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Meditating with Dr. Usui. August 30, 2014

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We’re now in the final week of the Usui 21-Day Virtual Retreat, the celebration of Mikao Usui’s life that begins on his birthday (August 15th) and continues for three weeks, with a special Reiki exercise or meditation each week. The retreat is hosted by Mari Hall, and for the past several years, the meditations/exercises have been provided by Frank Arjava Petter. Gassho to Mari and Arjava for providing this wonderful, deepening, free event to all Reiki practitioners with access to the internet!

I especially loved Arjava’s meditation exercise for this week, in which he suggested that we visualize Usui Sensei sitting in our crown or heart chakras or in the palm of our hand, and just rest for an hour with him in the Reiki energy. He said you could do this sitting or lying down, so if your busy day doesn’t give you a free hour, I imagine that this would be a beautiful way to drift into sleep.

As I continued to think about this meditation, I began to wonder, what about inviting Usui Founder into all three centers at the same time? Here’s the exercise I came up with, should you wish to try it:

Sit comfortably upright, with your back well supported (or unsupported, if you’re used to meditating and holding your spine upright). Invite Usui Founder to come sit with you and share his Reiki energy with you. Picture Usui Founder arriving and sitting over the top (crown) of your head, in your heart, and in the open palm of your left hand. (Consulting a photo of Usui Sensei, especially the one where he’s smiling benevolently, before beginning this exercise will help you visualize him, in his traditional dark robes, if you have trouble bringing his image to mind.)

Now, allow yourself to feel that, each time you breathe in, Usui Founder’s Reiki energy pours into you through your crown and descends into your heart, filling you with healing light. Then, as you breathe out, the energy flows down your arm into the palm of your hand and spreads from your fingers out into the world. Breathe slowly, calmly, deeply, holding the image of Usui Founder in each location as you feel the energy flowing from him through you and out into the world. Relax. Enjoy the feeling of the energy, enjoy your breathing, enjoy this time with Reiki’s Founder.

When you feel that the session is over, visualize Usui Founder standing and bowing to you, his hands in gassho (together in prayer position). Put your own hands in gassho and bow very deeply to him in turn. Express your gratitude for his spending this precious time with you and for sharing the transformative power of Reiki energy with you and all the world. Then watch as he turns and walks away. Call after him to say that you’ll do your best to stay on the Reiki path until you meet again. Sit quietly for a bit and let your awareness return slowly to your surroundings. The exercise is over.

How delightful to think that you can spend time with Usui Founder himself, every day if you wish! Even if it’s just for 15 minutes or a half-hour, I think it will strengthen your practice (and your Reiki) no end. Soon, visualizing and calling in our Founder will become instantaneous, so you can ask him to be with you during a healing session or while teaching or taking a class or giving Reiju or attunements.

If you’d like, you could ask another teacher, such as Hayashi Sensei or Takata Sensei, to join you instead of Usui Founder, if you feel particularly close to them. (I love the idea of Hayashi Sensei, in his Hawai’ian shirt and lei, with his twinkly glasses and happy smile, sitting in my palm.) And of course you could call in whichever one you feel you need at a given moment. But I’d begin with our Founder first until you get used to the practice. Then you can see if the energy feels different when you call in the other Teachers! Arjava suggested only calling in ascended (dead) Reiki Masters/Teachers, those in your own lineage(s), and I agree with him. Your living teachers already have plenty on their own Reiki plates!

Just for today, spend some quality time with our Founder.

Making amends. August 29, 2014

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“Whatever we have done, we can make amends for it without looking back in guilt or sorrow.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

Guilt and sorrow paralyze us. Do you ever find yourself thinking back to some comment or action that really hurt someone else’s feelings, something you didn’t even realize at the time? But of course you realized once you saw the look on the person’s face or heard their awkward response, and that look or response, or your words that prompted them, have haunted you ever since. But it’s been decades since you could even remember the person’s name; you have no concept of where they live, or if they’re even still living, much less how to contact them and apologize. And in any case, why would you think they’d even remember you, much less your hurtful remark?

So how do you make amends? Sri Eknath says you make amends by going forward, rather than endlessly circling the drain of what you did in the past. Let’s say you once deeply hurt the feelings of someone who owned a mixed-breed dog by announcing that you would never own anything but a purebred dog, not some ugly mutt. You of course didn’t realize that the person you were speaking to owned a mixed-breed dog that she’d rescued from a shelter; you were just mouthing off. You may no longer remember the person’s name or whereabouts, but you can make amends by volunteering at a shelter, spending time giving love and Reiki to abandoned animals, adopting a shelter animal, or donating money every month to the shelter of your choice so the dogs, cats and other animals can get a little more food, veterinary care, and treats and toys.

Even as an empath, especially pre-Reiki, I’ve done more than my share of this sort of behavior, inadvertently harming people I went to school with or cared about by making pronouncements. It’s not that I didn’t and don’t believe in the pronouncements, it’s that I should have realized that they might have hurt other people before I opened my big mouth. (Classic example: Years ago, a coworker gave me a very thoughtful birthday present. Knowing how much I loved Coca-Cola, she gave me a Coke-themed ice cream scoop. Years later, we were attending one of those dreadful team-building exercises and she happened to be sitting next to me. The instructor asked us to turn to the person on our left—in my case, her—and tell them something they didn’t know about us. Since I’m sort of an open book, I always have trouble with this kind of question. So what came flying out of my mouth? “I don’t like ice cream.” Ouch!!!)

As someone who follows the Reiki Way, I want to make amends. But rather than trying to find and contact these people, possibly reopening old wounds, I’d rather send them Reiki for healing and peace of mind. And give myself Reiki for self-healing so I’ll know when to keep my mouth shut.

What if the person you hurt was your parent, spouse or partner, ex-spouse or partner, your child, your sibling, yourself? The answer is still the same: Make amends by changing your behavior, by being kinder, by being more patient and understanding. Give yourself Reiki and ask Usui Founder, Hayashi Sensei, Takata Sensei, and any other teachers you especially revere to help you. Send Reiki to those you feel you’ve harmed. Remember that distance also heals; give them some space, rather than barraging them with phone calls, text messages, e-mails, and other mindless chatter. Let them know you love them, and let them be.

Just for today, move forward, not back.

Read this post. August 28, 2014

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On July 19, 2011, I wrote a post on The Reiki Blog called “The egg and the stone.” It’s about a favorite proverb of mine, and I saw that today, someone had gone all the way back there to read it, so I went back and read it again myself. I found that it was still inspirational, still worth reading.

I urge those of you who weren’t reading the blog back in 2011 to type “the egg and the stone” in the search bar at upper right. Those who were reading, like me, that was a while ago, so you might want to go back and re-read this post as well. In today’s world, where so many people think in terms of black and white, it’s a good way to use Reiki to get away from dualistic thinking.

Just for today, be neither egg nor stone.

Our thoughts shape us. August 24, 2014

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“We are shaped by what gains our attention and occupies our thoughts. Today, amidst all of the conditioning to the contrary, we need constant reminders of our higher nature, and that is why spiritual reading can be very helpful. The media drown us in such a low image of the human being that it is essential to remind ourselves constantly of something higher.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

To think this was probably written in the late 1970s! Poor Sri Eknath, I can’t imagine what he’d make of the “low image of the human being” that the media are drowning us in now!

When the news focuses exclusively on war, horrific global and domestic crime, corruption at all levels and abuses of all sorts, when not a single good or hopeful word emerges from any news anchor’s mouth or appears in any news feature online or in print, watching, reading, or scanning them is a corrosive experience. When crime shows, reality TV, and vampire sagas dominate our TV screens, murder mysteries are our most popular novels, horrendously violent dystopian films dominate the movie theaters, and sensationalism of all kinds, coupled with obsessive celebrity-watching, is the order of the day, our lives have become trivialized and polluted indeed.

Thank heavens Sri Eknath proposes a solution. He recommends spiritual reading, and notes that “Just before bedtime is a particularly good time, because the thoughts you fall asleep in will be with you throughout the night.”

There are lots of great Reiki books that those of us who follow the Reiki Way can use as bedtime reading, whether we read a chapter or a page or a passage. We could read an article in the Reiki News magazine or an inspiring post on a Reiki blog. Or we could simply focus on one of Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals), contemplating it or simply repeating it in our mind as we do Reiki self-healing and drift into healing, restorative sleep.

Just for today, read something uplifting.

It’s good to be alive. August 22, 2014

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“As you read this, please take a moment to cherish the fact that you are alive, that you are here on Earth with all your happiness and all your challenges. Let all of this be your treasure.”

—Frank Arjava Petter, Usui 21-Day Virtual Retreat, Week 2

Just for today, be grateful.

Lucid dreaming. August 19, 2014

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“We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Shakespeare is, of course, encapsulating the human condition, its beauty, breadth, and brevity (the “sleep” he refers to being death). But the beloved quote came to mind today because of an article I read on LiveScience about lucid dreaming—that is, when you’re asleep and dreaming, but realize that you’re dreaming. Researchers found that people who engaged in lucid dreaming were more aware of their surroundings and the people they interacted with in their waking lives than those who were not lucid dreamers. They tended to be more imaginative and more successful than their non-lucid peers.

What triggers lucid dreams? According to the researchers, an illogical element in the dream that the dreamer knows simply can’t be true, and therefore recognizes that s/he must be dreaming. Let’s say you’re having a lovely dream about vacationing on the beach. You’re sitting on the warm sand, watching the waves wash ashore, smelling the salt air and enjoying the sea breeze. You dig your toes into the sand, only to see that they’re elephant toes, not human toes—your legs end in elephant feet! The lucid dreamer realizes that this is a dream, since s/he obviously doesn’t have elephant feet on the ends of his/her legs.

Being a lucid dreamer has great advantages that go far beyond being more observant, sensitive, and successful in the waking state. It can save you from horrific nightmares. And the best news is, you can train yourself to be a lucid dreamer under those circumstances.

Now, I suppose everyone has a nightmare now and then, even the folks who seem to sink into blissful, dreamless, healthful repose every night. This is for those of us who fall into incredibly detailed variations on the same nightmare themes every night, dreams that may start out harmlessly enough but then inexorably twist and build to play on our deepest fears—abandonment, fear of heights (or spiders or whatever), unrealized neglect of animals in our care, helplessness, being lost.

Perhaps your nightmares revolve around being invisible, completely ignored by your so-called friends, colleagues, parents, love interests, you name it. Or that old classic, finding yourself in a physics (math, chemistry, engineering) classroom and being forced to take the final exam when you’ve never had a physics class in your life and didn’t realize you were enrolled. Or that you’re 7 years old and are driving your 4-year-old sister in rush-hour traffic when you have no clue how to drive. Or the alien killer bunnies or the murderers or whatever are coming for you.

Awake, you’d instantly realize that these were nightmares, however detailed and real they seemed, however long they went on. If you’re self-aware, you’d probably understand exactly why they were troubling you. And of course, your unconscious knows all that, too, which is why it continues to send them to torment you when you’re trying to sleep. Eventually, when the nightmare gets bad/scary enough, you probably wake up, sweating, heart pounding, the metallic taste of terror in your mouth, another wonderful opportunity to sleep and heal through the night ruined.

But you don’t have to let it reach that stage. To let lucid dreaming rush in and save the day, first ask the Teachers—Usui Founder, Hayashi Sensei, Takata Sensei, and, if you wish, the Holy Ghost Sensei—to stop the nightmares, grant you peaceful, healing sleep, and show you another way to deal with your demons. Next, do Reiki self-healing in bed and let yourself fall asleep while your hands are encouraging the flow of Reiki energy through your body, relaxing and recharging you.

Then, remind yourself that you have a choice. Let’s say you fall asleep and you’re having a typically incredibly detailed dream: You’ve gone to a conference center with colleagues, or to an elaborate dinner at a plaza with your partner, or to a resort. Thing is, you would never do any of these things in real life. And suddenly, nightmare aspects start to slowly creep in: your date has vanished, you can’t find your purse/wallet, so you have no money and no way to call a cab, you don’t know where you are or how to get out of there, you see your dog running loose in the distance and don’t know how to get her back, everybody else is eating lavish meals but every time you try to get food the service has just shut down. Let the idea float up that you’re having a nightmare and need to wake up. And then do it, drag yourself out of sleep.

Get out of bed. Go to the bathroom. Drink some water or hot herbal tea, check your e-mail, make a grocery list. You don’t have to stay up forever, just long enough to break the chain, to make sure you don’t drift back into the nightmare when you go back to bed. Ten minutes is plenty. Listening to a favorite song or watching a few minutes of a favorite film or reading a chapter of a favorite book can help, too. Like brushing your teeth, you’re just trying to brush off the gunk of your nightmare and reset yourself for peaceful, healing sleep. Try it, it works.

Will training yourself to have lucid dreams make you more observant, more imaginative, and more successful? I have no idea. But getting a good night’s sleep certainly can’t hurt.

Just for today, ask for healing sleep.

Don’t cling to things. August 18, 2014

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“When did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you?”
—Gandalf to Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

“We can get attached to anything, from our heirloom china to our comic books. Things are not meant to be loved but to be used wisely.”
—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

I’m a collector, so I’m guilty as charged. I love my fossils and crystals and shells and books and Pueblo pottery and marbles and spices and, and. So sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like if the house caught fire and everything was lost. If I smelled smoke, what would I try to save first? My jewelry? My Reiki certificates? My treasured family photos?

No. I would try to make sure that, with, of course, the help of my partner Rob, all of our beloved animals were safe and secured outside, in carriers or in the cars, before I even called 911. (This would involve taking out my purse with my IDs, keys, and so on, so they at least would be out of the flames.) Then, if it was possible, I’d rush back in for my family photos, the Reiki certificates, and the laptop on which I’ve written all my books. But the collections, which have given me so much pleasure over so many, many hours throughout my life?

I would hate to think of all those beautiful objects going up in smoke. I would hate to think of my mother’s best antique china cracking and chipping in the heat, my heirloom furniture, my antique rugs blackening and vanishing forever. But as long as Rob and our beloved black German Shepherd Shiloh and our cat Linus and our birds and fish got out safe, I’d be nothing but grateful. As Sri Eknath says, “Things are not meant to be loved.”

Just for today, be grateful for what matters.

Rejoice wherever you go. August 17, 2014

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“Those who are selfless rejoice here and rejoice there; they rejoice wherever they go.”

—The Buddha

Just for today, rejoice.

A very special birthday. August 15, 2014

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“Our innermost nature is often linked to the blue sky because it gives space to everything under the sun. In it you are at home… Please take a moment to feel that homecoming with the awareness that you are exactly as you ought to be. Nothing needs to be changed, reached or improved upon.”

—Frank Arjava Petter, Usui 21 Day Virtual Retreat, 2014

Today is Mikao Usui’s 149th birthday. Usui Founder, who gave the world Reiki, was enlightened, received satori, on the 21st day of his own retreat on Mount Kurama. To honor him and his enlightenment, Reiki Master and author Mari Hall began the tradition of a 21-day virtual Reiki retreat, with three weekly meditations, starting on Usui Founder’s birthday. For the past few years, she’s asked the marvelous Reiki Master and author Arjava Petter to lead the meditations with theme-based musings each week. This year, Arjava is focusing on lineage as the retreat theme. If you go to Mari’s website (http://www.marihall.com/), I think you’ll be quite surprised by Arjava’s first meditation. The lineage he’s focusing on may not be the one you were expecting!

Whether you choose to participate in the 21-day retreat or not (note that it’s free, you simply have to sign up and the meditations will be e-mailed to you automatically, and there’s no need to participate in a public forum), I’d say it would be good to mark our Founder’s birthday in some way. Whether you light a candle or some incense, place a flower before a photo of Usui Founder, try to contact him using the second symbol, or simply thank him for the gift of Reiki, try to do something to mark this day. You might make a simple supper, say rice and greens or rice and sauteed eggplant, and offer a little to Usui Founder before you eat. He might not have ordered takeout veggie egg rolls or spring rolls or fried rice or whatever himself, but if that’s your choice, a tiny bit offered in gratitude will doubtless be appreciated.

Celebrate! It’s our Founder’s birthday! Happy birthday, Usui Founder!!!

Just for today, take time to celebrate.

On the same path. August 12, 2014

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“It is not good to compare one person’s progress with another’s.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

All of us who follow the Reiki Way are on the same path, but we follow it in our own way. Some of us will sprint down the path like marathon runners, determined to win the race, then sit by the side of the road for a while to rest. Others will hop, skip, and jump along, focusing on this element or that as they catch our eye. Some will walk steadily along, concentrating on putting one foot before the other. Others will see things off the path that they want to stop and explore, and may wander so far away that they can’t find the path again, or may spend a very long time moving forward (pretty hard to do when you’re moving sideways). Some people may just lie down in the middle of the road. And others may decide to turn around, go back to the path’s beginning, and start all over again.

When you attend a Reiki class, and especially if you teach them, you know that they attract all types. There are the gifted, high-speed students, who just seem to “get” everything right out of the starting gate. There are the intuitives, who can see things their classmates can’t, and the empaths, who can feel what their classmates feel. There are the students who come because of their own problems or their families’ problems and give their entire focus to those issues, which can be tragic and dire indeed. There are students who feel a calling and come with the goal of starting their own Reiki practices, perhaps working in hospices or with shelter animals or special-needs children and their families or with the grieving and bereaved. There are people who come because they’re curious about what Reiki is and want to learn more. There are the collectors, who want to add one more certificate to their wall. And there are the students who earnestly participate but don’t seem to absorb anything, the ones who ask at the very end of the class, “Now who was Dr. Usui again?” and “How does Reiki work?” and “How do you spell Reiki?”

It’s too easy to make value judgments about students and classmates based on their perceived abilities: Are they articulate, asking perceptive questions and adding valuable experiences that enrich class discussion, or do they sit quietly through the class, apparently contributing nothing? Are they enthusiastically taking notes, fully engaged, or seemingly staring into space? When they practice hands-on Reiki, are they confident that Reiki energy is pouring through them at their fellow student’s need, or are they timid, saying that they don’t feel warmth or tingling or anything so maybe they just don’t have what it takes to do Reiki?

I’ll leave you with an experience I had, not in a Reiki class but in a college classroom last fall semester when I had to take my partner Rob, the actual professor, in to class for a couple of weeks after he had cataract surgery. Rob is a very engaging teacher who loves his work, and most of the students were enthusiastic, alert, and responsive during the class. But one woman clearly wasn’t. She never looked up once, instead spending class time wolfing down a huge cheesesteak, fries, and cola. She was enormous, so her meal was hardly surprising, but it surprised me that she was eating it in class.

If I had been Rob, I would have told her to take her food and lack of interest elsewhere. But when he went around the room and had everyone discuss their favorite book, this woman looked up and gave a passionate and very articulate commentary on hers. I was stupefied. As it turned out, she supported herself as a night nurse while working towards a degree, and had to rush off to work as soon as her classes were over, so the only time she could eat supper was during her last class, which happened to be Rob’s. I still can’t say that I support her menu choice, but I had obviously grossly misjudged her, and the lengths she was willing to go to get her diploma.

We are all on the same path.

Just for today, don’t make comparisons.