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Something within yourself. November 30, 2013

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“A teacher can only transmit a technique or enlighten you to principle, but receiving the truth of the matter is something within yourself.”

—William Scott Wilson

Those of us who teach Reiki should take a lesson in humility from this: We are only channels, not some sort of glorified beings who merit the adulation of our students. Rather, we should be grateful for the opportunity to teach, and humbled by the progress and friendship of those who choose us to be their teachers, to set their feet on the Reiki Way.

And those of us who practice Reiki should take to heart this empowering message: It is up to us to keep our feet on the Reiki path. Though our teachers can help and inspire us, it is not up to them to keep us motivated and moving forward on the path. And, though it may seem disturbing or even scary, that is a liberating thought.

Just for today, find something within yourself.

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The outcry of the poor. November 29, 2013

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Oh, mercy. Pope Francis recently released a document called “Evangelii Gaudium,” which translates as “The Joy of the Gospel.” But contained within it was one of the strongest, and frankest, condemnations of our modern society that I have ever read. There is no joy to be found here, but a real wake-up call for those of us who try to live a compassionate life, as Usui Founder did:

“Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”

If you’re an empath like me, you do weep for other people’s pain, which more often than not is an embarrassment in today’s indifferent society. But there is a huge leap from being acutely conscious of others’ pain and doing something about it.

I received the most wonderful Christmas card of my life yesterday when my Aunt Betty sent a note saying that she would no longer be giving holiday presents, but instead would be contributing to Meals on Wheels and Feeding America. Those of us who follow the Reiki Way would do well to follow her example.

Just for today, be kind.

Give thanks as you can. November 28, 2013

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“Whatever I am offered in devotion with a pure heart—a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water—I accept with joy.”

Bhagavad Gita

Just for today, be grateful.

Black Friday. November 27, 2013

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Here in the U.S., the day after Thanksgiving is called “Black Friday.” This isn’t because it’s a terrible, dark day, but because merchants hold huge sales across the land and, since most people—at least, those who aren’t working for said merchants—have the day off, they apparently rush out and take advantage of the sales to do their Christmas shopping. And the merchants hope that will put them into the “black” for the year, making a profit, rather than being in the “red,” making a loss.

If you live here, you’ve probably been bombarded by e-mails and circulars promoting great deals, pre-Friday deals, and so on. It’s a media blitz, a shopping extravaganza.

Contrast this with the words of Pope Francis in yesterday’s Apostolic Exhortation: “The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”

I don’t think the Pope’s words even touch the lives of most of us here, since we don’t typically ever encounter people whose lives have been “stunted for lack of opportunity” unless we live in an urban area where there are street people. For so many of us, we only encounter our family, our coworkers, our friends, and those who serve us while we’re out shopping or dining or watching a movie.

We don’t encounter the poor, the destitute, the homeless, the hungry, the desperate. And if we do encounter one, someone asking for money, we’re terrified. We may give them a dollar or five dollars to quiet our consciences, but they don’t just “fail to move us,” they frighten us.

This Thanksgiving, let us try to think of those who are less fortunate, especially on Black Friday. Let us try to remember Usui Founder’s own exhortations, to be grateful and to be kind. Perhaps, rather than rushing to get the best deal, we might do something for the disadvantaged. Or simply reach out in kindness to those whose lives are “stunted” by age and isolation and poverty. The soup kitchens are open, the nursing homes are waiting.

Just for today, be grateful for all your own blessings.

No reservations. November 26, 2013

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“Every one of us can learn to love without qualifications or reservations…. It is not possible to have both separateness and intimacy.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

“We must build, create, construct a culture of encounter.”

—Pope Francis

It is only when we recognize our connection to all creation, to the All, that we can hope to follow Usui Founder’s example. Enlightenment, satori, is simply the ultimate and intimate realization that there is no separation. As it says on the Dr. Bronner’s soap boxes, “All one.” It is only with this deep and inherent realization that we can truly follow Usui Founder’s dictate to be kind.

Just for today, be enlightened.

The best investment. November 25, 2013

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“Goodness is the only investment which never fails.”

—Henry David Thoreau

Just for today, be kind.

Don’t throw food away. November 24, 2013

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Today, I read the saddest single sentence I have ever encountered. I wasn’t expecting to read it; I was scrolling down through Yahoo’s homepage and came upon an article about how people from abroad, both visitors and new residents, view America and Americans.

Of course, I couldn’t resist reading this. I was expecting to see the usual comments about how slovenly Americans are, in their sweatpants and hoodies or ill-fitting jeans and tee-shirts or worse. Or snide remarks about American obesity. Or shocked remarks about Americans’ spending habits, their addiction to malls, their obsessive shopping. Or about their eating habits, between fast food as a replacement for meals and monstrous portions as in “Supersize Me.” Or all-too-often true remarks about American ignorance, cultural blindness, and insularity.

What I wasn’t expecting to see was the comment I found, from an anonymous person obviously now living the typical American lifestyle but still aware of its shortcomings: “My garbage disposal eats better than most of the children of the world.”

Why anyone would have a garbage disposal, or would waste food, is beyond my understanding. Composting returns food odds and ends back to the soil to enrich it so it can produce more healthy food. At my home, we have three compost bins, a spinning composter, and an earthworm composter, plus chickens to eat any leftover scraps. Absolutely nothing goes to waste.

As Pope Francis so trenchantly put it, “Throwing food away is like stealing from the tables of the poor, the hungry!” How dare we waste food when people go hungry? How dare we go on autopilot instead of considering the consequences of our own actions? How could we, as Reiki people, not be vigilant about recycling, buying everything used, not wasting our earth’s precious resources when others are wanting?

Instead, let us follow the example of Usui Founder, who rushed to the aid of those whose lives were disrupted or devastated by the great Tokyo earthquake. Let us do what we can to help those in need by not irresponsibly, thoughtlessly, throwing food away.

As we approach Thanksgiving, a holiday that offers us the opportunity to both express our gratitude and celebrate abundance, the waste of food should be foremost on our minds. How can we live out Usui Founder’s example? Donate or volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, invite lonely older people, single people, disadvantaged people, or simply isolated people to share in our own celebration, reach out to neighbors, family members, or friends with whom we’ve been out of touch, try to bring comfort to abandoned animals at your local shelter. Spread some joy!

Just for today, don’t be heartless.

The kindness of strangers. November 23, 2013

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Yesterday, a friend came over and inadvertently let my beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, run out the front door. Shiloh doesn’t go outside off-lead, and so she has no fear of cars. And there she was, streaking into the street.

Heart pounding and eyes pouring, I grabbed her leash and a treat and rushed out the door, calling for her to come back. At which point, I saw my worst nightmare coming to life: There was Shiloh in the road, and there were cars coming from every direction.

Then, a miracle happened: The cars in both lanes came to a dead stop. And stayed stopped. Shiloh rushed over to the first car in the left lane, and the woman driving it actually rolled her window down so Shiloh—a huge German shepherd who loves everyone but is rather scary-looking—could step up and get acquainted. That gave me time to get the lead on her so I could get her out of the road and back in the house.

Bless that kind woman, and the kindness of all the other drivers who stopped and waited patiently rather than hurting or killing my Shiloh. I am more grateful than I know how to say.

Just for today, be kind. Just for today, and every day, I am SO grateful.

In praise of equilibrium. November 21, 2013

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“Go placidly in the midst of praise or blame” is the motto of Komyo Reiki, the Reiki of enlightenment. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t embrace happiness, but that our happiness shouldn’t depend on other people or outside actions.

If I won the lottery, of course I’d be pleased. But if I lose the lottery, I don’t get upset. I figure that tomorrow is another chance to win, and that it’s the cheapest form of hope. I’m perfectly happy either way.

It’s harder, of course, to maintain your equilibrium when you’re personally invested in a given outcome, such as the right of women to become priests. Or when your partner inadvertently lets your best-beloved cat run out the door in a neighborhood where people shoot cats for sport and you’ve seen far too many cats hit on the road. Or when you or a loved one are diagnosed with a serious disease. Or when your financial stability is teetering on the edge.

Nobody’s praising or blaming you in these cases, but you’re on track for suffering if you don’t take action. These are the times to give yourself up to the Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) and let them work their healing magic. Ask Usui Founder, Hayashi Sensei, and Takata Sensei, and all the Teachers to help you, and then let go. Don’t give up! Continue sending Reiki to the situation. But don’t assume responsibility for an outcome or event that is following its own track for reasons that may be sound but impossible for you to fathom.

Just for today, do your best, then let go.

A Reiki pilgrimage. November 20, 2013

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Pilgrimages are journeys marked both by sacrifice and respect. In Mediaeval Europe, Christians tried to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Jerusalem, if they could. Today, they still travel to Santiago de Compostela, as their ancestors did, wearing the cockle shell (scallop) that is the symbol of St. James to mark their pilgrimage, or to Lourdes, or the Vatican, or to other holy places. Muslims are encouraged to make a pilgrimage to Mecca—the Hajj—at least once in their lifetime. Some people choose to make a pilgrimage to Sedona or to Stonehenge to honor the forces of the earth.

For those of us who follow the Reiki Way, it is also possible to make a pilgrimage to show our respect to Mikao Usui, the Founder of Reiki. Thin Thin Lay, who sponsors the Komyo Reiki Zen Retreat at Dai Bosatsu Zendo in upstate New York every August, is planning just such a trip this coming spring. Attendees will be able to travel with Thin Thin and Komyo Reiki’s founder, Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei, to visit Mount Kurama, where Usui Founder received satori (enlightenment) and discovered Reiki, and visit the Usui Memorial Stone, as well as other historic Reiki sites.

What a fabulous opportunity, what a wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime trip! But sadly, I had to finally admit to myself, it’s not one I’ll be making. Why? Because I’m terrified of heights, and apparently climbing Mount Kurama is not for the faint of heart.

It was truly humiliating to have to acknowledge that my limitations would keep me from participating in such a marvelous pilgrimage, led by the founder of Komyo Reiki, the Reiki of enlightenment, himself! But it is up to each of us to truly know who we really are. If I stagger back in terror when I come upon an unexpected staircase (i.e., a sudden hole in the ground), and have recurring nightmares about this type of experience every night, I am not a good candidate for climbing a mountain, however meaningful that climb would be.

But thankfully, there is hope for those of us who can’t take the actual pilgrimage. I have twice now been privileged to see Sensei’s fabulously beautiful slides of Mount Kurama, Usui Founder’s birthplace, his family temple, the Shinto shrine he founded, and his Pure Land Buddhist burial site, including his memorial stone.

I also am grateful to own two books on the topic. One is Reiki’s Birthplace: A Guide to Kurama Mountain (Jessica A. Miller, 2006, Infinite Light Healing Studies Center). The other is Frank Arjava Petter’s wonderful love letter to Reiki, This Is Reiki (Lotus Press/Shangri-La, 2012). Because I’ve seen Sensei’s slides, I can identify and appreciate all the significant photos in the two books, and they bring back the delight I experienced when I first saw Sensei’s slides.

I am humbled to know that I can’t do everything other people have no problem doing. But I am grateful to Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei, Arjava, and Jessica Miller for making it possible for me to virtually experience the world of Usui Founder, and to Thin Thin for not only making the wonderful retreats at the Komyo Reiki Zen Retreats possible, but for offering this fabulous opportunity for all of us on the Reiki Way to become true pilgrims on the path.

Just for today, be grateful.