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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.

Don’t worry. September 11, 2014

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“Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.”
—Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

Worry is fear turned inward, as anger is fear turned outward. Usui Founder gave us his first two Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals), “Just for today, don’t get angry” and “Just for today, don’t worry,” so that we could get fear out of the way and free ourselves to feel gratitude, focus on our work, and be kind.

So all right, “don’t worry” may sound simple enough on the surface. But what if your bills are overdue and you can’t pay them, your kid is supposed to be in college but you wonder if he is or is just taking your money and lying to you, your mom keeps telling you she’s okay but she seems weaker and weaker, your best friend’s battling breast cancer, your house needs major repairs you can’t afford, your company’s downsizing and you’re afraid you’ll lose your job? How could you possibly not worry?!

Usui Founder tells you to let go of worry. Eckhart Tolle tells you that worrying accomplishes nothing. It seems to be important, but in the end, it only damages you without moving you forward. In my Reiki lineage, Hawayo Takata Sensei told our lineage bearer, the Reverend Beth Gray, that “Just for today, do not worry” was actually the first Reiki Principle. Beth was an intuitive, and her lineage has focused on that, and I think Takata Sensei was spot on with putting worry, internal fear, before anger, external fear. Controlling internal fear will control its outward manifestation.

Eckhart Tolle gives us all a great tool for shutting off fear and worry. He tells us to ask ourselves if whatever we fear is happening now. Is our car skidding off the road now? Are we meeting with the angry boss now? Has our electricity gone off now because we’re late paying our bill? If none of that is true, then we should enjoy the precious NOW rather than worry about the future, since worry simply paralyses us and serves no useful purpose. Quite the opposite.

Just for today, don’t worry.

Giving up anger. September 10, 2014

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“Hostility is like an infectious disease. Whenever we indulge in a violent act or even in hostile words, we are passing this disease on to those around us. When we quarrel at home, it is not just a domestic problem, we are contributing to turmoil everywhere.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

“Anything that you resent and strongly react to in another is also in you.”

—Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

—Maya Angelou

Those of us who follow the Reiki Way should never forget that anger is a choice. Teachers of all religions and all philosophies have said that mastering yourself—that is, your reactions to the outside world—is the key to serenity, to enlightenment. The Lord Jesus was particularly clear on this, moving far away from the “eye for an eye” of the Old Testament. He told his disciples to turn the other cheek when struck, and when compelled to do something or give something, far from trying to get out of it, to do or give even more.

Sometimes it seems that we’re surrounded by hostility: road rage, bullying, random acts of violence, brawls inside (or outside) clubs and bars, rapes. Perhaps the culture of violence we’re constantly subjected to on television and video games encourages this. Perhaps too many people crammed in too little space, under too much pressure to rush to work, encourages this. Perhaps the stereotypes of the angry comedian, the angry politician, the fire-and-brimstone minister encourage this. But we need not encourage this. We have a choice.

Sometimes we seem so small and the world seems so large, so out of control. We see corporations buying up our government, polluting the earth with their monstrous GMO crops and then dumping herbicides on them, and ultimately on all of us. We see the reckless abandonment of animals at shelters, or animals simply dumped off on the roadside or stuffed in garbage bags. We see children and pets left to die in hot cars. We see, increasingly in the age of selfies, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter, the victims of domestic violence, their crushed and swollen faces. We see the horrors of war and fanaticism, the beheadings, the mutilations, the disenfranchisement of whole peoples, every day on the news. It’s enough to make anyone angry!

I got very angry today when I read two anti-vegetarian articles. One was talking about the outrage of making American schoolchildren eat a vegetarian lunch for “Meatless Monday.” Mind you, this was one meal in a whole week, and the kids were offered such delicious fare as mac’n’cheese, pizza, and chili. But going without meat for a whole meal? Intolerable! Horrific! How dare the school system inflict such torture on children!

The second article, a blog post, was oblivious to the ultimate point it was making, unlike the first article. The author’s point was that French school lunches were so much better than American school lunches because they were made from scratch. Great! But it turns out that every single meal is meat-based—no vegetarian options—and worse still, one meal a week is made from veal, calves trapped in tiny enclosures so they can’t move and their muscles don’t develop, and force-fed milk to ensure soft, tender flesh. This cruel, hateful practice is hardly a surprise in a country that force-feeds geese until their livers expand to the extent that they make the delicacy foie gras (literally, “fat liver”). But it is a surprise that the author praised the fact that the French were teaching their children not to care about the well-being of animals along with their other school lessons.

So yes, I was mad enough to cry. What wouldn’t I have liked to say to those wretched people! But as Sri Eknath says, any act of hostility contributes to turmoil everywhere. And as I’m sure you’ve all noticed, there’s rarely a good outcome when we respond in kind, rather than responding by being kind. PETA and well-meaning groups like them make themselves targets for endless ridicule, and worse, by doing things like throwing red paint (for blood) on celebrities’ fur coats.

There was a time when people who lived in cold climates had to wear fur coats to survive, had to eat meat to survive. That time has passed, and now both are expensive luxury items that our world can’t afford. But throwing paint on people or firebombing A-list restaurants won’t make that point.

Instead, one response might be making videos of happy, free-range, heirloom-breed chickens who are allowed to live full lives and fed all sorts of grains, veggies, bread, and fruit. Comparing them to factory-farmed chickens, raised in tiny cages stacked on top of one another with their beaks cut off, with lights glaring at them 24/7 to encourage egg production, might possibly turn on a few lightbulbs in human viewers, such as, being stuck in a tiny, windowless cubicle under artificial lighting day in, day out, with an inconceivable production schedule and all trace of individuality cut off: after all, you’re just a “worker bee.” And that’s just for those “lucky” enough to hold white-collar jobs, or jobs at all, for that matter.

Let it go, let it go, let the anger go. Usui Founder made “Just for today, don’t get angry” the first of his Reiki Principles, aka Precepts, Ideals. He knew you could only control your response to the provocation, not the provocation itself. This doesn’t mean you can’t fight for a cause that you believe in. Just don’t do it in anger.

Just for today, don’t get angry.

Who you are. July 13, 2014

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“Love is inseparable from knowledge.”
—Saint Macarius of Egypt

“The joy of Being, which is the only true happiness, can not come to you from any form, possession, achievement, person, or event—through any thing that happens. That joy can not come to you—ever. It emanates from the formless dimension within you, from consciousness itself and thus is one with who you are.”
—Eckhart Tolle

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
—The Gospel According to Saint Matthew

So many of us separate emotion from knowledge, religious experience from knowledge, joy from knowledge. But the great sages tell us that joy comes from knowledge, love comes from knowledge, compassion comes from knowledge: knowledge of ourselves, knowledge of others, knowledge of the universe and our place within it.

Just for today, be kind.

Finding the truth. March 20, 2014

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“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”

—Dogen Zenji

“Each being is itself pure source, and pure source is nothing but each being.”

—Shunryu Suzuki Roshi

“I believe in person to person. Every person is Christ to me, and since there is only one Jesus, the person is the one person in the world at that moment.”

—Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“Be here now.”

—Ram Dass

All these spiritual teachers, and many others, such as Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, understood this great truth. Enlightenment does not come from outside, it comes from within. It comes from being fully present to each moment, to everyone and everything that presents itself to us.

This is much harder to do than to go on a spiritual pilgrimage to “find” the truth, to find enlightenment, satori. How great to head off to Sedona or Stonehenge or the Vatican or a Buddhist temple or Zen monastery or Reiki cruise or you name it to find peace and enlightenment. How terribly hard to be a dishwasher in a restaurant, working over scalding water on your feet for hours, paid minimum wage and expected to work as fast as humanly possible, and find truth where you are. How hard to be Mother Teresa, pulling maggot-eaten, abandoned, starved bodies from the gutters of Calcutta, and find the face of her Lord in every single one.

To be here now, to find the power of now, which is truth, freedom, and enlightenment, you must learn to give all of yourself in every moment to the now, to what is before you, be it a body in the gutter or a boring colleague who’s droning on and on, or making tonight’s supper or watering plants and dusting shelves or doing hands-on Reiki or reading an uplifting book.

To help you focus and go deeper, to slow down time so each second stretches to infinity, Usui Founder gave us the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals). He began them with “Just for today” not just because he realized how hard it was to actually practice them, but to remind us to be in the moment, in the now. Maybe we forgot and got angry a moment ago, or we caught ourselves worrying about that performance review or a bill coming due. But Usui Founder in his wisdom reminds us that we shouldn’t waste time beating ourselves up, we should just get back to the now, the present moment, and try to focus on the Principles.

The past is past. The present is here. We are who and where we are. Let’s look for the truth right here, right now, inside ourselves, and in everything and everyone we encounter moment by moment on this earthly plane.

Just for today, find your truth.

Moment to moment. September 24, 2013

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“We must not wish anything other than what happens from moment to moment.”

—St. Catherine of Genoa

Be Here Now, the famous book title by Ram Dass instructs us. Live in the now, Eckhart Tolle advises in The Power of Now. “Just for today” (i.e., now), Mikao Usui Founder begins his Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals). Why all this emphasis on now?

It’s because the now is the only time we actually have. The past is a now that has slipped away, the future a now that has not yet arrived. The present is our only eternal now, and we waste so much of it rehashing the past and/or anticipating the future. But since the now is our only reality, we must not wish or concern ourselves with anything other than what happens from moment to moment if we wish to be fully present to life, to our own life.

If we live in the now, the past doesn’t vanish, we don’t lose it, but neither does it dominate the present, obsessing us and holding us back from truly experiencing each moment, coming to it fresh. And if we live in the now, the future doesn’t cripple us with fear.

Every present moment, as Usui Founder, Eckhart Tolle, St. Catherine of Genoa, Ram Dass, and countless others have discovered, presents an opportunity to do and be your best, your most compassionate, your most creative, without regret and without fear. In other words, every single present moment gives us a fresh opportunity to be the best we can be. Think how many opportunities we have!

If we live in the now, the eternal present, there’s no room for fear, which breeds anger and smothers gratitude and kindness, as well as distracting us from working hard, thus suffocating all of Usui Founder’s directives to those of us who follow the Reiki Way about how to live well, how to live a Reiki-filled life.

I have a beautiful piece of calligraphy on my wall by the great artist and Zen scholar Kazuaki Tanahashi, titled “The Miracles of Each Moment,” to remind me of this. No moment is without its miracles, if we only open our eyes to see them.

Yes, we may find ourselves sleepless at 2 a.m., but look at the moon and stars, or feel the softness of the sheets, or think of the opportunity to do Reiki self-healing. Or put your Reiki hands on your partner or spouse and remind yourself how grateful you are for their presence, and then find yourself being gifted with a back-scratch or a desperately needed Kleenex or water refill. Or listen to your beloved dog’s or cat’s soothing, carefree breathing as she sleeps at the foot of your bed or how he presents himself to be petted several times during the night because he knows you’re awake, just to reassure himself that you’re okay, licking your hand in gratitude.

Eckhart Tolle gives us a simple prescription for overcoming crippling fear and placing ourselves firmly in the now: Just ask ourselves if what we fear is happening now. You’re driving on a slippery road, and are terrified that the car will slip or slide out of control, maybe crashing and hurting or even killing you. Eckhart says to keep asking yourself, is that happening now? Well, no. How about now? Still no. Since now is the only time there is, you’re actually in good shape. Ditto for that upcoming performance review with the boss, checkup at the doctor’s, first meeting with your honey’s parents or kids.

If whatever you fear isn’t happening right now, it isn’t happening. Relax. Live in the moment, and let the world present itself to you. What a glorious prospect!

Just for today, be here now.

Escaping emptiness. February 7, 2013

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“Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.”
—Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

“In going faster and faster and trying our hand at new adventures all the time, we hope we can forget our emptiness.”
—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

These are two profound and profoundly disturbing observations. In today’s superficial, celebrity- and tech-driven society, we’re not only constantly rushing from one activity to the next, but we’re multitasking while we’re rushing. Our attention is never focused, much less focused on what T.S. Eliot called “the still point of the turning world.”

Modern saints and sages like Mother Teresa and Sri Eknath have repeatedly tried to save us from this relentless stress and distress. Eckhart Tolle tried to slow us down by reminding us of The Power of Now, of living in the now. (In the Sixties, Ram Dass had also tried with his groundbreaking book Be Here Now.) All meditation is based on this, on stopping the mental and physical chaos and simply sitting still with a quiet mind, fully present to each moment.

Usui Founder also addressed this issue when he began his Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) with “Just for today.” But when he died in 1926, multitasking was light-years away. I think he would have been horrified by our modern lifestyle, and would probably have included a sixth Principle: “Just for today, do one thing at a time.”

The two things that strike me most about the quotations with which I opened this post are Mother Teresa’s comment that “in the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world” and Sri Eknath’s pinpointing our desire to fill ourselves up with more, faster as a way to escape our inherent emptiness. It saddens me no end to think that people should feel that they are empty, never satisfied, never fulfilled, never at peace. Peace and contentment should be our resting state, not some seemingly unattainable ideal. But for that to be so, we must slow down, stop rushing, stop looking for the next new thing, stop multitasking, and focus on what we already have, on who and what we are, the still point of the turning world.

Just for today, be still.

A true spiritual teacher. January 27, 2013

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“A true spiritual teacher does not have anything to teach in the conventional sense of the word, does not have anything to give or add to you, such as new information, beliefs, or rules of conduct. The only function of such a teacher is to help you remove that which separates you from the truth… The words are no more than signposts.”—Eckhart Tolle, Stillness Speaks

Reiki people, listen up! Here is the truth of our teachings when we set our egos aside. Our goal is simply to reveal the power of Reiki that is already available to all of us and to point to the signposts, such as Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals), that are guides on the way to enlightenment.

Usui Founder was this type of selfless teacher; so were Jiddu Krishnamurti and Sri Eknath Easwaran. So, I think, were Dogen Zenji, Kosho Ukiyama, and Shunryu Suzuki. So was Shams of Tabriz, Rumi’s teacher, and so was the Lord Jesus, before Christianity usurped and codified his heritage, and so were his disciples Saint Francis and Mother Teresa.

Today, and fortunately for us, this heritage has been carried on. It lives in the Dalai Lama and in Thich Nhat Hanh. It lives in spiritual Reiki teachers like Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei, founder of Komyo Reiki, the Reiki of Enlightenment, and in Frans Stiene, senior teacher of the International House of Reiki. It lives in endless unknown souls who live in obscurity but spread the word of love and acceptance, of embracing our place in the web of life, in honoring all life. It lives in those of us who blog and can get the word out, and those who read our blogs and act on them.

Thank you, bless you, and gassho.

Just for today, try to embody your spiritual destiny.

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

Be here now, redux. December 13, 2012

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Here’s another great quote from Sri Eknath Easwaran’s Words to Live By, giving us a way to rid ourselves of anger and resentment (which is just the slow fuse of anger as opposed to the actual explosion). Usui Founder would approve!

“When we can withdraw our attention completely from the past, it is not possible to get resentful; it is not possible to be oppressed by mistakes in our past, no matter who made them. All our attention is in the present, which makes every moment fresh, every relationship fresh. Staleness and boredom vanish from our life.”

I find Sri Eknath’s words of wisdom especially applicable now, when I’ve been defrauded of an inheritance that would have made it possible for me to live independently for the rest of my life, as opposed to in a tiny, peeling house that I have to keep at 55 degrees all winter to conserve fuel costs while working like a dog doing writing and editing for hire.

My sister, who also lost out in the inheritance lottery, calls here several times a day, screaming, crying, and ranting on and on about the unfairness of it all. But, thanks be to Reiki, after the initial shock I quickly adjusted to my new reality. After all, it’s my old reality, at least since I left the corporate world to go freelance, exchanging a good salary and benefits for the sanity and health that comes with abandoning high-pressure, 60-hour work weeks. I’m used to scraping by, and what possible good can come of becoming angry, resentful, or hysterical about what happened. It will just create misery, both mental and physical, and spread that misery to everyone whose life I touch. Yow! Who would want to do that to anyone, much less themselves?!!

My friends and my partner Rob are always giving me grief about my defective memory (some have notably quoted passages from books I’ve written, which I’d long since forgotten). But trust me, forgetting the past—except for the happy times—and living in the present isn’t just the best but the only way to go. (Perhaps I inherited the ability from my maternal grandmother, who often said “I try to forget the bad things.” Good idea!)

Usui Founder had this in mind when he gave us the first two Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals): Don’t get angry, and don’t worry. The modern spiritual sage Eckhart Tolle has it in mind when he gives us this tool for remaining in the moment: Ask yourself if the bad thing you fear and dread is happening now.

Say you have a meeting with the boss in an hour, and are afraid you’ll be reprimanded, demoted, or worse. Is it happening now? No. Maybe it will, and maybe it won’t, but agonizing about it in advance is just borrowing trouble. Instead, cherish each moment of tranquillity that you have now. There are a lot of moments to relax in, to find peace in, to be present in during that hour! If you’re truly present for each one, you’ll find that the time stretches out, that you can actually enjoy the present rather than rehashing the past or agonizing about the future. After all, the present is actually the only time we have. And imagine the impression you’ll make on your boss when you enter his or her office calm, unruffled, and self-possessed rather than sweating and jumpy! 

Living in the present is a gift, a blessing, that those of us on the Reiki path should cherish. It restores to us the sense of endless time that we enjoyed as children, that our beloved companion animals enjoy. I’ll be the first to say that this is easier said than done. (I may not be repining over my lost inheritance, but I’m dreading my sister’s phone calls!) This is where Usui Founder’s “Just for today” comes into play. Let’s relax and take it a day, a moment at a time. Every moment spent being fully present is also a gift. And at this holiday season, shouldn’t we gift ourselves, those we care about, and those we come in contact with? There’s no better gift than being fully present to them, and fully present in each moment ourselves.

Just for today, be here now.

All original 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.