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Losing what you have, finding what you’ve lost. September 13, 2014

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“You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
—Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

On the surface, Eckhart Tolle’s comment sounds straightforward and reassuring: We may lose our possessions to fire, flood, theft, repossession, tornado, hurricane, or what have you, but nothing and no one can take away our essential self.

But a deeper meaning lies beneath the surface: What ARE you? Are you filled to the brim with turmoil, anger, fear, worry, jealousy, hatred, resentment, selfishness, and other destructive feelings? Are you filled with remorse for past actions, or a crippling sense of inadequacy because you don’t feel as smart, attractive or successful as your friends and coworkers? Do you fill up on self-hate, flogging yourself mentally if you stopped for ice cream or fast food on the way home or if you skipped the gym or your usual 5-mile run or made up yet another excuse to avoid visiting your great-aunt in the nursing home?

Fortunately, our emotions may distract us, but they aren’t us. And because they aren’t us, we have the opportunity to overcome them. For those of us on the Reiki path, Usui Founder has given us the way to dump all our emotional garbage, to shed all the baggage that we call “ourself” but that has nothing to do with ourself, to walk the path to enlightenment, satori, anjin ritsumei: the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals).

If we try our best, every minute of every day, to put Usui Founder’s Principles into action, the junk that hinders us will drop away, and the “something that you are” that Eckhart Tolle references will emerge, the thing that no one and nothing can take away.

Just for today, don’t get angry. Don’t worry. Be grateful. Work hard. Be kind.

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.

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.

Bearing up. June 13, 2014

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“When the senses contact sense objects, a person experiences cold or heat or pain. These experiences are fleeting; they come and go. Bear them patiently.”

—Bhagavad Gita

This certainly speaks to me, since I’m super-sensitive to poison ivy and have come down with a really bad case. I know better than to pull poison ivy in hot, humid weather, and I know to always wear protective gloves, but the wretched stuff managed to get the better of me anyway. I may not be experiencing cold or heat or pain, but I’m certainly experiencing itching. Grrr, what a stupid distraction!

The Gita tells us to bear these sensory infirmities patiently. And honestly, how else can we bear them? The itch or cough or whatever is hardly likely to go away faster if we obsess about it. Rather, let us focus on Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) and remove our attention from our runny nose or whatever. What a great idea!

Just for today, bear up.

Making “Reiki.” April 29, 2014

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Every time I watch the beautiful, even stunning, movie “Zen,” about the life of Dogen Zenji, the 13th-century Zen Master and founder of Soto Zen—the Zen we all think of when we think of Zen today worldwide—I wish someone would make a movie called “Reiki” about the life of our Founder, Mikao Usui. “Zen” is so visually rich; it conveys so much through imagery. What a man, and what a story!

Yet Usui Founder’s story is equally deep and rich, with many, many elements, from his family’s samurai origins to his prosperous upbringing thanks to the family sake brewery to his unquenchable thirst for knowledge, his numerous attempts to find a job that suited him, his wife and children, his travels, his religious studies, and his discovery and development of Reiki. And all of this set in turbulent times: Mikao Usui was born under the Shogunate, the high flowering of Samurai culture, when Japan was closed to all outside contact. (If you’ve seen the series “Shogun,” or any films set during that era, you’ll know whereof I speak.) Then the Meiji Emperor took back control from the samurai and opened Japan to the West, enjoying and embracing aspects of Western culture, a move Usui Founder wholeheartedly supported. And he survived the terrible earthquake and fires that leveled much of Tokyo in the 1920s, healing thousands with Reiki in the process.

I can see an absolutely gorgeous, moving film along the lines of “Zen” documenting and celebrating Mikao Usui’s life. I wish I could afford to find the fabulous Japanese crew who made “Zen,” hire them to make “Reiki,” and bring Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei, the founder of Komyo Reiki, the Reiki of Enlightenment, on board as script and set advisor. What a wonderful film it would be!

It’s true that nobody knows more than the details of Dogen’s life, yet that didn’t keep them from reimagining it from his extensive writings into a fabulous movie. In Usui Founder’s case, there were no writings—perhaps he didn’t think they were important, or perhaps he planned to write later in life, not foreseeing his own foreshortened life—so his life and work is preserved through his disciples, his students, as the Lord Jesus’s and the Lord Buddha’s were through theirs. In every case, those who came after found something worth preserving, something worth passing on, and in every case, they linked that back to their Founder, the one whose words, whose actions, whose promises they’d believed.

I cannot think of a single quote of Usui Founder’s that has been passed down to posterity. There are no parables, no stories, no directives, no pointed one-liners. Not even a memorable witticism, such as Saint John XXIII’s famous remark when asked by a journalist how many people worked in the Vatican, “About half of them.” The closest we can come to the mind of Usui Founder is in his actions and in the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) he gave us for right health, right happiness, and right livelihood.

His photo is here before me as I type. I wish I could hear his voice. I wish I could see a beautiful movie of his life and rest in it as I rest in “Zen.”

Just for today, practice the Principles.

Finding your balance. January 12, 2014

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Most modern fortune cookies annoy me. They never seem to have fortunes, only truisms. On the rare occasions when I find a fortune that is truly a fortune—something that says what was, what is, or what is to be—I’m delighted. (“Spirit guides accompany you” was an actual fortune I received recently.)

But like those billboards in front of Protestant churches with their smart-alecky, witty, attention-getting slogans, the fortune-cookie truisms can sometimes contain lessons. Just last night, I got one that said, “There’s more to balance than not falling over.”

This certainly resonated with me, and on every level. As a child, I was so uncoordinated that my mother insisted that I take ballet lessons for years so I wouldn’t trip over my own feet. Poor Madame Albertine! I was so tall (compared to the very little girls in my endless string of beginners’ classes), and so bad, I don’t know how she survived those lessons. But they served the intended purpose: I no longer tripped over my size 9 feet. I would only trip if some other obstacle presented itself. But most of the time, I didn’t fall over.

In Reiki, there’s more to balance than not falling over, too. It’s true that those of us on the Reiki path may occasionally trip on a bramble or stone and fall over. But thanks to Usui Founder, we always have the tools at hand to pick ourselves up and continue on our Way. The Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) give us a firm foundation that smooths our road and removes mud, ice, and stones from our path. By practicing the Principles every day, by doing Reiki self-healing every day, by trying to live in Reiki every day, we come into balance, because we merge with the All, with All There Is. And once we do that, we finally understand the meaning of balance, of satori, of enlightenment.

Just for today, try to find the balance.

The jewelry thing. July 22, 2013

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My first Reiki teacher absolutely insisted that people remove all jewelry, watches, glasses, and the like before receiving attunements or doing or receiving Reiki treatments. She even told of one student who was wearing a piece of jewelry while receiving an attunement and was burned under the jewelry as a result! To this day, she makes a point of removing all her own jewelry and her glasses before performing attunements or Reiki healings.

I don’t. It is certainly true that a tremendous amount of energy passes through you when giving or receiving attunements or Reiju, and that there is a steady to strong to very strong flow when you’re giving or receiving a Reiki treatment. But my feeling is that I wear my watch and jewelry every day, so the more charged with Reiki energy they are, the more beneficial for me, right?

I’ve never been burned or hurt in any way by this. My watch has never stopped, my jewelry has never exploded from an energy overdose. I’ve never had anyone say that they couldn’t feel a Reiju or attunement because of my jewelry, or that it was blocking the flow of Reiki energy to them during a hands-on session. It has certainly never hindered my own energy experience.

Frans Stiene, Senior Teacher of the International House of Reiki, had a comment on one of their blog posts this morning that I felt was very much to the point (http://www.ihreiki.com/blog/). If your friend were in an accident, he asked, would you rush over and put your hands down, or would you stop, remove all your jewelry and glasses and watch and the like and put them in your purse before going to their aid?

There are layers of ritualistic dos and don’ts that have come to surround Reiki, to give it extra “specialness,” complexity, mystery, exclusivity. Do take off your jewelry. Don’t place your hands over a person’s crown (except when giving attunements). Do learn as many symbols as you can: the more, the better, whether they have anything to do with Reiki or not! Don’t ever place your hands down to heal, work exclusively in the energy field above the body. Do make your Reiki more special by adding in elements of shamanism, crystal healing, angels, fairies, reflexology, you name it. And on and on and on.

To me, Reiki’s power lies in its simplicity. Its energy is universal. Anyone can access it; to a greater or lesser extent, “every being which has life,” as Usui Founder put it, already does. Exclusivity, arrogance (“My Reiki is better than your Reiki”), a closed, secret society, were the furthest things imaginable from our Founder’s intent. He wanted to make Reiki available to everyone.

Whether they were wearing jewelry or not.

Dr. Usui’s toe. July 15, 2013

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For me, one of the more humiliating stories about Reiki is the one about Usui Founder, having achieved enlightenment (satori) after a 21-day fast on Mount Kurama, stubbing his toe on the way down the mountain and thus discovering Reiki’s healing power. Yet I’m certain it’s a true story.

Why? Because it’s one of the few accounts that carries across all Reiki lineages and traditions, and that, despite its embarrasingly mundane nature, is continually repeated about Reiki’s Founder. Imagine a more noble version: Usui Founder is making his way back down Mount Kurama after his enlightenment. He encounters a poor, sick woman and her dying baby. Placing his hands upon them, he opens them to Reiki energy and voila!, they’re healed! But no. Usui Founder discovered the power of Reiki healing because he stubbed his toe.

This reminds me of the words of Jesus on the Cross, which hardly do honor to the Son of God but convey an indisputable authenticity, as he asks God, in agony, why He has abandoned him, as he begs for water, and so on. The witnesses and writers of the Gospels could have put noble, transcendent words in Jesus’s mouth, such as “Father, I gladly sacrifice myself for the salvation of all mankind.” Instead, they attribute all-too-human emotions to a confused and tormented soul. For the Doctors of the Church, it provided proof that Jesus was fully man as well as fully God.

And so, Mikao Usui discovered the healing power of Reiki because he stubbed his toe. Yesterday, I finally found fellow feeling with our Founder. I was struggling to extract a knitting basket from the closet when it suddenly sprang free with a pop!, propelling me backwards. Next thing I knew, my big toe had collided with a heavy wrought-iron plant stand whose handsome curves apparently concealed really sharp tips. Ow! Owoooo!!!

Unfortunately, our Founder was not the first thing that came to mind as I hopped madly around, shrieking with pain, trying not to bleed all over the carpet, lurching off for the emergency kit to try to extract an appropriately large bandage and then trying to wipe off enough blood to be able to actually apply it, and all the other fun things that accompany an accident. But three or four bandages and some aspirin later, Usui Founder’s experience did return to mind.

Sadly, I can’t claim to have experienced satori either before, during, or after my toe-crunching experience. But I certainly saw (and felt) a blinding flash! As I hobble around today, still changing bloody bandages and trying to convince myself that no, I really don’t have to lurch around doing tons of chores, I don’t have to go to the store, I don’t have to do anything but think, write, heal, and try to be kind to my partner Rob, our beloved companion animals, and my plants, I have a newfound respect for our Founder and his ordeal. It wasn’t as trivial as it sounds.

There’s a takeaway from this, too, for any of you who haven’t been taught about the “Golden Hour.” This is the first hour after an injury, be it a cut, scrape, burn, break, or what-have-you. During that first hour, it’s faster and easier to heal or speed the healing of an injury with Reiki than it is subsequently. Keep that in mind the next time you stub your toe!

What is happiness? July 3, 2013

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As all Reiki people know, Usui Founder prefaced his Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) by proclaiming them “the mystic art to invite happiness,” also translated as “the secret method to invite happiness.” But what is happiness?

Yesterday, my partner Rob and I were grocery shopping when he came upon an issue of Psychology Today in the magazine rack that purported to analyze and define happiness. He skimmed through it, and informed me that, according to the article, the countries with the highest percentage of self-described happy people were Panama and Paraguay. (Just FYI.) “Maybe I should buy this issue and read up on how to be happy,” he said.

“Happiness is a state, not an art,” I replied. “To be happy, you need only three things: To be content with who you are; to be content with where you are; and to be content with what you are.”

Unhappy people always want more: more money, more beauty, more youth, more power, more glamour, more fame, more popularity, more recognition, more intelligence, more whatever. They’re never content with who, what, and where they are now. They live in a world of unattainable entitlement, and thus in a world of misery, frustration, and recrimination against self and others.

We may not look like Heidi Klum or Jennifer Lopez or George Clooney or Denzel Washington; so what? We may not have the brain of Einstein or Leonardo da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin or Sherlock Holmes; so what? We may not have the spiritual acumen of the Buddha or Dogen Zenji or Usui Founder or Mother Teresa or Saint Francis; so what? We may not be a celebrity or billionaire or football star or dot.com genius; so what?

Life is a journey, not a competition. Happiness is a state, not something you throw yourself against and hope might happen, not some arcane art, not something that would happen “if only.” “If only I could lose ten pounds.” “If only my parents had sent me to Yale.” “If only I could afford a Mustang/Lamborghini/Bentley/new car.” “If only I were a revered Reiki Master with hundreds of students.” “If only I had married so-and-so.” “If only I were 20 again.”

Living in the “if only” world of dashed hopes, future longings, and past regrets is living in a shadow world, the world of dissatisfaction. The perpetual present is all we have, and all we are is manifested in it moment by moment, in the eternal now. If we are not happy now—and now—and now, then we are exchanging precious happiness for unrest, even misery, and all the while, our lives are passing us by.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can’t strive, that we can’t grow, that we can’t change, that we can’t move. Usui Founder’s Reiki Principles urge us to aim high, to aim for serenity. And certainly giving up anger and worry, and embracing gratitude, our life’s work, and kindness are the keys to serenity, to perpetual happiness. But the real secret is to be happy every step of the Way, wherever we find ourselves upon it.

As I said to Rob, to take delight in the mundane—walking the grocery aisles, admiring the beautiful flowers and lush, colorful produce, the fragrant breads and fresh herbs and the wonderful assortment of olives and cheeses, anticipating the wonderful meals you could make—and to enjoy every moment of the experience just as much as you’d enjoy strolling on a Hawai’ian beach or visiting the Louvre: That is the secret of happiness.

Just for today, be happy.

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Ordinary choices. April 7, 2013

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“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

“Just for today…”

—Usui Founder, Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals)

Just for today, try to live the Principles.