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What is the sound of silence? January 20, 2015

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“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to pray in and play in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”
—John Muir

“May we try to listen and be silent in order to make space for the beauty of God.”
—Pope Francis @Pontifex

“The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear.”
—Zen proverb

It’s not easy to be quiet, or be in quiet, these days. Unless you live in a monastery, it’s practically a lost art. We all know it’s good for us. At some point, we’ve all heard someone say “It’s so loud in here I can’t hear myself think!” We know we must find quiet to recharge, to be able to truly hear the people who need our attention, to hear birdsong. But we’ve become part of a culture that tries to fill every second with sound, activity, excitement. How can we find “the beauty of God”?

The enlightened carry quiet within them wherever they go, as a lamp carries its flame. But those of us who have not yet reached that place can still find our own quiet, at least for a while. We can give up shopping at malls for entertainment. We can keep the TV turned off unless there’s a show we really want to see, rather than having it on at times as background noise. Ditto for music. We can walk away from the computer and laptop and iPad and smartphone, from Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. (It’s not like they won’t still be there when we get back.) We can, as John Muir suggests, seek beauty in nature, whether we’re in the mountains or just looking out the back door or sitting on our deck watching the sunset.

Once you’ve chosen your spot and turned off as much noise as possible, just sit. This is the hardest part. If you’re out in nature, but you’re hiking, or you’re skiing, or you’re sketching, or you’re taking photos, you’re not being quiet. You may not be singing or shouting or chasing people, but your mind is busy doing whatever you’re doing. It’s not quiet. You’re not quiet. This is true if you’re sitting on your deck as well. You’re not out there to take an inventory of repairs that need to be made. You’re there to just sit.

This is not the time to recite one of Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) or another stirring passage silently, either. Your goal is to just sit. Even doing Reiki self-healing, wonderful as it feels, is inappropriate, since it will focus your attention on your hands and body rather than on just sitting. Your goal here is “for mind and body to drop away,” at least while you sit, and for quiet to gather within you. Every time you do it, it becomes easier to drop into silence. And when you come out, it becomes easier to hold that silence in yourself.

Silly as it sounds, here’s what I do: I am absolutely addicted to those small white holiday lights. These aren’t the ones that blink on and off, they just sit there quietly twinkling. We have them on our back deck, and for the winter holiday season, we have them on our tree and in clusters in our living room. For me, they’re magic! In warm weather, if it isn’t raining, I love to go sit on the deck and watch the twinkly lights and a fire burning in our firepit as sunset gathers and darkness upon us. And indoors this time of year, I so love to just sit in the living room and watch the little white lights. Okay, it’s not sitting on the beach watching the surf, but you can find your own quiet wherever you like, a quiet that will delight you and help you grow in Reiki and in the good, compassionate life.

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The Universe is us. January 15, 2015

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“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
—John Muir

Or the ocean lapping the shore, or a waterfall, or a starry sky, or any breathtaking place where you can imagine a multitude of life gathering and yourself among them.

For those of us who follow the Reiki Way, meditation is one way to reach this magic world, where everything else drops away. As Sri Eknath Easwaran says in Words to Live By:

“As I reach the spiritual summit, I hardly feel my body. My mind is still, my ego has been set at rest. The peace in my heart matches the peace at the heart of nature…”

I know places where I can barely sit down before “I hardly feel my body,” even though it’s pressed against cold, jagged boulders; somehow, I have gone out from that place, “I” have gone out from myself. If you have such a place, don’t forget to visit it often. It needn’t be Stonehenge or Sedona, it could be a river two miles away. It’s not the site, it’s your love for it that matters.

Just for today, love your Mother.

Shedding our skin to grow. January 12, 2015

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“Like a snake that must shed its skin to grow, our industrial civilization must shed its material outlook or strangle in outgrown ideals whose constructive potential has been spent.”
—Sr Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

“Ecology is essential for the survival of mankind; it is a moral issue which affects all of us.”
—Pope Francis @Pontifex

“If your heart were sincere and upright, every creature would be unto you a looking-glass of life and a book of holy doctrine.”
—Thomas a Kempis

Sri Eknath probably wrote his wonderful comparison of a bloated civilization strangling on itself like a snake on unshed skin in the 1960s or ’70s. Pope Francis wrote his tweet a few days ago. And Thomas a Kempis wrote his comment in the 1300s or 1400s. But they were all making the same point: That the world is much too small, and there are far too many of us, for us to continue to destroy it as though we were the only thing that mattered.

Combining ecology-destroying greed with mindless overpopulation can only result in annihilation, first of the rest of life, then of us. Why would we harm them by our greed when we could see them as “a book of holy doctrine”? Let us cherish them while they’re here and try to change our greedy ways before it’s too late. (And if you haven’t, do watch “Avatar.” It doesn’t address the overpopulation issue, but at least it gets right at the greed, and the lengths we’re prepared to go to to protect our “assets.”)

Just for today, please send Reiki to our precious Mother. If you can, use the symbols, then just hold an Earth marble, or any marble, in your hands and let the Reiki flow.

Love them all the same. January 5, 2015

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“Try to treat with equal love all the people with whom you have relations. Thus the abyss between ‘myself’ and ‘yourself’ will be filled in, which is the goal of all religious worship.”

—Anandamayi Ma

It’s easy to love the people who love us—our family, our spouse or partner, our beloved dog or cat. But Anandamayi Ma is telling us that we need to offer everyone we meet the same love—the mailman, the cashier, the server, our boss, our administrative assistant, the guy who prunes our trees—everyone. That only when the barriers between us fall will we find enlightenment.

It is the separation between us that is the cause of fear and strife, or, as the Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) would have it, anger and worry. And the more we can separate someone or something from ourselves, the more justified we feel in abusing, fearing, and/or using it. We spin ever farther from connection, from harmony.

“It is the attainment of harmony which is called heaven,” says Hazrat Inayat Khan. The attainment of harmony is also enlightenment, satori, anshin ritsumei. But how do we get from here, sitting in a restaurant where everyone’s bellowing into their smartphones, the service is abominable, and when your food finally comes, they’ve sent the wrong order and it has meat on it, so you have to send it back, to there? How easy is it to listen respectfully to the boss as she loads you down with another project, explaining that she doesn’t have time for it since she’s going on a fabulously expensive cruise, so you’ll just have to work overtime without extra pay so you can get it done over the holidays?

Yet if we cannot let go of our anger, our frustration, and get past our sense of separation from these people, we can never reach that state of joy and harmony that is our goal. What to do?

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know what I’m going to say next. I can’t tell you if our Founder, Mikao Usui, struggled with these emotions or this sense of separation himself. But he certainly was an excellent judge of character, and doubtless saw his students and the people he met letting disharmony and separation keep them from their goals. So he established the Five Reiki Principles to help us set (and reset, and reset) our feet on the Reiki path, the path to enlightenment.

The Principles look easy. “Just for today,” we’re asked to not worry, not get angry, be grateful, work hard, and be kind. But if they were so easy, if all of us could do them, we’d all be enlightened. That’s why they’re a practice, a daily practice, something you can remind yourself of every time you need to bring yourself back into harmony. It is hard work, as Usui Founder reminds us, but it is also progress, progress on our path.

Just for today, practice your Reiki Principles.

Shine on. January 4, 2015

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“The good shine like the Himalayas, whose peaks glisten above the rest of the world even when seen from a distance.”

—The Buddha

Seeing this quote again really resonated with me, since my partner Rob and I have been having a “visual cleanse” after a season of Christmas movies by watching Michael Palin’s “Himalaya” travel series. Of course it’s charming to see the various incarnations of Scrooge and “A Christmas Carol,” not to mention the classics from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, but eventually it all gets old and you find yourself longing for something else.

I have never seen such beautiful scenery as in the “Himalaya” series. I can’t imagine going there, high above the world as the Buddha says, which is why I love our DVDs. But I love the thought of going there, or on the ocean, or any other beautiful Neverland.

Lord Buddha is saying that all of us can look like the Himalayas, that even the least likely of us can shine like the Himalayas. It’s not easy to be good, but by practicing Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) every day, we can at least get closer.

Just for today, practice your Reiki Principles.

Chop wood, carry water. January 2, 2015

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“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

—Zen Saying

We tend to think that enlightenment is a single event: BANG! We’re enlightened! Then we rush around shouting “I’m enlightened! Look at me! I’ve achieved the summit!” The ego has taken over again.

This wonderful saying, and that of all enlightened masters, urges us to simply continue as we were, so that we will remain humble and help our community. Meanwhile, we will continue our own practice and growth, and there will be not one, but many enlightenment experiences.

There’s a great story about Dogen Zenji, founder of the Soto Zen School, who continued to practice Zazen (seated, silent meditation) all his life. One day, a monk rose from his cushion and excitedly approached Dogen: “Master! I’ve just achieved enlightenment!!!” To which Dogen Zenji replied, “Continue doing Zazen.” He knew that it was the practice, not the result, that mattered.

Just for today, continue practicing your Five Reiki Principles.