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Another great fortune. October 8, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in Reiki, Reiki Tips, Reiki wisdom.
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Last night, we had Chinese/Japanese/Thai takeout for supper. (Thanks to the miraculous rise of Pan-Asian restaurants.)This included two fortune cookies (much appreciated by our black German shepherd, Shiloh). I’ve never understood why anyone would want to eat a fortune cookie (Shiloh excepted), but I’ve always been fascinated by them.

When I was a child, fortune cookies told fortunes: You will be this, you will do that, this will happen to you. But for many years now, they have contained maxims, proverbs, truisms, rather than telling fortunes. An example is my all-time favorite, “There’s more to balance than not falling over.”

I still miss the good old days of “You will win the lottery this week” or “A handsome prince is heading your way” or “Stay inside on the next full moon.” And I still wonder why it seems like all fortune cookies suddenly changed to maxim cookies. (Market research?) I’ll admit, however, that for those of us on the Reiki path, these latter-day cookies occasionally turn up hidden gems that can prod us to think and act in new ways.

Last night, my fortune was “There is no one so rich that they don’t need help or so poor that they cannot help.” What a wonderful point! And it was really timely, too. I’d been sitting here staring at a stack of bills thinking “Yeesh,” and feeling demoralized because it seemed like everyone I knew was traveling, going on cruises to fabulous places, while I was sitting here moping. Then I got an e-mail from my undergraduate school asking me to donate money to help endow a fund to send students to France!

I would love to go to France, to Normandy, my ancestral home (ca. 1066), to the Loire River Valley, to Provence (so I can pretend to be one of my heroes, Julia Child), to Chartres, to Paris and the Louvre. But I could never afford such a trip. And here’s my school asking me for money!

“There is no one so rich that they don’t need help.” Blessed Mother Teresa said that the greatest poverty she had ever encountered was not in the gutters of Calcutta but in the arid, isolated emotional lives of the well-to-do in America and other first-world countries. As Pope Francis puts it, “The great threat in today’s world is the loneliness of hearts oppressed by greed.” Clearly, these people desperately need help getting back in touch with other people, with animals, with nature. Think of the people who run companies of horror like Monsanto: Could they really poison the world if they were in touch with it? Could the monsters who pay people pennies to work in mines and sweat-labor factories that fall in on them and kill them do such a thing if they were connected to other people?

“There is no one…so poor that they cannot help.” I found this part of the fortune especially affecting. It made me think again about the e-mail from my school asking for money. The fund was going to be named in honor of one of my own French teachers, Scott Bates, who has apparently now died. I remember Professor Bates for his kindness and for how much he loved that I wrote poems in French. Now I feel sorry that I didn’t send him some of the English translations of French poems I did in grad school; I think he’d have been far more impressed by those. I can’t give the school money; I don’t have any. But I’d like to honor Professor Bates in some way. Maybe I’ll write a poem, or translate one, and send it to the French Department in his honor. Maybe they’ll find a way to use it that will “help.”

There is no one so rich that they don’t need help or so poor that they cannot help. Offering a free Reiki session to an ailing neighbor, or offering to get groceries for elderly neighbors, or spending a few extra moments with your dog or cat or adopting a dog or cat or bunny from a shelter, volunteering at a soup kitchen, suggesting that your Reiki share end with sending Reiki to the world: All of these cost nothing, yet they give so much. And recognizing that we all need help, we all need connection, we’re all interdependent, and that this is the mortal condition, not some sign of weakness or failure, will set all of us free.

Just for today, offer help and take it.

The right way to teach Reiki. October 4, 2014

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“You can preach all you like, but actually most of the important things in life are caught, not taught.”

—Jane Livesey, General Superior of the Congregation of Jesus

What a great quote! The next time you teach a Reiki class, make sure there are plenty of things for your students to “catch,” that you’re interacting, not just sitting or standing there pontificating. Rather than reciting (or worse, reading) a rote set of class notes, make sure you, as well as your students, get something new out of every class you teach. Encourage your students to open up: Sometimes their questions will open new doors for you.

Of course, you hope that every student will catch Reiki fire. It’s why they are there, why you are there. But who knows what else they might catch? Perhaps a burning desire to volunteer giving Reiki in animal shelters or hospices or assisted-living facilities, or working with handicapped kids, or going on to become a Reiki teacher themselves. Maybe they’ll want to establish Reiki as a modality at a local wellness center or spa, or create a Reiki share at their church or college. Maybe they’ll catch on a book title and go on to read a book you think is a great help on the journey, or they’ll start a Reiki journal or blog, or they’ll catch one of the Reiki exercises or Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) that can help them conquer one of their demons.

So, how do you help your students catch “the important things”? Keep learning yourself. Read, watch, take notes, including notes on how various images or passages made you think or feel. I think it’s important to keep up with new Reiki developments, but I also think that books and films on spirituality in general, such as the marvelous movie “Zen,” Sri Eknath Easwaran’s Words to Live By, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, and Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s Not Always So have the ability to inspire and empower.

Make sure you keep the focus on the Reiki Principles first, always first, but don’t forget the importance of daily Reiki self-healing. Teach your students to recite the Principles, hands in gassho, in both Japanese and English, and give them copies of photos of Usui Founder, Hayashi Sensei, and Takata Sensei so they can recite in front of them if they wish. (Add photos of Chiyoko Yamaguchi Sensei, Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei, and any other Senseis in your lineage if you wish.) Make sure they can remember and do simple exercises like Hado breathing after their Reiki hands-on self-healing sessions to center themselves and deepen their calm. Encourage them to write essays on each Reiki Principle after (or even during) the first class, and again several months later; reading and talking about each of them with the class, comparing them, should be eye-opening. Have them repeat this exercise every time they take a new class so they can watch themselves grow. There is so much to offer, so much to do, so much to learn!

Just for today, start pitching.

The quake that made Mikao Usui famous. September 1, 2014

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On September 1, 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake hit Tokyo, killing more than 140,000 people. Most of them were killed by fire—fire that spread like wildfire among the closely packed houses and businesses built of wood, paper and bamboo and heated, lit and fed with flame. Nearby Chiba Prefecture, the home of Usui Founder’s Samurai ancestors, was also badly hit.

Mikao Usui had discovered Reiki’s healing powers in 1921, when he was enlightened after fasting and meditating for 21 days on Mount Kurama. But he might have remained a footnote of history had the earthquake not compelled him into action, rushing to the site and healing thousands with Reiki. As a result, his fame spread far and wide. And students came to him—students like Hayashi Sensei, who ensured that Reiki didn’t die with its Founder or with World War II but spread throughout the world. Every day, we should be grateful that so much good came from something so bad.

The Japanese government has chosen September 1, the anniversary of the great quake, as their annual Disaster Prevention Day, a time to remind citizens of the earthquake-prone country to be prepared for the worst, be it a quake or a tsunami. This year’s theme is “Let’s stockpile toilet paper!”

This may sound like something from The Onion or “Saturday Night Live,” but to me it’s always made perfect sense. If, for whatever reason, the supply chain breaks down, won’t you still need toilet paper, tissues and the like? Think about it.

The Japanese government recommends that every family keep a month’s supply of toilet paper in their homes, along with emergency food, water, a first-aid kit, and a portable toilet. (And no, they’re not talking about a Port-a-Potty, but a specially constructed bucket with a toilet-like seat that you can fit with plastic grocery bags.) Here in the States, you can buy these toilets cheaply at sporting-goods stores like Cabela’s, since hunters use them for camping. You might not need one if you’re on city sewage, even in a disaster, but if you’re on a septic system, having one as a backup isn’t a bad plan.

So today, let’s honor our heroic Founder, Mikao Usui, who rushed to the rescue when his Reiki healing was needed. Let’s send Reiki back to the 140,000 who died in the Great Kanto Earthquake, and the many more who were injured and lost their homes and possessions. Let’s thank them for making Usui Founder so prominent that we have been able to follow the Reiki Way as a result. And let’s stock up on toilet paper!

Just for today, be grateful.

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.

Treat yourself. August 3, 2014

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A few years ago, I belonged to the local CSA (basically an organic vegetable farm that sells “shares” of its produce in advance so it can afford to operate). As it happened, one of my Reiki Masters also belonged to that CSA, and one day I encountered her in the parking lot. As we chatted, I happened to notice her feet. Like me, she was wearing sandals. But unlike me, her feet looked smooth and hydrated, her toenails perfectly groomed and polished. She’d obviously treated herself to a pedicure. She had happy feet.

This encounter made a lasting impression on me. Those feet said, loud and clear, “Here is a person who takes time for herself. Here is a person who takes care of herself.” And mind you, this was a very busy person, working in the law department of a huge corporation, teaching Reiki, participating in the largest regional music organization, renovating her historic family home, volunteering for the local fire department, and living a full family life with her husband, son, grandchildren, and relatives. Yet she still had managed to find time for her feet.

I have thought of this again during the past two years’ Komyo Zen Reiki Retreats, which the delightful Thin Thin Lay organized at Dai Bosatsu Zendo in the Catskills. Attendees had the once (in my case, twice) in a lifetime chance to experience the teachings of Komyo Reiki, the Reiki of Enlightenment, with its founder, Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei, in a perfectly bucolic setting on a gorgeous lake in the mountains, and at the same time to be part of the Zen community there, enjoying daily meditation, walking Zen, chanting, and much more, as well as the Zendo’s justifiably renowned vegetarian food and its truly incredible setting, a perfect replica of a mediaeval Japanese Zen monastery. What an incredible privilege! And I was lucky enough to be able to attend with Reiki friends, which made the experience even more special.

But what reminded me of the feet wasn’t the Zendo itself, but the flower arrangements in the guest house where we were staying. Both years, Lann San, a fellow Komyo Shihan, had made the most exquisite flower arrangements for the guest house where we stayed and learned from Sensei. Lann San is a master of Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, and the flowers, vases, and arrangements she made for us clearly brought that out. I especially loved the arrangements where she echoed the main arrangement with a single flower placed elsewhere. I have never looked at flowers, or flower arranging, the same way since. Like perfectly pedicured feet, those perfect flower arrangements spoke to me of love and care.

Mind you, I still have never gotten a pedicure in my life. I don’t wear nail polish, since I think it’s really important to let your nails breathe if you want them to stay healthy. But I DO make a point of remembering to massage lotion into my feet at night, rather than ignoring them and letting the skin dry up and crack. I can almost hear my feet sighing with relief as they’re rehydrated after a long day’s work.

And the flowers? Flowers to me are the heart of the home. I try to always have a fresh arrangement of cut flowers on my kitchen table and a blooming plant in my home office. Thanks to the floral sections of pretty much every grocery store, this is a lot easier than it used to be. I can buy flowers for the table for $5.99, and a stunning phalaenopsis orchid with bloom sprays that will continue to bloom for months for $19.99, less than it costs to go out to dinner once. (A great treat in itself, especially if you prefer food to flowers.) The best part? The phalaenopsis will live for years and bloom reliably over and over again.

When I buy flowers, I feel like I’m treating myself, adding something immeasurably precious to my home. Perhaps you feel that way when you get a manicure or a pedicure or get your hair styled or get a massage. (I’m with you on the massage!) Or when you go out to a movie or to a favorite restaurant or to your home team’s ball game, or simply when you watch your favorite show on TV and indulge yourself with hot, homemade popcorn or a takeout pizza (and salad, please!) or whatever says indulgence to you.

Indulgence for me is often as simple as cooking a favorite dish or reading a favorite magazine or watching a favorite movie from the comfort of home. Or reading a favorite novel or set of poems, or writing them. Just looking at the expression on my beloved black German shepherd Shiloh’s face or watching the twitch of her tail, or hearing the peaceful snores of my partner Rob, are invitations to peace and rest.

Point being, take care of yourself. You can’t help anyone else if you can’t help yourself. Even ten minutes a day, one thing a day, be it Reiki self-healing or getting a bunch of flowers while you’re grocery shopping or making sure you rub some lotion into your feet, can make a world of difference.

Just for today, take care of yourself.

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.

Say no to anger. June 24, 2014

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“If someone provokes you and you respond with anger, you are reinforcing anger as a part of your personality. So returning kindness for unkindness is not simply being kind to that particular person. You’re being kinder to yourself, because you are undoing a compulsion, taking one more step towards being free…. The deconditioning process is straightforward enough: when anger comes up, don’t act on it. When it tries to tell you what to do, say no. Repeat the mantram, go for a long, brisk walk if possible, and throw yourself into hard, concentrated work…”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

I find that removing myself from the anger-causing situation is the best way to put enough distance—literally or figuratively—between me and what’s upsetting me to get some perspective and calm down. If a news story is enraging you, put down the paper or turn off the TV. If someone is arguing with you on the phone, tell them you’ll call them back and hang up. If you’re in a face-to-face confrontation, tell the other person that you can’t think clearly at the moment and need some fresh air, then walk away, go outside, and walk until you’re feeling calmer and more in control.

Nobody can force you to stay in an anger-inducing situation. When I use Mozilla Firefox as my search engine, if I click on a link it feels is suspect, it will send up a warning that the link or site is untrusted. The option it provides at that point is “Get me outta here!” When you feel anger rising, remind yourself that it’s not to be trusted and ‘get outta there’.

Just for today, don’t get angry.

Rise and shine. June 22, 2014

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“We needn’t be helplessly caught in time. There are a number of very simple steps we can take to begin to free ourselves. One of the easiest is to get up early in the morning.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

I couldn’t agree more. I’m certainly no morning person—sleeping ’til lunchtime would be my idea of a good time—but I usually get up between 5 and 5:30 every morning. Why? I’ve found it gives me so much more time every day than waiting until 7 or 8. Quiet, peaceful time to read the news, answer e-mail, write blog posts. Time to do the Reiki, Celtic, and Native American rituals that make me feel good about every new day. Time to watch the sun rising and filling the yard with light, shining through the leaves and nourishing the plants.

Those few extra hours make the difference between feeling rushed every morning—feeling like I’ll never catch up no matter how fast I run—and feeling calm, hoping that just for today, I’ll actually be able to live Usui Founder’s Reiki Principle (aka Precept, Ideal), “Don’t worry.”

The great Benjamin Franklin said “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Early to bed made a lot of sense in his day, when alcoholic beverages were the only ones considered safe to drink and candlelight was the only source of lighting after dark beside flickering firelight. Going to bed early meant staying out of the taverns and waking up sober, plus saving money on extremely costly candles and taking advantage of (free) natural light by getting up early. Cutting down on alcohol consumption (not to mention gambling and whoring, the other fun things to do in taverns) and minimizing the use of candles would certainly make you healthier and wealthier than your tavern-frequenting peers. And, as old Ben realized, having a few well-rested, sober hours in the early morning for reflection would go a long way to making you wise.

Try it and see where it takes you in your practice.

Just for today, rise with the light.

Look below the surface. May 13, 2014

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“You must look into people, as well as at them.”

—Fortune Cookie

Longtime readers know that I often find words of wisdom hidden in fortune cookies. (I don’t actually eat fortune cookies—eeeewwwww, talk about tasteless!!!—though my black German shepherd, Shiloh, apparently loves them.) But on the occasions when I find wisdom in the strips of paper inside (a favorite is “There’s more to balance than not falling over”), I save them. When I need inspiration, I’ll draw a random fortune out of the batch. What does it have to teach me?

I do the same with postcards. I’ve amassed a stack of postcards that inspire me for one reason or another. If I need inspiration, I’ll draw a random card out of the stack and enjoy the photo, artwork, area, or message. What do they have to teach me?

These are two simple techniques that every Reiki practitioner can incorporate into their practice, their techniques and tips. Today’s fortune cookie fortune reminds us that appearances are nothing; it’s what’s inside that counts, much like the fortune cookie itself. But it only helps us if we take the time to see inside.

Just for today, let’s dig deeper.

Cherish the simple things. March 8, 2014

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Today, let’s celebrate the simple things that make us happy: a hug in the morning, a cup of hot tea just the way we like it, our dog’s happily wagging tail or cat’s contented purr. A stick of Nag Champa or balsam incense. A CD we haven’t heard for a while or a scene from a favorite movie or passage from a beloved childhood favorite book. Some lovely mashed potatoes. Ten blissful minutes of Reiki self-healing.

Happiness needn’t come in large packages. Sometimes the smallest, simplest, humblest packages are the ones that bring us the most joy. We need only to open our eyes, our senses, and our sense of gratitude to see them. We don’t need the huge promotion or the beach vacation or the new Camaro or the Manolo Blahnik shoes and Vuitton bag to be happy. What we need is to appreciate what we have now, to enjoy it to the full. Joy is waiting for us in that blooming African violet, in that cardinal at the bird feeder, in that warm, delicious pasta.

Just for today, be happy.