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Speak up, act out. December 30, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in Reiki, Reiki wisdom.
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“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
—Edmund Burke

Several posts ago, I quoted Martin Luther King Jr.’s comment, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” In that post, I also quoted the Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller’s devastating comment about his failure to speak or act out against the Nazis, “Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

The Burke quote is another one to add to the list. All these men are talking about what they or those they cared about didn’t do, not that they themselves did some bad deed. How many people do you think would have gladly given their bus seats to Rosa Parks? Yet not one of them did. How many people would have been glad to give Mohandas Gandhi a seat on the train instead of watching him be pitched to the boardwalk when he had a first-class ticket and every right to ride?

Yet the onlookers were worried. What would their peers think of them if they stood up for what they knew was right? Would some roughnecks beat them up? So they just watched; they “did nothing,” they remained silent. This has been the horror of history. As the poet W.B. Yeats says, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” Pope Francis has spoken again and again about this lack of conviction, about our duty to help the poor and destitute, to get out in the streets and engage with them, rather than turning our backs and remaining silent while others suffer.

There’s a lot of misery in our world. Rather than turning our backs on it, rather than pretending we’re some different species, let all of us who practice Reiki send it to those in need. Let all those who see injustice speak out. And let all of us who encounter need head-on meet it with compassion, with fellowship, with recognition that we’re looking at ourselves. For it’s only when we’ve pushed prejudice, violence, and separatism to the curb the the world can know peace.

Just for today, practice your Reiki Principles.

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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.

Reiki and the love connection. March 6, 2014

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What do you do about your past loves? I get my local paper, and every now and then it brings me terrible shocks. This week, I was reading a letter to the editor when I realized that it was from a man I had loved as my own life, more than my own life, for five years. Then this morning, there was a story and photo of my ex-husband and his wife staring out of the paper at me, celebrating their snowy wedding back in 1993. Talk about a shock!

Fortunately, I’m on good terms with all my past loves and my ex-husband, and am in a loving, stable relationship with my partner Rob. But it’s still hard to see an unexpected, sudden outcropping of someone you thought was yours, someone you loved and lost. What’s a Reiki person to do?!

Obviously, those of us who’ve attained at least Reiki III should send Reiki back to our relationships and to those we loved. We should send Reiki into the present and future for those we loved and love. We should not assume that, because our relationships failed, we should stop loving people whose qualities we cherished.

Instead, we should remember every precious moment that we shared with them. It was a gift. We should rejoice in their happiness as we rejoice in our own. We should send them Reiki. We should try to stay in touch. We are connected, and in our vast, busy world, every real connection matters.

Just for today, reach out.

Reiki and compassion. May 4, 2013

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“The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing.”
—Simone Weil

Those of us in the Reiki community are used to giving our attention to sufferers, through hands-on, hands-over, and distant healing. When we meet for Reiki shares, when we do Reiki hands-on healing sessions, when we give Reiki healing to people in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, animal shelters, and the like, we give our attention to the sufferers.

This isn’t easy, it’s agonizing, especially if you’re an empath like me who feels the recipient’s every pain and emotion. No, I of course don’t take on the person’s physical pain as shamans do, thanks be to Usui Founder. Yes, I do feel their psychic pain, I do understand the agonies they suffer, I understand them in my own flesh even if I never take them on. I weep for them as they weep. I pray that my Reiki hands, my Reiki intent, and the help of the Teachers, Usui Founder, Hayashi Sensei, Takata Sensei, and the Holy Ghost who gave Reiki its name, Ghost Energy, will guide and help me.

Being an empath has its issues, but being a rational, logical, thinking human being means that you’re not blind to those who want to crucify you for their own advancement. These are the ones who want to make you use your energy to boost theirs for their own dark and corrupt ends. The ones who blame all their problems on everyone else, assuming no personal responsibility whatever for their personal failures and setbacks: It’s always somebody else’s fault, never theirs. Poor, poor, pitiful me!

This pathetic whining horrifies me, and yet it’s something all of us in the Reiki community will someday face, from our family, our friends, our students, our critics. Why didn’t you help ME, solve all MY problems?! Why should I ever have to take control of my own life? Why aren’t you doing it for me?

The psychic vampires who cling on like this are the monsters in the closet of Reiki and all other spiritual practices. For every Reiki practitioner or teacher who manages to evade one of these people, it seems as if a thousand spring up in their place. Yes, these people are mentally ill and deserve compassion, as someone who’d been mauled in a car crash or house fire deserves compassion. Yes, they need healing. But yes, too, it’s so hard to reach out to them when you see the horrific selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-absorption that are their drivers.

This, ultimately, is the challenge of those of us who follow the Reiki Way and try to use its power to heal. It’s difficult, as Simone Weil notes, to minister to a repellent, self-absorbed person, whose entire life revolves around nothing but him- or herself. But if they have come to us—if they have taken the first step on the road to healing—it is up to us to guide them on the path. By doing so, we can practice compassion even as we help them understand what compassion is.

Just for today, do not judge.

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

The seat of compassion. June 1, 2012

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“Compassion comes with insight into the heart of life, as we see more clearly the unseen forces that drive a person into action.”

                    —Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

It is only when we can look at other people as reflections of ourselves, as part of our self and part of the All, that we can feel compassion. And that requires us to be them as well as to see them.

It’s easy to feel compassion for that poor girl in Georgia who was having fun with friends and ended up being hurt in a freak accident, then attacked by flesh-eating bacteria and losing her limbs. It’s easy to feel compassion for the actor Martin Short, who was being interviewed recently and was repeatedly asked how things were going with his wife, who (unbeknownst to the interviewer) had died two years earlier. Or, say, the woman whose face and hands were ripped off by a chimpanzee, or the guy on the street who’s shot in a holdup because he only has five dollars in his wallet. Or those poor children, babysitters and firefighters recently killed in a luxury mall in Doha when a fire broke out and the roof collapsed, hindering rescue efforts. Or an adorable puppy who’s been rescued from a garbage bag on the side of the road.

It’s easy, isn’t it, to see ourselves in the victims’ place? We send them Reiki; we resolve to try insofar as we can not to place ourselves in physical danger. We pass on adopting a pitbull from the local shelter. We skirt the homeless man or the crazy woman on the bench outside the store who’s always muttering or shouting imprecations. We carry a can of pepper spray, we add a third lock to our doors or invest in a security system. We take “sensible precautions.” Doesn’t everyone?

No, not everyone. There are those who, like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Father Damien, and Bishop Desmond Tutu, are willing to set personal safety aside in the name of universal compassion. They are willing to expose themselves to danger, assassination, imprisonment, and illness for all our sakes. Why? Because they draw no distinctions. For Father Damien, the leper was as fully human and fully sacred as any being. Mother Teresa saw the dying, maggot-ridden bodies in Calcutta’s gutters not as disgusting trash to be swept aside but as “Our Lord in His distressing disguise.” (And she saw the rich, alienated people in the West the same way.)

You don’t have to be a saint or a dog whisperer to show compassion to All That Is. But you do have to be able to see yourself in every part of it. You have to be able to see past the surface into the heart and soul of everything, and see yourself there: In the ancient, incontinent cat who’s been dumped off at the shelter. In the naked man who ate off the face of another naked man on a bridge in Miami. In the woman who thinks nothing of burning a $100,000 handbag as “performance art” rather than auctioning it off for charity. In the suicide bomber who destroys the lives of people he or she never knew and will never know. Even in the dictator who lets his entire country literally starve to feed his paranoia.

This compassion, this seeing and relating, is the difference between those who follow a spiritual Way and those who simply strive for social reform. You know the type, the angry, alienating idealists who are enraged at the failure of society to fall in with their utopian ideals. There is absolutely nothing wrong with their ideals, but a great deal wrong with their intolerance and anger. Splashing red paint or blood on the fur-wearing fashionistas of the day is simply and inarguably vandalism, the spoiled-brat behavior of those who say “I’m right, so why should I respect anyone else?”

They fail to see the connection of all life, of themselves and these sad women who are trying to secure their social status by wearing fur. Or the connection between themselves and chefs who revel publicly in eating as much meat, and as much “exotic” meat, as possible. (Dog stew comes to mind.) Or the extreme need of dictators to establish their own personas by annihilating any opposing views, and the need of the insecure to follow their lead to establish an identity for themselves.

Compassion is our only hope. Compassion is simply our connection with our fellow creatures, our ability to understand their histories, their vulnerabilities, and to forgive them their failings, as we hope everyone will forgive us ours. To, as Sri Eknath says, “see more clearly the unseen forces that drive a person into action.” To invite them to merge with us into the All. Following Usui Founder’s Five Reiki Principles can give us a solid grounding on which to enlarge our compassion until, at last, it is big enough to embrace everything.

Just for today, be compassionate. 

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The radical notion of compassion. November 22, 2011

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“Compassion is the radicalism of our time.”

                     —The Dalai Lama

I’ve been thinking about compassion a lot over the past week. First, because I saw someone who deserved pity being treated instead with anger by an entire group of people. It reminded me of the time I saw a homeless woman in New York urinating on the sidewalk. A passerby who also witnessed this scene, far from being devastated by the woman’s situation and desperation as contrasted to her own comfort and affluence, was outraged and screamed at her, “You can’t do that!!!” then launched into an abusive tirade. The homeless woman looked at her tiredly and said, “Well, what am I supposed to do?” Just so. As far as I know, there’s not one public restroom in all of New York City; certainly I’ve never seen one.

I thought of compassion again this morning when a dear friend told me that one of her college-age sons was thinking about majoring in equine science, a path that will most likely take him to veterinary school for graduate study. Like most people who become veterinarians, my friend’s son adores animals. It is love and compassion that leads people to become veterinarians. And, once they have their diplomas and begin to practice their profession, they’re treated to daily experience of the exact opposite of love and compassion: still-healthy but unwanted animals being brought in for euthanasia because the owners no longer want them; the horrifying sight of suffering, abused animals; animals abandoned at shelters or simply dumped off on the roadside because the owners simply couldn’t be bothered to spay and neuter their pets.

What must this do to the veterinarians who are confronted by these situations? Like doctors treating terminally ill patients, it must be tempting to simply wall one’s self off emotionally and get on with the business at hand. I know I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t look at a perfectly healthy cat or dog, whose owner told me to euthanize it because they were moving and their new apartment didn’t allow pets, and just reach for the IV. (Unless it was to insert it into the owner’s arm rather than the pet’s! But, of course, that just shows that I still have a lot of work to do on compassion.) Sad as shelters are, how happy vets must feel to get to work at no-kill shelters, where every animal is valued, or at farms for aging horses whose owners no longer want them, but are willing to pay for their “retirement.”

Why does the Dalai Lama say that compassion is radical? Because compassion is not admiration, it is not about attractiveness, it is not a popularity contest. It goes against all the superficial so-called values of our shallow, surface-oriented society. It is about reaching out in love to the old, the ugly, the unwanted, the unlovable, the castoffs of our youth- and glamour-obsessed culture (again, so-called). It is hard. That’s why those who are truly compassionate, the Dr. Usuis and St. Francises and Mother Teresas and Jesuses and Dalai Lamas among us, are so revered: They have managed to see through the appearances that separate us to the great underlying unity that makes us one with the homeless woman, the woman screaming at her, the castaway dog, the owner demanding that it be euthanized for convenience’s sake. Until we see ourselves in all of them, until we love ourselves in all of them, compassion will remain an abstraction.

Just for today, be compassionate to yourself and others.

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Reiki and compassion. October 22, 2011

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“The most compassionate element within the system of Reiki is helping others to find their own inner great bright light.”

                 —Frans Stiene, comment on his blog post “I see              the Moon” (http://us.ihreiki.com/blog/), 10-17-11

Just for today, be compassionate.