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A lesson in humility. October 6, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in Reiki, Reiki wisdom.
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“Life is a long lesson in humility.”

—James M. Barrie

This must have been especially true for Barrie, whose character Peter Pan never wanted to grow up, instead preferring to live in Neverland. “I know a place where dreams are born and time is never planned.” Sounds pretty idyllic to us overworked adults, of whom Barrie was one. (The movie “Finding Neverland” was an interesting biopic of Barrie, showing a far more complex character than the creator of cartoon classic Captain Hook.)

Far from never being planned, it seems like all our time is double- or triple-planned, resulting in stress and stress-related illnesses that arise inevitably when we’re continually asked to take on more, to multitask, until we know that actually completing all our tasks, much less completing them well, is an impossibility, and we’re sinking, sinking, while Captain Hook’s crocodile is waiting for us just below the surface. Now who will we say we are when we encounter a new acquaintance who asks what we do for a living and can’t say we’re the manager or executive or VP or whatever, just somebody who was laid off and is trying to scramble along? How quickly they look away, not knowing what to say! A lesson in humility.

If you’re a parent, now expected to accompany your kids to all the post-work activities they’re expected to attend and get meals on the table and take them to buy all the latest fashions and gadgets, the pressure builds even higher. And now they’re supposed to be overachievers, multitaskers from the day one. What if you’re caring for children or parents with disabilities, people you’ll be responsible for until your death or theirs, people you may be responsible for providing care for after your death? And what if someday you’re reduced to the nursing home, the adult diaper, and the wheelchair in the hall?

James Barrie probably wasn’t thinking of such dire situations when he said “Life is a long lesson in humility.” He was possibly thinking of getting bad reviews for his writing, or great beauties who were celebrated in their day fading to wrinkled (now Botoxed) parodies of their younger selves, or performers and athletes aging and no longer being able to do what was required of them. Now, they had to sit on the sidelines and watch while the next generation dazzled with their beauty or talent. And by the next generation, no one even remembered who they were. Films like “Stage Beauty,” TV series like “Game of Thrones,” and songs like Mark Knopfler’s “Punish the Monkey” all address this.

Well, isn’t it a great thing that Usui Founder gave those of us who follow the Reiki Way a method to turn the humiliating times of life into opportunities to strengthen our practice: the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals). Every time we’re able to pass humiliation by, to see what we can learn from it, rather than to become enraged and set all our focus and strength on fighting it, “defeating” it, we take another step forward in defeating our ego, the “I,” and coming closer to merging with the All. This is the secret of attaining enlightenment, satori, anshin ritsumei.

“Life is a long lesson in humility.” Things change. It’s up to you to decide whether that change is for better or worse.

Just for today, embrace the change.

And now my watch begins. May 2, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in Reiki, Reiki wisdom.
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The sentence in the title of this post is part of the ritual vow that members of the Night’s Watch take in the epic series “Game of Thrones,” as they vow to defend everyone else from the horrors that lie beyond the Wall that separates the Seven Kingdoms from the far North. This is not a vow to be taken lightly, for it involves having no family, living celibate, having no possessions, and living your life in a freezing barracks at the edge of the world, where it’s bitterly cold and dark, you work like a dog every day, there’s never enough to eat, and you’re routinely sent out beyond the Wall to risk your life. Not only that, but the vow once taken is for life; there’s no turning back.

Who would do such a thing outside of fiction, you might be wondering? Perhaps they no longer face all of these challenges, but priests, monks and nuns across all religions have done so routinely for thousands of years. There have even been warrior monks, mediaeval Christian orders like the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller and Buddhist warrior monks in feudal Japan.

But what has all this got to do with Reiki? Am I suggesting that all of us who follow the Reiki Way become Reiki warriors once we’ve said our “vows,” received our certificates? In a word, yes.

Of course I’m not advocating violence, celibacy, or deprivation of any kind among Reiki practitioners. What I am advocating is that those who choose to follow the Reiki path do so consciously, earnestly, and from the sole desire to do good in the world. I am saying that, like the Night’s Watch, Reiki is a life path, one that should never be undertaken lightly, picked up and discarded like last year’s hot nail color.

It is up to those of us who teach to make this commitment clear to potential students. It is up to potential students to learn as much about Reiki as they can and determine if it will be a good fit for them before they sign up. For, once our vows are taken, now our watch begins.

Just for today, take Reiki seriously.

A gift is not a debt. February 23, 2014

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The other night, my partner Rob and I were watching “Game of Thrones”—having finally received season three in the mail—and it was the first time I’d thought about the series for some time. I was reminded of one of the mottos of House Lannister, “The Lannisters always pay their debts.” Because this is “Game of Thrones,” the motto carries a sinister undertone: We repay good for good and bad for bad, so beware before you cross us.

For whatever reason—maybe because Christmas isn’t that far behind us—this made me think of the difference between a gift and a debt. Many people go into overtime stress during the holiday season, trying to make sure that they send or give something to everyone who sends or gives something to them, and trying to make sure that the gifts are commensurate, even if they adore the person who gives them a tiny gift and despise the person who stuns them with a huge gift. A friend’s in-laws once told us that they loved their parish priest, but didn’t dare give him the really nice gift they’d planned on because they knew their monsignor would blow a gasket if some mere priest received a more expensive gift from them than he did. The shame!!!

A gift is not a debt. A gift is something given freely from a desire to please another person, to bring joy. The worth of a gift is not measured in money or status (designer shoes, the latest Apple or Xbox toys, executive seats at a sporting event), but by the time taken to thoughtfully choose something you know the recipient will love, be it a special cheese or plant or book or a hand-knitted scarf or craft-fair ring. The giver expects nothing in return but the delighted smile of the recipient, which brings joy beyond measure, repayment in full.

A gift is an occasion of gratitude, on the part of the giver as well as the recipient. A free Reiki session or share, what a wonderful gift! An afternoon spent sharing Reiki stories, practicing Reiki meditations and techniques like hatsurei-ho and hado breathing, enjoying many cups of tea and treats like fruit, nuts, and brown rice balls, what a wonderful gift! The opportunity to give or receive Reiju, what a wonderful gift! To be able to give or receive Reiki scholarships, what a wonderful gift! To find a great Reiki teacher or Reiki student, what a wonderful gift! To encounter or share wisdom from world traditions that can deepen Reiki practice, what a wonderful gift!

A gift is not a debt. There is no quid pro quo here, no expectation of return. The gift itself is all the joyous return the giver needs, a freeing of something into the world to increase our collective happiness quotient. Be it taking the time to say a thoughtful, kind word to a lonely old person who looks sad and adrift at the grocery (“What a beautiful scarf! You’ve really brightened my day!”), or paying for schoolbooks for a friend’s kid who can’t afford them, you would set what some have called good karma in motion.

And yes, those people might indeed pay it forward. But whether they do or don’t, you have followed the Reiki Way by enacting two of Usui Founder’s Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals): Be grateful, and Be kind. A gift is not a debt. A gift is just a gift. For you, and for the ones you give it to.

Just for today, understand the difference.