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What is the sound of silence? January 20, 2015

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“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to pray in and play in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
—John Muir

“May we try to listen and be silent in order to make space for the beauty of God.”
—Pope Francis @Pontifex

“The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.”
—Zen proverb

It’s not easy to be quiet, or be in quiet, these days. Unless you live in a monastery, it’s practically a lost art. We all know it’s good for us. At some point, we’ve all heard someone say “It’s so loud in here I can’t hear myself think!” We know we must find quiet to recharge, to be able to truly hear the people who need our attention, to hear birdsong. But we’ve become part of a culture that tries to fill every second with sound, activity, excitement. How can we find “the beauty of God”?

The enlightened carry quiet within them wherever they go, as a lamp carries its flame. But those of us who have not yet reached that place can still find our own quiet, at least for a while. We can give up shopping at malls for entertainment. We can keep the TV turned off unless there’s a show we really want to see, rather than having it on at times as background noise. Ditto for music. We can walk away from the computer and laptop and iPad and smartphone, from Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. (It’s not like they won’t still be there when we get back.) We can, as John Muir suggests, seek beauty in nature, whether we’re in the mountains or just looking out the back door or sitting on our deck watching the sunset.

Once you’ve chosen your spot and turned off as much noise as possible, just sit. This is the hardest part. If you’re out in nature, but you’re hiking, or you’re skiing, or you’re sketching, or you’re taking photos, you’re not being quiet. You may not be singing or shouting or chasing people, but your mind is busy doing whatever you’re doing. It’s not quiet. You’re not quiet. This is true if you’re sitting on your deck as well. You’re not out there to take an inventory of repairs that need to be made. You’re there to just sit.

This is not the time to recite one of Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) or another stirring passage silently, either. Your goal is to just sit. Even doing Reiki self-healing, wonderful as it feels, is inappropriate, since it will focus your attention on your hands and body rather than on just sitting. Your goal here is “for mind and body to drop away,” at least while you sit, and for quiet to gather within you. Every time you do it, it becomes easier to drop into silence. And when you come out, it becomes easier to hold that silence in yourself.

Silly as it sounds, here’s what I do: I am absolutely addicted to those small white holiday lights. These aren’t the ones that blink on and off, they just sit there quietly twinkling. We have them on our back deck, and for the winter holiday season, we have them on our tree and in clusters in our living room. For me, they’re magic! In warm weather, if it isn’t raining, I love to go sit on the deck and watch the twinkly lights and a fire burning in our firepit as sunset gathers and darkness upon us. And indoors this time of year, I so love to just sit in the living room and watch the little white lights. Okay, it’s not sitting on the beach watching the surf, but you can find your own quiet wherever you like, a quiet that will delight you and help you grow in Reiki and in the good, compassionate life.

The Universe is us. January 15, 2015

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“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
—John Muir

Or the ocean lapping the shore, or a waterfall, or a starry sky, or any breathtaking place where you can imagine a multitude of life gathering and yourself among them.

For those of us who follow the Reiki Way, meditation is one way to reach this magic world, where everything else drops away. As Sri Eknath Easwaran says in Words to Live By:

“As I reach the spiritual summit, I hardly feel my body. My mind is still, my ego has been set at rest. The peace in my heart matches the peace at the heart of nature…”

I know places where I can barely sit down before “I hardly feel my body,” even though it’s pressed against cold, jagged boulders; somehow, I have gone out from that place, “I” have gone out from myself. If you have such a place, don’t forget to visit it often. It needn’t be Stonehenge or Sedona, it could be a river two miles away. It’s not the site, it’s your love for it that matters.

Just for today, love your Mother.

Shedding our skin to grow. January 12, 2015

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“Like a snake that must shed its skin to grow, our industrial civilization must shed its material outlook or strangle in outgrown ideals whose constructive potential has been spent.”
—Sr Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

“Ecology is essential for the survival of mankind; it is a moral issue which affects all of us.”
—Pope Francis @Pontifex

“If your heart were sincere and upright, every creature would be unto you a looking-glass of life and a book of holy doctrine.”
—Thomas a Kempis

Sri Eknath probably wrote his wonderful comparison of a bloated civilization strangling on itself like a snake on unshed skin in the 1960s or ’70s. Pope Francis wrote his tweet a few days ago. And Thomas a Kempis wrote his comment in the 1300s or 1400s. But they were all making the same point: That the world is much too small, and there are far too many of us, for us to continue to destroy it as though we were the only thing that mattered.

Combining ecology-destroying greed with mindless overpopulation can only result in annihilation, first of the rest of life, then of us. Why would we harm them by our greed when we could see them as “a book of holy doctrine”? Let us cherish them while they’re here and try to change our greedy ways before it’s too late. (And if you haven’t, do watch “Avatar.” It doesn’t address the overpopulation issue, but at least it gets right at the greed, and the lengths we’re prepared to go to to protect our “assets.”)

Just for today, please send Reiki to our precious Mother. If you can, use the symbols, then just hold an Earth marble, or any marble, in your hands and let the Reiki flow.

Love them all the same. January 5, 2015

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“Try to treat with equal love all the people with whom you have relations. Thus the abyss between ‘myself’ and ‘yourself’ will be filled in, which is the goal of all religious worship.”

—Anandamayi Ma

It’s easy to love the people who love us—our family, our spouse or partner, our beloved dog or cat. But Anandamayi Ma is telling us that we need to offer everyone we meet the same love—the mailman, the cashier, the server, our boss, our administrative assistant, the guy who prunes our trees—everyone. That only when the barriers between us fall will we find enlightenment.

It is the separation between us that is the cause of fear and strife, or, as the Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) would have it, anger and worry. And the more we can separate someone or something from ourselves, the more justified we feel in abusing, fearing, and/or using it. We spin ever farther from connection, from harmony.

“It is the attainment of harmony which is called heaven,” says Hazrat Inayat Khan. The attainment of harmony is also enlightenment, satori, anshin ritsumei. But how do we get from here, sitting in a restaurant where everyone’s bellowing into their smartphones, the service is abominable, and when your food finally comes, they’ve sent the wrong order and it has meat on it, so you have to send it back, to there? How easy is it to listen respectfully to the boss as she loads you down with another project, explaining that she doesn’t have time for it since she’s going on a fabulously expensive cruise, so you’ll just have to work overtime without extra pay so you can get it done over the holidays?

Yet if we cannot let go of our anger, our frustration, and get past our sense of separation from these people, we can never reach that state of joy and harmony that is our goal. What to do?

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know what I’m going to say next. I can’t tell you if our Founder, Mikao Usui, struggled with these emotions or this sense of separation himself. But he certainly was an excellent judge of character, and doubtless saw his students and the people he met letting disharmony and separation keep them from their goals. So he established the Five Reiki Principles to help us set (and reset, and reset) our feet on the Reiki path, the path to enlightenment.

The Principles look easy. “Just for today,” we’re asked to not worry, not get angry, be grateful, work hard, and be kind. But if they were so easy, if all of us could do them, we’d all be enlightened. That’s why they’re a practice, a daily practice, something you can remind yourself of every time you need to bring yourself back into harmony. It is hard work, as Usui Founder reminds us, but it is also progress, progress on our path.

Just for today, practice your Reiki Principles.

Shine on. January 4, 2015

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“The good shine like the Himalayas, whose peaks glisten above the rest of the world even when seen from a distance.”

—The Buddha

Seeing this quote again really resonated with me, since my partner Rob and I have been having a “visual cleanse” after a season of Christmas movies by watching Michael Palin’s “Himalaya” travel series. Of course it’s charming to see the various incarnations of Scrooge and “A Christmas Carol,” not to mention the classics from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, but eventually it all gets old and you find yourself longing for something else.

I have never seen such beautiful scenery as in the “Himalaya” series. I can’t imagine going there, high above the world as the Buddha says, which is why I love our DVDs. But I love the thought of going there, or on the ocean, or any other beautiful Neverland.

Lord Buddha is saying that all of us can look like the Himalayas, that even the least likely of us can shine like the Himalayas. It’s not easy to be good, but by practicing Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) every day, we can at least get closer.

Just for today, practice your Reiki Principles.

Chop wood, carry water. January 2, 2015

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“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

—Zen Saying

We tend to think that enlightenment is a single event: BANG! We’re enlightened! Then we rush around shouting “I’m enlightened! Look at me! I’ve achieved the summit!” The ego has taken over again.

This wonderful saying, and that of all enlightened masters, urges us to simply continue as we were, so that we will remain humble and help our community. Meanwhile, we will continue our own practice and growth, and there will be not one, but many enlightenment experiences.

There’s a great story about Dogen Zenji, founder of the Soto Zen School, who continued to practice Zazen (seated, silent meditation) all his life. One day, a monk rose from his cushion and excitedly approached Dogen: “Master! I’ve just achieved enlightenment!!!” To which Dogen Zenji replied, “Continue doing Zazen.” He knew that it was the practice, not the result, that mattered.

Just for today, continue practicing your Five Reiki Principles.

Speak up, act out. December 30, 2014

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“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
—Edmund Burke

Several posts ago, I quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s comment, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” In that post, I also quoted the Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller’s devastating comment about his failure to speak or act out against the Nazis, “Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

The Burke quote is another one to add to the list. All these men are talking about what they or those they cared about didn’t do, not that they themselves did some bad deed. How many people do you think would have gladly given their bus seats to Rosa Parks? Yet not one of them did. How many people would have been glad to give Mohandas Gandhi a seat on the train instead of watching him be pitched to the boardwalk when he had a first-class ticket and every right to ride?

Yet the onlookers were worried. What would their peers think of them if they stood up for what they knew was right? Would some roughnecks beat them up? So they just watched; they “did nothing,” they remained silent. This has been the horror of history. As the poet W.B. Yeats says, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” Pope Francis has spoken again and again about this lack of conviction, about our duty to help the poor and destitute, to get out in the streets and engage with them, rather than turning our backs and remaining silent while others suffer.

There’s a lot of misery in our world. Rather than turning our backs on it, rather than pretending we’re some different species, let all of us who practice Reiki send it to those in need. Let all those who see injustice speak out. And let all of us who encounter need head-on meet it with compassion, with fellowship, with recognition that we’re looking at ourselves. For it’s only when we’ve pushed prejudice, violence, and separatism to the curb the the world can know peace.

Just for today, practice your Reiki Principles.

Saying goodbye. December 15, 2014

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“If your heart were sincere and upright, every creature would be unto you a looking-glass of life and a book of holy doctrine.”
—Thomas a Kempis

“All things by immortal power
Near or far,
Hiddenly
To each other linked are,
That thou canst not stir a flower
Without troubling of a star.”
—Francis Thompson

Pope Francis got in big trouble this past week by daring to suggest that animals went to heaven. He was trying to console a distraught little boy whose dog had just died by saying that his beloved pet was now in heaven and that he, the boy, would meet with him again when he got there. Immediately, an outpouring of outrage from conservatives and spokespeople for organizations like the Pork Producers Association came pouring out like a pile of slaughtered pig guts.

All of us who’ve ever had a pet know that the cost of loving them is losing them, since their lives are so short compared to ours. Every time I get a new dog, cat, bird, or what have you, I know that in the moment of saying hello I’m also starting to say goodbye. But I get them and I love them anyway, because I can’t imagine life without pets to love, without pets to love you, even for a short time.

But how do you explain that to a little boy who’s just lost his first pet, his beloved dog? I suppose that for many of us, the first faces we’d like to see after Saint Peter’s are those of the pets we loved, the pets who loved us, the pets who, possibly, saved us when we were in physical or emotional crisis, watching over us with their endless loving concern. Telling a heartbroken little boy that he’d see his dog in heaven, as Pope Francis did, was an act of charity. It might also have been true.

Having not been there, I can’t tell you if there’s a heaven. But if there is, I want my pets to be in it, or it won’t be worth going to. I want all the plants and animals and water features that make our world an earthly paradise to be in it. And I want those pigs who believe that God gave them the earth and everything on it to despoil for their own enrichment to re-read their Genesis, which they always use to justify barbarous acts of greed and savagery, where God Creator says that He gave His Creation into man’s care, to stand for him as its protector. Not its destroyer.

Just for today, cherish the dog, the flower, and the star. For we are all linked, no matter what we are.

Give love this Christmas. December 9, 2014

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“Wheresoever we seek our own, there we fall from love.”
—Thomas a Kempis

“There is the tendency to place ourselves and our ambitions at the center of our lives. This is very human, but it is not Christian.”
—Pope Francis, @Pontifex

Yesterday, I received a Christmas card from my Aunt Betty. At this season of the year, most of us are either thinking about what we want for Christmas or what our family and friends might want for Christmas, or what we’d better get the boss and the office gang, or our kids’ teachers and coaches, or our secretary, or God-knows-who for Christmas. Or how we’ll ever afford Christmas, with all these ever-more-expensive presents for everybody and shipping costs getting more outrageous every year.

But not Aunt Betty. She gets presents for those in need and sends them in our names. In past years, we’ve gotten cards saying that a needy family in, say, the Andes has received a (live) chicken in our name through Heifer International, so they can get nutritious eggs. (You don’t need a rooster to get eggs.) This year, she donated to Doctors Without Borders, those brave individuals who risk their lives to share their expertise where it otherwise wouldn’t be available. People we’ll never see or know will have a better Christmas this year. Thank you, Aunt Betty!

What I think she’s trying to tell us is that she thinks we have enough “stuff” and don’t need any more from her. (And she’s right.) Whereas these organizations help people who lack food, shelter, warmth, medical care, and other basic necessities, much less toys, video games, the latest athletic shoes, and the like. I suggest that you think of an organization that speaks to you this Christmas, be it a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter, The Salvation Army, The Southwest Indian Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, or any of the hundreds of others, and donate in a family member’s or your office’s name this Christmas. (And don’t forget that you can volunteer your time as well, including giving free hands-on Reiki sessions.)

Obviously, I’d never suggest doing this when children are involved. But you could get them a book or toy and donate in their family’s name, and the family could start teaching them the meaning of sharing and giving. Think how much better you’ll feel knowing you’re helping others on Christmas than ripping open package after package of stuff for yourself.

Just for today, don’t fall from love.

The silence of our friends. December 8, 2014

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“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.

“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
—Martin Niemoller, Lutheran Pastor

“The Church is called to draw near to every person, beginning with the poorest and those who suffer.”
—Pope Francis, @Pontifex

Just for today, remember that everyone is our friend. Do not ever remain silent while others suffer.

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