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Reiki and resurrection. April 18, 2014

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This Easter weekend, Christians the world over will be contemplating the Lord Jesus’s crucifixion, death and resurrection. Gardeners in temperate climates the world over will anxiously be looking for signs that each of their beloved plants has survived the winter and is showing signs of rebirth.

Both miraculous events—the return of Our Lord from the dead, and the annual return of seemingly lifeless plants from the dead—are cause for great joy. But what does this have to do with Reiki?

Well, think about it. Spring, the season of rebirth and resurrection, is a wonderful time to take a good hard look at your own Reiki practice. Has your practice become stale? Do you go through the motions, but without the inner fire that used to illuminate your practice? Have you dropped a lot of Reiki exercises, meditations, even basic practices like reciting and trying to live by Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals)? Have you lost touch with teachers and classmates? How long has it been since you’ve re-read your class manuals, listened to Reiki CDs, read a Reiki book, drawn the Reiki symbols?

How long has it been since you’ve heard about a catastrophe and immediately sent Reiki to those involved? Just this week, there were news articles about the South Korean ferry that capsized with all those students aboard; girls from a school in Nigeria captured and hauled off by an ultra-violent, ultra-draconian Islamist extremist group; a woman hauled from her garage by a bear; newborn kittens accidentally sent 160 miles in an industrial carton; a man who kidnapped a girl with Down Syndrome, then taunted her parents; a woman who gave birth to and then killed six babies and buried them in her yard; residents in Idaho and Acapulco terrorized by earthquakes; Russian soldiers in the newly annexed Crimea telling Ukrainian Jews they had to be “registered” in a grisly echo of the Holocaust. And I’m sure this is just scraping the surface.

Let’s all use this spring, this season of rebirth, to revitalize our Reiki practice, to relight the Reiki fire in our own hearts. Perhaps resitting an old class or taking a new class will spark a flame, or attending a Reiki retreat or joining (or hosting) a Reiki share. Or simply making Reiki, once again, an integral part of our everyday lives, whether we’re putting our hands on or drawing the first symbol over our bottle of vitamins, or making sure we give Reiki to every person, animal, and plant in our homes every day, including ourselves, or reciting aloud (preferably in Japanese and English, if you’re an English speaker) the Five Principles morning and evening, hands in gassho (prayer position), as Usui Founder directed.

Just for today, let Reiki grow and bloom in your heart.

Reiki: Fast or slow? April 17, 2014

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This morning, I read an interesting article on the greatest fast-food innovations. My mother thought all fast food was trash, so I may be the only person in America who’s never actually eaten a Big Mac. As a vegetarian, the only fast-food chain I’ll set foot in is Saladworks, a Chipotle Mexican Grill/Subway-style assembly line where you can choose the ingredients for your own really fresh, luscious salad. And, since there’s no Saladworks anywhere near here, that means eating there once or twice a year en route to distant Reiki gatherings.

All of which brought me to think about teaching Reiki. Having been trained in Traditional Reiki, Gendai Reiki, and Komyo Reiki, among others, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see the difference between a one-day, two-day, weekend, or continuing class on a student’s Reiki progress. And, in my considered view, the longer the training, the better.

“Fast food” Reiki—where someone gathers as many people as they can in an auditorium and churns out instant Reiki “Masters” by teaching all three levels in a single day—does a great disservice not just to the students but to Usui Founder and to Reiki itself. Like a giant bucket of Buffalo wings with massive bowls of popcorn and a few cases of beer, it may look great, especially for the price. But once it’s all over, all you have left is sticky fingers and a vaguely sick feeling. Hey, weren’t you watching a game? Where’d all the buddies you were watching it with go? Where’d all these dirty dishes come from?!

Reiki is about community. It’s about practices that help you understand, build, and deepen your practice. There’s no way a one-day workshop can do that, no way it can give you time to build relationships with your classmates and teacher. A teacher who lets you resit classes as often as you like for free, who sets up a Reiki share to make sure everyone s/he teaches can get together regularly to enjoy Reiki and the Reiki community (one of my teachers holds a Reiki share every month with plenty of wholesome treats afterwards, so we can all sit and talk over tea and snacks), who gives refresher courses: This is a teacher you want to find.

I know of one teacher who has taught his class for a year, meeting weekly, and these are Reiki I and II students, not Reiki IIIs. I honor him so much!!! I wish I lived closer to him; I’d love to attend his classes and contribute what I could. (Oh, and he asks for contributions at the end of his classes rather than setting fees.)

It’s so much easier for Reiki to sink in when the lessons are repeated and expanded on rather than simply tossed off. It’s the difference between having Julia Child teach you how to cook and going through the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru. Usui Founder taught his students for life, not for a day. Surely we could do the same.

Just for today, make the commitment.

Becoming grounded. April 14, 2014

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“The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.”

—The Buddha

This is one of my favorite quotes. To me, it says that the foot does not know itself—does not even realize it is there—until it touches the ground. Just as those of us who follow the Reiki Way don’t truly know who we are until, in our practice, we touch the Ground of Being, the All, the union with all things at the most primordial and most cosmic level. Then we realize that separation is the great delusion, “the greatest trick the Devil ever played,” to quote Kaiser Soze in “The Usual Suspects.”

I love going barefoot so my feet can feel the grass or the rug or the wood or the cool stone floor. The sheer physical pleasure of the contact with these surfaces reminds me of this quote, reminds me to carry on with my daily Reiki practices, to continue to try to follow Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) “just for today.”

As I dig my toes into the plush carpet or slide them over the smooth tiles, I think about how we don’t find enlightenment, satori, by floating isolated in our little bubbles, but by engaging with the world. It is when our Reiki toes come in contact with the rest of the world and feel the connection that we move forward.

Just for today, take your shoes off.

Resentment. April 10, 2014

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“Resentment is nothing more than compulsive attachment to a set of memories. If you could peek through the window of the mind when you feel resentful, you would see a production line turning out the same emotion-charged memory over and over: ‘He did that to me in 1993, he did that to me in 1993…’ …When you keep pumping attention into an event this way, a limp little memory gets blown up into a big balloon of hostility.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

Just for today, puncture the balloon.

Let in the light, let the light out. April 9, 2014

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“Nirvana is not the extinguishing of a candle. It is the extinguishing of the flame because day is come.”

—Rabindranath Tagore

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

—The Buddha

I love these two quotes about candles, and how they guide us on our Reiki Way. The first reminds me of Usui Founder’s description of Reiki as “a torch in daylight.” Who needs a torch when the light is already here? How much brighter a torch burns in the darkness! In the daylight, it’s hardly visible. And yet, it still burns. Usui Founder reminds us that our work in the world, on ourselves and others, is important, even if it’s barely seen, and that it will remain important until, in the beautiful Christmas prayer of Fra Giovanni, “the day breaks and the shadows flee away.” Then, when the true light breaks fully in our hearts, we can embrace nirvana (enlightenment, satori) and blow our candles out.

The Buddha’s quote about happiness brings to mind Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals), which he described as “the secret method for inviting happiness.” The Buddha sums this up by urging us to share, not hoard, our joy. Lord Jesus said much the same when he told the parable about hiding one’s light (candle) under a bushel (basket). The Buddha points out that sharing happiness with others will not diminish our own happiness in any way, even if we share it with thousands, with everyone we meet. It is when we try to store happiness that it slips away.

Just for today, remember that happiness is meant to be shared.

Stop burning yourself. April 5, 2014

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“In a controversy, the instant we feel anger we have ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.”

“You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.”

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

—The Buddha

These three observations about anger from the Buddha are among my favorites. Those of us who walk the Reiki path know how strongly Usui Founder felt about anger, since he included “Just for today, don’t get angry” as one of his Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals). And yet, it seems that every day we encounter more of it.

I think impatience has been the contributing factor to our anger epidemic. We’re all in such a rush, we simply don’t have time—or so we think—to tolerate delays, be it an elderly person slowly crossing a parking lot or a server taking “too long” to bring our order. Road rage is endemic, whether we’re gunning down the person who gave us the finger in the other lane or honking our heads off at someone because he or she was driving at the speed limit.

We’d probably be just as bad in the checkout line if we were allowed to bring our guns inside the stores. Instead, we use our tongues as weapons, as we say nasty things to the poor exhausted cashiers or mutter imprecations against the person three in front of us in line who’s stopped to chat with one for a minute. Keep the line moving!

This doesn’t even touch on resentment, the Buddha’s “hot coal.” Nursing our anger, keeping it alive, is like being the fire carrier in a primitive society. Before ancient people knew how to make fire, they captured burning coals from lightning-struck trees and kept them alive. It was the job of one person to carry the coals and tend to them so they could be reignited into flame at the end of a day’s march. This task occupied the fire carrier constantly, for woe betide if the coals grew cool and the fire went out. If we nurse the coals of our resentments, they will eventually drive out all nobler aspirations. This is the opposite of Usui Founder’s path.

Just for today, don’t get angry.

Be a builder. April 4, 2014

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“Everyone can break down something, but how many can build it up?”

—Sri Sarada Devi

For whatever reason, this quote reminds me of sand castles. I can see a child on the beach patiently piling up the wet sand, shaping it handful by handful or scoop by scoop until it turns into something that looks like a castle to him or her. And I can see a second child, most likely a sibling, waiting until the castle is finished, then running over and kicking it back to a mound of wet sand. If they are siblings, a bitter fight most likely ensues, with lots of wailing and tears, until their parents come and drag them away. Neither the builder nor the destroyer will be there to see the tide come in and level the sand once more.

I was also reminded of this quote yesterday, when I was able to pick up my laptop from the shop after a week away. A week with no e-mail, no blogging, no research, no writing, no news, no contact with the world. Aaaarrgghhh!!! I work from home, so my laptop is my lifeline. I felt like George Clooney in “Gravity,” my cord cut, floating off forever into the endless silence of space. Being a techno-idiot myself, I’ve always enjoyed those cartoons where a character, frustrated by computer malfunctions, takes a hammer or whatever to the machine. But the people who repaired my laptop knew how to “build it up.”

It’s easy to break something down. Who hasn’t seen at least one movie where a character smashes a piece of china or another breakable against a wall? (Think of Scarlett O’Hara in the memorable library scene in “Gone with the Wind.”) But how many people could actually make a piece of pottery?

In Usui Founder’s Japanese culture, the making of things was revered. The Zen tradition taught that beauty was an inner, not an outer, virtue: Some of the most revered tea bowls are the homeliest. And if a treasured bowl cracked, it was not discarded, but carefully repaired. But the repair wasn’t subtle, an attempt to conceal the break, as we would do if we even bothered rather than simply tossing the cracked vessel. Quite the opposite: It was repaired with gold lacquer, so that everyone could see that it had been “broken down” and then “built up” again.

Our Reiki practice is like that bowl, like the sand castle, even like my laptop. Perhaps we work very hard on our Reiki sand castle, then find the next morning that it has washed away. We can recognize this as an opportunity to begin our practice afresh, free from the limitations and preconceptions that kick our carefully constructed creations down. Or we can say, “Look! I went to all that work for nothing!” and walk away.

When we find cracks or chips in the bowl of our practice, we can throw it away, or try to discreetly cover them up so no one will ever know. Or we can highlight each flaw as with gold lacquer and say “Yes, I fell down here; yes, I have questions here that I can’t answer; yes, I still cherish this bowl, and I intend to continue to use it, cracks and chips and all.”

When our old laptop starts slowing down and acting up, we can sell, donate, or recycle it and buy the latest model. Or we can have it repaired and return it to use. We can choose to “build it up.” As we can choose to continue our Reiki practice, to work on it and build it up, rather than abandon it and rush off to try another practice in the hope that it will be faster and more powerful. When I was dropping my computer off at the shop, another customer was telling one of the computer repairmen that he still had every computer he had ever owned, and that they all still ran. Sure enough, he added that he had built a number of them himself.

Just for today, be a builder, not a destroyer.

Why work is so exhausting. March 27, 2014

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“It is not so much work that tires us, but ego-driven work. When we are selfishly involved, we cannot help worrying, we cannot help getting overly concerned about our success or failure. The preoccupation with results makes us tense, and our anxiety exhausts us.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

What Sri Eknath is discussing here is results-driven work, which is pretty much the only kind there is here in the U.S. Everything depends on how well we perform, on success, on getting a great performance review. Work for its own sake is inconceivable (unless you’re a researcher working on a no-strings grant). And yet, how incredibly liberating it is to simply follow Usui Founder’s Reiki Principle (aka Precept, Ideal) to “Work hard” and let the results take care of themselves! To forget about “how am ‘I’ doing” and simply lose yourself in the doing is incredibly freeing. Time, stress, and worry drop away, which makes it much easier to follow another of Usui Founder’s Principles, “Don’t worry.”

Just for today, work hard and don’t worry.

The little things. March 25, 2014

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Yesterday, I was finally able to get a haircut. Nothing fancy, just an inch off the bottom, but it had been four months since my last cut and my hair was looking scraggly and tired. With the extra weight and stressed hair off, it bounced up and looked full and alive again. I knew this would be the case, so why did I wait so long?

Well, because my car has been trapped in an ice floe in our parking square for four months. My partner Rob has repeatedly tried to jump it, but with our freak subzero temperatures, it wouldn’t hold a charge, especially since I couldn’t actually drive it, and this despite my attempts (when the ice didn’t make it too hazardous to climb the slope to the parking square) to run the engine every day. In effect, I’ve been imprisoned in the house for four months, getting out on Saturdays when the weather permitted to run errands with Rob and try to stock up on groceries for the week.

I work from home, so this isn’t as bad as it sounds. It also isn’t as bad as it sounds because my home is full of wonderful things, things I love to look at and read and listen to, not to mention our beloved pets. But I’ve never experienced this level of isolation before, and to make matters worse, a couple of weeks ago my computer stopped allowing me to send e-mail messages, though it still allowed me to read incoming e-mails. (God willing, I’ll be able to haul it to the computer wizards this week.)

Encased in snow and ice, cut off from the world, it’s been a still, silent time. I’ve tried to view it as a retreat, a time to deepen my Reiki practice. After all, I’ve had what I needed, and companionship when Rob returned from work. But I’ve never been so happy to see the return of spring, to hope to have the choice of whether to stay in or venture out (assuming we can finally get my car going). And oh, the joy of finally getting that haircut!

Just for today, be grateful for the little things.

Not taboo. March 24, 2014

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“Sickness and death are not taboo subjects. They are realities that we must face…”

Pope Francis, @Pontifex

I was reminded of this while attending a “welcome spring” Reiki feast on Saturday night with members of my Reiki share. Our host, who also hosts the share in her home, is a superb macrobiotic cook who had pulled out all the stops to make a lavish spread. Wine and sake were poured and we all assembled at the table to enjoy each others’ company and the bounty spread before us.

But, as my partner Rob pointed out, the theme of the evening’s dinner seemed to be sickness, death and dying. People talked about their parents’ and in-laws’ struggles in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. They talked about pets who’d recently died or were dying. One member of the share was on his second kidney transplant and talked about that and how he was recovering. A nurse talked from her perspective about caring for the ill and terminally ill.

It wasn’t what most people would think of as a cheerful or festive conversation. But Reiki people are healers, and no one seemed even slightly put off by the conversation or tried to change the subject. We all get sick from time to time, and we’ll all die. It’s how we confront those situations in ourselves and others that define us, as Reiki practitioners and as human beings.

Refusing to talk about or acknowledge sickness and death won’t make them go away, and increases the fear and stress we experience when we think of them. Usui Founder told us “Just for today, don’t worry.” Making these topics as ordinary as any other integrates them into life and helps us prepare for the inevitable.

Reiki helps in other ways as well. When we work on our Reiki self-healing every day, and aren’t shy about asking others for hands-on or distant healing if we aren’t well, it raises our Reiki level and helps us heal. And when we “work hard” (another of Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles, aka Precepts, Ideals) on our Reiki practices, it helps us truly see our connection to the All, which is the breakthrough of enlightenment, satori.

If you aren’t a separate entity, an ego swimming alone in space, but rather part of the whole, you know that death isn’t really a big deal, just a giving back to the All for what had been given you. And really, there’s nothing scary about that.

Just for today, don’t be afraid to talk about it.

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