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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.

Valentine’s poem. February 14, 2014

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Cardinals on snow,
Cherries on cake frosting:
A happy valentine.

Kabocha squash fritters? August 29, 2013

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Dai Bosatsu Zendo, located high in the beautiful Catskill Mountains on 1400 forested acres, with a stunning 30-acre lake, is known for more than its beautiful setting. Its astonishing Japanese-inspired Zendo, the most authentic outside Japan, would look familiar to anyone who’s watched “Shogun.” But there’s another thing Dai Bosatsu is famous for: Its delectable vegetarian cuisine.

Admittedly, I wasn’t exactly struck by this the first night of my Komyo Reiki Zen Retreat back in 2012. My Reiki friend Dana and I got lost and arrived late, just as the Zendo dinner was winding down. Some monks raced to the kitchen and brought us slices of orange processed cheese, stale tail-ends of loaves of bread, and watermelon slices. Oh God, I thought, I’m going to starve to death before this retreat is over. It wasn’t until the next day, when beautiful, ample dishes of delicious food were presented, that I realized that we’d simply taken the monks by surprise the previous night after all the food had been eaten.

This year, I knew to expect delectable food, and so much more of it than I could possibly eat. But I wasn’t prepared for the highlight of the meals, the delicious kabocha squash fritters we were served at lunch on Sunday, the last meal of our stay. “Breaded” with shredded coconut, they were so unbelievably delicious that I had to go back for another (and would have been very pleased to return home with the entire tray!), despite my focus on each meal’s incredible salads, the best I’ve ever encountered anywhere.

Mind you, I’ve enjoyed kabocha squash stew many times. But these fritters were beyond fantastic. So when I got home, I rushed to my copy of the Zendo’s cookbook, 3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery, to find the recipe. No luck. Well, I was sad, but so be it: I hate grease, so deep-frying the fritters was probably more a dream than a reality.

Then, tonight, I was relaxing with a book on the history of cooking, A History of Food in 100 Recipes, by William Sitwell, when I came upon a reference to the great Roman chef Apicius’ recipe for pumpkin fritters. Pumpkin fritters? Could the ancient Romans have dined on the very dish I’d so enjoyed?

Alas. I have the translation of The Roman Cookery of Apicius, and there’s no mention of pumpkin fritters. Nor do squash fritters of any kind make it into the broader history of Roman cuisine, The Roman Table. Worse still, I couldn’t find a kabocha squash fritter recipe in any of my Japanese cookbooks, or even online.

Gack, I want those fritters! Being grease-averse, I probably won’t be making them here anytime soon. But I’d love to find someplace that makes them, preferably someplace that doesn’t require a trip to the Catskills. If anyone knows of such a place in scenic PA, please tell me. And if not, I have another wonderful memory to cherish.

Just for today, savor your food.

Changing your name. December 6, 2012

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I’ve always admired the Native American practice of giving a child a birth name, then revising it after his or her qualities become apparent. (The great Lakota leader Sitting Bull, for example, was born Jumping Badger.) This could happen several times throughout life as new qualities became apparent. It’s a trait Native Americans share with other cultures worldwide, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

In our own culture, we tend to be stuck with our birth name, though we may have several nicknames that are added to or evolve through time. (We might be Billy to our childhood friends, Bill to our high school-and-up friends, B-Bop to our spouse, William on formal occasions, and W.J. to our business colleagues.) We tend to only add new formal names through marriage.

This strikes me as a shame. If we take up a new life path, such as Reiki, it changes us fundamentally. We are not who we were before. This is recognized in spiritual traditions worldwide, where monks and nuns are given new names upon entering monastic life; even the Pope is given a new name. (Mother Teresa’s birth name was Agnes.) Western followers of Hinduism are often given Hindu names, as was the case with the Reiki Master Frank Arjava Petter or the author Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert). And now and then someone on a spiritual path will choose a new name for themselves, as Eckhart Tolle (born Ulrich Tolle) and Karuna Reiki teacher Laurelle Shanti Gaia did.  

But suppose you’re just you, not a shooting star in the spiritual galaxy or a Native American. You take Reiki and feel like a different person. You’d like to acknowledge who you are now by changing your name. You find a name that feels really right to you. It fits who you are now. Finally, you work up enough nerve to mention it to a close friend or family member. They stare at you as though you’d just announced that you were changing your name from Linda to Galadriel or Katniss Everdeen, or from Tom to Gandalf or Harry Potter. What, are you nuts?!! Spare us your New Age woo-woo.

I haven’t tried changing my name, though I don’t doubt that a new name is out there waiting: It just hasn’t manifested yet. But I know what it takes to even work up the nerve to mention my totem animals (the red-tailed hawk and horned toad) and birth animal (the crow, October) to those who are unused to thinking in these terms. I dread to think of their reaction were I to suddenly turn up and announce that from henceforth, I’d like to be known as [fill in the blank]. 

But I also feel that we’re missing something that those who follow spiritual paths have long known. What’s in a name? Everything, if you choose the name carefully and passionately to reflect who you really are. Our culture makes it challenging to do this overtly. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t embrace your “today” name in your heart, grow to know, love, and be comfortable with it. And should it truly come to signify who you are in your heart, to be you, perhaps you can manifest outwardly what has been your inward truth for a long time.

What do you think?

Just for today, be true to yourself. 

All content © copyright Red Dog Reiki. All rights reserved.

Go placidly. September 23, 2012

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“Go placidly in the midst of praise or blame.”

This is the motto of Komyo Reiki Kai, the Reiki of Enlightenment, and its founder, Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei. This is the Middle Way, a way espoused by everyone from the Buddha to Sri Eknath Easwaran to Eckhart Tolle to Usui Founder. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? But it’s not simple for us.

In the modern world, at least, we humans don’t “go placidly” at all. We not only get excited and puffed up when we’re praised and angry and depressed when we’re blamed, we’re constantly rushing around, trying to do an impossible amount of work in an impossibly small time, worrying about how we’ll make ends meet, tossing and turning at night as we think of all we have to do tomorrow. The to-do list never ends.

This is where our Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) can come to our rescue. When we’re blamed, we can remind ourselves not to get angry. When a work deadline’s looming or a bill is coming due, we can remind ourselves not to worry and to work hard. When we’re praised, we can remind ourselves to be kind and to be grateful rather than letting our egos take over. Above all, we can remind ourselves that we don’t have to take the high road and be some kind of noble hero or saint: We just have to try to take it one step at a time, one minute at a time. “Just for today.”

The Principles are a gateway to the Middle Way, as they are a gateway, ultimately, to enlightenment, to satori. Those of us who follow the Reiki Way should be grateful for the gift Usui Founder gave us when he wrote them and try to embody them, to personify them. When we do, we can finally go placidly in the midst of praise and blame and anything else our world chooses to throw at us.

Just for today, try to live the Principles.

All original content © copyright Red Dog Reiki. All rights reserved.

Thank you, Christian Bale. July 25, 2012

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In the wake of the massacre at the theater showing “The Dark Night Rises,” actor Christian Bale, who plays Batman (the Dark Knight) in the movie, has really stepped up to the plate. Christian Bale is certainly no stranger to dark, difficult roles. I didn’t see him as the psychotic killer in “American Psycho,” the sort of movie I avoid at all costs. But I did see him in “The Dark Knight” and in a much more challenging, dark dual role in “The Prestige,” where his twin characters are pitted against a fellow magician.

For those who don’t know, in the wake of the massacre, Mr. Bale first released a statement of sorrow, horror and support on behalf of the cast of “The Dark Knight Rises.” And then he flew to the scene of the horror, Aurora, Colorado, and visited the survivors in the hospital. There are cynics who’ll believe that this was a career-saving move on his part, but having seen him act, I don’t agree. I believe Mr. Bale is sincere in his actions and noble in his intentions. He’s always taken the challenging roles, the difficult path, rather than coasting to leading-man stardom as he certainly could have done.

Thank you, Christian Bale, for squarely facing the role you might have inadvertently played in deploying this tragedy, and for becoming the public face of reparation. The good you’re doing now is inestimable; you’ve finally chosen to cast yourself in a healing role. It’s definitely your best yet.

Morning poem. May 17, 2012

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Early Morning


Leaves on the curtain,

Tea in a cup:

Sleeping cat,

Waking cat.


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A lovely surprise. May 8, 2012

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The Reiki Blog was just given two awards by Julie Hansen of Julie Hansen Intuitive (http://juliehansenintuitive.com/), The Versatile Blogger and The Beautiful Blogger Awards. I am honored, humbled, and grateful. Thank you, Julie!!! What a lovely gift.

Part of receiving the awards is to tell people seven random things about yourself. So, for what it’s worth, here goes:

1. Having been a vegetarian all my adult life, I finally became a vegan in February. I’m still trying to figure out how to make a really good pizza with a whole-grain crust and no cheese.

2. I share my tiny cottage home with my partner Rob and our black German shepherd Shiloh, three enormous longhaired cats, a parrot, three parakeets, and an aquarium, plus numerous plants. I keep trying to suggest that we could adopt the additional random dog or cat when I see them in the paper. So far, no luck. But hey, I’m no quitter.

3. My true love and alter-ego is Sherlock Holmes. Rob says (with good reason) that if he put our dog’s excrement in a bag and wrote “Sherlock Holmes” on it, I’d bring it inside and enshrine it forever. He came to this conclusion after we saw the first Robert Downey Jr. Holmes film, both decided it was awful, but somehow a second-hand copy ended up on our DVD rack. How could this have happened?! He seems just as appalled by my many viewings of “Gattaca” and “Avatar.”

4. I have my real-life heroes as well, including Usui Founder, Takata-sensei, and especially Hayashi-sensei, who gave his life that Reiki might be spread to the world. I also love the polymaths, those brilliant individuals who excelled at many things: Leonardo da Vinci, the great Benjamin Franklin, Sir Richard Francis Burton. And the spiritual greats who gave so much for us: Saint Peter, Saint Francis, Mother Teresa, Eknath Easwaran, Shams of Tabriz, Jiddhu Krishnamurti, Eckhart Tolle. There are so many, and they have done so much to make us better. Gassho, gassho to all!

5. My favorite Jane Austen character is not Mr. Darcy but Mr. Bennet, the Groucho Marx of Austen fiction. Followed by Mr. Knightley. And, of course, the completely appalling but somehow appallingly lovable Mr. Collins.

6. Okay, speaking of shameful secrets and Collinses, I’m really looking forward to seeing the new “Dark Shadows” movie starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, vampire patriarch of the Collins clan. We didn’t get ABC reception at our home when I was a child, so I couldn’t see the original, unspeakably campy “Dark Shadows” series unless a schoolmate invited me over to her home after school. This didn’t happen often, but it happened often enough for me to be hooked on “Dark Shadows.” And yowie, who wouldn’t be hooked on Johnny Depp? Now, if he would just play Sherlock… 

7. Finally, let’s get back to Reiki. I first encountered Reiki years ago during, of all things, a garden tour. The owner of one garden complained that his back really hurt. One of the folks on the tour came forward and asked if she could put her Reiki hands on him. I have always believed, implicitly, intuitively, in the power of hands-on healing, and wow, there was someone actually doing it in front of my eyes! I stood there watching, rooted to the spot. (When she finished, she turned to me, still standing there gawking, and said, “You have the most enormous green aura I’ve ever seen.”) Years later, I found a book on Reiki in the “free” pile in our editorial office and looked inside. Here, I realized, was what I’d been watching that long-ago day in the garden. I started looking for a teacher right away (and ultimately found two, but that’s another story), and the rest is history!

What would you like to share about yourself?

Just for today, I am so grateful.

All content © copyright Red Dog Reiki. All rights reserved.

My Christmas wish for you. December 25, 2011

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Each year at Christmas, I have made a tradition of sharing a letter written at Christmas by Fra Giovanni to his patron in 1513 with my blog readers, first at Poor Richard’s Almanac, and now also here at The Reiki Blog. This tradition is borrowed from Tasha Tudor, the beloved children’s author and illustrator, who read Fra Giovanni’s letter aloud to her family and guests every year at Christmas. The beauty and wisdom it conveys make it a tradition worth preserving, as I think you’ll see:

“I salute you! There is nothing I can give you which you have not; but there is much that, while I cannot give, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take Heaven.

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant. Take peace.

The Gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach is joy. Take Joy!

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.”

This festive and joyful season, I wish the same for every one of you. God bless us every one!

An eye for an eye. December 8, 2011

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“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” Mahatma Gandhi so wisely said. Who could argue with his wisdom? And yet, sometimes it’s hard not to wish for repayment in kind, especially when someone’s charged with preying on the helpless.

Living in Pennsylvania, despite my sports-blindness I can’t help but be aware of the sex-abuse scandal surrounding former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky. Boys as young as ten have reported being raped in locker-room shower stalls, raped in Sandusky’s basement, screaming for help, while Sandusky’s wife, on the floor above, somehow failed to hear or help them. To make matters even more appalling, Sandusky adopted and fostered many boys in his home, and founded a charity for inner-city boys from which he apparently selected the majority of his victims. 

From everything I’ve read about Jerry Sandusky, he sounds like a Peter Pan, a little boy who never grew up mentally and loved the company of other little boys, but unfortunately grew up hormonally and turned his love of boys into a sexual outlet. His very childlike innocence wrought far greater harm than an outright predator, since boys could sense that he genuinely liked and related to them, so they trusted him. 

It is very, very tempting to view Sandusky as an evil predator and hope that he goes to jail and experiences what it’s like to be repeatedly molested and raped against your will. And perhaps beaten, tortured and killed by cons who’ve landed in the slammer precisely because a Jerry Sandusky molested them when they were young and trusting.

But, though Sandusky’s acts are inexcusable, and his insistence on his innocence is unpardonable, he seems, at the end of the day, a wilful child, not a monster. An immature adult-child who should have been identified as a potential threat, shut away, sheltered, and loved, not unleashed on an unsuspecting populace to wreak horrific acts on innocent children entrusted to his care.

Usui Founder instructed all of us who follow the Reiki Way to be kind. I don’t think he meant “Be kind to good, enlightened people.” I think he meant “Be kind to all beings.”  Be kind to the innocent; be kind to the flawed. Be kind to everybody. To Jerry Sandusky, his wife, and his victims; to abused animals and their owners; to toothless street people and miserable cubicle rats like Dilbert.

“Be kind” is a broad, decisive, sweeping command. It makes no exceptions, invites no quibbling. Usui Founder doesn’t say, “Do it if.” He says, “Just do it.”

The Catholic Church in its ancient wisdom says the same thing in a different way: “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

I hate Jerry Sandusky’s sin. But unlike the Church, I’m not big enough to love him, the sinner. I really have to fight that “eye for an eye” urge in his case, even though I can see his own appalling innocence. But I also acknowledge that Usui Founder and Gandhiji and the Church are wiser than I am. I certainly don’t want my own thoughts or actions to make the whole world blind!

Just for today, be kind.

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