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The Universe is us. January 15, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

Just for today, love your Mother.


Through our magic mirror. November 17, 2014

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“None of us see life as it is, the world as it is. We all see life as we are. We look at others through our own likes and dislikes, desires and interests.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

As Sri Eknath is always quick to point out, we’re happy with someone when he or she is doing exactly what we want. He brings us triple fruit sherbet—how nice! But wait, it isn’t tropical triple-fruit sherbet. She remembered the lottery ticket, how thoughtful! But it’s not for the right day. We’d like to go to a certain movie or restaurant. So are we? When are we?

The mirror that shows us our face sometimes stops directly behind us. We don’t see the people who make it possible for us to move deeper, to appreciate the kindness and consideration that are directed at us every day. Perhaps we need to clean the mirror; perhaps we simply need to break it or walk away.

Just for today, try walking away.

A personal energy crisis. July 17, 2014

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“When we find it difficult to love, we can think of it as a personal energy crisis.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

Love is a renewable resource, like solar or wind energy, not a fuel like gas or coal that we hoard and fear will run out at any time, leaving us cold and stranded. Love is inexhaustible, and paradoxically, the more we share, the more we give away, the more we have, and the more we have to give.

The power behind love’s energy—the sun behind its solar panels, the wind that spins the windmill’s blades—is Usui Founder’s central Reiki Principle (aka Precept, Ideal): Be grateful.

Gratitude powers love. When you see a beautiful natural scene, and feel gratitude washing over you for the privilege of being in that beautiful place at that time, you also feel a rush of love for nature and our glorious earthly paradise. When you hear the tiny puff-puff snores of your enormous Maine coon cat and feel grateful to have his love and companionship, to be in the presence of such utter, oblivious contentment, you feel love swelling up and brimming over. When you see that your spouse or partner has done all the morning chores, knowing you’d been tossing and turning half the night, so you could get an extra hour’s sleep, and hasn’t even mentioned it, and you’re so touched and grateful, you feel love radiating out like the sun, blowing around you like the wind.

And because that energy continues to fill you through the power of gratitude, you have to express it in our Founder’s final Principle, Be kind. You can’t see a cashier or stylist who’s been standing on her feet for hours, or an older person struggling across a parking lot, or a server rushing around trying to deal with dozens or even hundreds of orders, without saying something kind, without displaying patience, without smiling. You can’t help waving at your neighbors, sharing a dish or some extra garden produce or playing with their dog or their kids, or picking up their newspapers and mail while they’re away.

You can find the strength to smile and say something kind to that obnoxious guy in the next cubicle, no matter what you’d really like to say, remembering that the alternative to the truth is silence. And you can let your love overflow when you’re at home with your family and pets, when you’re with your friends, when you’re caring for your plants or sitting on your deck, enjoying the stream and the yard and the birds, butterflies, lightning bugs, chipmunks, frogs, and other creatures with whom you share your life. You can let your gratitude and love flow back to your parents, relatives and ancestors, and all the happy memories they gave you, perhaps setting up a shrine with photos, flowers, incense, and candles, as I’ve seen at a fellow Reiki practitioner’s home.

Love is the one form of energy that’s truly inexhaustible. The more you give, the more you have. Don’t hoard it and let your batteries run down.

Just for today, be grateful and be kind.

We are not alone. July 8, 2014

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“You and I are trustees. Nothing belongs to us personally.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

If you’ve ever had a parent, grandparent, relative, spouse, or partner die and had to deal with the aftermath of their estate and belongings, you know exactly how true this is. “You can’t take it with you” hits home as you watch that coffin or urn being settled in place, then face the mountainous accumulation of one or more lifetime’s worth of possessions and have to figure out what to do with them.

This would be hard enough to face at any time, but it’s especially hard when you’re grieving a lost loved one. And if that loved one left no directions for the distribution, sale, and/or donation of their possessions, and made no attempt to deal with their redistribution during their lifetime, your love and grief may quickly be tinged by resentment. You have a full-time job, kids to raise, with all their extracurricular activities, a partner or spouse to nurture, a life of your own: Who has time for this?!!

Let’s hope you haven’t gone through this ordeal. But you can still learn from it before you push this burden onto your own partner/spouse, kids, grandkids or whomever: Get your affairs in order NOW.

If you don’t have a will, make one; if you do, make sure it’s up-to-date. Make sure you have a living will and discuss it with your family, so they know if you want to be kept on or taken off life support and under what circumstances, etc. (Give them each a copy, and assure them that this isn’t macabre, it’s empowering, since it gives you control over end-of-life issues that matter to you. They should all have living wills, too, and update them as needed.) I, for example, have no problem with being taken off life support, but have a horror of dehydration and the torture of dying of thirst. Don’t feed me, but keep that fluid-filled IV hooked up to the end, please!

As for your papers, possessions, etc., go through them every year and try to get everything in order and reduce the excess. Shred and dispose of anything on paper that’s no longer meaningful to you and/or could be mortifying to your heirs. Maybe it’s time for those passionate, explicit love letters from a person you can’t even picture now to go. The fifty rejection letters you got for your first novel aren’t exactly heirlooms, either, unless your name is George R.R. Martin and you want to donate them to a “Game of Thrones” museum to encourage future authors. (In which case, set it up and donate them now, don’t make your heirs do it.)

Decide which of your possessions still give you comfort and pleasure, which inspire you, which teach you, which feed your sense of beauty, and which remain useful to you, and keep them, at least for now. This is not about asceticism but efficiency. Keep what matters to you, what pleases you, but ditch what doesn’t, the bazillion tee-shirts you’ve collected that no longer fit or are no longer fit to wear or that, for whatever reason, you never really liked but got on the spur of the moment. Maybe someone shopping Goodwill or the Salvation Army would be grateful for the ones in good condition, and those clothes bin drop-offs would be grateful for the fabric in the ones that aren’t exactly shipshape.

This is another good opportunity for dialogue with your family and loved ones. Ask them if there are any household furnishings, jewelry, collectibles, and other things in your house that they especially love. (If you have kids, you might continue to ask every year or so and update your will accordingly, or simply give them whatever it is if you no longer want it.) Maybe you’re thinking of selling a valuable stamp collection and investing the money you get for it, but when you ask the family, you discover that one child, inspired by it to become a passionate stamp collector, wants your collection more than anything, not even for its monetary value but for its completeness and the notes you made under each stamp.

At any rate, please let this not only inform your past and organize your future but guide your present. Buy nothing because it’s a frivolous trend or a designer model. Buy nothing that you don’t need, nothing that you don’t decide, after carefully thinking it over, that you really want and that you will really be able to use or enjoy.

Avoid advertising and commercials at all costs. Remember that the sole goal of advertising is to make you buy stuff you neither want nor need. I was horrified last week to see an item on my Yahoo news feed announcing that the new iPhone was irresistibly gorgeous. We’re talking about a piece of plastic and metal, folks. It may be a mechanical marvel, but it’s just another ugly little rectangle. Ditto for cars and TVs and computers and the like. Buying a “hot” car won’t make YOU hot, it will just make you another jerk trying to look hot, wasting money, and fooling nobody. Maybe people would respect you more for putting that money into a used car or a hybrid.

The less you accumulate now and the cleaner and more direct you keep your affairs, the less burden you’ll have to pass on to others. The more you pass on now to the ones who truly want it, the happier you’ll make them. (Imagine giving a child a family heirloom they’ve always loved versus trying to buy them a birthday present when you have no clue what they’d like, want, or need, and screwing it up again.) In either case, the more they’ll love you for it.

As Sri Eknath says, we are the trustees, the caretakers. Not the owners. Nothing belongs to us personally. Even if, like the Egyptian Pharaohs, we buried a fortune of goods in our graves, the grave-robbers would eventually find us and strip us of our treasures. Let’s try to streamline the process while we can to make sure that our loved ones aren’t burdened by our possessions and that future generations, and our beloved Earth, benefit by our lifestyle choices.

Just for today, remember that we are not alone.

Keeping up with the Joneses. June 25, 2014

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“Most of us cannot help comparing ourselves with others… I have never been able to understand the compelling phrase ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’. It does not matter very much whether I keep up with Tom Jones or anybody else; what is important is to keep up with myself by making my today a little better than my yesterday.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

Just for today, practice the Reiki Principles and keep up with your own progress on the Reiki path.

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.

Am I more loving? June 20, 2014

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“If you want to judge your progress, ask yourself these questions: Am I more loving? Is my judgment sounder? Do I have more energy? Can my mind remain calm under provocation? Am I free from the conditioning of anger, fear, and greed? Spiritual awareness reveals itself eloquently in character development and selfless action. Authentic spiritual experience changes the way you see the world and the way you live.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

Just for today, ask yourself these questions. Then judge your own progress and do something about it.

Is time the enemy? February 4, 2014

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“Time is what keeps the light from reaching us. There is no greater obstacle to God than time… the very taint and smell of time.”

—Meister Eckhart

I’ve posted this quote because it seems interesting and relevant, but I honestly don’t know quite what to make of it. If we consider “the light” as Reiki and “God” as enlightenment, satori, union with the All, what do we make of this? Can we truly free ourselves from time?

Once, we all viewed time as linear: things happened, things happen, things will happen. Then, along came quantum physics and proposed that time, despite our limited perceptions, was not linear: that there might be parallel universes where we all lived in multiple scenarios simultaneously, that basically, as religious sages had maintained all along, time as a concept was meaningless.

Sri Eknath Easwaran explains this concept in very practical terms: “Every moment is unique and discrete. When our concentration is complete, we rest completely in the present. Then we do not live in time, we live in eternity.”

And yet, we all see irrefutable signs of time every day, in the changing weather, in our own bodies, in our plants and pets growing and dying. How do we reconcile what we see with what we know?

I think Sri Eknath has the truth of it, which is simply slowing way down, viewing every passing second as a freeze frame, capable of stopping time and taking in everything moment by moment. The incredible richness, the astonishing lessons, of every moment will then become accessible to us. In each moment, time stops: There is only this moment. Fear, anger, dread, limitations, shame, regret, ego, self-regard, all of it drops away. There is only this moment. And then the next moment. And then the next, each fresh, each entire in itself.

I still don’t know what to make of Meister Eckhart’s comment, and would appreciate it if you told me what you think. But I think the conundrum of time is well worth contemplating.

Just for today, reach for the light.

Reiki and meditation. February 3, 2014

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“Meditation is the key to the art of living.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

Those of us who follow the Reiki Way might say that Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) are the keys to the art of living, the words to live by. Mikao Usui Sensei instructed those of us on the Reiki path to recite the Principles aloud, morning and evening, with hands in gassho (folded together in prayer position) as an integral part of Reiki practice.

But if we also take time to meditate on the Principles, one at a time, we can deepen our understanding of “the art of living.” Sri Eknath taught a system of meditation called “passage meditation” wherein the meditator focused on a single short sentence or passage, from any religious tradition that spoke deeply to them, such as Saint Francis’s “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace,” and repeated it silently over and over for a half-hour every morning.

You can see how repeating one of Usui Founder’s Principles—Don’t get angry, Don’t worry, Be grateful, Work hard, Be kind—or even the preface to the Principles, “Just for today,” would serve the same purpose. Calm, focused repetition (after all, you have a half-hour) would still your mind and let the Principle you’re focusing on sink deep into your consciousness, and eventually, after long practice, deep beneath your consciousness, where it can effortlessly affect your conscious, day-to-day behavior. And the same holds true for all the Principles.

Give it a try!

Just for today, practice the art of living.