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If you love Reiki, smile. January 31, 2014

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“I cannot imagine a Christian who does not know how to smile. May we joyfully witness to our faith.”
—Pope Francis, @Pontifex

This holds true for those of us who follow the Reiki Way, too. If we aren’t joyful, what are we? There’s nothing like seeing the tense, worried, possibly ill faces of students in a Reiki class or share break into huge grins, literally light up, as you smile, laugh, joke, and spread the joy. Happiness is, after all, our natural state.

Taking ourselves too seriously is an ego trip, the opposite of Usui Founder’s teachings. We did not become Reiki teachers and practitioners to pontificate, to hold ourselves above the lowly masses, for mercy’s sake! We embraced Reiki, as it embraces us, to find eternal joy.

All great spiritual teachers radiate joy and laughter, even in the midst of circumstances that are, to us, unbearable. The Dalai Lama is always smiling and laughing, even after having been driven out of his homeland and position by the Chinese under Mao. Thich Nhat Hanh’s face radiates his joy, even though he saw his people suffer the horrors of the Vietnam war. Blessed Mother Teresa’s homely face radiated love and happiness, even as she pulled maggot-ridden, starving, dying beggars from the gutters of Calcutta. No great spiritual teacher takes themselves seriously; they know the notion of “self” is a tiny thing, and the beauty and delight of the world are huge.

Think of the joy that must have radiated from Usui Founder, the spontaneous, delighted smile on Hayashi Sensei’s face, the radiance shining from Takata Sensei. If you’ve been lucky enough to see them, remember the droll humor teachers like Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei and Frans Steine bring to their classes.

Just for today, remember to smile.

Wag more, bark less. January 30, 2014

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Tearing people down never builds anyone up. I was reminded of this when reading that Rolling Stone magazine had just put Pope Francis on its cover and featured a 7,000-word article about him. (Maybe the Dalai Lama will be next!) But unfortunately, in praising Francis’s impact on the Church and the world, the article lit into his predecessor, Benedict, in a manner that could only be called mean, comparing him to Freddy Krueger, the murderous monster in the “Nightmare on Elm Street” horror movies, and saying that he was enough to give teens nightmares.

Poor Pope Francis! Imagine him cringing in his guest-house room, thinking about how those words must be hurting his frail, ailing predecessor. Thinking about how he was somehow the cause of this pain, since by trying to do good, and through no fault of his, he had inadvertently brought ridicule on an already suffering man. I’ll bet he’d like to crawl into Saint Peter’s crypt right now and hide there.

This brought to mind Reiki teachers who imply or even announce that their teachings are better than other Reiki teachers’, or even that they alone possess the “true” or original Reiki teachings. Folks, there are an awful lot of Reiki teachers out there, and Usui Founder isn’t here to tell us which hold right teachings, who are great teachers.

Rather than denigrating others’ teachings and/or systems, I think Reiki teachers should bear in mind the Biblical phrase, “by their fruits ye shall know them.” There’s no need to say that others’ teachings are bad to show that yours are good. The students will discover that on their own. All you need to do is outline what you’ll be teaching so they know what to expect, and then bring those teachings to life for every student in your classes. From your description, students will know if they’re drawn to your teaching; from your classes, they’ll know if you’re a gifted teacher. There is no need to say a word about either topic, and every need not to do so.

This also holds true for practitioners who feel a need to bolster their egos and/or Reiki practices at their fellow practitioners’ expense. My hands are hotter! I can see auras! I get impressions! My intuition is stronger! Hey, how on earth could you know? This isn’t about you, it’s about Reiki.

People don’t like braggarts. They don’t like egotists. They know that underneath this sniping is a scam: Either profound insecurity or cutthroat, greed-based marketing or both.

Reiki is not a competition. It’s a life Way. Follow that Way. Learn all you can from others who are on the path, honor those who have helped you on your own path, but whatever you think of those you disagree with, let those thoughts float free. If you hold them in or spread them, they will diminish you and hinder you on your Way. Reiki is not a competition.

My favorite bumper sticker says “Wag more, bark less.” We could all learn a lot from that.

Just for today, don’t let your ego do the talking.

On this path. January 29, 2014

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“On this path, effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.”

Bhagavad Gita

Just for today, as you walk the Reiki path, don’t worry.

Do I wake or sleep? January 28, 2014

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“Dreams are real as long as they last. Can we say more of life?”
—Henry Havelock Ellis

“Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music—Do I wake or sleep?”
—John Keats, “Ode to a Nightingale”

Have you awakened from a vivid dream and found yourself disoriented, not knowing where you were or what was real? It happens to me all the time.

I think this is a wonderful lesson for those of us who follow the Reiki Way. Our dreams seem so real. Our waking life—“real” life—seems so vividly real. But if our dreams can seem as real when we have them as our waking life, might there not be other states as well, states we can experience on different levels of consciousness, such as satori, enlightenment?

Our challenge as Reiki people is to discover how to experience this ultimate state of reality as vividly as we experience our dreams and waking life. And it is for this that Usui Founder has given us our Reiki practice—the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals), the symbols and mantras, hands-on healing, the Reiki practices such as hado breathing (the Way of breathing). Through diligent practice, we can discover a new reality, one of calm and compassion and infinite wonder and joy.

Just for today, remember your Reiki practices, and remember to laugh and enjoy life, in whatever state you find it.

Now is the time. January 26, 2014

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“Very seldom can we say we are fully present in the present moment. Yet now is the only time there is. The present is all we have. If we feel we don’t have enough time, the first thing to do is not throw it away. Instead of ceding it to the past and future, we can take steps to give our undivided interest to the here and now.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

Usui Founder gave us the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) as tools to help us focus on the present. Hands-on Reiki, on ourselves or others, also helps to focus our attention on this moment, and this moment only.

Think of the endless, exhilarating possibilities of this moment! Now is the only time we have, but now is the only time we need: Within it lies everything.

Just for today, be here now.

Polar cold calls for Reiki. January 22, 2014

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Here in my adopted home state of Pennsylvania, we’ve just been hit with another bout of heavy snow and arctic cold that will actually top the polar vortex conditions we endured a couple of weeks ago. I hope none of you are enduring this, but even if you’re just going through a standard winter, I want to remind you that it’s more important than ever to do hands-on healing, on yourself, your family, pets, plants, and extended circle.

In winter, the relentless cold, the low light, the early dark at night and late light in the morning can combine to take a real toll on our spirits and our health. The effects build gradually, and since we’re so distracted and frantically busy, between the holidays, the resulting crush of work as we try to make up for lost time, the start of a new school semester, etc., it’s easy to forget and let our wellbeing slide. (Apart, of course, from those all-important resolutions to diet and hit the gym.)

Slowly, however, we realize that we’re not doing all that well. It gets dark so early, and light so late, that we find ourselves dragging and going to bed much earlier than usual, then wondering how it could possibly be 7 a.m. when it’s still pitch-black outside. We don’t feel much like cooking, or even eating, but when the urge does strike, find ourselves heading to a restaurant or fast-food place where we can get something hot, rich, and fatty now, since it’s much too cold to contemplate cold, low-cal food. We stay indoors as much as we can, depriving ourselves of vital vitamin D.

And we’re not the only ones who’re suffering. Usually, our houseplants are the first to tell us that the drop in temperature in the house and the low light conditions aren’t at all to their liking. Our pets aren’t happy, either. The fish hate the drop in temperature in their aquarium; the parakeets fluff up their feathers and huddle on their perches; the cats sleep curled together all day; the dog no longer loves going outside, instead dashing out to do her business and rushing miserably back in. All of us could use a little Reiki!

We humans can, of course, console ourselves in other ways too. We can try to feel brighter and warmer by adding warm-bulb lights, lighting candles and incense, stoking the fire, knitting, making pots of tea and settling in with a lap robe and a good book or favorite film or program. (“Sherlock,” “Game of Thrones,” Jane Austen, anyone?) We can make a commitment not to forget our vitamins. We could even try to get ourselves outside every sunny day and try to soak up some vitamin D (while avoiding frostbite).

But we still need Reiki, now more than ever. Our plants need Reiki every day (hands-on for all of them except ferns; hands-above for those). Our fish need hands-on on the glass or plastic of the aquarium; our birds need hands-on if you can cradle them comfortably, or if not, need hands on their cages. Our cats, dogs, rabbits, and other pets need hands-on Reiki while being cuddled; hold them gently and let it flow. And they all need the first symbol for protection, and the second for peace of mind.

We do, too! Everyone in the family needs hands-on Reiki every winter day. And that means you, too. It’s best if you do Reiki self-healing every night before you sleep and every morning when you wake. And don’t forget to put your hands in gassho (prayer position) morning and evening and recite Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) to get yourself in a better state of mind.

Just for today, take care of yourself and your household.

Everything and nothing. January 16, 2014

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One of my favorite cartoons shows the Dalai Lama opening up a birthday present and finding that the box is empty. “Nothing!” he exclaims, a huge smile on his face. “Just what I always wanted!”

I was reminded of this today when Amazon sent me a recommended list of books and DVDs. One of them was a book by David Carse called Perfect Brilliant Stillness, about his enlightenment experience and what others might make of it. Hmmm, I thought, clicking the link to read more about it.

Many of the Amazon reviewers (and there were at least 50) mentioned “Advaita” when discussing the book. What was that? I headed to Wikipedia to find out. According to Wikipedia, Advaita Vedanta is now the most accepted school of Hindu thought, though its origins stretch back to the flowering of Buddhism in India. Advaita itself means “not-two” in Sanskrit, i.e., nonduality. Wikipedia defines it as referring to “the identity of the true Self, Atman, which is pure consciousness, and the highest Reality, Brahman, which is also pure consciousness.”

Unfortunately, in their attempt to avoid ego-identification, many of the reviewers tripped all over themselves, creating wildly humorous multiple negatives. One went so far as to refer to himself as “this body/mind unit,” as though he were a robot. Ironic given that they’d all chosen to review the book from a personal perspective.

Ah, well. Laughter is the great healer, as the Dalai Lama, with his perennial smile and laughter, knows better than anyone. Those who take themselves too seriously, even as they deny all sense of self, are stoking their egos at the expense of their enlightenment. None are as filled with radiance, with joy and laughter, than those who are truly enlightened. Their faces shine with realization, with oneness with the All.

Just for today, find what you’ve always wanted.

More about love. January 13, 2014

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“Familiar acts are beautiful through love.”
—Percy Bysshe Shelley

“By giving full attention to one thing at a time, we can learn to direct attention where we choose. Simple, but essential to the practice of love.”
—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

“Love and truth are inseparable. Without love, truth becomes cold, impersonal and oppressive for people’s day-to-day lives.”
—Pope Francis, Encyclical Lumen Fidei (Light of Faith)

“Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit; it is its own fruit, its own enjoyment. I love because I love; I love in order that I may love.”
—Saint Bernard

Just for today, wag more, bark less.

Finding your balance. January 12, 2014

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Most modern fortune cookies annoy me. They never seem to have fortunes, only truisms. On the rare occasions when I find a fortune that is truly a fortune—something that says what was, what is, or what is to be—I’m delighted. (“Spirit guides accompany you” was an actual fortune I received recently.)

But like those billboards in front of Protestant churches with their smart-alecky, witty, attention-getting slogans, the fortune-cookie truisms can sometimes contain lessons. Just last night, I got one that said, “There’s more to balance than not falling over.”

This certainly resonated with me, and on every level. As a child, I was so uncoordinated that my mother insisted that I take ballet lessons for years so I wouldn’t trip over my own feet. Poor Madame Albertine! I was so tall (compared to the very little girls in my endless string of beginners’ classes), and so bad, I don’t know how she survived those lessons. But they served the intended purpose: I no longer tripped over my size 9 feet. I would only trip if some other obstacle presented itself. But most of the time, I didn’t fall over.

In Reiki, there’s more to balance than not falling over, too. It’s true that those of us on the Reiki path may occasionally trip on a bramble or stone and fall over. But thanks to Usui Founder, we always have the tools at hand to pick ourselves up and continue on our Way. The Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) give us a firm foundation that smooths our road and removes mud, ice, and stones from our path. By practicing the Principles every day, by doing Reiki self-healing every day, by trying to live in Reiki every day, we come into balance, because we merge with the All, with All There Is. And once we do that, we finally understand the meaning of balance, of satori, of enlightenment.

Just for today, try to find the balance.

Thoughts travel far. January 9, 2014

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“We are what our thoughts have made us; so take care about what you think. Words are secondary. Thoughts live; they travel far.”
—Swami Vivekananda

Fortunately, those of us on the Reiki path have a wonderful, easy-to-remember tool to help us “take care about what we think.” It is Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals). When we find our thoughts straying, we can bring them back to the path by reflecting on the Principles:

Just for today,
Don’t worry.
Don’t get angry.
Be grateful.
Work hard.
Be kind.

By training our minds to follow the path of the Principles, we will deepen our Reiki practice on every level.

By the way, I love that Swami Vivekananda said “Words are secondary,” since one of my three favorite saints, Saint Francis, famously said to his followers, “Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.” Wordsmiths like yours truly tend to believe that the right words, used in the right way, can take on a power of their own, to warm hearts and inspire right action. But ultimately, without right thought, without right action, words aren’t good for much. Perhaps this age of the tweet and the smartphone photo will remind us of that.

Just for today, travel far on your Reiki path.