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And then what do you do? April 30, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in Reiki, Reiki wisdom.
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I’m feeling very sad right now. I just heard that a friend of ours—and the brother of two of our closest friends—died yesterday, presumably of diabetes-related complications that had plagued him a long time. Fortunately, his wife, siblings, and another dear friend, the husband of one sibling, were by his side in the hospital. They say you always die alone, and of course it’s true, but being surrounded by his loved ones gave our friend Fritzie the chance to joke around and be his usual acerbic self for a while before he left them.

Fritzie was a smart, funny, obnoxious guy, who was a professor by day and a professional irritant by night, writing outrageous letters to the editors of newspapers, never suffering fools lightly, and generally stirring up the hornet’s nest whenever the opportunity presented itself, to his great glee and delight. This, of course, horrified me, since it was the opposite strategy to mine, trying to create common ground and peace and smooth over differences rather than exacerbate them. But Fritzie’s rough-and-tumble exterior hid a heart of gold. He’d share recipes with me, since he knew I loved to cook, and bring me esoteric cooking equipment on his visits to his siblings here in the wilds of PA.

Rob and I enjoyed and admired Fritzie, and we’ll miss him. But what has made me really sad today is that it was his wife Frieda who e-mailed me to bring us the news. He’s been dead less than a day, and his poor wife is e-mailing us, comparatively casual acquaintances, personally? It would be bad enough to get a mass e-mail to all of his friends and associates bearing the bad news. But an e-mail just to us, and the day after he died! Where were friends or family to send the e-mails for her?!

I have lost all the people I have loved as my own life (except for Rob and my brother Ben) to death, including three grandparents (the fourth died before I was born), my adored mother, and my beloved aunts and uncles. And so many pets as well. The hole these losses have left in my life will never heal, but I feel that they also help me on my own life path. It’s hard, so very hard, to let go of life, especially when you love the beauty and joy of the world as I do. Yet we all must let go. I believe that every beloved death makes it easier in the end to let go and join them rather than clinging to life at all costs.

I look forward to resting in them.

Just for today, love those you still have.

Making “Reiki.” April 29, 2014

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Every time I watch the beautiful, even stunning, movie “Zen,” about the life of Dogen Zenji, the 13th-century Zen Master and founder of Soto Zen—the Zen we all think of when we think of Zen today worldwide—I wish someone would make a movie called “Reiki” about the life of our Founder, Mikao Usui. “Zen” is so visually rich; it conveys so much through imagery. What a man, and what a story!

Yet Usui Founder’s story is equally deep and rich, with many, many elements, from his family’s samurai origins to his prosperous upbringing thanks to the family sake brewery to his unquenchable thirst for knowledge, his numerous attempts to find a job that suited him, his wife and children, his travels, his religious studies, and his discovery and development of Reiki. And all of this set in turbulent times: Mikao Usui was born under the Shogunate, the high flowering of Samurai culture, when Japan was closed to all outside contact. (If you’ve seen the series “Shogun,” or any films set during that era, you’ll know whereof I speak.) Then the Meiji Emperor took back control from the samurai and opened Japan to the West, enjoying and embracing aspects of Western culture, a move Usui Founder wholeheartedly supported. And he survived the terrible earthquake and fires that leveled much of Tokyo in the 1920s, healing thousands with Reiki in the process.

I can see an absolutely gorgeous, moving film along the lines of “Zen” documenting and celebrating Mikao Usui’s life. I wish I could afford to find the fabulous Japanese crew who made “Zen,” hire them to make “Reiki,” and bring Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei, the founder of Komyo Reiki, the Reiki of Enlightenment, on board as script and set advisor. What a wonderful film it would be!

It’s true that nobody knows more than the details of Dogen’s life, yet that didn’t keep them from reimagining it from his extensive writings into a fabulous movie. In Usui Founder’s case, there were no writings—perhaps he didn’t think they were important, or perhaps he planned to write later in life, not foreseeing his own foreshortened life—so his life and work is preserved through his disciples, his students, as the Lord Jesus’s and the Lord Buddha’s were through theirs. In every case, those who came after found something worth preserving, something worth passing on, and in every case, they linked that back to their Founder, the one whose words, whose actions, whose promises they’d believed.

I cannot think of a single quote of Usui Founder’s that has been passed down to posterity. There are no parables, no stories, no directives, no pointed one-liners. Not even a memorable witticism, such as Saint John XXIII’s famous remark when asked by a journalist how many people worked in the Vatican, “About half of them.” The closest we can come to the mind of Usui Founder is in his actions and in the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) he gave us for right health, right happiness, and right livelihood.

His photo is here before me as I type. I wish I could hear his voice. I wish I could see a beautiful movie of his life and rest in it as I rest in “Zen.”

Just for today, practice the Principles.

The heron, the grass, and the snow. April 26, 2014

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“In a snowfall that covers the winter grass a white heron uses his own whiteness to disappear.”

—Dogen Zenji

I don’t know what Dogen was implying by this, but the images are so beautiful and striking—the white heron against the lush green grass, and the white heron disappearing into the whiteness of the snow-covered grass—that I wanted to share this quote with you.

Dogen, the 13th-century Japanese founder of Soto Zen, the kind of Zen practice most people mean when they talk about “Zen” today, was persecuted in his own day by the abbots and warrior-monks of established Buddhist monasteries, who believed that his radical practice of Zen was a threat to their supremacy and revenues. His practice involved zazen, sitting meditation, and shikantaza, “just sitting.” There were no esoteric practices, no secrets, just sitting. This meant that anyone and everyone could practice zazen, hardly good news to the orders that extracted fees from their followers so the monks could intervene for them on some arcane plane.

Perhaps as a result he was more aware than most of the virtues of disappearing, of blending into the background. Or perhaps he was also simply struck by the contrasting images of a white heron on a green background and a white heron vanishing into a white field.

Just for today, see the beauty around you.

What is a saint? April 25, 2014

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“The true saint goes in and out amongst the people and eats and sleeps with them and buys and sells in the market and marries and takes part in social intercourse, and never forgets God for a single moment.”

—Abu Sa’id

“How good it is for us when the Lord unsettles our lukewarm and superficial lives.”

—Pope Francis, @Pontifex

“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”

—Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

“The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees before the Blessed Sacrament.”

—Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God

“When [13th-century Zen Master] Dogen asked the Zen cook in the Chinese temple why he didn’t have his assistants do the hard work of drying mushrooms in the hot sun, the cook said, ‘I am not other people.’ In the same way, we have to realize that this life is the only life we have. It’s ours, right now. If we don’t do the cooking ourselves, we are throwing our life away. ‘Keep your eyes open,’ Dogen instructs. ‘Wash the rice thoroughly, put it in the pot, light the fire, and cook it.’… When we cook—and live—with this kind of attention, the most ordinary acts and the humblest ingredients are revealed as they truly are.”

—Bernard Glassman and Rick Fields, “Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master’s Lessons for Living a Life that Matters,” tricycle

As I’m sure you know, two popes are going to be canonized (recognized as saints) this weekend. It’s unlikely that any of us will become popes, but, as these quotes show, we all have the opportunity to become saints, right where we are.

Just for today, don’t burn the rice.

An unexpected blessing. April 23, 2014

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When I began writing The Reiki Blog, I had no idea what would happen. I had a respectable (by my standards) number of views per post on my general-interest blog, Poor Richard’s Almanac, ranging from 200-300 a day to upwards of 900 on my busiest day, Thanksgiving (go figure). This may sound pitiful to those familiar with the blogosphere, but I was an unknown writing with no photos or illustrations about whatever I felt like talking about. I thought it was great that that many people wanted to read what I had to say.

The Reiki Blog, by contrast, would be topic-specific. But it would still have no photos or illustrations, and wouldn’t be written by the founder of some big Reiki organization or the creator of a “new, improved, exclusive” style of Reiki. Would anybody care? Would anybody want to read my Reiki ruminations and inspirations?

The startup was a lot slower than I’d expected, but the buildup has been steady. I now have more than 125 followers, and my posts typically draw between 35 and 95 readers. Thank you all!!! I am so grateful for your interest and your loyalty.

Yesterday, however, something amazing happened. Suddenly, The Reiki Blog had over 1,100 views, mostly for a post I’d written the previous Thursday called “Reiki: Fast or slow?” Where did all these readers come from?! If someone referred their own readers to my site, I am grateful. If anyone has another possible explanation, I’d be grateful to hear it. If any of these readers return to The Reiki Blog, I’ll be grateful.

Just for today, be grateful for unexpected blessings.

Our Mother needs us. April 22, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in Reiki, Reiki exercise, Reiki wisdom.
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Today is Earth Day, and I urge everyone who follows the Reiki Way to send our beautiful world some Reiki. I find this easiest to do by simply holding an earth marble between my hands and, after making the symbols over it, cradling it and letting the Reiki flow. But you can easily do this after taking Reiki I, simply skipping the symbols and holding the marble in your hands.

What’s an earth marble, you ask? Just a marble that depicts our world, in more or less realistic detail, depending on the marble. I’m fortunate enough to own a beautiful “Inhabited Planet” marble by the super-talented glassblower and marble-maker Josh Simpson, and that’s what I use. But those have become pricey now and are hard to find.

Instead, I suggest that you go to a website called Land of Marbles (http://www.landofmarbles.com/) and click on “Earth Marbles” in the “Hot” section on their home page. They have a nice variety, and some cost as little as a couple of dollars. (In fact, you can get a small bag of earth marbles, including a large “shooter” and several smaller marbles, for $2.99.) With your earth marble in hand, you can easily carry it with you and hold it whenever you get a chance, such as when you’re at a stoplight or standing in line at checkout or in a business meeting. I think an earth marble is a wonderful gift for a graduating Reiki student, don’t you?

Just for today, love your Mother.

Hurry sickness. April 21, 2014

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“By now, most of us are aware that compulsive speed—‘hurry sickness’—can be a direct threat to our physical health. But hurry has another alarming repercussion: It cripples patience. When we lack patience, even a few moments’ delay, a trivial disappointment, an unexpected obstacle, makes us explode in anger. We are not hostile people, we are just in such a hurry that keeping the mind calm is impossible.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

Just for today, try to live by the Reiki Principles.

How can you know joy? April 20, 2014

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“When you know no peace, how can you know joy?”

—Bhagavad Gita

Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) are specifically designed to bring us peace. When, just for today, we don’t worry, don’t get angry, are grateful, work hard, and are kind, we build a strong, supportive framework for peace of mind that allows joy to flood us with its unlimited potential for happiness. This is why Usui Founder called the Principles “the secret to inviting happiness.”

Just for today, practice the Principles.

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

Posted by ourfriendben in Reiki, Reiki wisdom.
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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.