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The right way to teach Reiki. October 4, 2014

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“You can preach all you like, but actually most of the important things in life are caught, not taught.”

—Jane Livesey, General Superior of the Congregation of Jesus

What a great quote! The next time you teach a Reiki class, make sure there are plenty of things for your students to “catch,” that you’re interacting, not just sitting or standing there pontificating. Rather than reciting (or worse, reading) a rote set of class notes, make sure you, as well as your students, get something new out of every class you teach. Encourage your students to open up: Sometimes their questions will open new doors for you.

Of course, you hope that every student will catch Reiki fire. It’s why they are there, why you are there. But who knows what else they might catch? Perhaps a burning desire to volunteer giving Reiki in animal shelters or hospices or assisted-living facilities, or working with handicapped kids, or going on to become a Reiki teacher themselves. Maybe they’ll want to establish Reiki as a modality at a local wellness center or spa, or create a Reiki share at their church or college. Maybe they’ll catch on a book title and go on to read a book you think is a great help on the journey, or they’ll start a Reiki journal or blog, or they’ll catch one of the Reiki exercises or Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals) that can help them conquer one of their demons.

So, how do you help your students catch “the important things”? Keep learning yourself. Read, watch, take notes, including notes on how various images or passages made you think or feel. I think it’s important to keep up with new Reiki developments, but I also think that books and films on spirituality in general, such as the marvelous movie “Zen,” Sri Eknath Easwaran’s Words to Live By, Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, and Shunryu Suzuki Roshi’s Not Always So have the ability to inspire and empower.

Make sure you keep the focus on the Reiki Principles first, always first, but don’t forget the importance of daily Reiki self-healing. Teach your students to recite the Principles, hands in gassho, in both Japanese and English, and give them copies of photos of Usui Founder, Hayashi Sensei, and Takata Sensei so they can recite in front of them if they wish. (Add photos of Chiyoko Yamaguchi Sensei, Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei, and any other Senseis in your lineage if you wish.) Make sure they can remember and do simple exercises like Hado breathing after their Reiki hands-on self-healing sessions to center themselves and deepen their calm. Encourage them to write essays on each Reiki Principle after (or even during) the first class, and again several months later; reading and talking about each of them with the class, comparing them, should be eye-opening. Have them repeat this exercise every time they take a new class so they can watch themselves grow. There is so much to offer, so much to do, so much to learn!

Just for today, start pitching.

Reiki add-ons. July 15, 2014

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Frans Stiene recently wrote a post on his International House of Reiki blog called “De-Attune?” (Google “ih reiki” and it will take you there.) It’s brought up some interesting issues about the nature of Reiki and some very interesting responses from Reiki practitioners.

Central to the post and the responses is the question “What is Reiki?” Originally, Reiki was the discovery of its Founder, Mikao Usui, when after a long and rigorous intellectual search for spiritual enlightenment, he received enlightenment, satori, on the slopes of Japan’s Mount Kurama after a 21-day fast. Clearly, it took physical as well as mental commitment to bring this about, body and mind in tandem.

Usui Founder’s experience brings to mind the Native American coming-of-age ritual called the Vision Quest, where adolescents were sent out to isolated areas to fast and pray until they received the vision that would give them their totem animal, their adult name, and shape their lives. I always thought the idea of finding your name, totem, and etc. as you grew up was a wonderful idea, since it set you free from others’ expectations, free to become yourself. Thus the child Jumping Badger became the great chief Sitting Bull. Too bad we don’t all do this.

But I digress. Usui Founder discovered on his way back down the slopes of Mount Kurama that his newly discovered gift of Reiki could be used for healing, and for the rest of his life, he used it to heal those in need, most famously after the Great Tokyo (Kanto) Earthquake of 1923, when he healed thousands of earthquake victims with Reiki and developed a huge following.

But Mikao Usui made a distinction between healing and teaching. When he taught, he taught the Five Reiki Principles (aka Principles, Ideals) as the foundation of Reiki practice: “Just for today, Don’t worry. Don’t get angry. Be grateful. Work hard. Be kind.” He gave reiju, now called initiations or attunements, but then regarded as simple spiritual blessings that strengthened one’s Reiki practice. He didn’t use symbols or specific hand positions or pretty much any of the things we in the West have come to associate with Reiki. In short, he taught his students according to their abilities and strengths, individually, and expected his students to do the same for their students. To his most gifted students, he shared the secret of enlightenment.

Since Usui Founder’s time, Reiki, or at least Western Reiki, has come a long way from its roots. There are so many different kinds of Reiki, often copyrighted by their developers, which incorporate crystals, Tibetan symbols, angels, chakras, Chinese meridians, shamanic techniques, you name it. “My Reiki is better/more exclusive/more expensive than your Reiki” has become an all-too-common refrain.

I have absolutely nothing against crystals, chakras, incense, Chinese medicine, and the like. I’m happy to incorporate them into my personal practice, along with the Native American techniques I use. I just wouldn’t call any of them Reiki. They aren’t Reiki. I don’t teach them. Please, let’s try to remember what Reiki is—a simple, powerful Way that leads to enlightenment—and what it isn’t. Reiki doesn’t demand that we give up anything along its Way, only that we “work hard” to achieve its end.

Just for today, stay on course.

Are you too serious? June 6, 2014

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“Seriousness is an illness.”

—The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama was forced to flee Tibet—his home and the place where he ruled as supreme religious leader—as a young man, when the Communist Chinese invaded and conquered the country. He has lived his entire adult life in exile, knowing that his people live under the fist of a merciless alien ruler, that many of his fellow monks and their monasteries have been destroyed, and that there are now Chinese puppets holding key positions in the few Tibetan lamaseries that remain intact.

You’d think that, if anything could make you permanently serious, with furrowed brow, never cracking a smile, that would do it. Instead, the Dalai Lama is always smiling and laughing, even as he imparts his wisdom. Just seeing him lifts the spirit, not just because of what he says but of what he IS, the embodiment of happiness, equanimity, and contentment.

As those of us who follow the Reiki Way bring our learnings and teachings to others, let us try to remember the Dalai Lama’s words, and also the homespun folk wisdom that notes “It is easier to draw flies with honey than with vinegar.” Seriousness has its place, but use it judiciously in your teachings, so that when you do use it, your students never forget. Humor, joy, spontaneity and connection all have their place as well.

Just for today, remember the healing power of shared laughter.

When are you ready to teach Reiki? February 19, 2013

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I just read a guest post by Denyce Peyton on the International House of Reiki blog (http://www.ihreiki.com/blog/) called “Now I’m prepared to teach Reiki.” This of course made me think about teaching Reiki, and when a person should consider themselves ready to teach. Gassho, Denyce, for a thought-provoking post!

There are probably as many reasons for deciding to teach Reiki and as many ways of teaching Reiki as there are Reiki practitioners. There are people who launch into teaching after a one-day “all-inclusive” Reiki workshop, that takes you from an introduction to Reiki to a Master’s certificate in a matter of hours. There are people who retake their Shinpiden/Shihan courses for years before they feel that they’ve adequately internalized the teachings and are ready to teach. There are those who apprentice for a year or more at the Master level, assisting at classes, observing, and strengthening their teaching skills. And of course there are those who simply wish to practice, not teach.

My own criterion for deciding to teach was simple in the extreme: I felt that I had something to say, something to give, to those students who were ready to receive it. I did not feel “prepared” to teach Reiki; I’ll probably never feel “prepared.” There is always more to learn, more to practice, more to grow. And this is the open secret I share with my students, that we both will continue to grow in Reiki, to find ourselves in new places. Any of my students may grow beyond me on the path; any may find other teachers who will help them continue to grow along the Way.

I think the great diversity of Reiki teachers and approaches should be viewed as a strength of Reiki rather than a weakness, an absence of “one true Way” with precise rules, regulations and procedures. This frees those who seek to follow the Reiki Way to find the teacher who is right for them, rather than just accepting the first (or second, or tenth) they come across.

The movie “Zen,” about the life of the founder of Soto Zen, the great Dogen Zenji, made a point of showing his search for a true teacher, how he went from teacher to teacher until he found the one from whom he could truly learn the Way. With so many Reiki teachers out there, you needn’t try to conform to a teacher, teachings, or a teaching style that makes you feel uncomfortable.

I firmly believe that the right teacher is out there for every student: Seek, and ye shall find! Thank heavens for the internet and for Reiki books and The Reiki News, all of which allow you a glimpse into the personalities and approaches of various Reiki teachers, so you can, in effect, get an overview before you decide whom to contact.

Never forget that the teacher-student dynamic is, by its nature, dynamic, changeable. No student should ever assume that their teacher is infallible and accept everything they say on faith rather than experience. My students may find that they have strengths in areas where I’m weak, and be able to strengthen themselves in areas where I’m strong. The passing on of Reiki should be done with humility, compassion, openness, and love. We’re all on the same path.

When and why did you know that you were prepared to teach Reiki?

Just for today, do the best you can to shine the Great Bright Light of Reiki to illuminate the path for those who follow.

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

How long between Reiki I and II? January 31, 2013

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I just received the Omega Institute’s spring class schedule (check them out at http://www.eOmega.org), and was thrilled to see that they were offering a Reiki class, the first time I’ve seen that on their program. But I was also disturbed, because the class was for both Reiki level I and Reiki level II over the same three-day period.

I realize that many Reiki Master/teachers do teach Reiki I and II together, so I’m not trying to criticize this particular teacher. And most Reiki Masters teach Reiki I as a one-day course and Reiki II as a two-day course, and this man’s classes run for three days, so no worries there. (Though honestly, there’s so much to cover during a Reiki I class that I think a full two days should be given to it as well.)

I don’t, however, agree that the two levels should be taught back-to-back. I think this does the student a great disservice. For one thing, Reiki energy is powerful stuff. When the energy moves through you, especially during attunements and/or reiju, it can have very strong physical effects, including the well-known “healing crisis.”

A Reiki I, handling all this energy for the first time, needs not just their teacher’s support and counsel but time to grow accustomed to experiencing and working with the energy through self-healing and giving Reiki to other people, animals, plants, and etc. Not only this, but there really is a lot to teach in a Reiki I class, a lot of materials to pass on and hope the student will explore and internalize. All this takes time.

Hyakuten Inamoto Sensei, the founder of Komyo Reiki, the Reiki of Enlightenment, is very clear on this issue: He thinks there should be at least a month between Reiki I and II classes. I agree that a month is a bare minimum. I’ve known people who took years or even decades to move from Reiki I to Reiki II; there are people who find their level at Reiki I and never move beyond it. Everyone should be encouraged to move at their own pace and not urged to move to the next level whether they want to or not, as though they were in a corporation where you had to be constantly promoted or die. If Reiki I is enough for you, it’s enough, and it’s a wonderful way to help yourself and everyone/thing around you, the end.

I’d encourage those who wish to follow the Reiki Way to take Reiki I, spend at least six months (and preferably a year) doing self-healing and hands-on healing of others, becoming comfortable with the energy, participating in Reiki shares, receiving regular reiju if available, learning everything you can about Reiki, and practicing the exercises (such as Hado breathing and working with the Reiki Principles, aka Precepts/Ideals) before taking the Reiki II course.

Only when—and if, again, this isn’t some kind of competition—you feel ready to move on to Level II should you sign up for a class. There’s so much to work with in Level I that you could easily spend a lifetime learning it! Don’t rush yourself, every level is complete and satisfying in itself.

Reiki II introduces the Reiki symbols and teaches students how to work with them. The symbols tell us how to “put the power here” (the first symbol), to enhance the effectiveness of our Reiki; to help resolve mental and emotional issues (the second symbol), and to transcend time and space (the third symbol). This is all very esoteric, and learning the third symbol, a very complex kanji, is especially challenging.

Teaching students how to use the symbols to deepen their practice, and especially how to do distant healing effectively, is time-consuming, focused work for both teachers and students. And of course, attuning the students to each symbol is a huge energy rush, once again potentially overwhelming the students’ systems and promoting a healing crisis. It also takes time to explain to the students that the symbols are focusing tools, ways to concentrate and gather power, training wheels that serve very valid purposes but that can also be discarded once their energy has been internalized. Some students will need the focusing power of the symbols all their lives; others will become embodiments of the symbols and can then leave them behind.

I think all things should be allowed to come to fruition in their own time. To teach Reiki I and II in a three-day weekend is in my opinion a disservice to your students. It’s overwhelming. It’s too much to absorb in just three days. It’s critical in my view to teach, and then to let your students practice, before teaching them again when and if they feel comfortable moving on to the next level. And those of us who teach have a strong obligation to recognize that no level is better or higher than another: A dedicated Reiki I can do as much good in the world as any Master/teacher.

Just for today, be humble and clear-sighted.

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

Preparing for a Reiki class. August 1, 2012

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For a Reiki Master, preparing to teach a Reiki class should involve not just reviewing the body of material to be taught, preparing handouts and the like, and thinking about what he or she has learned since the last time s/he taught, and how to integrate that into the teachings. This is important, but it’s not enough. The Reiki Master must also center him- or herself in silence before beginning to teach. This means becoming calm, finding the center of compassion within, listening to the voice that speaks without words. The Reiki Master must become one with and connect to the Reiki energy, and that requires absolute stillness, absolute understanding, absolute connection to the All.

Can you drop yourself, your busy life, your distractions to teach a Reiki class? Can you become one with the Reiki, become the Great Bright Light, and then come back from that place prepared to share jokes, stupid mistakes you’ve made, and other homespun wisdom with your students? Are you ready to learn from them even as you teach them?

But remember, it’s not just the teacher who must prepare for the class. Someone who genuinely wants to place his or her feet on the Reiki path needs to center themselves in the weeks before the class as well. They need to become calm, to shed distractions, to center themselves. To bring themselves to class angry, or strung out, or weakened from multitasking and media saturation is a waste. They won’t be able to take what they should from the class. Instead of focusing on soaking up Reiki, they’ll be focusing on the latest injustice they suffered, or the assignment looming over them, or the (gasp) fact that they haven’t been able to text their friends for the past hour. 

I have heard many horror stories from people who have come to Reiki as a way to heal. It is certainly one of the roads that leads people to Reiki, and certainly the most heartbreaking to hear if you’re a teacher, and especially if you’re also an empath. Physical and mental disease are hard enough; physical or mental abuse is almost unbearable. Emotional abandonment is perhaps the most heartbreaking of all. Yes, this is pain, this is suffering. But this is not Reiki.

In all my years following the Reiki Way, I have never heard of one other person who actually prepped their students in how to prepare themselves for a Reiki class. (And mind you, there may be many of you out there who do.) But I feel this is essential for the student’s sake. To fully absorb the teaching, the attunements/Reiju, the practice, a student must be focused solely on the class, to be solely in the moment, to give everything he or she has to what is happening now, this instant, this hour, this day. 

And to work up to that state of concentration, the student must let go of everything else, for at least a week and preferably two weeks before the class. Anger, resentment, frustration,self-indulgence, self-aggrandizement: the hallmarks of a superficial society. But also feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, failure, passive-aggression. The students must strip themselves bare and present themselves, just as they are, to the teacher, even as the teacher must strip him- or herself bare and present that essence to the students, if the Reiki teachings are truly to take hold and transform lives, and possibly the world.

Just for today, be honest.

Excerpted from Living Reiki. All content © copyright Red Dog Reiki. All rights reserved.

An empath walks into a field… July 20, 2012

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One of the folks at last night’s Reiki share was telling us about a friend of his who, when out walking over her large farm, sometimes looks down to find that she’s wearing other clothes, presumably the clothes of those who walked the fields before her. Wow, I thought, that’s a real empath. I wish I could meet her.

I’m an empath, too, one of those people who can relate so closely to the emotions of others that they can’t help but mirror them. It’s a double-edged sword, believe me, especially when you’re teaching a Reiki class and a student tells a truly heartbreaking story about humiliation or suffering and you burst into tears in front of the entire class. Not quite the kind of leadership they were expecting!

In my home, parts of which date back to 1900, I sometimes see the ghost cat of a former owner slipping into the bedroom closet. I used to think it was one of my cats until I realized they were all out in plain sight, then thought the previous owners had abandoned it in the house, but finally came to see it for what it was. I often hear conversations, radio from the ’30s and ’40s, jazz from the ’20s, TV programs from the ’50s, and so on, the things people once listened to here. And if I’m out in the mudroom which encloses my well and borders my creek, I can sometimes here the drumming and chanting of the Lenni Lenape who lived on this creek, and on this site, before the Europeans disenfranchised them. My totem animal, the red-tailed hawk, also often shows up to let me know that what I’m doing is right, even if I’m so exhausted that seems impossible to believe.

But no, I’ve never magically transformed my clothes, or myself, into someone else. Have you? What have your empathic experiences been like? Please let me know, I’d love to hear.

Just for today, be open.

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What do you use in class? July 7, 2012

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When I was a Reiki student, I received all sorts of materials from my teachers. I got handouts, binders, notebooks, even crystals and pendulums. One of my teachers was meticulous about bringing books she felt were relevant and helpful to our classes, including her own books. (She didn’t give them away or sell them, but gave us all an opportunity to look at all the materials and make note if we wished to purchase any of them later online or in a bookstore.)

When I first thought about teaching Reiki, I wanted my students to have all the fun stuff, too: I planned to hand out quartz crystals, pendulums, chakra charts, white sage for smudging, you name it. Fortunately, somewhere along the way I realized the centrality of the Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals), and all the extraneous stuff fell away. Not that it’s not still fun! It’s just not Reiki.

These days, my materials more closely reflect my belief that Reiki is much more than just a healing modality—valuable as that is—it’s a life path, a Way to ultimate realization and union with the All. Yes, I still give out anatomical charts, photos of the Teachers (Usui Founder, Hayashi-sensei, and Takata-sensei), Earth marbles for global healing, articles on the history of Reiki, the hand positions for self- and client healing, and the Reiki Principles in Usui Founder’s own hand, with translations in English and transliteration in Japanese.

For Reiki II, I of course hand out drawings of the symbols and directions on how to draw, say, and understand them, and give out Amish-style faceless white cotton doll figures as proxies for distant healing. I give the students a wealth of materials on how to use distant healing and the symbols. And in every class, I present books, magazines (such as the Reiki News Magazine), CDs, DVDs, online resources, and other resources that students might find helpful.

Master class is, obviously, even more involved, more like a college teaching course combined with deep spiritual work. Yow! Not everyone is cut out for this level of commitment, and I’m content with that. Better those few that hear the calling than the many who, for their own reasons, are looking for a certificate.

Even so, I’m always trying to grow in Reiki and in Reiki teaching. If there are materials you use in your classes that you think are really helpful and effective, please share them with me and all here on The Reiki Blog. Gassho! I know Usui Founder would want us all to help each other spread the good word.

Always growing. July 3, 2012

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“If you’re teaching the same thing you were teaching in your Reiki classes five years ago, then you’ve not made any progress.”

                             —Frans Stiene, International House of Reiki

I’d go a bit further: If you’re teaching exactly the same thing you were teaching in your last Reiki class, you haven’t made any progress.

The whole point of setting our feet on the Reiki Way is that we want to grow, to know, to find our way back to the All. When we commit ourselves to teaching Reiki, we enter into an unspoken pledge to our present and future students: That we will do everything in our power not just to enlighten and assist them on their Reiki road, but that we will do everything in our power to become Reiki, to become Reiki wisdom, to become the point of Reiki, to manifest it to them. To help them, and in helping them, to help ourselves and all our world.

Teaching others Reiki is not about demonstrating how “great” we are, the fabulous Reiki Masters. It’s about showing how great Reiki is, the amazing pathway, and how each and every one can put their feet on this path and transform themselves in the process. Not everyone will, of course: It’s up to each of us to find the path that suits us best. And that’s as it should be.

But I hope that those of us who share the Reiki Way with others remember that we also need, as Frans says, to be always growing on it ourselves.

Just for today, keep growing.

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

The sanctuary of the heart. June 3, 2012

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Yesterday, I was assisting my friend and Reiki Master teacher Amy Rowland at a Reiki I class. Amy has a very deep experience of Reiki, having practiced since 1987 and studied under one of Hawayo Takata-sensei’s original Reiki Masters, Rev. Beth Gray. Amy also has written some of the most important books about Reiki, including her updated classic, The Complete Book of Traditional Reiki (Healing Arts Press, 2010). You can find out more about Amy, her books, and her classes on her website, www.traditionalreiki.com.

Over the years, I have assisted at many of Amy’s traditional Reiki classes, as well as co-creating and co-teaching a workshop on the Five Reiki Principles (aka Precepts, Ideals), which as longtime readers know are for me the very heart of Reiki practice. So I’m always especially interested to see how Reiki teachers present the Principles to first-time Reiki students.

As you know, the core of the Reiki Principles is the Third Principle, Be grateful. It is gratitude that enables us to practice the first two Principles, Don’t worry and Don’t get angry. It is from gratitude that we are able to bring full hearts to the last two Principles, Work hard and Be kind. No wonder Usui Founder made Be grateful the central and centering Principle!

When Amy arrived at her discussion of the Reiki Principles and talked about the Third Principle, she said something so wonderful that it moved me to share it with all of you: “Gratitude is the sanctuary we all have inside.”

What a lovely image! I invite you all to enjoy it with me, and to seek refuge there whenever you need to shift your focus or refresh your spirit. Gratitude is the great healer, as Usui Founder said, “The secret method of inviting happiness, the miraculous medicine for all diseases.”

I am so grateful to all of you who spend time with me here at The Reiki Blog. Gassho, gassho!!!

Gratitude is the sanctuary we all have inside. It is the sanctuary of the heart.

Just for today, be grateful.

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