you from horrific nightmares. And the best news is, you can train yourself to be a lucid dreamer under those circumstances.

Now, I suppose everyone has a nightmare now and then, even the folks who seem to sink into blissful, dreamless, healthful repose every night. This is for those of us who fall into incredibly detailed variations on the same nightmare themes every night, dreams that may start out harmlessly enough but then inexorably twist and build to play on our deepest fears—abandonment, fear of heights (or spiders or whatever), unrealized neglect of animals in our care, helplessness, being lost.

Perhaps your nightmares revolve around being invisible, completely ignored by your so-called friends, colleagues, parents, love interests, you name it. Or that old classic, finding yourself in a physics (math, chemistry, engineering) classroom and being forced to take the final exam when you’ve never had a physics class in your life and didn’t realize you were enrolled. Or that you’re 7 years old and are driving your 4-year-old sister in rush-hour traffic when you have no clue how to drive. Or the alien killer bunnies or the murderers or whatever are coming for you.

Awake, you’d instantly realize that these were nightmares, however detailed and real they seemed, however long they went on. If you’re self-aware, you’d probably understand exactly why they were troubling you. And of course, your unconscious knows all that, too, which is why it continues to send them to torment you when you’re trying to sleep. Eventually, when the nightmare gets bad/scary enough, you probably wake up, sweating, heart pounding, the metallic taste of terror in your mouth, another wonderful opportunity to sleep and heal through the night ruined.

But you don’t have to let it reach that stage. To let lucid dreaming rush in and save the day, first ask the Teachers—Usui Founder, Hayashi Sensei, Takata Sensei, and, if you wish, the Holy Ghost Sensei—to stop the nightmares, grant you peaceful, healing sleep, and show you another way to deal with your demons. Next, do Reiki self-healing in bed and let yourself fall asleep while your hands are encouraging the flow of Reiki energy through your body, relaxing and recharging you.

Then, remind yourself that you have a choice. Let’s say you fall asleep and you’re having a typically incredibly detailed dream: You’ve gone to a conference center with colleagues, or to an elaborate dinner at a plaza with your partner, or to a resort. Thing is, you would never do any of these things in real life. And suddenly, nightmare aspects start to slowly creep in: your date has vanished, you can’t find your purse/wallet, so you have no money and no way to call a cab, you don’t know where you are or how to get out of there, you see your dog running loose in the distance and don’t know how to get her back, everybody else is eating lavish meals but every time you try to get food the service has just shut down. Let the idea float up that you’re having a nightmare and need to wake up. And then do it, drag yourself out of sleep.

Get out of bed. Go to the bathroom. Drink some water or hot herbal tea, check your e-mail, make a grocery list. You don’t have to stay up forever, just long enough to break the chain, to make sure you don’t drift back into the nightmare when you go back to bed. Ten minutes is plenty. Listening to a favorite song or watching a few minutes of a favorite film or reading a chapter of a favorite book can help, too. Like brushing your teeth, you’re just trying to brush off the gunk of your nightmare and reset yourself for peaceful, healing sleep. Try it, it works.

Will training yourself to have lucid dreams make you more observant, more imaginative, and more successful? I have no idea. But getting a good night’s sleep certainly can’t hurt.

Just for today, ask for healing sleep.

Don’t cling to things. August 18, 2014

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“When did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you?”
—Gandalf to Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

“We can get attached to anything, from our heirloom china to our comic books. Things are not meant to be loved but to be used wisely.”
—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

I’m a collector, so I’m guilty as charged. I love my fossils and crystals and shells and books and Pueblo pottery and marbles and spices and, and. So sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like if the house caught fire and everything was lost. If I smelled smoke, what would I try to save first? My jewelry? My Reiki certificates? My treasured family photos?

No. I would try to make sure that, with, of course, the help of my partner Rob, all of our beloved animals were safe and secured outside, in carriers or in the cars, before I even called 911. (This would involve taking out my purse with my IDs, keys, and so on, so they at least would be out of the flames.) Then, if it was possible, I’d rush back in for my family photos, the Reiki certificates, and the laptop on which I’ve written all my books. But the collections, which have given me so much pleasure over so many, many hours throughout my life?

I would hate to think of all those beautiful objects going up in smoke. I would hate to think of my mother’s best antique china cracking and chipping in the heat, my heirloom furniture, my antique rugs blackening and vanishing forever. But as long as Rob and our beloved black German Shepherd Shiloh and our cat Linus and our birds and fish got out safe, I’d be nothing but grateful. As Sri Eknath says, “Things are not meant to be loved.”

Just for today, be grateful for what matters.

Rejoice wherever you go. August 17, 2014

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“Those who are selfless rejoice here and rejoice there; they rejoice wherever they go.”

—The Buddha

Just for today, rejoice.

A very special birthday. August 15, 2014

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“Our innermost nature is often linked to the blue sky because it gives space to everything under the sun. In it you are at home… Please take a moment to feel that homecoming with the awareness that you are exactly as you ought to be. Nothing needs to be changed, reached or improved upon.”

—Frank Arjava Petter, Usui 21 Day Virtual Retreat, 2014

Today is Mikao Usui’s 149th birthday. Usui Founder, who gave the world Reiki, was enlightened, received satori, on the 21st day of his own retreat on Mount Kurama. To honor him and his enlightenment, Reiki Master and author Mari Hall began the tradition of a 21-day virtual Reiki retreat, with three weekly meditations, starting on Usui Founder’s birthday. For the past few years, she’s asked the marvelous Reiki Master and author Arjava Petter to lead the meditations with theme-based musings each week. This year, Arjava is focusing on lineage as the retreat theme. If you go to Mari’s website (http://www.marihall.com/), I think you’ll be quite surprised by Arjava’s first meditation. The lineage he’s focusing on may not be the one you were expecting!

Whether you choose to participate in the 21-day retreat or not (note that it’s free, you simply have to sign up and the meditations will be e-mailed to you automatically, and there’s no need to participate in a public forum), I’d say it would be good to mark our Founder’s birthday in some way. Whether you light a candle or some incense, place a flower before a photo of Usui Founder, try to contact him using the second symbol, or simply thank him for the gift of Reiki, try to do something to mark this day. You might make a simple supper, say rice and greens or rice and sauteed eggplant, and offer a little to Usui Founder before you eat. He might not have ordered takeout veggie egg rolls or spring rolls or fried rice or whatever himself, but if that’s your choice, a tiny bit offered in gratitude will doubtless be appreciated.

Celebrate! It’s our Founder’s birthday! Happy birthday, Usui Founder!!!

Just for today, take time to celebrate.

On the same path. August 12, 2014

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“It is not good to compare one person’s progress with another’s.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

All of us who follow the Reiki Way are on the same path, but we follow it in our own way. Some of us will sprint down the path like marathon runners, determined to win the race, then sit by the side of the road for a while to rest. Others will hop, skip, and jump along, focusing on this element or that as they catch our eye. Some will walk steadily along, concentrating on putting one foot before the other. Others will see things off the path that they want to stop and explore, and may wander so far away that they can’t find the path again, or may spend a very long time moving forward (pretty hard to do when you’re moving sideways). Some people may just lie down in the middle of the road. And others may decide to turn around, go back to the path’s beginning, and start all over again.

When you attend a Reiki class, and especially if you teach them, you know that they attract all types. There are the gifted, high-speed students, who just seem to “get” everything right out of the starting gate. There are the intuitives, who can see things their classmates can’t, and the empaths, who can feel what their classmates feel. There are the students who come because of their own problems or their families’ problems and give their entire focus to those issues, which can be tragic and dire indeed. There are students who feel a calling and come with the goal of starting their own Reiki practices, perhaps working in hospices or with shelter animals or special-needs children and their families or with the grieving and bereaved. There are people who come because they’re curious about what Reiki is and want to learn more. There are the collectors, who want to add one more certificate to their wall. And there are the students who earnestly participate but don’t seem to absorb anything, the ones who ask at the very end of the class, “Now who was Dr. Usui again?” and “How does Reiki work?” and “How do you spell Reiki?”

It’s too easy to make value judgments about students and classmates based on their perceived abilities: Are they articulate, asking perceptive questions and adding valuable experiences that enrich class discussion, or do they sit quietly through the class, apparently contributing nothing? Are they enthusiastically taking notes, fully engaged, or seemingly staring into space? When they practice hands-on Reiki, are they confident that Reiki energy is pouring through them at their fellow student’s need, or are they timid, saying that they don’t feel warmth or tingling or anything so maybe they just don’t have what it takes to do Reiki?

I’ll leave you with an experience I had, not in a Reiki class but in a college classroom last fall semester when I had to take my partner Rob, the actual professor, in to class for a couple of weeks after he had cataract surgery. Rob is a very engaging teacher who loves his work, and most of the students were enthusiastic, alert, and responsive during the class. But one woman clearly wasn’t. She never looked up once, instead spending class time wolfing down a huge cheesesteak, fries, and cola. She was enormous, so her meal was hardly surprising, but it surprised me that she was eating it in class.

If I had been Rob, I would have told her to take her food and lack of interest elsewhere. But when he went around the room and had everyone discuss their favorite book, this woman looked up and gave a passionate and very articulate commentary on hers. I was stupefied. As it turned out, she supported herself as a night nurse while working towards a degree, and had to rush off to work as soon as her classes were over, so the only time she could eat supper was during her last class, which happened to be Rob’s. I still can’t say that I support her menu choice, but I had obviously grossly misjudged her, and the lengths she was willing to go to get her diploma.

We are all on the same path.

Just for today, don’t make comparisons.

We cannot eat money. August 10, 2014

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“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”

—based on a Cree saying

Just for today, love your Mother.

A daring life. August 8, 2014

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“A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.”

—Eudora Welty

How many of us felt that we were embarking on a daring life when we first took up Reiki? What was this practice, this Way we were following? Where was it going to lead us? Was it a path into darkness or light?

As Eudora Welty says, true daring starts from within. And within, deeper and deeper, is where our Reiki practices take us. For our Reiki path to lead us to satori, anshin ritsumei, enlightenment, it must take us within, where we can discover our connection to the All.

To follow this path requires great daring, even for the most sheltered among us. Congratulations for being brave enough to set your feet upon the path!

Just for today, take another step.

All that is necessary. August 7, 2014

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“We have no need to teach pure motives to the mind. All that is necessary to make the mind pure is to undo the negative conditioning to which it has been subjected; then we will be left with pure, unconditioned awareness.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

Sounds simple, right? The catch here is that innocent little phrase, “all that is necessary.” We live in a society that is awash in what Sri Eknath calls “negative conditioning,” as a glance at the day’s lead news stories makes clear. Today’s featured the beautiful daughter of two famous actors saying that she had such trouble with her body image that she’d once starved herself down to 95 pounds, while a popular food blogger told her 70,000 followers about her eating disorders; a guy left his toddler foster daughter in a hot car while watching TV, until crying children on the show reminded him of her; a 13-year-old black Lab who’d been abandoned by her family walked 30 miles to return to her home, only to be rejected again by her family.

When we think of what occupies our minds—our obsessive interest in popular culture and “celebrities,” the hours we spend in front of the TV, mindless escapes into shopping, hours spent on narcissistic attempts to avoid looking like what we actually look like—it becomes clear that “all that is necessary” will take everything we’ve got. Like a Samurai warrior mastering the Way of the Sword or a chess player (or tennis player) devoting themselves single-mindedly to the game, we must focus our inner strength on removing everything from the mind that is not “pure, unconditioned awareness.”

Can we do it? Of course not. At least, not without help. Sri Eknath recommended daily meditation, along with a brisk daily walk and vegetarian diet. He practiced “passage meditation,” where you link your mind to the sacred by repeating a holy name (such as “Jesus, Jesus” or “Krishna, Krishna”) or favorite passage (such as St. Francis’s “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace”) over and over during the entire meditation period. This would train your mind to focus rather than flitting all over the place, and the focus on the sacred would bring your mind into alignment with the millions who had chanted or prayed these words before, giving your mind-control (and self-control) an instant boost.

Imagine that you’re driving past your favorite fast-food place, and you can just hear that mega-burger and supersized curly fries and 32-ounce milkshake calling your name. They’re calling… calling… but suddenly, you hear a voice in your mind saying “Jesus, Jesus.” Somehow, you doubt that Jesus would approve of gorging on fast food while millions are starving. You’ve already gone by the fast-food place now, anyway. And you know that there’s food at home that will go bad if you don’t eat it. And, as Pope Francis rightly pointed out, wasting food while the world is starving is a sin. You may not have taken a big step, but you have taken a step to bring your mind and impulses, your conditioning, under control.

Will you stop and pig out next time you pass that place, or be able to resist again? Who’s to know? But every time you’re able to pass it by, or refrain from picking up that celebrity tabloid or clicking on the latest link to the Kardashians, or turn off the TV and do something valuable, whether it’s spending time with your spouse or partner or reading an inspiring book, or just sitting on your deck watching the sunset, or cooking a brilliant meal for your family, you are losing some of the negative mental conditioning and gaining focus.

As always, Usui Founder is here to help us with this challenge. By focusing on the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals), reciting them morning and evening, hands in gassho (prayer position), we help our mind stay focused. Choosing one Principle to focus our attention on each day allows us to repeat it, much like Sri Eknath’s passage meditation, when frivolous distractions or habits we’ve fallen into threaten to derail our progress on the Reiki Way.

Just for today, give your mind something good to chew on.

A drop in the ocean. August 6, 2014

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“You are not just a drop in the ocean, you are a mighty ocean in the drop.”

—Rumi

Just for today, think of what a difference you can make.

Spiritual exercise. August 4, 2014

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“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”

—Fortune cookie

Reading a good book is like going for a long walk. You may not know what’s around the bend, but you do know that, without even realizing it, you’ll be getting a good workout along the way. This is the best kind of exercise, and we all know how important regular exercise is, be it mental or physical. But what about spiritual?

Taking time for a daily spiritual workout is every bit as important as physical and mental exercise. Whether you begin the day with a Reiki self-healing session before you get out of bed; or meditate on one of Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) each day of the week, remembering to call on it whenever you need it that day (such as “Just for today, be grateful” or “Just for today, don’t worry”); or focus on one of the Reiki symbols, chanting its name or trying to draw it as a calligrapher would, you’re getting a good spiritual workout.

The same is true of attending a Reiki share or receiving Reiju or attunements (or giving them) or reading a great Reiki book or article or taking (or resitting, or teaching) a Reiki class or attending a Reiki retreat. Or simply taking a few minutes to reverence the Teachers—Usui Founder, Hayashi Sensei, and Takata Sensei, plus any of your own teachers you’d like to add—and then having a nice chat with one or more of them. Or giving your pets or plants or partner or spouse or kids some hands-on Reiki before you rush off to work. (That goes for your breakfast and car, too. And don’t forget to be grateful.)

As you can see, a Reiki workout doesn’t have to take longer than ten minutes, though a longer workout, like a long walk, is even better, as long as it’s gentle. Don’t forget essential practices like Hado breathing and Hatsurei-ho. Hado breathing takes just minutes and is not just the perfect closure to Reiki self-healing, but a wonderful way to banish worry and anger, balance the spirit, and relax the body*.

*Insomniacs, this exercise is for you! Do NOT drink caffeine after lunch, but do drink plenty of hydrating fluids. Do NOT watch the news or violent movies or TV shows before bedtime; instead, read Reiki books or catalogs or cookbooks, something that relaxes you. Lie down, turn off the lights, turn on a fan if it’s too loud to sleep, put light-blocking shades or boards in your windows if the light from the street or neighbors’ floodlights keeps you awake. Do Reiki self-healing, then do Hado breathing. Draw your breath down deep into the pit of the stomach, hold, and then release with a loud “Haaaaaa!” Repeat a total of five to seven times. That’s it!

Just for today, get your exercise.

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