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The call for peace must be shouted. July 30, 2014

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Pope Francis, in a recent interview, noted that we were living in a time of many wars, and that “the call for peace must be shouted.” The Pope added that “Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but peace is never quiet, peace is always proactive.”

This reminded me of one of my favorite spiritual writers, Sri Eknath Easwaran, whose hero was Mohandas Gandhi, called Mahatma, “great soul.” Gandhi liberated India from British colonial control, not through violence, but through non-violent resistance, ahimsa. Decades later, Martin Luther King urged this approach to Blacks who were seeking equal rights and the end of race discrimination. Nelson Mandela used it to end apartheid in South Africa. The Dalai Lama uses it when he protests the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Most recently, the LGBT community has used it to gather support for full marriage rights and benefits.

To be successful, those who practice ahimsa must be media-savvy and know how to get the word out. Gandhi was a genius at this; the world watched the “little brown man in the loincloth” and his every move with fascination. Pope Francis is also a genius at it, with his press conferences, off-the-cuff remarks, unexpected, crowd-thrilling gestures, and tweets.

Given the ubiquity and power of social media today, it’s not necessary to protest social injustice or war or domestic violence or school shootings or drug wars or whatever by setting yourself on fire in a public place, as one American minister recently did. Instead, you can make your voice heard on Twitter or Facebook or your blog or website or Instagram or Pinterest or a million other open media sites. You don’t have to shout. If enough of us simply speak out, and continue to speak out, against every form of violence, our combined voices will shout for us.

Just for today, speak up for peace.

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No act of kindness. July 29, 2014

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From a fortune cookie:

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Just for today, be kind.

How did your Reiki journey start? July 28, 2014

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Oops. I realized that I’d promised a few posts back to tell you how my Reiki journey began, then completely forgot about it and went on to other topics. Sorry about that! So let’s do a little time-traveling:

Once upon a time, I was sent to a perennial plant conference in, if memory serves, Denver. These conferences always feature garden tours, and one of the gardens we visited was owned by a famous plantsman and popular plant personality. When we got there, he apologized for not touring us around his beautiful grounds, because his back was hurting him so badly that the last time he’d given a lecture, he’d had to lie down on the stage!

Everyone else scampered off to enjoy the glorious gardens, but for whatever reason, my attention was drawn to a small woman approaching the garden’s owner. She asked him if she could put her hands on his back and make it feel better. Hands-on healing! All my life, I’d believed in hands-on healing. After all, the Lord Jesus healed through the laying on of hands, and the Apostles were able to perform healing miracles through the power of the Holy Ghost, and to pass the ability down through the laying on of hands, much as priests (and Reiki practitioners) are consecrated to this day. Now I was witnessing this with my own eyes! Riveted, I couldn’t look away.

I carried the memory of this unusual incident with me for many years, tucked somewhere in the treasure-house of the mind, until one day, I went into the small kitchen on my floor of our office building. There was a giveaway table in the middle of the kitchen where people could bring books, candles, or anything else they no longer had need for, and coworkers could simply take what interested them. On this particular day, someone had left a book about Reiki on the table (Diane Stein’s Essential Reiki). The word “Reiki” meant nothing to me, but there was just something about it…

Flipping through the book, I realized that this was what I’d seen all those years before in the garden. I took the book home and read it cover to cover, becoming more and more excited. (You can imagine how excited I was during a class when I found out that Reiki literally translates as “ghost energy,” which frightens some people but speaks to me of the Holy Ghost!) It occurred to me that whoever left the book might be a Reiki practitioner themselves, someone who could recommend a teacher. The next day, I began going very self-consciously to people’s offices, asking if they practiced Reiki. I got a lot of puzzled looks, but finally, I found the person, who recommended her teacher. And so my journey began.

In the years since, I’ve heard many stories like this from Reiki people. One man said he was browsing in a bookstore when a book literally fell on him from a shelf. Sure enough, it was a Reiki book! (This time, Traditional Reiki by my first teacher, Amy Rowland.) It seems that those of us who are drawn to the Reiki Way, even if we don’t know its name or anything about it, are sometimes given the push we need to follow our inmost hearts along the path of healing, light, enlightenment.

Please share how you began your own Reiki journey!

Just for today, keep walking.

Reiki Tips: Prayer beads and the Principles. July 26, 2014

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If you come from a tradition that uses prayer beads (Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Muslim, Tibetan Buddhist, and the like), you probably have a set lying around somewhere, even if you don’t use it. Why not put it to good use while furthering your Reiki practice? Even if you use your prayer beads every day, you can still use them for Reiki. And you’ll be faster coming out of the gate, since you’re already settled into the practice.

The whole point of prayer beads is to use your hands to free your mind. You hold a bead, recite a prayer, and then your fingers move onto the next bead and you recite the prayer again. The mindless, automatic repetition and the physical contact focus your surface attention and let your higher mind fly free. It’s a pathway into meditation, and because it’s so simple, it works, as most world religions have discovered.

Prayer beads can also be a good way to saturate yourself in Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals). Take your beads and begin; it’s that easy. Choose just one of the Principles, rather than trying to focus on all of them. Pick the one that you need most today. Then, as your hand moves to each bead, say “Just for today, don’t worry,” or whichever Principle you’re working on right now. Go through the entire string repeating “Just for today, don’t worry” on each bead. If you’re using a rosary, which has larger pater beads after each ten smaller beads, you could choose to recite all five Principles when you get to one of those.

Whatever sort of beads you use, I promise that the Principle you choose will sink deeper into your being, calming and focusing you. And because the beads already have a holy purpose, every time you use them, you’ll be drawing closer to the All.

None are more dear. July 19, 2014

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“I look upon all creatures equally, none are less dear to me and none more dear.”

—Bhagavad Gita

Why should we assume that the lightning bug that flashes in the grass is less dear to the Creator than we are, that the dog abandoned at a shelter is less dear than we are, that the factory-farmed chicken or cow sent to the slaughterhouse or fish stabbed through its face with a hook and then tossed back in the water as “sport,” “catch and release,” is less dear than we are?

They are all innocent, and thus more dear than we are, who could have prevented their pain and celebrated their life, been their protectors and guardians, rather than their mindless abusers and killers. No wonder the followers of the Bhagavad Gita, Hindus, are vegetarian.

Just for today, be kind.

The year of giving back. July 18, 2014

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Do you have siblings, their spouses, nieces and nephews? Do you have children or even grandchildren, a spouse or beloved partner? Do you have living parents and/or grandparents, aunts and uncles, great-aunts and uncles? Why on earth am I asking this?!!

It’s because sometimes you inherit things that should belong to someone else. I adore my beloved partner, Rob, but think that things passed down through my family should belong to my family. I am childless. And my lifestyle is, to put it mildly, extremely modest. I love jewelry, but wear it to trips around our tiny country town and to dinner at country inns, where a bracelet, watch, and ring or two is really enough.

My beloved mother gave me the string of pearls that her grandfather gave her on her 16th birthday, back in the day when a girl’s turning 16 was a really big deal. It’s a really modest string by modern standards, but it comes with a lot of sentiment and a lot of family value. (I know: My own adorable grandmother brought me and my sister strands of Mikimoto pearls and matching earrings when she went to Japan. I don’t really have occasion to wear them, but I take them out and admire them and am so grateful to her for remembering us.) My niece turns 16 this summer, and I plan to pass my great-grandfather’s necklace to her for the occasion. It will look lovely on her slender neck.

By chance, I was transferring the contents of my safe deposit box, which contains the rest of the jewelry that I inherited, to my current bank this week, so of course I sat down and looked at it. It includes an antique gold men’s ring, adorned with a bloodstone, that should really belong to my brother and ultimately, my nephew, not to me. It also includes a diamond-and-platinum cocktail ring that belonged to my grandmother, which passed to me because I’m her namesake. Where shall I wear this, I asked Rob, to the grocery? But my sister-in-law, a high-powered lawyer who, with my brother, moves in power circles in Washington, might have occasion to wear it; why not give it to her? I have a beautiful pocketwatch that belonged to my great-grandfather; why not give it to my nephew?

As it happens, my brother and sister-in-law are stopping by for supper tonight en route to pick their kids up from summer camp. It’s the perfect opportunity to pass these family heirlooms along. I’d so much rather keep them in the family, and hope that they and their stories will be passed down through the generations, than try to make some money from them. Because this is a gift with history and love.

Just for today, love your family, not your stuff.

A personal energy crisis. July 17, 2014

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“When we find it difficult to love, we can think of it as a personal energy crisis.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

Love is a renewable resource, like solar or wind energy, not a fuel like gas or coal that we hoard and fear will run out at any time, leaving us cold and stranded. Love is inexhaustible, and paradoxically, the more we share, the more we give away, the more we have, and the more we have to give.

The power behind love’s energy—the sun behind its solar panels, the wind that spins the windmill’s blades—is Usui Founder’s central Reiki Principle (aka Precept, Ideal): Be grateful.

Gratitude powers love. When you see a beautiful natural scene, and feel gratitude washing over you for the privilege of being in that beautiful place at that time, you also feel a rush of love for nature and our glorious earthly paradise. When you hear the tiny puff-puff snores of your enormous Maine coon cat and feel grateful to have his love and companionship, to be in the presence of such utter, oblivious contentment, you feel love swelling up and brimming over. When you see that your spouse or partner has done all the morning chores, knowing you’d been tossing and turning half the night, so you could get an extra hour’s sleep, and hasn’t even mentioned it, and you’re so touched and grateful, you feel love radiating out like the sun, blowing around you like the wind.

And because that energy continues to fill you through the power of gratitude, you have to express it in our Founder’s final Principle, Be kind. You can’t see a cashier or stylist who’s been standing on her feet for hours, or an older person struggling across a parking lot, or a server rushing around trying to deal with dozens or even hundreds of orders, without saying something kind, without displaying patience, without smiling. You can’t help waving at your neighbors, sharing a dish or some extra garden produce or playing with their dog or their kids, or picking up their newspapers and mail while they’re away.

You can find the strength to smile and say something kind to that obnoxious guy in the next cubicle, no matter what you’d really like to say, remembering that the alternative to the truth is silence. And you can let your love overflow when you’re at home with your family and pets, when you’re with your friends, when you’re caring for your plants or sitting on your deck, enjoying the stream and the yard and the birds, butterflies, lightning bugs, chipmunks, frogs, and other creatures with whom you share your life. You can let your gratitude and love flow back to your parents, relatives and ancestors, and all the happy memories they gave you, perhaps setting up a shrine with photos, flowers, incense, and candles, as I’ve seen at a fellow Reiki practitioner’s home.

Love is the one form of energy that’s truly inexhaustible. The more you give, the more you have. Don’t hoard it and let your batteries run down.

Just for today, be grateful and be kind.

Not forbidden. July 16, 2014

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“Everything not forbidden is compulsory.”
—Quantum mechanics principle, Nobel laureate and physicist Murray Gell-Mann

“Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.”
—Nikola Tesla

“If we believe that happiness arises only when some external condition is fulfilled, we consign ourselves to a perpetual state of discontent.”
—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

“When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad.”
—Lao Tzu (Laozi)

“Unity can only be manifested by the Binary. Unity itself and the idea of Unity are already two.”
—The Buddha

“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”
—Dogen Zenji

A Buddhist walked into a bar and told the bartender, “Make me One with everything.”

Duality and non-duality define the conflict between our mental and spiritual lives. Duality, dividing things into opposites, seems to be our native, reflexive state: this or that, this and that, this not that, this plus that, this minus that. Rich and poor, ugly and attractive, educated and ignorant, delicious and disgusting, old and young, fat and thin, athletic and indolent, pleasant and unpleasant, gifted and hopeless: The list of our dualities goes on and on.

And it is so hard to get away from them, even when we try as hard as we can. They may just be knee-jerk reactions brought on by cultural conditioning, or they may be hardwired into our system as a primitive survival mechanism that we just haven’t been able to ditch as we’ve evolved. Whatever the case, they stand between us and unity with the All, with all there is.

Every time we see a celebrity in a skimpy bikini and think something bad about her, or see a genuinely talented movie star posing in skimpy attire and wonder why women are still compelled to do that, whatever their acting gifts, and men aren’t, or curse an industry that promotes youth and anorexia as beauty while dissing and dismissing age and normal weight as hideous and unnatural, we’re following our natural human impulses. Ditto for cheering on one team and booing another, palling around with one coworker and avoiding another, spending way too much on a hot new car or tech toy rather than buying a sturdy, reliable used model.

Non-duality urges us to rise above all this, to see Kim Kardashian and Mother Teresa as one, Donald Trump and the Dalai Lama as one, Usui Founder and Hitler as one. To see the man who tortures helpless animals or, like Charles Manson, orders his followers to rip a pregnant woman’s baby from her womb, or, like the Taliban, cut the ears and noses off beautiful Afghan women simply because they’re beautiful, in the same light as we see Saint Francis, Rumi, or the Lord Jesus. Can we be, are we as humans, capable of this?

This state of non-duality is the very definition of sainthood, of enlightenment, satori. Its difficulty of achievement is why there are so few saints, so few enlightened ones. Blessed Mother Teresa was able to see in every human, however destitute, however ancient or ill, however hideous, “Christ in His distressing disguise.” She made no distinctions, she saw no duality. Her love was great enough to encompass all, even the rich and superficial.

As followers of the Reiki Way, we have the help of Usui Founder in our striving to move from duality (judgment) to non-duality (acceptance of all), through our practice of the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals): “Just for today, don’t worry. Don’t get angry. Be grateful. Work hard. Be kind.” If we go through our day practicing the Principles as hard as we can, whenever we can, we will be moving further away from duality and closer, ever closer, to non-duality. Supplemental practices like meditation, chanting, and Reiki exercises such as deep (Hado) breathing, visualizations, and Hatsurei-Ho, also further our progress towards experiencing non-duality.

Let’s hit the (Reiki) road!

Just for today, follow the Principles.

Reiki add-ons. July 15, 2014

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Frans Stiene recently wrote a post on his International House of Reiki blog called “De-Attune?” (Google “ih reiki” and it will take you there.) It’s brought up some interesting issues about the nature of Reiki and some very interesting responses from Reiki practitioners.

Central to the post and the responses is the question “What is Reiki?” Originally, Reiki was the discovery of its Founder, Mikao Usui, when after a long and rigorous intellectual search for spiritual enlightenment, he received enlightenment, satori, on the slopes of Japan’s Mount Kurama after a 21-day fast. Clearly, it took physical as well as mental commitment to bring this about, body and mind in tandem.

Usui Founder’s experience brings to mind the Native American coming-of-age ritual called the Vision Quest, where adolescents were sent out to isolated areas to fast and pray until they received the vision that would give them their totem animal, their adult name, and shape their lives. I always thought the idea of finding your name, totem, and etc. as you grew up was a wonderful idea, since it set you free from others’ expectations, free to become yourself. Thus the child Jumping Badger became the great chief Sitting Bull. Too bad we don’t all do this.

But I digress. Usui Founder discovered on his way back down the slopes of Mount Kurama that his newly discovered gift of Reiki could be used for healing, and for the rest of his life, he used it to heal those in need, most famously after the Great Tokyo (Kanto) Earthquake of 1923, when he healed thousands of earthquake victims with Reiki and developed a huge following.

But Mikao Usui made a distinction between healing and teaching. When he taught, he taught the Five Reiki Principles (aka Principles, Ideals) as the foundation of Reiki practice: “Just for today, Don’t worry. Don’t get angry. Be grateful. Work hard. Be kind.” He gave reiju, now called initiations or attunements, but then regarded as simple spiritual blessings that strengthened one’s Reiki practice. He didn’t use symbols or specific hand positions or pretty much any of the things we in the West have come to associate with Reiki. In short, he taught his students according to their abilities and strengths, individually, and expected his students to do the same for their students. To his most gifted students, he shared the secret of enlightenment.

Since Usui Founder’s time, Reiki, or at least Western Reiki, has come a long way from its roots. There are so many different kinds of Reiki, often copyrighted by their developers, which incorporate crystals, Tibetan symbols, angels, chakras, Chinese meridians, shamanic techniques, you name it. “My Reiki is better/more exclusive/more expensive than your Reiki” has become an all-too-common refrain.

I have absolutely nothing against crystals, chakras, incense, Chinese medicine, and the like. I’m happy to incorporate them into my personal practice, along with the Native American techniques I use. I just wouldn’t call any of them Reiki. They aren’t Reiki. I don’t teach them. Please, let’s try to remember what Reiki is—a simple, powerful Way that leads to enlightenment—and what it isn’t. Reiki doesn’t demand that we give up anything along its Way, only that we “work hard” to achieve its end.

Just for today, stay on course.

Is Reiki a religion? July 14, 2014

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In a word, no. Reiki’s Founder, Mikao Usui, was a Buddhist; like all Japanese, he also practiced the national religion, Shintoism; he also studied Christianity. He never saw Reiki as competing with or conflicting with any religion. Instead, he saw it as a spiritual life Way, a road to enlightenment, satori, whether you believed in one religion, many religions, or none. Reiki was not a replacement for religion; there is no Reiki deity.

Instead, Reiki reminds me of the discipline of Soto Zen meditation. The meditation is a transformative exercise that can lead to enlightenment, but it is not Buddhism, not even Zen Buddhism. It is a technique, shikan taza, “just sitting.” Reiki also involves a series of techniques, a discipline, that can lead to enlightenment. And they are available to everyone, no matter what their faith.

Thus, it makes me very sad when my own Catholic faith rejects Reiki, and it makes me nervous when someone claims Reiki in the name of Buddhism or Jesus or angels or whatever. Usui Founder gave us ALL Reiki, whatever our beliefs. Let us all progress on our Reiki path without condemning those whose beliefs are different from ours. Let us not try to make Reiki exclusionary. Let us embrace our diversity and keep our feet on the path.

Just for today, be grateful and be kind.