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I accept with joy. December 1, 2014

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“Whatever I am offered in devotion with a pure heart—a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water—I accept with joy.”

—Bhagavad Gita

I love the images that spring to mind when I read this passage—a leaf holding a single drop of water, a bowl of water with a leaf, flower, or even petal floating on the surface, a perfect cluster of grapes or a ripe apricot set off by a handful of sparkling cherries. The simple yet colorful offerings are so delightful that it makes it easy to overlook the other two aspects of this passage, the pure offering and the joyful receiver.

The Gita makes it quite plain that the receiver doesn’t need to be overwhelmed with offerings, that a small gift offered with a pure heart brings as much joy to the recipient as a castle overflowing with gold and jewels. More, to my mind. Gold and jewels can never be fresh like a dewdrop on a leaf or a plate of ripe fruit.

In this case, the receiver of the offering is clearly the Lord. But it needn’t be. It could be you, or the Lord in you. In either case, it’s up to you to recognize the offering and accept with joy. Once you start this practice, looking for small, even hidden, jewel-like offerings and accepting them with joy, you’ll start to find more and more of them.

Just the other day, I received a package from an old friend with the most wonderful gift inside. But let me backtrack a minute first. You know how the Dalai Lama’s monks travel the U.S. trying to raise awareness of Tibet’s plight? Well, as part of their presentations, they typically will perform traditional Tibetan arts. A few years ago, the monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery came to a town not far from me, and a friend and I went to see them perform traditional Tibetan dances (which were wonderful).

Later in the week, they were going to create one of the fabulous sandpaintings for which they’re renowned. Made of numerous brilliantly colored sands, these take days to create, and when they’re finished, they look like elaborate tapestry mandalas. After performing the closing rituals, the monks sweep all the sands together, leaving nothing of the sand mandala. A truly ephemeral art!

I wasn’t able to get back for any part of the sandpainting process, which made me very sad. But, unbeknownst to me, another friend did go. Getting back to my story, the package I received contained a lovely mandala to hang anywhere. But what really delighted me was that it also contained a small package of sand from the monks’ mandala! The sand is very fine, but if you move the little packet, you can just discern the many colors.

To me, this was a treasure. And certainly, my friend was offering it with a pure heart. I accepted it with joy! The lesson for me was that sometimes, simply allowing yourself to accept with a joyful heart can be every bit as important as making an offering.

Just for today, be grateful.

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Offering song. October 31, 2014

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“My friend, I have given you these, behold them
My friend, I have given you these, behold them
The day has made it all possible to give you these offerings,
behold them.”

—Lakota Offering Song

I read this just this morning and was so amazed by the Lakota attitude toward giving. Most of us are raised with one of two attitudes about giving: “Oh, this is embarrassing, this implies that person is now indebted to me” or “I did this for you, now you owe me bigtime.” One makes the giver self-conscious, the other the recipient.

In the case of this song, neither “owes” the other anything: the giver urges the recipient to look at the gifts, to enjoy them, and then praises the day, not himself or herself, for making the giving possible. “My friend” makes it even more wonderful. In this season, I can see someone turning up on the doorstep with a pumpkin and some colorful corn and saying “behold them.” I can see them turning up with my favorite, a luscious, gooey, homemade pumpkin roll, plus some wonderful light-as-air dinner rolls or even a pan of steaming-hot cornbread and saying “behold them.” I can see handing out all the Halloween candy (and crying inside for not being able to hand out fruit instead, maybe next year we’ll try stick cheese), and saying “behold them.”

For once, it isn’t about us, and it isn’t about them. It’s about what I have managed to give you today, my friend, and about what you have managed to take, and to behold, and what today has made possible.

Just for today, behold what you have been given.

Read this post. August 28, 2014

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On July 19, 2011, I wrote a post on The Reiki Blog called “The egg and the stone.” It’s about a favorite proverb of mine, and I saw that today, someone had gone all the way back there to read it, so I went back and read it again myself. I found that it was still inspirational, still worth reading.

I urge those of you who weren’t reading the blog back in 2011 to type “the egg and the stone” in the search bar at upper right. Those who were reading, like me, that was a while ago, so you might want to go back and re-read this post as well. In today’s world, where so many people think in terms of black and white, it’s a good way to use Reiki to get away from dualistic thinking.

Just for today, be neither egg nor stone.

Look below the surface. May 13, 2014

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“You must look into people, as well as at them.”

—Fortune Cookie

Longtime readers know that I often find words of wisdom hidden in fortune cookies. (I don’t actually eat fortune cookies—eeeewwwww, talk about tasteless!!!—though my black German shepherd, Shiloh, apparently loves them.) But on the occasions when I find wisdom in the strips of paper inside (a favorite is “There’s more to balance than not falling over”), I save them. When I need inspiration, I’ll draw a random fortune out of the batch. What does it have to teach me?

I do the same with postcards. I’ve amassed a stack of postcards that inspire me for one reason or another. If I need inspiration, I’ll draw a random card out of the stack and enjoy the photo, artwork, area, or message. What do they have to teach me?

These are two simple techniques that every Reiki practitioner can incorporate into their practice, their techniques and tips. Today’s fortune cookie fortune reminds us that appearances are nothing; it’s what’s inside that counts, much like the fortune cookie itself. But it only helps us if we take the time to see inside.

Just for today, let’s dig deeper.

Making your mark. July 8, 2013

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In the world of the internet, it pays to follow your passion.

I have a friend whose passion is gardening. She’s captured that passion on a lushly photographed blog that tracks the progress and plant combinations and gardening tips she’s used to create a fabulous garden (by herself, without help) on her four-acre property. Her blog has won endless awards, been featured in magazines and newspapers, and led to many book deals. Her blog has almost 700 followers. She used to be my editorial assistant.

My partner Rob’s son is a very gifted photographer. His Instagram site has almost 4,000 followers (or whatever they’re called on Instagram). Yesterday, we were taking him and his girlfriend out for lunch, and he took a shot with his smartphone of a road between two cornfields and posted it to Instagram. Within 10 minutes, the shot had racked up 65 “likes.”

True, celebrities can rack up bazillion followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and the like. But for ordinary people, following their passions, to rack up numbers like these is both humbling and an inspiration. My friend Nan loves gardening. Christian loves photography. They’ve successfully translated that love to the internet. What do you love? Is it worth sharing?

Obviously, I love Reiki, which is why I started The Reiki Blog. I try to post something that might be helpful to others on the Reiki path every day. I may not have 4,000 followers, or have reporters beating down my door for interviews, or publishers begging me to write books for them, but so what?

This is my passion, and this is my path. I’m grateful to each and every one of you who takes the time to read my posts. If any of you ever want me to address a specific topic of interest to you, you have only to ask. Writing is my gift, Reiki is my passion. Just let me know! And meanwhile, be true to your own passions.

Just for today, follow your heart.

Time is never planned. May 10, 2013

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“I know a place where dreams are born and time is never planned.”
—Sir James Barrie, Peter Pan

In today’s multimedia, multitasking, social-media-driven world, the concept of time not being planned must be as far-fetched as it was when Sir James Barrie penned those wistful lyrics. For so many of us, every second is planned and counter-planned, as we rush from bed to the toothbrush and shower to the commute to a frantic, endless workday of meetings and deadlines. Followed, of course, by rushing from the return commute to the gym to the fast-food stop to racing around getting kids to their various sports and social activities to the TV and home computer to the toothbrush and, at last, to bed. By then, we’re too tired even to sleep, especially thinking about paying bills and performance reviews and doctors’ appointments and work projects and all those upcoming social engagements and presents and, and…

Gack. No wonder Sir James called that place of peace and spontaneity “Neverland.” It’s hard for dreams to be born when you’re so busy rushing around doing stuff, getting through, plodding on. Maybe that’s why so many of today’s entrepreneurial breakthroughs have been made by college students, who have fewer obligations and more unplanned time than the rest of us.

You owe it to yourself to make time every day for your dreams. You make time to shower and go to the gym. You make time for Facebook and Twitter and TV and all the rest of it. You can make time for your dreams, for the things that actually matter, even if it means giving up your Facebook account or spending less time Skyping and texting and watching competitions on TV.

Instead, you could be reading a Reiki book or magazine, visiting a Reiki website or blog (ahem), watching a Reiki video, reciting the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals), meditating on a Reiki symbol, listening to a Reiki CD, doing Reiki self-healing, hands-on healing, or distant healing. For those of us who follow the Reiki Way, this would be time truly well spent!

But as Sir James Barrie reminds us, don’t be rigid about it. (“I will do a Reiki-related activity every day from 7 to 7:45!”) The best, the most soul-satisfying, the most refreshing time is always the time that’s never planned.

Just for today, make time for yourself.

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

The teacher points the way. May 8, 2013

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“It is not enough to have faith in spiritual ideals, based on the testimony of the scriptures or spiritual teachers. We must realize these truths for ourselves, in our own life and consciousness. As the Buddha was fond of saying, the spiritual teacher only points the way; we must do our own travelling.”

—Sri Eknath Easwaran, Words to Live By

Just for today, walk a mile in Reiki shoes.

Getting and spending. March 16, 2013

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“The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours.”
—William Wordsworth

“This massive ascendency of corporate power over democratic process is probably the most ominous development since the end of World War II, and for the most part the ‘free’ world seems to be regarding it as merely normal.”
—Wendell Berry

In the 1800s, William Wordsworth expressed his horror at the excesses of the Industrial Revolution, which had transformed the British landscape from clusters of cottage industries and family farms to factories, mines, mass production, and workhouses, where the bottom dollar had replaced any humane values and nature was desecrated as coal mining, large-scale tree removal (to make way for sheep, not for lumber, and thus permanently eroding the land), and confined toiling in factories, workhouses and cities obliterated people’s natural connection to the land and all of life. The world of Wordsworth’s younger contemporary Charles Dickens, especially in his A Christmas Carol, comes to mind.

Fast-forward to our own day, when corporations have been legally given the rights of individuals. When monstrous, horrifying, greed- and power-driven companies like Monsanto can pour their genetically modified crops across the land without bothering to label such crops and products made from them so consumers can avoid buying corn enhanced with mouse DNA or pesticide- and herbicide-resistance or the like. Yum! But worse still, wind-pollinated crops like corn can contaminate fields with GMO (genetically modified organisms), whether the farmers want such horrors in their generations-old, hand-developed and hand-saved crops, or not. And worst of all, Monsanto and the like send spies into these fields, find samples of their GMO strains, and successfully sue the farmers for “stealing” their seed.

Why on earth would super-giant corporations like Monsanto waste time and money pursuing small family farmers who have passed their own strains of seed from father to son or daughter down the generations and hate the very idea of contaminating crops carefully bred, sometimes for centuries, to produce flavorful crops that are well suited to their specific climates? You’d think these farmers would be suing Monsanto for polluting their strains, and winning their suits.

But oh, no. Monsanto’s monstrosity and greed knows no bounds. Crush these individuals, these Luddites, these idealists who believe in human rights with endless money poured into the highest corporate law firms! Force everyone on earth to buy Monsanto seed, at Monsanto prices, every year, endangering our entire food supply by limiting the variations in each vegetable crop to a single variety! Try to blank out the memory of the Irish Potato Famine, which occurred solely because all of Ireland was growing a single potato variety which was unable to withstand the blight! Of course that could never happen to Monsanto’s single varieties! After all, they’ve been specially bred to withstand the massive amounts of Monsanto-produced toxic pesticides and herbicides that are routinely dumped on the fields where they’re raised for our consumption. Boy oh boy, I’d just love to eat those veggies, wouldn’t you?

We as Reiki people, we who follow the Reiki Way, are bound to the All, to all life, to not just our fellow humans but to the plants, animals, and other life forms with which we share our planet. It is imperative for our progress on the Reiki path that we see that “All that we see in Nature is ours,” that we are not separate but aligned with all life.

And that greed, corruption at the corporate and paid-for political level, isolation from nature, and complete severance from our planet and from our fellow humans through corporate greed and a monstrous lack of fellow-feeling with anyone, be it an employee in your office or a mail deliverer or the “barrista” who serves you a cappuccino or a cat or skunk or raccoon killed on the road, or, say, your wife or husband or children or grandchildren, much less a street person or someone holing up in a homeless shelter or lining up at a soup kitchen, or someone living their last days in a hospice, or animals in a no-kill shelter or worse, in a shelter that routinely euthanizes them. (This is probably the longest sentence on record. Sorry.)

Please, Reiki people, try not to let the corporations win. Try to see what in nature is ours (which is everything).

Just for today, see yourself in everyone, in everything, and feel the love, the healing energy that unites us all.

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

Timeless wisdom. March 11, 2013

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I’ve just been reading James Clavell’s novel of the rise of Japan’s Tokugawa Shogunate, Shogun, for about the fifth time. The novel unfolds through the eyes of an Elizabethan Englishman as he discovers how different Japanese customs and philosophy are from the West’s.

As Clavell’s hero John Blackthorne learns, we, the readers, learn with him. We learn that, for a samurai, unquestioning obedience, dignity, discipline and death are the only things that matter, that death is considered trivial, since everyone will be reborn in 40 days and, if their behavior has been exemplary, they’ll be reborn samurai, the warrior caste of feudal Japan.

This flies in the face of Western attitudes, where, then as now, individuality, free will, and personal achievement were (and are) the hallmarks of greatness, and rebirth was (and typically remains) inconceivable. For the Japanese, the national motto might well have been “Live and die with honor, for the greater good of the whole.” For us, then and now, it might well be “You only have one life to live, so go for all the gusto you can get!” Carpe diem, seize the day, with the always unvoiced but always present “while you still can.”

All of which reminds me that Usui Founder was a samurai, possibly the last samurai, born just a year before the Meiji Restoration obliterated the Shogunate and reopened Japan to the West. Mikao Usui venerated the Meiji Emperor and completely supported his reforms. He even travelled the world as secretary to an ambassador. But he was born samurai, and the Usuis were a branch of the great samurai Chiba clan, and it would be unwise ever to forget that this was his upbringing, shaping his culture and his values.

Which brings me to the “timeless wisdom” that is the title of this post. Whether you believe in unquestioning obedience to your so-called superiors, the value of the group over the individual, and a constant readiness for death, even suicide, if called for, or not, is immaterial. In fact, I think a radical refutation of all that emerged in Japan when Dogen Zenji returned from China to found Soto Zen.

Which is not to suggest that Dogen in any way supported Western individualism, isolation of each person from the All, or lack of discipline. Soto Zen was founded on discipline, sacrifice, and unquestioning obedience. And it, like Usui Founder’s Reiki, holds out the promise of satori—enlightenment—at the journey’s end.

Whether, and to what extent, we in the West can embrace such discipline and obedience I do not know. In our culture, only monastics, monks and nuns who have given up the life of the world for a life in service to God, and soldiers, who train to obey orders precisely and turn themselves into killing machines, embrace unquestioning obedience and discipline. How many among us are monks or soldiers?

But the timeless wisdom at the heart of it all is breathtakingly simple, summing up the human experience. Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, who came from Japan and popularized Dogen’s Zen in America, was once asked if he could sum up the Buddhist philosophy, the meaning of Zen, in a way that anyone could understand. Suzuki Roshi answered simply, “Everything changes.”

Everything changes, and that changes everything. The child you raise today becomes an adult, his or her own person, and you realize that despite your love and fear you have no control over them or their life. You may be a successful businessman for twenty years, then find yourself marginalized and laid off, scrambling to support your family and to create a new identity. You may have enjoyed a lifetime of good health, only to find yourself stricken with cancer or diabetes or heart disease. You may have loved your parents and relied on them as a pillar of strength all your life, only to see them die or degenerate and end up in a nursing home.

This is true in much more trivial ways as well. Yesterday, my partner Rob and I went to a favorite local restaurant for lunch, only to see a sign on the door that it had closed (though it was extremely popular and had been open for decades). We’d gone to a department store the day before to find a similar sign on it. You hear that the post office is closing, the stock market is crashing, the publishing industry is shifting to self-published online books, natural gas prices are dropping and oil prices are soaring.

Everything changes. The face I see in the mirror today isn’t the face I’ll see tomorrow. The pets I love right now won’t be the pets I love ten years from now. We cannot stop change, much as we would like to. All we can do is accept the central, eternal truth that change is the common denominator of all life experience. to accept that with a tranquil mind is the beginning and the end of wisdom.

Just for today, don’t worry.

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

Another notebook. February 1, 2013

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Time to celebrate! I’ve filled up another Reiki notebook. I love my Reiki notebooks, and am always thrilled when I’ve amassed enough material to fill one. To me, it’s like a treasure hoard waiting to be rediscovered whenever I open its cover.

What’s in my Reiki notebooks? First of all, class notes, from classes I’ve attended and taught. I learned as a college student to take exhaustive class notes. This might seem like a waste to some students, since teachers give out handouts and assign extensive readings in textbooks, online, and etc. Why take notes at all? Simple: In their lectures, teachers will focus on what they think matters most. By taking and reviewing your notes, that focus will become clear. This got me straight As and A-pluses in college and grad school, but in Reiki, it’s much more valuable than that, opening up insights to your teachers’ approaches to Reiki, and capturing questions that your students have, which can often help you hone your own teaching.

Next, I like to record things I find out about Reiki and its history, such as Usui Founder’s family ties to the powerful Chiba clan during the Edo period of the Shogunate in Japan, when the samurai families (like the Usuis) were all-powerful. Discovering this and the Chiba family crest, followed by the Usui family crest, helped me understand why Usui Founder called Reiki “a torch in daylight.” (The Usui family crest, like the ancestral Chiba crest, bore the symbol of the morning star, the original “torch in daylight”). It also explains why Usui Founder was so involved in the rescue and healing efforts after the Great Kanto Earthquake, since not just Tokyo but Chiba Prefecture were devastated by it. Discoveries like these, the Reiki historical timeline, the Usui family trade, and etc. are fascinating to me, but given my memory, I need to write them down in order to remember them. Thanks be for notebooks!

I also like to record any statistics I find about Reiki, such as the number of practitioners worldwide (now estimated at more than 5 million, if you include Master/teachers). One Reiki group I belong to is very interested in things like how to get grants, what insurance is available to Reiki practitioners, what Reiki organizations are out there and how they operate, and the like. I can’t say I enjoy this type of research, but it is informative! And I really love browsing Reiki websites and blogs to see what other Reiki people are up to, and if there are things I should really try to incorporate into my own practice and teachings (with appropriate attribution, needless to say). All of these things end up in my Reiki notebooks.

A Reiki notebook is also the perfect place to practice drawing the Reiki symbols, recording information about the symbols, and noting differences between different schools’ symbols. (For example, the Komyo symbols are much simpler than those used by many Reiki lineages.) And of course it’s the perfect place to record how your hands-on and distant healing worked in each case.

Finally, as part of my Reiki practice, I read extensively in books about spiritual practice, be it Zen or Native American or Eckhart Tolle or Blessed Mother Teresa or what have you, and of course I read every book and article about Reiki I can get my hands on. If I find a passage that strikes me, it goes into my Reiki notebooks (again, of course with attribution), and often ends up in a blog post here on The Reiki Blog. I’m a poet, so if I write a Reiki poem, I write it in my notebook, too. And of course it’s the perfect place to note down the addresses of Reiki websites and blogs and the e-mails and other contact data for students and other Reiki contacts.

I guess it’s not surprising that my Reiki notebooks are full to overflowing! They become real treasures that I read again and again to deepen my practice. Do you keep a Reiki notebook? If so, what do you put in it? Please share your approach with us!

Just for today, re-read your notebooks.

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