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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.

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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.

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.

All that is necessary. August 7, 2014

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“We have no need to teach pure motives to the mind. All that is necessary to make the mind pure is to undo the negative conditioning to which it has been subjected; then we will be left with pure, unconditioned awareness.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

Sounds simple, right? The catch here is that innocent little phrase, “all that is necessary.” We live in a society that is awash in what Sri Eknath calls “negative conditioning,” as a glance at the day’s lead news stories makes clear. Today’s featured the beautiful daughter of two famous actors saying that she had such trouble with her body image that she’d once starved herself down to 95 pounds, while a popular food blogger told her 70,000 followers about her eating disorders; a guy left his toddler foster daughter in a hot car while watching TV, until crying children on the show reminded him of her; a 13-year-old black Lab who’d been abandoned by her family walked 30 miles to return to her home, only to be rejected again by her family.

When we think of what occupies our minds—our obsessive interest in popular culture and “celebrities,” the hours we spend in front of the TV, mindless escapes into shopping, hours spent on narcissistic attempts to avoid looking like what we actually look like—it becomes clear that “all that is necessary” will take everything we’ve got. Like a Samurai warrior mastering the Way of the Sword or a chess player (or tennis player) devoting themselves single-mindedly to the game, we must focus our inner strength on removing everything from the mind that is not “pure, unconditioned awareness.”

Can we do it? Of course not. At least, not without help. Sri Eknath recommended daily meditation, along with a brisk daily walk and vegetarian diet. He practiced “passage meditation,” where you link your mind to the sacred by repeating a holy name (such as “Jesus, Jesus” or “Krishna, Krishna”) or favorite passage (such as St. Francis’s “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace”) over and over during the entire meditation period. This would train your mind to focus rather than flitting all over the place, and the focus on the sacred would bring your mind into alignment with the millions who had chanted or prayed these words before, giving your mind-control (and self-control) an instant boost.

Imagine that you’re driving past your favorite fast-food place, and you can just hear that mega-burger and supersized curly fries and 32-ounce milkshake calling your name. They’re calling… calling… but suddenly, you hear a voice in your mind saying “Jesus, Jesus.” Somehow, you doubt that Jesus would approve of gorging on fast food while millions are starving. You’ve already gone by the fast-food place now, anyway. And you know that there’s food at home that will go bad if you don’t eat it. And, as Pope Francis rightly pointed out, wasting food while the world is starving is a sin. You may not have taken a big step, but you have taken a step to bring your mind and impulses, your conditioning, under control.

Will you stop and pig out next time you pass that place, or be able to resist again? Who’s to know? But every time you’re able to pass it by, or refrain from picking up that celebrity tabloid or clicking on the latest link to the Kardashians, or turn off the TV and do something valuable, whether it’s spending time with your spouse or partner or reading an inspiring book, or just sitting on your deck watching the sunset, or cooking a brilliant meal for your family, you are losing some of the negative mental conditioning and gaining focus.

As always, Usui Founder is here to help us with this challenge. By focusing on the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals), reciting them morning and evening, hands in gassho (prayer position), we help our mind stay focused. Choosing one Principle to focus our attention on each day allows us to repeat it, much like Sri Eknath’s passage meditation, when frivolous distractions or habits we’ve fallen into threaten to derail our progress on the Reiki Way.

Just for today, give your mind something good to chew on.

Spiritual exercise. August 4, 2014

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“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”

—Fortune cookie

Reading a good book is like going for a long walk. You may not know what’s around the bend, but you do know that, without even realizing it, you’ll be getting a good workout along the way. This is the best kind of exercise, and we all know how important regular exercise is, be it mental or physical. But what about spiritual?

Taking time for a daily spiritual workout is every bit as important as physical and mental exercise. Whether you begin the day with a Reiki self-healing session before you get out of bed; or meditate on one of Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) each day of the week, remembering to call on it whenever you need it that day (such as “Just for today, be grateful” or “Just for today, don’t worry”); or focus on one of the Reiki symbols, chanting its name or trying to draw it as a calligrapher would, you’re getting a good spiritual workout.

The same is true of attending a Reiki share or receiving Reiju or attunements (or giving them) or reading a great Reiki book or article or taking (or resitting, or teaching) a Reiki class or attending a Reiki retreat. Or simply taking a few minutes to reverence the Teachers—Usui Founder, Hayashi Sensei, and Takata Sensei, plus any of your own teachers you’d like to add—and then having a nice chat with one or more of them. Or giving your pets or plants or partner or spouse or kids some hands-on Reiki before you rush off to work. (That goes for your breakfast and car, too. And don’t forget to be grateful.)

As you can see, a Reiki workout doesn’t have to take longer than ten minutes, though a longer workout, like a long walk, is even better, as long as it’s gentle. Don’t forget essential practices like Hado breathing and Hatsurei-ho. Hado breathing takes just minutes and is not just the perfect closure to Reiki self-healing, but a wonderful way to banish worry and anger, balance the spirit, and relax the body*.

*Insomniacs, this exercise is for you! Do NOT drink caffeine after lunch, but do drink plenty of hydrating fluids. Do NOT watch the news or violent movies or TV shows before bedtime; instead, read Reiki books or catalogs or cookbooks, something that relaxes you. Lie down, turn off the lights, turn on a fan if it’s too loud to sleep, put light-blocking shades or boards in your windows if the light from the street or neighbors’ floodlights keeps you awake. Do Reiki self-healing, then do Hado breathing. Draw your breath down deep into the pit of the stomach, hold, and then release with a loud “Haaaaaa!” Repeat a total of five to seven times. That’s it!

Just for today, get your exercise.

Mikao Usui birthday bash. August 2, 2014

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It’s August, and that means that Usui Founder will turn 149 this August 15th! You could celebrate on the day itself by reciting the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) 15 (or 149) times. Or by gathering your Reiki friends for birthday cake and sake (just one candle, please, to show that we are part of the All) under the stars and twinkly lights. (Honoring the Usui family tradition as renowned sake brewers, of course.) Or by sitting peacefully with a cup of tea, giving it your entire attention. (As my Reiki Sensei, Hyakuten Inamoto, puts it, “A cup of tea, a cup of enlightenment.”)

But there’s another way to celebrate Usui Founder’s birthday with practitioners all over the world: by joining the 21-Day Usui Virtual Retreat, now (auspiciously) in its 21st year. (Remember that Usui Founder attained satori, enlightenment, and was given the practice of Reiki after a 21-day fast on Mount Kurama.) Because the retreat is virtual, you can participate from home (and for free). You can choose your level of participation, too: just following along online, contemplating each week’s meditation, or interacting with other participants.

The Virtual Retreat is hosted by Mari Hall, founder and director of the International Association of Reiki and author of Reiki books including Practical Reiki and Reiki for the Soul. And the meditations are once again provided by Frank Arjava Petter, Reiki Master and author of many books on Reiki, including Reiki Fire and his latest, This Is Reiki. This year’s theme is Reiki lineage, our link to Usui Founder. I’ll be interested to hear what Arjava has to say about it!

To participate, all you have to do is sign up so Mari can send you the three weekly meditations that form the basis of the 21-Day Usui Virtual Retreat. And her website, http://www.marihall.com/, includes links to the Usui Virtual Retreat that I think you’ll find very helpful (click on “Calendar and Events”). It’s great to prepare so you’ll be ready to start the Reiki fireworks when Usui Founder’s birthday bash begins! I’ve been signed up for years and am always grateful for Arjava’s insights and Mari’s hosting of this massive but essential project. Sign up this year and see what you think!

Just for today, celebrate our Founder.

No act of kindness. July 29, 2014

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From a fortune cookie:

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Just for today, be kind.

None are more dear. July 19, 2014

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“I look upon all creatures equally, none are less dear to me and none more dear.”

—Bhagavad Gita

Why should we assume that the lightning bug that flashes in the grass is less dear to the Creator than we are, that the dog abandoned at a shelter is less dear than we are, that the factory-farmed chicken or cow sent to the slaughterhouse or fish stabbed through its face with a hook and then tossed back in the water as “sport,” “catch and release,” is less dear than we are?

They are all innocent, and thus more dear than we are, who could have prevented their pain and celebrated their life, been their protectors and guardians, rather than their mindless abusers and killers. No wonder the followers of the Bhagavad Gita, Hindus, are vegetarian.

Just for today, be kind.

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.

Not forbidden. July 16, 2014

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“Everything not forbidden is compulsory.”
—Quantum mechanics principle, Nobel laureate and physicist Murray Gell-Mann

“Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.”
—Nikola Tesla

“If we believe that happiness arises only when some external condition is fulfilled, we consign ourselves to a perpetual state of discontent.”
—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

“When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad.”
—Lao Tzu (Laozi)

“Unity can only be manifested by the Binary. Unity itself and the idea of Unity are already two.”
—The Buddha

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

A Buddhist walked into a bar and told the bartender, “Make me One with everything.”

Duality and non-duality define the conflict between our mental and spiritual lives. Duality, dividing things into opposites, seems to be our native, reflexive state: this or that, this and that, this not that, this plus that, this minus that. Rich and poor, ugly and attractive, educated and ignorant, delicious and disgusting, old and young, fat and thin, athletic and indolent, pleasant and unpleasant, gifted and hopeless: The list of our dualities goes on and on.

And it is so hard to get away from them, even when we try as hard as we can. They may just be knee-jerk reactions brought on by cultural conditioning, or they may be hardwired into our system as a primitive survival mechanism that we just haven’t been able to ditch as we’ve evolved. Whatever the case, they stand between us and unity with the All, with all there is.

Every time we see a celebrity in a skimpy bikini and think something bad about her, or see a genuinely talented movie star posing in skimpy attire and wonder why women are still compelled to do that, whatever their acting gifts, and men aren’t, or curse an industry that promotes youth and anorexia as beauty while dissing and dismissing age and normal weight as hideous and unnatural, we’re following our natural human impulses. Ditto for cheering on one team and booing another, palling around with one coworker and avoiding another, spending way too much on a hot new car or tech toy rather than buying a sturdy, reliable used model.

Non-duality urges us to rise above all this, to see Kim Kardashian and Mother Teresa as one, Donald Trump and the Dalai Lama as one, Usui Founder and Hitler as one. To see the man who tortures helpless animals or, like Charles Manson, orders his followers to rip a pregnant woman’s baby from her womb, or, like the Taliban, cut the ears and noses off beautiful Afghan women simply because they’re beautiful, in the same light as we see Saint Francis, Rumi, or the Lord Jesus. Can we be, are we as humans, capable of this?

This state of non-duality is the very definition of sainthood, of enlightenment, satori. Its difficulty of achievement is why there are so few saints, so few enlightened ones. Blessed Mother Teresa was able to see in every human, however destitute, however ancient or ill, however hideous, “Christ in His distressing disguise.” She made no distinctions, she saw no duality. Her love was great enough to encompass all, even the rich and superficial.

As followers of the Reiki Way, we have the help of Usui Founder in our striving to move from duality (judgment) to non-duality (acceptance of all), through our practice of the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals): “Just for today, don’t worry. Don’t get angry. Be grateful. Work hard. Be kind.” If we go through our day practicing the Principles as hard as we can, whenever we can, we will be moving further away from duality and closer, ever closer, to non-duality. Supplemental practices like meditation, chanting, and Reiki exercises such as deep (Hado) breathing, visualizations, and Hatsurei-Ho, also further our progress towards experiencing non-duality.

Let’s hit the (Reiki) road!

Just for today, follow the Principles.